Thursday, 26 November 2015

It Made Me Want To Kill Myself! Hilarity ensued.

This is a post about things that trigger me with regard to suicide. So, trigger warning for suicidal shit! Should you not want to deal with this today, here is a beautiful picture of a cat with a bluetooth gramophone.

Is there any more hipsterish gadget than a bluetooth gramophone? I think not.

Things Which Make Me Think About Killing Myself
1. Bridges: particularly Archway, Northam, Severn, but basically any bridge with a significant drop.
2. Medications: particularly painkillers, which is a giggle given that I am in pain more often than not and thus buy painkillers pretty regularly; whenever I'm prescribed something new, I automatically skim through the info leaflet inside to figure out how many of them I'd have to take to not be alive anymore.
3. Blades, particularly scalpels and razor blades.
4. Every fucking time someone describes mild frustration or sadness with the phrase "it made me feel like killing myself!"

Like: I'm saner than I've ever been, right now. Merry bushels of meds and two and a half years of drawing pictures of my feelings every Monday night have finally paid off, and I don't actually want to die, which makes a nice change. I thought I was having a relapse the other week, but it turns out it was just PMT; while I was relieved when I figured it out, I also found it unbearably sad to think that I hadn't actually noticed getting PMT for years, because I basically felt that miserable every single day.

But I am still me, and I still have my own history, and my history includes between one and three suicide attempts, depending your criteria. (I'd go with one 'proper' and two 'para'.) And any mention of the topic reminds me of the things I did and the reasons I did them.

So here's what I think of when you say "It made me feel like killing myself!": I think of stockpiling painkillers for weeks, and downing the lot in ten minutes. I think of razorblades bought from our friendly local pharmacy, and how they felt digging into my wrist. I think of all the times before that and all the times since that I've wanted, desperately, for life to just stop, and all the times when minor stresses and gentle criticism and boring meetings and having to stand on the tube have genuinely made me feel like killing myself.

Literally every time suicide comes up in conversation, or my mum drives me over Northam Bridge, or I walk past the pain relief or hair removal aisles in Boots, some or all of that will go through my head. On a good day, it's a sad reminder of an awful period of my life. On a bad day? It's sent me on a super suicidal shopping spree.

As you can tell from the list above, it's not possible for me to exist in the world without being triggered fairly frequently. I can't entirely avoid all bridges and pharmacies; I can't start all conversations with the demand that no one mention suicide in any context. It wouldn't be reasonable to expect people to know what thoughts a casual mention of painkillers or razorblades (still less bridges, for fuck's sake) evoke in me.

But using "It made me feel like killing myself!" as a way of exaggerating how unpleasant you found an experience - comical hyperbole, because obviously you don't actually want to kill yourself, it's not like you're mental or anything - is an entirely predictable and entirely unnecessary trigger to me, and to a whole bunch of people like me. Not saying it - removing one phrase from your rhetorical arsenal - would not inconvenience you at all, and be of enormous benefit to me; saying it is of no real benefit to you and causes very real suffering to me.

It's the predictable thing that gets me: the fact that, if you think about the words you're using for more than two and a half seconds, it's so glaringly obvious that someone who has been affected by suicide - their own attempts, those of a loved one, losing someone that way - will react negatively to hearing you throw those words out so casually.

So (unless you're being deliberately cruel) you can only use the phrase in this way if you assume that no one within earshot falls into that category. Presumably you assume that anyone who has experienced mental health problems is instantly recognisable by signifiers like "permanently crying", "talking to The Voices", or "frothing at the mouth". (Ugh, that hilarious conversational trope "The Voices", there's a whole other blog post.) You disregard the possibility of recovery, or going through the motions of an outwardly Normal Life while struggling with depression or psychosis or anxiety or plain old wanting to die. You assume that mental illness is another country, whose inhabitants never visit yours, and who never return once they've crossed the border.

Yeah, well, we walk among you. We're sitting next to you in meetings pondering the unbearable idea of surviving for the next sixty years until we can die without upsetting anyone too much. We're behind you on the W5, fighting back a lurch of nausea as the bus goes over Archway Bridge. We hear you describing the experience of trying to set up a direct debit with British Gas as "so bad I felt like killing myself!"

And what we hear is that you don't hear us. You don't see us. You don't think we matter for the simple reason that you have the unbelievable luxury of not having to remember we exist.

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