An impossible ask

I’m going to start with a massive TRIGGER WARNING. This post contains numerous references to suicidal thoughts and descriptions of methods, as well as intrusive thoughts of self-harm. Please don’t read on if this could be damaging to you.

After last week’s referral I am continuing to see the Home Treatment Team and, as last time, the experience is something of a mixed bag.

By the end of last week I was feeling more and more despondent about my life, in particular about loss of the work and the activism I had so carefully built up over the past few months. On Thursday and Friday I had been scheduled to attend the Royal College of Psychiatrists General Adult Psychiatry Conference as a service user rep, and had been greatly looking forward to this. Seeing people from the mental health community tweeting about sessions I was too sick to attend really hurt me, as did my increasing awareness that I was not going to be well enough to deliver my beloved Mental Health First Aid course at the end of the month.

Not being able to work was (and still is) feeding into a sense of being both helpless and useless, a sense of there being no point to my existence. More and more there seems little point in everything I try to do, to create, to establish when a mood switch that changes as quickly as the direction of wind can ruin everything. All I do feels like building house after house of nothing but cards – from working to get into Oxbridge age 17, through termination of my place as a student midwife and the loss of my probation career, to my current attempts to build a “portfolio career” of research, writing, training and speaking. And so I have been asking my self: why? Why bother? Why strive to be well, comply with medication, keep a daily routine when none it stops the destruction of the things I hold dear?

In the past week I have been spending increasing amounts of time looking at pro-suicide websites – a new departure for me. In particular I was looking into the prospect of obtaining pentobarbital online. Better known as Nembutal, it is a drug I had not thought of since Sixth Form when studying Edwin Morgan’s A Poem for Marilyn which described Monroe’s death in terms of “bewildering barbiturates” and her “Nembutal bed”. It is not easy to purchase pentobarbital, however, or not at least unless you live near the Mexican border. So I read more sites, sites that tell you how to get the best results out of your overdose, how to avoid being found. And so on, and so on. Part of me was observing what I was Googling, noting the seriousness and thinking, “This is not me, I don’t do this” but another part turned its sneaky back and carried on, snarling, “Fuck off! What do you know?”

Meanwhile I continued to have intrusive visions of self-harm. I watched Tom flex his bare foot and saw my own hand slicing the soles of my feel with razor blades. Every time I raised a glass or mug to my mouth I imagined knocking my teeth out. I picked up the kitchen scissors to open a carton and had an impossible impulse to cut through my own fingers, one, two, three, four. Various items in my hand felt destined to be jabbed into my own eye: a fork, a pen, a whirring electronic toothbrush without a head. When I went for an hour’s massage, something that I usually find really helps, I was bitterly disappointed that no matter how good my body felt, my mind was calculating how many pharmacies in the borough I could reach before closing time and how much sedating medication I could get away with purchasing at each without arousing suspicion. And every day I was still having urges to make suicidal gestures likely to achieve little other than physical injury (like wanting run to open the emergency exit at the back of a double-decker bus and jump out into the path of the traffic).

I tried to explain something of this at a “medication review” with the Specialist Registrar on Thursday; I use inverted commas as all that came of that meeting was his recommendation that I try to exercise for ten minutes a day, and to write that down. Um, OK. I assume this was supposed to give me some kind of sense of hope, or control, or agency. It… didn’t. Thankfully I had a much better appointment with the SHO on Friday, who was really only meant to take bloods from me but ended up hearing that I had come to a decision. Either I had to be admitted, I told him, or I had to ask Tom to make good on his promise to take time off to look after to me. I could not look after myself any more, could not reconcile the warring parts of my brain, could not rest assured that the logical, healthier part of my brain would win out over the sneaking, suicide researching part, or over the impulsive, jumpy part. I needed to hand my care over to someone else.

Over the weekend I discussed the situation with Tom and reiterated that I could not take responsibility for myself any more, that I was too worn out and confused, and that although I had fought hospitalisation for 20 years I just didn’t care any more. I just wanted to have someone else stop me from the things I couldn’t be sure I could (would?) stop myself from doing and if took going into hospital to achieve that, then – whatever. And so he has blocked out two weeks of annual leave to be with me, monitor my med intake, watch the post and generally be a hospital at home.

I’m still going to HTT every day, only now Tom is coming with me, as well as spending all the rest of his time with me so I am never alone. Over the past week I have been trying to find out what on earth happened to the referral HTT made to the National Affective Disorders Service when I was last in crisis is April. As usual for HTT I have seen someone different every day, and this has made it very difficult to feel that the matter has been looked into. Because this referral, you see, this was supposed to give me hope back in the spring. It was supposed to help me access the crème de la crème of mood disorder treatment and just perhaps give me a more positive outlook about my future. It is therefore ironic in the extreme that I had basically lost all expectation of every hearing anything about the referral months ago, but with things as they are Tom and I felt that we really needed to get the referral back on track.

