We’ve all seen those films – you know the ones: someone is stuck under water, desperately struggling to reach the surface. You can feel their desperate efforts, almost losing breath with them. Well, for me, that was what it was like every single day. I felt as if my head was barely staying above water. I was drowning. I was helpless. I couldn’t escape and no one could help me. Every day I was suffocating. The more people talked to me, the more I suffered. The more people tried to help, the less I could breathe. If someone touched me, my throat would close. But nobody knew. I was a good actor; a good liar. After all, that’s what my life had become. One big lie. I lied so much, to so many people, that I became trapped in my own web of lies. I didn’t know what was real anymore. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.
I went to see a counsellor. I lied to her too. A week before I tried to take my own life, she discharged me. In her eyes, I was healed and healthy. I was no longer a danger to myself or anyone else. Job done. Yet, as I drove home, I had to battle with myself not to turn the car into oncoming traffic.
I wasn’t better. I was just a better liar than I ever thought I could be. You see, for me, lying was my only choice. I couldn’t admit how I felt, what I was going through, what my life had become. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. So many people had become embroiled in my lies that it meant I had to continue to go along with them. I stopped caring about anyone else. I had become a horrible person. I hurt the people I loved most in the world. I became selfish. I didn’t recognise myself. I couldn’t even look in the mirror. If I did, my reflection was curled up in a ball on the floor or hidden behind a door. Even my reflection was ashamed of me.
I didn’t know how to process thoughts anymore. There were so many going around my head but I couldn’t channel them. They all just got stuck. They became noise, swirling around.
I was a failure. I was of no use to anyone. I couldn’t offer anything to the world. I had no purpose what so ever. I was a waste of space. I couldn’t compete. Who was I? Just some feeble attempt at a man. Who would honestly miss me if I wasn’t here? I felt more of a burden than anything else. I would be doing everyone a favour if I just ended it. Really. It would be the best thing for them and me. In my mind, it was the only option.
So I did it. Well, I tried to at least. I drove my car to a favourite spot and attempted to cut my wrists. I wanted to write a note. I wanted everyone to know that they’d now be free of the biggest burden in their lives – me. I wanted to let people know that I was doing this for them. I wanted them to know that I loved them and that I’d now safe and free of worries and pain.
Then a child no older than five ran past my car. I stopped what I was doing. I saw him run to his dad and brother, saw them laughing and playing as they walked past. Suddenly the realisation of what I was doing hit me like a ton of bricks. At that same moment I was found and taken home.
I felt like I had been woken up, slapped in the face and made to see what I was doing. My family joined me. For the first time I was aware of what I was doing to them and what I was about to put them through. I looked at my blood stained shirt as the police knocked at my door. Suddenly everything stopped being blurred. Everything I had suffered, the lies I had been living, were now out in the open, known to everyone and I realised just how oblivious I was to the outside world. Everything suddenly became clear for the first time.
I realised how wrong I was. How much I had missed of life. I was convinced that I was alone, that there was no hope or help. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I started to speak honestly and openly about how I felt for the first time and people understood. People empathised. People had also felt the way I had felt. I was normal.
I went to the doctors. I was given tablets – something I had dreaded for a long time for no particular reason. The more I talked about my situation, the better I felt. It felt liberating to know how many people understood what I was going through. I was not alone and I certainly was not useless.
I decided to escape all the lies by publicly announcing my battle with suicidal depression on Twitter. I was hugely underprepared for the response I received. Within a day, 29 different people – all men – came to me and told me they had felt the same at some point but had remained quiet because they didn’t know what to do. They thought they were alone too.
Then, because of my public announcement, I was contacted by CALM and if there were any doubts before, they vanished. I had a purpose. I was able to use my experiences for the good.
I had hit rock bottom but I managed to get myself up again. My aim now is to do what I can to prevent others from getting that low, that utterly hopeless. I want to talk about it, to promote and to work with CALM to build on the incredible work that they are already doing.
I have learnt a lot through this experience but there has been no bigger lesson than this: Things are not as bad as they seem. There is always a way. Talk. Speak to someone you trust. Just talk and you’ll see.