Fat Babe Talking: Why Asking For Help With Mental Health Is The Best Thing You Can Do, As Told By Me
Last Wednesday I made the decision to commit suicide. I know, a bit blunt, right? But this wasn’t some split second decision I made in the heat of the moment. This had been building for months, honestly. The homesickness had grown too great. The anxiety had become too unbearable. The feeling of inadequacy had become overwhelming. My mind was a minefield of self loathing and negative thoughts that I didn’t feel powerful enough to navigate anymore. But assuring yourself that you want to do something, and actually following through with it are two different things. But let’s go back to earlier in the day, shall we?
I woke up on Wednesday morning, got dressed, and walked down the hill to see my doctor as I had every two weeks for the last three months. As I took my usual position in the medium sized, black chair that heavily reminded me of every chair I ever sat on during my academic career, the doctor asked me the same question she had been asking me for months: 'How are you feeling?' And I replied as I usually did, 'Yeah, not great. I’ve still been having suicidal thoughts.' Which was true, though I left out that I had graduated past my run of the mill depression and was now in the planning stage of things. She took to her keyboard as she usually did and said that now was probably the appropriate time to change my antidepressants from Citalopram to Fluoxetine. Though new pills weren’t what I wanted, I agreed and left the office with another appointment scheduled for two weeks later, like clockwork.
I walked towards the bus stop outside the doctor’s office and felt my chest heaving. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs to get all the anguish and anger out of my body, but I refrained. I got on the bus and headed towards central London. No particular destination in mind, just wanted to get far away from where I was. As I traveled, I got a text from work regarding an issue I couldn’t take care of at that point in time anyway as it was my day off. It ratcheted up my anxiety levels even more, which I didn’t think was possible. Not long after, I texted to say I wouldn’t be able to attend a work function. I mean how much fun could I be in the middle of a mental breakdown? For hours, I got on and off buses, trying to manage the courage to fling myself in front of one, frankly. Every time I thought I could do it, my family’s faces would flash across my mind. My husband and family had grown increasingly worried as I ignored their phone calls and texts begging me to come home or at the very least speak to them. I heard the desperation and fear in their tone in the voicemails they left me, and I began to feel immense guilt. And it was this guilt that drove me to abandon whatever half thought out plans I had and go home that night.
The next day, I woke up and felt drained. Breakdowns have that effect on you. I took a shower, put my make up and uniform on, and went off to work. I felt quite shaky as I entered my job, like the tiniest thing would tip me over the edge. And lo and behold, I didn’t have to wait that long for that to occur. I tried my hardest to maintain my composure during a less than pleasant interaction, and tried even harder to go back on to the shop floor and act like everything was normal and fine. But during my lunch break I allowed myself to let loose, and it wasn’t pretty. I was fully committed to these horrible thoughts now, and I needed to seek help or there would be no going back. I went back into work and searched for a manager only to be told they were all on break. A coworker took me aside and I let all my tears and words just flow. 'You need to get yourself to your GP or the hospital right now,' she told me. I explained that I couldn’t find any of the managers to let them know I needed to leave. I may have been suicidal, but I still had some sense of rationality. She assured me to not to worry about that. She would talk to my manager and the sales advisor I was working alongside that day and explain things delicately. I just needed to go she said. And so I did.
I stood outside my job, not sure which direction to go, both metaphorically and literally. As I looked around, I saw my assistant manager sitting outside a Starbucks across the street and decided to approach her to explain I was leaving for the day, if nothing else. I sat down with her and couldn’t hold back the flood of tears that were all fighting at the same time to escape from my eyes. Usually, I didn’t mind to tell people that I was dealing with anxiety and depression, but would opt to leave out the word suicidal, but in this case I didn’t. If I was going to be honest, I needed to be all the way honest. Almost comically, I wasn’t sure if suicide was a serious enough issue to constitute calling 999, the UK equivalent of 911, so she sat with me as I dialled 111, the number for urgent medical concerns. They took my details and told me they were referring my call to 999 who would send an ambulance for me. Huh, so I guess this is serious enough, I thought to myself.
My assistant manager waited with me and told me awful punny jokes to boost my mood as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. To her credit, she didn’t make me feel self conscious throughout an ordeal that frankly felt incredibly embarrassing, and just before the medics were ready to take me to the hospital she gave me her cell phone number and told me to keep her updated on my condition.
At the hospital I waited in a room by myself for two hours until my husband was able to arrive from work and support me. It would be another hour and a half before a nurse came to ask me questions about my mental state. Every question on the sheet seem to confuse him almost as though it was his first day on the job, and he was not prepared for things to be this heavy. 'Have you made any plans to kill yourself?' he asked me with the most bewildered look on his face. More or less two hours later, a girl in her mid to late twenties with square black glasses and a septum piercing came in and announced herself as the counsellor who would be helping me this evening. She mentally poked and prodded me, getting the most difficult answers out of me, all the while I thought about how difficult it must be for my husband to hear my replies. I couldn’t imagine being in his position and listening to the person I loved most unearthing all this deeply held pain and feeling helpless in being able to do anything for them. I felt even more guilty for inflicting that pain on him. A few hours later, she came back and said due to me living in a different county than the one that hospital was zoned for, all she could do was write a referral for an in-home crisis team to come visit me daily, and that team would be able to get me situated with a new type of therapy than the one I had experienced before.
At 4pm the next day, I went to the office of the in-home crisis team and let them assess my condition. They decided a daily visit to monitor my moods and medication would be the best course of action. If they felt I posed a great threat to myself again then they had the authority to put me into inpatient therapy.
Sitting here one week later reflecting on everything, I can’t say I feel immensely better. I’ve been visited by counsellors in my home almost daily, but have yet to see the doctor who has the power to put me into the psychodynamic therapy that was recommended to me at the hospital. I’ve been signed off of work for two weeks, but if I don’t get myself situated with further help I’ll need to be signed off for longer thereby putting a financial strain on my husband and I. I’ve still had daily panic attacks, even having one as recently as this afternoon after listening to a seemingly normal voicemail from my boss. The Clonazepam the in-home therapy team gives me helps with those attacks, mainly by just sedating the hell out of me. They don’t really allow me to be functional and calm.
All in all, I am relieved that I sought help rather than the alternative. Different antidepressants and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was never what I needed. At least not entirely. I think I’m on the right track, and even though there’s a long road of recovery ahead of me, there is hope in sight. I’ve preached for a few years now that if you need help, reach out and talk to someone, anyone. I hold true to that sentiment. Even if it’s the last person in the world that you think would care about you. Even if it’s embarrassing. Even if it’s hard, please ask for help and keep going.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call Samaritans on 0800 1111. If you're suffering from any other form of mental health issue and require support, you can head to our Resources page to get connected with an organisation or helpline that suits you.