The following blog has been written by PAPYRUS supporter, Annie, about her personal experience of suicide.
“It won’t be like this forever.”
If there was ever a phrase I detested, it was this one.
Living with suicidal thoughts since I was 14 years old, the idea of a life where this wasn’t the case seemed alien to me. I had accepted in my teens that I wouldn’t be ‘here’ beyond the age of 21, though I didn’t make this known to anyone else. I continued to excel academically, thrived in friendships, pursued relationships, and lived a somewhat full and ‘normal’ life to those externally. I progressed through school, college and university, regularly achieving the highest grades and receiving recognition for my academic achievements. I was promoted in near every job I had, and I committed fully to everything that came my way. I done all this with full knowledge that it wouldn’t matter eventually, but in the interim I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it; that I was worth something.
I don’t recall the first time I told myself I wanted to take my own life. Even when I would think about dying, I didn’t really think of it like how you might imagine. I simply knew I didn’t want to live a life beyond 21. I don’t even know why I picked 21 specifically, I guess that would have given me enough time to achieve the things I wanted to achieve without having to make long-term plans, such as settling on a career I was passionate about, deciphering what part of the world I wanted to live in, or thinking about one day having a family.
I was able to keep this my personal secret for six years. Not just my suicidal intent, but my suffering as a whole. Ask most close to me during those years and I’m sure you’ll be met by fairly similar comments; “She was the funny one”, “the one to beat in uni”, “the one who is going to go far”, “the one who is always there and gives the best advice”. This isn’t an ego trip or an attempt to be self-indulgent, but those were the types of comments I heard from friends regularly. I knew I was a valued friend; I had close relationships and I knew people relied on me in times where they needed support – the only problem was I didn’t think I was worth that same love and care.
I think people around me knew there were times I struggled. It wouldn’t have been hard to guess with my personal circumstances. But I know no one ever imagined I struggled to the point of making three attempts on my life.
The first I was 17. I didn’t tell anyone when it didn’t go to plan. At this point I hadn’t even told anyone about my difficulties with eating disorders or mental health which had been prominent for around four years. I remember going out with a friend the next day, resuming business as usual as I made jokes, laughed and ensured my bubbly performance would mask the pain I was battling with internally.
In 2017, when I was 20, I knew time was running out. For so long I had known 21 was my expiry date. At this point in my life, I was approaching the end of my first year in university. I had not long left a domestically abusive relationship which throughout its timespan had taken its toll on me. That once flawless act I could switch on to distract people from my truth no longer worked, and I’m sure the cracks started to present themselves. I was worn out, isolated and alone.
I remember feeling embarrassed, but more specifically, so alien. I felt like the only person in the world with these thoughts. I’d often think about what would happen if anyone could hear inside my head and how uncomfortable it would make them feel. How would anyone be able to understand that every day I wake up after my maximum three hours’ sleep and I know I’m getting closer to the day I end my life. I started to find it difficult to communicate with anyone, my anxiety attacks became more frequent, my sadness was suffocating and slowly I began pulling myself away from every relationship I had. I’d decided here on my final day, and I think that was the lightest I had felt in years.
The day after I made the attempt on my life is something I still think about occasionally. Not because it’s sad or I’m angry with how it went, but because it marks the start of a very different life for me. I had lived a number of years feeling like a fraud; I tried to fit into friendship groups and strategically morphed myself to be a version that people could understand and relate to. I refused to let anyone too close into my personal life out of fear if they found out what went on behind closed doors I’d be branded “damaged”. But waking up across from a girl who was exactly my age, expressing a similar life story, and sharing identical thoughts to those I had battled with for around six years made it impossible to tell myself I’m the only person like this any longer. Right across from me, sharing her story, was another me; someone who got me and understood what I was feeling. She made me feel *somewhat* normal, and that wasn’t something I had experienced for a very long time – if ever. I never spoke to her again after we left hospital, but she was my first glimpse of hope.
Something felt different after that. While my journey after was anything but ‘linear’, I turned 21 a couple months later and made the decision that I would keep going.
Gradually the plans I would make became longer-term. Where previously I would never plan beyond weeks, I found myself planning months ahead, with a genuine eagerness to see them come to fruition. I opened up about my thoughts and how I had been feeling, and for the first time I let people in regardless of my fear of judgement. I sought various counselling until I found a structure that worked for me. I found passions, ranging from fitness to writing, and I started to do more things for me. In truth, I probably became a bit more selfish, but I also recognised that I deserved to be. I had struggled silently for many years, keeping the ‘dark thoughts’ to myself because I didn’t want to inconvenience or ‘burden’ anyone. I presented a version of myself that I thought people could handle and eventually, that didn’t work for me anymore. I wanted to explore who I was, and that’s what I gave myself permission to do.
This week I turned 27, with future plans to start a family and see parts of the world I never would have imagined. I have a rewarding career which brings me fulfilment and pride like I didn’t think possible. I make decisions for me and my happiness and I live unapologetically as myself. I dream of retiring on a farm with farm animals as pets, and fostering elderly dogs to give them the best end to life. Sure, they might only be dreams and they might never materialise, but the point is, I am actively thinking about my future. I have dreams and goals, and these are things I never would have envisaged for myself just seven years ago. I still have days, weeks, even months where things feel overwhelming; but at the end of the day, I struggled with suicidal thoughts for a large portion of my life, I have to be patient with myself.
So please believe me when I say, because I know from genuine experience, it really won’t be like this forever.