World Suicide Prevention Day

On Saturday evening I attended one of the many Lifeline Out of the Shadows walks for World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).

Out of the Shadows scarves and bandannas

 

Even my dog is sporting a bandanna in support of WSPD.

A group of about 36 ended up turning up and together we walked through town wearing the Out of the Shadows apparel and holding battery operated candles. We had small cards explaining about the walk and WSPD to hand out to passers-by to raise awareness.

One of the things we had was a reflection tree where we invited people to write small reflections or messages on a paper leaf and hang it up.

Reflection Tree

It was sad reading what some people had wrote. A few had lost people to suicide. Others wrote messages about needing to speak out, increase awareness of suicide and that there is help available. It made me feel rather sorrowful as it’s just so difficult to remember this sometimes. That it’s easy to read this, but so much harder to actually speak it aloud and tell someone that you’re feeling suicidal, hopeless and alone.

And even people who ask for help don’t necessarily get the help that they need and end up taking their life which is all the more devastating. I watched the 4corners story on youth suicide There’s No 3D in Heaven last night and could really relate to the frustration that some of these family and friends share about the lack of mental health services. It shouldn’t happen that those who require support don’t receive it.

The Story of Ending Up in Emergency

Whilst I was very drowsy and not very with it, I do have a hazy memory of what happened. I remember laying in bed in the afternoon with my mother asking if I was okay. I told her I was. About an hour after she first asked, she cottoned on that I had taken an OD. I hit the floor upon trying to get up out of bed, which foiled her plan to take me to hospital. An ambulance was called…after she asked my fourteen year old brother what the number was. The second time in an ambulance and I’d still have no idea what the inside of it was like if you asked. I remember falling heavily into the wheelchair on arrival at the ED before being put on a bed. Vaguely remember being given an ECG, having a cannula put in by the doctor and given fluids, having a student nurse look after me and being interviewed by the psych liaison nurse. Think I met her back in May actually. The only part of the conversation I remember now is when she asked me what I wanted from ODing again, as I knew what would happen from doing it before.

The next day she came to speak to me again with a doctor. This time I was a bit more with it. The plan was to send me to the private hospital where my psychiatrist is, however, they didn’t have a bed available. And so the options then were; go home and await contact from the private hospital, wait in the ED for a bed in private hospital, or go to a public psych ward. I chose home. But I couldn’t convince them I could stay safe over the weekend and my ‘ambivalence’ worried her. The decision was made for me to spend another day in the ED. Oh the joys.

It was somewhat embarrassing to be recognised from my trip to the ED a week earlier. One nurse saw me and exclaimed, “Weren’t you here just two or three days ago?” “Umm…it was a week ago…” I replied. Another psych liaison nurse too added when he introduced himself to me, “I think I met you three or four weeks ago.” I didn’t bother correcting him, informing him it was only a week. He was the one who finally got me a bed. Not at the private psych clinic, but at the psych ward of another public hospital, where there was a bed. Which is where I am now, and have been since Sunday afternoon. I’ve been told they’re moving me to the private psych clinic when a bed becomes available…but at this rate it’ll be next friggin’ year ’til that happens…

ED again a week later

If you’ve been on Twitter lately and find me interesting enough to follow, you may already have some clue. But for those who don’t, basically I OD’d again. It was the forth one in the past couple of weeks but only the second in terms of landing my arse in the ED because of it.

You can rest assured you’ll be hearing the whole sordid story once I get on a computer…but for now, here’s some photos of where I am to keep you entertained:

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Hell if you suicide?

Is there life after death? Do those who complete suicide automatically earn a one way ticket to hell? When I’m contemplating suicide, that too is what I also consider.

Though officially Catholic, I’m not particularly religious. I haven’t prayed nor been to church in goodness knows how long. I’m unsure if I believe in God and all the teachings of the church. What if though? What if there really is a heaven and a hell and our faith (or lack of) is what determines where we go? I have to admit, the possibility petrifies me. What if I end my life on earth only to end up in a place a thousand times worse, for eternity? A hundred years suddenly doesn’t seem that long in comparison.

