Why write this blog?
I have been writing this blog on and off now for 3 weeks. I keep writing it, then deleting it, then contemplating it, as I worry that I’ll be revealing too much about myself. For those of you who know me in person, I don’t want to be judged, but at the same time, I cannot just pick and choose the parts of mental illness that are deemed PC enough to share. Mental illness is not glamourous and it comes in all shapes and sizes. What I share on this blog, is my experiences, and how it’s shaped me into the woman I am today. I spoke with my husband about writing this and even he thought it was a bit much. So, we spoke about why suicide is a topic that makes people gasp, why shouldn’t it be discussed more openly? Is it because it might upset people it has affected? Is it because it is a complete overshare? Or is it because people just don’t want to talk about it, as it makes them uncomfortable? Perhaps all of the above. So, I was faced with the question “To write, or not to write?”, well as you may have guessed, I chose to write. I do hope that this doesn’t cause those of you who know me to think any less of me, or those of you who have been personally affected by suicide to be offended, this is sincerely not my intention.
Have you watched “13 Reasons Why”?
If you haven’t finished watching “13 Reasons Why”, then don’t read any further, there will be spoilers. If you have no intention of watching it, then this may mean nothing to you, or it may mean something if you’ve been affected by suicide. The story “13 Reasons Why” is about a girl called Hannah, who commits suicide. Each episode relates to a tape and a situation that lead her to want to end her life. These tapes, 13 of them, were given to each person who had hurt her in some way, and the point was they listen to them all and pass them on. The TV show picks up when Clay gets his turn to listen to the tapes. You get to see it from Clay’s perspective, of having lost a close friend to suicide, and having the revelation of why it happened. At times the show was quite dry, and you find yourself willing Clay to just hurry up already, then other points leave you upset/angry on Hannah’s behalf, and finally you’re left heartbroken despite knowing how it was all going to end.
Teen suicides in America are on the up, which is what inspired the book to become a show on Netflix, in the hope to hit home with the youth of today. Looking up the statistics for the UK, with regards to suicides, I found the following:
- Deaths from suicide in the UK rose slightly from 6,122 deaths in 2014 to 6,188 deaths in 2015 with a subsequent increase in the rate from 10.8 to 10.9 deaths per 100,000 population.
- UK male suicide rate decreases whilst female rate increases to its highest rate in a decade.
- England and Scotland saw decreases in the total number of suicides, whilst Wales and Northern Ireland saw increases.
- Of the English regions, Yorkshire and The Humber had the highest suicide rate at 11.6 deaths per 100,000 population and the East of England had the lowest at 9.3 deaths per 100,000.
- Across all broad age groups, the rate for males was around 3 times higher than females.
- The most common method of suicide amongst males and females in the UK in 2015 was hanging.
- In 2015, the suicide rate in the UK rose slightly to 10.9 deaths per 100,000 population, up from 10.8 in 2014 (see Figure 1). This was made up of a decrease in the male suicide rate from 16.8 to 16.6 deaths per 100,000 population and an increase in the female rate from 5.2 to 5.4 deaths per 100,000, the highest female suicide rate since 2005.
- Of the total number of suicides (6,188 deaths) registered in the UK in 2015, three-quarters (75%) were males and one-quarter (25%) were females.
Now whilst the above shows that the figures in the UK have decreased, that is still a frightening number to look at. The overall figure from 2015 is essentially showing us that 6,188 people in this country felt that their life was not worth living. Why is it that some people come to a point in their lives where they just feel that dying is the best option, yet we have others that don’t even view it as an option? What is the difference between us all? It’s a tough one to answer, and I’m not even sure there is a conclusive way to answer it.
The time I had enough
When I was 17 my life was nothing short of dire. Without boring you, and getting into too much detail, let’s just say my life had gone down a dark path and I saw no way to be free. I was young, living with a waste of space, my friends were wasters, I was a waster, I was estranged from my family, I had no education, and essentially no hope. I genuinely saw my life as being over any way, it was just a matter of time before I bought my ticket out, so why not just buy it early. I woke up one morning, to my usual hell and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I hated my life and I hated this person that I had become. I literally saw no light at the end of the tunnel, I saw no way for this horrible cycle to end. I waited until my partner left the house and I went to our medicine cupboard, I took 3 months’ worth of the pill (yup you read right), some paracetamol and some ibuprofen. Pretty much all I could find, I didn’t know the pill wasn’t deadly in high doses, I was young and assumed that everything was. I took them all in quick succession and crawled back into bed to sleep, willing myself to never wake up. A couple of hours later my partner came home and woke me up, I was gutted. How could this be? I’d taken a lot of pills and here I am, awake. As I sat up, I felt dizzy and sick, so I ran for the toilet. My partner saw the empty boxes in the bin, and called my Mum who took me to A&E. When I got to the hospital I was given a lovely cardboard bed pan to be sick in. I couldn’t stop being sick, it was horrible. Nurses checked on me regularly, until a doctor came to see me, who explained that whilst what I had done had been very silly, it wasn’t deadly and would just leave me feeling very ill for a few days. I was embarrassed and devastated, because I meant it. I didn’t want to be here anymore, I’d had enough, but here I was just lying in a hospital bed, feeling like a complete joke and wrenching up my inners. A while later a psychiatrist came to speak with me, who asked me all sorts of questions about my life, but really his big question that he was dancing around was “why?”, not as simple a question as you might think. You cannot sum up your reasons to simply be “My life is crap”. I didn’t contemplate suicide for a while, it was just on that morning. Something in me just said enough was enough. I was young, alone, and saw no way out, until I thought about ending it. This felt like the only way to stop the rollercoaster that had become my life. In hindsight, I know this is just not true, there is always a way out, and I cannot be more happy and relieved that this didn’t work. I’m also happy to say that I accepted the hospital’s help, and spoke with a counsellor who was a great help. It was someone, completely unbiased, to listen and support me.
