A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Reflections

I've been thinking about Nn's death, and whilst it's bound to have a significant impact on me I wonder if it's had more impact because it was suicide.  Death is a taboo subject in most of society, and suicide is even more so.  I'm going to talk about it here though, because not only has it raised itself in my life now, but it also had a significant presence in my life in the past. 

I suffered from disabling depression for many years.  I was drowning in an emotional sea of black treacle that sucked me down into its depths and so nearly suffocated the life out of me.  I spent a significant amount of time in my twenties in hospital with depression, and to be honest I didn't believe that I'd ever be free of it.  I wanted more than anything to be 'normal', to be happy, but the more I wanted these things the less achievable they seemed to become. 

I self-harmed.  Actually, I started to self-harm (si - self injure) when I was in sixth form, though I always hid it as much as I could, but as I got older and the si became worse it was impossible to hide from everyone, because it was too severe to patch up myself.  Very few people understand self harm and think of it as attention-seeking behaviour.  Perhaps it is for some, but not for me - I never wanted others to know, and I hid it as best as I could, but when the cuts wouldn't stop bleeding or were too severe and deep for me to manage I had no option but to go to A&E or my GP to get sewn up.  No, for me si was a huge mix of things.  To a certain extent it was about tantalising death - I didn't care much if I lived or died (and later I definitely wanted to die), and venturing that close to arteries, tendons, bones, ligaments, etc was almost like letting fate decide.  But ironically, si was often also about survival.  I hurt so much and so deeply in my soul.  The only thing that told me that I wasn't physically dead was the emotional pain I was in.  Oddly, I often didn't feel the physical hurt of cutting myself until sometime after I'd done it, and then it was almost a relief because it was a different kind of pain, a tangible pain, something I could see and was justifiable.  If I hadn't cut I would've imploded more entirely, I'm sure.  Contrary to the 'tantalising death' thing, si was also almost the opposite of death ... it let the edge off the agony and stopped me from killing myself ... a kind of letting off steam from the pressure cooker... 

I don't si now.  I haven't si-ed for 8 years.  The last time I cut/si-ed was 22nd April 2003, though of course I will always bear the scars.  There's nothing I can do about that, but I refuse to be ashamed of them, and whilst I hid the wounds at the time, I refuse to cover my scars for the sake of others now.  If people don't like what they see then they don't have to look, but I have to live with the scars everyday, and if I allow others to make me feel ashamed of them, then I'm allowing others to make me feel ashamed of myself.  There is a stigma to mental illness and depression, but there oughtn't be, and I won't, if at all possible, be ashamed because of the depression I've suffered from in the past, or the actions that depression led to.  Depression is horrendous enough without adding extra guilt into the mix.  So yes, I have the scars, and whilst I don't flaunt them (I'm not proud of them either - they're just a part of me), I don't hide them away unless I want to, and yes, there are some situations in which I will do that for myself, and sometimes for my mother as I know that she can sometimes find it difficult.

Self harm so nearly wasn't enough to keep me alive though, and for a long time I was intermittently suicidal.  For years, in fact.  It reached a head in 2002/2003, during which time I took several overdoses (very significant ones, far removed from any category of 'a cry for help'), and tried to hang myself.  That is where I feel a particular connection to Nn in his final act.  Unlike Nn, I was found just as everything was going black and disappearing into a haze somewhere beyond the sound of the familiar wheeze of constriction, this time from strangulation rather than asthma, but the same sound nonetheless.  Despite being in hospital with depression at the time, I hadn't expected to be found until after I'd succeeded, and I was distraught when I realised that I hadn't succeeded.  Nn was in a different physical situation from me and had no interruption, but I do know something of what he experienced in those last minutes of his life, and that has made me reflect a great deal on his death, his life, my life, my past depression, my subsequent fights for life through multiple asthma attacks, the whole complicated thing of 'life'.  It fills me with such huge sadness that Nn felt such despair that he chose to kill himself ... and I remember the despair I felt myself when I was suicidal.  I remind myself that this is remembered despair, not the feelings of today, and I remind myself of the fantastic moment of miraculous cure.