Today we saw S, one of the most dynamic and understanding nurses on the team (she even understands how important this blog is to me) and she had done what no one else would, and put in some detective work on my part. She confirmed the national service received the referral on 29th April this year, but then hit a funding wall – it’s very boring so I won’t go into it, but it’s basically because I can’t seen at my local Trust because that’s where Tom works, and this complicates things. Anyhow, the funding was last chased in August and it doesn’t look like anything has happened since then. S will keep chasing and now so will Tom.

I need this referral, I really do, but also I’m terrified that the thing I have pinned my hopes on for half of 2014 might not deliver the hope and control I need. Because right now even when I feel superficially OK, thoughts of suicide are always there. Tom asked me earlier today what he could do to help as I bent double over the kitchen counter, wracked with sobs. I know what I really want. I want him to obtain the means to help me die, and I want him to hold me in bed in a lovely hotel room under a fluffy duvet as I go. I know he won’t do that. I know it’s an impossible ask because he can’t do that without facing prosecution. But to go, and go peacefully in the arms of someone I love is what I really want.


About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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17 Responses to An impossible ask

  1. I don’t always reply to your blog posts, or on Twitter, as sometimes I can’t cope myself. Even now, I’m not sure how much I can cope, but I felt I needed to respond this time.

    I’ve been going through a crazy time myself of late. I put so much faith in those around me that the slightest let down, slightest upset, hurts like hell. Plus I also feel like I’m going through yet another midlife crisis – after all the pain and hurt I’ve had in my life, it’s meant that I haven’t achieved much. I suddenly realised – I’m 33, I don’t have a job, my life is going nowhere. What does it all mean? Is there any point in carrying on this charade if it isn’t actually going anywhere, when I have very little prospects of finding a job I would want to do where I am, where the remnants of my once relationship are left haunting me daily as I can’t afford to move away from my ex, and with so few friends, most of whom I feel I shouldn’t bother, or I have bothered to the point where they can’t cope…

    I really don’t know what keeps me going, but I recognise all those signs. I haven’t gotten as far as being so suicidal, anything beyond just thinking that the world would be better off without me. But I have had the thoughts of cutting, stabbing, just anything, just to feel something else, just to get rid of the pointlessness of existence.

    So, in some ways, I understand. But after all your positivity not that long ago, I don’t understand seeing you there again. It doesn’t seem right that someone who’s positive thoughts have sometimes helped keep me focussed has been brought down to such a dark level again.

    I think the truth of it all is, we all need to believe in something. Without that little spark, life just doesn’t seem worth it.

  2. Molly Kate says:

    Sorry to hear you’re having a hard time finding relief.

  3. Tears are pouring down my cheeks now. That was so incredibly moving to me because that is what I want too xxx I’m always here for you xxx

  4. CotnoirSA says:

    painfully beautiful. love & light.

  5. Wanting Clarity says:

    Dear purplepersuasion,

    I never thought I would be in a place where I would completely understand–and I hate to say it, but maybe even be okay with–a person choosing suicide. But this is where I have arrived two years after being diagnosed with Major Depressive Order and now having many of the same sad and painful realizations about my life that you are having. Though I have some suicidal ideation at my worst times, I have not experienced anything near what you are currently going through. I am so sorry you are going through this, and I hope you will be okay.

    I am sure you would prefer to be in a position to offer your readers a more positive side of what you are going through. However, I want you to know (although you may be feeling otherwise) that writing about your feelings and all you are experiencing, including your current state of mind and your wish to let go and die peacefully in the arms of someone you love, is such a courageous thing to do, particularly while you are going through it. Your honesty will effect everyone reading this. So many people, at times, want to make things sound better than they actually are and end on an upbeat note. But those of us who experience even a dollop of what you are going through, know the real thing when we hear it. And even though it may be hard to read and think about, especially when we can relate, it is what we most need. So although I am sure you had other plans for yourself once upon a time, I want you to know that what you are currently doing is something miraculous that benefits all of us–hopefully, even you.

    That said, I am so sorry you are in such pain and distress. It is so very unfair. I do very much hope you will be able to get help from the National Affective Disorders Service and that your meds or whatever else that might help will start working to alleviate your current level of anguish.

    Please know, you are in my thoughts.


  6. It hurt how much I could relate to this. I’m sorry that you are trapped there. There is very little I could say to comfort you, but know that you are not alone in those feelings in any way.

    Personally, I can especially relate to the intrusive and often obsessive thoughts about self-harm. Even today, when I’ve been feeling “up” for some days now, I find it difficult to stop thinking about my “dear old friends,” the razors I used to always have handy. It’s very hard to not imagine pressing sharp things into my skin as hard as I can. It’s just difficult, all around.

    I do hope that life gets better before you choose to let it go. There is a space you fill that nobody else ever could.