So is it worth the risk? A part of me says yes, a part of me says no. But either way there’s doubts. Unfortunately there’s really only one sure way of finding out the truth to this question.

People Need Others

“If you don’t have someone who believes in you, you’re not going to be on this earth very long. So tell me you all have someone in your life so that you’re in for the long haul?”

Words spoken today by the tutor who took our class for the Aboriginal Health and Culture unit. He was referring to the video we were watching where an Aboriginal man told of his experiences being part of the stolen generation. This Aboriginal man was sent to a missionary and told his parents didn’t want him, contrary to the truth, and later on battled with binge drinking and illicit drugs, overdosing twice. The tutor then linked this to people needing to be loved and cared for. He told us that alcohol and drug use are forms of self harm and self medication, and that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst the under 35.

Related to this is what came up in my most recent psychologist appointment. We spoke of the one year mark since my first ED admission following an overdose, and the difficult feelings that came up with it. “So what keeps you here now?” she asked me. I answered that knew I had commitments. My Uni course. Fieldwork at the hospital. A workshop for a youth organisation I volunteer for. She enquired as to whether there is anyone in my life that kept me anchored here. “Umm…not really…” I replied. I don’t know whether it’s that I’m selfish, or whether I just lack the vision to see this, but I don’t feel a true connection to..well…anybody. So I don’t think of the impact on others if I want to die because I don’t think it will impact people all that much. I know my mother, my grandparents and my aunt love me. But while there’s love, there’s no real connection. I have friends, but no real close friends I catch up with regularly and can talk to about everything. Boyfriends? Non-existent. I’m twenty in a little over a month and I’ve never even been on a date, let alone had a boyfriend.

This same issue keeps cropping up, the social isolation, that sense that I’m alone in the world and no one understands me. I don’t know how this is ever going to change. And if it doesn’t change, well… I’m not that strong and others before me haven’t survived. The tutor I had today isn’t pulling this stuff out of thin air, he has a Masters in Counselling and works in the field.

Australian Story- Brand New Day

I was watching Australian Story last night and this particular episode featured Gavin Larkin. He is one of the founders of R U OK? Day, a suicide prevention initiative which aims to promote the message that by simply asking someone, “R U OK?” you could potentially save a life. It was a very moving and sad episode.

His father completed suicide and at the present, Larkin himself has lymphoma which is unable to be treated. He is expected to survive just weeks or months from now. There’s something of a cruel irony in his situation. His father took his life and yet here he is fighting and losing the battle for his.This prompted me to ponder how oddly the world works. There are people who are so desperate to live but destined to die. Then there are those of us who are so desperate to die but despite our greatest intents and attempts, live. I wonder why this is so. Are we all victims of the cruel joker named ‘Life’? Or is there a greater reason so many of us who want to die survive? That’s probably something we’ll never know…but I do hope there is a reason I’m meant to be here.

SBS Insight: Talking About Suicide

There are many road campaigns encouraging us to slow down and refrain from driving when tired or affected by alcohol. ‘Drop 5, save lives,’ ‘Don’t drink and drive,’ ‘Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers’ are a few of the slogans that come to mind. Why do they pop into my head so easily? Because of the frequency it’s broadcasted on television and radio. Which is great, a reduction of the road toll would be a wonderful outcome. What about suicide though? It claims more lives than road accidents. Yet when I try to think of just one ad campaign targeting the suicide rate, none come to mind.

At current there are certain rules and regulations governing any discussion of suicide in the media. There is a reason for this; the risk of ‘copycat suicides,’ the fear that portrayal of suicide methods may generate ideas and some viewers may find it upsetting. What’s the risk of not talking about it though?

This was the topic of discussion on SBS Insight last week, Talking Suicide. Those interested who live in Australia can view it online here or alternatively read the transcript here.

