Keeping Shtum

Last night I was on a battlefield

A war broke out on a WhatsApp group I am on.

The name of the group is “Chessed” which is Hebrew for kindness, on this group you can find messages relating to just about anything you may need at any time, it is a community group and extremely helpful. Need a ride somewhere, go ahead, ask on the group, a recipe, you can get that from someone, opening hours of a certain shop, someone on the group is bound to know.

Last night battle commenced on the group. an innocent post designed to help and educate people caused aggression, disagreements, anger and rudeness, the admins of the group tried to keep the situation calm, removed certain people from the group and informed us that the offending post was “completely unsuitable for our group”.

So what I hear you ask in bewilderment was the offending post? Brace yourselves, a screen shot of the post is below:

 

carolines law

And there you have it, a post encouraging people to sign a petition which could go some way in preventing future suicides, or attempted suicides.

The “offending” post was removed as was the person who posted it.

What ensued was a heated discussion, with people becoming very emotional.  As one person put it “if someone asks to borrow a phone, and someone lends it, that’s a chessed (kindness) but saving a life is not??”

It is situations like the one above which ensures the stigma and shame of Mental Health still continues to strive.  By banning posts which bring awareness to the sensitive subject of suicide we are in our own way reinforcing the message that Mental Health is not to be spoken about.

Saving a life is the biggest Chessed a person can do.

As I pointed out to the admins of the group ( after very emotionally and “loudly” expressing my disgust at them removing the post from the group) Caroline’s law, comes after a tragedy, a lady in the public eye, a beautiful person whom it seemed had everything to live for, at the time that she needed support, love and friendship the most there was no-one. How can we as empathetic, moral people stand back and let others suffer. Sadly the admins response was “remove your comments or be removed from the group”.

Our community is affected by Suicide as much as any other community, and until we are all able to stand tall, shoulder to shoulder and talk about it, nothing will change.

 

How visiting a friend in hospital can affect our own Mental health.

On Monday night I visited a lady I know in the psychiatric ward.  There were a few feelings and emotions that I had no choice but to acknowledge, both before the visit, during and after the visit.

Anyone who has been in the psych ward will know the deep emotional connection we can have with it, the smells, the sounds, especially the aggressive sound of the alarm bell ringing, signalling staff members from other wards that help is needed, the staring faces, the atmosphere of sadness.

Whilst in the ward a few things occurred. First, a nurse who was on duty greeted me, asked me who I was seeing, told me she liked my earrings, all the while not recognising me as the same patient whom had been in her ward a mere few weeks ago. The blank look she gave me spoke volumes, sending a clear message, “I did not see you, really see you as a human, as a person whilst you were in hospital.

Sitting with my friend was a revelation.  As I experience my Bipolar with manic highs, sitting with someone who was suffering with her illness in an aggressive and frankly scary way shook me to my core.  She is an extremely clever lady and whilst with her she rattled off all the names of the people who had proposed to her, the list was never ending, starting with a list of celebrities, going on to a list of people she had known since childhood, her memory for names and places amazed me.  She has not yet accepted that she is ill and currently is refusing medication. She shouted at me that she was the Messiah and they are trying to kill her and silence her voice.  All in all it was  a scary experience.

It naturally made me draw comparisons, the exhaustion I felt after the visit, the low mood, the sadness I feel for her all compounded the emotional reaction I experienced from being in the ward as a visitor. It gave me more awareness of how different Mental Health Illness are experienced, it gave me gratitude that when I am unwell I am not aggressive, in fact I am the opposite, love flows freely, this is not diminishing anyone who suffers from the manic highs, rather it can be just as dangerous and terrifying as living with the illness experienced with lows or anger.

The thought kept and still does keep going around in my mind, asking myself if those who visit me in hospital feel the same or similar emotions after being with me?

The visit, though fleeting left a lasting impression, has affected my mood, things have seemed bleaker, regular situations  I have had to deal with this week have become mountains, my thinking has been black and white with regards to daily struggles, and once again I am experiencing transference to my therapist.  She is occupying far to much space in my mind, the feelings of love I have whilst feeling vulnerable are unhealthy  to the extreme, the panic knowing that I will not see her for 2 weeks overtaking me.  I believe all these are the result of a highly charged visit to the psychiatric ward.

