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Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

I’m Not Living

By Shayna Anderson

 

Friendship is fleeting

Love tugs at my clothes –

Will not let me fall,

Will not let me dive.

I’m not living

But they won’t let me die.

 

Shayna Anderson is a writer and artist who lives in the USA. She is at times happy, at times depressed, and at other times, violently suicidal. She cherishes every moment of sanity she has, and hopes never to give in to the darkest recesses of her mind.

 

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THE LIGHT AT THE MIDDLE OF THE TUNNEL
By Jenny Ann Fraser

Who I Am Today

My life is far from perfect. I am 40 years old, single, unemployed and mostly broke. I will never have any children, a sad, but wise decision, and I am not as hopeful as I once was that I will ever fall in love let alone get married.

I have great friends, and a close family and yet I have never not been lonely. I don’t know that I will ever be capable of not being lonely, but I am optimistic that I can learn.

Still, I am pretty much ok with right now. I like my life these days even when I don’t like my life circumstances.

I love myself.

It is like owning a well of joy that I can always pull from, no matter how far I have to reach down into it to drink.

I wouldn’t give up my new-found well of self-love, not even if Jonathan Rhys Meyers himself offered to whisk me off to an English estate where I could live out the rest of my life like a Queen.

Who I Was

I’m not sure how it is that I suffered with depression, and anxiety since I was a small child without it being obvious to the adults around me, but I did. It was not due to neglect, or a lack of love in my life. I had great parents and despite an education system which is traditionally not good for students like me, still, I had good teachers.

Somehow, I was born a master at hiding. Hiding my thoughts, feelings and fears to the best of my abilities made sense, as it was difficult enough to fit in without showing my true self. That plan worked until I neared the last few years of my twenties by which time the facade had worn out and I could no longer pretend that I could cope.

Years of reading self-help books, and discovering an interest in and an aptitude for psychology led me to correctly self-diagnose my ADHD, but did nothing to alleviate any of my problems.

Anxiety was my constant minute by minute companion. I lived every moment with my heart racing, my blood pounding in my ears, my mouth dry, and my throat clenched. I could sleep for a few hours at a time, often waking up in a state of complete panic with chest pains and difficulty breathing. I blamed myself for this, even though I knew no better way to be. Despite all I was going through, the most difficult part for me was to get through each day without choosing to end my life. I saw very little reason to continue.

I hated myself, and absolutely everything about me. My boyfriend had ended our relationship and I had pushed away (or run away from) all of my friends. I hid what was happening from my family as I always had. I hated everything about myself, and often didn’t eat. I weighed 92 lbs.

One desperate night I made a desperate call to a 24 hour hotline and without realizing it, I saved my own life.

How I Got Here

Shortly after that phone call, I started seeing and excellent psychologist who specialized in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and had a lot of experience with both adults and children with ADHD. I was in this instance in my life truly lucky.

I was lucky, because I felt that my situation left me no one to lean on let alone depend on, so I had no choice but to get better. At my worst, I couldn’t leave my apartment, but I worked at home because I had no where to go if I didn’t earn money. I listened to my therapist, because there was no one else who had any answers. She told me I could get better and I believed her, because not getting better wasn’t an option I could live with.

In the beginning, I took anti-depressant medication, and Ritalin for my ADHD. These drugs made eating even more difficult, though they helped me climb my way out of the pit that had swallowed me up whole so that I could learn how to heal. I was finally able to live without medication, though I would go back in an instant if I needed to.

I learned to become aware of the thoughts that created my anxiety and depression. I learned how to challenge those negative beliefs and replace them with new ones.

I read books on Neuroscience and Psychology and began to comprehend what was physically happening in my brain and my body. Facing one small fear at a time, from the smallest to the largest, I moved forward and found new ways to think which resulted in new ways to live.

When my anxiety had faded to the point where I could work again, I ended up getting a job with more responsibility than the job which had pushed me over the edge in the first place. I’ve been there, working successfully under increasing stress for 10 years (it’s a seasonal position which explains my current unemployment). I cope with whatever comes my way at work.

I started to face larger fears, things I could have avoided, like 4 years of classical guitar lessons which was the equivalent of paying a teacher to watch me have a panic attack every week for 30 minutes, but I didn’t quit until I finally had those panic attacks under control.

