Sunday, 10 September 2017

“You look so happy in all of your pictures!”

Which of these pictures makes you think I need help? 

Most people will say the ones where I am crying. You can see my hurt and pain quite clearly. The twisted agony is quite obvious. I’m suicidal in both of these pictures right? Yes. What about the other two pictures? I’m smiling. I look nice. Hair and makeup done. I’m not suicidal in either of these pictures right? Wrong! I am suicidal in all of those pictures. In fact, in most of my pictures I’m feeling suicidal or thinking about suicide. 

I have something called suicidal ideation. I have written about this previously. It is essentially a state of mind where the though of ending my own life is never too far away. That’s just how my brain works. The last psychiatrist I saw told me I was a “high suicide risk”. This did not come as a shock to me. I am well aware of that fact. More recently, thoughts of suicide have been far more intrusive owing to a set of circumstances I am not yet ready to talk about. 

I have attempted suicide. From memory, I have attempted at least 4 times. Each time was different insofar as there were different reasons for my attempt. 

Suicide is not so much about wanting to die, more about not wanting to live. Not wanting to be suffering an indescribable pain. Not wanting to be a burden to those who love you most. 

According to the World Health Organisation, 800,000 people die by suicide every year. Men are more likely to complete suicide and women are more likely to attempt suicide. There are also racial disparities in suicide. American Indians, Alaskan Natives and white men are the highest risk. Asian and Pacific Islanders have the lowest suicide rates for men and African Americans have the lowest rates for women. 

There are often no warning signs that a person is going to complete suicide. As a person who has been suicidal for more of my life than not, I can guarantee that there are not many people who actually know or realise that behind my smile there are continuous thoughts of suicide. 

Suicide is a global issue. We have a responsibility to all our fellow humans to know and understand that suicide does not discriminate. Some of the happiest people you see may be battling dark demons under the surface. 

This World Suicide Prevention Day I want people to know that you can help prevent suicide. If someone wants to talk to you about feeling suicidal, let them talk. I know it is scary, but just listening can make all the difference. I have spoken to friends myself who have talked about ending their own lives and even though I fight the same demons on a daily basis, I still feel out of my depth when trying to help someone else. 

According to statistics, between 50% and 75% of people who attempt suicide talk about their suicidal thoughts beforehand. That still leaves between 25% and 50% of people who show no “warning” signs at all.  

The biggest risk factor for completing suicide is having made a previous attempt. Around 90% of people who complete suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition. Substance abuse and a family history of suicide also increases the risk. Those who have experienced childhood trauma or display impulsive aggression are also more likely to complete suicide.

You can help prevent suicide by engaging in conversation with a person who you may feel is at risk. There are many online resources available with advice on how to broach the conversation. 

Just know that if, after trying to help a person, they still complete suicide, it is not your fault. As noted above, between 25% and 50% of individuals who complete suicide show no warning signs. 

Knowing that someone cares is the biggest help for me. Having someone just drop me a message asking how I am can keep my demons at bay.

Suicide should not be a taboo subject. Even if we are not suicidal ourselves, we should still openly talk about it to help reduce the stigma. We should also avoid creating our own conclusions as to why a person completed suicide. 

When discussing suicide with a person who may be at risk, it is also important to consider how you are feeling.  Are you ready to talk to someone who may well tell you they want to take their own life? Are you prepared? Do you have resources available to support yourself and the individual at risk? Is the timing right? 

You can find a number of blogs that I have written in relation to suicide:

How to save a life - The aftermath of reaching out to a person on the edge. 
World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 - Last year's writeup 
MENtal Health - A blog focusing on male suicide victims
Depression Does Not Discriminate - A blog following the suicide of Robin Williams
Lost in the System - A blog following the death of Kevin Boyle 
Unbearable Pain- A blog following the death of Gary Speed

Resources available:

AFSP - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
CALM The campaign against living miserably

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Open Letter

Hi world,

I'd love to have a moment of your time if I may?

You see, you judged me today when I limped onto the tube with a stick and needed a seat but walked off normally when it got to my stop.

You called me thirsty, slutty, a whore, a tramp… a whole manner of disparaging names when you saw me out on a cold evening in just a dress.

You told people I was an attention seeker, a psycho, a fucking lunatic when you noticed the purple and silver scars on my legs. You pulled your children closer to you, shielded their eyes, changed seats. 

You whispered behind my back saying I was full of shit when I told you I only had two hours of sleep last night. Apparently there’s “no way” I could be an insomniac without looking like a zombie.

You said I was fat and disgusting when I wore a vest top and hot pants on a hot day. You told me I should stop eating and maybe try exercising instead of being so “fucking lazy”. You said it was my fault and the fault of fat cunts like me that the NHS is suffering.

You took “sneaky” pictures of my armpit hair whilst I held the handrail above my head. You showed it to your mate and you both made disgusted faces and then laughed.