We have to be so aware of “where we are emotionally” before carrying out certain activities, for example visiting the psych ward very soon after being released from one yourself, taking on to much and saying “yes” to everything is a warning sign.  There are times that we are able to help, be there, support and encourage those who need us, but when living with a Mental Health issue caution must always be taken.

Ethics of the Fathers 1:14 states, Hillel says ” If I am not for myself, who will be for me? but if I am only for myself who am I? If not now, when?” The genius of these words are so clear, and can be interpreted on so many levels. Each person will have their own way of looking at these words, taking their own message.

The message I see in these words is ” If not for myself who will be?  Who will look after me if I do not look after myself, who will keep my emotional health and wellbeing at the forefront if not me?”   He continues, “But if I am only for myself who am I?” It is interesting that Hillel started the verse with self care, self love telling us that  only once we have looked after ourselves, made sure we are healthy and well, can we then be there for others.

Saying No!

My therapist has a few phrases she loves to say, wise and always practical, she will often remind me of two vital components to living a healthy life, ( its been 4 years, and yet she perseveres, got to give it to her, she doesn’t give up) these two things are:

Self Care and the stories we tell ourselves.

I have been asking myself, what was  it that made me land up in the psychiatric ward last week? There must have been a build-up, a pressure boiler getting hotter and hotter, a story  occurring that eventually led me to my massive Bipolar manic episode.

My episodes are usually few and far between, and are usually over within a few hours. So what was different this time? Why, on this occasion was I unable to stop the racing thoughts, the need to be moving, the terrifying (for myself on some level , for others too) manic behaviour I was unknowingly displaying?

I think the answer is in those two words, self care.

The ability to say no is a skill that the sensible among us have learnt, to know your limits, to be able to say ” I would love to help you out, give you that ride, cook those meals for you, help organise the party, be class mum, take out that sick person, babysit your children, etc, but right now I need to focus on myself”

Its interesting, even writing the above, I felt selfish, as I type the thought  kept running through my head, ” but what if they are relying on you, need you to do that, the fact that they asked you means they thought you were the one to approach”.  The saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy lady”. Perhaps that busy lady is indeed so busy because we all keep asking her to do things for us?

Whilst in hospital a close friend came to visit, “Sara” said Abigail in her strictest tone of voice ” You have to stop doing so much for everyone else, do you think that by saying yes all the time, you are maybe covering  up for some kind of insecurity?”. Her perception really surprised me, at first a little hurt by her words but quickly recognising the absolute truth in them.

Do we say yes to people all the time, even when we are falling apart, even when we are crying inside for someone to give to us, even when we are just so tired of doing and doing and doing until we fall, exhausted and worn out in to bed because we have some constant voice in our minds, replaying the narrative that most of us have learned throughout our lives, “good people are the ones who do for others”. We see on all forms of media, the good of humankind, those that risk everything, those that stop at nothing to help the vulnerable, the suffering, the children who are hurting and hungry and that voice will tell us, in order to be seen as “good” this is what you have to do.

No one wants to, or should want to live a selfish life, we all need and aspire to do the best we can with the tools we have been given, but I have learned the hard way over the last few weeks, PRACTICE SELF CARE!

The stress I have been under wasn’t anything radical, we all deal with daily stresses, and need to be able to develop inner strength to cope with them, but it was a drip drip build up, it was a friends illness, a stillborn for someone else, another illness, being confided in about a the state of a friends sadness with her marriage, hearing about loss of finances for another, just doing, doing and doing more.

My body and my mind were telling me to say no, to let them know gently that right now I could not be present, I needed to look after me, but the insecurity inside, the part that drives us to try and please everyone, that part won.

So, what will I do next time? will I be able to say no when that person asks that favour? I hope so, even if it will be uncomfortable, even if my brain is rebelling against the words my mouth is speaking, I hope that I will be able to look deep inside, see what I need to do to be my best self, perhaps take on a little less, indulge in some me time, close the curtains, dont rush to answer those phone messages, learn that, hey, you know what, they will find someone else to do that thing that “only you” can do. Have a haircut, massage, nails done, a day away from everyone an everything.

Most of all, tell, tell the person who loves us most that we need to be selfish, if that person is ourselves, or a spouse, parent or friend, tell. We all need appreciation we all need physical and emotional acts of love.

