Friday, 11 September 2020

Suicide Prevention Awareness Day

I missed it this year; caught up in work and life, however, it shouldn't be just about one day. It should be all days, because every-single-day someone, somewhere, takes their own life. I had a friend who did it, my Mum had a work friend do it, my 17 year old cousin did it, and I, myself, one dark rainy night in December 1996 came as close as I am ever going to get to doing it. Of the 4 of us only my friend's suicide didn't cause any shock. Mum's friend gave no clue or any kind of indication he was feeling that way, and as far as I'm aware, had I gone through with it I believe it would have come as a shock to the people who know - and love - me; they knew I was struggling a bit but don't think they realised just how low I had sunk - even I wasn't entirely sure how low that was. 

And that's the thing with suicide. It's often the ones you least expect who go through with it. The ones who are constantly dramatically throwing out there "I'm going to end it all", or "I just as well kill myself, because nobody cares" are pretty highly likely never going to actually go through with it. They are just looking for the attention. No, in my experience, the ones most likely to do it, don't let on to a soul about their intentions. Obviously, there are those genuine people who talk about it in the hope they may be able to stop themselves, or get help to deal with how they are feeling. There is a world of difference between dramatic attention seeking and genuinely asking for help. 

My cousin (ish, my Uncle married her Mum); 17 years old with her whole life ahead of her. She sat down, wrote letters for her family/friends and left home like she would any-other-day. Instead of going about her usual day though, she walked to a bridge, choosing the exact moment to jump off into the path of an upcoming lorry. Now, to me that is quite possibly the most selfish and thoughtless of ways to end your life; the poor driver of that lorry has to live with that moment/experience until the end of his days, however, to my cousin, it was the only way to ensure her end. She had meticulously calculated the best way (for her) to end whatever pain she was suffering. I wasn't inside her mind to know why she chose that way, and therefore, how I feel about it is irrelevant. I'm just sad she was unable to talk to someone, tell them how she felt. Sad for her that she felt suicide was her only option. 

My friend was slightly different. He'd hit a really rough patch in life. Don't get me wrong, he was no angel, and had been caught cheating by his wife, so she kicked him out. He'd burned a lot of bridges with other friends over-the-years because of his behaviour so nobody was rushing to help him out with somewhere to live. When he finally paid me a visit, I'd not seen (or heard) from him in 4/5 years. That didn't stop me from doing what I could though. I had no home of my own so was unable to let him stay with me (had I been in my own place I would have moved him in with me and maybe things would have turned out differently - that's something nobody can ever know). I did have him come to my shop during the daytime; I was in a different building then with a huge storage, back room area, which was dry, dark and safe, so after feeding him and letting him use the facilities to get clean (one of the girls in one of the beauty shops would wash his clothes for him) he'd bed down for a few hours and have some sleep. He still had a car so would park up nighttime at a local viewpoint. This went on for a few months and sometimes he would chat in a really positive way, giving the indication he was going to try and get himself sorted, not let his current situation get him down or become the course for the rest of his life. Then one day he didn't show, and the next day he didn't show either. After a week of not showing I hoped (wished) that someone had taken him in, or he'd been able to get himself sorted. Sadly, 3 months further down-the-line I learned that he had taken his own life. I wasn't surprised; I was sad for him though that things finally just became too much for him to cope with. 

