Are cucumbers cool?

I have perfected the art of looking fine and feeling like absolute rubbish. I am a smiley, bubbly person, I make lots of eye contact, listen, ask questions, make jokes, appear as cool and calm as a cucumber (are cucumbers cool? – maybe they are just pretending like me).

Yesterday I had a work meeting and spent the entire hour smiling, laughing, feigning confidence, offering to do whatever work was needed and more. At times I thought to myself “who are you?!” I left the meeting and got into the lift almost in tears. I reached the ground floor, went into the toilet, entered a cubicle, crouched on the floor, cried, and self-injured. I felt absolutely rubbish. If my boss could see the sorry state I was in she would wonder what happened on the journey from sitting in her office to entering the toilet. What did happen? Absolutely nothing apart from the ‘front’ crumbled and was left at the entrance to her office.

I want to feel like the confident woman I pretend to be. My confident persona is much better than I am. I spend my life at home, often in bed, often fighting suicidal thoughts, climbing the walls inside my own head. I stare into space, achieving nothing as the hours slip by. Who am I? And what am I doing here?

‘Confident me’ wants to do all sorts: PhD research, public speaking, charity work, art, music, reading, writing. ‘Real me’ wants to self-injure, curl up into a ball, and sleep forever. How on Earth do I bring those two very different personas closer together? I’ve  been feeling like this for years and it only gets worse. I spend so much of my life in the sorry state and only have the confident edge when I am at a meeting (maybe 1-2 hours per week). I’m at a loss of what to do.

 

Pause her Death

What does it feel like to have suicidal thoughts? The answer will be different depending on who you ask, when, where, and why. For me, it feels like a whole-body emotional burn. Let me try to explain…

I imagine most of us have had an accidental-kitchen-related-burn, whether it be a hot saucepan or a toaster incident. Let’s imagine we’ve accidentally burnt our hand, you feel the initial sharp pain and then spend the whole day being aware of the sore wound. People may tell you to ‘rest’ your hand and you may do that but you can still feel the pain. Others may tell you to try and ‘distract yourself’, so you try to read/watch TV but you can still feel the burning pain. You are aware of the discomfort no matter what you do, where you go, or how hard you try. There is no escaping it.

This is similar to living with the suicidal demons inside my head. No matter what I do, where I go, or how hard I try. There is no escaping them. They are insufferable little *****. They aren’t even small, they are enormous and suffocate my mind. Sometimes I will spend the entire day in bed feeling unable to move. Not because I physically can’t, but because psychologically and emotionally I feel beaten to my core.

Sometimes I can see the reason why I feel so low and I can find something to help but other times I feel like my emotions have gone too far. It’s like I’m on a bus and I was planning to get off at Stop 1 but now I’m at Stop 8, completely lost, and Without a Map.

I can be at Stop 8 for hours, days, or weeks. Time feels meaningless. Each moment can feel like an eternity.

The past few years have been horrendous. I keep landing at Stop 8 thinking ‘why am I here again? How did I get here? I just want this to end’. But I hold on.

One of the main things that helps me is the concept of ‘change’. No two moments are the same. They may feel similar but they can never be 100% the same. If I spoke to 8-year-old me I would never have been able to outline what would happen through the years. I could have tried to guess but that would have been all it was, a guess. Similarly, I cannot predict what will happen in the next 5 years. Things may get worse, but they also could get better. That horrendous kitchen burn could heal and be a memory rather than an present day agony.

At the moment it feels like it is taking ages to heal and, unlike having a kitchen accident, I don’t really know what I’m healing from. Too many things. Patience is difficult because it implies you are waiting for something, but I don’t know what I’m waiting for. I want to feel better but I don’t know how or what that would look like. Sometimes the best survival tool for me is living moment-by-moment. I try not to think about the uncertain future or trauma from the past. I focus on now and getting through this moment, this moment, this moment. Breaking it down like this helps life feel slightly more manageable. I am not trying to solve all my problems, I am simply trying to be. Right now, at Stop 8. I don’t have the energy to wonder why the bus driver kicked me off at this hell hole, or who the bus driver is, or how long it will rain for, or why my glasses are covered in so much crap. It takes all my energy to place one foot in front of the other in a direction I chose to go. And step-by-step, breath-by-breath, I seem to be moving towards a less hostile environment.

 

Note. If you need someone to talk to the Samaritans is a free, 24-hour, safe, and non-judgemental service. You can call, email, or visit a local branch. More info here