Please take care of you.

Sara.

 

 

A week in the ward.

Since last Monday I have been on the psychiatric ward.

I tend to sometimes go on and on, trying to get people to understand mental health, to get people to realise that mental health is no different to physical health, that from a very young age it is essential that children are given the tools to understand there is no shame in talking about mental health.  This week  though I have realised that huge steps have been taken, during my first admission many years ago the messages, phone calls and visits were few and far between. The difference is so clear now, I have never had, whilst on the psychiatric ward so many supportive messages, people  wanting to visit and people actually visiting me.  The stigma and fear of mental health issues is slowly ( very slowly) disappearing.

I am aiming this article at staff, those who have chosen to work in a mental health ward, those who, when they started training wanted to do it in order to help those are  vulnerable and unwell.

Control. A word with so many meanings, mainly used in the negative, however there are many positives within the word, control of our spending, health, diet, home environment, hygiene, work life balance and more. We all need to have an amount of control over aspects of our lives.

When a person enters the psychiatric ward, there is no control, every decision is made for us, from the time we eat, sleep, take our medication to the amount we are allowed out, if we are allowed out on our own or need to be escorted, and in extreme cases whether one is able to visit the bathroom alone.

Every person on the ward is suffering in their own way, the staff have a duty of care to ensure we feel safe, cared for and are not invisible. The things  I have experienced within the last week goes directly against the above ethos.

There are staff who will take the time, who will listen to you, who you do not have to beg to be heard by.  Sadly though many staff are cold, uncaring and patronising.

Below I have pasted a few things I have written whilst on the ward.  I have also made a formal complaint, which I have copied  below.

A Poem I wrote after being admitted to the psychiatric ward:

I am back inside
the doors are locked
there is nowhere to hide

It all started I would say a while ago
when the stress built up
I just couldn’t say no

watching your every move and noting the way you have behaved
telling you they don’t understand why your so stressed
to their wants you have become enslaved

is this a hospital or a prison cell
where is the love? the warmth and care
that would make us feel well

fast asleep way before dawn
the monotony of the day making you so folorn
even sleep can not bring escape for the situation
the nurses standing around like statues at their assigned station.

Everything I ask the answer is no
its like they think I am stupid and slow
they say I can not have my phone wire in my room
each time I ask for something the answer is “soon”

Show some respect is what I scream in my mind
I am just as human as you all
please please just be kind

They say that we are here for our own protection
They assume we have no comprehension
Everyone here living a nightmare whilst awake
Honestly I dont know how much more living I can take

The bipolar that I need to live with for the rest of my life
all I want is a quiet brain free of racing thoughts and inner strife.
it may sound so bad for me to proclaim
That I wish I was diabetic, had epilepsy, is that completely insane?

None sets up a meal rota for those with struggling with mental health
All meetings and appointments are carried out with stealth
Just this morning I was hit and my phone thrown to the ground
that incident increased my fear, no peace for my brain can be found

Please someone take this illness away
I dont want to live with this each and every day
always having to be on alert
making sure that myself I never hurt

Can no one understand what I am feeling right now

PLEASE HELP ME SOMEONE, SOMEHOW.

Email ( Formal Complaint):

To whom it may concern.

Please treat this as a formal complaint.

Last Monday (16.12.2019) I was admitted on to the ward above.

I was unwell with my Bipolar and was very manic.

The day staff on the whole are good, kind people, who greet you, take time to talk to you and ensure that you are made to feel like a human being who is unwell.

Everyone on the ward is here for our safety, for support and the care we need to recover.

Thankfully I have almost recovered and hope to be discharged tomorrow.

I would like to make a formal complaint regarding the night staff on the ward.

First, they are just plain rude, I know they are busy but they ( and I mean all of them) do not talk to patients unless they are being disruptive, they talk loudly between themselves, and medication is given at 9pm. We are not children, giving us our medication at such an early hour, ensures for them that the patients will fall asleep and they will have a quiet night. When I requested that medication be given slightly later, again I was ignored, it was as if I was invisible.

This morning I was woken at 5am by a staff member walking down the corridor jingling her large bunch of keys so loudly, the staff member then proceeded to noisily open my door saying to someone else this is Sara.