Then, I moved onto the truly scary. I started studying classical voice, and even sang solo in several recitals. There, I learned to pull through, panic or no panic and singing has become one of my greatest loves, anxiety be damned! It has stolen enough of my life.

I made a commitment in 1993, to dedicate myself to growing and learning so that I might contribute as much as possible while I’m here. I converted to Judaism, and practiced for a few years, but moved away when I found that it wasn’t helping me to find the peace that I so desperately crave. From there, I have delved deeply into non-denominational spirituality and have found contemplation, meditation, gratitude and compassion to be the key to anything and everything that is good in my life.

I realized that despite my problems past or present, I am growing, moving forward and contributing. I have let go of my debilitating perfectionism and learned to be happy with where I am. I am no longer ashamed of who I was, nor the mistakes I made, am still making and will make in the future. I am instead proud of all that I have accomplished.

Over the years I have slowly evolved into something greater than the girl who starved herself down to 92lbs because she didn’t think she deserved food. She seems like someone I met 12 years ago. Not someone I was.

My life is still difficult in many ways. Anxiety can rear it’s ugly head in certain predictable circumstances and sometimes when I least expect it, but it is nothing compared to what I used to live with each moment. The physical symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable but I can now compare it to a deep scratch as opposed to multiple stab-wounds. I truly look forward to the day when anxiety truly is a part of my past.

My age, and changing hormones have opened a new chapter in my story of depression but I know me now. Depression is part of my story, but I am not my story. I am careful, and I watch. I watch my thoughts, I question them. I work each day to change what doesn’t serve me. I work to accept what I cannot change. I know that it is my job to stay out of the pit and and I will never need to hit the bottom before I will reach out for help again. I know how to find it and I’m never afraid to ask.

ADHD is a constant in my life. I choose (most of the time) not to think of it as a disorder, but just a part of my personality.
Concentration is extremely hard for me still at times and hyper-activity is my constant companion. It keeps me fit, is definitely the source of my creativity, my humour and my ambition.

I talk too much, but that gets easier as I grow in awareness so I don’t worry too much about it as long as I’m not hurting anyone. I can’t keep a space organized to save my life it seems, but I keep trying, and I’m ok with the fact that I may never live in a show home, (or a show castle for that matter).

I don’t beat myself up over my short-comings. Instead, I find myself asking if my so-called faults really have a negative affect on my life or others. I no longer worry because others perceive me as not being “normal”. I really have no desire to be “normal” even though I have to admit that I don’t know what it is. It sounds boring, so I’ll pass.

Where I am Today

These days, I am the self-crowned queen of my own personal castle. This would be why I would actually kick Jonathan Rhys Meyers out of bed for eating crackers. Clearly, I don’t need him.
My castle is a fortress with high strong walls, a moat, and a drawbridge to protect me from the evil dragon Depression who often lies just outside it’s front gate.
The damp cold of anxiety has little chance due to geo-thermal heating and energy-efficient triple-paned windows.
ADHD is welcome in my castle, and anyone who has a problem with it is not a problem for me. After all, I am the Queen.

I am both the Queen, and my own team of soldiers whose job it is to watch which thoughts are allowed to pass through and what they do when they get there.

If I am not diligent. The dragon will make his way in, but still, if that were to happen, I have a great collection of weapons which will stop him before he has the chance to burn down my walls. I don’t worry about what might happen. I deal with what is, the best way I know how.

Jenny Ann Fraser is a costumer for Theatre Dance and Film. She lives with her cat Angus in Winnipeg Canada.
She is also a a budding entrepreneur, new to writing, and creator of the blog Arriving at Your Own Door.
She can’t wait to see what she does next…

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THE LAVENDER HOUSE

By Holly Ward

Jessica would come to remember very little about her stay at The Lavender House.  She would recall the white walls, the atmosphere of solitude and the buzz of white noise in her ears.  She would occasionally think about the other people.  How they rocked gently and muttered under their breath to the people she couldn’t see.  At times their mutterings became louder and more intense, anger etched on their faces as they battled with old foes in another time, another life.

She would at times consider the equality of the place.  There was, seemingly, very little prejudice about mental illness.  Black, white, old, young, male, female, rich, poor even celebrity, it didn’t matter.  These afflictions weren’t choosey, they would happily destroy anyone’s life given half a chance.

