Learning to enjoy living
“you can be standing in the middle of a snowy street in winter and think to yourself I can never imagine it being warm again. However, you can stand in that exact same place six months later and feel the sun beating down on you and winter will seem a distant memory.”
It’s been two months and one day since I tried to take my own life.
When I first entered a psychiatric hospital to begin my mental health treatment in the aftermath of my attempted suicide, my consultant psychiatrist said to me “you can be standing in the middle of a snowy street in winter and think to yourself I can never imagine it being warm again. However, you can stand in that exact same place six months later and feel the sun beating down on you and winter will seem a distant memory.”
These words – much like everything else in my life at the time – washed over me with little interest in what they meant. However, slowly but surely they are starting to sound louder in my head and take on the meaning my psychiatrist intended them to have.
I have lived through a time where there was no hope. I didn’t understand what it was to live life but only what is was to exist. To anyone watching, there were little clues that this is what I was feeling. I had spent several months mentoring and training up colleagues, supporting them in their new roles. I was actively involved in the mental health committee at work, writing and facilitating ‘mind gyms’ ensuring that my colleagues had the tools they needed to cope with changes in wellbeing. I had a very active social life, amazing friends and was living in my perfect area. So how could I call all that just existing?
“My family were the first to get cut from my life, then my friends, and finally my then boyfriend. I was eventually alone.”
For me, it was about what I took from it all and it was very little. Participating in life was slowly but surely exhausting me. The fully-functioning, happy and active person I pretended to be did not exist in my hours of solitude and the more I pretended to be that happy person, the more all I wanted was to be in solitude. I gradually began to live a life which involved only work, drinking alcohol or sleeping.
My family were the first to get cut from my life, then my friends, and finally my then boyfriend. I was eventually alone. I thought that was what I wanted. And needed. Actually, as I found out on 15 July 2016, it was not what I wanted at all.
I had shut down and closed off all my distractions, now I actually had to deal with my issues, my thoughts. My new desire was not to be alone, but to be a memory. Therefore, seventy to eighty pills and a couple of suicide notes later I felt at peace. It all seemed so obvious, I was not in love with life anymore, and just like with any other loveless relationship the best way forward seemed to be to end it.
Within a couple of hours, I was found by my friends. I was taken to hospital and I spent over twenty-four hours having everything in my body flushed out. I can only describe this process as the worst ‘welcome back’ to life that a person can go through. I felt like I was being thrown back into a loveless relationship, where I was ‘doing it for the kids’ a.k.a. my family and friends who informed me that they could not imagine life without me. I felt guilted into living.
“suicide does not end the chances of things getting worse. It eliminates the possibility of things getting better. ”
The sadness felt much more real, the exhaustion much more intense and the desire for life to be over much more overwhelming. However, it is now two months and one day later and I am still here. And it is no longer based on guilt. In the last couple of months I have learnt to stop viewing life as an endurance task, where I work so hard towards the end results that I do not actually live and enjoy any of the moments.
I have tried to move away from setting myself big life goals and tasks, in which I am constantly setting myself up to succeed or fail. I realised what is the point on focusing so hard on getting to the top of a mountain that I miss all the views and scenery along the way. And what is the point of when I do finally reach the top, I’m too exhausted to fully appreciate both what I’ve accomplished, and also what is in front of me as a result of the hard work.
I am now using the energy I have to create memories; particularly immaterial, lasting, happy memories. It was whilst living life in this new way, that I had my first realisation that I was pleased to still be alive. This moment came whilst doing something as simple as watching Craig David at Bestival. In that moment, I realised that although I had spent my whole life terrified of failing, the failure to end my life has led to one of my biggest successes: I am learning to enjoy living.
The words first said to me by consultant psychiatrist have now begun to have meaning. Feelings – much like seasons – can change. I cannot say that everyday is an easy task, it most definitely isn’t. And if I’m honest, it was a sad mood, not a happy mood, that led me to write this today. But suicide does not end the chances of things getting worse. It eliminates the possibility of things getting better. And from my experience, they can get better.”