I have requested a few times that we are shown respect, when we are sleeping ( and sleep is essential for recovery) the staff should not be in the corridor by the bedrooms, laughing and joking on top of their voices.

Every request we make is greeted by eye rolls, sighs and being told, like we are children that “you have to wait, we are busy”. When it is perfectly clear they are not busy, rather shouting and laughing with each other, discussing their secret Santa gift exchange or their Christmas party.

Every morning I have been wakened ( and so have others) by the staff just barging in to the room. Each room has a window with blinds which can be opened from the outside, there is no reason the staff need to wake people so early.

It is a matter of respect, of empathy, of understanding that we, just like them are adults, with lives, with jobs, family and community.

The nights here are horrendous, staff so cold and rude.

Please let me know how you will be proceeding with this complaint.

Yours sincerely.

I am not a trained nurse, rather an observer, some may say I have no idea what it is like to be a nurse on this ward, however, I feel that even those of us who do not have any formal training can give our view, even if that view is met with scorn and dismissal.

A list I wrote, which I will be giving to the ward manager:

Some advice from a patient:

1. We all understand that staff are humans, that they have stressful days, but please don’t take that out on us. We can all hear you yelling at your colleges, or when you come out the office and are snapping at each other.
2. Please smile at us, know that we have a mental health issue, just like others may have a physical health issue, we are not criminals, we have jobs, families, a community, friends etc.
3. It is so upsetting when we are talking to you and you shrug us off, or as we are speaking completely ignore us.
4. We are not in prison, this is a hospital not a jail, give people respect, let those who are able to have certain things, like their phone chargers in their rooms. At times like this when we are in hospital our possessions are everything to us.
5. The rooms are like cells, clinical, cold and bare, perhaps think of something that can be put in to the rooms to make them a bit warmer and homely.
6. Don t be so strict on allowing those who are able to only come and go at prescribed times, if you think that someone is trustworthy but have only been given 4 times fresh air breaks maybe use your initiative and let them go once or twice more.
7. When you promise a patient you will be with them in 5 minutes, then ignore them for hours don’t be surprised if he/she gets angry and upset. We have so little that we control, that when we are told 5 minutes and it turns out not to happen we get upset.
8. If you tell a patient you are going to do something for them, don’t make them ask 100 times. Just do it.
9. We appreciate you have a hard job, but you have chosen to be in the care profession, so do just that “care”.
10. Give people dignity, it is not acceptable that a patient is sitting on the toilet and a nurse is standing outside and the door is wide open, so everyone walking by sees the patient sitting half naked on the toilet, give people the dignity you would want for yourself, sure if you have to watch her, do that but close the door half way, so that the poor girl isn’t sitting there with everyone being able to see her.
11. Today I was attacked twice, for no reason, a girl punched me and then later on she cornered me and threw my phone on the floor twice, a nurse was standing right there and did nothing to intervene, I was terrified, I called help a few times but none came. The nurse saw everything going on and did nothing.
12. Thank you for everything you do for us.

My hope and wish is that someone, even it is one person will read this, and accept that whilst psychiatric nursing is a really stressful job, we all deserve to be treated with dignity. To have our fears heard, to not be ignored and treated like filth on the street.

Thank you to all those staff who do this job for the love of helping people.  It is you who help us recover.

 

With love

Sara.

 

 

 

The anxiety of socialising.

Looking back I see now that the social anxiety I have has been with me for years, as far back as my memories take me I see myself in public, I see how I come across as confident, Happy and full of courage.  The inner me, however is totally different.

Today we had a staff Christmas party, I was chosen to be one of the suspects in the murder mystery case we needed to in teams, solve. I was in my element, acting as “Fifi”, my character,  who was a vivacious, loud French Teacher ( who eventually, we found out also murdered the head master and the student she loved!)  was a lot of fun, and when the day was over I realised that as a lover of drama and acting, being able to become someone else, someone who was confident and seductive, was a true escape.

Social anxiety can be crippling, everyday activities can become traumatic, for some it reaches levels of not being able to go out of the house, spend time with family, friends and others.  For me, it is all about the way I look and how I feel about myself, my main anxiety is centred around family events, weddings, bar mitzvah’s etc where other people from the community will be in attendance, it is a true fear, one that can drive me to buy a new outfit just for that occasion, fear of being judged for dressing differently and not fitting the “box” of what is considered the norm in our community.  I can not relax, I struggle to breath, and more often then not make an excuse to leave early.

