Trigger warning: I’m going to tell you about the antecedents to my first stay in residential psychiatric care. Inevitably (for me) this involves some fairly in-depth description of planning my suicide. So, if you think in any way that this is going to be triggering for you, just give it a miss. Please? For me? I have avoided writing about this for weeks, because I don’t want to run the risk of making anyone feel worse, but I really want to get this off my chest. If, however, you’re (relatively) sane and think it’s interesting to find out how the hell a person ends up in such a situation, then please continue…………..
It was bad. Really bad. You think I might have noticed how bad it was. You might think I would have known I was ill. Maybe I did. It must have really got started around September 2016. I was sad. That is the only word I can use. Such a little word. So innocuous. It doesn’t seem to cover it. But I was. I must have spoken about how sad I was quite a lot. I know that G~ was trying very hard to find help for me, I know I cried a lot. I know I went to the doctors a lot. I know I pursued a referral to secondary psychiatric services. It didn’t get any better. It got worse. I thought about suicide a lot. A lot of that time is a blank. I went on a trip to Wales and insisting on driving a friend of mine (another G~, as it happens), because otherwise I wouldn’t have come back. Christmas was awful. I tried and tried and tried. It got worse. I stopped taking my clothes off to go to bed. It was too hard. I lost weight. I stopped sleeping in my bed, because it belonged to ‘her’ (another version of me). My limbs were lead weights. I would lie on the kitchen floor and cry. I chose the kitchen floor because it was so uncomfortable, that eventually I knew I would get up again. And all this time I continued to go to work. I dragged my poor, broken body around and called it living. Eventually, I had enough. I don’t recall exactly when it was. February time, I think. I know I asked the doctor for a sick note for a week. I think I said it was stress or depression. He was happy to oblige. I wasn’t lying, I suppose, but nor was I completely truthful. I needed that time to plan my suicide.
Planning a suicide is really hard work, especially when one is clinically depressed. Everything is so difficult, it takes forever. I made lists of what I needed to do. I knew that really I should sell my house, my car, my possessions, but it was all too tiring to contemplate. I decided on a minimum I could live with (pun intended). I found out how to re-home my pets and made notes of the relevant contact details. I wrote my suicide letter and made a distribution list for it. I cleaned my house, emptied my fridge, let the petrol in my car run down. I thoroughly researched methods of suicide and selected one. It was based on the highest chance of ‘completion’, along with minimising the chance of anyone else being hurt and not being found by someone I knew (no, I’m not going to tell you how I was planning to do it – although many of you know). That all took about a week. Then I went on a farewell tour. I wanted to say goodbye to everyone, to try and leave them with a good memory of me. Those I couldn’t see, I rang. Of course, I couldn’t tell them that was what I was doing, which was hard. Nothing happened in that period to change my mind. Again, I don’t really remember much about the week. I know that I was completely convinced that my intentions were rational. Many people who die by suicide do it as a spur-of-the-moment thing. I wasn’t like that. I took my decision seriously. I tried to improve my situation. I could not. In my mind, I was terminally ill. The brief moments of pleasure, happiness or love I experienced were not sufficient reason to stay alive. I was suffering far too much to continue. I was ready to leave.
I think I had planned my suicide for a Friday. By then, I had seen everyone I wanted to see. I didn’t want to continue. I didn’t want to go back to the doctor for another sick note. If I died before Monday morning, I wouldn’t need to. R~ asked me to go the cinema with her that day. I was irritated, it was interfering with my plan, but then I thought…. It’s my last day on Earth, I can spare a few hours, it’s not like I need to get an early night. It would be my final goodbye. I tidied up the house one last time, turned off all the electrical appliances and locked the door, knowing I would never see my house again. I picked R~ up and drove to the cinema. We watched Hacksaw Ridge. I cried the whole way through. And not just crying. CRYING. My T-shirt was soaked with tears by the time we left. We sat in the car. I could barely see to drive.
“Is this how you feel every day?”
“Then I understand why you want to die.”
The next part is a little hazy. I tell her I’m going to drop her off, then drive to the place where I am going to kill myself.
“I’ll come with you. Come on, if you’re going to do it, let’s go.”
“Don’t be fucking stupid, I’m not going to let you watch you kill myself.”
Something about going to A&E. I tell her we can’t go to A&E because she has football training, or maybe it’s a gym class…………….
“I’ve tried everything to get better.”
“No you haven’t, you haven’t been to A&E.”
“Do you want me to drive?”
“No, I’m fine.”
I must have dropped her home. I don’t remember.
Getting fuel for the drive to my suicide spot.
Texting other friends, telling them what was happening. Maybe I speak to someone.
I’m back in my house.
More texts or maybe conversations with R~
“Pack an overnight bag.”
“I don’t need one. I’m not staying.”
“I know, but just in case…..”
“I’ll pick you up.”
“No, I’ll drive myself.”
R~ is outside my house in her car. I am holding an overnight bag.
Driving to the hospital.
“Just drop me here.”
“I’ll just come in, just for a bit, until you’re checked in.”
At the reception desk.
“Hello. My name is C~ F~ and I’m going to kill myself tonight.”
Speaking to the triage nurse. She is lovely. I reassure her I don’t want to hurt anyone else. She makes me pinky swear I won’t leave. She tells me if I do leave, she will call the police.
R~ is still here. I think she maybe speaks to the triage nurse.
R~ is trailing around after me while I chain smoke outside the hospital. She won’t go home, even though I keep telling her to leave. At some point she magically produced a cup of tea in an actual cup.
2 people from the Crisis Team arrive. We all sit in an interview room and I tell them how I feel. I am calm, rational, numb. And tired. So fucking tired. I just want it to be over.
“If we find you a place in care tonight, will you go?”
I say goodbye to R~ and get into the car with the staff from the Crisis Team. Another surreal drive at night from the hospital. I think about my Dad.
And that is how you end up, at 3 in the morning, in the office of ‘The Lodge’ (not its real name), drinking tea, eating biscuits and looking like a Shell-shock victim.
Why am I telling you all this? Because you might be curious as to how I got there. Because it was one of the worst nights of my life. Because it was the first night of my recovery.
But also because I would like to acknowledge the part R~ played in keeping me alive. I have no idea (she isn’t one to over-share) how she felt that day. I have no idea if she actually went to football training like I insisted. I have no idea how much patience and self-control it must take to allow someone who is actively suicidal to drive away from your house on the strength of a promise that they’ll speak to you before they kill themselves, and then wait for hours, cajoling via text, until they agree to get in your car and go to hospital. To then sit for hours with them in A&E so they don’t abscond. And to do all of that without once losing your shit, being impatient or getting upset. And even worse, to have the person you have helped not even be grateful, because after all of that, they still wished they had died that day. I don’t know how long, how many weeks it was, but I do know that eventually I was able to tell her ‘thank you for keeping me alive, I’m glad you did’. So, yeah, R~, if you are reading this – thank you again. I shall repay as best I can in coffee, donuts, proof-reading and letting you win at Scrabble*
*I am totally putting that last bit in to piss her off – she always wins at Scrabble.