Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Me Too

TW Rape, Sexual assault, victim blaming, mental health, self harm, alcoholism

I need to talk about rape and sexual assault. There never seems a “right moment” to post this but what with everything in the media right now, I figured now is the time.

For three years this has been eating me up inside. It has impacted my mental health and my physical health. I have developed a drinking problem since this happened and frankly, either I do this now or I’m going to be found dead in a gutter somewhere.

It is important to me to share my story. Women all over the world suffer in silence because the are too afraid that their perpetrators will retaliate. In some countries, some rape survivors are punished for having been subjected to such a horrific ordeal and let me tell you, surviving rape is horrific!
The last time I was raped was in 2014. The perpetrator wasn’t a stranger in some dark alley. He didn't force me. He didn’t attack me. Quite the opposite in fact. He was a trusted friend of many years who took advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable.

Before the incident, I had had a particularly rough year. I had to move house, I had split with my partner, I lost my job and I had to leave uni. My mental health was not good. I had been rather looking forward to my 30th birthday. It was supposed to be one of those milestones you know? I had been planning my party for a long time. It was going to be a stupidly over the top ridiculous princess party. I had never been a princess, the idea of it repulsed me. However, I wanted to try it. Just once. I had invited more than 45 people to my party and was receiving plenty of “yes” responses. I was excited! I’ve never been particularly keen on birthdays and I thought this could change how I felt about them. It did. Just not in the way I had hoped!

By the time my birthday came, I’d had lots of “I’m sorry but…” messages. People couldn’t make my party. There were reasons/excuses. I was sad. After everything I had been through, my party was more than just a birthday celebration. It was a celebration of surviving. A celebration of riding out one of the darkest storms I had ever encountered.

Regardless of being let down by so many people, I decided to go ahead with my party anyway. After all, I had paid for it!
I had spent the day of my party getting stuff sorted. I tried to hide how shitty I felt by drinking. I couldn’t tell you the exact amount of alcohol I had consumed but it was a lot. Even by my own standards! By the time I left my mums to get to the venue I was extremely drunk. I don’t remember much of what happened. I know that only 4 of my friends, my mum, my aunty, their friend, my sister and her friend came. That was it. A party I had spent two years and more than £200 on was attended by a total of 9 people. Imagine just for a second how that feels. I have an exceptionally large family. Many of whom were invited. Only 3 family members came. Sure, they had their reasons (excuses) as to why they couldn’t (didn’t want to) come. Clearly it wasn’t as important to them as it was to me. That’s fine, you know? Not everyone has to value things in the same way. So how did I deal with being let down on such a huge scale? I got even more drunk!

I asked some of the people who were in attendance about how drunk I was. Just in case my brain had me exaggerating. Here’s the conversation:

