TRIGGER WARNING: Suicidal thoughts and mental ill health
I dropped off a spare microwave to a ‘vulnerable’ person last weekend, their flat was outside a school I attended during a difficult time in my life and it triggered a wave of feelings and emotional flashbacks. I was already very suicidal, I thought I couldn’t cope with being triggered on top of the current situation, I thought I was going to go mad.
Two days later trying to sit in the garden triggered another wave of flashbacks. I wanted to tell you, but I knew talking about it would bring up more feelings I can’t cope with whilst my family are around 24/7.
Every time something happens now I tell myself to just swallow the pain, numb myself even more emotionally and physically, blank it out. If you can, imagine suicidal-ness and distress as a scale, I’m hitting that point where I walk to the nearest bridge or main road (and end up temporarily sectioned) daily, yet the fear of contaminating and ultimately killing someone else with coronavirus paralyses me. I numb myself more, try and blank out more of what I’m feeling, until it all gets too much and I hit that point again.
Going for walks usually helps, but the other day I felt so absent and like I had no idea where or who I was, then when I got home I set a date to kill myself. It’s been a while since I had such a definite plan, I didn’t see that coming at all.
When I try to tell you on the phone that I’m getting worse and making plans, I only do it because you have encouraged me so many times that you want to hear it from me. When you tell me there’s ‘nothing else you can do’ and that my family should call emergency services if it gets to that point, I die a bit more inside.
I don’t tell you that I’m petrified, or that I have been since the coronavirus crisis started because I knew my face-to-face appointments with you were the only thing keeping me alive.
I struggled to trust you, was terrified of depending on you, but you reassured me that it was normal to need to talk and feeling dependent was part of the healing process. Therapy has helped a lot but there is still a long way to go.
Continuing psychotherapy doesn’t seem possible in these circumstances. I’ve never found telephone support helpful and talking about things which happened at home from there is just too uncomfortable. Psychotherapy is always held at the same time and place each week for good reasons.
Just as different people learn best by reading, listening or doing, I seem to rely extensively on visual things and surroundings to feel safe: I (accidentally) memorised every outfit, jewellery and hairstyle combination my therapist wore from week one, now I list them back as a test to myself when I need to stop a panic attack and it seems to calm me when other distractions fail. At weekends, as a last resort before dialling 999 or going to A&E, I would sit in the cafe of the hospital site where I have appointments. I knew these weren’t long-term solutions but they were getting me through the worst of the feelings therapy brought up and I was making progress.
I have been throwing myself into supporting the crisis, gathering donations for hospital wards and baking for NHS staff. It all feels like a facade, my usually stable weight is dropping to dangerous levels and I end each day with five more lighter burns to my arm. I honestly don’t know how much longer I can do this.
I worry your blanket ban on face-to-face contact is putting more lives at risk. Surely the risks from appointments done at two-metre distance would be less than that of hospital admission or increasing demand on emergency services? If we make it through this, I fear the long-term repercussions on your patients of feeling silenced, let down and trapped. We know from painful experience that you can only numb yourself and pretend to cope for so long. Often the worst effects won’t show until the crisis is over and you have space to feel and breathe again.
Your services are life-saving, so why aren’t they being considered essential like dialysis or chemotherapy?
A worried service user.
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