Home, hospital or the morgue…

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LogoJPGI am a liar. Or at the very least a fake because whilst I have continued to publish thought-provoking and advice-laden articles about life, I have been very quietly trying to prevent myself from taking mine. I very nearly didn’t succeed.

Three hours after landing in Sydney on October 7th I was on Bondi Beach in tears that I had managed, despite everything, to come back to the place I had fallen so madly in love with. Two days after that and I had one of the best mornings of my life at sunrise on Bondi taking part in Onewave. Two days after that, however, and I was back on Bondi at night 4ft from the shoreline wearing a jacket with rocks in my pockets walking into the surf to end my life.

My note read:

I am sorry.

Three tiny words that conveyed so little to the world but were filled with so much feeling because truthfully if I had attempted to write a full suicide note explaining my reasons, I would have sat down and written my memoir. And so I chose three distinctive words that would cause so much pain and offer so little healing but it was all I could manage.

I am alive for no other reason than I didn’t have the energy to fight the fierce waves. Something that has kept me alive more times than I care to confess.

That may sound like a confusing statement to make but it takes a lot of energy to make an attempt on your life and by the time I had made my way to Bondi from the city, I had nothing left to give. I was exhausted in the truest meaning.  No energy left to fight the waves pushing me back to shore.

I could have taken pills washed down with alcohol. I could have jumped off a building or cliff but I wanted my last moment on Earth to be at Bondi. I wanted the place I had fallen so deeply for to be the one that took me. I felt at peace with my decision however frightening and violent walking into the surf would be.

But when I could no longer keep walking into the ocean, thrown back by the waves, I sat on the beach and began to cry. Tears because I wanted to die so badly and yet had no energy to go through with it. Tears because the emotional crash had come out of nowhere and was excruciatingly painful. Tears because I hated every ounce of my being.

I lay on the sand for what felt like hours before I went back to the hostel. I fell asleep in my jacket with some of the rocks still in my pocket. Tomorrow, I thought; I’ll do it tomorrow.

I text my friend from home that night and told her how I felt; she told me that my feelings were valid and that I needed to do whatever I could that night to stay alive for just a few more hours. She kept replying until I fell into one of the deepest sleeps I have ever experienced. And from the moment I woke up the quiet tears began to flow.

So I wrote to another friend to tell him how I was feeling. To confess that I saw not one reason to stay alive; not even for my mum. The person I love more than anything or anyone else in life. He begged me to find a reason to keep going. To convince me that the feelings would pass. But unlike previously where, over the years, I have experienced suicidal feelings and recognised that they WILL pass, this time I had determination coinciding with the suicidality; I didn’t WANT them to pass. I wanted to die.

I had truly scared myself on Bondi the previous night. I haven’t been that determined or close to committing suicide for many years and my thoughts had frightened me. People will say that because I didn’t go through with it that subconsciously I didn’t want to die and they’re entitled to think that; I won’t attempt to convince them otherwise because I know my truth. I felt like a failure that I couldn’t even find any last remnants of energy to end my suffering which hurt me so acutely.

The next couple of days were a haze of suicidal thoughts and feeling overwhelmed by every aspect of life reaching out to more close friends confessing my struggles but by the time Wednesday came around I found myself at hospital. I have no idea what the difference was between the days. Why one night I decided to end my life and on another I wanted to try and save it but I was there and I wanted the pain to stop.

Only I couldn’t walk through the doors.

So I stood outside for an hour in tears. Tears because yet again I felt as stuck as I had just 3 nights previously. I wanted to stay safe but couldn’t bring myself to walk through the doors alone.

Despite preaching to you to that asking for help doesn’t make you weak; I felt it. I felt weak and a failure that at 28 years old I needed to go to the Emergency Department just to keep me safe from myself. That I could no longer cope with life alone. And so I cried until I had a panic attack and somehow made my way back to the hostel where I collapsed into my bed for another night of deep sleep such was my exhaustion.

And over the next few days my friends continued to check in and ask how I was. Ask how I was feeling and offering themselves to me in whatever capacity I might need them. Their messages, emails and texts were full of love and light – something so beautiful when I was experiencing something so dark but as I explained to one friend, in that moment I saw only three options:

Home, hospital or the morgue.

It was that simple and that scary. I couldn’t bear to go home and have Sydney defeat me for a second time; I didn’t think I would ever fully recover from it which left me with two options. I either took myself to hospital or I ended up in their morgue.

I managed to avoid both.

I still don’t know how.

It is a bizarre thing to be handing out resumes and going for interviews when you’re attempting to think of successful ways to kill yourself. There were times when I took dangerous steps out into the road in front of a bus or walked a little too close to the platform edge when the train went through; for all intents and purposes, had I been truly honest with my friends or myself, I should have asked for professional help and gone to hospital. But it felt like one more defeat that I just couldn’t face despite asking for help being the exact opposite; it is one of the strongest things you can do.

