HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
Most days my mind is cloaked in a type of darkness; it is like a black blanket is draped over my brain. It feels as if the underside of the blanket has thousands of tiny hooks which have burrowed into my mind and block feelings of joy, hope and happiness. The hooks tug and cause an incessant noise which I can't turn off and make me feel as if I am going insane. This 'mind noise' is exhausting and the night I tried to kill myself I felt the only way to silence my mind was to end my life. I felt that to no longer live would be a welcome rest. I felt tired of living. I wanted to die and give my mind peace.
My suicide attempt wasn't planned, it was impulsive and this scares me. It scares me how easily I went from sitting on my balcony, smoking a cigarette, to walking into my bathroom, finding a large quantity of pills and taking them. I did not take the decision lightly, I knew exactly what I was doing, but nevertheless it was an action taken quickly. I know, for many reading this, it is very hard to understand suicide; ultimately, for me, I felt defeated and to carry on living seemed too much. Depression is a continuous, painful battle which is so much more than feelings of sadness or being low. Depression creates a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness and despair. It is also such an underestimated illness considering the biggest cause of death of men my age (34) in the UK is suicide. Suicide and mental illness is inextricably linked yet the awareness is awfully underwhelming.
It is a blur as to what exactly happened after I took the overdose; there are flashes in my mind of paramedics, being taken to resuss at the hospital, drips being inserted, being in and out of consciousness. I have had about ten days to analyse and process what happened that night and I do recall my feelings as I lay on my sofa after taken all those pills. I remember getting sleepy and suddenly panicking that death was the complete and utter end. I remember finding no comfort in the absolute finality of death because I felt I had still achieved so little. I felt so underwhelmed by my life so far I didn't want to die without having achieved more. I also felt overwhelmed with guilt at the thought of anyone I love discovering me dead; I couldn't do that to them. In a strange sense of irony I called the emergency services because I felt I had achieved too little in life so far.
As I write this I am still trying to process what happened; brushing so closely with death does put a lot into perspective though. I am relieved I am still alive because I have a wonderful network of loved ones who are tireless in their care for me. My suicide attempt wasn't me being cowardly or treating life glibly. Rather it was treating life too seriously and not being able to process it. Suicide is a deeply complex issue and it wasn't a sudden flick of a switch in my brain. It was because of a build up of circumstance and reflection. It was because of a long battle against darkness and despair. It was because I saw no path forward but only a field of mental thorns.
I am thankful for the wonderful staff at Colchester General Hospital who showed no judgement but only compassion. I am thankful for my friends and family who didn't scold me but embraced me. I am thankful I am able to write this and try to convey a simple message; the mind is wonderful but can be monstrous so please love and support those you know battling with mental illness. If you are courageously fighting mental illness then know you are not alone and I know your pain. Take baby steps each day and I hope and desire you find light amongst the darkness.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41