TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide ideation, rape
I tried to take my life last night.
Whoever said that talking about committing suicide was glamorizing it, has never been where those who attempt it – and sometimes succeed – have been. Talking about it does not feel glamorous as I write about it just over twelve hours later. I feel disheveled and exhausted, and where there isn’t sorry, there’s a gaping chasm of emptiness.
The terrible societal habit we have, historically, of sweeping most instances of suicide under the Polite Conversation rug makes me feel I should keep my experience quiet, or write under a false name. But I am personally quite tired of our main opportunity of discussing people taking their lives, through only the distant-and-therefore-publicly-accessible suicides of the rich and famous, afterwards used as pins in a map on the Be Kind home front. Despite the government itself officially recognising, in recent years, that there were enough cases of people literally choosing to die rather than to keep living to actually do something about it, we still are not talking about it, or what might push someone to consider it seriously, as much as we should.
Seen this year in the outpouring in the wake of Caroline Flack’s death, conversations about suicide are predominantly toned as ‘Be Kind to each other; you never know what another may be going through’. We treat those who’ve been through these dark episodes and attempts in feigned respectful silence, as opposed to encouraging them to share openly, and honestly, their experience, motivations and feelings. Not decorated with Whys, What Should We Have Dones and I’m Sorrys, but to simply have a real place to speak. Once that’s established, we might actually be able to make some real progress. We might actually find a more honest way of Being Kind.
But no, it is not glamorous to be convinced there is no other way to erase the pain you are going through. Or that you are the biggest burden on the people around you, purely for existing. Or that the situation that surrounds you is simultaneously unchangeable and unbearable.
For the record, I’m afraid I am not new to this subject area. Last night was not the first time I’ve attempted it. In my early teens, I tied the soft belt of my dressing gown around my neck and tried to hang myself from the cistern in my attic room. I couldn’t figure out how to tie it properly, and it came undone, leaving me with an odd welt-burn mark. When my first adult relationship started to go wrong, I swallowed a number of paracetamol in his bathroom and was about to take another lot, when I spat them out instead, deciding at the last moment to live. When I told him the following morning, he accused me of being ‘so dramatic’ and later said he didn’t believe me.
Last year, following a misdiagnosis and some disastrous hormone treatment, I kept leaving my beach-side flat in order to either get in the sea, or throw myself from the cliffs on the way to Dover. I can only remember a couple of those occasions, but several times, my flatmate and best friend Andrew left home to come and find me, once in the middle of the night, in the hope of saving my life. Once, I had my dog with me, and left him on the pebble beach near our home while I climbed along some rocks for the tide to come in, but he made such a whine, having somehow figured out that I was in danger, and, he at risk of being left alone, I came back off the rocks and took myself back home.
I didn’t know until in the region of a year ago that I had a personality disorder. Given just how erratic my behaviour had been over my life, that I’d literally tried my best to eloquate to doctors that something was ‘very wrong’ with me, and that I had been referred to several different Crisis Teams up and down the country, it was odd that I was only finding it out now in my thirties. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), now being better referred to as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), is thought to be caused by a number of factors, of which traumatic events in childhood is a chief one. And one of the side effects of having it is, often, suicidal ideation. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will attempt suicide, and it isn’t always a factor for everyone with the condition, but it happens to be one of my own symptoms.
But last night, I had simply had enough. Life had been pretty shocking anyway over the past year or so. I lost my grandmother last summer. My brother had uninvited me to his wedding the day after her memorial, because my mother and my childhood rapist (her ex-husband) had been invited instead. A man I’d been in love with since 2016 had met and recently moved in with someone who was probably very good for him, but definitely wasn’t me. All the big business projects I had lined up seemed to topple over or be shelved indefinitely through no fault of my own, one by one. While the Pandemic had thankfully left me and those I loved alone, the loneliness of Lockdown, even with my dog and best friend in the house, had left me feeling more isolated, confused and misunderstood than ever.
For me, it was Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back scenario – I’d been getting close to someone online. The fact that we were so far away, that he didn’t think his family would approve of me, and that our getting together wouldn’t be til April (to my ears, he might as well have said in 2083), drove me to tell him I wasn’t coping, and was worried about dragging him into the mess I was wallowing in myself. He was sweet and very understanding about it. But suddenly I was alone. Not just alone – completely and desperately lonely.
The pain and the intrusive thoughts mounted. If I was meant to have someone, I’d have found them by now. The one time I thought I had found the one for me, he’d turned out to be a Narcissist whose mask had slipped viciously and almost violently not long before we were planning on getting married. No one else could commit to me – who would want to, even with everything good that I could give back to the world, when I was such a mess? Everyone who came onto me? I wasn’t interested in any of them, because I knew they could never be what I needed, and I’d already had a lifetime of being misunderstood.