It was not long after this that I fell pregnant with my eldest, and needless to say, my family were concerned for me having a baby. They didn’t feel that I could do it, that I wouldn’t be up to being a Mum, given I couldn’t even look after myself. They were totally right. I was a complete and utter waste of space. Something had to change. From the minute, I saw that first baby scan, I knew I wanted to be his Mum. I dropped all of my ‘friends’ like hot coals, I quit my reckless lifestyle and I got my life in order. I wasn’t perfect by any means. I was young, naive and learning as I went, but I did it. In my family, my son is known as my ‘little life saver’, and that isn’t for nothing. Had I not had him, I’m not sure I’d be here today. Not due to suicide, but more so due to lifestyle. Now I’m not suggesting that all young people out there with troubles should go and have kids, oh no no no! What I’m saying here is this is my story, and this is what straightened me out, and got my life on track. Was it easy? Definitely not. Becoming a Mum is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was having to grow up, mature, learn to be a responsible adult, and all whilst looking after a baby. There were days where I would just cry whilst having my coffee, believing I wasn’t up to this and that my family were right. Having my son wasn’t a magic wand that just made the world a rosy place, but it was something significant that happened that gave me the wake up call I needed. Being a Mum gave me purpose, a reason to care about myself and my wellbeing, and a reason to strive to be better.
Mixed Feelings about “13 Reasons Why”
So now you know my story, you can appreciate why I found watching “13 Reasons Why” difficult. As someone who had contemplated suicide, I could identify with Hannah in some respects, but not in others. Hannah had loving, doting parents for one. She also had Clay, I mean c’mon people? She essentially had a best friend and potential boyfriend who doted on her. Hannah was pretty, smart, and could have had so much to look forward to. I found aspects of her story to be infuriating, as my life was a complete train wreck before I considered anything like this. It also caused me to think of all the people out there that have it so much worse, and they don’t consider suicide to be an option. The whole handing out tapes to everyone also felt a tad excessive. I hated that Clay’s final tape had “I wanted you to come after me…” (I’m sure I’m not the only one), and the final scene when her mum found her just broke my heart. I personally felt that Hannah had a lot to live for, and whilst bad things happened to her, she definitely had parents who would have supported her and a good friend who would have seen her through it. But that is the point, really isn’t it? As an outsider looking in, things do appear to be much rosier than they are. For the person living it, it’s a completely different outlook. Everyone in the world deals with situations differently, we all have our different coping mechanisms and limits, so who am I to judge?
I have to remember; this is only a story, it wasn’t real. The story was told to highlight how easily you can wear someone down. How easy it is to contribute to someone feeling worthless. For teens of today that is so important, as they have no way to switch off. At least when I was a teen, when I got home from school, that was that. I could leave all the drama at School and switch off. Now when my kids come home, they tap into their social media window, where the drama just continues. It’s constant. Their generation have it harder than mine ever did, and I do not envy them at all. As a parent, I’m very much aware of the social pressures my children face, and it worries me. How do you protect them from bullying and being overly exposed in a world where there is nowhere to hide? Do I take away their laptops, consoles and smart phones? No. Why? Well because that opens up a whole new set of issues where they’re now different from their peers, and let’s face it, kids don’t like different. I choose to talk to my kids about everything and anything, so they know they always have someone they can lean on. No topic is taboo, and I will be open and honest about everything. I do this so that they don’t have any curiosities about things, but mostly so they know they always have someone to listen. Whether they choose to tell me things is entirely different, as I’m sure they do keep some things from me, but I hope they know they can.
Well what a wall of text this is huh? It’s not exactly a short/simple topic and I have taken a helluva lot out (believe it or not).
I can empathise with Hannah, and how hard those situations would be on anyone. However, I also felt sad and angry from her Mum’s perspective, as Hannah never let her in. She never told her, and her Mum was left believing she was OK until the final scene, and that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever watched. No parent wants to lose their child, ever, but when it’s to suicide that must be so difficult to come to terms with. The level of guilt that they must feel, I would imagine to be huge.
For me, the message of “13 Reasons Why” is to highlight that our actions affect people, and that we all (not just teens) need to be more mindful of this. Then there is the fact that suicide affects everyone around you. You may be getting an ‘out’, but your friends/family are left dealing with what has been left behind. They are left missing you, feeling the guilt of thinking it’s their fault, and is it ever really something someone gets over? I’m not so sure it is.
Suicide may feel like an option, but it’s not your only option. There is always a way out of a bad situation, and if like Hannah, you have bad things happen to you out with your control, there are always people out there to help you through it. Whether it’s friends/family, or professional help, there is always someone.
If you have been affected by suicide, or have thought about it, then you can contact the Samaritans for free and remain completely anonymous. They don’t need to know who you are, they’re just there to be a friendly ear, to provide help and advice.