I think most within the discussion agreed that we do need make suicide a less of a taboo subject and there needs to be awareness surrounding the issue. Doing so in a sensitive manner which fits the guidelines and doesn’t ‘promote’ suicide is the tough part. Professor Pat McGorry raises a good point though- those who are suicidal can seek out material discussing suicide online quite easily and there are no guidelines governing what is posted in the virtual world.

There were two sample suicide prevention ads shown, one from the UK, one from Israel, and the audience were invited to discuss. One woman in the audience commented, “Very strongly I feel that if you want to create an ad regarding prevention of suicide, it should be completely highlighting the victims of suicide, that is people who are left behind because their agony is something which will prevent a person from committing suicide.” John Brogden, the National Patron for Lifeline and a suicide attempt survivor himself, disagreed with this idea. Drawing on his own experiences, he said that one of the reasons he wanted to take his life was the shame he felt he had put his family through, and that thought that they would be better off without him. I’m also one who disagrees with the woman’s views, that an advertisement portraying the devastation of the people left behind will prevent me from attempting suicide. When I’m in the depths of depression, family and friends don’t really come into the equation. I believe that no one cares, no one would notice if I died. I’m so absorbed within my own pain and wanting to end the agony that I don’t even think I may end up passing on the pain to those around me. Or maybe I’m just selfish?

One point made by the Magistrate State Coroner which I found a bit dubious was the comment that some teenage boys will complete suicide in a moment of teenage angst. The exact quote was, “The one that I really get most upset about, and I’m sure, nothing’s worse than anything else if you’re involved I suppose, but teenage people, especially boys who I actually think don’t understand that they’re mortal. And I think often they will say ‘Well I’ll teach you mum,’ because mum just said you can’t go down and play soccer before dinner or whatever, and so within a few minutes, without having thought about it much, they go up to their bedrooms and hang themselves. My feeling is, and I’ve talked with mental health nurses about that, that they actually don’t realise it is forever. There’s this moment of teenage angst [...]” I find it hard to get my head around the idea that these teenagers don’t realise that they can die if they try to kill themselves and that they do so just because their parents restricted them from going to play soccer. Surely if it drives someone to go kill themselves they already had deeper issues before they did the deed?

Breaking down the barriers and creating change is hard. But it can be done, and it has been done in the past. As said by John Brogden, “Forty years ago I’m sure that people would have been aghast if you suggested that we should suggest to women to get their breasts tested. How could you use that word in public? Now cricketers play cricket in pink once a year or whatever it is to promote that you know – how could you talk to men about testicular cancer or prostate cancer – oh my god – we are big enough and smart enough to deal with this now rather than find excuses and I don’t want us to find excuses to telling people who feel this way – there is a way to deal with it. That’s the message.”

The closing message I’d like to quote was also made by John Brogden. “One thing I want to make sure that people watching this show understand and I don’t think there is a person here who would disagree with one message from tonight… it’s that you’re better off talking about suicide than not.. I’ve met parents who say I wouldn’t know how to talk to my kid…. You’re better to talk about it than not talk about it as that will open them up… you’re not going to put the idea in their head and that’s a great worry that too many people have and I’d like to think that people will turn off the TV after this and think about talking to friends and family and this very important issue.” I couldn’t agree more. The time is now to talk about suicide.

Discharged

My last meeting with Dr T before discharge occurred on Friday evening. We didn’t get into anything too heavy thankfully, as that’s not something I’d want to get into the night before leaving. I was asked whether my mother had discussed with me the intended plan of her keeping my medications and confiscating any I had stocked in my room. “Yes,” I said begrudgingly. She seemed satisfied with that.

