Olivia’s ascent from her Suicidal hell

Olivia (not her real name) sent this to me some months after our final session.
it is a powerful testimony.

I feel like I’m going mad. And fast.
Every day my brain feels as if it’s getting weaker. Six months after my initial breakdown and I fear I am on a downward spiral that can only end one way.
It’s a frightening thought. One that fills me with terror and a morbid excitement.
I feel as if my life is destined to fail. Logically, some deep, inner intelligence tells me not to be so daft – that I have reason to live, reason to hope. But that deep, inner intelligence tires quickly and submits to the contaminated lump in my brain that tells me I’m better off dead.

Church bells. I don’t know why they ring at this time of night – practice for Sunday? You’d think they’d know the fucking tune by now. Sad. It used to be my favourite sound.
I long to feel normal. Not to be filled with rage or to the brim with tears. Living life on the edge of your emotions is like walking in stilettos along Beachy Head. One blunt response, one clumsily stubbed toe and I rapidly crash in to the self pity I now hate myself for it.
I can only compare it to being trapped in a burning room. Closing my eyes in an attempt to escape just puts me closer to these horrible thoughts. There’s no escape. It’s all too powerful for me to overcome and the only way I can escape is to jump. I know I’ll die if I do, but at least I won’t spend the last moments of my life in terror. I’ll have control again. Even if briefly.

Evenings are better for me at the moment. I don’t feel happiness, but the despair seems distant. I can numb myself in the evenings. The meagre 6mg of Valium I am on has kicked in and Eastenders is on also
Before the breakdown I had given up watching TV. I became very self righteous in having no idea who was on TOWIE…but secretly I was watching back to back box sets to get my fix.

Now I wouldn’t be without it. My good friend ‘The Noise’. It doesn’t matter what’s showing, as long as it’s on. Saying that, the constant song/dialogue matching on ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ does piss me off.
It’s a strange improvement since the breakdown that I can watch any daytime TV though. When I first got ill I could only watch the news or footage of The Olympics. Anything that was present and objective was lovely for my brain. I tried to watch an episode of Porridge on UK Gold and it gave me a panic attack. I still have no idea why.

‘After Christmas I’ll sort myself out. I’ll be back to normal (ish) by then.’ That’s what I kept telling myself. It’s yet to happen. I feel like shaking myself. Shaking myself so hard that the only way I don’t die is by getting a strong hold of the still reality. But I just can’t. I’m exhausted.

Depression makes you feel selfish. I see adverts for sponsorship of starving children in Africa and in the most terrible way I envy them. I envy their physical pain and hope that God or whoever is up there doesn’t hear me. How bloody awful my brain does that. I feel so self absorbed and ashamed. I know the luxuries I have- food, shelter, warmth, abilities.

I know it’s all there. But I just can’t feel it.
“This too shall pass.” I’m getting fucked off with hearing that. I’m sure it will pass- but when? And what if I remember it? What if it becomes such a huge part of my identity I’ll be institutionalised in my own psychosis? All these questions. I know worrying doesn’t help. If it did, I’d only worry once. Doesn’t make it any easier to stop -to jump off that treadmill of negativity and laugh at the lighter things in life.

Six months of suicidal thoughts. Every single day, all day, every day. I fantasise to the point of suddenly finding myself with a belt pulled tightly around my neck…and nowhere is strong enough to attach it. I must have looked like a very reluctant gimp.
The suicidal thoughts are the hardest to push away. They’re so powerful and authoritative- and worryingly…they make sense! What a fantastic option. My brain’s a mess, my brain is me, I can’t even close my eyes and escape in to another world, if I killed myself I’d have no brain.  Problem solved.

I’m fucked off with everyone at the moment- especially myself. My doctor is an imbecile. She told me last week that I must be getting better as my hair looked nice. I know hair sprouts from our heads but I didn’t realise it was so directly linked to our mental health.

Tomorrow feels like my last resort. I can’t get rid of the idea of throwing myself under the tube on the way home should I not see some kind of result straight away. Even if I don’t do it tomorrow, or in a week, or a month, I just know I’m the type of person who will die through suicide.

When I read that diary entry, it feels as if I’m reading the words of a completely different person.

The night before my first therapy session with Andrew, after writing that very entry, I had tied a belt round my neck and was desperately trying to find somewhere strong enough to attach it to. I wanted to die quickly and only suffer a dignified snap of the neck.

Luckily, so very luckily, I couldn’t find anywhere. The bathroom taps had been an option, but that would mean slowly strangling myself, which I sensed I’d have to stop half way through- and I really wanted to go.

