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  • hannahhickinbotham

Suicide Prevention Day 2023

Trigger warning: suicidal ideation, thoughts, and behaviours discussed.

I had long searched for words to explain how I felt, but I was so stuck in the narrative that it ran on a loop in my mind, and the words just wouldn’t come. Even if they had, I don’t think I could have said them out loud as it felt easier keeping things locked up inside. To put the wrong words out, there would be too risky. I was scared that getting them wrong would risk being dismissed and not being taken seriously.

On the 31st of August, I was admitted to Link House, a crisis centre for women with depression. This would have been the perfect opportunity to open up and let someone in, but instead, I skirted around the issue and did what I always did, making light of what was, in truth, no laughing matter. That’s the thing with me; humour had always been my weapon of choice; it acted as a shield, an arm of defence. Hiding behind a joke, a wisecrack felt safer than letting my deepest darkest secrets free.

On the first day, I wrote in my diary; "My thoughts are manipulative. I no longer know which can be trusted or which can't. Nothing feels real. Everything feels strange. The colour has drained from my world, and life is a wash of darkness. I no longer know what joy looks or sounds like; I’m living in darkness and silence."

During a session with one of the therapists, I tried drawing my thoughts as it felt safer than speaking them aloud, but with art not being my strongest skill, what I produced was just as confusing as the thoughts forming in my mind. The image was of me, in stick form, looking more like a spider who had lost four legs, getting stung as pallets of hail came down heavily. I had an umbrella, but in my attempt to symbolise all my coping mechanisms failing to shelter me from the storm inside my mind, it was broken. This was at least what I had attempted to convey, but it looked more like something my five-year-old nephew would have drawn. Words and pictures were failing me. By this point, my life felt like one failing after another.

My biggest failing of all came on the 11th of September 2020. The events that happened that morning, although choppy and a bit chaotic, will be etched on my memory forever; they often come back to me in the darkest hours of the night, running through my mind like ghosts. The early days that followed, though, are a complete mystery; what I know about those days has been retold by my loved ones who remained by my side. When I finally opened my eyes after four days of floating between life and death, I instantly knew I had failed. I knew that I was still alive. I’ve read countless tales told by people grateful that they have been given another chance at life. I'm happy for those who are glad their attempt to end their suffering was unsuccessful, but I’d be lying if I said this was my experience.

I wish this were a story of how my failed attempt at suicide is my most tremendous success, but instead, it is a story full of sadness and grief for having failed at ending my pain. I'm sure many people will read this and think I'm selfish for seeing this as my biggest failing, but this is my reality. Sinking deeper into the isolation of the closed world of my suicidal mind was the perfect feeding ground for my thoughts to grow from the seed of desperation to a formalised strategy. All I had to do was wait for the right moment. The time between the knowing and the doing felt like an eternity.

It wasn't an act of impulsivity; it's been a slow-brewing tide, a quiet companion for a long time. I had been holding my breath, gasping for air but unable to breathe; I needed freedom from this anguish and could see no other way. My suicidality is a crisis of myself; The question ‘Who am I?’ is one I'd wrestled with for a long time. Every answer I could come up with to this question left me feeling hopeless; the problem was that I could not bear being me; I needed to escape my skin and jump into oblivion; the only answer that would come to me was to end my life. I didn’t know how else to make myself happy. All my attempts had failed. I tried buying happiness, but no amount of buying into consumerisms idea of happiness worked; I tried borrowing happiness from others as I spent hours endlessly scrolling through social media, losing myself in their seemingly happy lives, I tried praying to a god that I didn’t believe in, but nothing worked. I was so desperate to escape my misery that when all my previous attempts failed, I would lose myself in the possibility that there was another way to escape, and in that option, I wouldn’t just be running for a brief time; I’d be escaping forever.

The night before, I wrote and rewrote a letter to my parents about a million times, but I needed something to read right. I couldn’t find the right words to make them understand why I was doing this. How could I explain to the people I love the most, those who have done everything possible to protect me, that their efforts weren’t enough? I needed them to know that I loved them and that none of this was their fault. I desperately wanted them to understand that this was the only answer. I needed to kill the bad — pain, misery, anger, fear, and shame. Nothing I wrote that night was right, so I said, " I love you, and I’m sorry. I know now that what I wrote didn’t matter anyway because they never read it.

On the morning of the event, I acted as usual. It went as any other Saturday morning had gone before, but it wasn't any typical Saturday, but only I knew that. Me and my mum sat down chatting over breakfast; I felt an odd sense of calm, a fuzzy feeling dancing in my stomach. I wasn't sure whether this was because of excitement or fear, but either way, everything felt peaceful, and the silence no longer felt oppressive; instead, feeling as I imagined it must feel to sit looking out at a calm blue lake on a hot summer's day. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in ages. My mum went off to work. I hugged her and told her I loved her. Nothing about this interaction was unusual; my family usually told each other we loved one another. I did the housework as I didn't want my mum to return from work to an untidy house, I messaged my dad to say I loved him, and then I was ready. That message to my dad was a red flag I didn't foresee. My dad later told me that my text message worried him, and after making a few unsuccessful attempts to contact me, he asked his brother to call around to the house to check I was okay; he did, there finding me unresponsive, so he called 999.

In the days that followed, I went from feeling sad to angry and back to sad again.

Sometimes, I would sit in a feeling for only a few minutes; other times, I would remain there for days. I'm not sure which emotion was worse. Anger scared me, but sadness, although a feeling I was familiar with, never got easier. Both feelings were fuelled by having failed myself and my family but for different reasons. I failed my family because I hurt them; I let them down. I know many people who think suicide is selfish and a sign of weakness, but I honestly thought my family would be better off without me. I know now that they didn’t see it this way.

My first vivid memory from this time is the pained look on my parent's faces. It’s a look that will stay with me forever. I will spare people the details of how I attempted suicide, as these details are irrelevant. Still, I will say that it wasn’t a decision I made lightly, so although I felt sad and angry for what I had put my loved ones through, I also felt these emotions because, after everything I went through, I was still here. I didn’t wake up and have a lightbulb moment that I often read about. I still felt hopeless, and I still wanted to die.

I didn't return home for a few months after being discharged. When I was physically well enough, I transferred to a different hospital. There I was receiving support to help heal my mind. In the first few days of being there, I wafted ghost-like, barely speaking a word and those I did say made little to no sense. After what felt like an eternity of being unable to cry, they came, and the tears seemed to burst from my eyes and through my skin. I couldn't stop them; the floodgates had opened. It took a while longer, but a few days later, the words came too. With the help of the support staff, I began to understand that my life wasn't supposed to end that way.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't still view it as a failure because I did. Still, with little access to the world away from the hospital and few responsibilities, I had time to process all I had been through, and as with all my previous failings, I learnt important lessons. I understood now that some people wanted to help, and reaching out to them didn't make me burdensome.

During my time in the hospital, my best friend came to visit, when there she played me the latest song by our favourite artist, Better Days, in which he sang: "Your story's gonna change, Just wait for better days, You've seen too much pain, Now, you don't even know, That your story's gonna change, Just wait for better days, I promise you, I won't let go". At that moment, a seed of hope was planted inside me. A hope that one day, I don’t know when as I’m still waiting, but one-day things might be better. I still have daily dark thoughts similar to those in 2020, but now unlike then, I'm in control of them instead of them controlling me. I didn't have the words to express my pain back then, but now I do, and I know people are ready to listen.

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