From there it spiralled. I was destined to be alone. Why, when all I’d wanted was someone I could adore, and who, for whatever twisted reason, could adore me? I couldn’t handle being alone. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I wanted someone to give me the answers, in that moment, but I knew that no one had any. I barely knew what the real questions were, let alone how to tackle them. How do you make your life better, when that was all you were trying to do in the first place, and it was circumstance and others who had messed you up? When you did everything right? How do you start again, while living down how badly you’ve failed? How no matter how hard you try, somehow you are never good enough? Nothing made any sense. I had wanted so very little, I thought. Even now, over twelve hours later, with the mood thankfully behind me for the meantime, I feel as if I have nothing of value. Life seemed inherently unfair and that in itself seemed wrong. Yes, life was tough, but was it supposed to feel as bad as THIS? Did we not have enough with a climate change disaster everyone was blissfully looking away from, and death and poverty seemingly everywhere, as if the Horsemen of the Apocalypse had not only arrived, but had set up shop?
I didn’t have any big plan. I was too tired and bizarrely scared of the world beyond my door to leave my house. I went to the bathroom, crying full fury as quietly as possible so Andrew had no idea. He was now playing a game, while I was going off to die. I ran the bath. I had the Tylenol I’d brought back from a visit to the U.S., and a pair of scissors. Tylenol was Plan A, Scissors Plan B. I scrawled on my mirror in red lipstick, as I didn’t want to talk myself out of it by writing a full-on note: ‘This is not your fault’. I put on some music so that I could at least feel something other than despair at the end.
Then Andrew started hammering on the door. A friend had text him, and he’d seen all my Help Me tweets. I told him to go away, but he’d long-learned to unlock my bathroom door in case of these emergencies. Despite my screaming, shouting, and drenching him with bathwater, he refused to leave, and sat on the toilet lid as I lay stupidly in the bath, occasionally talking, screaming at him every time he tried to talk, and crying as the water slowly went cold. I knew that he was right – that the pain was horrific now, and that tomorrow I might feel different, but it didn’t help me then. It didn’t dull anything and it certainly didn’t help me feel like things might get better. I knew if I tried to drown myself, Andrew would just pull the plug, or hoist me out. Even at this, it seemed, I was a complete and utter failure.
When I delicately managed to get out of the tub, maybe an hour or more later, I felt heavy and achy and as if I had died already, I was so divorced from my body. My phone had ping’d with the tweets and DMs people had sent me to try and ensure my safety. A director I’d worked with had even gotten in touch with Andrew, not knowing what to do to make sure I was okay. I got a voicemail from a friend, on the verge of tears, saying that my death would cause him to tip over the edge, and he didn’t want any more of the people he loved disappearing from existence, so in a selfish way, could I please reconsider?
Of course, I felt embarrassment instantly. I was able to dash off a tweet to let people know I was still alive, fumbling through an impersonal thank you that in itself felt like a disappointing, un-poignant thing to do for all those who were actively, passionately voting for me to stay breathing. I made a video in the park to try and explain and still haven’t had the guts to share it.
My opinion is based on my experience, so there may be flaws in it, but I don’t think the majority of people who think of it, want to die. Death genuinely scares me a little. I don’t know what comes next, if anything. There are still some little shards of hope scattered like sandgrains about my heart for making my life better, for at least dulling the majority of my pain, as I know some people with my condition have done. And without blowing my own trumpet, I do know that my own premature death would be upsetting and debilitating for several people who I have the honour of calling part of my circle.
I don’t have one particular lesson to impart here, but here’s what I can tell you – Being Kind wouldn’t have helped. In the aftermath, I was achingly grateful for those who reached out and took steps. People are, I have realised, on the whole, kind. But for my generation, and the one below, some of the most obvious answers as to why we’re so desperate are staring you in the face. It’s just because you don’t know how you can get rid of them that you discount them altogether, or even call them ‘silly reasons’. In cases such as mine and, I am sure, many cases that are both similar and very different, it can be summed up with the now much used trope-quote –
“I am strong, but I am tired.”
I honestly hope that it is the last time I attempt, seriously, to take my own life, but it may well not be. Nothing has changed in the past few hours. I have a folder on my drive for Andrew in case it ever gets too much and I succeed. I have written letters. The only reason I don’t have a will is because I have very little to give away or leave behind that wouldn’t be cancelled out with any debt that I’ve accrued – it would only serve as a record of how I wanted my body dealt with, and for any kind of funeral or memorial to be conducted. These are not things which make me sad, or worried, and shouldn’t be for other people. I honestly don’t want to take my own life, and hope that I don’t. However, I have to be prepared for a time when it gets too much for me again. And the honest, kindest thing people can do for me is to let me have that, and make my life beautiful by their presence and love in it. Even in such a horrible, nasty, judgmental and selfish world as ours is just now, it might actually enable me to get through this mess.