Thanks everyone for agreeing to take part in this chat for me and my sanity. I know that my 30th was a long time ago but if anyone can recall anything from that day/night I would be most grateful. If we could just stick to that day/night and not anything that happened after I would be super grateful. Also, it may help jog memories if you have anything in Facebook for that date (29 Nov 2014). Take your time. Again, thank you.
From what i can remember i know i turned up at the (VENUE NAME REDACTED), was introduced to a few people, was shown upstairs as there was a disco and people dancing, you were heavily flirting with (NAME REDACTED) to the point it was sexual dancing and i think you were kissing him at some point, i know i didn't want to dance and had to say a few times about it, after that i was downstairs talking to (NAME REDACTED) about random things and you kept making a scene about things, you told me that the DJ was a stripper as well and i didn't want to see it, you start complaining that everyone had to see him strip and i know it really annoyed me because i didn't want to see him strip and i had to tell your firmly about it and then you stopped talking about it, later we were on the stairs, i think we kissed and then you were in shock and went up stairs as everyone had gone, you told me not to follow so i didn't and i went back outside, you came down a little later saying that things happened with you and (NAME REDACTED). After you came downstairs you were in a state not to sure if it was to do with (NAME REDACTED) (FURTHER INFORMATION OMITTED AS NOT RELEVANT)
Me and (NAME REDACTED) turned up and you were already extremely drunk and upset about people not turning up. We were hammering the cocktails. You were happy that (NAME REDACTED) had come because you were hoping to rekindle things. There was dancing and yes there was flirting with (NAME REDACTED). You were just Kim drunk, nothing unusual about the way you were behaving, you were trying to have a fun night. At some point I had to give you my bra as your dress ripped, not sure when. I also had to go home in a taxi and get you and (NAME REDACTED) a dress each of mine as yours was so torn up and (NAME REDACTED) had a drink spilt on hers, not sure when in the night this was. (NAME REDACTED) was flirting with you and (NAME REDACTED). We lost (NAME REDACTED) and found her upstairs chatting nerd stuff with (NAME REDACTED). I 'think' we left you and (NAME REDACTED) to clear up some stuff upstairs. You came down a different person. You lost your shit. You were kicking off about everything. You and (NAME REDACTED) did a lot of talking and at some point you were missing and we were all looking for you. Then as (NAME REDACTED) said, he spotted you and let us know where you were. We went on to bar69. My ex turned up and you and (NAME REDACTED) had to sort that situation out. You were drunker than I've ever seen you that night. I've probably missed bits which I will add if they come back to me. This is just what I can remember right now.
I can't remember that much to be honest. I remember us turning up I think we were delayed for some reason and getting straight on the drinks because we wanted to make sure you had a blast. i remember talking to (NAME REDACTED) about doctor who for a bit and you (I think) came up and got me. I remember you guys dancing and I remember (NAME REDACTED) not wanting too which pissed you off a bit but you were ok. There was alot of flirting between you and (NAME REDACTED) but there was alot of flirting with everyone he was flirting with me at one stage during the Doctor Who convo. but it seemed to be flirting without intent if that makes sense? I remember being by the canal and you were really upset and not making alot of sense to me but that was down to me being drunk I think. I remember going to the cross foxes but don't remember being in there. I remember walking around looking for you and (NAME REDACTED) saying he had seen you on his way home. i cant really put things into any order because I was stupidly drunk and my memory is atrocious when sober.
I cant remember much like i said... just remember u bein upset cuz not many ppl turned up which is understandable! And u were extremely drunk... i must of been drunk aswell cuz dont rememeber goin the foxes but rememeber bein in bar69 then walking home on my own... i remember u disappearin for abit with (NAME REDACTED) .. im sure i went into the toilets aswell and noticed the other toilet door bein shut for ages…


One thing is for certain, that night I was very drunk. Beyond my usual drunk. Too drunk and in such a poor state of mind psychologically that I could not possibly have consented to sex or sexual activity.
I messaged him a few days after the fact and again almost two years later in a bid to salvage the friendship. Below is the correspondence:
My first message to him:
I have been over Saturdays events repeatedly in my head. I was horrified to wake up and find blood down my legs and bruises that may or may not be related. I have absolutely no recollection of the events from Saturday during my party. I'd sobered somewhat in the aftermath and I can recall some of what happened when my friends and I went up town. Mostly because I had what I can only describe as a breakdown. What I do know is that I was beyond drunk. That much must have been evident to you. When you said that we'd had sex, initially I was mortified. Then I felt shame and embarrassment and now I'm just angry. Despite the fact that we may have already agreed that we would "probably" have sex, I was so beyond drunk that there is no way I could have consented and with you being completely sober you were the one in control and you fully took advantage. Having spent the last 3/4 days in a complete state of shock, I have now come to accept that this was, without question, rape. I had been blaming myself for what happened because a) I had allowed myself to get that drunk and b) it was almost inevitable that we would have sex as is/was the nature of our friendship. However, it is still not ok and in the eyes of the law, that is still rape. Not only have I been absolutely destroyed by this situation, anything that I may have had with (NAME REDACTED) has been completely obliterated. You knew full well how I felt about him. I am aware that I don't have a "conventional" outlook on relationships but it still does not give you or, indeed, anyone else permission to have sex with me when I have no control of my faculties. I am unsure as to what I want to do right now. I have been repeatedly advised to go to the police but I'm not sure that's the right course of action for either of us. One thing I know for sure is that our friendship is well and truly over. Since this happened, I can no longer trust you. I have no faith that this was just a "one off" and that it would "never happen again". Having been in a domestically abusive relationship, those words mean nothing to me. The thing that bothers me the most is your blasé message to me he morning after. "Oh it's a shame you don't remember"! Does that not ring alarm bells for you? Part of me wants to go to the police as I couldn't live with myself if I'd allowed another man to walk free and rape again but part of me knows that I wouldn't be able to cope owing to what happened in my past and my already fragile mental state. I guess that I just want you to say that you know it was wrong. That you did take advantage and that it was rape and not consensual sex.

