Suicidal Ideation; Maytree, A Sanctuary For The Suicidal

This blogpost was originally written as a guest post of another blog in January 2013.
 
I’ve never been an active, dynamic, glass-half-full kinda person. I’m cynical, stoic, and so lazy I’ve been compared to a sloth more times in my life than I care to remember. The periods of feeling unhappy and low I’ve had in my life, I always managed to explain away with something in my life I wanted to change .
I didn’t get along with my mum when living at home, so I was unhappy; I didn’t like my job, so I was unhappy; my long-term relationship broke down, so I was unhappy; I was battling with chronic fatigue, so I was unhappy.

I was sure that if I could only fix all of these things, I’d be okay. I’d finally be normal like everyone else and start living my life. Until one day, I was still as miserable, in fact it was getting worse, and I didn’t feel like I could blame it on anything. I couldn’t explain it away.

Sure, there are things I’d love to improve in my life but nothing warranted the despair I was experiencing. I dismissed the idea of seeking any form of therapy because I had nothing to discuss. I started considering suicide as an answer to my problems.

One night I felt so bad, I woke my wife  at 4 am, and told her I needed an emergency doctor’s appointment the next day. I discussed with him my mood, my suicidal thoughts, and my lack of explanation for them. He told me I was probably moderately depressed, and I left with a prescription and an appointment to come back in a few days.

Over the coming months my anti-depressant dose was upped a few times to the maximum and a referral was made to my community mental heath team. Meanwhile the depression was still kicking my arse and my suicidal thoughts continued and evolved. I was confused about why I felt so down.

I barely left the house, I didn’t want to socialise with anyone. Even holding a conversation on the phone became too much effort for me. I went to see my GP again, desperate. He agreed the medication wasn’t working and advised me how to go about lowering my dosage to eventually stop taking them over the next 4 weeks.

The referral was probably going to be a couple of months, he said. I left that appointment in a daze. I felt completely hopeless. I found myself buying packets of painkillers whenever I went anywhere they were on sale. I managed to hand them over to my wife each time before I had the chance to act on my impulses. Suicide became all I thought about. I knew I could no longer fight to stay alive when the opportunity presented itself.

This is when I went to A&E.

My experience was not terrible, but neither did I feel they were helping to keep me safe. They didn’t want to admit me, and the Crisis Team didn’t want to ‘take my case’. I was offered an outpatient appointment for a couple of days time. Around this time I found Maytree, a sanctuary for the suicidal (www.maytree.org.uk).

After several phone calls and an assessment, they felt I could benefit from a stay there. I still wasn’t sure it would help – after all, I had nothing to talk about, nothing was wrong except I was so miserable – but I decided that since I was staring suicide right in the face, I quite literally had nothing to lose. I stayed alive in the time between A&E and arriving at Maytree by basically never being alone. I was quietly humiliated, but it worked, I made it to the door.

Maytree offer a 4-night stay for those who are actively suicidal. There are always trained volunteers around, day and night, as well as one of a number of Shift Leaders, with whom one-on-one time is available. I have never found it easy to open up to other people, even those close to me, and at first Maytree was no different.

I was quiet, as I often am socially, but I was taking my surroundings in. In fact on my finally day I remember someone saying “when you arrived here, I thought you might never talk”. The place felt like a home, with endless cups of tea being offered around the kitchen table. The volunteers and staff were so at ease there too, it was a wonderfully calming place to be.

There is no taboo about suicide in this place, and one of the most liberating aspect of it was being able to talk about my darkest suicidal thoughts and/or desires, without worrying too much about what the other person would think. They weren’t personally invested in me (although of course they did care), so I didn’t feel the need to protect them by censoring myself.

I also met some really amazing people there; it had been a long time since I’d really met any new people and I really enjoyed having intelligent, pleasant conversation with people from all walks of life. This gave my self-confidence a little boost. And they were all there because they wanted to be, they wanted to help, and I found this very powerful.

During my one-to-one time, and the gentle probing questions from the Shift Leaders, I began to talk about some difficult experiences from my past. I’d had some counselling for this as a teenager and I felt confident that this was “dealt with” and couldn’t possibly be contributing to my current mental state.

The more I explored these things, the more I realised how relevant they were. I came to understand my suicidal ideation more too: for me, I needed that ‘out’ to be available to allow myself to face the difficult things I had going on. When your alternative is death, surely anything is worth a try, right?

I made a particular connection with one person. She was kind, and warm, and very calming to be around. She created a safe place and invited me into it. I faced some very difficult memories and emotions with her help and finally started to understand why I might be feeling so bad. I stopped feeling like my experiences weren’t ‘bad’ enough to warrant the feelings I had.

From her reactions to my words, I finally felt my feelings were valid. I really let go and just said whatever came to me, and at one time, I felt safe enough to cry. For me, this was huge. She’s probably only one of three or four people who have ever seen me cry in my adult life. She held my hand, and we were quiet for a while; my tears were met with genuine concern and warmth.

The biggest thing I took away from Maytree was that I had some direction. Finally, I had a place to start. I left Maytree with a shred of hope – a glimpse of what might be possible – and a knowledge that some more therapy of a similar nature was what I needed to survive. I know I still have a way to go, and I’m trying to get some counselling on the NHS at the moment.

Since leaving Maytree, I’ve had some better days and some horrible days. There are days I can’t get out of bed, and there are weeks I don’t leave the house. I’ve also found more sources of support from those around me, now that I’ve been able to explain a little about what’s going on for me, and been able to ask them for help (another thing Maytree taught me. Man those guys are good).

I still have suicidal thoughts some times, and I still hurt, but I am managing to carry on knowing things can be better. Can be okay. Can be good.

———————————————————————————————–

About Maytree:

Maytree offers a short stay in a safe residential setting where you can talk, reflect and rest – and restore hope. Maytree is a place where you will be heard, respected and accepted, without judgement and in confidence.

http://www.maytree.org.uk/

Email: maytree@maytree.org.uk for free confidential support.

Or Call Us on 020 7263 7070

Follow Maytree on Twitter: @MaytreeSavingLi https://twitter.com/MaytreeSavingLi

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