You may not have seen the list of 'Facts about me' near the bottom left of this page, but there's a fairly random list down there of snippets about me.  Third on the list is, 'at 4pm on Monday 5th May 2003, walking down one of the grimmest streets in Newcastle, I experienced a miracle.'  This was at the height of my suicidality.  My world had been the deepest, darkest shade of black imaginable for what seemed like forever.  I couldn't remember what it was like to live in a colourful world, or to feel that I was doing anything beyond existing.  I had no hope of anything ever changing.  At the time I was being desperately let down by the mental health services, who I believe were actually making my situation worse, and I was so nearly, so very nearly successful in my suicidal acts.  And then 4pm on Monday 5th May 2003 happened.  Nothing had happened to change my world; no event had taken place; nobody had said anything or done anything; no change had been made to medication; but suddenly everything changed.  I was walking down Westgate Hill in Newcastle, which several years earlier had been voted the 4th grimmest street in the country (what an accolade!), when I suddenly felt something I didn't recognise.  It worried me that I didn't recognise what I was feeling, and the worry caused me to glance up from my fixed focal point of the grey pavement just ahead of my feet.  The grim street was still shades of grey, but the grey buildings were topped with bright red tiles and looked over by an intensely blue sky.  My eyes hurt with the colour.  It was like regaining sight after years of darkness.  It was astounding, astonishing, amazing.  And that feeling, it was becoming more overwhelming.  What was it?  It was the feeling of being alive!  I wasn't just existing, and I wasn't in a monochrome world any more!  I was alive and living in technicolour!  I texted my mum.  I texted that for the first time in years I suddenly felt alive!  I have been alive ever since, never having returned to those depths of depression.  Sure there are low times, especially after near-death experiences, or other significant events, but they're different from depression - they're normal responses to difficult circumstances/situations/events, and they don't last.  Monday 5th May 2003 was my rebirthday, a miracle day.  I was a Christian before this wonderful event, for many years before the event, and I never stopped being a Christian throughout my depression, but I felt forgotten by God.  I felt as though I didn't matter, and questioned why I felt that I should matter as there were so many other, much more important things going on in the world, but it saddened me that I didn't matter even to God.  And then God showed me that He hadn't forgotten me, and that I was as important as anything else on His 'to do' list, and that He really is there even when we think He's busy with something else.  I don't think anyone ever expects a miracle to happen to them.  I certainly didn't.  I feel incredibly privaledged to have experienced a miracle, and for it to have been so completely life-changing ... life-giving.  I wish with all my heart that Nn could've had the same miraculous event occur in his life.  I am so thankful that God stuck his oar in when He did with me, saved me from myself, from my suicidality, and gave me colour and life again.  It's just over 8 years ago that it happened, but I remember it as clearly as if it happened today.  It still fills me with awe, I still get excited when I think about it, and I know that I am truly blessed.

10 comments:

Joy said...

Thank you for sharing that. I saw that comment and wondered what it might mean.

J x

BeckyG said...

Joy, you're welcome. Thanks for reading :o)

Anonymous said...

Becky that is an amazing post, thank you for sharing it.

Reading it took my breath away.

Love W

BeckyG said...

Thank you, W, for reading. I'm glad that you got something out of it. I think for some it may be a contraversial post, but it's something I've wanted to blog about for a while, and it seemed pertinent to do so now when all these issues have been raised again for me. Again, thank you for reading and for your comment.

Dawn said...

Hey Becky, as someone who has also experienced severe depression, si and suicidal thoughts; your post is really touching.

I've often wondered what your miracle was, thanks for sharing it. I didn't experience a miracle, but a life changing experience, which helped me escape from the crippling depression.

Last year I started volunteering for the Samaritans, I find it so sad when I can identify with a caller when they're expressing such pain and despair that I can remember experiencing. I desperately want to do or say something to help them, which obviously I can't do on the end of a phone, and it makes me so grateful that I found my way out of that situation.

Thinking of you xx

BeckyG said...

Dawn, thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to read my post. I'm sorry to hear that you've also suffered from such terrible depression, but very pleased to read that you've come through it. Even though I've been through debilitating depression - or maybe because I've been through it - I'm not sure that I could volunteer for Samaritans. I think it would stir too up too much for me, so I have great respect for you (and for all who answer the calls at Samaritans). I'm so very pleased that there are people like you who have the strength to work for Samaritans, not least because I called them myself on several occasions.

There are far too many people who suffer from depression, and it is so misunderstood by many who don't/haven't experienced it. Let's hope that by talking about it we can break some of the stigma attached to it.

B said...

I remember that once I came to visit you in the Freeman and I asked about your scars, not realising what they were. And I was a bit mortified when I realised in case I had embarrassed you. Even though you didn't seem embarrassed.

I'm really glad you wrote this post. It helps me understand.

It's so amazing that you are the amazing, wonderful person you are, after all you have been through. Many people would only rage at the world after all that. You are a true shining light and a good friend, and I'm really glad to know you.

Nn was lucky to have you as a sister. I'm so sorry he didn't share a similar experience that kept him here.

xxx

B said...

(i don't think i made it as clear as i meant to - i'm glad i asked now)

B said...

oh god i keep rereading my comment and getting more embarrassed. i'm glad my question didn't embarrass you, my comment kinda sounds like i thought it should've. i hope you understand what i meant rather than what i actually wrote :/

BeckyG said...

LOL B, stop worrying about it! :o) I'm not embarrassed, and I don't think your comment/question sounds as though I ought to be embarrassed. I know what you mean, and I'm glad you asked. I'd much rather people ask than sit and wonder or make assumptions.

Thank you so much for your very kind words. I think part of my past depression was about rage - rage turned inwards. Life's too short to spend it all in a rage, either internal or external, and depression didn't make me any happier ;o) Tried it, made the t-shirt, passed it onto the charity shop, and got on with living instead :oD

Thank you too for your thoughts of Nn too. I miss him...

And also, thank you for your great friendship and for being you :o)