These days, I'm pretty open when it comes to my own mental health issues. I often advocate openness and honesty in order to break down stigma and ensure help is received when needed. But suicide feels like the last taboo. Feeling suicidal is something I have found hard to talk about. Hard to admit to. Hard to ask for help for.
I learned last week that that really needs to change.
I'd had an especially difficult appointment with my therapist. I am struggling with PTSD and I finally found myself able to open up about the content of my night terrors and flashbacks. On reflection I'm proud. At the time, once those words were said I knew I could not unsay them. I found myself instantly plunged into the depths of suicidal thoughts and feelings. I had gone to the session armed with a plan as I had a feeling things might work out this way. Thankfully I was honest with my therapist and articulated my plan. He put safeguards in place to protect me and we discussed my journey home and how I could make it as safe as possible.
It took me over three hours to make the 45-minute journey home. Much of that time was spent at the place where I knew I could enact my plan. But, my therapist's words that 'this was a permanent solution to a temporary problem' kept coming back to haunt me and I lost a little of my determination and was able to slowly find ways to help myself home.
But things got tough that night and I found myself cold and afraid, back at the same spot.
Everything feels worse in the middle of the night. Everything. I felt I had no reasons left not to carry out my plan.
But a tiny part of me fought back and I re-read a letter that I carry around in case of times of crisis. It's a letter written by a volunteer called Chris who was giving of his time and care when I stayed at the Maytree Suicidal Sanctuary - we were kindred, slightly broken spirits, and he helped me find hope. His letter reminds me of that acorn of hope, and helps me find it again in bleak moments. Shaking, I read his words: 'You may need to ask for help and support. This may feel alien to you but you deserve the help and love that you give so freely to others.'
It was at this point I called Samaritans.
I have worked with them many times, I have recommended them endlessly but I have never, ever plucked up the courage to call them and ask for help. I have never felt deserving of their help, and always thought that I would be wasting their time.
But from the moment my call was connected, I felt supported.
The volunteer was kind and reassuring without ever being condescending or dramatic. At times, there were long pauses where I was kept safe just by the knowledge I was not alone.
It took time, but he helped me away from that place, both physically and mentally, and back home, to safety.
I don't know how that night would have turned out if I hadn't asked for help - but I'm proud to say I did. It's impossible to articulate just how hard it is to summon the courage to ask for help when you're suicidal. The thought of dying is so much easier to bear than the thought of asking someone to help you not to. But I did it. And now, when I encourage others to reach out and ask for help in their darkest moments, I do so with the full knowledge that I would, and have, done the same, and that it worked out well.