Today I’m sharing Three Thoughts on World Suicide Prevention Day. Why? The 10 September every year marks World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you know that each year in the UK and ROI alone, roughly 18 people a day commit suicide? Not only have I lost friends to that number, but I've almost been one of those 18 as well.
For far too many years this hasn't been a subject that is comfortable to talk about. People who have never experienced those thoughts and feelings can't understand and people who are experiencing those thoughts and feelings don't feel they can share. I often refer to that time as "my rough patch", or say I was "in a bad place". I always want to shake it off and move passed it.
I've gone through some really low periods and although it never felt like I would at the time, I've always made it out the other side. I'm here. I remind myself of how lucky I am for that.
It has only been these last couple years of my life, after a particularly "rough patch", that I decided enough was enough and I had to face it and fight it if I wanted to make it out this time. I was tired of being scared of my own thoughts. I was tired of feeling so alone. I was tired. I remember what it was that did it. What made me feel like I should fight. I was the lowest I'd been and it didn't feel like anything was going to change. I was pushing my closest friends away because I didn't want to be a burden. I didn't want to bore them with my issues. I couldn't open up properly. I had convinced myself they didn't care or want me as a friend. One day they invited me on a walk to the forest. I got in the car and my friend said, "I'm really glad you're here." When we arrived and met another friend that friend gave me a big hug and said how happy they were to see me. It was like someone turned a light on. The sky was blue. The grass was the greenest I'd ever seen it. The sounds of all the birds in the forest were the most perfect they'd been. I was surrounded by people who cared about me. I wasn't all alone.
If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know I've mentioned changes I've made to my life to help take care of my mental health. People have often said they're impressed by how driven I am, and how motivated I am to stick to my routine and take care of myself. It's not really about that. It's that I kind of need it. It makes me feel better. It makes it easier for me. I've been at my best in as long as I can remember these last couple years since I've made these changes. I'm happier, healthier and my brain is much more on my side. I'm here. It hasn't been easy. I've had to really prioritise it. When I discussed it with a friend about how silly I felt sometimes because I was no longer able to stay up late and go out and get wasted (for various reasons and because the way I felt after was no longer worth it) she reminded me that if I had a physical ailment I'd be doing what I could to look after it. When I spoke to another friend after a counselling session she reminded me of how far I'd come. All the steps I'd made in my life to get to where I was and how brave it was what I was doing. I had decided to fight. I had decided to take charge. Are my friends emotional geniuses? I think so.
I've got a lot to look forward to now and although I know there is always a risk of those low days coming back I feel much better equipped now to deal with them. I've created a little document for myself so I can see the signs that I'm falling back down. I have lists of things to do to make myself feel better when I start to feel low.
When you're feeling at your worst, it is hard to believe that anyone cares. It is hard to believe it's worth trying to keep going. But it definitely is. If you are really struggling try reaching out. It's not always easy, but your future self will thank you.
- It is ok to open up and talk about it. A problem shared is a problem halved. When my anxiety or depression is really bad I get inside my head. I build things up and make myself feel worse. Simply saying out loud how I was feeling to a friend was a life saver. Literally. It made it real. It got the bully out of my head and out into the open. I always imagined the negative thoughts in my head to be a bit like a monster. Like a bully that liked to hide in the dark corners of my brain, but it was a bully who shrunk more and more when I talked about it.
- You are not alone. You may feel crushingly alone, but you are not alone. You have people who care about you. You have people who want you around. You have people who will notice if you're not there. You have people who love you.
- You are not a burden and you are allowed to feel how you feel. You don't have to have a big problem in your life to be depressed. You don't have to have had a "valid reason" for your anxiety. These things happen sometimes for no reason. Just because there are other people in the world that are worse off than you doesn't mean you can't ask for help with your struggle.
You can chat to someone on the phone, via email, through letter or by visiting them in branch. You will not be judged by the person on the other end. They are there to support you. In the UK phone 116 123, all calls are free.
Mind is a brilliant mental health charity. Their website is packed full of information that is well worth reading through. They have great guides about mental illness, how to get help, talking to your GP and many more.
Talk to your GP.
Sometimes if you're really struggling it can be a good idea to discuss your options with a GP. They may advise medication or therapy services that are available in your area. It can be really hard to discuss your mental health with a GP, invite a friend to come along with you if that helps and remember that GPs are there to help.
Maybe you are concerned about a friend? Let them know you are there for them. Let them know they can open up. It doesn't always have to be about that friend reaching out, as often times, this won't happen. Make sure to reach in and be there for them. Be there for them however you can be. Let them know you're happy to have them around. Get them out of their head. Let them know it's ok to talk.
Do you know other services that can help?