And she supposed that that was what bound all these oddities together.  The desire of someone somewhere to not give half a chance to the demons that battled their loved ones.  She supposed she was lucky that John had actually cared enough, loved her enough to take away her freedom like this.  Because he had taken it away from her, she was a prisoner of sorts for those four weeks.

She pondered on her good fortune and that of her fellow patients, (because that is what you were at The Lavender House, no inmates or the wonderfully inaccurate ‘guests’ here).  They all had someone who loved them, someone who had cared enough to commit them before they hurt themselves even more than they had already.  She knew she was fortunate but she couldn’t feel happy about that yet.  Not for some time to come.

She had found a group of what you might call friends, but somehow the banter and chumminess that the word conjured up was wrong.  Friends implied choice, conversation, the sharing of knowledge and maybe laughter.  Her friends here were more like comrades.  Battling through this stretch of soul bearing and humility together.  They met every day for a group session.  Other people who had come so close to losing everything, maybe some had done so already, but someone had put them here to try and get it back.

The sessions were exposing and frightening.  At first Jess said nothing, in fact for days she said nothing.  This was apparently quite normal, although that seemed the wrong term for this place.  But to Jess, who was used to talking, used to presenting to roomfuls of people who were all hanging on her words, it was a new experience.  The very fact of being able to shut down, to say nothing, to languish in the depths of her own despair was a comfort of sorts.

She recalls the session where Lilly, a highly paid corporate lawyer in her former life, said her first words.  The words that reached deep into Jessica’s aching brain and caused a response to flow from her lips.  It felt involuntary.

Lilly had said ,”The kids were better off without me, I was useless to them.”

Jessica felt this resonate around her mind, it touched her broken heart and she said.

“I know that too.  I was damaging them”.

This had in turn started a rather slow but gradual discussion amongst their group of eight people.

“I needed someone to stop me, stop me hurting her so much” said the man in the red t-shirt to her left.

“I’m pointless, my wife deserved better” the middle-aged man in the corner.

And one by one they all revealed their weak spots.  The people who meant most to them, the people they had betrayed.  And they had betrayed them, these dependents, carers, lovers, they had all been betrayed by the illness that had consumed their families.

It was the first time in a long time that Jess felt she might just be with people who understood how her hurt mind worked.  Maybe in this white room in a facility in Sussex she would find her redemption.  Maybe she could find a way back to her life and her children.

Her recovery was painful at times.  Frustrated she would scream and shout at her therapist.  The anger she was so familiar with would rise up and explode out of her mouth in torrents of abuse.  She would experience the high this provided, she would writhe in the fix of self expression, until, as always she would collapse in a heap of shame and guilt.  But it was different here.  The guilt didn’t have the same sharp claws, she could shrug it off more easily.  She could consign it to a part of her mind and file under ‘recovery’.  The therapists were kind, they understood this was a process, they encouraged it.  She would recall that she felt a genuine freedom at The Lavender House, freedom to shout, scream, cry, wail and collapse.  There was no shame here, no guilt.  Only understanding and talking, if she wanted it.

Of course there were drugs too.  She was medicated at night time, when her demons would rise up from the depths of her soul and try to reclaim her.  They were bound up in a fog of Temazepam at night.  But during the day her anger was encouraged, it was fortunate, they said, that she could feel anger.  It was a good sign.  It meant the tunnels in her brain were rebuilding or realigning or something.  But it was definitely good.  She could believe this when she looked at the poor souls sat hour after hour gently rocking in their favourite chairs.

But Jess was on the mend they said.  She was making progress.  She had shut down, she had broken down but they were helping her get started again, cranking up her mind back to full health.

Today John was due to pick her up, she had seen him four times since she was committed.  She hadn’t seen the children once.  This was normal apparently.  Too much for them to understand, she missed them like she’d miss her arm.