“I’m sorry you didn’t find this admission very helpful,” Dr T said. I said nothing in response. She then went on to say that there are other options, and other places to go. I gazed at her questioningly. “There are two other private hospitals in [city where I live], P Clinic and The M Centre. I don’t admit to either of those places so you’d have to find another psychiatrist who would admit you. They both have websites which you can look at,” she informed me. I nodded. “I’ve visited my friend in P Clinic before,” I told her. She nodded. “Yes, so you don’t have to feel you’re stuck to this place and it’s the only place you can go. There are two other places.” I looked at her a little incredulously. “Hopefully you won’t need another inpatient admission,” she said. Dr T further continued, and one of the things she told me was, “Basically I don’t believe in forcing someone to do what doesn’t work for them. It’s not a battle. Otherwise what’s the point? It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong.”

Dr T is away from this week and I (or rather, my mother) was given the number of a colleague of her’s, Dr S, in case a crisis arises. I’ve seen this guy around the clinic, and gosh is he one stern looking and intimidating guy. Note to self: do not get into a crisis. I was asked about my follow-up appointment with R, whether it is this week that she returns from holidays. “Yes,” I confirmed.

Saturday morning I was discharged after twenty-three nights on a hospital bed, two of them in the ED.

Upon arrival at home, my mother asked for medications I have stored, as per Dr T’s instructions. I handed over a box of antihistamines. “What about paracetamol, do you have that?” my mother enquired. I did, and that was given to her too. Because I totally can’t just nip off to the shops to get a box of paracetamol or more for a few dollars myself. I really don’t see the point in this. My desvenlafaxine and temazepam is now being kept in the kitchen cupboard along with all the other medications in the house. It’s not as though I can’t walk a few metres into the kitchen while my parents are asleep and chuck down all the pills I can find down my throat. So how is this supposed to prevent me from overdosing? The only purposes I can find in this is to a) make it obvious to my parents I’ve OD’d if there’s a whole heap of pills missing, in which if I took a substantial amount of, would be plenty obvious anyway, or b) humiliate me enough with this new arrangement so that I don’t OD again. Which may just work considering how mortifying it is to have my medication doled out to me each morning and how unpleasant it is having that daily reminder I am an overdose risk. I’d hate to imagine what other new scheme Dr T could come up with when if I overdose once more. Then again, it could also serve as the motivator to ensure that the next and last time I overdose it really IS the last time I overdose.

Not allowed pills

Tough meeting with Dr T today at The H Clinic. I was asked whether I would do the right thing by handing over my medications for my mother to dole out each morning when I am discharged. I sat silently as a response. Something must have shown in my facial expression, as she said, “You don’t seem very happy with that.” I shrugged. “BtF, you have to tell me, I can’t guess, I’m not a mind reader,” she said. “Well…I guess I feel like I should be able to look after my own medications,” I mutterred. Some point soon after I started crying, and she speculated I was upset because she doesn’t trust me. “No, because I feel like I need to know I have a way out if things get too much,” I told her. “Maybe that’s why you’re not getting anything out of groups then,” she said. “Instead of using those skills, you think, Oh that’s okay, I’ll just take a heap of pills.” Umm no, maybe because this CBT Thought Diary crap I have done before, brainstorming ‘What lifts my mood?’ does not aid in lifting my mood and being told to use techniques to ‘distract myself’ does not make my sorrow and pain disappear.

Dr T also asked me whether I have pills stored in my room. I hesitated for a few seconds before going with the truth. “Yes,” I admitted. So as well as my mother keeping and doling out my medication daily, she also wants my mother and I to go through my room together to find any medication I have stocked and have it disposed of. No way around it either, as she’s already rang my mother to inform her of these intentions.

I was told I have to ‘cooperate to keep me alive’ otherwise ‘she’s doing all the work’ if I’m not cooperating and asked ‘why are we doing all this [treatment] otherwise?’ Why indeed. Beats me. Did I say I even want treatment? Don’t know why people are so intent on me staying alive…

It was agreed during the meeting that I’d be discharged this coming Saturday. Because of what was said though, she suggested, “Maybe it is too soon to go home then.” I shook my head no. And so after three weeks spent here in H Clinic, I will be discharged in a couple of days.

