Picture a teenage girl sitting in a neon lit clinical room, having had her doctor excuse himself to an incoming emergency. Hear the sounds of the medics running back and forth in the corridor outside, while she stares down at grey-chalky stained t-shirt and hands following a rather spectacular vomiting session induced by liquid charcoal, the treatment of choice for patients taking an overdose. That’s quite an image, right? Welcome to my first suicide attempt.
The shame I felt as I heard the medics deal with someone who had not “chosen” to be in hospital, was equal only to the shame I felt as I saw the distress on my friends’ and relatives’ faces as they found out what I had done. This shame only served to drive me back into the hospital at a later date – this time, in a less serious physical state, but a severely deteriorated mental state, having called an ambulance myself and told them I was going to kill myself.
Between the ages of 16 and 25 I bounced between therapists, concerned teachers, doctors, psychologists, and two crisis teams. Their combined efforts, along with a few select friends and family, made sure that my suicidal thoughts remained just that. Thoughts.
These dark thoughts, or as I like to refer to them, my “doom demons” thrive on uncertainty. Given the opportunity, my doom demons feed on worry, and panic, and gradually chip away at my morale until I struggle to see the positive in any moment. Eckhart Tolle wrote in “The Power of Now” that the thing that brings humans the most pain is holding onto the illusion of control in their life. For me, that spoke volumes. What would happen, if I stopped trying to control what is happening, or what will happen, and instead focussed on how to respond to it. What would happen to my demons?
In 2019, I attended a workshop with a Jack Canfield, and he uttered one simple equation that changed my life. Event plus response equals outcome. You cannot change the event. So the only thing affecting the outcome, will be your response. Change your response, change the outcome. As simple as that. Before I knew it, I was living my life with an entirely new mindset. I chose to take a learning experience from everything that happened to me. I chose to assess my reactions, to see how they affected the outcome, whether positive or negative. I chose to complete a certified course that allowed me to have such a deep understanding of mindset work that I’m able to teach it to others. I chose to start accepting that while I could hear my doom demons making noise, I didn’t need to feed them.
Skip forward to 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, and I find myself locked down in Italy, with no idea when life will return to a normal state. My doom demons are rattling the bars of their cages, gnashing their teeth in hunger. They are the loudest they have been in a long time, and who can blame them. Their perfect meal is right outside. A world in conflict, an unsure economy, social media rife with judgment, negativity, worry and misinformation. Contradictory media, lonely isolation, and fear for the health of my family and friends. In the past, this situation would have empowered my doom demons into a state I would certainly struggle to come back to. But I’ve learned that my mental strength matters. My doom demons cannot break out of the cages I’ve built; using mindfulness, accountability, and most importantly empathy and forgiveness. It’s ok that I didn’t want to live before. It’s ok that I missed opportunities because my mind was in a mess. It’s ok that I’m scared and worried, and it’s ok that sometimes I wake up feeling like a superhero and sometimes I wake up feeling like a sofa burrito. Forgiveness has forged the strongest bars. I might be in lockdown, but so are my doom demons.
Life certainly won’t return to what it was before and I have no control over what will be. But for the first time in my life, I’m alright with that.