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Emotional Distress: Information & Support
Two years ago, I wrote about the taboo nobody wants to talk about - Suicide. I continue to receive weekly messages from distraught M.E. sufferers. Sadly, I've also lost several acquaintances through suicide in recent months. Some deaths have made the news, which understandably upset and angered people, but it's important to have their stories heard. It has been over twenty years since I self-harmed and attempted suicide. As uncomfortable as it is to admit, the impact M.E. has on my life means that I continue to struggle with negative thoughts. I have republished my article to raise awareness and hopefully help those in need.
As someone who can relate first-hand to suicidal feelings, talking about it still makes me feel incredibly uneasy, so don’t worry if you’re reading this poised to close the page! People react to suicide in different ways; for instance, some see it as weakness in the individual, and those left behind often regard it as a selfish act. The truth is, a suicidal person has reached that point after a long, hard struggle, and they haven’t got the mental or physical energy to fight anymore. It is also important to understand that suicide isn't just about one person: they see it as an act of peace not only for themselves, but for everybody else involved too.
“Suicide is a whispered word, inappropriate for polite company. Family and friends often pretend they do not hear the word's dread sound even when it is uttered. For suicide is a taboo subject that stigmatizes not only the victim but the survivors as well.”
Earl A Grollman
I have touched on this subject several times for M.E. Support, such as in the article M.E. My Story. Life with a chronic illness is incredibly complex and challenging, therefore struggling mentally is completely ‘normal’ and understandable. I attempted suicide having decided that I’d reached the end of my fight, and I could also see what M.E. was doing to the people around me. Each case is very different, but for me it wasn’t a rash decision, although I’m obviously glad that I pulled through. It taught me things that only I can truly understand, along with enabling me to help others in a similar situation.
It is now twenty-three years later and I do still struggle, although the ‘triggers’ for these negative thoughts have changed over time. I am more emotional these days (which I’ll put down to hormones!) but that kind of relief can be a double-edged sword. Crying and shouting might let out some of my worries, but it can fuel the darker matters hidden away. I try to be more open, but sometimes it’s either hard to put my feelings into words, or I become numb from mental exhaustion.
What helps one person might not be the same for another, but here is my advice to anyone with suicidal thoughts:
- Talk to someone. Visit your doctor, reach out to a loved one, contact a fellow M.E. sufferer, or call the Samaritans. The ME Association Helpline Service is available every day, during the hours of 10am-12noon, 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm. Action for M.E. has a Crisis, Support and Advocacy Service for anyone living with or supporting someone with M.E. There isn't a right or wrong thing to say, and you might not even feel ready to accept help yet, but just open up the line of communication.
- Write. This can be incredibly therapeutic and help you to unravel your thoughts and feelings. Think of it as a ‘dear diary’ that only you will ever see. If you aren't up to writing, try using dictation or video/record yourself.
- Switch your mind off. Yes, I know that’s easier said than done! Try and find a way to slow your mind down and get some mental rest. Lose yourself in a book, watch a film or practise the method of meditation. Lorna McFindlow has shared some of her own strategies in Let’s Talk: M.E. & Depression.
- Take it one day at a time. You might well be dreading tomorrow, but a new day is an achievement in its own right. It is another step towards getting help and finding the strength to carry on.
If you know someone with M.E., take time to ask them, “How are you?” or “Are you okay?” You know they’re ill, although it isn't a subject to avoid! That simple act reminds them that you're thinking of them and care. M.E. is a lonely illness; they might have people around them every day, or hundreds of friends on social media, but maybe nobody thought to ask them how they were doing. They might simply say “I’m okay”, but they could need someone to listen, or just a reassuring hug.
"I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone."
Some people don’t want to kill themselves, they're just crying out for help. In my opinion, self-harming has an even greater stigma and complexity than suicide. Even people that know me well, shy away from my faded scars, or question why I’d want to hurt myself. The drivers behind these acts of harm are frantic, confused and desperate. This usually results in a temporary relief, leading to overwhelming disgust and shame. Whether you’re harming yourself, or you’re concerned about someone else, my advice to you is the same: don’t judge these actions, but acknowledge what’s happening and seek help from a doctor or SelfharmUK.
Whatever led you to click on this article, I appreciate you reading it and hope my words have helped you in some way. It is important to remember that even the strongest people need a guiding hand sometimes. Getting through our challenging times, along with supporting someone else in need, makes us stronger and better people. On that note, I’ll end this piece with four incredibly important letters… R U OK?