The other day we were driving back from my Immunology appointment at our local hospital , the same hospital where I was incarcerated for nine long weeks in The Dungeon. Anyway, we passed this little motel, the kind of establishment that is a mix between being super twee and super dodgy, and suddenly this chill spread through my body. I remembered the motel. But I couldn’t think of why.
I started to rack my brain for information. I was sure I had never stayed there. I mean, why would I want to stay in a slightly dodgy motel situated on a major road, in a slightly dodgy area of town, in my own city? I didn’t know anyone who had stayed there. I couldn’t recall ever visiting it for whatever reason. Then suddenly I broke through the ECT induced memory loss and the reason hit me like a tonne of bricks.
Of course. I thought. That was the place I chose to die.
You see, when I was admitted to the Dungeon I was suicidal. These feelings got worse and worse as time progressed. None of my meds were being absorbed due to the pesky autoimmune disease. Things were going rapidly downhill. I heard voices which told me to kill myself. I began to see people who followed me around and continually tried to convince me that my loved ones would be better off without me. That I was a burden. That if I REALLY wanted to help people I should get rid of the problem. Me.
Of course, when I expressed this to the medical staff they told me that the voices were wrong. But those voices…”The People” just used to ask me “Who ya gonna believe, Rachael? The doctor who has known you for five minutes? Or us, who have been with you for most of your life, know your intricacies and your family? We WANT to help you. Let us help you” These “people” were twisted but somehow they always made sense. And so they kind of grabbed hold of me.
So I began to make a plan. I managed to hack into the hospital university’s wi-fi through my own university. I searched the net and chose a place, this particular motel, to die. I decided how to do it. I had cash, a credit card, and a bus card. I was a voluntary patient on an open ward. I knew I could walk out at any moment and just never return.
Somehow, and I don’t recall how, around this time the doctors twigged that I was losing grip. I was placed on one-to-one supervision, and much to my frustration at the time, my plan was foiled. Thank god.
I find it very awkward to write about this. I feel an intense shame that I even THOUGHT about killing myself – much less making an elaborate plan. I feel like someone reading this is going to shout out “See! Unfit mother! Disgrace to society!” This is such a difficult topic to talk about.
Suicide is such a stigmatised issue. I mean, God, it’s a HORRIBLE issue. There’s no doubt about it. But it’s real. And it should be talked about.
The leading cause of death in Australians aged 15 to 44 is suicide. And, you know, that’s just looking at “successful” suicides (and wow, I hate that term). For every death around 30 people attempt to end their lives. This is MASSIVE issue. (see Lifeline for more horrifying statistics https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Media-Centre/Suicide-Statistics-in-Australia/Suicide-Statistics)
But we don’t like to talk about it, because those who kill themselves, or try to kill themselves are selfish. They are weak willed. People who attempt suicide are looking for attention. They are all sorts of negative things that definitely do not encourage those struggling with suicidality to seek help.
Let me just make something clear. When I was meticulously plotting my own death in hospital I was not looking for attention. Quite frankly, that was the last thing I wanted. Also logic doesn’t come into it when you are suicidal. Although it is true that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, in the depths of despair you don’t think that way. All of your thoughts become warped. I truly believed it was my best option, and would be kindest to those I loved. Obviously, I was also, and this is really important, very very sick.
People who are well generally do not want to kill themselves. There is this thing called human survival instinct. Against the odds, humans want to survive. That’s why people fight and fight through terrible adversity and illness. We WANT to live.
People who decide that the best option for them is suicide are generally very unwell and urgently need help. I truly believe that if the issue wasn’t so stigmatised, people may feel more able to ask for help when they need it, and perhaps unnecessary deaths could be prevented.
While I was in hospital I was afraid to tell the staff the extent of my suicidality. I was scared to tell them because the last time I felt suicidal I presented to the emergency department and was seen by a bored psychiatrist who said to me “You have a roof over your head. You have a husband. You have a baby. Why would you want to kill yourself?”
Yeah that made me feel great.
This type of experience, which is unfortunately, so very common for people with suicidal thoughts, just encourages stigma, and perpetuates the cycle. Different doctor, different place, but I was still scared of talking about how I felt.
I was really lucky though. I got the help I needed. I had a hospital keep me safe. Many other people aren’t this lucky. There are so many deaths out there that could be prevented.
But still, despite my feelings on stigma, I feel the shame. This is not something I will ever discuss, even with those closest to me. It feels like a dirty aspect of my life that I wish I could change, and this post feels like a confession.
I hope that one day I will be able to accept myself, and my experiences. I hope that I will learn to stop the self stigma. I hope that one day society will be able to talk about the issue that is killing so many people.