There is life on the other side of suicidal tendencies, and even suicide attempts. There is a way to find peace and contentment. I know this because I am living it. The thoughts do still arise every now and then, which is how I know I have been slipping in my practice. I have found a method that quietens the demons of the mind enough so that I can navigate the rocky terrain of mental illness.
I remember the sound of my mother’s voice when she arrived at the hospital, in a state of disarray; she was crying, “what did I do wrong?” The guilt that overcame me was crippling; yet, I also felt annoyed that she tried to make it about her. My father was convinced I was seeking attention. Maybe they were both right to some degree, I’m sure I was seeking the attention of my loved ones; however, it is never quite that simple. I was definitely calling out for help. Mostly though, I remember my sister (whom I treated like dirt because of my own lack of self worth) climbing onto the bed and curling up with me, quietly sobbing and trying to convince me that she loved me. I was sixteen at the time and I had already been suffering with the pain of wanting to die for years, even though I was really only a child.
I have planned my death and even watched my funeral in my head many times. I have written farewell letters to my loved ones and penciled plans – I never wanted anyone to find me and have to suffer with that burden. While my peers were enjoying all the dramas of teenage life, I was dreaming about ways to make myself disappear. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t escape the darkness within my mind, or why it was so dark in the first place; all I knew was, I was different. I never wanted to hurt anyone with taking my life, I just wanted to die because I had no way of coping with the pain of living; for, to me, living was agonising and I didn’t have the tools to change that feeling.
I remember one particular time in my life, during my early twenties, when I couldn’t get out of bed for three days because of depression. I simply couldn’t face the most simple tasks. My well-meaning G.P. assured me that I needed antidepressants to deal with my sadness because I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and therefore wasn’t able to cope with times of difficult efficiently and so, that became my reality – for a few years. I still have periods in which I feel heavy under the weight of my depression, however I no longer buckle under the pressure; instead, I now have the desire to understand it and learn how I can use my experience to be of service to others. This, in itself, is a wonderful tool for survival; although, getting to the point where it is possible to serve others is what I want to shed some light on.
I think the positive changes began when I decided that I didn’t want to be ignorant anymore; I no longer wanted to pretend that I was something I wasn’t. It’s hard to say what initiated that shift, although it seemed to coincide with me becoming seriously physically ill. I had developed post viral chronic fatigue and polycystic ovarian syndrome and I was physically unable to move much and I was in constant pain. Unlike when I was bed ridden due to bad mental health, now the actual physical ability to move was taken away from me (which put things into perspective). I had always relied on the fact that I could at least walk the dog, go to work or even go out and get wasted, to forget my emotional pain – now I couldn’t do any of it. I had no choice but to lay in my bed, in my tiny room, and feel it all. I still remember the soundtrack to this time and when I hear those songs now, I get a good reminder of where I have been and how far I have come.
Now, I know this is a recurring theme within my writing but it’s what saved my life – my practice! I learned how to meditate mindfully, through yoga and vipassana meditation. I have been practicing for several years, which has resulted in me getting off antidepressants as well as some other unhealthy addictions. I suppose I could say that I am addicted to my practice, as my life revolves around it, but an addiction to self discovery and improvement can’t be a bad thing. I am happy now; the kind of happy that is due to moderation, compassion and a growing sense of self worth. I am fully aware that some people’s circumstances are much worse than what I have described for myself and I am not claiming to understand your personal challenges or pain; however, there are many inspiring individuals who have overcome incredible challenges with similar techniques. Focussed awareness and mindfulness are always at the root of a happy person’s practice.
Within the last three years I have found myself lost in suicidal fantasies a few times and all of them were triggered by a domestic argument. The feeling of not being in control USED TO push me into a state of despair. During that time I was getting very little sleep, which played a part and may do in other people’s situations as well. When I look back on those times I can see that I was overcome with anxiety and my mind was as busy as it ever gets. In some instances it was my fault we fought and some weren’t; either way, the result was the same – disconnection from the present moment. I couldn’t find enough awareness to take a single slow deep breath. I felt helpless. If only I had been practicing regularly, the connection between conscious breathing and presence may have been automatic and the intense sensations could have been managed sufficiently.
Now, an important thing to understand is that we cannot change the way other people act, we can only choose how we react. I still find myself becoming defensive, but I never yell or call names, and I never feel so hopeless that I start planning my own death. I still cry some times when I feel like I am being pushed to my limit but there is nothing wrong with crying, it is healthy and necessary. It can be a release for the physical body and conscious breathing can accompany it beautifully. Often, it’s the effort to stop one’s self expressing emotions through crying that can cause a person to become so backed up with their own feelings that they struggle to ever get it out again; this naturally leads to the inability to cope with all of the challenging sensations building up inside and inevitable despair.
These days I know I have the tools to climb out of the darkness when it strikes. Sometimes I am not in a situation where I can sit down and meditate quietly or do a yoga asana practice but I can always breathe. I know that I will be able to do one of the other actions soon enough and if I breathe fully and consciously for now, I will be okay. I don’t need to turn to my faithful old habit of planning my death anymore. I can surrender to the uncomfortable sensations of depression and anxiety so they may teach me their lessons an move on; each time they come is a lesson, an opportunity to ask, “what am I not doing that I need to be?”
My purpose in this life is to pass on these lessons and hopefully help another sufferer of mental illness. It will be okay, you have the power to change your life. It’s not an easy road, but it’s a hell of a lot better than sinking into your mind holes and losing your life to something you can change… and I promise you, no pill can make it go away, you have to do the work. I used to hate myself and now I love myself, which means I can truly love you too – for it’s impossible to give out what you don’t have.
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