I had a fun childhood, nice home, loving parents, three little sisters, overseas holidays and family beach days with our family dog. On the surface!
At 35, married, two beautiful children, homeowner. On the outside life looked good, yet on the inside I wanted to die.
When I had to dig deep and repair my life one little step at a time, I realised I had had some really challenging, tough childhood moments. I struggled with weight, looked different from others and experienced abuse...and I just kept smiling and kept silent.
It all came as a bit of a shock to me and to everyone around me, really. I remember the days getting harder, the moments getting harder and just a real sense of not liking who, what and where I was. I knew I was sad, but I really couldn’t put my finger on what was causing the sadness or how I could fix it. This was just the beginning. I made an appointment to see my doctor. I walked in, sat down and just cried. No words, just tears. After managing to chat, she said “Well, I think you are depressed, we have medication to help and people you can talk to.” She gave me a script and a card with a name of someone to call. I got the pills and made the call but there was something about taking the pills that made me feel even worse about myself.
What a failure I was. How could I have let it all get this bad?
This was a hit to the soul and it really messed with my head. Things were getting ugly.
Here I was just muddling along. On the outside still looking like I had it all together - heaven forbid I let anyone know I was a complete mess. Months earlier, I had let my husband, mum and sister know that I was feeling depressed, taking meds and was trying counselling. They were a little shocked at first, but supportive. They showed me love and compassion, but really didn’t ask too many questions or openly talk to me about much. I guess they didn’t quite know what to say. They did really help me with my children though, this I really appreciated, however I felt totally alone.
My mind was doing overtime. I had a suffocating thought of not being able to live like this forever. I don’t want to live like this forever. Then the voices started and they were so convincing. The world, everyone who knew me, even my children would be better off without me. The voices became stronger, closer, and then the voices became figures, bullying, laughing and confirming what a failure I was. So when I say that it all really happened quickly - the wanting to die bit really did happen fast. I had to get out of this place.
One day, an afternoon, I was at home with the kids, they were happily playing and a sudden urge came over me. I wanted to die.
I’m not sure exactly what happened next, but I do remember panic, an ambulance, doctors, nurses, feeling cold, scared, shaking and........disappointment that I wasn’t dead!
The time that followed has many blurry patches. My life was unravelling. It was a mess! Shocked friends and family and a lot of silence. No real conversations. I don’t actually think anyone knew what to say.
My kids were safe. They were cared for by their dad and our family. In my mind I was doing them a favour by not being in their life. I was disassociating. It was easier that way.
I came back home the next day, but on learning that a mental health nurse was coming to see me, I bolted, I ran away. Missing for hours. Finally found and returned. I had a nurse stay on night watch so my husband could sleep. It was then decided that the best place for me was a respite house where I would be looked after and couldn’t run away or attempt suicide again.
I went back home, started therapy and met an amazing physiologist. Lots of talking, a lot!! My life was broken down into pieces, from birth to 35 years later. Things were starting to become clearer. Things were slowly looking brighter.....until boom!
I was about to be discharged from the service when it became apparent that I was not ready. I was starting to realise how much of a mess I was. I could not see a way out and did not want to live another day with the thoughts, memories and mental pain. I felt a real deep agonising hurt. One day, when folding the washing, I made the decision that I was done. Then the phone rang, I answered! It was my psychologist checking in. I told her I wanted to die, that it was all too hard and that my kids would be better off without me.
Another ambulance, this time resus. Another respite stay. More therapy. This cycle continued. Attempt after attempt.
I was trying to die and it wasn’t working which actually made me feel even more of a failure. My life sucked and I couldn’t even manage to kill myself. I couldn’t even get that right!
Ambulance, hospitals, respite. Then stays in the Mental Health Unit. Along with an arrest, a missing person helicopter search, a ride in the police boat launch. I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act twice and put into the high security area. I was a danger - to myself!
I was alone. For a short time family and friends became distant and strangers became my friends.
I didn’t go back home to my family. I rented an apartment alone and saw my kids occasionally.
I started intense therapy.
I eventually did move back home – about six months later.
I never attempted suicide again.
I will always remember those harrowing hours, days, months. What changed and got me get through? In the end - after (as I said) intense therapy with some fabulous people at Waimarino Mental Health Services in Auckland. They helped me realise that actually, my children do need me and that they would not be better off without me and that I really was the best mum for them. They were my children. I was their best mum.
I also learnt a lot of self-compassion and self-acceptance. Not so much accepting that the things that had happened to me were ok - but actually accepting that they had happened. I have learnt so much. I now try to live as an authentic life as possible and I don’t live by what I should be doing. I am very careful to listen to my inner thoughts, to stop and feel my body. If I’m feeling nervous, sick or tense it’s usually because of a situation I’m not overly happy about, so I will try to do something about it right away.
I have most certainly been through some traumatic times and I wouldn’t change them but I’m so glad I don’t need to live in that terrible turmoil. I’m so glad I can now recognise (only because of the pain I’ve been through) when I’m starting to feel unhappy about things and so need to change something (often it is my mindset). I have the tools I need to help myself, my family and my friends - well anyone I can, really. I don’t pretend to have it all together. I most certainly don’t AND that’s ok. It really is OK.
I will one day tell my children this story. For now though, I’m happy to just use my experience and knowledge to guide them through their best lives.
Some of my close friends and family know of my experience. I’m happy to talk to others where and when the timing and the situation allows. No matter what anyone could have said to me, I was the only one who could change things.
I am very happy to be alive and to be here for my children. I treat my life with respect.
I keep it simple.
I keep it real.
I honestly just took those highly intense moments, literally one minute at a time. That was the only way I could get through. Using mantras like: This too will pass.
Using mindfulness, and for me it had to be something physical. I had to get out of my head and feel my body. Drinking an ice cold drink, touching ice or a frozen item, or taking my shoes off. One moment at a time, feeling my breath. This really helped me A LOT!
Another really helpful thing I learnt to do was to acknowledge how I was feeling. Accept that I felt this way. Sit with the feeling and name it. Was I angry? Was I scared? Was I sad? Then have compassion with that. Most of the time, when I named the feeling, then thought about why I felt this way, what had just happened, I realised my feelings were valid. Normally the feelings weren’t the problem; the feelings were actually just a tool giving me information about the situation. It was what I did with those feelings, how I reacted that normally led to bigger things. If I stopped and thought about the feeling, it gave me time to slow my reactions. “What am I feeling now? Where am I feeling this? What has just happened? It also allowed me to be ok with feeling how I did. We don’t want to hide feelings, we just need to know what to do with them and normally it’s enough to just acknowledge them.
Be kind to yourself.
The choice to die is final, you can’t come back.
Your family and friends really won’t be better off without you.
AND, no matter how hard things are right now, they truly can get better. Don’t look at the big picture, just look at the next minute, then the next. The very real and distressing moment will pass, and if you just hold on for one more moment, take another breath and continue, you will get through this.