TW: Deals with suicide and self-harm in some detail.
Each and every day I am overwhelmed anew at the level of support among the online MH community. Several months ago, completely by chance, I read about #BlackDogRunner (blackdogrunner.wordpress.com), a highly inspiring guy who had pledged to raise money for the charity Mind by running the Great North Run dressed as a Black Dog (the widely used embodiment of Depression) and about the level of online support he was receiving via an anonymous Twitter account. Further research revealed that there were in fact thousands of people using anonymous Twitter accounts to link up with people all over the world suffering from various MH problems. Having struggled to gain much support from family and friends around my illness, this struck me as a terrific idea, and so ‘imillnotcrazy’ was born.
I quickly met people who, eventually, became friends. I have exchanged phone numbers with two people, and we text daily. I also regularly chat to a multitude of people via Twitter and (obviously) write this blog in the hope that at least one person, somewhere, will glean some hope and reassurance in relation to their own situation.
The two people with whom I have become particularly close are very different. One, Med, is a family man and currently has his illness under some level of control and, with the unavoidable ‘bad day’ thrown in, is slowly starting to rebuild his life and make plans for his future. Together, we chat about our respective days, the high points, the low points. We chat about Science, Music, Films, Psychology, Sociology. His views and perspective on certain issues enthral me. He tells me amusing anecdotes of his two young sons, whom he home schools. We feel able to confide in one another, so that I might text him and tell him I’m having a shit day and together we will work through my difficulties and come up with a plan, or we might just chat about nonsense until I feel a bit better. And I’d like to think I do the same for him.
The second, Beth, is young and finds every day a challenge. But she is clever, funny (some might say sarcastic, the best kind of humour, if you ask me), kind, considerate – always asking how I am, no matter how ill she might feel herself. We have similar likes, from Ben Howard and Hugh Laurie (no judging!) to crosswords and Scrabble. Through her, I have gained a solid understanding of BPD and the daily struggle it bestows upon her. We have both recently found a new interest in drawing, enjoying the absorption of it, using it as a ‘busy-hands’ strategy.
So there are two people in my life, whom I’ve never met, but with whom I have a binding relationship and an extraordinary amount in common. Two people who don’t know what I look like but who accept me for who I am, help me through, keep me going, validate my worries, understand my frustrations, offer sympathy, tell me I deserve to be looked after.
It is unsurprising, then, that I awoke yesterday morning with a feeling that something was wrong. I knew Med would be ok, his illness being quite stable at the moment, but I had a weird sensation in the pit of my stomach, a feeling that I should contact Beth and make sure she was ok. Obsessed as I am with Twitter, you get to know the Tweeting habits of those people with which it connects you and I was all of a sudden acutely aware that she hadn’t been around since late in the afternoon of the previous day. That wasn’t normal. So I sent her a Tweet to let her know I was thinking of her, hoping she was coping with the farce that is New Year. Some time later, and having had no response via Twitter, I sent a text of a similar nature. Eventually I received a very terse message to the effect that she was struggling but that she was safe. I can’t tell you how relieved I was, and decided to leave it at that, give her some space. But then I received a text much later in the day to say she had done a bit of blogging and that it would hopefully explain everything. You can read the post here and it details the plan she had to carry out her suicide on New Year’s Eve (BASED ON THIS, IT COMES WITH EMPHATIC TRIGGER WARNINGS SO PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION).
To say I was devastated doesn’t really cover it. To read, in such intricate detail, how she planned to take her own life and the logic behind this, cruelly distorted by her illness, cut me to the bone. Thankfully, she didn’t go through with it and for that I am utterly relieved. I know words are often futile in this kind of scenario because I’ve been there myself. I battle daily urges to self harm, albeit in a more impulsive manner but in ways that are dangerous nonetheless. Sometimes these urges get the better of me but people telling me how much I have to offer rarely penetrates.
So, Beth, I’m not going to patronise you with words you’ll have heard a thousand times. But I’m so glad you’re still here, that you changed your plan, found the strength to keep living (because God knows it takes strength), and that we can take on 2015 together. xxx