It’s world suicide prevention day as I’m writing this. My fingers have hesitantly hovered over the keys now for about 20 minutes. I am lost for words.
There is such a horrid stigma around people who are suicidal.
They are not always teenage girls, or young men.
They are not always sad or depressed.
They do not always self-harm.
And, most importantly, they don’t all ‘look’ suicidal.
I’ve had lovely weekends with relatives over the past year, and on this one occasion that stands out from last month. I was in a really rough patch. I was underweight and my physicals were poor. I was self-harming badly, hidden by sleeves. I was upset at home and often distressed as well.
Once this trip was over my Aunt asked about my plans for next year. I said I wasn’t doing great, and I’m deferring uni for year as I’m not safe to be alone. The instant reply was:
‘You looked fine at the weekend’.
Why is it the case for so many people that we are offered judgement before support?
I beg that people stop relying on how someone ‘looks’ to ask them if they are okay or if they need help. Don’t go by if someone is wearing make-up or not to judge if they are depressed. And don’t believe that depression is the only disease that kills through suicide. Bipolar mania kills. So do personality disorders. Likewise with eating disorders. Don’t trust laughter to tell whether someone’s suicidal or not. Look for the happiness in their eyes, not just in their voice.
No one is selfish by being suicidal. Or ungrateful of the life they have. No one should feel guilty for feeling hopelessly sad. Or hearing voices. Or having a brain that tells them not to eat. Suicide thrives on this pain caused by mental illness.
But pain hides.
It is invisible. It can’t be detected on a blood test. And it is overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s about looking beyond the exterior to see how someone is. Sometimes it’s hidden under sleeves. Behind bedroom doors. Or simply in the mind of someone.
Don’t assume someone’s okay because they haven’t told you otherwise. Ask them. Know that suicide has no ‘look’. It doesn’t have a demographic, or a gender, or a body type or even a hairstyle. Mental illness hides in plain sight.
My auntie judged me by my cover, without ever reading the first chapter. She has no idea about my hospital admissions for suicide attempts in the past. Or the self harm or the overdoses. But she also never stopped to ask.
Pain hides in the darkness we let it lie in. Be a beam of light for someone. Rip back those curtains and turn every lamp on.
Darkness blinds us from the things around us. This can either be our greatest treasure, we never have to see the dangers and pain lurking in front of us. Or it can be our greatest fear, knowing there are things within it that are killing us. Either way, the problem with living in darkness is that it also stops us from seeing all the love we have nearby as well. It only takes for someone or something to turn on the light, or draw the curtains, or stay with us until sunrise, for our lives to come properly into focus again.
by Emma Cunningham
wordpress – thelilaclysander.wordpress.com
Imagine having a hive of bees stuck inside your head. A frantic buzzing and stinging of your insides. Another hive in each of your limbs. And gigantic swarm inside of your stomach. There are so many of them I can barely think, my thoughts are all stung and shaking, and the rocketing little wings vibrate me. It sends the shakes through me like ripples; I can barely sit still. Words and words and words spiral out of my mouth from my chest; words with no shape; no sense.
I am soaring at 3,000 lightyears, 3,000,000 feet above everyone else. While I ascend each second the rest of the world moves like snails on the land beneath these clouds that I stand on. A fluttering frustration with the people below, unable to keep up with me, nowhere near as high as me. But another fluttering too, one from the bird inside my chest, the one I used to call my heart. It beats its wings, like that of a hummingbird, with each swish there is life life life. That feeling of falling in love 500 times a minute. With whom? I could not say. I do not know who I’m electrified for.
The sticky honey from those bees clouding my vision, so sweet but so debilitating. The sweet glucose firing the worlds I have thought up in my mind within the past breath. Fuel my ambition and watch me laugh at you when you tell me inventing a new planet is impossible.
Waves of euphoria crash against my chest like tsunamis, flooding my lungs and my blood with this energy. The kinetic energy within them so strong I can barely cope, the beating within my ribs jolting my neck and twisting my spine. Do not mistake mania for sweet bliss, no, it is crushing euphoria. And with each wave is the message, ‘there is no such thing as sadness anymore’.