 

The school playground is a huge issue for me, I have a great group of friends, mums of my daughters friends, others whom I have known for many years, but in the playground, when I do not have who to talk to my social anxiety rises to really stressful levels, I look around and in my mind see that everyone has got who to talk to,  I will look for my “safe” people, the ones I know I can always chat to, solely for the purpose of not feeling like an outcast, whilst the rational side of me tells me that I do not need to be constantly surrounded by people in order to feel worthwhile my social anxiety means I am feeling vulnerable, insecure and unattractive.

Most people who have social anxiety create an alter ego, the alter ego is the person I think we wish deep down that we can be.  Confident, popular and fun.  We may already seem like that to other people, we might even be known for certain things we do to help the school, for example we will volunteer to be class reps, organise the parties and more.

Work is one of the only places I feel secure, and perhaps it is because  the work I do means I have a lot of interaction with highly vulnerable people, maybe that is why today I loved being “Fifi” because I know that  my work colleagues  accept and value people who have so many different issues.

In my  own home I feel safe, I feel secure in the knowledge that I can be a sociable , likeable person but take me out of my home environment, beneath my outward persona, is someone, like so many others who suffer from social anxiety who is constantly worrying, looking around for safety, wishing someone would approach me instead of me approaching them.

Christmas/Chanukah is fast approaching, a time where parties are held, there is an air of happiness all around, but there are so many people, including myself who at this time of year suffer more then any other time, the pressures, the “forced happiness” can be debilitating.

I would love to hear other people’s experiences of social anxiety, especially at this time of the year where social anxiety can spiral out of control.

 

 

There is no one available to take your call…..

So, its been a while since I have heard those words, speaking to someone on the phone is a rare, strange, antiquated idea.  Why speak, when you can text, instant message, snapchat, tweet, WhatsApp  etc. etc.

Sending someone a message asking if they can talk usually is met with silence whilst they stroke their chin thoughtfully pondering the correct response to such an unusual and absurd suggestion.

Therapists, especially therapists, NEED! to answer immediately to a message, its a thing us in therapy know, if they don’t answer when we NEED them it is to quote Anne (with an E…great Netflix show!) “truly tragical”.

In our minds, at certain times, especially when we are feeling low or vulnerable sending a message to our therapist is our call out, we want to feel remembered, that we are of some importance to them, that they are there for us. Its a little like a child  meeting a teacher outside of school, children worldwide are continuously shocked that a teacher has a life outside school ( who knew… huh !) Surely the teacher/therapist is sitting, quietly awaiting her pupil/client to show up, contemplating everything that was discussed at the last lesson/session. Her thoughts completely focused on that particular person.

Some things a therapist does not have are these:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Shopping to do
  • Chores or other issues to deal with
  • Work
  • Other clients
  • Appointments
  • Their own issues and worries
  • Other places to go/other people to see.
  • Holidays
  • Self care time
  • Illness
  • Childcare

And the list goes on.

The last couple weeks have been stressful, lots of different sad situations coming my way, so obviously am feeling a wee bit vulnerable.  If I messaged a friend and they did not reply, I would (rarely) A. pick up the phone to them. B. wonder if I had done something to upset them, and then pick up the phone and call  them. C. Get mad at them and then pick up the phone and call them. D. Forget about it and then eventually pick up the phone and call them.

The relationship to a therapist is obviously unique, as much as we would sometimes like them to be, or on a bad day even have a little fantasy that they are our friends ( or mother/father… but that’s a whole different conversation) they are not, and they have boundaries which can not be crossed.

It is difficult though to remember that even if your ( or mine.. because ultimately I am actually talking to myself here) therapist does not reply immediately, or one day later or two, or even acknowledges your message at all, that does not mean that they  think you (or me) are:

  • Annoying
  • Needy
  • Demanding
  • Pathetic
  • Have no boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Not important
  • your issues are meaningless ( to those they see with “real” issues).

And any other millions of tangled messages your brain sends to you, hitting you over and over again, bringing down your self love and self esteem.