Thursday came around and I told myself that I would try and keep going for Fluro Friday on Bondi the next day and see how I felt. ‘I can kill myself after’ was my answer. After a sleepless night, though the tears were already falling down my cheeks when I woke, I got out of bed and went to the beach for sunrise. It was cold, dark and windy but I went. I sat there on the damp sand wishing I could walk into the ocean without anyone seeing. A few minutes later one of the Fluro crowd, having met each other the previous week, asked how I was and I confessed, through unintentional tears, it had been a scary week and I had been desperately trying to keep myself out of hospital. Little did I know how things would change from that meeting.

She gave me her number and told me to call her after work. And despite meeting each other for a total of five minutes, she offered me her sofa for the next two weeks rent-free. I moved in the following Monday. To everyone in our lives it seemed an inherently strange thing to do – both to offer your home to a stranger and for me to accept it but I was desperate. Though in my desperation I found another hurdle I needed to overcome; pride. It’s one thing to ask for help but an entirely different concept to accept it and I struggled with the latter greatly. I’d never allowed a stranger to help me to such a degree before and it was a sobering thought but I really had no idea what or where else to go.

Just two days later I found myself going for a breakfast with another member of the Fluro Friday crew who told me that should I need it, he would be there for me. If I felt the determination again or needed hospital, he would be there and I realised just how comforting those words were even if I doubted I could find the strength to accept them and his help.

Over the next 3 weeks I woke on an almost daily basis with tears in my eyes. And yet, surrounded by new people and meeting potential employers, I could show nothing but a smile to hide my anguish.

It was the most painful, exhausting and upsetting four weeks I remember experiencing in recent years. I frightened myself which is an intently difficult thing to do given my many years of experience with depression but I managed it. And yet it was also some of the most beautiful times I have been through. I received so much love and light from friends, you and family; received many compliments about my work skills and the ‘inspirational person’ some perceive me to be through my writing and personality. I have struggled to accept the kind words but I have appreciated them nonetheless.

I am not better. I still have a lot of anxieties about money, work and life in general here in Sydney but every day I wake up and I try. It’s all I can ask of myself.

Unlike so many times before when I couldn’t place what began my descent into such despair I know exactly what caused it, or in this case ‘who’. While the person I met was lovely, unfortunately they very unintentionally highlighted every single insecurity I have and fear I hold and it felt like a tsunami of pain. I can’t write about it for now; it’s still too fresh, too upsetting but I will.

The strange thing about those four weeks was the contradictions I saw and felt. Whilst it was my darkest time in years, the Universe seemed to want to fight it with such beauty and light.

When I doubted myself going for a job interview, I was acutely honest about my mental health, my recent autoimmune diagnosis and my friends being the greatest team I have been a part of to which she called me ‘inspirational’ and ‘motivational’ offering me the job on the spot. When I felt overwhelmed completing temporary office work, my employers said my skills had ‘blown them away’ and that I would be at the top of their list. When I felt so painfully alone both readers and friends got in touch offering to be there for me as I had for them. There are not many people out there able to hear you talk about taking your own life without feeling too scared or overwhelmed themselves and though I knew I was worrying my friends, they also appreciated that I needed to talk, to have someone listen. They stayed strong for me when I couldn’t for myself.

You may wonder how I continued to ‘live’ during that time. How I managed to ‘wow’ at interviews, exceed employers expectations and sound ‘inspirational’ but the truth is, I don’t know how else to be. I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed all day under the covers crying but I have spent so very many years hiding my depressive episodes, I no longer know how to shut the automatic mask off. I have been known to go into therapy sessions polite and smiling despite ticking the ‘I have plans to end my life’ box. Unless I am exhausted and can’t hide the tears, I rarely cry in front of others and I can sound very matter of fact about depression because I don’t allow myself to show the emotions that go with the words. So I do what I do best – hide in plain sight.

Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I survived when everything ached in my mind and body that I shouldn’t, couldn’t and didn’t want to but I’m here. I’m here in Sydney and, right now, I am in the middle of living my dream I began to chase over a year ago when I first landed here.

After losing so many years and memories to depression, I am attempting to reclaim my future so that I may continue to help you reclaim yours.

I may not win every battle with my mind but I’m trying to win the war.

Won’t you join me?”

38 Comments
  • Oceana

    Reply

    Toni, I’m absolutely blown away by your bravery right now. You have literally floored me with your honesty, your strength and your decision. Keeping going is hard, but I’m glad you’ve decided to walk on. After all, I’m still hoping to meet you in person one day 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your story. I think you’re inspiring people more than you realise.