gentle sadness is not something I am used to
to weep instead of to wail
seems like a gift, doesn’t it
a flood to a tsunami
with no waves crashing against my chest
that make my ribs break open
as I curl up in agony on the blue carpet
instead a bleed from a slow heart
and a weak head
a wail with no life left
like a flood to a tsunami
Sobriety is both painfully lonely, and a beautiful gift. Most days I don’t know what I miss more; the being able to drink at parties or events where there’s alcohol and feeling the life bursting out of me for a few hours; the ridiculousness of my humour and endless laughing when I would feel myself letting my defence layers down, or the bliss of being someone else for a while. But I’ll tell you what I don’t miss. I don’t miss the week of shakes and nausea I had after a solid week of binge drinking each night. I don’t miss being so reckless with certain people that I’d wake up with a stomach flip of embarrassment. I don’t miss the wave of sadness when I start to sober up and the alcohol begins to depress my mood, and the awful feeling of unravelling internally. And I don’t miss the bittersweet feeling of knowing how good drinking felt and that it was the only thing I looked forward to, and how the glasses of wine were filling the bits of me that were broken and hurt, not really soothing them, but adding fuel to the fire inside. Sobriety is lonely too. Knowing the drunk phonecalls and the chats I used to have are not the same. It’s embarrassing. Knowing that everyone knows why you don’t drink anymore, and having to tell people ‘oh no I don’t drink… personal choice’ rather than ‘yeah I abuse alcohol and substances and I’m a binge drinker’. Knowing I can never go back. A drink in my hand is a red flag to all my friends and a dirty secret on my own if I ever give in. But as I said. It is also a gift. One that few people ever get the chance to have. Having substance abuse issues is an experience that ties people together with understand. And shows the strength of not listening to that fucking parasite in your mind every time it sees a bottle. I’ve fucked up with drinking numerous times since I stopped drinking earlier this year, and a few of them have been within the past month. It’s okay. Each drink I have out of pain is a chance to show that I can rise again.
The desire to starve, destroy, bleed, break apart and balloon
Is a gaslight where our stomach should be and a bonfire between our ears
Like it’s the only thing that’s keeping us warm
It’s the blood that carries our oxygen and our glucose
And it’s nerves that are threaded through our bodies
And to rebuild a body to make it work
Feels like the thought of splitting every atom in the soil of Earth and growing worms in their place
Because when your body grows brittle from the riptides of euphoria
And your neck becomes sore from carrying the poison that you can’t seem to get out of your skin
It’s time to say
If it takes flooding my stomach to extinguish that fire
And a blot of lightning to calm those nerves sewn into me
And an explosion of those infinite atoms that make up the earth beneath our feet
Just to make sense of ourselves and rebuild ourselves
That’s what it takes.
~by Emma Cunningham
I swear to god I wish it were a movie
I wish at the end of the day I could push the scene around me down to the floor
Take of the makeup from my eyes
And the skin off my face, neck and limbs like it was latex
Step out of these clothes that feel tight against my knees and my chest
But I know that
Once I am home I can’t stop being her
I can’t close the script and turn off the accents and the mannerisms I never chose in the first place
Oh the luxury of being an actor
They know what sadness, anger and elation feel like
But living in the shoes of someone who never stops feeling
Who can never stop aching when the curtain comes down at the end of the show
Who can’t quite just
The music doesn’t stop playing
And the dramatics don’t stop exploding
And the spot light will keep on shining
Even if it’s a bank holiday or a birthday
And it never will be
A play that I put on life like it’s a stage
Don’t think for a second I got lessons on surviving this
Because you don’t audition to be ill and weak and lonely
And I’m never sexy and sad, or exciting when I can’t stop drinking or fashionably mysterious like you wish I was
So you better quote me like I’m your idol
You better clap and throw flowers and cry with me when I bow
I hope you start to love me
I hope you start to understand me
When it’s over
When it’s the final scene
I hope you love me
Will you love me when you realise it’s not an act?
-by Emma Cunningham
Making sense of moods can be really hard, and I’ve found it so bloody confusing when I’ve been so unsure about how I feel in myself a lot of the time. I’ve very clearly had episodes of major depression in my life, since I was 13 but when I talk about feeling depressed I really don’t want anyone to be sad for me or feel bad for me, because it’s okay, it’s just a feeling and an episode of illness I’m living with. Yes it’s awful, but I always know it will pass for me and everyone else. We ALL have sadness in our lives, but depression is complex and can show itself in many forms and faces making it had to definitively know that you’re feeling sad. Everything seemed pretty clear until at 15, I had my first flight into mania that lasted a month and a half (July- mid August). It felt like a deep sigh after holding my breath, or rain to a thirsty plant. The world would be so colourful, exciting, beautiful, rich, my senses brighter, my head running fast with ideas. And through all of it I could never ever fathom how the heck I could ever feel depressed again. But it took so long to recognise this as mania or hypomania, because how on earth can that be a bad thing. We forget the bad bits of a bipolar high, the voices, the anger, the exhaustion we feel once it’s over and feeling utterly, uselessly out of control. I’ll never forget hearing the phrase from my therapist ‘Its like being yourself and being elated again, but it’s also something more’. I never even knew something was wrong, I was just glad to feel something different for a while, but living like actions don’t have consequences compound the impacts of my behaviour often leaving me in a huge mess as my mood begins to go down again. I’ve found meds helpful too settle things down (on a combination of an antidepressant and an antipsychotic) in combination with therapy that can help recognise and unpeel the thoughts and feelings in each episode. But it’s good to understand it all, whether you have bipolar, like me, depression, any other mood disorder or none- moods are all okay, it’s just learning to handle them and heal from them.