I 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?”