A long time ago I wrote a post called My Suicide Attempts (until 2007). You would be correct in assuming it did exactly what it says on the tin; through a thousand odd words it described the whys, whats and wherefores of my four suicide attempts up to (and including) the end of 2007.
I have long wanted to write a follow-up to this post. A post that covers the attempts I have made (and nearly made) from 2008 onwards, for only in analysing the events of the past can we hope to prevent a repeat of them in the future. As I find myself becoming ever more suicidal with each passing day, now is the time to write this post.
It should go without saying that this post contains triggering content so please exercise caution when reading. Should you be feeling suicidal, please contact your nearest mental health organisation or the emergency services.
My Suicide Attempts (2008 – 2014)
According to the media, we are not supposed to talk about the actualities of a suicide attempt. This is because it is feared talking about suicide will encourage other emotionally vulnerable people to ‘copycat’ your attempt. Although there is some merit in this, I have never fully subscribed to the theory, and have actively talked about how and why I’ve attempted suicide over the years. I will used the words “hanging”, “cutting wrists” and “overdose”, I will talk about the pain and misery that accompanied each attempt, and I will do so with no apology. For only in talking about suicide in its entirity can we hope to shatter the taboo that still exists around this aspect of mental health.
With that in mind, I can now lead you through the seven attempts I made on my life between 2008 and 2011.
I: January 2008
Unlike October 2007, this was unplanned and spontaneous; after months of homelessness, isolation and the continuing trauma from the devastation of the year before I snapped and just tried to kill myself.
All I can remember from that day is watching Enchanted at the Greater Union cinema (my favourite inner-city cinema in Melbourne) before walking to my usual Internet café where I published a post to my blog entitled …all that I will ever be, which even the most naïve and ignorant would have identified as a suicide note.
I left the café in tears, roaming the nearby Flagstaff Gardens that had been my home for a time, before plonking myself onto the soft earth, taking out a knife and cutting my left wrist with incredible speed.
The moment the blood began pumping I panicked. The cut wasn’t deep but by god did it hurt! Using a T-Shirt I stemmed the flow of blood and sat in shocked silence, unsure of what to do or where to go.
Somehow – I can’t remember exactly how – I made it to the nearest hospital and not wanting to explain it was a suicide attempt, told them I had merely self-harmed. Looking back, this is probably a more accurate description of what I did that day. Although I can remember the desolation and desire for death overwhelming me as I wrote that post, I cannot account for the depth at which I cut other than it was mere a ‘cry for help’ (even though I despise that term) rather than a serious attempt, as I could easily have cut deeper than I did.
After the hospital patched me up and I’d spoken to one of their psychiatrists I discovered several messages on my phone from my deeply worried parents who had read my post and been unable to reach me. Upon finally getting hold of me and venting their relief they relayed several comments that had been left on my blog from anxious readers which made me realize that even though I was friendless in Melbourne, there were people out there that seemed to care whether I lived or died.
Postscript: this all occurred twenty-four hours after I had attended an appointment with a mental health team, during which I tearfully begged to be admitted to hospital as I was deeply worried I would soon attempt suicide. I was told, and this is an exact quote, that “You cannot be hospitalized as we don’t believe you’re a danger to other people.” When they were told I felt I was a danger to myself, I was told that “there are only a finite number of beds, so we need to ensure they’re available to the most in need.” I haven’t trusted a mental health service since.
II: June 2008
Although I suspect my previous attempt had been a ‘cry for help’ (I really hate that term) I know this attempt was a cry for help.
After several months in the UK, I had returned to Melbourne for an array of reasons, including:
(a) The medication I had begun to take had fooled me into believing I was completely ‘stable’.
(b) Although I had enjoyed some of my time in the UK, it had never felt like ‘home’.
(c) After what I’d lost as a result of my abuser, I didn’t want her to take Australia from me as well.
