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Returning to Life After a Suicide Attempt

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When you attempt suicide, there’s not supposed to be an afterwards. It’s supposed to be an ending, not the beginning of a whole new horrendous chapter. No one tells you what it’s going to be like to live through the aftermath.

This is what it was like for me.

First, there was the immediate trauma of the ER. Blue lights and sirens, rushing me to the hospital. The police, who’d taken me to the ER, standing guard outside my cubicle in case I made a run for it (not that I could even sit up without passing out).

Lying on a hospital bed with feet muddy from the riverbank I stood on while I swallowed those tablets, hair wet from the rain I’d barely noticed, knowing my husband, mother and friend had never seen me in a worse state.

Needles for blood tests, needles for the IV antidote to reverse the effects of the pills, needles to pump fluids into my body.

People, some kind, some hostile, all of them asking question after question after question that I didn’t want to or didn’t know how to answer.

Vomiting over and over again with such violence that I wet myself.

Collapsing on the floor of the bathroom and not knowing if I could even make it to the emergency cord to call for help.

Hearing voices talking over me, talking about potential liver damage, possible surgical interventions and realizing how badly I’d screwed everything up.

Being moved from the ER to the ward on a trolley, watching the ceiling tiles rush past above me, not knowing where on earth I was.

Wondering how the hell it had all gone so horribly wrong.

Eventually, I was given the “all-clear,” medically speaking. My brain was a different matter, but as long as my liver was working, no one seemed to care about that. There’s not enough money in the National Health Service to fund psychiatric beds, even in a crisis situation, so I was sent home. I remember being physically and emotionally wiped out. There was no chance of me taking my children to school. I simply couldn’t get out of bed.

Although I was lying down, I couldn’t rest, couldn’t sleep. My mind tortured me with flashbacks of what I’d been through. My children came and sat on my bed. I wanted both to hug them forever and scream at them to go away at the same time.

My husband had to take time off work to look after me, look after our kids and look after my medication so I couldn’t do what all my instincts were telling me to do. I berated myself that I couldn’t even manage to kill myself properly. What a total waste of space.

Eventually, I re-entered the world. The first time I went outside, it was as if I’d emerged from underground. My senses felt like they’d been turned up to max. Lights and sounds were almost painfully acute.

Standing in the school playground, I had to fight every instinct to run away. I couldn’t face anyone knowing where I’d been, what I’d been through. Yet, I couldn’t paste the smile on any more and pretend everything was rosy when it was anything but.

Slowly, things changed. Today, thanks to a psychiatrist, who was willing to take a risk with my medication, and a psychologist, who’s helping me unpick the aftermath of my attempted suicide, I’m facing Christmas in a better place mentally than I’ve been in for a long time. Yet, I still bear the mental scars of my suicide attempts. (Sadly, it is more than just the one I’ve described here.)

Those attempts have changed me in a way I can never undo. I’m a different person than I was before. I crossed a line we’re not supposed to go near. I prepared, when I took those tablets, for one outcome. The one I got was entirely different.

I’ve lived through an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody else. I’m glad to be alive, something I once thought I would never be. I believe I have some residual post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. A suicide attempt is many things: a cry for help, a last resort, the only way out of unbearable pain. However, never let anyone tell you it’s the easy option.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 4, 2017
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