I sat in the bathroom for a good hour with that belt round my neck wondering what to do. I knew I shouldn’t kill myself. I knew how selfish it was towards my loved ones- and especially my dogs, but it’s the only way out that I could think of.  It made such sense to me. To end the tormenting thoughts that had plagued my mind for a good half a year.

Summer of 2012 I suffered a mental breakdown- for reasons that are private for me. Something in my brain had cracked, a fuse had blown and being a natural problem solver (as we all are) I worried over how I was going to sort myself out.

I crumbled whilst visiting my mother- thankfully. If I had been anywhere else I dread to think what would have happened. She had to take me to St Ann’s hospital in Tottenham. A fantastic establishment where receptionists roll their eyes at your shameful tears and mental health nurses keep you waiting for 9 hours before they assess you. I was so suicidal. I couldn’t speak and whenever I tried to, a painful lump would form in my throat and I’d burst in to tears. I felt so embarrassed. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I felt like a child again. I’d lost all of the strength and experience and wisdom that I’d built up over the years. I felt completely shattered.

I was put under the care of ‘The Home Treatment Team’. I’m still unsure what their purpose was- other than to prevent me taking up a bed in the hospital itself. They’d visit me every other day between 10am and 2pm to make sure I hadn’t killed myself (must be optimal suicide time??).

They’d turn up, sit down, have a look at my mum’s photos and ask me if I was suicidal. To which I’d respond ‘yes’- to which they’d respond ‘well…keep with the Fluoxetine, it should start working soon’.
After three bed ridden weeks (not only was I exhausted, but I had an overwhelming fear that if I did get out of bed I would run out of the house and in to the path of an oncoming bus) I was discharged by the Home Treatment Team and told to continue prescriptions/treatment with my GP.

My GP was a joke. On our first meeting, despite telling him I was suicidal, he said I ‘looked quite normal and unlikely to harm myself’. How many years of medical school do they go through again?

I struggled on Fluoxetine. It did nothing for me. My dosage was upped to 60mg and I was left to get on with it. After much pleading and frustration I was put on to Sertraline instead- which I found not only to be just as useless, but it made my suicidal thoughts so intense I felt as if I was hearing another person’s voice within my mind. I lasted three days on those. When I complained to my GP that the tablets had made me even more suicidal and that I had written several notes to loved ones and made definite plans to end my life, I was told to ‘push through- within a fortnight you’ll be feeling better’. I knew in my heart of hearts if I’d stayed on them within a fortnight I’d be dead.

I drifted for several months. Slept for hours and hours each day- thanks to a combination of Kalms and Valium.  I knew if I was asleep I couldn’t do anything to harm myself. It helped for a time, but my quality of life was so low I knew I wasn’t dealing with the problem.
Throughout this time- roughly six months- I had suicidal thoughts EVERY SINGLE DAY. As soon as I was awake I’d daydream about tying my dogs’ leads around my neck and attaching them to the banister. Sometimes the thoughts would be violent. I’d see myself take a kitchen knife and drive it in to my stomach, over and over again until I’d bled to death.

I’m having trouble putting in to words how low I was. Even ‘low’ is an understatement. I think I’d imploded. There was nothing left of me. I’d convinced myself that was it. Even if I didn’t kill myself then, I would be the type of person who would die through suicide.

I arrived at my first therapy session a teary eyed mute. I could not speak and I choked on every word. I had no idea how I was going to express to Andrew what was wrong. Luckily, I didn’t have to. That is the beauty of Andrew’s treatment. He understands the pointlessness and the unnecessary pain caused by going over and over the thoughts that are tormenting you.

He could see from the moment he met me that I was in no fit state to explain what was wrong- yet he still managed to help me. It was miraculous. I probably said a handful of words in that first session- and Andrew didn’t chat much either. But the quality of what he said gave me an instant hope.

Part of the weight had been lifted and he insisted on taking the burden from me. The most significant thing he said to me at that first meeting was  ‘suicide is a solution…but let’s find a better one’.

In all I had four sessions before I felt recovery. With each session I felt a gradual progress and lightening in my life. I could see other options and could see all the things I had to look forward to. Before meeting with Andrew I couldn’t imagine the future, there was nothing there, it felt like a dark void- and it frightened me so much.

I can’t express enough how much Andrew has helped me- and in such a short length of time. If I had gone through the NHS therapy route I would still be waiting for my referral…if I’d survived that long. It is no exaggeration that I have Andrew to thank for being alive today.

No matter how much you are suffering right now, I urge you to take that first step and seek good quality help. Don’t waste any more time with ill-informed prescriptions or forgotten referrals from your GP, you will find yourself going round and round in circles and your condition will only deteriorate.
Every day I’m grateful for Andrew Richardson and the therapy he provided me with.  My only regret being that I didn’t see him sooner.