1. of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine
2. ME 😊
I’ve thought about killing myself on some of the best days of my life. My passing out parade from the Royal Navy, the birth of my son, my engagement party (I didn’t go through with the wedding, but the party was fun). All occasions I remember with fondness, but that joy can be quickly sucked away by my brain which kicks in and tells me that I don’t deserve to feel those nice, lovely things. Those negative and intrusive thoughts that sucker punch me and remind me that “everyone hates you” or “no one would even notice if you weren’t here” “you're so ugly, fat, pathetic” the list goes on.
There is a definite stereotype of what suicidal people look like, mainly men, in debt or unemployed, people who have substance or alcohol abuse issues, people who have little or no support system, traumatised, abused or neglected. I can’t imagine anyone looking at my now-deactivated Instagram account and ever being able to identify a deeply unhappy, and at times suicidal woman.
For someone who hasn’t experienced intrusive or suicidal thoughts, I suppose it’s difficult to comprehend, but what I tell others is that it’s like your brain is bullying you. It attacks when you least expect it and can be so brutal and consistent, that over time you give into the thoughts and start to believe them. They become who you are, your daily narrative.
I’ve lived with intrusive and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. Not quite feeling comfortable with myself. I truly believed that with age would come wisdom, and life experience would bring confidence and comfortability with myself, yet here I am moving into my 40th year of life, and I still have very little idea of who I am and what makes me truly happy. That doesn’t mean I don’t live a happy or high-functioning life. I pride myself on being a good person, mother, friend, and mental health worker. I tell myself and others that this is the most authentic version of myself I’ve ever been, and that is the truth, because I’m authentically a bit fucked up.
I’ve thought about killing myself on some of the best days of my life. My passing out parade from the Royal Navy, the birth of my son, my engagement party (I didn’t go through with the wedding, but the party was fun).
I have accepted that I may never like myself, or be able to be in a healthy relationship, or ask for what I need in a friendship or job, because I will never believe I am worthy of those things. But there’s some relief in that radical acceptance, knowing that I don’t have to pretend anymore. Knowing I can move into my 40’s being the real me whatever that is day to day, moment to moment, and the best part about being authentic, is that there is no image to maintain. You are the absolute truth of your being.
It’s a blessing and a curse being so in tune with your emotions and thoughts. I can proudly say I’m an extremely emotionally intelligent person, and on the other hand, I could say I’m unable at times to manage my thoughts and emotions at all. But over time, I’ve worked hard to be able to identify healthy skills and tools, that I can access to manage that distress and keep myself safe. But that doesn’t make the distressing thoughts any easier. They don’t happen less frequently; I suppose I’ve learnt to notice them and on a good day let them pass me by and remind myself that Thoughts are not facts!
It’s never easy talking about suicide. It scares those of us who live with it, and I believe that those who don’t understand it are too uncomfortable to ask the questions. This conversation will never be a comfortable one, and as women, although we have a reputation for being good at talking (another dangerous stereotype) we are still confronted with the same barriers to accessing support. Risk of losing our children, jobs, and relationships. Being told we are hormonal, emotional, moody. I think it’s about time we start to look at suicidal thoughts and behaviours as a human issue, not a gendered one. This conversation is emotive but one well worth having, and I now recognise that uncomfortable conversations are essential to reduce that stigma.
I have been lucky for some time now to work with We are Hummingbird in a voluntary role. Not only has this given me an opportunity to explore one of my greatest coping skills music, but it has enabled me to become part of a community of like-minded, open, and non-judgemental individuals who I can now call my Hummingbird family. It's this community that gives me the acceptance that I needed, to share the parts of me that I have hidden away. It’s these individuals that accept me as I am, and they have become my chosen family. I feel such gratitude to be part of something that has given me so much strength and nurturing support. They have allowed me to be authentically me. Music is what brought us together, connection and friendship is what keeps us together.
Now, I choose freedom. Freedom to share and be open about the real and genuine experiences I have, and most likely always will have. I choose to be authentically me.
I have never acted on the thoughts to end my life and that’s for many reasons. The main reason is I don’t want to die; I want to live. I want to watch my son grow and live a fulfilling life. There are days when I feel depressed or low and I can’t help but let my mind wander to that dark place, a place where I explore what dying would look like, feel like, how it would affect those around me.
And it’s the occasions where I let those thoughts take over and find myself giving into them, that are the most dangerous.
But these are the times when I try hard to utilise my support network and tap into the resources that I have gathered over my mental health journey. I use them to ground me, to distract me and remind me that there’s another way. There is always another option! So, when I feel like sitting on the kitchen floor crying and feeling sorry for myself, I choose dancing in the kitchen with my son listening to our favourite music and I reach out to the family who understand me and support me. That opposite action can be what re-directs the thought, changes the mood, and can shape the rest of the day.
I have deep compassion for those who live with or support others with mental health. I believe that this is my superpower, being able to listen and share my experiences not only as a mental health professional, but as a friend, mother, colleague, veteran the list goes on. I have spent a huge part of my life feeling misunderstood, shame, unease and all those other negative feelings that come with the stigma of living with a mental health condition.
Now, I choose freedom. Freedom to share and be open about the real and genuine experiences I have, and most likely always will have.
I choose to be authentically me.