***TRIGGER WARNING SUICIDE***
You can tell when I am not very well because there is a sudden flurry of posts after weeks of sitting around twiddling my thumbs thinking that I have nothing to say. I’d even begun to think this blog was largely defunct, hell, that blogging as an art form is on its last legs now. It simply doesn’t create the buzz it did when I started writing five years ago.
But the more unwell I become the more I remember the purposes of this blog. It’s not here to campaign, to educate, to support those who are looking for ways to feel less alone; those have been the side benefits. Really it began as catharsis, therapy when I wasn’t being offered any formal psychological intervention. In the very early days of spring 2011 it was just about exploring what was happening to me as I came back under secondary services. It’s pretty depressing really that five years later I am still under the same services – in fact I make the same journey to see the same consultant in the same building every single time.
I first saw a psychiatrist when I was 20 and I am now coming up on 42. Throughout that period have fought against hospital admission and been successful, largely due to having “insight” and having a husband at home to look after me. It’s actually pretty shocking when I look back and consider that the first time a life partner was expected to care for me, my ex-husband was just 19 years (we got married young). I mean… seriously? Expecting a 19-year-old to ensure the safety of a suicidal person, with zero support? I look at our son, now nearly 19, and can’t imagine how services could have been so irresponsible.
So although I’ve often been asked if I think I need to be in hospital I’ve always been able to say something like, no, because Tom can take time off work, or no, because I can have friends drop in and check I’m OK. Especially as eventually I tend to give up my suicide plans in the face of relentless niceness from the Home Treatment Team. I did that earlier in the week and feel so very relieved. On Thursday we made a plan that Tom would come with me to HTT on Sunday and hand over any drugs that are somewhere hidden in the house – to remove from him the burden of keeping them hidden, and to remove from me the temptation to hunt for them.
Yesterday (Friday) morning I felt less awful and that we now had a good plan to keep me safe I might be OK. My mind seemed clearer, empty of awful thoughts, and I was looking forward to going to yoga after I saw HTT. Friday is a special kind of class called yin yoga, which involves getting into positions and holding them for up to five minutes. It’s the most relaxing way I know to be in discomfort (I’m aware how weird that sounds!) and it’s probably my favourite of all classes. In the end I didn’t really see HTT; I’d made it clear the day before that I would come at a specific time because I wasn’t prepared to skip yin but when they eventually came down it was after a 45 minute wait and I had to go to the studio.
OK, we’ll see you tomorrow, they said. But how are you feeling? Are you OK?
I feel fine, really. I don’t feel at risk at all. See you at 11am!
I got to class with a few minutes to spare and positioned my mat in my preferred place. For the next 70 minutes I gave the class my all – it least in terms of my body. I pushed myself to the “edge” or what the teacher calls “the goldilocks spot” – not so easy you don’t feel it, but not actually painful and likely to cause injury. I would say that 60% of the time I was focused on the teacher’s voice, on the relaxing music, on the thoughts of how hard the posture was and on trying to breathe through the tightness until the bell rang.
But the other 40% was running through suicide options I had perhaps forgotten to consider before. I thought about the people I wouldn’t have the chance to see again before I did it. Mostly this felt entirely dispassionate but at the end of the class when I was tucked up under a blanket with my legs resting on a bolster I began to cry. I tried to do it quietly and quickly wiped the tears from my face as we sat up to end the class.
I felt OK as I headed home. Not as awful as you might think after those thoughts. But the exposure to them had done some damage on a less conscious level I think, because when I arrived at my tube stop I didn’t just leave the station and walk to the bus stop. I let my legs carry me over the bridge and down to the other platforms, one for stopping services, one for where the fast trains just whizz through. Platforms I had no business to be standing on,
I stood there and watched the fast trains, but I fiddled with my phone and looked at my watch and tried to make it look like I was meeting someone from one of the stopping services. I took mental notes, trying to gauge how and when to jump, whether it was best to do it as soon as the “This train will not stop here” message came over the tannoy or when I saw the lights of the train approaching.
I felt very pulled. I felt very drawn.
In the end I thought, well, I have three options. 1) Call Tom and hope he can leave work early and come and get me. 2) Call HTT who will have to send the police. 3) Seek help from a member of station staff who would have to call the police. I felt like I had crossed a major line and that if Tom couldn’t get me I’d be in the realms of being under s136 and probably down the road of a formal assessment under the Mental Health Act. I really, really didn’t want that, but I was in more danger than I’d ever been on the wrong side of the tracks. (Tom later said it was a watershed moment.)
I texted Tom and thankfully he rang almost straight away. He talked me through leaving the station and we agreed a place to meet. I was so distressed I ended up buying a load of crap from the mini Tesco and stuffing my face in the street while a waited. Better fat than dead, right?
I am now in a very difficult position. Home Treatment Team can’t see me at home for privacy and logistical reasons, but they are one of my main sources of support. The other is yoga. HTT requires a 20 minute tube journey in between buses. Yoga requires a 45 minute tube journey. Both tube lines involve passing though that station. I feel safe at home, but then I am cut off from support.
In the evening I rang HTT and got a nurse I know fairly well. I knelt on the kitchen floor and sobbed down the phone describing everything that’d happened. “Charlotte, you know that if you’re standing by the train tracks trying to pick your moment, you need to come in. I have a bed [on the unit where I see HTT] right now as it happens, but I can’t guarantee it will be there tomorrow.” I said I’d talk it over with Tom, although I knew would be against admission; he’s worked on too many wards to be positive about them.
But I am really struggling to keep myself safe. I am thinking about or reading about different methods, making shopping lists, doing reconnaissance, trying to think what I need to do put my financial and funeral arrangements… It’s really, really exhausting. It’s like having a part time job that you find yourself bringing home with you.
If Tom weren’t here I’d have no choice other than to be in hospital right now. Now, as I said to the HTT nurse, is time to let go of pride. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve avoided hospital. It’s not relevant to the now. Tom’s going to drive me to HTT today and tomorrow and will be around the rest of the time. But what happens on Monday?