All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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My Suicide Attempts (2008-2014)

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. 

trigger_warning

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)

Introduction

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:

  1. This was the closest I came to succeeding in a suicide attempt.
  2. It finally garnered me the mental health support I’d been trying to get for months.
  3. I have never told anyone about this attempt and do not want to.
  4. 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’.

He did.

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.

Epilogue

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.

-ᴏ-

A selection of other posts I’ve written on the subject of suicide:


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 11

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Strangest place (school, park, etc) you’ve ever injured yourself?

I know the prompt only asks for one place, but I’ve decided to share six of the strangest places that I’ve ever injured myself. Why? Just because… :)

1. Once, when I was at school, I stabbed myself in the hand with a sharpened pencil. Fun times!

2. Once, after a prolonged period of public abuse from my abuser, I retired to the bar’s public toilet and used the metallic toilet paper holder to self-harm before returning to the group for more abuse.

3. During my initial foray into homelessness in the winter of 2007, I threw myself so hard into a tree in the middle of a public park that I knocked myself unconscious.

4. When my homelessness was in full-swing I lost count of the number of parks and alleyways that I self-harmed in.

5. When it was too dark for me to self-harm in parks and alleyways, I would often use whatever lighted public space I could find, including Melbourne’s Federation Square.

6. During a particularly stressful appointment with a psychiatrist, I self-harmed in the clinic’s public bathroom, less than ten metres from the room where the psychiatrist was sitting.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 06

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What about it do you enjoy?

♥ The tingling in the shower as the water cascades over the cuts ♥
♥ The itchy healing process ♥
♥ Getting creative and cutting intricate patterns ♥
♥ The emotional release I receive
♥ Coming up with unique and unusual ways to self-harm ♥
♥ Challenging myself ♥
♥ Tending to the cuts  after they’ve been inflicted ♥
The cuts themselves; in all their triumphant, blood-red detail ♥

I know, I’m a strange and complicated individual!


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 05

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What part of self harm do you dislike the most?

Most people probably expect me to say my scars in answer to this question, but truth be told that’s not what I dislike the most. To be even more honest, I am completely ambivalent toward my scars. There are far more things I despise about my body than the scars I’ve inflicted upon myself, which I see more as markers of specific times of my life more than anything else.

What I dislike the most about self-harm is the belief that it is contagious; that my self-harm is responsible for other people self-harming. This can be illustrated with an example. Several years ago, my abuser nonchalantly informed me that I was solely responsible for her nearly self-harming; that because I was doing it to relieve my own stress, she should also be doing it to relieve hers. Whereas the truth is, she was responsible for what she nearly did to herself and placing the onus on me only increased my own stress and guilt over what I was doing. Perhaps this is what she was aiming for all along, but ever since I’ve been deeply affected by people blaming my self-harm for their own.

Gee, I hope that made sense to others because I don’t think I’ve explained it all that well!


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 04

The fourth day of the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Do you consider yourself “addicted”? Why or why not?

The first ever post I wrote about self-harm – (Some) True Confessions of a Self-Harmer [2007] – discussed my own personal belief that self-harm is an addictive behaviour.

Even though burning myself with that stick hurt like nothing else, I’ve still burned myself since. Even though I couldn’t sit down for a week, I’ve still whipped myself again. Even though I bled all over my school books, I still stabbed myself with a pencil again.

Like any form of addiction – gambling, drugs, smoking, chocolate, porn – you simply have to do it again, only with every new time you do it, it has to be bigger in order for you to receive the same “hit”. Cutting yourself once will do the trick, but sooner or later you find you need to cut yourself dozens of times to receive the same fix. This is where the problem hits, because sooner or later you’re slicing a pound of flesh from your arm and not even feeling it.

~ from (Some) True Confessions of a Self-Harmer [2007]

Ever since I was a late-teenager I’ve considered myself to be addicted to self-harm. On all the occasions that I have tried to stop self-harming I’ve had to deal with the same withdrawal and cravings that usually come with someone giving up cigarettes, drugs or coffee. I’ve also had to deal with the same relapses that often plague someone giving up these most addictive of substances.

Yesterday, I admitted that I am currently self-harming on a daily basis. This is primarily because I have decided I ‘need’ to self-harm in order to survive each day, in much the same way that I feel I ‘need’ cigarettes to get through each day. My body doesn’t need any of the harmful substances I inhale when I smoke, nor does my body need the daily dose of pain it receives from my knife, but it receives it all the same. Not because I’m weak or traumatized, but because I have (once again) become addicted to the emotional release I receive from self-harming.

Only by understanding what self-harm is to me (an addiction) do I stand any chance of controlling this behaviour in the future. And like any addiction, giving it up is plagued with unique and dangerous difficulties.

But I will get there, one day.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 02

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What part of your body is most affected by it?

When I look back on the twenty-two years that I’ve been self-harming, I realise that the body parts most affected have changed as I’ve grown older. As a young teenager I would focus my self-harm almost exclusively on my legs (mainly upper thighs) as I could easily hide the cuts with my school trousers and jeans.

But as I grew older – into my late teens and early twenties – I tended to focus my self-harm on my arms, back and buttocks (the latter two being achieved through self-flagellation with a belt). As it had been when I was young teenager, this was primarily so I could hide the marks from the prying eyes of other people but also because I had become concerned over the scars on my legs and felt I needed to assault a different part of my body in order to give them a ‘chance to heal’.

After my breakdown in 2007 – one of the wildest periods of self-harm in my life – no part of my body was immune to being self-harmed; legs (both upper and lower), feet, arms, chest, stomach, back, buttocks…everything had some degree of injury upon it. Even eternally visible parts of my body (such as my hands and head) were adorned with the clear cuts of self-harm meaning that, for the first time in my life, other people could clearly see what I was doing to myself. But at this point in time I no longer cared. My mind had disintegrated and other people knowing I self-harmed was the last thing I had to worry about.

When I was homeless it was my arms and hands that bore the full brunt of my self-harming, mainly because they were the easiest parts of my body to access whilst living in the various parks and alleys that were my ‘home’ during this period.

But now I am more secure in my living arrangements, I have come full circle and tend to focus my self-harm exclusively on my legs as it is easier to hide the marks from other people (given I never wear shorts) and taps into the memories of my early days of self-harm and the emotional release I used to receive way back when.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 01

The first day of the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
How long have you been self harming? Discuss why you started.

The first time I self-harmed I was in my bedroom in the hours after a particularly difficult day at school. I was thirteen years old and at the time I was being bullied, made to feel humiliated for having a crush on a girl at school and struggling to manage my school work with the demands of my sister (and I’s) developing mental illness(es).

Unsure of how to cope with my internal pain, I decided to cut my leg with the pointy end of a protractor I was using to complete my maths homework. Although it drew a little blood, the damage was relatively insignificant, especially in relation to the emotional release I received from the action; which was insurmountable.

From then on my quest to physicalise my emotional pain became a regular fixture in my life. After bad days I would secrete myself in my bedroom and assault myself with an ever-increasing array of implements. I stayed with the protractor for a while before moving to small scissors, large scissors and then knives. I experimented with hitting myself, then burning myself with a cigarette lighter, but always returned to cutting as nothing else came close to giving me the emotional release I desired.

Even now – twenty-two years later (blimey, has it really been that long!) – cutting is the means of self-harm I return to most frequently, despite becoming more creative and experimental in the intervening years.