It’s now one year and eight months since I woke up in a hospital bed cursing myself for not taking more pills than I did and for not taking them earlier. I came around the next day thinking “what a waste of time and pills, now I am right back where I was, only now the mental health team have me in their grasp and they will never let me go, a mental hospital is my next stop”
For approximately 15 years before I tried to take my own life, I had been living in a state of constant depression, give or take a few brief times of reprieve. (I will not go into the details of the situation as I have already covered this in past articles, if you are interested to read more, the titles are, 25 years of hell in heaven, and How I did not survive my parents divorce).
But the time came when I could not carry on living in such a low state any longer. So with a specific amount of Amitriptilyne pills, that I had been informed by google would be enough to kill me, I quite calmly brought my life to an end. I say calmly because it really was, it was such a unique day, my mind was so clear, there was no fear or second thoughts. I just saw my wife off to work and then set about getting things ready to end my life later on in the day. I have often thought about that day, I have never known a day like it and I don’t think I will ever have a day like it again, I say this because at my age there are not enough years left to become that depressed again.
All through the years of depression suicide had never really been on the cards, yes it had often entered my mind, but never really seriously. But that day, it was as if I had suffered enough, all the dark days had stacked up and now I had the right amount, I had crossed over into another state of mind, it was just so unique. When I took the pills I really thought I was bringing my life to an end, as I closed my eyes to sleep away the last remaining hour or so I really thought it was all over. So can you imagine how I felt when I woke up the next day in that hospital bed? When you set off to take your own life you make arrangements. You google to see what the best way to kill yourself is, you collect the items you are going to need to fulfill the task, pills in my case, you put your house in order, you write a note, but you never make any arrangements about what you will do if it does not work, it never enters into your mind. So as I have said, I was crushed to find out I was still alive, I was right back where I was before I had taken the overdose. I had no more pills left and after this it was going to be hard going to get my hands on any significant amount again.
Was I alright, had I done some internal damage, was I going to have to live with brain damage? I certainly did not feel too good. My head was like mush and my mouth was so dry that I could hardly swallow. And then there was the anger towards my wife, she was the one who had found me and called for an ambulance which had rushed me to the hospital and saved my life.
The first thing I can remember saying to her was, why did she not let me die, all she had done was put me right back where I was before I took the pills, now I had to go back and carry on just as it was before. I had to return to that house that I had locked myself away in for the last 10 years and face the same old walls that I had stared at for so long. I had to sit in that same chair that I had lain back in to sleep away the last remaining hours of my life. I had to drag myself up and start all over again, my only hope was that I would be sent to a mental hospital and in so doing I would escape that for the near future.
But I was to be disappointed, the mental health care team did not think a mental hospital would suit my situation, so it was arranged that I would return home with an appointment to see a psychiatrist and regular visits from the crisis team. So 3 days after the suicide attempt I returned home, it was not a great homecoming. The walls were still there and looked exactly the same, my chair was there waiting for me to take up my old position, nothing had changed. And yet it had in my head, instead of just being a depressive recluse, now I was a failed suicide-depressive-recluse, something else to carry upon my already crushed heart. As I have said, I had made no plans for these days, there is not supposed to be,” life after suicide,” so how was I carry on? All my problems were still there and I still wished that my wife had not found me before I died. I was not exactly desperately searching the house for more pills to take, but still in my heart I really wished I had succeeded in my suicide attempt. My wife, the doctors and nurses were all pleased that my life had been saved, but nobody asked me if I wanted to carry on living. They told me that I had been in a dark place and that I was unable to make a rational decision, that to want to die was wrong and unnatural. That is fair enough, they had brought me back from the dead but they had just returned me back to that dark place I was in before I tried to take my life. They did not take away all my problem and sort out all mental issues, it was a simple case of, there we have saved your life, now don’t do that again.
Two days later I had my first visit to the psychiatrist and came away with an appointment for a weeks time and a prescription for some anti-psychotic drugs that lifted my spirits way up high, so high that I could not sleep for a week, I did not continue on those.
After my next visit it was decided to restart me on anti-depressants which did not kick in for over a month, so as you can imagine that resulted in a heavy few weeks, so much so that I had another relapse and ended up having to call the crisis team, this was not my idea of living. The old desires to be finished with life came flooding back.
The big change came when I made up my mind to stop and look a my situation logically and constructively, to think the whole thing through and come up with some future program. After a week of intense thinking I saw my way ahead, a way out of the old state of mind and out of the rut I had ran myself into:-
1. I had been terribly depressed for many years.
2. I came to a point where I could not live any more.
3. So I took an overdose to end my life.
4. When I closed my eyes to sleep away my last hour of life I truly believed in my heart that I would never wake up again.
5. I took my own life.
6. I died.
So if I died, what was this life I was living now? It was a new life, that old depressive, suicidal thinking way of life was over, I had another chance to start again, so why was I carrying on as if I was still the old me?