The morning she had been brought here she hadn’t seen the children since the morning before.  She could hear them calling her as she lay in bed unable to move, but she couldn’t get to them, she didn’t see them.  She wondered what was going through their young minds.  How do a two year old and a five year old comprehend that their mother had broken, that she was unable to continue to be their mother.  Their world had it’s own logic, they understood the way the world was.  Josh perhaps more than Lucy, but there was an inate understanding in their forming minds.  Their own tunnels were being built. She had felt no sadness that morning, she had felt nothing, in truth she struggled to remember anything of that day or indeed the few days that followed her committal.  She knew she had been sectioned when she woke up on, what she was later told, was the fourth day.   She had felt the emptiness in the pit of her stomach, then the fear sinking in from all around, suffocating her.  She could hear a strangled shrieking sound enveloping her, it was her own voice of course.

She must have been sedated, calmed down.  She was quiet and sleepy, devoid of feeling.  Maybe that was better, maybe the silent life was easier for her.

But now they had deemed her repaired.  Repaired enough to go home and rest with her family.  She wondered what that meant.  She was a mother now, full time, she needed to learn how to do that.  A great big challenge that rose up and terrified her.  Until she had broken down she had had work to distract her, her reason for not being their mother full time.  But everything had changed now.  She had lost her job, she had lost her mind, she couldn’t lose her family too.

Summoning all the reserves of strength she had built up in these four weeks, she went to wait for John to collect her, to take her back to her life.  She could do this, she would do this.  She would be a mother and a wife again, she wouldn’t let them all down.

She looked out of the window, his car had just turned into the gravel drive.  A small lurch in her stomach, her mouth dry.  She was relieved to feel a glimmer of happiness, of hope as he got out of the car.  His familiar face, his slight frown against the weather.  His unfailing strength and belief in her and their marriage was almost tangible even from this distance.

He looked around and saw her.  Apprehension mingled with relief on his strong face.  She knew it would be alright.

Holly Ward is the mother of two little girls who, along with her full time job, make her life rather wonderful, happy, exhausting and terrifying in equal measure.  Life can get on top of her but writing is the best therapy (and she’s tried a few other kinds!).  She writes to keep the clouds away.  Holly lives in South East England with her children, husband and cat (who is a bit scared of her girls). Visit her blog at http://hollishobby.com.

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THE PIVOTING POINT

By Vivienne Tuffnell

There comes a moment in any life, or even within a life experience, where everything changes. Often it can be a single moment, or series of moments, where the entire universe seems to shift irrevocably from one way of being to another. I call these moments pivoting points and if you look back carefully, you can identify them within your life story. Once you get your eye in, you can often spot them before they happen too.

One of my major pivoting points came when I was nineteen years old. It wasn’t when I  grabbed the pills, nor was it when I first heard the siren. It was when a stranger’s voice broke through the partial silence and darkness and changed things totally for me.

She said, “What are you in for, kid?”

I’d seen her brought in earlier, her face bruised and bloodied and her cotton night dress torn and I’d turned over in my bed and hid my face. You can’t gaze easily on the sufferings of others when your own is self-inflicted, after all.

I wasn’t sure what to say. To put it simply seemed… well, blunt. To try and put it delicately seemed insulting. So I explained in as few words as I could and hoped she would shut up and go to sleep herself. I’d already lain awake, wide-eyed, for hours, head pounding and tears trickling down so regularly my pillow was damp. I wasn’t expecting sleep.

But she didn’t. This voice, a rough Scouse accent made rougher by smoking, became strangely kinder.

“Come over here and tell me about it,” she said.

“I’m not sure I am allowed to,” I said.

“Never mind them, just come over.”

I slipped out of bed, bare feet cold on the tiled floor and came into the shadowy lee of her curtained bed. They’d left the curtains partly drawn, to shield the new woman from the elderly and somewhat senile lady in the next bed. I couldn’t see her well in the dim light and at my age, anyone over thirty was hard to place age-wise. Over thirty for sure, she was dressed in her night things, just as she’d been found. There was blood on the front of the nightie. I’d heard them offer her a hospital gown but she’d refused. There was something dignified about the refusal; a clinging of pride to the rags she’d come into hospital in, clutched almost as holy relics.

“So, what happened?”

Where to start? The thing about suicide attempts is it’s very hard to make someone understand the depth of the pain, and explaining why seldom actually makes it clear quite how much you were hurting. The circumstances often seem trivial to others. I guess it wasn’t the break-up of the relationship that was the final straw; I’d known when I ended it that it was the best move I could make. Some relationships are doomed before they start and that one really was. I’d been doing so well up to the point he got on the same bus as me, and that was when it felt as though a great aching chasm had opened up inside me. But the thing no-one was likely to understand was that the shape of that chasm wasn’t his shape but my own. I had a real shock to realise that all the pain and anguish created by seeing him again was not due to missing him but actually due to missing myself.

