I am a doctor with four first class degrees, and I am very good at caring for others. Last year, I was admitted to my own hospital.
It's one year and a day since I tried to commit suicide, and people are still asking me if it changed my life. They want me to say that I’m grateful I survived, that it has made me stronger, that I’m glad it happened because I learned from my mistake. I try to be patient with these kinds of questions: “It has taught me a lot", I say, "but I wish there had been an easier way to learn.” Of course it’s good to focus on the silver lining and not the cloud, but depression is a horrible disease, often misunderstood and worse, trivialised.
Most of my friends and family have been extremely supportive in my recovery. They have listened, been patient and helped me work things through in my head. They have protected me against myself. Some of my friends' reactions have been surprising: “She did what!”, while others have decided to pretend it never happened to avoid awkward conversation. A lot of people have opened up about their own experiences with depression and these are the conversations I have found most helpful: the ones that remind me I am not alone. These are also the people that realised it would take a long time to get over what happened and that just because I was back at work and looked “normal”, didn’t mean I wasn’t still recovering from a chronic disease.
I first realised I was depressed about two months before my suicide. I woke up every morning and felt sick just thinking about my life and remembering what a worthless piece of shit I was. I had started to spiral during a bad relationship and even after it ended, I just couldn’t keep my head above water. I lost my appetite and, with it, at least two stone. People started telling me I looked good, and then, with more weight loss, began asking if I was unwell. I’d laugh and explain I was finally eating healthily for the first time in my life, while all the while I felt like a corpse living in a body that was somehow still walking, talking and smiling.
When I started to think seriously about ending my life, I realised I was sick and arranged to see a counsellor. She did a risk assessment to see if I was severely depressed. I said I wasn’t because I was still going into work every day. Professionally, I was at the top of my game and I didn’t have trouble concentrating. I always thought severe depression meant you couldn’t leave the house and that you just cried all the time, so I figured I couldn’t be that bad.
I started to have nightmares of my ex-boyfriend sitting next to me and listing every way I was inadequate and a disappointment over and over again. I would wake up at 5am and not be able to go back to sleep.
I went to see my GP to get some antidepressants. After a particularly hard day, I took them all out of their packets, counted them and put them in a box. I wrote a suicide note to my family, apologising for being such a coward and taking the easy way out. Then I realised this was insane behaviour, so I phoned a friend and asked him to come and sit with me. I didn’t want to talk by the time he arrived and so we sat and made small talk, and he left probably wondering why he was there.