His reply:
I am really sorry that you feel this way. I could tell you were drunk, but you didn't seem so drunk that I thought you wouldn't be able to remember. You had been coming on to me from the very start of the evening, which given our history did not ring alarm bells for me. When everyone had gone downstairs and it seemed like no one was coming back you climbed onto me and asked me to have sex with you. So I followed you into the toilets and we did. It was not forced and it certainly was not rape. However, looking at it now, as the sober one between us I should have said no to you, but given our history I thought it was what you wanted. I was obviously completely wrong. So for that I am sorry. I can't begin to understand why you would think I would do anything to hurt you, or anyone else. That isn't who I am. But I can see that this has really upset you, and for that I am truly sorry. I am also sorry to lose you as a friend. Goodbye

My message two years on:
It's been almost two years since we last saw each other and we didn't part ways pleasantly. That was not what I wanted. We have been friends and more for a very long time and I valued every asset of our friendship and honestly, I miss it. The reason for writing now is because the past two years have had such a negative impact on my mental health. I Thought I had reached rock bottom but I wasn't even close. I don't want to hit rock bottom. I can't afford to hit rock bottom. Every other aspect of my life seems to be working out but this one thing is looming over me like a rabid beast and threatening to consume me and everything I have worked so hard to create. The problem was not what happened, it was the way things unfolded afterwards. Your reaction hurt and shocked me. I thought, given the nature of our friendship, you would have wanted to talk things through. Try to figure things out together and make things right. I don't know why things played out the way they did. I imagine my accusation was a shock to you. It was a shock to me too. I sought advise from some very close friends before my original message to you and it took me a very long time to actually see that they were right. I don't for one second think that you're a bad person. I never did. What I want is a chance for the to of us to talk about things. Preferably face to face. It may not change things but I know there is a chance which is why I am doing this. I hope to hear from you.

His reply:
Thank you for your message. Before we start anything, I want one thing cleared up, for my own peace of mind. What happened was not rape. This is not me being dismissive. Believe me it haunted me to think I may have done that, I was shocked by the accusation and needed time to process it. I have looked into it, and I know, for certain, that what happened was not rape. Below is an excerpt from UK law. "The question of capacity to consent is particularly relevant when a complainant is intoxicated by alcohol or affected by drugs. In R v Bree [2007] EWCA 256, the Court of Appeal explored the issue of capacity and consent, stating that, if, through drink, or for any other reason, a complainant had temporarily lost her capacity to choose whether to have sexual intercourse, she was not consenting, and subject to the defendant's state of mind, if intercourse took place, that would be rape. However, where a complainant had voluntarily consumed substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remained capable of choosing whether to have intercourse, and agreed to do so, that would not be rape. Further, they identified that capacity to consent may evaporate well before a complainant becomes unconscious. Whether this is so or not, however, depends on the facts of the case. In cases similar to Bree, prosecutors should carefully consider whether the complainant has the capacity to consent, and ensure that the instructed advocate presents the Crown's case on this basis and, if necessary, reminds the trial judge of the need to assist the jury with the meaning of capacity.
" Being drunk does not preclude you from giving consent. It is only when incapacitated (ie unconscious or incoherent) that consent cannot be given, nor can it be assumed to still be in place even if given before this state occurs. When we had sex you were conscious and coherent the whole time. Consent was given (you basically dragged me into the toilet cubicle). I did not rape you. I would not do that, to you or anyone. That is what hurt me most. I was being attacked and hounded over a serious allegation of something I had not done. I felt closing off was the best course of action. I did not mean to hurt you. I was just protecting myself. I hope you can now see things as I do.

He takes absolutely no responsibility for his actions and made no attempt to fix our friendship. Instead he dumped all of it on my lap and walked away.

Was he right? Was it ok for him to fuck me in the state I was in? The only person who thinks he is right is him. Every other friend/professional/stranger I have discussed this matter with has said he was in the wrong.