I know that I and others, will scribble a message and press send, swearing or “shouting ” at the therapist, telling them in our frustration that we don’t need them, want them, they are no good anyway etc, then quickly try to “delete for everyone” in the warped hope that maybe they would have glanced at the message, and seen you have deleted a message, and as a consequence we hope they have thought of us, even if for  a fleeting moment.

So, next time your feeling low, and really really need some care from your therapist, here’s something to try…. write a blog!

 

To be or not to be…PC

We are living in a extreme world, going back 40/50 years it is as though we have executed an 360 degree circle.

In the 50’s, people who were different were made to feel ashamed, having to hide away their sexuality, their desire’s, their confusions for fear of being ridiculed, tormented or even locked up.  Today we live in a completely different world, some would go as far to say that being a certain gender, a stay at home mother, a man and women being married, girls wanting to play with dolls and boys wanting to play with trains, is frowned upon.

Gender neutral school uniforms, the ability for 11 year old children to go to a Dr and ask for gender reassignment surgery, books such as sleeping beauty being considered “dangerous” (as the prince did not give consent before kissing the princess) postmen and policemen not being called men anymore, the same applies for policewomen/ postwomen, who are now known as police person, or post person all point to a society that has done everything it can to move as far as possible away from the “norms” of the 1950’s.

We are afraid to say anything in fear of insulting someone. We have to stop and think before we call someone male/female girl/boy.  Government forms now give the option to add ” other” where it asks if a person is male or female.  All in all we are living in an extreme world, where one has to be careful every time they open their mouths.

So why, I asked myself when seeing the picture below on Facebook, is this ok.

psych ward pic

The idea is to fill out the answers with friends names, and then post it on their walls, in turn they will post others names and send on etc.

The picture above, which went around the Facebook galaxy at an alarming speed is so full of insults, hurtful words, and misconceptions. Lets look at another picture, one which I put together myself this morning, the only things I have changed are the ward and a couple of other details, take a minute and compare the two.

Cancer

Just writing the above made me shudder. Would any of us, ever share the above, inviting others as a joke to fill in the blanks with people’s names? If not, why then is it ok to share the first one, both are illness’s, both destroy lives, both bring destruction and heart break in its tidal wave.

There is an underlying attitude that it is ok to poke fun of mental health illness. Perhaps it is ok for those suffering themselves from a mental health issue to have a joke, as it is ok for example, me as a Jew to make a joke about Jews. But again there is a very thin line.

The underlying attitude that people who suffer from Mental Health illness’s are somehow “crazy” and different, people whom are to be feared stems in no small part from posts like the above on Facebook.

In a generation where we are so careful not to offend, perhaps we need to take a look at why ridiculing those with mental health issues is ok.

The tragedy of suicide

Death has been all around recently. Tragically many of these have been suicides, in the last few months I have heard of more people taking their lives then I have ever before.
This has impacted so many people on so many levels. For those whom have mental health issues, anxiety, OCD, depression, Bipolar and so many more the week has been a trigger, a huge, full blown, black, dark, pit of being triggered.

When I was a child, even as a teenager the word suicide was unheard, it was “committed” a word we use it in relation to crimes, it has a negative connotation and is usually used in relation to something we all would consider as wrong, “committed a murder” “committed a robbery” “committed a crime”.

Suicide was until 1961 a crime.

 

Attempting suicide would lead to either a fine or a spell in a jail cell, the stigma and depression for those whom found themselves, at their lowest points in their lives locked up in a jail instead of shown love and compassion must have been huge.
I recently attended a day of suicide prevention training at work. One of the first things we were told is that the word committed when talking about suicide is thankfully now not used.
A lot of what I have written below is based or taken from some of the information we received during our suicide training.
Most people who are contemplating suicide are not thinking rationally or clearly, their judgement clouded by pain, just wanting the hurt to stop. A suicidal crisis is between 5 minutes to 30 minutes, in that time a life can be saved, a suicide tragedy averted.
When a person takes their life, at least 15 people are emotionally inured. Of these 15 a staggering 60% will themselves experience some thoughts of suicide. Then there are those we would not think of, those who are not close friends, family members or colleagues ges of the person who has taken their lives, for example the postman who may have shared many a “good morning, with her, or the local shopkeeper who may have seen her at the same time every week for a long time.

