Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our spot on the site where we try to talk about things that may be affecting you, or people we know. This week, we’re in the hands of the brilliant Charlotte Harrison, who’s taking us through one of the lowest parts of her life, and how she got through. Our thanks to Charlotte for continually being so brilliant. We shall hand over to her…
I was 21 years old when I contemplated suicide. For a period of time it was the only consistent train of thought I could maintain. It was the clearest thought, the loudest and – horrifyingly in retrospect – the one that made the most sense. It wasn’t because I wanted to die, which sounds utterly ludicrous, but it’s true. I just wanted to stop. I wanted it all to stop and the only way I could think to bring a stop to proceedings was the ultimate one.
Intrinsically I know I wasn’t thinking logically. Or perhaps, I was actually. I wanted to step away from the world, let it all carry on without me. I firmly believed that I was without value and that, courtesy of the gruesome twosome that is anxiety and depression, I was not needed. Life would carry on, time would keep ticking and people would keep on living. I’d begun to feel so out of things, so weightless that I could drift away without notice – why would anyone feel the need to grieve someone so useless? I felt unable to do anything, all I had previously loved brought no joy and I felt removed from everything. I was a shadow haunting the structures that made up my pre-depression life. Seeing as I couldn’t hide away in bed, under my desk or in my cupboard a more permanent solution needed to be found.
Almost four years on I have flickers of that pain. It’s not a throbbing, nor a scream; it’s a sharp and dull ache. An echo of how I once felt. Just as throwing a pebble into a hole to ascertain its depth, I unearth these memories and realise how far I’ve come but also how low I could fall once more.
Reconsidering these moments they’re snapshots without colour, a succession of still grey and shadow. Shorts periods of time when my thought processes chose flight not fight. For oh-so brief periods of time household objects and modes of transport took on the appearance of exit passes to the nothingness I so desperately craved. A razor blade promised more than just smooth legs, the curtain rail closing things off in more ways than one and disinfectant seeming like the ultimate cleanser. It’s at train tracks that this feeling was most overwhelming and when I would become scared at the potency of my thoughts. There’s still some of that residual feeling now which I almost overcompensate for – a passing tube or train when stood at a track makes me nervous and jittery, almost as if my survival mode is overcompensating for past neglect.
I never acted on these thoughts. It was love that stopped me. Corny but true.
I’d picture family and friends finding me or getting the news. I’d picture their faces. Imagine how such a loss might effect and even derail their lives. I’d think about the role I played in their lives, the void I’d be leaving and I’d find myself stepping from the metaphorical edge. My overactive imagination working overtime, It’s A Wonderful Life style, trying to restore a sense of calm and order. The thought would pass, until the next time.
My spell of depression and anxiety lasted roughly six months. As I was slowly getting better the visits from these thoughts became less and less frequent. Then they stopped.
Four months into this horrendous part of my life I finally made my way from waiting list to appointment with the cognitive therapy team at my university. One of the questions on the standard issue survey was, ‘Have you ever considered suicide?’ It was that question that made me crumble, started a tsunami of tears as I stuttered out that I had. I remember that I had both hands clasped around my mouth, as if I was trying to keep these words – my deepest, darkest secret – from coming out. My skin prickled with a semblance of mortification, fearful at admitting this awful truth.
I want to hug that girl and tell her that instead of fearing that she was appearing weak she was actually being strong. She was refusing surrender, forcing those words out and reaching out for the help she so desperately needed.
I don’t have the answers for why it stopped. I really wish I did so I could help others. I just know that I kept on going somehow. I refused to think of weeks, even days ahead. I lived my life in hours-long sections, moving from one to the next. Another coping strategy I had was music; namely two songs by the same artist. One was slow and layered with emotion. The other was upbeat, full of energy and joy. Each morning I’d let myself instinctively chose between the two songs, using it as an indicator as to the state of my subconscious. If it was the upbeat one I’d try to enjoy temporary reprieve from the omnipresent dark cloud. If it was the slow one I’d know that I just had to write the day out, just make it through somehow and hope that tomorrow I’d be able to pick the other song.
During those six months I’d feel angry at myself, filled with loathing at why I felt so awful and resentment that I no longer felt the same. Most of all, I felt weak. Emotionally emaciated and utterly broken. Now, I think slightly differently. That person was so bloody strong to keep going through all that, to have kept walking one-step at a time – occasionally taking many steps backwards in the process – to get to the other side.
Depression and anxiety are two of the biggest, nastiest monsters there are. They’re all encompassing invaders who take everything and leave nothing. They consume all the goodness and keep feasting until it feels like there’s nothing left. They’re shape-shifters who take whatever form they need to make maximum impact and they seem to have inexhaustible energy levels. Worst of all, they’re invisible. No-one else can see the battle you’re fighting nor can they see the catastrophic damage the enemy is causing.
I’m so thankful I had people by my side throwing me various weapons and lifelines along the way. I know I would not have survived without them. Sadly there’s no final boss level with depression and anxiety – no chance to get rid of them completely or feel certain they have been permanently defeated. However, I feel safe in the knowledge I’ve got just the team to get me through it if any of those feelings do return and secure in the fact if I did it once then I can do it again.
And there’s no way I could feel either of those things if it hadn’t been for my past self, the epitome of a survivor who was far more courageous than she’d ever have realised.
Thank you for reading.
If you’re in any way considering suicide, or having anything close to suicidal thoughts, please do consider talking to someone. These organisations have helped lots of people, and they might just be able to help you too. Worth a try?
Rethink can be contacted on 0300 5000 927, from 10am to 2pm Monday to Friday. They’re online here.
Samaritans is available round the clock. You can call them free of charge on: 116 123 in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Their website is at www.samaritans.org.
CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, can be called from 5pm to midnight, every day of the year. Their number is 0800 58 58 58. Their website is www.thecalmzone.net