On this day, World Suicide Prevention Day, I reflect back with great difficulty at a time when I too had the inability to distinct between giving up and asking for help, a time when I believed I was alone and that no one will understand, a time when anorexia had convinced me that there is no other way but her way; be killed by her or have my blood on my hands.
The morning of April 1st 1998 I woke up with a plan: tell mum that I do not need to attend school as it was the last day of term and as a senior students it was not mandatory, pretend to eat breakfast, wait for her to leave for work, slouch on the couch and watch tv all day long, but most importantly, NOT TO EAT! I had become a master of hiding, pretending, lying and manipulating as I already managed to fast for 4 months prior to this day without my parents knowledge. I would not eat between 6am and 6pm during the week, only have a small plate of food at dinner time and over weekends I would binge eat. The guilt I felt for binge eating led to self-punishment and fasting, and the guilt for not eating and deceiving my parents led to the binge eating, it was a vicious cycle that I had lost control over.
The day started as planned, mum accepted my excuse for not going to school, telling me she will stop by early afternoon to check up on me. I pretended to eat a small and healthy breakfast but as soon as she left I binned it. I made myself comfortable on the couch and did a bit of channel surfing. Not long after I remembered dad’s whisky stash and thought now is the perfect time to have a drink as there are no adults around, I’m not out in the public and seeing as I am not of drinking age yet, I can have a drink at home on my own. I have had sneaky sips of dad’s whisky before, but didn’t know anything about single or double shots, and I poured myself a generous helping. I drank it with ease and seeing as I didn’t have breakfast my head felt fuzzy and I felt courageous. I made myself a sandwich filled with peanut butter and crisps, and also helped myself to the leftovers from the previous night. I had another drink, a stronger mix this time, a second sandwich and a plate of chicken. By lunch time I had consumed a lot of alcohol, and had eaten more than I could stomach. I had this sense of utter disappointment, and a voice telling me “You are worthless. You can’t control what you eat. That is why you need me. You can’t life without me. Just look at you, you are ugly, fat and you don’t deserve to eat”. In that moment I had what you would call a blank. It is difficult to explain what that blank feels like, and perhaps it is easiest to describe it as nothingness. You feel nothing, you think about nothing, you become nothing. I didn’t want to feel anymore. I didn’t want to wake up tomorrow knowing that I can’t change how I feel and what I think. I wanted out. The next hour in this blank space seems unreal. I only remember snippets. I know that I went to my parents’ bathroom where I found my dad’s blood pressure medicine and my mum’s kidney medicine. I also found a box of Panadols. I can’t remember how much I drank or how long it took to drink the pills. I do remember sitting up against the bathroom cabinet and crying uncontrollably. I crawled to my dad’s bedside table and found a pen. I wanted to shout for help, I wanted to call my parents and tell them how desperately I need them. I remember feeling a sharp pain on my wrist as I was trying to scratch out the words HELP and GOD on my lower arm. My cry for help was silent yet visible. The alcohol and pills had now taken its full effect and I was losing consciousness. I felt my body shivering, my face was ice cold, and I fell over into a foetal position and that is how and where my mum found me. Mum tried to wake me up, and I do recall my name being called. Mum is little, petite even, and couldn’t lift me up or carry me. She ran off to phone my dad, and I can only think that the wait for him to get home from work must have been the longest and most agonising wait. I do remember being in my dad’s arms as he was rushing me to the car…to the hospital…through the hospital doors.
I don’t know what was discussed, which questions were asked or what instructions were given. I don’t know how long I was in the ER, when I was rushed to ICU or when the tubes and IV drips were inserted. I don’t know how long I was unconscious for or when the nurses started to force liquids orally in order to pump my stomach, rid me off the poison that was slowly killing me. Once I realised what was happening to me, I was already crouched over with my head in a bucket, vomiting all contents from my stomach. I was weak, tired and felt sick to my core. I knew what I had done, but was numb to any feelings. The curtains were drawn around my bed and I was isolated. The night dragged on and my short sleeping spurts were rudely interrupted by vomiting spasms. During the night I wished I had perished on my parents bathroom floor then I wouldn’t have to experience this discomfort, the concerning looks from the nurses, the internal voice telling me what a failure I am, and the knowing that I had to face my parents in the morning.
I didn’t realise that I was already in the midst of anorexia and that my first suicide attempt was just the start of my restless battle with mental illness. I didn’t understand the word depression until that day: the despair, darkness and desperation. I didn’t understand the label “she’s an anorexic” until the doctor diagnosed me on the day I was discharged from ICU. I didn’t know that I would stare death in the face twice before reaching a turning point and head towards recovery.
*fast forward 17 years* and here I am. Life sure has been a whirlwind of uncertainty but I’m still here. If you are reading this and have a blank space filled with nothingness, I need to tell you that right now, at this very moment, I am thinking of you. I need to tell you that life is so much more that the struggles you are facing; there is hope, kindness, forgiveness and love.