(d) I was rapid-cycling (and soon to become hypomanic)
At the time I was living in a dingy backpacker hostel in Melbourne. My days were spent looking for work, my evenings were spent roaming the darkened alleys of the CBD lost in a haze of loneliness and isolation.
After a stressful Friday (during which I’d travelled to job interviews, applied for several others, self-harmed in the shower to keep myself going and had a lengthy telephone job interview) I was tense, stressed and desperately in need of company. Having only one person I could have contacted, and not wishing to bother them with my internal pain, I sat on the bed and took an overdose of the medication I had (antidepressants and mood stabilizers along with some painkillers and aspirin.)
Within minutes I realized what I’d done and immediately regretted it. I thought of calling my friend but concluded this would annoy them more than if I’d called them prior to taking the overdose, so decided my best option was to go to the hospital.
All I remember from the walk there is feeling drowsy, woozy and nearly collapsing three times.
Eventually I got to the hospital and promptly collapsed on the floor of the waiting room where I was rushed into the ER to be checked out. I woke up lying on a hospital bed wearing a hospital gown and staring at the tiles of the ceiling. I remained there for the remainder of the night, listening to the drunk patients screaming through their alcohol fuelled injuries.
The following morning I was taken to a room where I had a lengthy conversation with a psychiatrist who was worried about the suddenness of my overdose but, in tried and true fashion, as I was due to start a new job on the Monday, I convinced him I was okay and it had just been an anomaly in my bipolar management.
Postscript: after leaving the hospital I walked to the same Internet café where I’d posted the suicide note post five months earlier and watched the Doctor Who episode “Midnight”. I then slept for the majority of the day before speaking to my mum that night. I told her nothing about what had happened as I knew she was dealing with a recent health problem with my father and didn’t need my ‘cry for help’ to deal with as well. A few days later I spoke to my friend and was immediately scolded for not calling them before the overdose.
III: May 2009
I have only four things to say about this attempt:
- This was the closest I came to succeeding in a suicide attempt.
- It finally garnered me the mental health support I’d been trying to get for months.
- I have never told anyone about this attempt and do not want to.
- Hence why I am not writing any more about it.
Postscript: The reasons behind this attempt are many, valid and varied: the disaster that was Alice Springs, the loss of everything in my life for a third time, the continual guilt over letting Grace down the year before, the recent suicide of Stephanie, the complete lack of happiness, the continual rejection of everything I had tried to do to rebuild my life and the continuous, pervading loneliness, all combined together to push me completely over the edge.
IV: November 2009
I wrote about this in my post Reflections on being homeless, part 2. Following months of homelessness, desperation and mental health crises I decided that the only option I had left was to (once again) end my life.
Early one morning, when there was no-one around, I fashioned a make-shift noose from some items of clothing and selected a tree in which to hang myself from (directly at the back of the Myer Music Bowl).
As I was about to attach the noose around my neck a homeless man who lived in the same park as I, someone whom I had spoken to on several occasions in the past, walked over to me and asked what I was doing. Trying to get him to leave me alone I gave him my stock response of ‘nothing much’ and hoped he wouldn’t notice my ‘noose’.
Taking it from me he hid it in his bag and sat down beside me. He didn’t make me feel guilty, he didn’t lecture me on the selfishness of suicide, he merely chatted to me about the weather, the night he’d had, his plans for the day and began asking questions about my life, loves and passions.
Shortly after he dived back into his bag and instead of pulling out the noose, pulled out a portable DVD player which he told me I could ‘borrow’ to help take my mind off of whatever was bothering it. Ensuring I was okay before leaving he told me he would swing by on his way back to his sleeping spot that night and hoped I would be okay.
After he left I sat on the steps in front of the tree and realized I didn’t have anything else I could use to hang myself, plus, I kinda wanted to watch The Dark Knight, plus, if I did kill myself I would never again be able to touch a pert backside of the like that was currently exercising a mere few meters from me (as the park I slept in at the time was a favourite spot for personal trainers and their clients!)