The pills I have stocked acts as a safety net for me to fall back on. Even though I haven’t and probably won’t take an overdose of what I know would have the best chance of killing me, it’s reassuring to know I have that there. Without it, I feel all the more anxious and desperate. Like I have to seize any chance I have to kill myself before all options are taken away from me.

How did it get to this point?

At this stage I’m still trying to piece together all that’s happened. What felt like a dream turned out to be reality. Fragments are there. Awaking briefly in the ambulance with a female ambulance officer and an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. Drift out. Sitting on a hospital bed trying to put a hospital gown on and being told no by the nurses when I tried to put on my singlet underneath. Drift out. My aunt and my brother sitting beside me while I lay on the bed. Drift out. Staggering to the toilet in my groggy state, having to be assisted by a nurse as I was tripping over my feet trying to walk. The nurse remaining in the toilet while I attended to my needs to make sure I didn’t fall over. Her expressing her disapproval as she saw the self harm scars on my thighs. Drift out. Searching my bag for my water bottle in my confused state and being told by the nurse to stop, as there was none in there. I was fading in and out of consciousness. My fourteen year old brother later filled in some of the gaps for me. Like him receiving a call on the landline from St John Ambulance asking for me. Trying to wake me up, which he could not. Being told to turn me on my side and that an ambulance would be there soon. That I awoke when the paramedics arrived but had difficulty walking. That the male ambulance officer asked whether they should bring out the stretcher and the female replied, “Nah, she can walk.” I was surprised to discover I actually walked out of the house, though heavily assisted, and even more surprised to find I cannot remember any of it.

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Third time in a period of less than a year ending up at the ED after an overdose. How did it get to this? The options are getting less and less, and more and more dire as it progresses. The first time I was sent home. The second time I was given the option of going home, being admitted to a public hospital or private hospital. This time…I don’t think I was given the choice of going home. I agreed to be admitted to a private hospital. “Do you need to be locked up?” the mental health nurse asked me. And I don’t think he was joking either, as he went on to further explain that to be admitted to a private hospital, you need to be able to keep yourself relatively safe. How did it get to this point, where it is questioned as to whether I need to be ‘locked up’?

My friends, family and relatives, they tell me they’ve been worried, some have been in tears. I don’t understand. And they don’t understand. So while my relatives tell me this, I stare stony faced at them. I can’t, and I don’t want to see the consequences of my actions. I just don’t understand. I don’t care about myself and fail to see the ‘big deal’ of having taken an OD. This is what, my tenth OD now? But to my grandparents and aunts, this is my second, and my having a mental illness is all very new to them.

Dr T came to see me yesterday on a Saturday. I was rather impressed. We talk of the root of my depression and of my family, relatives and past conflicts. I’m reminded of my beginning realisation of how much our childhoods actually impact on our futures. I’ve also been switched back to Lexapro.

Today I still find myself up and down. It’s when I find myself alone with my thoughts that I feel the worst. I’m still flirting with the idea of trying to off myself again once I’m home. Having thoughts of walking out of here, running away. Trying to hang myself or OD somehow, here on the ward. Except, I’m too much of a wuss to do any of those things. Plus I don’t want the threat of being locked up to become a reality. And so I just cry. And want to die. And feel stuck within myself. My nurse this morning made me promise to keep myself safe whilst on her shift. Righto, does that make it okay so long as it’s not on your shift then?

I’ve told my Uni friends I’m in a mental health clinic and have agreed to them visiting me at some point. I’ve never been this open about my mental health issues before. Am I making the right decision? I’m not too sure.

My parents return home from overseas early tomorrow morning. I face this with fear and trepidation. I’m worried, very worried about their reaction and what they will say.

The question going round and round in my mind is, ‘How did it get to this point?’ I’m still getting my head around the idea that I will be in here about a couple of weeks.