According to the law:
The Sexual offences Act 1956 contains no statutory definition of 'consent'. Juries must be told that the word should be given its ordinary meaning, and that there is a difference between 'consent' and 'submission'.
Lack of consent may be demonstrated by:

The complainant's assertion of force or threats;
Evidence that by reason of drink, drugs, sleep, age or mental disability the complainant was unaware of what was occurring and/ or incapable of giving valid consent; or
Evidence that the complainant was deceived as to the identity of the person with whom (s)he had intercourse.
A boy or girl under the age of 16 cannot consent in law, (Archbold 2004, 20-152).

Consent should be carefully considered when deciding not only what offence to charge but also whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. Sometimes consent is given, or appears to be given, but the law does not treat it as effective consent.

Based on the above, I was raped. His rebuttal two years on is taken directly from the CPS website. However, what he fails to add is the final paragraph:

Prosecutors and investigators should consider whether supporting evidence is available to demonstrate that the complainant was so intoxicated that he/she had lost their capacity to consent. For example, evidence from friends, taxi drivers and forensic physicians describing the complainant's intoxicated state may support the prosecution case. In addition, it may be possible to obtain expert evidence in respect of the effects of alcohol/drugs and the effects if they are taken together. Consideration should be given to obtaining an expert's back calculation or the opinion of an expert in human pharmacology in relation to the complainant's level of alcohol/ drugs at the time of the incident.

Based on the summaries provided by other people in attendance that night, I was heavily intoxicated. Surely, any “normal” human being would notice just how intoxicated I was and - being stone cold sober - would refuse to engage in sexual activity with me?

This is what I have been dealing with for the past three years. This is why I’m in the mess that I am in. This is why I can’t go to cabaret shows without feeling his presence there - He was a performer. This is why I have issues with trust right now. This is why I’m always so angry, so frustrated, so depressed. This is why my drinking has spiralled. This is why I am self harming more than ever.

I don’t want sympathy or pity. I don’t want people to tell me that it will be ok. He wasn’t the first person to rape me. You never get over being violated in this way. You just learn to cope. I am hoping that by putting this out in the public sphere, I will be able to move on and start fixing myself.

I also want to challenge the mainstream notion of rape. Rape isn’t always forceful or aggressive. The perpetrator is rarely a stranger. We have this image that has been cultivated by the media. A rapist is a creepy person, staring eyes, physically imposing. This is not always the case.

If you find yourself in this position, just stop and think. If you are completely sober and someone incredibly intoxicated wants to have sex with you, tell them no. If they lash out because you said no, just walk away.
Rape can happen to anyone of any age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion etc.
Don’t become another statistic.

If anyone is affected by my story or is struggling with their own story, please come and talk to me. Drop me a message on Facebook, ask for my number, ask if we can meet. I have all the time in the world for you because I know what it’s like to have to go through this alone. Please don’t think that you have to keep quiet. Please don’t think that I will judge you. I am here for you and I promise I will listen regardless of your age, sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or sexual history.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017 - Mental health in the workplace.

Mental health awareness has been gaining a lot of traction over the past few years. More and more celebrities are coming forward to talk about their own battles helping to fight the stigma. Yet somehow, we still seem a long way off. 

In a survey, conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 86% of people believe they should see a consultant if they have cancer, the numbers of those who believe specialist treatment is needed for mental illnesses are significantly lower. Just 59% of people think that those with an eating disorder should be referred to a specialist, while only 44% of people thought alcoholism might require psychiatric attention. Additionally, 42% of people did not know that a psychiatrist is responsible for diagnoses of bipolar disorder. This proves that we need better education in regards to mental health.

According to statistics; 1 in 6 people in the last week experienced a common mental health problem. 7.8% of people in Britain meet the criteria for the diagnosis of anxiety and depression. Between 4 and 10% of people will experience depression in their lifetime. Mixed anxiety and depression have been estimated to cause one-fifth of days lost from work in the country. One person in fifteen has made a suicide attempt at some point in their life. Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49 in England and Wales. 75% of the suicides in Great Britain in 2016 were male. Those are terrifying figures. 