My Mum's friend was even more of a shocker than my cousin. Nobody (including his wife) had a clue. He was an all-round great guy; one of the nicest people you could meet. He had a lovely home and was married with 3 young boys he absolutely worshipped. He loved working the same shifts as my Mum, and she (in turn) loved working with him. Especially when they were on nights; even more so if there was a meteor shower. It had become a bit of a thing and running joke between them that every time there was some kind of celestial event and they were working a night together it would end up being cloudy or raining. They'd talk for hours about alien life forms, sometimes jesting with each other, sometimes being a little serious about it all. He gave no indication to anyone that he was having a hard time with anything. He worshipped his boys and his whole face would light up when he talked about them. He'd been at work, been his usual self; he left telling everyone he'd see them the next day. They had no clue it would be the last time they saw him, for he went home and subsequently hung himself in his garage. Something inside of him must have broke because the man we all knew, and they all loved, would never have even considered such a thing, even more so when it was one of his beloved young boys who found him. Putting one of his kids in that situation went against everything he was, and believed in. Yet something, in that moment, triggered in him and that was it; he took his own life. For yonks after my Mum tormented herself trying to figure out if she had missed something, if there had been anything which may have perturbed to his mental state - after all, they worked on a mental health unit, they were trained in the signs, knew what to look for. He displayed not a single sign, or brought forth a red flag to anyone. Afterwards, it had transpired he'd been dealing with some personal issues that he'd never told a soul about. Maybe, just maybe, if he'd been able to talk to someone about it he may have been able to work through it all and would still be here; would have watched to see his boys grow into men. Hindsight, however, is a wonderful thing. 

You can't always save someone from their own demons, and no amount of talking can stop some people but I am so glad we live in a world where it is ok to talk about how you feel. For so long, especially among men, it was deemed you were weak if you dared to admit you were struggling - and there is a big difference between someone admitting they are struggling, to the dramatic attention seekers I have mentioned at the beginning of this entry. These days we are actively encouraged to speak about our feelings, and it is so refreshing that so many people are brave enough to. I'd like to think that by doing so, even though they may not end up feeling any better for it, they will realise that they are loved and are worthy of being loved. I know from my own personal experiences it's that feeling that you are not worthy, that you don't deserve anything, which is the hardest to get yourself out of. I'm not just talking about those of us who have been shit on from great heights, abused (mentally and physically) or who have suffered years of bullying; yes, that can be hard on a person, but equally those who have never had to endure any kind of hardship can be left feeling as unworthy and useless as the rest of us. They don't understand why they have been gifted everything, just as some don't understand why they haven't. Whilst those of us without feel hard done by, those with have to try and process why they have it all. I have an old friend who got absolutely everything they ever wanted, and always when they wanted it. One day they were hit by a massive wave of guilt about it, how they just took everything for granted, and they've been in therapy whilst taking a huge dose of pills daily, ever since, trying to process why?

Whatever your thoughts, your reasons, or demons you are fighting, know that you are no alone. There are others out there fighting in the same way; their demons may be different but they are borne of the same place. You've come this far; you are still here. You are brave, and you are a fighter. No matter how alone you may feel when you enter the darkness, you will notice there is always, always, a small flicker of light. You might not be able to see it immediately, but it's there. That light is comprised of all the people who love you; those whose lives you have affected in a wonderful way. That light is all the people who wish nothing but the best for you, those who are willing you to be able to step into a brighter, sunnier day. Look for it; you will find it/them. You may have to look harder than the person standing in the dark next to you, but it is there. Once you find it and allow yourself to be drawn to it, you'll find you're able to cut out those people/things who stand in the shadows trying to pull you back into the darkness. You'll falter at times (those demons can take a mighty good hold and will grip on like nothing else) however, the people radiating that light your way can lift you, can help you break the chains the demons are using against you. Once you make your way to them you'll realise you need not go back to those dark ones, the ones which caused you so much pain, heartache and made you feel worthless. After a while you won't even notice they/it are/is no longer a part of your life. You deserve nothing but the best in life. 

