HOW COULD AN ADORING MUM ATTEMPT SUICIDE FOUR TIMES?
I’m sorry to say that fifteen months ago I had a very narrow view on mental health and believed that people could simply ‘snap out of it’. Worse still, I felt that people who attempted suicide were merely attention seeking. Surely, if they really wanted to die, they’d just make it happen for real? As for those parents who put their children through suicide attempts…how could they? HOW COULD THEY?!
Then, my world was turned upside down. From nowhere, I was bulldozered sideways by a severe depressive episode. In the space of a couple of months, I changed from being an energetic, dynamic and enthusiastic Mum and professional educator, to clinging to the sofa and unable to face life. As I am now discovering through therapy, the triggers were many; but essentially I had denied the effects of severe traumas over twenty years and in the end my mind gave up.
Having worked full-time for eighteen years, I could suddenly no longer function, let alone work. And, for a long while, I also failed to be a Mum. Cooking dinner, driving my children to after-school activities and helping them with their homework, all became impossible. I craved silence. Stillness. And time alone. None of these are conducive to family life. My husband was brilliant. As were my parents and my in-laws. They all stepped up and life carried on as normally as possible for our twelve year old twins.
Yet life was far from normal for my mind. All of a sudden, ending my life seemed to be the only option. I was clearly a waste of space for everyone around me. I offered nothing as a Mum. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t support my husband in anything. In fact, I dragged him and everyone else down with me. I was either irritable or distant. Angry or disinterested. Moody or entirely absent. I was contributing nothing except negativity. Nobody needed me. And I couldn’t bear the pain I was going through. Torturous nightmares. Frightening flashbacks. Intense therapy sessions that seemed to only make things worse. I wasn’t even in a downward spiral – it was a vertical drop with nothing to grab onto on either side.
I didn’t keep my suicidal thoughts a secret. During ‘better’ moments I managed to admit them to my therapist and, eventually, talk to my husband about them. These days I’ve also got a friend who I’ve plucked up the courage to be open with. They all know that if I call to say that I am struggling, that I need their help straight away. That I need to be talked out of the state that I am lost in; that I can no longer believe that I am loved and needed and wanted; and that there is a reason for me to stay alive. They talk to me until I’m safely in someone’s company; until I’ve walked away from the beach and into a café; or until I can promise them that I am calm and safe again…that I do now believe there is a reason to stay alive.
You see, that is how an adoring Mum can attempt suicide four times in the space of nine months. It isn’t because she is selfish. Or because she doesn’t care about her husband and children. Or because she is so egotistical that no-one else matters. It is simply because she no longer believes. No longer believes that she is any use to anyone; no longer believes that she will be missed (even by her own children); no longer believes that one day the pain will end; and therefore no longer believes that there is any reason to stay alive.
Research shows that those who have attempted suicide already, are likely to try again. If you know someone who has tried to take their life, please don’t put it down to attention seeking or define them as selfish. Please, please reach out to them and listen. Listen. Offer support. And above all, try to help them believe. Help them believe that their pain will end; that they do indeed matter; and there certainly are reasons to stay alive. I finally believe in myself and in those reasons. I am grateful every day to wake up and to be with my husband and children. I know I am lucky to have had incredible support. From now on, I will look out for those who struggling and try to help them believe. Will you?
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.