Today, my book 'Ana: Her Suicide Story' is released. Based on my own near-fatal suicide attempt in July 2011, it narrates the protagonist's mental breakdown over six days before she makes a serious attempt on her life.
To this day, I still cannot fathom the person I was just over five years ago. Having not slept in weeks, I was in the grips of severe depression and my life was spiralling out of control. I spent many evenings wandering the streets of London feeling completely lost and with an unshakeable belief that everyone wanted me dead and I had to end it all.
By the time I travelled back home to Solihull on the weekend of my attempt, the psychosis had taken such a hold that I felt as though I was in a horrifying 'hyper-reality' where everything that I laid my eyes on was giving me a sign that I needed to end it all. From the way a passing person would glance at me, to a poster on a wall, to the way a car was parked. They all acted as very real evidence to me that I had only one option.
When my parents went out to an evening church service, feeling severely frightened and desperate to end this living torture, I used this time alone to undertake my plan.
When they arrived home, they found their youngest child hanging lifeless from their bannister.
But miraculously, they saved me.
After a night in A&E, I was voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric ward of my local hospital. It took just over three months for me to fully recover after my attempt and it wasn't pretty. Week after week passed, as I remained trapped in the same terrifying delusion, still just as determined to follow through with another attempt once I was out of hospital.
However, that all changed the day I let a friend visit me on the ward. On seeing her tears that seemed so genuine, I finally dared to question my perspective on life - had it been warped for all of this time?
And as quick as flicking a light switch, the delusion came crashing down and I was finally back to my rational self and in utter shock at how I'd been so mistaken for all of this time.
A further two weeks later and I'd been discharged from hospital, had already secured a new job back home in Birmingham and was ready to continue to live life to the fullest. Having asked my family and friends to keep this 'incident' discreet, carrying on as though nothing had happened was relatively easy for me.
However, after a year of trying to put everything to the back of my mind, I slowly began to feel like a fraud. Something very powerful had happened to me and I was trying to ignore it.
So, slowly, I began discussing my attempt with my inner circle of family and friends, and two recurring themes came out from their experiences.
Firstly, how could fun-loving Adriana do such a thing?
Secondly and still the most painful for me, they felt incredibly guilty for missing the warning signs. They genuinely thought I would get through that depression, like the first time I had experienced it while at University six years earlier.
It was at this point that I knew I needed to write a book to describe how someone, anyone, no matter how good their life is, can get to that point of sheer desperation, where they believe that suicide is the only answer. Maybe then I would be able to forgive myself for putting my family and friends through not only my attempt, but three months of torturous hospital visits.
I began batting around ideas for storylines for many months, maybe even a year, but I could never quite get to the point where I began writing. As it turned out I had a serious mental block on the attempt itself and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't remove it. When it comes to self-preservation the mind can be an incredibly powerful entity and I realised that I couldn't face the trauma of my attempt alone, I needed professional help.
So I enlisted a therapist to help me deal with the post-traumatic stress reaction I was experiencing. Within just over a year I went from having shame-induced panic attacks at the sheer mention of my attempt, to finally speaking calmly about the events leading up to it without too much emotional distress.
Another huge breakthrough that occurred during therapy was that I finally stopped feeling ashamed of what had happened and become wholeheartedly empathetic with myself in the months leading up to my attempt. I remembered how I had desperately tried to get professional help in London when my symptoms had worsened but had tragically slipped through the system and had spiralled out of control. I finally accepted that I hadn't ever needed to forgive myself in the first place because when I had made the attempt I hadn't been rational Adriana making that decision, I had in fact been severely ill.
There have been times when I have wanted to put a complete hold on this project, to shy away from revealing my past and save face. However, I've always reminded myself that I didn't ever start this book to impress literary critics, win writing awards or even get a book deal. I began writing in the hope that a warts-and-all account of severe depression, psychosis and suicidal thoughts can help save lives.
I truly believe suicide can be a preventable symptom of depression if treated early, yet 17% of people will experience suicidal thoughts over their lifetime. A government report released in 2015 highlights suicide is on the rise; there were 4,727 suicides recorded in 2013, an increase of 214 since 2012. And this doesn't cover the number of failed attempts, like mine. A Time to Change survey showed that 60% of people with a mental health problem waited over a year to tell the people closest to them about it. A year in the life of someone living with suicidal thoughts could really be life or death, so let's start opening up and talking about our struggles before it's too late.
The book has done so much for me, I think of it as a very dear friend. It has been fundamental in making me face my trauma, finally begin to heal and, most importantly, it's helped me to learn to love myself once again.
However, now the time has finally come to say a final goodbye to my dear friend and let it help the people who really need it now.
To buy copy of the book please go to www.sheroseagain.com.
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