You yelled at me. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” But this is just rhetorical isn’t it? You don’t actually want to know what’s wrong. You don’t really care. You just wan to make yourself feel better by dragging me down. That’s how you get your kicks. That’s why you’re so buoyed, why your ego is so huge… you think you’re better than me. Than people like me. People different to you.

We are very different you and I. That is certain. For starters, I wouldn’t dream of dragging someone through the mud just to make myself feel better. That’s just mean! I also wouldn’t judge a person based on their appearance. There’s no sense in that. 

Before you go dragging anyone else down so you can feel better about yourself, understand something about me:

I need to walk with a stick and sit down on the tube sometimes. You see, I have a chronic pain condition. Everything hurts. Always. Some days I can manage the pain just fine. However, days like today, when I limped onto the tube and sat in the disabled seat, my back was REALLY hurting. The kind of pain that makes you want to vomit. Also, my knee was hurting. You see, it tends to dislocate at will. The last time it dislocated, I had to force it back so hard that I am left with a dull ache in my knee that becomes a screaming pain when it gets cold. Sitting down even for two stops can give me enough time to recenter myself so I can continue the rest of my journey.

I wore a dress. This is kind of a big deal for me. It was cold according to the mercury. I didn’t wear a coat. You see, I have this issue with my hypothalamus. This is the part of your brain that helps maintain homeostasis. It regulates your body temperature. Mine doesn’t work. My thermostat is permanently stuck on sub-saharan desert. I am always hot. Sounds great doesn’t it? I live in England. It’s always cold. High body temperature must be great right? Wrong! High body temperature leads to excessive perspiration. This makes me dehydrated a lot. I have had head a headache since about 1995! It also means that I can’t dress appropriately for the weather. When I wear too many layers I feel suffocated. It’s horrible. Typically I wear jeans and t shirt every day. That is my “workwear”. I hate it. I wish I could wear shorts sometimes but you see, I have scars. 

Scars. Big fat silvery scars. Long narrow purple scars. Criss crossing my thighs. A reminder that I wasn’t good enough then and that I’m still not good enough now. Self inflicted scars. Sustained in battle. Against myself. Since the beginning of my memory. Maybe even further back. I know how they look. I see them every single day. Sometimes I trace them with my fingers. Hearing the screams of my trauma. Occasionally, I trace them and smile. I smile because I am still here. I am still alive. I am not the kind of person to hurt anyone. Not on purpose. Just myself.

I’m fat. Yes, I know this. I’m fat because I’m in pain. Not the other way around. Walking hurts. Standing hurts. Sitting hurts. My shoulders dislocate more and more these days. Sometimes I’m carrying something heavy and I hear that distinctive pop. Other times, it happens when I am sleeping! Imagine trying to exercise. Constantly in pain. Random joints dislocating. Having to monitor my breathing. My posture. My joints. Trying to push through that pain barrier without causing long term injury. I know that I’m fat. What I didn’t know was this excluded me from wearing shorts, dresses, crop tops… I have been to the doctors. A rarity for “fat cunts” like me. They can’t really do anything for me. I can take medication but that may exacerbate my brain fog. It will make me tired. Listless. Numb. 

My armpits are hairy. My legs are hairy. My *gasp* private parts are hairy. Why? Is it because I’m a feminist? Is it because I’m too fat to reach everywhere? No. Whilst I AM a feminist and fat, these are not my reasons for being hairy. My main reason for being hairy is simple, I don’t care. My other reason is that reaching around to shave various body parts is a struggle. The last time I shaved my pits, I dislocated my shoulder, slipping with the razor and almost losing a nipple! No “beauty standard” is worth that or any other level of pain!

I know that you aren’t really interested in what is “wrong” but I want to tell you anyway. In addition to the above mentioned issues, I also have poor mental health. I have Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Insomnia… amongst other things. I also have Autistic Spectrum Disorder. These things combined make it incredibly difficult for me to be around people. Especially new people. Socialising is one of the most terrifying and exhausting things I can do. I sleep between 4 and 6 hours a night. When I do sleep, it isn’t restful. It’s difficult for me to find a comfortable sleeping position. Sleeping on my back affects my breathing. Sleeping on my side makes body parts go numb. Sleeping on my front is impossible with such an ample chest! I'm used to sleeping so badly. My body has adjusted.

Despite all of these struggles, I get up every day and go to work. I work long hours. I rarely take sick days. I don’t complain. I maintain friendships to the best of my ability. I am a loving and devoted partner as well. Yet you brand me. Label me. Judge me. Write me off. All because I don’t fit your image requirements. I am a human being. I have feelings. You don’t need to know my story to show me basic human decency. You should do that anyway! 

There are many other obstacles I face every single day but I think this is enough education for now! I owe you nothing! 

Stop holding your fellow humans to impossible standards and just live your own life! We are all fighting battles no one else knows about.

I don't want your applause. I don't need it. Waking up and surviving another day is all the applause I need.

Thanks for listening.