I remember having a conversation with my mentor one day where I was so tired of everything and couldn’t see anything getting better. I had struggled with suicidal thoughts for eight years already and I couldn't see it ever getting better. I remember saying to her “I’m just so tired of fighting” and her response is something that has stuck with me to this day. She said, “Jazz, what do you think fighting is? I don’t think you are fighting, you’re surviving.”
It was one of the most pivotal conversations in my life where I had to begin to learn what it was to fight because as much as I thought I was fighting, she was right, I was merely surviving.
I remember clearly the moment that I made the decision to fight. I was sitting in the psychiatric ward on suicide watch following an earlier suicide attempt. I looked at everybody around me, where I was and I began to reflect on the last few years of my life. I realized that if I did not start to fight now, I WAS going to be another statistic, and that was my reality. It was life or death and until this moment I had been choosing death.
I am going to tell you some of the practical things that I did to fight and how it helped me break free.
Firstly, I educated myself on what it meant to fight… Why? Because my definition was warped from the years I spent thinking I was fighting. Also, because if I was going to fight, I needed to know exactly what that entitled. So here is what I wrote:
- To engage in a war or battle.
- To command, manage, or manoeuvre
- To struggle to overcome, eliminate, or prevent.
- To strive to achieve or do something.
To fight means to ENGAGE in the battle, not sit down and simply survive it. I am no longer on the defence, but on attack.”
Now that I had a strong idea of what it actually meant to fight, I had to start putting in place the things that would activate the change I had so longed to see. I began to write a list called “How I will fight every day.”
If you are struggling, this is something I highly recommend you do. For me, this list includes things like:
- Maintaining honesty with the three people closest to me. Honesty is something I had always struggled with as I didn't want people to see how broken I really was. But I had to learn to trust those closest to me and be open with them no matter what.
- Writing a letter to my suicidal self. Stating all the things that I have already got through and also saying all of the things I know I need to do if I start to feel suicidal again. Things like “Don’t play sad music, you know that makes it worse!” and “Call one of the three people you trust. I know that right now you don’t want to because you think you are a burden or they will judge you but where is your evidence for that? They have been there the whole time and haven't left you yet so CALL THEM!”
- Writing down my core beliefs and the thoughts that were toxic (for example: I am a burden, I am unlovable) and next to them, writing down everything that contradicts those thoughts. I would take texts I had been sent saying “Proud of you” or “love you” and would write them ALL down so I could begin to undo that thinking.
- I began to dream, thinking, “If I could do anything at all without my current baggage, what would it be?” I would write it down. Thinking my potential was key for me.
One of the biggest things I learnt through all of this and my time in hospital was that in order for me to be set free, I needed to first learn how to live free. Libby Huirua’s book “Journey” was a key part in that process for me. In one chapter she talks about barricading your thinking, something that seems so simple but is one of the hardest things suicidal people struggle with. An example of this for me was when I was having coffee with a friend, someone of importance in my life was also in the coffee shop catching up with a friend and as they walked out, the friend turned around and said hi to me, but the other person didn’t. The friend that I was sitting with looked at me and said, “Jazz, what just went through your mind?” I replied with, “Nothing? What are you talking about?” And she said, “Your entire face just changed. What happened?” I realized in that moment that my mind had looked at something as simple as her not saying hi to me and I had twisted it to say, “See, she doesn't care about me. She hates me.” This may seem extreme, but when you are have constant thought pattern like I was, your brain will twist ANYTHING to try and justify your core beliefs. With my core belief being I was unlovable, I would look for anything to confirm that thinking. Learning how to recognize that and then going back to my previous step of writing down anything that contradicts my thinking was the key to my freedom.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts then I want you to know three things.
The first is that you are not fighting for hope, but with hope. I say with hope, because hope never disappears, circumstances can just blind us from seeing it. So it is important for us to remember that we have the ability to fight hand in hand with hope, even if our situations tell us hope is non-existent.
The second is that it is not about battling your past, but fighting for your future. This was key for me because we can spend so much time focusing on battling all the demons of our past when we should be looking ahead and fighting for our future. Your past is in the past, and while it important to work through that, we cannot spend our entire lives looking backwards and trying to fight what is already done. Instead, we can fight for what is to come. A future that speaks hope.
The third is that we can think about making change, talk about and dream about it, but nothing is going to change unless we actively take the steps to make change. When we choose to fight, change happens.
When I was looking back on my journals as I was writing this blog, I realized that all of the things I wrote about my dreams for the future have all happened and I am currently living them. Something I would have never thought possible; written within the four walls of my hospital room.
If you know someone going through this, please, stand by them. I had three people who stuck by my side even though at times I looked like a lost cause. In the end, it was our relationship that broke my core beliefs and allowed me to learn to live freely.
Hope is real and help is available.
You got this.