Mental Health and Suicide

*Trigger Warning: blog discussion on suicide

 

Once again I find myself making plans to end my life. I know within my heart that I will end my life one day. I have tried and failed on multiple previous occasions – you would hope by now that I would know how to get it right. This time I think, at least I hope, I have a fail-proof plan. I know the ‘where’ and I know the ‘how’, I’m just waiting for that final trigger for the ‘when’ to fall into place.

Not a day goes by when you read a statement, whether it be on social media or see it on TV or read it in the paper, “talk to someone, reach out and talk to someone, ask for help”.

Talk to who I wonder? Talk about what I ask? Sometimes the effort required to talk, the motivation to reach out, is simply far greater than the reward.

I have noticed my mental health declining of late. I am powerless to stop the deterioration and even more powerless to rectify it. I suppose, if I really think about it, it started to worsen within a few weeks following the conclusion of my allocated 24 trauma therapy sessions. The decline started slowly at first, and I doubt I even began to notice it, far less acknowledge it. However, things have become significantly worse over recent weeks, so much so that even I can no longer deny it.

I often hear people say, “it will pass; keep fighting; don’t give up; think of how far you’ve come, how much you’ve already survived; focus on the light at the end of the tunnel; never lose hope” etc. etc.

I find myself asking, “when will it pass – or more importantly how will it pass”? How exactly will this pass?

Imagine if we said to an asthmatic, “here are 24 inhalers to treat your condition, once they’re finished you will be required to manage your asthma on your own”.

Or

Imagine if we told someone suffering with diabetes, “here are 24 doses of the medication you require to treat your disease, after the doses are finished you will be required to manage the disease on your own”

Or

Imagine if we told an organ transport recipient, “here are 24 doses of immunosuppressive medication, once you’ve taken them your body needs to have learnt how to manage without them – don’t allow your immune system to attack the new organ”.

Or

Imagine we told an individual suffering with heart disease, “here are 24 doses of medication that will help keep you alive, after you have completed this course you will be required to manage the disease on your own”.

Would we expect any individuals with the physical illnesses listed above to be treated with only 24 doses of medication? Would we tolerate this sort of treatment?

If the answer to either of those 2 questions is ‘No’ then why is it acceptable to treat someone with a life-long mental health condition with only 24 treatment sessions? How can an individual with complex mental health problems be expected to self-manage the condition on their own?

Would we expect an asthmatic/diabetic/heart disease/organ transplant patient’s condition to improve without medical intervention? How then can we expect a mental health patient’s condition to improve without suitable mental health intervention?

To those who say, “this will pass, things will get better” ……. I re-ask the question, “how exactly are things going to improve, how exactly will this pass”? With no adequate mental health support or intervention, how will my condition improve?

For those who are unfamiliar with my background, I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe anxiety and depression 19 months ago. My MH condition resulted from 39 years of sexual violence, involving Child Sexual Abuse, Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation and Forced Marriage. As well as the sexual violence, I also endured 43 years of physical violence and psychological abuse.   Whilst the diagnosis was made 19 months ago following a Mental Health Assessment (late 2014), due to on-going criminal cases I was not able to access Mental Health treatment until January 2016. The NHS Psychiatrist and Psychologist who made the initial diagnosis agreed that a minimum of 3 years, weekly, intensive sessions were required to have any hope of managing my condition. However, due to the demand on local NHS Mental Health services and lack of resources I was allocated a total of 24 psychological therapy sessions with a specialised trauma Psychologist.

Whilst I acknowledge that I accomplished a lot during those 24 sessions, it was always going to be unrealistic to expect any significant or permanent progress. In the 12 months prior to starting the sessions I had 2 suicide attempts. Each and every day was filled with suicidal thoughts. It was a relief to finally notice that these thoughts had greatly reduced towards the end of the 24 sessions. Sadly, they have started to creep back in over time and once again I find they have become a daily occurrence.

I’ve been told to, “not lose hope”. Hope of what? Hope that I will fall asleep one night and wake up to discover that my memory of all the violence and abuse will suddenly have disappeared? Hope that next week the government will announce that thousands of fully qualified Psychologists have miraculously been recruited by the NHS and everyone requiring treatment will have immediate and long-term access to them? Hope that my debilitating panic attacks will unexpectedly disappear?

The thing is, my condition, my C-PTSD means that the 3 hours sleep I get at night is plagued with nightmares, the likes of which you can’t begin to imagine. I wake from one of these nightmares in the early hours of each morning with a debilitating panic attack that takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to recover from. My days are filled with flashbacks that I can’t control, with panic attacks as a result of basic triggers. Suicidal thoughts fill the voids.

