I’ll start off by saying that if reading about self-harm or suicide ideation is difficult for you, please don’t read any further. My aim in writing this certainly isn’t to make anyone feel worse. That said, I’m not out for shock-value but neither do I want to sugar-coat my emotions.
Here are the cold, hard facts. On 1st January, I took the day off work because I was too sad to get out of bed. As January progressed, this sadness increased day by day. As the sadness increased, so did my loneliness and a sense of feeling empty, but also so full of emptiness that I felt like my body was too heavy to manoeuvre. Then, paranoia began to creep in, and with that came insomnia, which, finally, led to the closest I’ve ever come to a full-on mental breakdown.
On a Saturday evening, around 2 weeks ago, I bought a bottle of red wine with the sole intention of drinking all of it to finally make me sleep, after around a fortnight of not sleeping until 4am and being consistently late for work. This is the last coherent decision I made. The rest of it, you can guess from the opening paragraph. I couldn’t tell you why I picked up the knife, and that’s the thought that worries me even two weeks later. That when I’m not in direct control of my mind, that’s what I do.
In hindsight, the downward spiral of my mental health was blindingly obvious, and I can’t believe I didn’t take it more seriously. I kept telling myself that I was being melodramatic, or that I was PMS-ing (seriously!) and that the feelings would go away by themselves. Other people also seemed flippant, as they viewed the world, and my behaviour, through healthier-tinted glasses than my jaundiced ones. An excerpt from my diary on the 20th January about a conversation with my boss reads:
“…the way he phrases things is hard and conversations with him always feel like I’ve shot his dog or something equally heinous. He told me that I had to learn to deal with criticism in life. I can and I do, but right now, I’m in a bad way. I said that I knew he thought my work was bad and he wasn’t happy with me. He denied this but I know it’s true.”
This was the biggest, loudest red light of them all – my intense paranoia that I was going to be fired. Every day, I was convinced that a different staff member was going to take my role and I would be let go. I knew paranoia was a symptom of *something*, but I also couldn’t quite convince myself that my paranoia was in the wrong – surely there couldn’t be this much smoke without a fire? Low level paranoia is usual for me – if you’re reading this, just presume I’ve always assumed you kind of hate me – but this was on a whole new scale. I wish I could offer guidance on how to overcome this, but I can’t. People simply telling me I was wrong didn’t help. Me telling me I was wrong didn’t help.
In the wake of THAT fateful Saturday night, I self-certified as sick for a week and returned to my home-town, where I was able to find a solace of sorts. And here’s where the advice comes in. Forgive me, but you know this post can’t be all doom-and-gloom, and I’m the Queen of finding silver linings.
If you’re low and you need help or you need to step back and take time for yourself, surround yourself with people who have known you for a long time, who know you well, if not inside-out. Staying with my parents, although my relationship with them is strained, did me a world of good. The concrete certainty that they would both be home from work at 5pm every evening was immeasurably reassuring and their routine made me feel safe. Aside from them, I spent time with a few friends who had known me for longer than a decade. I could never explain to you how, but these people grounded me into myself – gave me a sense of belonging in the universe seemingly without doing anything at all. Almost overnight, I went from frail and jumpy to a life-force with control over themselves. I can literally chart my week off into three stages, Immediate physical recovery, mental jigsaw puzzle and then mental/physical puzzle completion. I could save it and frame it, or tear it up and start again. For now, I’ve framed it. “Remember What You Did And Don’t Do It Again” Is the working title.
There’s more I could tell you. In the clutches of the alcohol and the knife, the thing I’ll attribute to saving me is another person. A friend that I’d contacted earlier in the week saying I was having a really bad MH week, who’d said to me that if things got worse, to give her a shout. Completely drunkenly out of control, I remembered this and rang her.
She got straight into an Uber and came over, cleaned my cuts and put me to bed. Better people do not exist in this universe and I can’t thank her enough. Writing this reminded me that I should probably thank her again. That old, tired saying really is true. You can save someone just by telling them you’re there, that you’ll help and asking people how they are and how you can help them. Sure, I was drunkenly messaging every boy I’d ever fancied asking them to love me but the pure loyalty of a FRIEND was the actual connection that immediately pulled me through. And, back in my hometown, it was friendship that pushed me through my personal recovery purgatory too.
I’m someone who regularly cites having ‘no friends’ when the actual truth is my friends are just scattered across the entire country. When it comes down to it, there’s at least 5 people whom my personality has a direct connection to, and that’s enough of a life-boat to keep me afloat. Now I have a list of those people, and the next time I feel myself losing touch with reality, I know where to start my recovery.
This has probably been long and disjointed and I salute you if you’ve gotten all the way through. This is the first blog post of 2018 on my blog, and it just wouldn’t have felt right if I didn’t address the issues I’ve faced in the last month or so. You all know me well enough by now to know that I don’t mince words when it comes to mental health. The upshot of this post, I guess, is to say that you’re not alone. However alone you think you are, there are ties that connect you to the world and those ties, the most banal facts and figures of your existence, are strong enough to save you. Always start from the beginning. It’s not the end until the fat lady sings and last I heard, she’d had a gastric band fitted anyway.