    O.

    • Toni

      Oceana – I literally don’t know what to say to your beautifully kind words except thank you; I’m so very grateful for them. We will definitely meet somewhere in the world – preferably somewhere that doesn’t require shoes, make-up and we spend all day in your namesake! xx

  • Michele

    Reply

    Toni thank you for writing this.”hiding in plain sight” is the best description I’ve heard for how so many of us get through.
    I for one am glad you felt weak that day, and I hope that you are starting to glimpse your future and smile. Your posts have helped me a lot. Thankyou.

    • Toni

      Michele – I think there are a lot more functional depressives/suicidal people than we realise! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve experienced it yourself! And I’m very glad to hear that my articles have helped – that means a lot xx

  • Alex

    Reply

    Toni I have worked on psychiatric inpatient wards now for 5 years and in that time I have worked with many women with Borderline Personality Disorder. Many of your posts could often have been written by some of these women; the parallels are identical.

    “If you have BPD you may have had a series of unstable and intense relationships, or felt the need to cling too long to damaging relationships. This may be because you feel insecure, alone or lack self-worth.

    You may have a poor self image, feel that you don’t fit or belong, and find that your moods and feelings change rapidly. Therefore you may find social relationships difficult.

    Many people with BPD experience a deep sense of emptiness.
    You may feel tempted to harm yourself if your emotions become intensely painful and hard to cope with or express.

    Research shows that people with BPD are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and make suicide attempts compared to people with other psychiatric diagnoses.”

    I just think you should bare it in mind. In my experience of working with hundreds of different people with depression when it becomes so chronic and enduring with harming symptoms many people will often be diagnosed with BPD. Please don’t fall through the cracks by not seeking medical help and getting the correct diagnosis. I recommend yourself and your loved ones reading about this complex disorder.

    • Toni

      Alex – I do have some attributes of BPD but only when my depression is acute as it was at that time. But on the whole I don’t have that diagnosis though I appreciate you mentioning the possibility of it; it means a lot!

  • Bastien Wallace

    Reply

    Toni you are incredibly brave for sharing so publicly.
    Our journeys have had enough similarities I could see you needed a hand up- that there was light within you being crushed by the weight of more pain and struggle than any one person can manage. All I did was give you a little bit of breathing space, the rest you did for yourself. It’s what I wanted for so badly on the other side of the barricade when I was a couple of years younger than you.
    I know you’ll pay it forwards many times and create conversations, spaces and networks to support many others with your own light.

    • Toni

      Bastien – It’s a honour to now be able to call you a friend considering we started off so very much as strangers! 🙂 Thank you doesn’t seem deep enough xx

  • Erik

    Reply

    The world’s a better place with you in it. Stay strong. Keep sharing. Know that you touch people with your honesty.
    Erik recently posted…Photo Essay- The Frites Museum, BrugesMy Profile

    • Toni

      Erik – thank you for your support as always! x

  • Giana

    Reply

    Your honesty is inspiring. Thank you for sharing such a painful experience. I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years battling something that my psychiatrist said is not depression. It’s “just a deep sadness”, whatever that means. Doesn’t change the fact that I understand completely the feelings you have described in this post. These last few months were rough, and I got closer to the edge that I’d like to admit, but like you, I’ve pulled through and I’m finally going after my happiness.

    It’s a hard road, but every small victory feels like the world. Stay strong <3

    • Toni

      Giana – I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling for so long too and that your thoughts went pretty glad but I’m pleased you kept walking and are beginning to feel a little lighter now. As you say, every small victory (even getting out of bed sometimes) feels great in comparison to everything else! 🙂

  • Jodie Young

    Reply

    Toni, this is one of the most honest and beautiful things I’ve ever read. It is so rare someone bares all in what they write but you did it in such a beautiful way. I think writing about it in this way, allowing the whole world to see it, is one of the bravest things and your bravery will comfort many others in your situation. Sometimes you can find comfort in the strangest places and some times telling strangers is easier. I’m glad you accepted help. Good luck with the war. X
    Jodie Young recently posted…25 Things To Do In London This ChristmasMy Profile

    • Toni

      Jodie – Thank you for your beautiful words hun – they mean so very much!! I was extremeley nervous posting the article but I’m glad I did! I hope, as you say, that it helps others in some capacity xx

  • Mark

    Reply

    I’m very glad you made it through Toni. I think it no understatement to say that those lovely Fluro people probably saved your life. Thank goodness for those kind hearted people that helped in whichever way they could. It gives me great hope for the world that there are people like this.

    I like to think it was no coincidence that when you were at your lowest the universe flooded you with positive signs.