This breakthrough in thinking gave me a great lift in my spirits, enabling me to see some hope in the remainder of my life, of course it was one thing to sit and think it all through it was another to put it into practice, this would take a rigid program and a lot of will power.
The first thing I needed to do was to motivate myself. The many years of depression had brought me to a place of total apathy, I had just given up on life, even to the point of not washing regularly. The voice in my head would tell me every time I made some effort to pull myself together “don’t bother, what is the point” and inevitably I gave into the suggestion. So to combat the suggestion I came up with a program, every time I heard the inner voice telling “don’t bother”, I used it as a trigger to force myself to get up and get on with the exact thing my inner voice was telling me not to bother with. At first it was hard going, not only was it a mental battle but also a physical one, by now my body was weak and feeble so it took all my strength to keep going. But my new state of mind and thinking gave me the encouragement I needed, I went from strength to strength. At first just general work around the house and garden, then I made more of an effort and decorated half of the house, a job I had put off for many a year. At this time I also began to take trips with my wife out of the house, just visits to the local places, sometimes even going for a cup of tea at the nearby garden centre. Big adventure? but for me it was like climbing mount Everest, this was the first time I had been out of the house this way for 12 years. When I told my G P and psychiatrist of my new way of thinking and my new life they were both impressed with the strides I had made in my recovery, so much so my psychiatrist signed me of her books.
Then there came the next big step in my new life, move away from the house I had spent all those miserable years in and not only the house but also the area, from North Northumberland to the south coast, Bournemouth. It would be a mammoth task but I truly believed it would be the final move in leaving my old self and life behind. All through these weeks of fighting and effort to break free from the old me, I had always feared a relapse. Knowing myself as I do I am inclined to make a great effort in whatever I set my mind to but the fire does not last forever and as the weeks or months pass, I am inclined to lose heart and drift back to my old ways. So the thought of staying in the old house and area where I had seen and experienced so much pain and heartache always worried me, would I find myself back in the old dark place I had fought so hard to get out of ?
As luck would have it my wife’s profession enabled her to find work quite easily, so within 6 weeks of deciding we were moving, we were loading up the removals van ready to head south. The 6 weeks had been a bit of a roller coaster but to be honest I loved it, I could not wait to be off. It gave me great pleasure to throw out all the rubbish that had been so much part of my old life, it was a joy to watch it go up in smoke, besides, we were moving into a much smaller property so we had to be ruthless and let as much go as possible. It’s strange looking back now, the place we were leaving was so idyllic, a little fairy tale cottage on the edge of a wood at the foothills of the Cheviot Hills, with nothing but sheep and cows for neighbours, it was so peaceful and quiet, a place you would love to come and stay for your holidays. And yet for me it was such a dark place, I had lived there for 10 years and now I could not get away from the place quick enough. For me it had such bad memories, I knew in my heart I just had to get away no matter how beautiful it was.
The move was horrendous, such a long journey through the night with 2 little dogs on the back seat of the car. We arrived at about 3.00 am and spent the rest of the night trying to get some sleep in the car on the drive of the new property, we did not succeed.
Come mid morning the removals van arrived and then it was all go again, emptying all our worldly possessions from the van into our new home, of course we still had too much furniture. The next few days were chaotic, but even though it was hard going and so tiring, underneath it all I loved it, what with my new way of looking at my life and now the physical move, it literately felt that I had left all my problems 500 miles behind me.
Settling in and exploring the area was great fun, it was just like starting my life all over again. There was so much to see, new places, new shops, coastal towns, parks and all full of people of all nationalities, wonderful, I had never seen so many people in my life. But the only little fly in the ointment was, we were a little bit too far from the sea., it had been our hope that we would be a bit nearer, walking distance nearer. So making our minds up to use this property as a temporary base we started to look around for a place nearer the sea.
We had great luck in finding a downstairs flat in a part of town that would take dogs just 10 minutes from the sea front and 5 minutes from my wife’s place of work.
So it was all go again, we packed everything up and moved, only this time it was just 6 miles instead of 500.
I really have to say life has been so much better for me, not trouble free, there has been a few dark patches but I have managed to come through them with the help of my wife and my antidepressants each day. Our walks along the sea front are absolutely wonderful, the views are just so hard to take in. I often just stop when we are walking and take a look around and just think how different my post suicide life is now compared to what it used to be up north. People told me that life could be better, I never believed them but they were right, I am living proof that there is Life After Suicide.
I write this article in the hope that it will inspire and encourage someone out there in a similar situation as myself to make that effort to look beyond that darkness after a suicide attempt. I do appreciate that it takes a lot to pull yourself together when you are so down, I can hear a lot of voices out there saying it would be impossible for them. I realise that I am lucky that I have a strong will power and was able to move away from my old place of memories but I know there are many who will struggle in that area, but don’t be discouraged I say again “there is life beyond suicide”.