This post discusses suicide. Please be aware that if you are sensitive to this subject it’s theoretically triggering.
I threw myself off that bridge and landed with something of a bump. To this day I don’t know why, but I blacked out completely on the way down and I never felt any physical pain from breaking my back and both wrists. I remember climbing over the blue railings, letting myself fall in the hope of death ending all my mental pain, and then nothing at all until when a minute later a passing driver came to my side, woke me and said “What did you do that for laddie?” I thought to myself – “You would never understand” and then went back to unconsciousness.
I was taken to hospital, still blacked out, where my family were told that if I tried to move while waiting for a proper assessment and surgery I could paralyse myself, if I wasn’t already paralysed. My poor mum recalls that I would drift in and out of my sleep in A and E and try to get up from the hospital trolley, with her and my dad having to react quickly and hold me in position. They’d explain to my dazed and confused self that I had to keep still. I’d then go back to sleep. Then a minute later I’d wake again and try to get up again…it went on like that for an hour, apparently – I don’t remember this at all. I woke up in hospital three days later, confused and let’s just say slightly low.
Things weren’t good in January 2002, my first time sectioned on a locked mental health ward because of serious psychosis, but this short post is not of prolonged pain, I recovered from “cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature” and from panic attacks, anxiety – and today I am all about telling my story, I have become strong and happy. I want to encourage positive mental health and send a positive message. These days I have kind of wired myself over the years to notice the nice things, a very long journey…I’m so immensely thankful that I never felt any physical pain from my injuries and that after three months not moving in hospital I made a full physical recovery.
My mental illness was weird, felt very real and a proper humdinger of a predicament. The day before I was first sectioned, I was stoned and bored, so I decided I would meet with her, my ‘imaginary friend’. This American woman was at the height of her appeal, we talked telepathically all the time and I thought she was real, and as crazy about me as I was her. I got the message that she was in room 213, so I left for Basingstoke train station, wearing roller blades and scruffy clothes, with a few pounds in my pocket and an excited mindset. It was a trip of about two hours by train to The Ritz Hotel in London.
And the weirdness didn’t stop there. The American woman was none other than Britney Spears who I thought I had a magical connection with. I rolled right into The Ritz, there was nobody on the door to stop any poor deluded souls who thought they were on a mission from God. I was taken aback that the receptionist had no record of Britney being there, and after skating around one of the glitziest hotels in London looking for her, I was eventually ejected by security. The next day I told my parents about my little trip and a few hours later I was being evaluated by a doctor at the local mental hospital.
And so my troubles began. Strong medication with strong side effects, abrupt and forced cannabis cessation, locked up even though I had done no wrong and believed I wasn’t insane. I began thinking that I was going to be locked up until I could show them that I really was the modern day Jesus Christ and telepathically linked to Britney, and destined to rule the world…
I was blindsided, desperate, in physical pain from my new med’s side effects and had no idea what was going on, I was also 19 years old and a petulant and confused teenager. After a week I had decided to kill myself. I escaped from the ward, ran a mile to the 25 foot high road bridge, climbed over the railing and that was it.
It was really tough to have to lay still for three months, with all the other shit going through my head too. I barely slept and blacking out didn’t spare me having flashbacks of falling, accompanied by intense vertigo feelings. Suicide attempts can knock a person on their arse with vehement force, but even from this lowest of points a recovery is possible. I’d get there, but not yet.
I began having panic attacks. My first was while in the hospital, really quite nasty, like I was being smacked in the brain by Satan himself, repeatedly, for six hours at a time. Everything around me felt black, like death. I’d notice the black in everything, literally and figuratively. If someone showed me a picture of a beautiful rainbow with a black ink outline, all I could see was the blackness of the outline. If someone near me was chatting about a football match, all I could think about was “What if the pitch got struck by lightning and the lightning bolt somehow got transmitted to me?” I felt weirdly and unabatingly roughed up, like I’d been brainwashed by experts in evil.
A few years went by, in and out of mental hospitals and I tried many different anti-psychotic medications, none of them working really. Then in 2006 I was put on clozapine. It was described as a new drug, for people who haven’t responded to anything else, and the phrase “miracle cure” even got passed around. After a week my panic attacks went from six hours daily to once a week for just one hour. It clicked with me, I was very happy and it enabled me to work at getting better.
I started going to mental health day support centres, which provided me with mental and physical stimulation, something to occupy my mind and social contacts and support. Adelphi Place had great staff, and after about a year, they found me some part time paid work in an office. I wore smart clothes and shoes, doing three shifts a week.
After a year of that in about 2008 I began working for another local office, Raise Mental Health – a training and consultancy company specialising in mental health. I started doing just a few hours a week, but after three years I was doing 25 hours a week. It was a very supportive environment and my colleagues helped nuture my mental health progress and confidence. In 2011 I was doing well, but unemployed again due to the closure of the office. I lived at home with my mum, who was and is a trained mental health nurse. I had no real need for money, but I wanted to learn a trade. I enrolled myself on a full time carpentry course at the college near my home.
Three years of that went by, and I received my level three diploma in site carpentry and bench joinery, and just as importantly my social skills came back. I felt like life was genuinely nice again, my anxieties returning to normal levels. In 2013 I even had a holiday to France, for my brother’s wedding. The week at a French country chateau could have been a story of mental health difficulties but it wasn’t. I was starting to feel empowered.
Still on my Clozapine in lower doses I worked in a joinery workshop for two years, assisting the full time staff, and still, the pattern of improvement continued.
Then my nieces were born. I babysat a lot, for days at a time and looking after them gave me a further prod towards being a happy, responsible and mature adult, who felt increasingly in step with the world.
I had more holidays abroad in 2017, 2018 and 2019. I work part time now, and I am busy with writing my book and other interests and commitments when I’m not at work. I look after and write for my mental health and travel blog, I write articles freelance for mental health and travel websites and publications. I am part of the North Hampshire Mental Health Service User Advisory Board, we meet monthly to improve local services where possible. I’m busy these days! I’m not perfect, but I am well and happy, I consider myself about 90% recovered.
I worked at getting better, less anxious, for years, and I was lucky. I took baby steps at first and my recovery was guided by a great supportive team. I found an excellent medication and I kept persevering and it eventually paid off. It is really hard to live sometimes, and to cope when mental illness becomes severe and prominent. To flourish and change into a happy person with barely any mental health issues, and live a full life with promise for the future is very hard too, but it can be done. I would say that for me, becoming enthusiastic to get my life back and to put in some energy towards that is what helped me the most, but I recognise that I was lucky too.
The message is that things can get better. Do some research about recovery methods, Google can be helpful. Visit https://petesmentalhealth.com/petes-quick-mental-health-tips/ for more. (Click the link)