This year’s theme, if you will, for World Mental Health Day is Mental health in the workplace. Each year, 70 million working days are lost due to poor mental health. Mental Health First Aid provides training for the workplace. There are also plenty of other resources available. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, – More than 65 per cent of employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to speak to their employer about mental health concerns. More than a third of men reported feeling worried or low, but said their close friends and relatives were unaware of their struggle. Half of all people with perinatal mental health problems are not identified or treated, which costs the UK more than £8billion per year. More than half of all UK adults said they would not employ someone with depression even if they were the best candidate for the job. The UK has the forth highest rate of antidepressant prescriptions in Europe, with 50million written every year. Nearly 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men. Almost 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. Better mental health support in workplaces could save £8 billion a year for UK businesses.

I am 32 years of age. Soon to be 33. I have the mindset of a child insofar as I love to explore the world and discover new things. I also have a habit of picking things apart and questioning things. The child within me is absolutely insatiable and perpetually curious. I have a habit of needing to go places I have been expressly forbidden from going and I like to dig through the dirt for treasure. These child-like traits I have described apply both literally and metaphorically. As an adult, I acknowledge that society has certain expectations of me and follow some of them accordingly.

As a human being, I have absolutely no desire to stand out from the crowd yet I am incapable of blending in. I am an artist at my very core and elicit great joy from creating things. I have no preferred medium as such but writing has been a recurring outlet throughout my existence. 

I have an atypical brain as was determined by a number of medical professionals based on some arbitrary definitions that fluctuate in a manner that appears random and inconsistent. Each medical professional has imposed upon me a series of diagnoses based on a superficial assessment controlled entirely by me. Each professional came into contact with me at different parts of my life so therefore observed variations of my outer self according to my situation in the moment. Make of that what you will.

Interestingly, despite the fact that each medical professional had access to slight variations of only a sliver of my being, there were repetitions that eventually became imprinted on my psyche. Based on my own independent research and my unrestricted knowledge of my self, I am inclined to accept these diagnoses as they align with the most problematic areas of my whole self with very few, if any, discrepancies. 

What is it like to live with a mental health issue? This is such a complicated question and the answer will vary from one person to the next. For me it is everything and nothing all at once. It is pure unfettered joy. It is deep, dark emptiness. It is a love so vast it threatens to consume me daily. It is a loneliness so pervasive that even when I'm surrounded by those who love me, I feel alone. 

My mental health issues give me so much drive and desire and passion. It also causes me to shut down mentally, emotionally and even physically. I love deeply, unquestionably, painfully. I also hurt. More than you could ever imagine from a physical perspective. 

I am a contradiction. Incongruous. A tangled web of uncertainty. I don’t know who I’m going to be from one day to the next. I am also predictable. Obvious. I have a well worn routine for the most part.

Every day is a battle against myself. Some days, that battle is for my survival. Other days for my demise.

I have no idea what life without a mental health issue is like. I’ve struggled for as long as I can remember. Some days are better than others and I can go weeks or even months without so much as a blip. However, most recently I have found myself in crisis after crisis. This year alone I have felt suicidal and been close to suicide more times than in my entire life and my addiction issues have skyrocketed. I work in a high-stress job. Unfortunately, owing to outdated rules, I have to keep quiet about my mental health. However, working is what keeps me the most sane, much the same as 86% of people who responded to research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation.

Recently an anonymous individual said that I talk too much about my mental health. That hurt. You wouldn’t tell a cancer survivor to stop talking about cancer. You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop talking about diabetes. So why is it ok to tell someone who suffers mental health issues to stop talking about mental health?

In talking about mental health, I have literally saved lives. Including my own. I have had strangers thank me for the things that I write. I have had friends than me for talking so openly. People are able to read my posts and start talking about their own struggles. Shutting me down is only adding to the stigma and shame I face every day. Most people I know have never seen me have a full breakdown. They have only ever seen the tip of the iceberg. Even my partner of 2 and a half years, who has lived with me for a year, has not seen the dark ugly demons that come out. Again, recently I have lost friends because of my mental health issues. Very few people message me to “check in”and even fewer ask me to hang out outside of my social scene which has contributed to and exacerbated my mental health issues. 

Until people stop flinching, rolling their eyes and looking uncomfortable when I talk about mental health, I will keep talking.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

"You’re such an amazing person!"

