One year on from suicide attempt

Last updated 05:00 26/11/2013

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One year ago, I attempted to take my own life.

Ever since I was a teenager, I struggled with my mood.

I would suffer bouts of severe depression and anxiet. I had low self-esteem and no sense of worth. I never felt like I knew who I was or that I really fitted in anywhere.

I began cutting myself when I was 13 and continued right up until last year.

I was also in and out of counselling from 13. I felt like I had no control over my feelings, and this was just dismissed by others as 'teen angst'.

I tried reaching out to friends, and many were supportive, but there were always people who told me that I couldn't possibly be depressed because I came from a good family, lived in a nice house, always had food in the pantry, went to a top private school, and didn't suffer any form of abuse.

I began to believe these things and felt like I had no right to feel down, as there were always going to be people who had it so much worse.

So, I just ignored what was happening inside me for the most part.

When I was 18, moving away from home and starting university motivated me to try to 'fix' myself. I took myself to the doctor and started antidepressants.

In hindsight, I feel like these were rather ineffective for me and I didn't achieve much from two years of medication.

Under pressure from family and friends, I changed my major to psychology so that I could get "a real job". I became increasingly disenchanted and no longer had any interest in my studies. I had no goals for the future and no sense of what I wanted to do with my life. I stopped going to classes or handing in assignments.

My long-term boyfriend broke up with me and although I met someone relatively soon after, it was still really new and different and hard to adjust to.

I was struggling at work; I hated the work that I did, and was always having meetings about my low performance.

Other friends were having issues in their lives that I felt like I had to help 'solve' in order to be a good friend, so I took on their emotional baggage as well.

My parents had spilt up several years earlier, but I still had to deal with the baggage of being caught in the middle.

I found out my uncle had cancer.

In my mind, however, I saw other people going through similar things and saw them coping. I felt inferior for not being able to manage so I kept it all inside for fear of being seen as weak and whingey.

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I never asked for proper help, and I never acknowledged how bad things were getting. Everything was pushed to the back of my mind and ignored.

Over the period of a couple of weeks, I started having more and more suicidal thoughts. Initially they were cursory and I'd brush them aside, but over time I became obsessive.

Then I tried and ended up in hospital.

My parents were called and told to come as soon as they could they flew down from Auckland the next day.

People always ask why I did it. I don't have an exact answer as there was no definitive push factor.

Coming out of hospital was hard. My parents took me back to Auckland to recover, and my partner followed me.

I felt like a failure for having an unfinished degree and seeing everyone else graduate.

I sustained a hypoxic brain injury after going into respiratory arrest and had difficulties with concentration, memory, counting, speech and pronunciation.

I had a massive 'hangover' for two months. I was still incredibly depressed. I wasn't successful at living, and I wasn't successful at being dead either. I wished for a long time that I hadn't have been saved.

One year on, I feel like a completely different person. My brain seems to have recovered, although my partner said I was slurring up until a few months ago.

I no longer regret not being able to kill myself.

I have a sense of direction in my life. Although it was met with some disapproval, I ditched the psychology major and went back to university to study ancient history, which was my passion.

Considering where I've come from, simply passing will be an achievement, but I've managed to grab a few A+ and A grades, so I'm incredibly proud of the effort I've made. I will begin postgraduate study next year and I have a job that I love (mostly!) and succeed at.

The point of this isn't to justify what I did. It isn't to make up excuses or say what I did was right, or to attract sympathy, or to glorify suicide or death.

I know that I hurt a lot of people, and I do regret that.

What a lot of people don't realise, however, is that mental illness and mood disorders are like parasites. They get inside you and eat away at you, until there isn't any part of you left.

Looking back, I don't even recognise the person I was. My thoughts weren't my own. I was in such a dark and desperate place, I don't see how I survived for so long.

I believe that things were made worse by feeling like I couldn't talk about what was happening. I'd tell people I was down, and talk to counsellors about having suicidal thoughts, but no one believed I would actually do anything about it, least of all me.

People say suicide is selfish. Of course it is, but never in the sense of deliberately wanting to hurt other people - all I could think about was the pain I was in, and wanting to end that pain.

The point of writing this is that we need to be more open about suicide. It happens. We should be able to talk about it.

Any given person should be able to tell someone else how they are feeling, and not be judged. They should not be trivialised, or be told they are stupid, weak or overreacting.

I don't know the answer to how this can be achieved as there are so many strong opinions and feelings on suicide.

Being told to hold on because things would get better was no help to me.

We don't need sympathy, or someone to fix things for us, or to understand. All we need is someone to be there, even if it is to just sit in silence and support us with their presence.

Sometimes not saying anything at all, and just giving a hug, is the best support one can give. I believe that awareness and compassion is key.

I am not ashamed of my experiences any more. I am proud of everything I have achieved, and believe that my experience with suicide has made me a far better person. I have grown a far deeper sense of self, as well as compassion, empathy and respect for others.

I know who I am now, and where my place in the world is. I am now glad that I lived and can fully appreciate life, but I do not regret my experience.

I am forever in debt to my ex partner and my flatmate for saving me, and for staying with me the whole time.

I can't even begin to imagine how scary it would have been for them, and am so glad that they still accept me for me, not for what they saw.

Not everyone is as lucky as me, I know. Not everyone recovers to the point where I have.

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