  7. Wow!!! Reading this and the responses so far I am feeling a deep sense of pain in my soul. The evils of this world truly have a hold on so many and all they seek is a way away from it. I too have been in the same sense of hopelessness and where do I go from here thoughts. I have also had thoughts of ending it all, but I have never acted upon them. I have stared at knives and pills and belts thinking, “what if I just…” But every time, every single pain staking time a voice calls to my spirit and bids me to keep the fight alive. After twenty years of fighting depression I can tell you I am alive and well today, and even though I may lose my only job in this area so small and not built for disabled people like me, even though that will probably happen, I KNOW there is more to this journey. I am praying for each and every one of you who expressed having these same feelings of hopelessness and ending the journey. Troubles come and go. Good times come and go. But, the impact we leave on those we come in contact with is forever. I hope we all realize we are all in this journey together and together we can offer each other hope and a realization that the journey will continue. I love you all!!

  8. Definitely know that feeling. Hang in there Xx

  9. Sasha says:

    Your blog is so honest and raw and heart breaking .for you to find a focus through the pain and be able to so beautifully describe the current hell you are in astounds me ..
    I hope that the intensity to end your life diminishes and you find your tiny spark of hope …I will be thinking of you .

  10. fiona says:

    I don’t know if this would work for you but when I have been depressed and suicidal I have comforted myself with the thought that I could end it all if I wanted to and that has helped me to keep going. I hope you will find the help you need to get through this. Bipolar disorder is a fickle illness and does make it hard to plan for a future that you want for yourself but things can change. I have been as ill as you although perhaps not for so long and have just had a year of almost complete wellness on medication and carefully managing my life. Before that I was well for 7 years.
    There is hope.

  11. Yvonne Davidson says:

    I can sympathise with everything u say I don’t want to die but hear voices and want them to go and live in a crap marriage with an unsupportive husband prone to violence. At least yours loves u. I have an estranged relationship with oldest girl son in s America for 5 months and don’t see youngest much. Mega overweight drink too much don’t sleep crave excitement and attention work virtually full time got day off and was asked to work feel guilty at letting team down but need some time off. When I’m off I lay curled in a ball watching crap tv and trying to wind down and relax not easy. Hubby moans bout housework. It’s a tip as I’m bit of hoarder too…. I could go on and on but don’t wanna bore u xxx

  12. Victoria Epps says:

    I am so so sorry you feel this way. I am reading a book at the moment in search of solutions and feeling better, it is called. … The Natural Medicine Guide to BiPolar Disorder. It’s full of alternative treatments but surprisingly with a very scientific slant. You are I my thoughts Charlotte and I hope there is some respite for you very soon x x

  13. Michael Tobias says:

    oh my love. my love my love my love. How my heart hurts reading your ordeal. At the same time, glad that you put so eloquently into words such a difficult emotional experience. I am hopeful that you can be alleviated of the great destructive impulses. And I share your desire to die in the arms of the one you love. I think many of us would like to go that way. Sending as many good thoughts your way as I possibly can. As much as it is cliche — hang in there!

  14. Lindsay says:

    I am so sorry you are in such a dark space. I certainly have been there and know recommendations are cold comfort MOST of the time… I just need to ask about something that has been an amazing discovery for me (although I live in a dark continent thousands of miles away from you-this may be old news please bare with me)…. the MTHFR gene mutation? And the folate and Vit B treatments? I have suffered with BP for so many years, had ECT which was successful for a long straight period, but as time goes by I seem to be sensitive to so much, from malaria tablets (previously no effect) to a recent juice detox. Within days of finding out about my very severe mutation and taking the recommended treatment (in the US Deplin I believe) i have had a huge recovery. Have you ever investigated this angle? If so please just know I would share anything I think would help because I know that space. Try hang in there, just try.

  15. Sam Candour says:

    Oh Charlotte, you’re in so much pain and I wish I didn’t understand it but I do. But whatever happens, wherever you go from here, know that you are loved.

  16. Being physically ill right now and not being able to do the MH work I should be doing I wholeheartedly agree and empathize with how demeaning and despairing this feels. I have read this blog twice and feel very moved by your vivid description of your painful deep down feelings and demons taking over at times. I have been to the suicide and self harm land of hell and it is bloody basty and shtty. No matter how good a HTT are it is frightening and I am relieved to hear you have Mr B supporting you. I really have faith that your mood will lift i time but whilst you feel so unsafe and in such desair hold on to the fact that each day each minute you keep safe s a minute more towards a positive feeling. I really feel for you and the system is not geared up to these crises no matter how good it needs to be far better. More crisis houses more responsive HTTs etc. I hope the next few days and hours are kinder. Keep writing if you can. You have a lot of support and love here. Your work- you will be back. Your work is outstanding It may take time but I have seen SUs and friends with extreme distress like yours in professional jobs take a year out if need be, have nasty experiences and get back to a good place where they can get back to work again with support of their team.
    Take care and all honour to you for the courage and honesty.

  17. AReader says:

    Hold on. Your writing has made a difference to people like me. Please stick around.

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