Another aspect of suicide is the blame, when an event happens, we tend to seek to blame, for somewhere to plant our pain, a way to cope, self-blame when it comes to suicide is something we all do. When I tragically had to break the news to my friend letting her know about a friend of hers taking her life,she immediately blamed herself, asking “why didn’t I call her more, I should have known something was not right”. We can not do this to ourselves, if a person takes their life, no one is to blame, no one could have stopped them if they did not let anyone know or make anyone aware of their pain.
The numbers are shocking, in 2018 a number of 5821 people took their own lives, that is equivalent to 12 British airways flights crashing a year. There are also many suicide attempts, and suicides that go unreported.

There are many signs, that a person may give that they are thinking, or planning to take their own lives, these can be obvious signs such as posting on social media, or more subtle, not turning up to work, distancing themselves from people, saying things such as “I want it all to end” or they feel so alone, a burden, a failure, or may seem completely numb, elated or high.
Other signs, one may see is the person acting in certain unusual ways, displaying promiscuity, drinking more, self-medicating, withdrawing, putting their affairs in order neglecting themselves and more.
It is not usually an isolated occurrence that leads to self-harm suicide or suicidal thoughts, usually it is a combination of traumatic, hurtful and tragic events which lead up to suicide for younger people it could be an immense amount of peer pressure, a bereavement, abuse, change of medication, past history, Biological and psychological factors, current life events.
Interestingly, 75% of people who take their own lives have not been in contact with mental health services.
The more a person thinks about suicide the more likely they are to eventually attempt or carry out suicide.
A sadly common word used when discussing suicide is Selfish.
The word selfish, has no place in this discussion. It is not selfish, in fact it is the opposite, a person who takes her own life is not being selfish, tragically they believe the world would be better without them, they have nothing to give, are failures, they can’t do their jobs, be a friend, parent, spouse, daughter etc.

Talking about suicide is truly hard, but with suicide on the rise in our communities it is so important to realise that people are crying out for help. I once read an article by one of the minute amount of suicide survivors, that as soon as an action is taken, jumping from that bridge, swallowing those pills etc, there is instant regret, and sadly it is often too late.
We ALL have the ability to stop a suicide. Anyone can give suicide first aid, we may be afraid of the responsibility, but it does not have to fall solely on our shoulders, if we see a person collapse in the street, and give CPR we are not expected to then go on and give that person heart surgery, then monitor that person for the rest of their lives.
It’s always important to make links, who may be their supporters, their friends, family, community groups, there are more formal links, such as helplines, emergency care, and more. It is about at that moment keeping a person safe, taking it minute by minute.
So, what to do.
First is do not judge, do not lecture, do not tell them that what they are doing is wrong or stupid. Do not give advice (that’s a big one).
Tell someone your concerns, although it is so difficult and uncomfortable ask the question. “are you thinking of taking your life” or “do you have any plans to end your life”. if the answer is yes, let them know its ok that they told you. Ask yourself if both of you are safe right now, if yes then you can continue being with the person, if you or the person are unsafe get help.
Take time, ask gentle questions with empathy, listening and mirroring, acknowledge their pain, and recognise their suffering, give permission to tell. Now is not the time to give advice or solutions, rather help them understand that right this second the way they feel now may not be the best time to make such a major decision.
We can ask questions such as “did something in particular trigger this” try to normalise it. When a person is able to see they are distressed, they are more receptive to being asked more questions, and lead a conversation, for example, acknowledging their pain with a simple “ I am so glad you told me this, it sounds so painful, can you tell me more about what happened, or is happening” or “you sound so overwhelmed, let’s see what we can do to lower the anxiety this is causing”
People need to feel heard and understood, so before we reply, seek to understand first. Ask yourself “am I really listening, or am I just waiting for my turn to speak”.
It is traumatic to hear someone talking about taking their life but know that you are not alone.

“when you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen”
Acknowledging that yes, suicide is an option, but let’s just pause, see what other options there are, do they really need to make a life and death decision at this moment? Have they spoken to anyone else about this? Is right now a good time to make a major decision.

Then move on to practicalities, such as “maybe together we can start making a plan of action” “see what other options you have” then create a list or contract to help that person stay safe.
Finally. A list of possible scenarios and ways to safeguard:
Aloneness: Do they have support? Who is their network? “I’m here, you are not alone”
Pain/Desperation: Find ways to reduce emotional/physical pain, just be with them. Hold their hope.
Suicide Plan: How? When? How prepared are they? And how to disable the plan, simple ideas to deny access to materials that can be used.
Alcohol/drugs: How much is normal for that person, how much is safe

Mental health: what or who helps? What have they learnt in the past?