The whole "be kind" thing (sadly it didn't last long) a while back, after Caroline Flack took her own life, was such a good reminder that being kind to people is truly one of the best things you can do with your life. Just because someone else's life may appear charmed in caparison to yours doesn't mean it is. We all have our demons, we all have our insecurities and fear. We are all just trying to survive. You never know if you are crossing paths with someone at the very moment in their lives when they are thinking about going home to end it. Your kind/friendly words to them could mean all the difference; accordingly your treating them bad could also be the very moment they are tipped over-the-edge. I know it's not always easy. I'm one-of-those people who will rant before I think about how my ranting/raving at someone may be as a result of them not being in the right frame-of-mind (there is a difference between someone being a completely ignorant piece-of-shit on a regular basis, to someone who may have just cut you up because they could be rushing somewhere to get to a loved one for whatever reason) but I do try to think before I snap these days - for my own mental being as much as anyone elses. Even the bullies should not be hated; in fact, they should be pitied. They are obviously lacking in their lives somewhere and the only way to make them feel better about themselves, is to make you (the person they are bullying) feel worse. They don't seem to realise that the weaker they get (because being a bully will never make them anything other than weak) the stronger you will become. Once you rise above them they will become completely insignificant beings. Pity them and maybe try to help them see that life could be better for them if they were to just talk about how they feel. Of course, there are those who are just naturally pre-disposed to be arseholes. The only way to deal with them is to smack them one (hard) in front of their little groupies and then walk away. Take back the power you have allowed them to drain from you. 

Remember, also, that some of the funniest people you may know, the ones who are always smiling, laughing, and cracking jokes, could also be the ones sitting at home contemplating downing that bottle of whiskey whilst simultaneously popping the mountain of pills they have been storing up for a few months. We've all done it. Painted a smile on our faces (for whatever reason) when we feel anything but happy. Depression doesn't just show itself in the people who often look sad, or struggle to hold a conversation with you. Suicidal thoughts can be easily hidden behind a smile, or covered with a joke. Some of the best comedic performers have struggled with their mental health in ways we would never have seen, using their humour to hide what is really going on inside of them.

As I sit here today, tapping away on the keyboard, I think back to that cold, dark winters night almost a quarter of a century ago, and I am so glad I wasn't brave enough to go through with the ending of my own life. Our natural human instinct is to protect ourselves at-all-costs; suicide takes us as far away from ourselves as we could possibly be, so I can only guess a little of me was still in there desperately struggling to hold on. I had everything I believed I needed, laid out before me. Somewhere though, in the back of my mind, that inner voice (which had so often taunted me) spoke, telling me I was looking for someone, something, some kind of logic which would tell me to "stop". It couldn't be family or friends; they would be telling me to stop for the wrong reasons (albeit the right ones too). It had to be someone who would know about such things, and that is how I found myself dialling the number for the Samaritans - had someone told me before that night I would do such a thing I would have laughed at them; laughed hard, and loud. I can't remember the name of the lady whose voice answered the phone to me, and for that I am slightly ashamed. What I do know is she pissed me off. Big time. I had wanted someone to tell me not to do it, talk to me about what I could do, how I could get through it. She never did any of that - she wasn't allowed to; they still aren't. Instead I spent an hour literally sobbing down the phone to her. I told her more about myself than I think even I realised I knew. When I finally hung up I was angry; fuming, with that wonderful woman who ended up being my saviour. I'd got so angry at her lack of advice, I hung up that phone determined to prove to her that I was worth something. She will never know how very grateful I am to her (once I'd got over the anger I realised she was an absolute angel and I was blessed to have been put-in-touch with her that night). Don't get me wrong; I have had some pretty dark moments since that night, one night even saying out loud "if this is it, then just take me and be done" (I was really struggling with chicken pox and hadn't slept for 4 days so was feeling a little bit rough). Life didn't suddenly get better and become all moonlight-and-roses (in fact at times it's thrown more shit at me in just a few months, than it had thrown at me throughout those first 26 years of my life when I called her) yet somehow, somewhere from deep within, and which I truly believe is born from my conversation with (my sobbing at) her, nothing has ever pushed me even close to the edge I was on that night. It doesn't matter who you are, what people have told you, or how weak you think yourself, if you're struggling, go and talk to someone. As crazy as it sounds, it really can (and very often does) help.

