Suicide - Let's say it out loud, it isn't an ugly or taboo word, yet as a society, we continue to make it one. Despite the move forward and the wonderful fact that we have a designated month to pause and reflect on suicide awareness and a day dedicated to suicide prevention, there are still too many lost to an ever-growing statistic worldwide. Not only do we keep making the same mistakes but the very people we put in charge of protecting us are also at the core of the world being unkind to those it considers damaged. Big call you may say? Let me share my personal story with you.
There is a man walking around right now, probably having his lunch, aged around 50 who may or may not reflect on the night he changed my life forever. I was 16 years old in 1996 when the internet was shiny and new. I grew up in a small town and was wrangling with my sexuality in a place where I knew I would never be accepted and it was absolutely crucial that no one found out. I excitedly started talking to a guy who also lived in a country town though he was a "little" older than me and had already come to terms with who he was. He could help me, he said. We chatted until he felt emboldened enough to ask to meet me, to reassure me in person that being gay wasn't the terrifying thing I thought it was. Cue my innocence and naivety. I carefully planned it so that my parents were away for the weekend and just my sister would be at home and wouldn't think twice about me going to hang out with a friend. We met in a carpark and I nervously got into his car so we could go for a drive to get to know each other in person and chat. Now, given the subject matter of today's story, I am not going to go into the finer details of what eventuated because I absolutely do not want to trigger anyone. But suffice to say it went very, very badly for me. In just a few moments my story changed forever. Without me realising, my schoolboy dreams and hopes for my future were smashed into a million pieces. I didn't tell a soul what had happened for fear of outing myself and in the process, I put the event in a box and locked it up tightly. I then sat on said box and for the next almost 20 years I dared not unlock it. The result of course was complete mayhem that slowly poured into my life. I would eventually be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and probably most importantly Borderline Personality Disorder. Each of these illnesses presented itself at different inflection points in my life ultimately coming together to create the perfect storm. Now how this relates to today being Suicide Prevention Day, is that I went through nearly all of this alone. I had no help, no therapy, lots of medication and no idea why I felt the way I did. Everything seemed to go wrong and I could never understand why. Doctor after doctor didn't suggest that as a young 21yo I should be getting psychotherapy instead of just writing me another presciption and sending me on my way. It is akin to giving someone a kayak without the paddles and expecting them to make it up the river.
Now bear with me on this one, because I think there will be a lot of people out that will possibly not quite understand what I am saying, but there will almost certainly be many that do. After an extremely difficult few weeks where I had landed myself in hospital, I finally felt well enough to return to work. I can replay this moment in my head over and over again as if it were captured in time. I was leaving the bathroom (of all places) and I stopped in my tracks. I had obviously been constantly thinking about my situation and how difficult things were leading up to this moment. I all of a sudden had a very clear and calm sense of clarity. I knew then, that my end would come at my own hands. I can only describe it as being in the centre of the eye of the storm for just a few minutes, I finally understood how my story would end. I knew that when the time was right, whenever that may be that I could take my leave knowing I had done everything possible to fight, taken every pill, done everything every doctor had told me to do, researched every self-help guide I could but that it just isn't enough, my story would end. I also knew and still know that it won't end yet there are more battles ahead and more moments to love my friends and family and to live for. But as the years went by I felt like a battle-weary soldier who went into the fight with a shiny new set of armour and sword and that slowly that armour has been chipped away piece by piece. When my final fight comes I will walk into the battle with no armour, no sword, just me. In a way surrender to a finality that I have done my absolute best to fight for as long as I possibly could.
Now I don't at all feel like that is an imminent thing, but I strangely take comfort in it after having dealt with so much and knowing there is still so much more to come that it will be my decision when to walk into the fight unarmed and alone. I won't be held mercy to the illnesses that have plagued me since that 20 something year old man walked into my life. I will have control of the end of my own story.
I am in no way attempting to glorify the idea of suicide ideation, this is merely my own personal experience of a battle that began that cool May night of 1996.
This is also why I am writing about the importance of Suicide Prevention Day and the Month at large strangely enough. I guess we all wish we could turn back the clock sometimes, some more than others. We wish we could change our story but here is the thing. We CAN do something right now for those who are suffering in silence. Because it was the silence that led my own story to take a different turn. I didn't tell anyone what had happened to me until I was around 35 and I am incredibly close to my Mum and my Sister. Instead, I carried the burden and trauma of it alone. As a collective, we especially need to think about our kids and people in high-risk groups, like young men and women and the LGBTQI communities. We can open up the conversation without judgement or shame and tell them it is ok to feel like you don't belong, because right now, today, there is help out there for you. Despite the horrific rhetoric we hear from certain parts of our communities and those elected to office who chose to use their voice for hate and vilification and infringe on our very rights to choose, both what we do with our bodies and who we choose to love, we still have things that are more powerful than trolls on Twitter or elected Senator's who use their platforms as a means to further divide us and that is communities and hope. While ever there is hope and a friendly non-judgemental face to lean into there is a life to be saved.
We just have to talk about it. We have to make it ok to say " I don't know that I want to be here anymore" and not be scared to take that on. Instead of looking the other way, be there, be present and have the conversation that could save someone's life. Because sometimes just saying the words out loud is freeing and not getting the feeling like you're going to get told you're "selfish" for feeling that way can change the game entirely. It can start a whole different direction for that person's journey by acknowledging the pain they are in and finding the right help to guide them through it.
Towards something better than yesterday, better than hiding how people feel for fear of judgement because suicide is such a tricky and "taboo" topic to talk about. Only by talking about it will we move the needle. And by standing up to Politicians who vilify our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters and our mothers and fathers can we resolve to change things for the future. To those to have lost someone to suicide, my heart breaks for you, because I know the pain your loved one was in and still they chose to leave.
Today is an important day, reach out to someone you might know is struggling because if you can see it on the surface then be sure to know it's far worse beneath.