** Disclaimer: Trigger warnings for mental health and suicide. I am not a medical/mental health professional. These are my own personal experiences and thoughts and should not be taken as gospel (great advice for anything that comes out of my mouth, tbh). **
Three weeks ago today it was my mum’s birthday. She was 51. She doesn’t look 51, not that it would matter if she did. But she doesn’t. Just as I don’t look like my mental health is so fragile that I nearly killed myself on my mum’s 51st birthday.
The night before, I’d argued with my boyfriend. I can’t remember what about. It doesn’t matter, it never matters. He said something, my brain took the words and morphed them into something new, something horrible, and the switch flicked to turn me into a monster. I shouted, I screamed, I said nasty things.
Because it’s the same every time.
I went to bed early and cried until stupid o’clock.
Because it’s the same every time.
The next morning, I couldn’t get up for work. I couldn’t do anything. Something was different, I hadn’t felt *this* bad before. This time it wasn’t the same. I stared at my mum’s birthday card and didn’t care. I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t want to wash. I did though. I got dressed, I smeared my face in make-up, I brushed my hair. I looked the part, the part of a functioning human being. But I couldn’t see. Nothing was in focus and all I could hear was white noise, and my breathing. I was so disgustingly aware of my breathing. I hated it. It was exhausting, it was all encompassing. My breathing was smothering me.
I planned in detail how I was going to escape from work later and do something really, really stupid.
There’s something comforting about being at ‘rock bottom’. Everything stops. Everything is still. You’re there. You’ve fallen so far down that you’re unaware of any life carrying on around you and there is no more dragging down. You know when you’ve hit it.
But when I hit it, the floor wasn’t hard. There was a bounce. And that bounce was me. It was my personality, my being, banging on a window desperate to be let back in. It was a short burst of electricity, like I was being shocked back into life. They say mental illness shouldn’t be treated any differently than physical, and I can believe that now. I was gripping on, I was semi-conscious, I wasn’t really there anymore.
In that bounce, the little trapped me who had been banging on glass somewhere deep within my brain said, ‘I need to see the doctor.’ It was the tiniest voice, but it was there and it came out and that’s where my mum took me, on her 51st birthday.
The receptionists all looked at me like I was a three year old who had fallen off her bike. They weren’t sure what was going to happen next and were being extra nice and mumsy, saying everything was going to be okay but knowing full well that I could have a meltdown at any moment. That’s also the thing about being at ‘rock bottom’. It’s all inside. It was inside my head. There was nothing on the outside but stammering, staggering, and empty eyes. The meltdown had happened, you just couldn’t see it.
And that’s the most dangerous thing.
I nearly laughed when the doctor asked if I was suicidal. It seemed so stupid. Of course I was. Why wouldn’t I be? Why on earth would I want to be here? Feeling like that seemed so normal. I want to die. I want everything to be gone.
I know now that I didn’t want to die. In that moment, I wanted everything to go away but I didn’t want to kill myself. When the doctor said she wanted me to be taken to the psychiatric ward at A&E immediately, I panicked. This isn’t what I wanted. Was I really that bad? It was another electric shock, it was me punching through the glass I was trapped behind and screaming, 'NO, I WANT TO BE HERE.'
I told her I wouldn’t do it. I promised her. She told me I was in a very bad way, and I said I was just exhausted. So she wrote out a prescription for antidepressants and I was to go back in two days.
It’s been three weeks now and I still find it tough knowing I’m on medication to function. I’m feeling better, but that sense of embarrassment and weakness is still there. But my best friend, God love her soul, said something that I’m holding on to:
'These tablets do not change who you are, they help you become yourself again.'
She’s right. Some people need medication to stop physical pain so they can function normally, and I need medication for the same reason.
I’m not okay now, everything hasn’t just fixed itself. I don’t expect it to, I don’t expect to suddenly act like nothing happened and life will be beautiful from now on. But I feel in control. And that’s important. My illnesses have been caught in a bin bag and shoved in the corner of my brain. They’re still there, and they still break out sometimes (bin bags are notoriously flimsy, after all), but they’re contained. And these tablets are soldiers, they’re guards who patrol my brain and keep an eye out for any runaway thoughts or feelings.
There is always hope. Always. When you’re in the darkest pit and feel there’s no way out, there is always banging against glass. Listen for it. That is you. You are there, you have just been trapped by little monsters.
My mum is 51 and I am nearly 22, and very much still alive.