This blog is written by a PAPYRUS Volunteer and details their lived experience of suicide, and their journey to recovery.

On the 2nd February 2021, I attempted to take my own life for the first time. I have since attempted to take my life a further three times, twice in 2021 and once earlier this year. Suicide is still a very taboo topic, despite the progress we have made surrounding understanding and destigmatising mental health struggles, and it’s for this reason that I am writing this post; in sharing my story around suicide I hope to give others the strength to talk openly and honestly about their difficulties and make people feel more comfortable in starting a conversation around suicide.

I have experienced a lot of trauma in my life, including the breakdown of my family as a teenager and verbal, emotional and sexual abuse by romantic partners during adulthood. I have struggled with anxiety and perfectionism from a very early age, have many autistic traits / tendencies and struggled massively with an eating disorder following university and the conclusion of a 16-year gymnastics career. I currently have diagnoses of anxiety, borderline personality disorder (BPD), complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD) and depression, and I am not yet fully recovered from my eating disorder. There is a lot that back in February 2021, I was yet to process and heal from, and there were moments where I did not think I had the strength to continue.

To those who have never experienced poor mental health or specifically suicidal thoughts, it can be hard to understand why a person would want to hurt themselves or end their life. But when I was at my lowest points, suicide felt like the only way out. The pain I felt daily was crippling; I did not believe that there was any purpose to my life at all and that no-one would miss me if I was no longer living. People sometimes say that suicide is incredibly selfish because of the pain it brings to those left behind; please know that when I made the decision to attempt to take my own life, I genuinely believed that no-one would feel any pain, because I did not see what value I brought to anyone’s life. That is how incredibly dark a place suicide is.

I now know, however, that suicidal thoughts aren’t just about wanting to die. Suicidal thoughts can be wanting, needing, longing for the pain to end, praying for things to feel different, and needing all of the negative thoughts and feelings to stop. For me, all of the reasons for ending my life played on a constant loop in my head: “you’re no good for anything, so what’s the point?”; “people hurt you because you are a terrible person”; “look at all of the shame you have brought on your family”; “no-one likes you because you’re not funny or intelligent or pretty or popular so it’s no wonder you don’t have any friends”; and so on and so forth. Over time these thoughts wore me down to nothing, and I lost all energy to carry on fighting. It was in these moments that I attempted to take my own life. On reflection, I do not think I wanted to die, but I didn’t know how else to continue moving forwards.

Following my attempts, I have faced a lot of stigma, not just for attempting suicide but for generally struggling with my mental health. It saddens me greatly to reflect upon some of the negative experiences I have had over the past year or so, but I have also been incredibly lucky to have found a small group of absolute superstars who have not once judged me, excluded me, shunned me or rejected me, but have instead loved me and cared for me and done everything in their power to keep me safe. It can feel like the world is still very ignorant to what it means to struggle with mental illnesses, but I have found people who give me hope that one day talking about suicide will be welcomed with open arms and a kind heart.

There are many things that I wish I had known back in February 2021, but one crucial piece of information that I was missing then was the existence of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide. PAPYRUS is the UK charity dedicated to the prevention of suicide and the promotion of positive mental health and emotional wellbeing in young people, by offering help and intervention to anyone and everyone under the age of 35 who is experiencing thoughts of suicide. It wasn’t until completing my mental health first aid training that I learnt about PAPYRUS, but shortly after that I applied to be a volunteer after reading about all of the amazing work the charity does. I am delighted to be a part of the volunteer family at PAPYRUS, and earlier this year I completed the ASIST (Assisted Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course so I can better support people in my professional and personal life who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. I genuinely believe that spreading awareness of PAPYRUS and HOPELINEUK, their free and confidential support and advice service, will help save lives.

Suicide may feel like the only option when the intrusive thoughts are overwhelming, but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Whilst I still have very difficult days, there are things in my life that I am grateful to have and grateful to be alive to witness and experience. So if anyone reading this is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone you trust, or use the HOPELINEUK service, to seek support. You are not alone, and there are people out there who understand.

PAPYRUS’s suicide prevention helpline, HOPELINEUK, is open from 9am until midnight, every single day of the year. If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide and need free, confidential advice and support, call 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039 967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

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