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
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.
This house is haunted.
There are doors that slam in the night and
I feel cold hands slip into mine
from time to time
This house is cold and
I am followed by a ghost that
Makes me shed my skin from now and again
But it is far from dead
It is alive and screaming in the evenings
An unhappy family is a noisy one.
This body is haunted
No need for a costume
I have a wardrobe full of masks and capes and witches hats
To keep me warm on a cold night
Footsteps run from the back of my head to my eyeballs
And voices loud enough to make me shake
My body feels like a skeleton on bad days
My body is a skeleton some months
My mind is haunted
My brain a living nightmare playing over and over and over
And there is no running away from a mind you can’t escape
There are no nightlights in my head to keep the monsters away
Even on days where the only sound I know is
the beating of my heart on the inside of my skull
But I am not scared of monsters
You learn to steady the tremble
And sit through the jump scares
And wait for the morning
When it rains I feel better
Tears streaming down window pains
Someone to cry with
My face turned up to the clouds, mouth open,
Gulping rainwater until I have to stop for breath
A tummy full of clouds almost kicks the feeling out of me
The feeling of things I should have done and have yet to do
Sticky sweet taste in my mouth that stops me from speaking
Someone to cry with
Some days recovery is a field. And a yellow weed is growing in a beautiful ploom in the centre.
It takes your energy and all of your strength to pull the weed (as beautiful and wild as it seems) out of the ground. But when you turn around there are hundreds of new weeds, some of them yellow, some of them green and blue and purple and crimson, sprouting up from the earth.
Then you realise you need a helping hand to get rid of the weeds. You enlist family, friends, therapists and doctors to help you clear your field. It feels good to have a helping hand.
From time to time weeds pop up here and there but now you have a team to help you pluck them away and help the earth beneath you heal. As seasons change and sun shines the condition of the field changes and varies but it always remains your field.
And soon you see flowers blooming on the grass in vibrant colours and shades. A fiesta of energy and life.
Other days recovery is a battlefield.