TW: suicidal thoughts; self harm.
A few years ago I got to reading and liking the work at Beauty Redefined. These twins have done some impressive work looking into attitudes around body image and body shame. I love the way their articles focus in on particular behaviours, and then they don’t stop there – they talk to me in my language about how to fight the prejudices and preconceptions of the world around me. I like that thinking!
For obvious reasons, Beauty Redefined focus a lot of their work on women. But the article they shared on Facebook today was about a man. Wentworth Miller. In this article he talks about the cost to him of mass-media body shaming whilst fighting an episode of depression which, not for the first time, he only “survived”.
So I admit I never watched Prison Break and have never heard of this guy before today. Remembering names, particularly actors’ names, isn’t really my thing. But this article really got to me. I’ve not had the chance – or the courage – to read much about suicide (except for the gooey happy clappy stuff about “don’t suffer in silence, we can help”, provided courtesy of our glorious NHS *). I have, of course, heard a sprinkling of those silly misconceptions perpetuated by people who have no concept of that moment when it begins: the still, deathly quiet contemplation of the need to end your own life. So they asked him: “was it a cry for help?”.
And he said: “No. You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for.”
That is it. That is it exactly there. If I were in that place now (which, thank heaven, I’m not), it would have been a punch in the gut. I would have cried all night, and the next day, and probably the next night as well. I would have looked at the knives in the kitchen drawer and wondered whether that sort of pain would help me stay alive in the face of this fundamental truth. Because that one person knows this thing, and he said it out loud, and that makes it real.
Being suicidal isn’t an emotional thing – at least it wasn’t for me. It’s cold and dark and clear, like staring into still water on a silent night; and it’s utterly rational. It’s not desperation – it’s grief. You know, more clearly than you’ve ever known before, that this is the only option left to you. You feel that calm, quiet loss – such a waste of life. You’re grieving for yourself, before you die.
I am a strong person. I am driven and resourceful, and God help me nothing will stop me if there’s any other option worth trying. But sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes it’s the end of the day. You’ve talked to your manager and their manager about expectations. You’ve talked to HR about accommodations. You’re running and sleeping and eating healthily, when you can choke down the food. You’re exhausted and you’re scared for no reason, of nothing and everything, tomorrow and forever: you can’t make it stop. You’ve seen your GP and asked for advice, and she’s given you pills. You have talked to everyone you can; you’ve begged; you’ve told them you’re out of options, that you don’t know what else to do.
But there is no more help out there. There’s no counselling or therapy available to you – at best there’s an 18 month waiting list. Signing yourself off work is a thing that you cannot afford. You’re in pain and frightened. You’ve cried yourself to sleep for days on end. You cannot talk to friends or colleagues, or even tolerate the presence of people; work is a place of irrational terror. You know the pills will break your body, but not taking them will break your mind.
The GP is good. She asked you: have you been feeling depressed? She asked: are you feeling suicidal? She looked back: have you been suicidal before? She made you promise: you will tell us if it gets that bad again? So you promised, although you knew it was a lie.
Because there is no help. And you have no more energy to cry.
* Please note: I have absolutely nothing against the NHS. I have no political agenda and am not interested in doctor, nurse or GP-bashing. It’s just that the mental health services available to people like me, in the area where I live, are utterly and incomprehensibly shite.
Please also be assured: I’m not currently suicidal – although as you’ve probably guessed, I’ve been there recently. But if you were going to ask, thanks for caring.