Postscript: I did indeed watch The Dark Knight that day, as well as discovering Season One of Chuck lingering at the back of the library’s DVD section. For the next several days I worked my way through the library’s collection (including The Three Doctors, Angel, Sabrina, 24 and Skins) whilst surreptitiously watching the various exercising women in the early hours of the morning. This latter admission may make me sound like a creepy, pervy bastard, but I cannot emphasize enough how those beautiful and determined women made me realize that (once again) I needed to find my own beauty and determination to keep going.
V: Mid 2010
I wrote about this in my post Reflections on being homeless, part 4. Following a rather nasty assault in a boarding house I ended up back on the streets in a complete state of psychosis and dissociation. My memories of the period are few and far between, with the majority being more emotional in basis than precise recollections of physical reality.
All I can remember is hacking away at my wrists with some sticks I found in my park in a desperate bid to end my miserable, pointless, existence.
Needless to say, the sticks didn’t do any serious damage.
Postscript: this is probably the most random and obscure suicide attempt of my life. Why my deluded mind believed that I could break the skin with some paltry sticks is beyond me. Although it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have a knife at the time, otherwise things could have turned out very different!
VI: October 2011
This attempt was mentioned in my post Reflections on being homeless, part 7. It had been one of the roughest periods of my homelessness. Following a three-month blackout (during which I had dissociated and created a totally new personality) I found myself in a foreign park, unable to deal with being alive any longer. I couldn’t take the homelessness. I couldn’t take the isolation. I couldn’t take the abuse. I couldn’t take anything. So I did what we are supposed to do when life becomes too difficult to cope with; I phoned Lifeline.
But this just made everything worse, because whenever you speak to Lifeline about being suicidal, they will always begin their ‘counselling’ with the same suggestion: “why don’t you call a friend and get them to come and be with you, that usually helps”
“I don’t have any friends,” I responded.
“None? You must have some friends, everyone has friends. They won’t mind if you call them if that’s what you’re worried about,”
“I don’t have any friends,” I repeated. “No-one. I have no-one,”
This totally threw the counsellor into a tizzy as she had no idea what to say. Following several seconds of silence, followed by several more seconds of umming and ahhing, she referred me to the crisis mental health team and told me it could take up to 48 hours for them to contact me.
“Forty eight hours? For a crisis team,” I said. “Are you being serious?”
She was. I hung up the phone and within minutes was hiking into the Australian bush. I was inconsolable; tears flowed, limbs shook, vomit was ejaculated from my anxious, traumatized belly. With no options remaining, and with Lifeline reminding me of my isolation, I took off my belt, wound it around my neck and attempted to hang myself.
Unfortunately, my belt had become so threadbare during the years that I’d been homeless, the leather snapped within seconds and sent me coughing and spluttering to the hard earth.
Postscript: this was the last time I phoned Lifeline. Although several people (support workers, counsellors, GP) have suggested I contact them when feeling low, I flat out refuse to do so. Simply because I don’t need someone reminding me of my isolation, especially someone who refuses to believe that someone doesn’t have any friends.
VII: December 2011
The last time I went to kill myself was between Christmas and New Year 2011. It’s not an attempt I like talking about and generally try to forget that it ever happened – for it makes me look like a complete tool!
Following the loss of my medication after a psychiatrist’s appointment that destroyed my faith in the profession, I descended rapidly into a lengthy period of desperation and despair. I began drinking. I began gambling. I began sleeping at the back of a cemetery.
After consuming a rather large quantity of alcohol I decided the only option I had was to finally end my miserable, pathetic existence. I took a handful of painkillers and then staggered onto the railway line where I lay horizontally across the tracks. Staring up at the stars, I knew that sooner or later a freight train would tear over me. And, if I was lucky, decapitate me in the process.
The next thing I remember is waking up and gazing into a pristine blue sky. My head was pounding, at some point I had thrown up over my clothes and my head was still annoyingly attached to my body. Glancing to my left, and then to my right, it slowly dawned on me (over a period of about fifteen minutes) that I was lying on a disused railway track.
