Almost 15 years ago I was in the worst place of my life, I should have been on top of the world, I was in my early twenties, I had just ended a bad relationship, was free, had financial security and on paper I had my life together. Yet deep down I was suffering, all I wanted was to be dead, and one fateful day I made a real suicide attempt, that I thankfully failed at.
There is something that no-one tells you about depression and that is that on the outside, you can be appear to be a highly functional and happy person, yet can be living in a total hell on the inside, this was me. 15 years ago suicide awareness was nowhere near what it is today, mental health awareness was certainly prevalent, but it wasn’t part of our social conversation. Whilst improvements have been made today, we still have a long way to go.
These days we have famous people revealing their mental health issues, Mia Freedman has disclosed she has Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Pink has disclosed she has Depression & Anxiety, Gwyneth Paltrow has revealed she had Post Natal depression and a whole raft of other well known people have gone public with their struggles.
So where did my struggles begin?
I had such shame of being married so young and that failing and I beat myself up so much internally for failing that. I forever felt that I would never be good enough for any man, that I was damaged goods because I had been married and ‘what man my age would want to marry a divorcee’. The truth was, no-one really cared about this, other than me, but that didn’t change the way I felt about me and my situation.
Since I left my husband I went on a massive downward spiral, I started reclaiming the life I left when I met my ex. I came back into contact with friends from my past, and I developed a co-dependent friendship with a man who I deeply lust over, but whom didn’t reciprocate those feelings to me. He was recovering from the breakdown of his first serious relationship, but he had found other things to help him cope, marijuana, alcohol and ecstasy.
With existing anxiety and depression, adding in mind altering substances into the mix resulted in a completely fucked up mental state. Every single day was an up and a down and I just couldn’t feel happy or content. So I decided that it was time to get some help, so I went to a GP and got a referral to a psychiatrist.
With my first visit with the psychiatrist she diagnosed me with Bipolar disorder because my mood swings would go from extreme highs to extreme lows. So she gave me a whole bunch of scripts for mood stabilising medication, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication and a warning that I shouldn’t drink on these medications.
I took the medication every day, but I did drink on the weekends (because at that time I wasn’t a daily drinker, I was a binge drinker) and I also didn’t stop smoking marijuana. I thought that the best thing for me to do was to follow my dreams and book an overseas holiday, and so I did, I booked myself 5 weeks in Europe on a Contiki tour.
Before the holiday, my psychiatrist wrote me out a special script so that I could get all of my medication and scripts filled out in advance, this would ensure that I had enough medication to last the entire trip.
I arrived in London and I was initially so excited, but while I was there I quickly found myself in a massive drinking culture. Even though I was living my dream by travelling around some of the most beautiful parts of the world, deep down I was still miserable. An outsider would look in on me and see me as happy, but inside I was so deeply suffering.
We made our way through England and then onto France before making our way to Italy. I should have been on top of the world, Italy was one of those places I had always wanted to go to. I remember enjoying the pizza, seeing the beautiful leaning tower of Pisa and exploring the amazing ruins in Rome. I had been to the Vatican that morning and actually saw the pope deliver his sermon to the people, it was a deeply moving moment, but that night, I thought to myself, I am so deeply depressed, I should be the happiest I have ever been, but all I want to do is die.
And so it began, I literally consumed every single anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and every single tablet that I had in my bag with vodka. I don’t remember anything from that moment on.
My next memory was that I was lying in a hospital bed with a nun praying over me and my eyes slowly started to open and I wanted to get out of the bed. When I started to move, the doctors and nurses came running over to me, they thought that I was surely going to die, if not I should have at least had permanent brain damage.
The nurse looked at me and said you are very lucky to be alive and your parents are on the way to see you, they should be here in a couple of hours. I asked for a notepad because I just wanted to write. I was in tears, the shame from my marriage now seemed insignificant because I felt like everyone in the world and that everyone who knew me would know that I tried to kill myself and I couldn’t even succeed in that.
My parents arrived and they were all surprised by my behaviour. No-one ever said anything to me about what I had done, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I just wanted to go site seeing and pretend it had never happened. I was so full of shame, and I had bounced back into good health so quickly.
We talk so much about suicide awareness and prevention, but there is still no discussion on those who have attempted and failed at suicide. When I reflect back on my life, I am very grateful that I survived, but I still have alot of shame, embarrassment and self perceived stigma attached to my decision.
It took a long time to recover from this suicide attempt and I did eventually get my life back on track, but I still had and do have un resolved issues that have then contributed to my future alcoholism.
The most ironic thing about all of this, is that if you know me now, or you even knew me back then, you probably wouldn’t realise how much I was suffering. I wore my mask well, was still able to maintain a job, still able to study and still had a social life, but deep down I was in so much pain.