I am told on an almost daily basis “Oh you’re such an amazing person!”. This bothers the shit out of me. Like, REALLY makes me super uncomfortable. Weird right? I don't know, maybe. I mean, compliments in general make me feel icky. There seems to be some sort of overhanging social transaction type thing where Person A says something nice and uplifting to Person B and Person B is supposed to return the favour or show gratitude for the nicety. Why? I mean, if you think someone’s hair looks pretty, great. Let them know. They might thank you, they might agree with you, they might ignore you entirely. That’s their choice. Obviously, it’s unpleasant to be ignored when you do good shit but if you NEED to have your goodness acknowledged then guess what? You’re not really that good! 

I do good stuff. I know that. I don’t want applause. It’d be great if the person who received from me could then pass it on to another but I don’t get to dictate what someone else should do. 

Here are some good things I have done in the past and why I did them:

I sent £10 worth of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to my best friend in all the world. Why did I do this? I did this because I love this woman more than any other human being in the entire world and she is one of the very few people I would literally take a bullet for. I did this because she asked and I was able. She showed exceptional gratitude towards me. She posted about it on Facebook because it made her feel so happy. That’s great. I wouldn’t have been bothered had she just taken the order, ate it with a grin on her face and said nothing because that’s not why I did it. I did it because I could. 

I donated a sum of money to a show. Why did I do this? I didn’t exactly have the money going spare as such (no money is really spare for me). I did it because the producer of this show is one of the most passionate people I have ever come across in my entire life. They have faced many adversities in the time I have known them, all of which were undeserved, and they have taken them in their stride. I did it because I have seen this person so utterly broken and bereft by the way society behaves. I did it because I believe in this person so damn much and if I could have given more, I would have.  I did it because I know that the money will go way further than I could even imagine and that pleases me. I did it because I could.

I went to Calais to help sort refugee aid in the warehouse. Why did I do this? I did this because I know what it’s like to have nothing. I know what it’s like to escape from my home with just the clothes on my back. I did it because I have felt the fear in my bones that I might not be alive tomorrow. I have never felt any of those things to the same extent as someone fleeing their war ravaged country but I have felt them. I did it because I could.

I made a box for someone struggling with their mental health. The box contains items designed to help them come to terms with their illness and manage it effectively. Why did I do this? I did this because I know what it is like to fumble through life not knowing what the HECK is happening. I did it because I know how hard it is to understand that all brains function in different ways. I did it because I know how utterly soul destroying it feels to have no one to turn to when it is so dark you cant see your own hand an inch from your face. I did it because seeing this person suffer causes me physical pain. I did it because I could.

I helped out a friend who needed someone to take her little one to school for a week, bring them home and make them dinner. Why did I do this? I did it because she needed someone. I did it because at the time, I had no job, no money and no happiness. I did it because that is what I do for a living. I did it because I could. 

I sat and had a conversation with a homeless man on Christmas Eve. It was cold and miserable. He was sat in the subway with his dog. Why did I do this? I did this because everyone else walked by pretending they didn’t see him. I did this because I could see the desperate need for connection in his eyes. I did it because I could.

I stopped a guy beating the shit out of his girlfriend and took the beating for myself. Why did I do this? I did this because I was her once and no one took my beating. I did this because her screams for help cut me to my soul. I did this because I knew if he punched her one more time he could have easily killed her. I did it because I could. 

I decided not to help an ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend get a rape conviction for a rape he didn’t commit. He raped me but he didn’t rape her. I could have seen him go to prison. I could have had the last laugh but I didn’t. Why did I do this? I did it because that is not how justice works. Having someone falsely imprisoned for a rape they didn’t commit wouldn’t erase the pain and hurt he caused me. People tell me “well he WAS a rapist”. Yes he was but him serving time for a rape he didn’t commit so that he could atone for a rape he did commit is not justice. It was my personal choice to not report the things he did to me. I did it because I could.

I have written this blog for 7 years now. It has been read the world over. I have received hundreds of messages of gratitude. Why do I do this? I do it because it helps me process my own confusing world. I do it because I know that there are more people out there trying to make sense of their own confusing worlds. I do it so that others with similar feelings know that they're not alone. I do it because I can.

Am I a good person? Sure. Sometimes. Am I an amazing person? No, not really. 

Good should be the default setting for people. I do things because I can. There are many other things I could do but they are simply not possible because I don't have the time/money/resources. I don’t consider any of my actions above as amazing. Not even slightly. I did these things because they were the right thing to do. I did these things because I had the time/money/resources to do them. That’s not amazing, that’s just decent.