A personal safety plan can also be put in to place:
To stay safe from suicide what actions needs to take place now (24-hour contacts, GP number, other numbers)
Later, when the immediate danger has passed another list could be made which will include things such as:
If I notice these signs again: Who will I talk to, I will seek help from? I will calm and comfort myself by? I will distract myself by. I will go to these places to feel safe… I will remember these things and people who have helped me in the past,
The main thing is to let the person know that you need to know how to keep them safe right now, and if we are unable to press pause on the suicide plan right now emergency help needs to be sought.
My last message is this, NEVER brush someone off, never assume that just because they have threatened suicide for the past month every day that they will not carry out their plan. They are in deep pain. Pain which they may not be able to control, which may lead to self-harm which may lead to death.

What’s to gain?

Stopping smoking exactly one year ago was not a choice, after becoming ill I was physically unable to go and get cigarettes, for approximately a month I could not walk and thankfully no one would agree to get me some!

Interestingly I do not recall having the same, all consuming, body and soul intense need for a cigarette at that time, perhaps being so ill distracted me, my whole focus was on recovery, to regain the ability to walk, talk, and function on a basic level.

I have had during the year urges which have pushed me almost to mania, times where I have literally thrown a plate in my anger, where I have screamed and shouted at anyone who dared to look at me, all due to those little cancer sticks, their power, their command over a person is unparalleled, they haunt you, they beckon you, they whisper in your ear telling you that you need them. Being a smoker is akin to being in an abusive, controlling relationship, one which you know in the long term will harm you in a perhaps fatal way, yet you are so under their control that you stay with them, through fear of leaving, through addiction to them, to being dependant on them, even when they will take all of your money, even when you have times where to satisfy your need you will go through the dustbin searching for one, turn your home upside down, seek out pennies in order to give them what they want… power.

If you are thinking about stopping smoking, I know how difficult, how immense the withdrawal symptoms are. It is one of the hardest things I have had to do, and a year on I am still dependant on the Nicorette lozenges, but I believe it is the placebo affect which keeps me hooked on those.

So I am not going to tell you to stop now, a person needs to have a true and strong desire, a reason, a reason that will not go away.  Having a reason for stopping smoking such as a wedding, becoming pregnant, holidays and more are usually not strong enough, because as soon as the reason has ended ( you have had the child, are married etc) you need to find another reason.

Instead I would like to tell you what you will gain:

Better skin

increased power to breath

You will be less stressed

You will not stink ( don’t kid yourself… you do stink, even if you cant smell it on yourself)

Your clothes will not stink

You wont need to stand outside in the rain, cold, hail or snow

There is no “hiding”

The feeling of constantly being on edge before going anywhere ( a flight, restaurant, party etc ) will disappear.

You and everyone around you ( once you stop the snarling) will be happier.

YOU WILL SAVE LOADS OF MONEY

smoking 1

There are so many more reasons. I think I have listed the main ones.

Its a true battle, but think back to when and where you were when you first became an addict, I can be pretty certain that it was not a good, healthy, happy time in your life.

An older person may have started at a time where “everyone” smoked, where the cowboy on the horse with a cigarette advert, promised that if you would smoke you to would become this sexual, strong, cowboy type of person, but for anyone who has started in the past 23/30 years this would not be the case.

Smoking is no longer “cool”. sadly hard drugs have now taken the place of the cool factor of cigarette’s, but I do believe on the whole most children and teenagers now know that smoking is not ok.

Before you stop, sit down, picture yourself as I was, so sure that you would never become ill, it will never happen to me… paint that picture in your mind, now change the picture, an ambulance, racing through the street, your almost unconscious, you can not move, you can not talk, your mouth is open but no words are formed, you need to move your leg but try as you may no movement happens.  You may be blessed and recover, but the next time ( and there will be a next time) you may not. Do you really want to live your life in a wheelchair, with lung cancer, with illness.

We are all going to die eventually ( hopefully at a good old age of 120), but why hasten your end?

Sounds brutal? its the reality.

Lots of love

Sara

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