As my PTSD worsens, so does my anxiety and before you know it, once again you are cloaked in the shroud of depression.

To be told to, “keep fighting” ……. Keep fighting for what? Keep fighting to endure the nightmares? Keep fighting to endure the panic attacks? How do you keep fighting the suicidal thoughts when the only welcome relief from these monsters is the welcome of death?

To me, suicide is a welcome relief from something which I can’t escape.

I’ve been told that I’m a survivor, no longer a victim. I don’t consider myself a survivor ….. yes, I survived the abuse but I have not yet survived the aftermath of that abuse and I genuinely don’t believe I will. I may no longer be a victim of actual physical abuse but I most certainly am a victim of the on-going psychological trauma that lasts a life-time.

There are those, my eldest daughter included, who say that suicide is a selfish act. Is it selfish to want to put an end to the demons? All I can say is, if you have never had to endure the demons you are a very, very lucky individual. My daughter has asked why I don’t love her enough to want to carry on living – I can’t comprehend why she would choose for me to suffer with the on-going psychological trauma. No amount of loving my children will erase the trauma.

I’ve also been told that because I’m good at being able to articulate how I’m feeling, that it is a good indication that my Mental Health condition isn’t that severe, or that I’m quite capable of coping with and managing it, or even more ludicrously, that because I’m talking about suicide means I won’t act on it.

No, being able to articulate how I feel just means I am blessed with the ability to be able to meaningfully put into words what I am experiencing. Just because I can vocalise the mental anguish I am experiencing doesn’t make it any less severe or make me more capable of being able to manage it successfully.

This blog has been both draining and mentally exhausting to write and I will end it now with how I started, which is to say that one day, when the time comes, I know I will end my life.

And yes for those who ask, I have tried to talk, I have tried to ask for help more times than I care to recall. It is an exhausting process and one which seems to have no satisfactory solution.

 

 

 

Guilt at Reporting

Today, the BBC have published an article on the increase in the number of police officers having to take sick leave with Mental Health related issues due to the nature of their work. Following on from the article, BBC Radio 5Live interviewed DCC Andy Rhodes & Sgt Ed Simpson in their morning show to discuss this topic. It made for a very interesting discussion & listening to Sgt Ed Simpson giving a very brave, open & honest account of his experience of developing PTSD & depression through the stresses of his role was enlightening.

At the same time however, listening to Sgt Simpson brought back a flood of my own feelings of guilt at having reported my case to the police.

It is not necessary to go into the details of my case suffice to say it involved 39 years of horrific sexual & physical abuse & involved multiple offenders. During the course of the subsequent police investigation I went on to be diagnosed with C-PTSD as a direct result of the abuse (this should hopefully provide an understanding of the level of abuse endured).

It took years – a life time – to find the courage to finally contact police & report what was happening. The case was complex & involved countless interviews to give my evidence. There were a few times during the interviews, when having to graphically describe the abuse, one of the officers asked to be excused because he found it too distressing. I immediately thought I had said something wrong, I questioned whether I shouldn’t be giving these details, whether I should have stayed silent. This occurred on a few occasions & I ended up feeling guilty that I had put this officer through this ordeal, that by reporting my abuse had resulted in causing distress to the officers involved. I remember an occasion when I attended for an interview following a violent physical assault & the officer reeling at my visible injuries when I walked into the room. I felt guilty that he had to see me in this condition.

During the course of the subsequent investigation I attempted suicide twice & again I know that had a negative effect on the officers involved – I feel tremendous guilt for that, even though I accept the attempts were symptomatic of my own PTSD. When one of the cases went to trial I felt extremely guilty for the police officer who was tasked with accompanying me at all times to ensure I didn’t commit suicide after having to give evidence. I remember crossing a bridge over the river & immediately assessing the height of the drop, the speed of the water – calculating whether this would be a suitable spot should I feel the need to make the ultimate escape – the officer knew I was having these thoughts, I knew he knew & the level of stress he was under did not escape me. It racked me with guilt.

After the conclusion of my cases at the beginning of this year, I had the opportunity of having an informal chat about my case. I know the DI had sleepless nights over the management of the case, he has said it was the most complex case he has so far had to deal with. I have been told that some of the officers involved requested to speak to a counsellor due to the nature of the case.

All of this makes me feel personally responsible & extremely guilty that by contacting police I have caused this level of distress for those officers involved. I have been told that ‘it’s their job’ & ‘that’s what they are there for’ but that doesn’t erase the guilt I feel – officers should not have to suffer as a result of my own suffering. I feel incredibly guilty that I put officers through that & caused them distress as a result. I am truly sorry for that.