When people tell me how amazing my actions are, it saddens me. It saddens me because people have such low expectations of one another. It saddens me because people often have the time/money/resources to do things for others, they simply choose not to. It saddens me because I know the person that I am and I know the bad things that I have done. I don't want anything in return for doing things that I am capable of.

If more people did good things because they could, the world would be a much nicer place for us all to live in.

Do good stuff because you can!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

“You look so happy in all of your pictures!”

Which of these pictures makes you think I need help? 

Most people will say the ones where I am crying. You can see my hurt and pain quite clearly. The twisted agony is quite obvious. I’m suicidal in both of these pictures right? Yes. What about the other two pictures? I’m smiling. I look nice. Hair and makeup done. I’m not suicidal in either of these pictures right? Wrong! I am suicidal in all of those pictures. In fact, in most of my pictures I’m feeling suicidal or thinking about suicide. 

I have something called suicidal ideation. I have written about this previously. It is essentially a state of mind where the though of ending my own life is never too far away. That’s just how my brain works. The last psychiatrist I saw told me I was a “high suicide risk”. This did not come as a shock to me. I am well aware of that fact. More recently, thoughts of suicide have been far more intrusive owing to a set of circumstances I am not yet ready to talk about. 

I have attempted suicide. From memory, I have attempted at least 4 times. Each time was different insofar as there were different reasons for my attempt. 

Suicide is not so much about wanting to die, more about not wanting to live. Not wanting to be suffering an indescribable pain. Not wanting to be a burden to those who love you most. 

According to the World Health Organisation, 800,000 people die by suicide every year. Men are more likely to complete suicide and women are more likely to attempt suicide. There are also racial disparities in suicide. American Indians, Alaskan Natives and white men are the highest risk. Asian and Pacific Islanders have the lowest suicide rates for men and African Americans have the lowest rates for women. 

There are often no warning signs that a person is going to complete suicide. As a person who has been suicidal for more of my life than not, I can guarantee that there are not many people who actually know or realise that behind my smile there are continuous thoughts of suicide. 

Suicide is a global issue. We have a responsibility to all our fellow humans to know and understand that suicide does not discriminate. Some of the happiest people you see may be battling dark demons under the surface. 

This World Suicide Prevention Day I want people to know that you can help prevent suicide. If someone wants to talk to you about feeling suicidal, let them talk. I know it is scary, but just listening can make all the difference. I have spoken to friends myself who have talked about ending their own lives and even though I fight the same demons on a daily basis, I still feel out of my depth when trying to help someone else. 

According to statistics, between 50% and 75% of people who attempt suicide talk about their suicidal thoughts beforehand. That still leaves between 25% and 50% of people who show no “warning” signs at all.  

The biggest risk factor for completing suicide is having made a previous attempt. Around 90% of people who complete suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition. Substance abuse and a family history of suicide also increases the risk. Those who have experienced childhood trauma or display impulsive aggression are also more likely to complete suicide.

You can help prevent suicide by engaging in conversation with a person who you may feel is at risk. There are many online resources available with advice on how to broach the conversation. 

Just know that if, after trying to help a person, they still complete suicide, it is not your fault. As noted above, between 25% and 50% of individuals who complete suicide show no warning signs. 

Knowing that someone cares is the biggest help for me. Having someone just drop me a message asking how I am can keep my demons at bay.

Suicide should not be a taboo subject. Even if we are not suicidal ourselves, we should still openly talk about it to help reduce the stigma. We should also avoid creating our own conclusions as to why a person completed suicide. 

When discussing suicide with a person who may be at risk, it is also important to consider how you are feeling.  Are you ready to talk to someone who may well tell you they want to take their own life? Are you prepared? Do you have resources available to support yourself and the individual at risk? Is the timing right? 

You can find a number of blogs that I have written in relation to suicide:

How to save a life - The aftermath of reaching out to a person on the edge. 
World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 - Last year's writeup 
MENtal Health - A blog focusing on male suicide victims
Depression Does Not Discriminate - A blog following the suicide of Robin Williams
Lost in the System - A blog following the death of Kevin Boyle 
Unbearable Pain- A blog following the death of Gary Speed

Resources available:

AFSP - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
CALM The campaign against living miserably