How do you get back from the point of no return? This was something my community psychiatric nurse (CPN) asked me as I clawed my way back from the great depths of hell. (Trigger warning…….)
After weeks/months of slowly drowning in a deep black ocean and fighting against the strongest currents with weights tied to my feet I reached a point I could no longer swim. So I woke up early one Friday morning knowing that day was the day I was going to die. I’d had a plan for days maybe weeks, I’d run through it all step by step how it would play out. So I begun getting my affairs in order IE clearing my house of anything I wouldn’t want my parents uncovering once I’d gone.
A switch went in me and now all I could see was my inevitable suicide. I was defeated or at least that’s how I felt. Worn down, exhausted unable to breath I couldn’t fight any more. I had reached a place that was so dark I could no longer hold onto the comfort of my children and how much they needed me. All hope was lost as was I, there was no way of getting back and honestly I didn’t want to. After years of battling and struggling every day to function, to be what everyone needed me to be, of containing it all when all hell was breaking loose inside and suffering a kind of despair no words can describe. I was done. I couldn’t do it any more, I wanted to be free.
Now obviously I didn’t succeed but some how reached a place where doubts crept in and wormed their way in and I spent the following days in absolute turmoil, tortured by my own mind. Little did I know this was some how a shuffle forward. It was me or at least a part of me swimming as hard as I could with what little strength I could summons to get back to the surface of the dark murky waters. With each stroke I inched towards the light. What was a speck, a glint through the cloudy water was slowly growing, expanding into a hazy ball, then into a spot light high above beckoning me.
Some how a week later I took a breath!!
Without sounding too corny I felt the sun beaming down on me and I knew I wanted to be alive, I wanted to fight.
Two weeks on I’m still swimming in the same deep aerie waters but in all fairness I believe I always will be. I just hope I’m not pulled so far down again or at least not for sometime.
I’m sure most people who battle with a mental illness know what I mean and understand the feeling of forever swimming against the tide in the darkest ocean desperately trying not to drown.
So back to my original question or rather my CPN’s: how do you get back from the point of no return?
I’ve thought long and hard about this over the past week and would love to give you a quick and easy step by step answer that would enable anyone to get through it and survive with the least amount of suffering possible but sadly I can’t.
I have a few ideas though, the little things I believe gave me the strength to swim which I thought I may as well share (I hope I don’t sound too condescending, it is not my intent).
For me ultimately it was having someone to confide in, (for me it was my CPN)who I trusted implicitly. Someone who could and did hold my hand (metaphorically) and reassure me. To have someone that knows you as well as anyone outside yourself can and allow them to help (I know that’s not always easy). They have the wonderful advantage of not been stuck in your mind therefore can think what’s best for you with a level head but with great insight. If they know you well they will know what works and what has the potential to make things worse. They will hold hope for you until you can again and remind you of it over and over again (eventually I find it starts to go in).
Do ANYTHING at all that takes your mind off suicide for just a moment, a split second because the more you can inject these little fragments of time in to this huge black mass in your mind you give yourself a moment to breath to find a speck of strength that will somehow give you more fragments of time and those little pieces of time have the potential to grow, to build into minutes and hopefully hours. That tiny part of you musters up a little more fight to keep breathing to keep swimming, to hold on and get through.
If you imagine your mind as the blackest sky spread across the galaxy without light then through absolute determination you catch a break, that fragment of light and put it into that sky like a star. The more stars you collect the brighter it becomes and the brighter the sky the easier it is to see a way forward.
(I know believe me it’s not all so simple as to distract yourself for a few minutes and presto you’re all better but it’s about finding something, anything that makes your mind think differently just a moment to give yourself a break because I know the pain that comes with the intensity of a dark sky. For me it was the absolute simplest of things like listening to some really cheesy song and loosing myself in it for a moment or writing down something that matters to me).
Ok, I know this sounds ridiculous but it helped challenge my thoughts a little. I wrote down the things that make me smile. It could be anything from walking the dog, or playing with your kids, to a hot bath and glass of wine. I don’t know, I picked some really random things but it helped me to remember times I was happy and felt OK. That my life isn’t always so difficult or so dark. I then picked one thing off the list that I could do and did it, then another and another. It just gives you a break, I know it’s no quick fix but it can slowly help and I guess ultimately if you can do these things mindfully, it’ll help that little bit more.
I understand when at rock bottom you wholeheartedly believe the world would be better off without you and believe me I’m not going to say otherwise because I know you just can’t hear it but what I will say is try at least to think about the practical stuff when you’re gone and how the ones you love will cope IE I honestly believed my family, my children would be better off without me, I couldn’t see past that at all but what I did start to think of is who will pick up the pieces? Who will realistically take care of my children? Who will identify my body? Who will pay for my funeral? Etc etc these questions really upset me because I didn’t want to hurt anyone or cause them any more pain. Even though I couldn’t accept how me dying would hurt those I loved I could see how these consequences of my actions would and I couldn’t bare that.
I know it’s often said and it’s not easy to say the least but getting out of the house even for 10 minutes, get out. Staying in doors only gives you the time and space to ruminate and drive yourself crazy.
Force yourself to spend time either in person or on the phone with someone who’s company you enjoy. That distraction and break from everything can make all the difference. Just chatting aimlessly with someone about anything can help you gain some perspective. I found keeping it as light as possible avoiding “mental health” and often just listening to the other person helped me think for a short time about something else.
Spend time doing things but don’t over do it. See people if you can but don’t forget to give yourself a break, some down-time where you can process your thoughts and feelings in a constructive way.
Do the things that make you feel valid, worthy, wanted and needed that’s the glue that will stick all the millions of pieces your in back together (hopefully).
Fight to keep hold of what’s important to you this will be the driving force behind you. For me it’s not wanting to miss out on my children growing up. Not being there to protect them and keep them from harm. Above all I couldn’t bare the thought of them hating me for leaving them.At least if I’m alive and they hate me I can try make it better, I can work through it with them and change it rather than leaving them to manage that hurt, pain and anger alone.
I am fully aware none of these things are the answer nor is it a quick fix. I also appreciate these things may not help you or make much sense to you when you’re in crisis but I truly hope something somewhere does and that in the very least you could maybe try just one thing I’ve suggested and I pray it gives you I little star in your sky. Ultimately I honestly believe the more breaks in the cycle of self hate and self destruction racing round your mind consuming you the more you gain the strength to keep fighting and in turn the more you fight the more breaks you get, a real catch 22.
I hope I make sense and that maybe someone finds even a little comfort and help in the things I have said. I’m no expert but something I do know all too well is what its like to be at absolute rock bottom clawing your way back up!!!