So I threw up again and then laughed manically for about half an hour over my utter ineptitude.
Postscript: I saw the same psychiatrist who had (ultimately) abused me into this attempt within a week of it. I didn’t tell him anything about it, because I knew he either (a) wouldn’t believe me, or (b) not show the slightest interest in my internal pain. He really was that much of a tosser.
It is with some happiness that I can say I have not attempted suicide since that (rather hilarious) attempt on the railway line, but that isn’t to say I haven’t been suicidal.
In October 2012, around the time of an anniversary of a previous attempt, I became so withdrawn, so adamant in the futility of my own life, my parents became worried and contacted my local mental health team as they feared I would do something about it. But, given my distrust of mental health services due to the incidents outlined above, I didn’t follow through with seeing them. I just dealt with my suicidal ideation as best I could.
In August 2014, during a dark period of depression, I began planning the best way I could end my life (it involved cutting my wrists) and even went to the extent of purchasing a new knife I could use to do it. Fortunately I was able to convince myself to keep the knife in the drawer and not use it.
In November 2014, around the time of my 36th birthday, I became convinced I could no longer continue with my meagre, pointless existence and contemplated hanging myself from a light fixture in my unit. Again, I was able to distract myself from my pain long enough for it to pass.
So even though it’s been over three years since my last proper attempt, I know that suicide will rear its ugly head in my life again. It’s part of who I am; part of my nature, and I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change that. But there are things to be learnt from the various attempts I’ve made in the past – and not just to use a brand spanking new belt to hang yourself with!
Things like: when you have friends in your life, friends that you trust, friends that you admire, friends that mean the world to you, do not be afraid to contact them when and if you are feeling suicidal. A true friend will be there for you. A true friend will help distract you and deal with your pain so you don’t do anything stupid with your wonderful life.
Things like: there are always reasons to keep on living, even when things appear so bleak you can’t see daylight. They may be simple things, like favourite movies or TV shows, they may be complicated things, like self-determination or stubbornness, or they may be beautiful things, like the female posterior. The trick is to not be ashamed of these things, no matter what they are.
Things like: even if they say the wrong thing, people will try their best to help you out of a situation, as long as you trust them enough to do so.
Things like: there is always something new in life to entertain, bring joy or make you laugh. Even if this is the realisation that you’re lying on a disused railway line.
Things like: even if you don’t believe it, there will always be someone who will miss you when you’re gone.
Things like: suicide is never the answer, no matter how fervently you believe it is at the time.
A selection of other posts I’ve written on the subject of suicide:
- Let’s Talk About Suicide (1): Never tell someone to kill themselves (2007)
Possibly my least favourite post on the blog, despite the message I was attempting to convey being one I firmly believe in. You should never – no matter how angry you are – tell someone to kill themselves. Recent events (see above) have proven how mentally fragile some people are and if you care about someone at all, you should never push them to end their own life.
- Let’s Talk About Suicide (2): My Suicide Attempts (2007)
The original post of which this is a sequel, a quick spin through the four suicide attempts up until the end of 2007 (November 2000, March 2006, May 2007 and October 2007)
- Let’s Talk About Suicide (3): Get me through December (2007)
In June 2000 I met a woman named Rachel. After a whirlwind few days we stayed in contact until she committed suicide later that year; the pain of which has never left me.
- Stephanie; her grace, my guilt (2009, edited in 2012)
Stephanie was a woman whom I met online after she contacted me via my blog. She was wrestling with mental health problems and suicidal thoughts that ultimately claimed her life. I miss her to this day and continue blaming myself for her death, as I most likely always will.
- Unsent Letter #3: My life would be empty had you never been in it (2012)
An unsent letter I wrote to Rachel (see ‘Let’s Talk About Suicide (3): Get me through December’)
- …and not for the first time, it scares me (2012)