As many of you will already know I have for a long time been struggling with thoughts of suicide. Lately it’s been more a case of “I don’t want to die, I just feel so incredibly ready to give up,” than what one might call an active wish or search for self-inflicted death. It doesn’t make it any less real, any less frightening, of course – just different.
So, on Thursday morning I called up a charity called The Maytree. I had heard of them earlier in the year, right after my first suicide attempt back in January, and although I gave it some serious thought already back then, I decided that it wasn’t for me. It just seemed too difficult a thing to do, to go to a place that exists specifically for people who are suicidal. I’m guessing the feeling might compare to that of attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for the first time; you have to be able to accept that you are indeed suffering from this particular illness in order to feel ok to approach such a place.
But as the year has passed, week to week, month to month, working as hard as I possibly can to get away from the lethally magnetic lure of the final escape that I’ve always felt death offers, well.. Somewhere along the way I just felt more able to accept that this is something I live with; this is a problem I suffer from. The emotional world in which I live is one where when enough things go wrong and I feel overwhelmed and unable to get the help I so desperately need, suicide just naturally comes to mind. There is no point in pretending anything else.
So, as I said, on Thursday morning, feeling that I simply had nowhere else to go, I phoned up The Maytree. And at the other end of the line was P. In a somewhat confused fashion I explained how I felt – or, rather, – how I thought I felt, very carefully pointing out again and again that I’m not reallysuicidal, I don’t really want to die and that in fact I didn’t even know why I had called them in the first place since I was unlikely to even fit the profile, so to speak. P. listened, probably, I imagine, jotted down a note or two, and asked me would I come round for an assessment just the same? I live reasonably locally to The Maytree and what was the harm in coming for an assessment? Even if I went and felt that it wasn’t for me at least I had given it a shot.
Thus, come two o’clock the same day I nervously rang the bell and was let into the Maytree. And I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t quite know why I wanted to be there, or even what I thought I would gain from staying there, but I just felt that whatever had happened in the past, whatever might be ’round the next bend, this was where I was meant to be right then. That for the next four days, this was where I needed to be. I can’t explain exactly what it was that made me feel that way, I really can’t – I just know that that’s what I felt. So, when P. told me that I could come to stay as early as the following day, that she did feel I could get something out of a stay there, I asked could I stay right away? Could I please not have to go home in between? I had my toothbrush in my bag and that was all I’d really need until the following day when I could nip back to the flat to have a shower and change my clothes.
I cried during my assessment with P. That’s pretty big for me. In fact I could probably count the occasions it’s happened on the fingers of my mother’s left hand. I don’t quite know why I cried. But I did. And I think that’s important. I think that was the key to me deciding to take the opportunity to stay at the Maytree.
What I got out of my four days at this sanctuary for the suicidal possibly differs greatly from what many others get out of it. P. told me yesterday that she had had a conversation with one of the volunteers, and they had been wondering if P. felt I had been able to actually get anything out of my stay there, and she had replied that she thought I had probably taken in more than any of them knew, more than what showed on the surface. And I think that’s probably true. I didn’t come there, spend four days pouring out raw emotion and leave – I wouldn’t know how to – but I did get a lot out of staying there. I think I was probably different to many people who come to stay at the Maytree, in that it wasn’t a case of shedding tears that had been held inside for years and years in order to feel less lost and desperate – I wasn’t at a point where I’d be able to do that – but, inside I cried a lot. In the safety of my bedroom, with no one around – yes, I did cry, albeit not in the traditional sense with tears rolling down my face, soaking my pillow.
And I got to tell my story. I can’t even remember all the people I met there. The Maytree is a constant beehive of volunteers and directors coming and going, and so I was allowed to tell my story again and again and again and again. And to me that is invaluable. Yes, I have been asked to recount the events of my life before, but it has nearly always been for the sake of an official NHS form; a necessity in order to tick the applicable boxes, something the often overworked mental health professional has had to do. It has rarely – save in counselling – been because the other person wanted to hear my story. And there I was, meeting one wonderfully understanding person after another, and they were there because they wanted to hear my story. Words can’t describe how much that meant to me. I spent time with J. in one of the upstairs talking rooms, just explaining as much to her as to myself all the things I have had to go through. And again, just the other evening, in the front room with R. further exploring all of these things, using their reactions to understand the magnitude of it. Repeating my story over and over and over, sometimes in the same words, sometimes in entirely new ones. It meant so much to me. In a way I guess you can say that my tears take the shape of words, that having someone hear my story was like having someone see my tears, feel my pain. Even though it may not have shown on the outside, it had an immense effect on the inside.
P. gave me a little letter before I left. I didn’t read it then, in front of her – I chose not to – but I read it on the tube on the way to the rest of my life. There were these few lines in it that just made everything click somehow, made it possible to allow myself to not hold back. “..all those years of fear and helplessness with your brother. So bad were they that you still haven’t been able to feel safe enough to talk about what happened..” And that’s when the wordless tears came. The visible ones. The kind that the outside world can understand, can recognise.
And, although I know that I will, inevitably, revert back – at least for some time – to my old way of unwillingly holding things back – I now know that with the right support, the right guidance I have it in me; the ability to feel.
That, in fact, I am human.
PS. If you happen to have some cash burning a hole in your pocket and you want to do something better with it than buy a pack of cigarettes or another frappuccini, I think a donation to the amazing place that is The Maytree would be a good option. I know that there’s where any Christmas prezzie money I may be able to conjure up will go. They survive solely on the kindness of others and I can’t tell you what a difference they can make to a person.