    I hate to read that you have had such an awful time; I’m hugely relieved you came through. Keep fighting the good fight Toni, whenever it comes fight with everything you have.

    Take care lovely xx
    PS. Mam found an old school photo of your class, just the other day and spent five minutes talking about what a good girl you were! I’m not kidding.

    • Toni

      Mark – Yes I think you’re right; Fluro really did help save me unintentionally and the people involved are incredible! And yes, it was a very contradicting time feeling so very dark and being surrounded by such light; the Universe obviously knew something I didn’t!

      I was a good girl in school because I was a total geek and loved it! lol I still remember your mum writing in my school report that I always rushed my work (our reward for finishing early was reading so I always hurried) and that I was a chatterbox 😀

  • Franca

    Reply

    Thanks Toni for sharing this, I am sure it took a lot of courage for you to write something so personal and so painful. I’m so happy you found the way to go through it and I truly believe that your story will be very inspiring for others out there that don’t know how to reach out for help.
    Franca recently posted…A Powerful Truth at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower ParkMy Profile

    • Toni

      Franca – thank you for your lovely words! I’m glad I made it through too and let’s hope my words can offer comfort to others! xx

  • Flora

    Reply

    This is the first article of yours I’ve read, Toni (directed from Jodie/The Little Backpacker’s recent article) and I’m blown away. To be going through such an evidently tumultuous situation and still have the courage to write about it in such a public – and eloquent – way is extraordinary, and I’m so impressed at your bravery. I sincerely hope you keep fighting, and if you continue writing about your journey there’s no telling how many people you could be helping. All the best xx
    Flora recently posted…Autumn Indulgence in the English CountrysideMy Profile

    • Toni

      Flora – Firstly, welcome and thank you for taking the time to read the article! And secondly, thank you for your beautiful words. I was very worried about hitting ‘publish’ but hopefully, even if it means that someone can take comfort from my words, it will have been worth it! x

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)

    Reply

    Glad you’re still here and wish you peace of mind. Depression is a terrible disease that no one should have to live with or be embarrassed to search out help.

    Razors pain you;
    Rivers are damp;
    Acids stain you;
    And drugs cause cramp.
    Guns aren’t lawful;
    Nooses give;
    Gas smells awful;
    You might as well live.
    – Dorothy Parker
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) recently posted…CARDOON TWO WAYSMy Profile

    • Toni

      A cook not mad – Thank you for posting that poem; beautiful!

  • Laura

    Reply

    Its very brave of you to write this. As I don’t understand what it must feel like to want to end your life, I experience it almost everyday with my brother who makes multiple attempts over the last 6 years. I wish I could tell you both how talented and amazing you are but nothing I can say will change your mind.

    You have to believe it for yourself. You have to love yourself. And when there’s hate and sadness about your life that sounds like the hardest thing you can do at the moment. But my brother just moved back to a place where he fell in love with and I hope for you and him that you have some epiphany and realize how beautiful life is and that you deserve to be in it.

    You are not weak. Especially in that moment when you wanted to end your life. That’s probably the strongest you’ve felt. To make a decision like that does not come from a weak minded person.

    The work comes from within. Find help if you can, or feel free to contact me if you just need to vent.

    You are amazing remember that. Beautifully written.
    Laura recently posted…Paradise Found In Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Toni

      Laura – I’m sorry to hear that your brother suffers so acutely. I think the sadness is that very often I can see the beauty in life, I just never believe my own life to be beautiful. I’ll get there!!! One day at a time 🙂

  • Shelly

    Reply

    Wow. You’ve said so much so well here, it’s hard to know how to comment. We are lucky you you have continued down the path to offer this gift, and I’m sure many others you have yet to give (and may not even realize at this time). Wishing you peace, strength, and continued moxie to do good…
    Shelly recently posted…Matter of Perception: Visiting the San Francisco ExploratoriumMy Profile

    • Toni

      Shelly – Thank you so much for your very kind words!! I love the word ‘moxie’ too – haven’t heard it in so long! 🙂

  • Kay Dougherty

    Reply

    Wow – that was so brave and honest it gave me chills. You are amazingly strong. I’m so old that when I was in college people used to say to “keep on keepin’ on” and I’m so glad you’ve been able to do that. I have depression but am very fortunate that it is relatively easily treated and controlled. But I know about how you can put on the mask if you have to and then it’s hard for people to imagine that you struggle with depression. I hope someday you take those stones out of your pockets and skip them across the bay!
    Kay Dougherty recently posted…2014: Where we traveled , what we liked and what we didn’tMy Profile

    • Toni

      Kay – Thank you for your very lovely words; they mean so very much! I’m currently living my dream and I’m happy and content on an almost daily basis – I haven’t felt this good for years 🙂 xx

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