Catch 22 – How to not die

Last week I wrote about why I stay alive. Today I want to talk about how I stay alive. So, let’s imagine that you’ve thought about the reasons for not committing suicide and you’ve decided not to kill yourself.  I have been through that process maybe 4 or 5 times in my life (not really expert status, I know….).  So, from my own personal experience, I want to warn you…… It’s about to get a lot worse.  A lot a lot.

Ah, the relief when I had made up my mind to kill myself.  So many worries gone.  A clear plan.   But then I decided not to.  A whole world of hurt came raining down on my head.  I had to eat.  I had to talk to people.  I had to try and get better.  I had to pay the bills, worry about my job, brush my teeth, go to the shops.  And, far, far worse than any of that, I had to find a way to live with that feeling.  That awful, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, bone-grinding combination of hopelessness, pain, fear and loneliness.  And nothing would make it go away.  I had to accept living with those feelings not just for minutes or hours, but for days and weeks and months.

Then the regret kicked in.  Should have died. You’re probably in for a few days of that…. Oh, and every morning for weeks and weeks. When I woke up, for about 5 seconds, before memory kicked in, it was okay.  Then it would hit me – another day to survive.  Weariness would spread through my brain and body. Couldn’t get up, but couldn’t bear to just lie there.

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The good news is that I don’t feel like that anymore.  But it is still fresh enough in the memory for me to be able to access how it felt.  So, here’s the catch-22:  While you don’t want to live, you have to do things to try and stay alive. I have been thinking a lot about the things I did during those weeks when I did not want to be alive and in a minute, I’m going to tell you what they were.  But first, a caveat:  These things will not make you feel any better.  They certainly won’t cheer you up.  They won’t even scratch the surface of the pain you are feeling. Do them anyway.

So, here is what I did for several weeks:

  • Watched the entire back catalogue of Red Dwarf, The IT Crowd and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (okay, actually only up to season 4 of BTVS, I’m not a masochist)
  • Slept as much as I could
  • Had showers and baths
  • Ate food
  • Drank tea
  • Read Facebook
  • Read endless mental health websites
  • Watch YouTube clips (thank you to my friend A~ who kept me supplied)
  • Laid in bed, holding a pillow and cried. For hours.
  • Read books (on that note, can I just say, who the hell wants to read beautiful, poignant literature when they’re depressed? Nope!  It’s Stephen King all the way for me.  It cheers me up – my life may be bad, but at least my pet cat hasn’t come back from the dead and tried to eat me).
  • Played Candy Crush Saga
  • Played Words with Friends
  • Talked……..and talked and talked and talked. To friends. To my Mum.  To mental health helplines. To the Home Treatment team. I said the same thing again and again. Pouring my pain out, like water from a jug that keeps refilling.  Every time it threatened to spill over, I would find another person to tell my story to.
  • Smoked cigarettes (not advisable, I know. It was a reward system –  Get out of bed?  Then you can have a cigarette.  Eat lunch? Then you can have a cigarette. Get dressed?  etc. etc.)
  • On a bigger scale, I also sampled the delights of A&E (thank you to S&C for taking me, staying with me and for keeping me safe when they refused to help), self-referred to the Crisis Team and eventually admitted myself to residential care (there’s a whole different blog post!!)

Looking back and remembering how I felt, I am terribly afraid.  I never want to look into that abyss again.  Some awful things I have been through seem, with hindsight, to have not been so awful.  Not this.  I will do pretty much anything within my power to never feel like that again.

So, if you have stuck with me this far, well done.  I hope it wasn’t as depressing to read as it was to write.  The good news is, that was the worst part.  It gets better. I promise.

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