Shamanic workers talk about something called Soul Loss. This is where the soul fragments due to trauma and long-term distress. The fragmented soul-part vanishes to a place between the worlds where it feels itself to be safe and stays there until it is retrieved. In the moments on that bus I realised that a pretty hefty chunk of my soul was no longer where it should be and the shock of this triggered a massive emotional meltdown. I couldn’t bear to be myself any more. I hated myself for having allowed this damage to occur and more than anything I simply wanted the pain inside to stop.

So I went home to my flat, counted out tablets and when I realised I didn’t have enough, I went to the pharmacy on the corner and bought more. I realised what I was doing halfway and picked up the phone and called someone. The friend I rang asked me some questions, then he rang and sent an ambulance direct to my flat, called me back and stayed talking to me till the ambulance arrived.

Reaching the hospital, I was offered a choice. I could take some emetics and throw up what I had taken, or have my stomach pumped. I took the emetic option. By some kind chance, another friend who was a nurse was coming off duty as I came in and she stayed with me during the process, held my hair back and helped get me comfortable later.

But it was later in the night when the misery really hit. In the evening, I’d also discovered my period had started, so obviously the whole she-bang was worsened by hormone imbalance, but the headache and the cramps went unrelieved as they couldn’t give me any pain relief. I just lay crying steadily hour after hour and in the small hours, the arrival of the woman opposite made me feel even worse. The nurses were asking her things and I couldn’t help but hear it all. I’d done this to myself but she’d been beaten up and thrown out on the street by her own husband. Guilt compounded my misery.

Sitting on her bed though, she talked to me with such wisdom and understanding and she drew my story out gently and I realised that she and I were sisters in some strange ways. We’d both been victims of steady emotional and physical violence over a fair length of time and had believed we could “change” the guy by loving them. No more. She had two young children to go back to. She knew she’d never change her man but the prison doors of her life were as harsh as real steel.

“You’ve got a chance to live,” she said, the next morning. “You’ve got away. I can’t. I have my babies to go back for; I can’t leave. I’ve tried. Your way and others.”

She showed me her wrists, ropey with thick scar tissue.

“Promise me something, darlin’,” she asked when I came over to say goodbye.

I nodded.

She took my hands in hers and looked me in the eye.

“Live,” she said. “Live for yourself and live for me.”

I don’t think I ever asked her name. I suspect she may well be dead by now; that’s twenty five years ago. But whenever I reach the point where the gap inside me that should be filled with a soul fragment that had fled for safety when life has become unendurable becomes painful again, I think of her and bless her unknown name and give thanks that out of her unimaginable pain she had wisdom and compassion for a young woman whose own life had become agony beyond bearing.

Vivienne Tuffnell is a writer, poet, and mystic currently living in Suffolk, England. Despite suffering depression since the age of six, Vivienne works as a teacher and tour guide through England and Europe, and is known for a wicked sense of humour and her trademark lion’s mane of blonde hair.

She has recently published a novel, Strangers and Pilgrims, billed by many as “a book to mend broken hearts”. It is available from www.viviennetuffnell.co.uk. Vivienne has had poetry, articles, and short stories published around the world. Her writing reflects both her life experience and her mystical side, drawing her readers into the world of her characters and keeping them there long after the story ends.

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I STAND WITH YOU

By Sharon M. Young-Maliszewski

You stand alone or so you think

Never with another at your side

The tears fall with every blink

Wondering why it is you

Reaching out to one that will listen

Never realizing they truly understand

Bearing your soul with every word

Slowly, the hand reaches out

You are never alone

As I stand with you

Sharon has suffered from clinical depression in the past, though she is healthy today. She lost her youngest brother, Dennis, to suicide on 16 June 2001. He suffered from depression and tried to end his life many times. He always called Sharon when he was suicidal, but the night he completed his suicide was the first time in 13 years that he did not. Sharon knows inside that his suffering is over and he is safe. She feels that education is the key to beating the stigma associated with mental illness, and that we have to share our stories so we can help others.

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