Call the Samaritans; 116 123

Email them; jo@sarmaritans.org

Write to them; Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2SA

They won't judge you, nor will they tell you what to do. They will, however, listen and be there for you. I know this from my own experience. 

I'm a little less sure about Mind (although I know of someone who says they were instrumental in getting them back-on-track and helped immensely when they suffered a breakdown). I just had an issue with them as I knew someone who worked as a counsellor for them; the person is one of the nastiest, most narcissistic and judgemental bullies I've ever come across. However, someones personality and behaviour outside of their work, does not reflect on the good they can do on the inside. The mind website has some links to different places, and for all age groups, which may be able to help. 

On this very day, aside from being angry at myself for still being a fat bint (something I really am working on - intermittently, and I know it all stems back to my earlier life, that I will have to face it, deal with it and move on) I am in the best mental state that I have ever been in. I think part of my getting my rid of my facebook (I will go back because I miss all the funny memes one friend shares, and the great photos a family member shares) is because I have learned I no longer need to look to other people for their approval of me. I realised it doesn't matter what someone else thinks about me. They can love me, or they can loathe me. What matters is how I think of myself. If I allow others to treat me bad then I have nobody to blame but myself when they do. If someone likes/loves me for who/what I am, then great. I am truly blessed. If they don't, that's great to. They are free to move on and find someone they do like. I think back over the past 24 years and look at all the things I would have missed out on had I not picked up the phone that evening. The amazing journeys I have taken, visiting places I thought would never be more than just-a-dream. I've seen my number 1 blossom into a beautiful woman, and now a Mum to 2 amazing children (she bore me a new nephew just this week). I've discovered family we never knew existed, who we've been blessed to get to know, to meet them, and to fall in love with them all. I've made new friends (some of whom are a real joy!!) and found the strength/courage to rid myself of old ones who treated me badly, thus enriching my life further. I've had nights out with Rock Stars, and started my own business (which, thankfully, is currently thriving). I've watched my brother marry the love of his life, witnessed the beaming smile on my Mum's face as she swam with turtles in crystal clear waters. I've seen a bear dig for roots in it's wild, natural habitat, and taken a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. I've got drunk in Las Vegas, lost my way in the forest, alone, in the dark, and literally had my breath taken away by the Norwegian Fjords. I squeezed my body into lilac satin for my best friends wedding and slid 20 feet down a sheer rock face (that was a wee bit scary and made me cry!!) I've crossed the Atlantic in a first class seat, and swung in a hammock on a Caribbean beach.  That night I made the phone call I thought my life was over. Truth is, it was just beginning. 

Remember, if you are still at the part in your own life journey where things are tough, and you are struggling, reach out to someone - anyone (even the Samaritan lady who made me so angry). I know it may not feel like it right now, but life can get better (and at times it could get really hard again) but you are here, you are alive and there is help out there. Remember you are more than worth it. You were that one sperm who fought off millions of others and won. You have already taken one of the hardest battles to get yourself here. You matter. Your life matters. 


Now, more than ever, with all the crazy going on in the world, and the pandemic which has taken a hold of us all, people are struggling in ways they never would have thought possible. Some of you will have lost loved ones, others will have lost your jobs, some of you will have lost everything (materially and emotionally). Don't give up; easy for me to say when I have a job, roof over my head, and food in my (rather large) belly. I know it may seem as though there is no hope for you right now but if you're still here, if there is still air in your lungs, then you are alive, and if you're alive you can find the strength to keep fighting. Ask for help, tell people you are struggling. Don't become another casualty of life. I know to some of you right now, suicide may seem like the final answer. The fact you are sat reading this though, goes some way to prove that there is, and can be, more. If you're reading this you have the internet and if you have the net, there is hope. Use it to your advantage. Tell google (siri, alexa, bing or any other AI and browser) to find you help; make contact with someone. Reach out. Somebody, somewhere will be able to help you, and they'll do that because you are worth it. 


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