Today, as I write, is World Suicide Prevention Day. There seems to be a special #day for everything these days but if there’s one subject that truly deserves to be highlighted for its own 24 hours, it is this one.
Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2017
- 6,188 suicides were registered in the UK
- The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 40–44
- Rates have increased in the UK (by 3.8%) since 2014
- In the UK, female suicide rates are at their highest in a decade.
- Male rates remain consistently higher than female suicide rates – around 3 times higher
Less than 5 years ago, I was very close to becoming just another number on those statistics. As it is Suicide Prevention Day, I feel it is my duty to speak out for the very first time in life, about how I managed to stay alive.
Regular readers will know I’ve had an anxiety disorder for most of my life. With social anxiety disorder (till aged 21), I never felt those pangs of wanting to end my own life. Perhaps because I didn’t even realise what my problem was or where it stemmed from. But the second phase of anxiety, a few years later, I could easily pinpoint the cause. I had post traumatic anxiety due to being physically assaulted.
After 2 years of isolating myself from the world, stagnating and festering indoors on medication, I began to panic. I got myself into debt and eventually, my thoughts became darker and more claustrophobic. I couldn’t see a way out of this predicament. I felt as though I was starting to go crazy. Had developed a habit of talking to myself out-loud because I had little to no conversation with any other human. I hid how I felt from my family and was ashamed at the way I had squandered my life, wasted my youth and potential to be someone or something.
As the years passed by and nothing seemed to get better, I began to get panic attacks. There were times when I got so wound up, so angry with myself and felt so hopeless, I actually clawed at my own skin, punched walls, kicked furniture, smacked my own head, screamed silent screams that torched my throat with their intensity, and sobbed uncontrollably; at times feeling as though the tap would never turn off and I’d become a dry husk that would wither and die.
Never did I think that I’d ever consider suicide. The idea crept up on me, took me by surprise. My best friend had jumped from the roof of a car park a few years before. I was dumbfounded when I discovered this in an email from his sister. I just sat in my chair at work, staring. I had no idea he’d been feeling that bad. I knew he had the sadness of losing his Mum looming over him but I never for one moment thought he was this badly affected. He’d never spoken about it in-depth and never displayed any suicidal tendencies in my presence. He was a breath of fresh air to me; made me laugh like no one else did. He was the only true, close friend I had. And now he was gone. Just like that. No prior warning. And in the most awful way.
And yet here I was, just a few years later, considering the very same thing. Though not for me, a jump from a tall building. I remembered Tristan’s sister telling me that people had found him still alive, on the pavement and got him to hospital. He must have suffered tremendous pain in those final moments and fuck knows the nightmares he would have inflicted upon the couple who discovered him. I didn’t want that. I wanted it over; quick, easy. I wanted to end the pain of this empty, lonely, Groundhog Day existence, full of anxiety, self loathing, panic and dread. My plan was to step in front of a train on some quiet tracks, not far from where I lived.
I met his sister and father for the very first time at his funeral. It was them I remembered most. Not only had they lost their wife and mother, they now had to deal with their young son and brother gone too. When I thought of their pain and imagined that of my own family if I did the same, it was enough for me to decide to get help. Honestly, I didn’t care about myself at that point. I had ruined my life. No one was ever going to employ me again. I had no friends and had never had a serious girlfriend. I hated myself and it was only a matter of time before I had to pay the consequences of my debt – probably for the rest of my life. I couldn’t tell my family because I was ashamed of my predicament. Plus, I didn’t want to scare them. They still don’t know to this day. So in the end, I had to find the courage to tell my doctor. It was enough to change everything.
I’m not an advocate of prescription meds but I’ll tell you this; they calmed me down. The suicidal thoughts melted away. I was stable at least. But just being able to talk to someone about everything, I think THAT was what saved me. Not the drugs. Just to get it off my chest and have a bit of sympathy. I went back to see the doc a week later and he told me I looked different. Before, I looked pale and troubled, so I’m told – though I wasn’t aware. In just a few days, I was looking as well as feeling better. I ended up eventually going on a CBT course and this changed my life.
I realise now that it was my family who saved my life. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be here now. But I should have spoken to them. It was the shame of my situation, feeling as though I didn’t want to burden them or for them to even know how much of a failure I was, that prevented me. It’s that stigma which is the real problem in society. Especially with men. This is why I believe those stats are so high for my gender. But we MUST speak out and get help. Tristan didn’t. I did. That’s why he’s dead and I’m alive.
I wish I could say that was my only experience of suicide but no. Last year, I discovered the only woman I’d ever been in love with, had also taken her own life. It was a few years since we’d been together and although it was a brief relationship, it was intense and it was wonderful and it was the only time I’ve ever felt that head over heels sensation. Maybe we weren’t destined to be soul mates and maybe it ended badly because it wasn’t meant to be but I’ll never forget Kate.
We had barely spoken in years, so it wasn’t as though I’d lost my lover but it still punched me hard in the guts. Once again, I had no idea of the pain she was hiding away. I found out she had struggled with anxiety, just like me but never told me about it. This got worse in the years after we split, as her friend told me she’d been sectioned. The weird thing is, I had got in touch with her again just a month before she ended it. We spoke briefly, just catching up, and I told her about my spiritual awakening. She used to be into Tony Robbins and I’d laughed at him back then, thinking he was just one of those crank, American self help scammers. Yet here I was, telling her all about how I’ve studied his work and it was helping change my life! She said she had neglected his teachings and so started reading again and it instantly picked her up. I was confused as to what she meant by that but didn’t press. I never heard from her again.
THINGS WILL GET BETTER
If you’re feeling suicidal, I want you to know there’s a way out. Many people have been where you are and found a way to turn it all around and go onto great things. It’s not for me to say whether or not suicide can sometimes be the best answer to a painful situation. All I know is that I’ve turned things around from what seemed a hopeless position and feel better than I’ve ever felt.
GET HELP. Speak to someone. Go to a stranger if you don’t want family to know. But talk to SOMEONE. I include myself in that. I’m so grateful to be alive today and to be able to get a second chance at life. I was wrong to think that it was too late to get the life I wanted. It’s NEVER too late. Always remember this: out of your darkest hour will come your greatest moment. Anyone who has ever achieved anything wonderful will tell you that they first had to endure pain to bring out the dormant strength and power within them.
I now feel that it is my duty to make the rest of my life the very best it can be. To show to those suffering that the best is yet to come, if you hang in there. And to honour the memory of those I’ve lost.
Goodbye Tristan and Kate. I miss you.