Sunday, 8 January 2017

Thank You

I need to preface this blog with a trigger warning.  I'm going to talk about suicidal thoughts and severe depression.  If those are subjects liable to upset you, I completely respect your decision to close this page and go and look at something else.  Self-care is hugely important and I don't want to cause anyone any pain.  If you need it, here is a cute puppy to send you on your way:

It hasn't been an easy couple of months for me.  I won't go into the full details as to why, but regular readers will probably have realised by now that my "girls" - my gang of closest friends in the world, my second family, my support network - have all chosen to dissolve our relationship.  And on Friday, it got too much to bear, anymore.  It felt, that day, that I had finally witnessed the cutting of the last thread of hope I'd been clinging to, that this whole stupid situation would somehow, someday be resolved.

I felt like a tiny boat in a harbour, on a stormy night.  My tether had been shredded by the weather and I was drifting out into a rough sea, alone and afraid.  I have never felt so small.  The metaphorical waves that surrounded me were too big for me to cope with.  I was drowning.

When emotional pain is that big, it becomes physical.  You don't just feel sad.  The sadness cloaks you - heavy and smothering - like a coat that is much too big for you.  You can feel it pressing down on you, burying you under its weight.  You cry out, but the feeling crushes you too much for there to be any real relief.  There is lead in your chest.  A hefty, solid mass that seems to swell towards your throat, rendering you unable to breathe.  

I didn't just cry.  I sobbed.  I wept so violently that I swear, I felt like something inside my chest had splintered.  It was as though I had physically felt my own heart break.

There were too many thoughts in my head, all screaming at me in unison.  Questions circling round my mind that I was unable to answer.  Questions I didn't really want the answers, to.

"Are my former best friends all together, now?  Are they talking about me?  Can they really believe I'm such a bad person?  What do I do with the Christmas presents that have been stored for them under my bed for months?!  What do I do with the birthday fund I've been saving?  Why is asking friends to be honest with you such a dreadful request?  Why am I not allowed to be hurt and angry, whilst the person who hurt me originally is protected and allowed to write passive-aggressive crap about me online?!  Why am I the one in the wrong - the one who's supposed to say sorry for being hurt in the first place?  When I stop feeling angry, how do I cope with the pain of their loss?  What do I do without them?  How can I stop thinking about this?  How do I ever let go? What the hell is wrong with me?!"

All the lights in me had gone out.  

And then, all of those thoughts and questions in my mind stopped.  The tears streaming down my face seemed to dry.  The splintering feeling in my chest turned to numbness.  I thought how wonderful it would be if I never had to feel that pain again.

For a brief moment, I wanted to be gone.

I was tired.  Tired of trusting and being hurt.  Tired of trying to explain my feelings to others and to myself.  Tired of blaming myself, purely because everyone else seemed to be.  Just tired.  I wanted to sleep.  But the pain I'd been carrying with me; the blame others had heaped on me (without justification, I still insist) and the loneliness I felt, was weighing so heavily that I wanted to sleep and sleep forever.

I wrote on Twitter: "I wish I was dead."

It may seem random, but this gif basically sums up how I felt in that moment.

I don't know why I wrote it, really.  It's been deleted since.  But I guess in that moment, I just felt so alone, so isolated from my usual support network of friends, that I needed to try to reach out to someone.  For the first few minutes after I sent it, I lay on my bed, my breath coming out in strangled bursts and my heart hammering against my ribcage.  

And then my phone started to beep.

Too often, people assume that those who write cries for help on the Internet are doing it just for attention.  They don't really feel suicidal, or hopeless.  They just want someone to "big them up." 

I'm sure that there are people out there, who write things for attention.  But you know what?  Maybe that's because they need it.  Feeling unloved, or depressed is a very lonely experience.  When someone reaches out to you, it can lighten the weight on your shoulders.  Sharing your problems with someone makes them easier to deal with.

I know that when I wrote that tweet, I wasn't just "looking for attention."  But I also know that it's the "attention" it resulted in, that brought me back to reality and stopped me feeling like my life had lost all hope. 

People cared.  And, after weeks of being painted as the bad guy and going through arguments and frustration, it shocked me that anyone beyond my (amazing, incredibly supportive) family could be even remotely bothered.  

Here were people asking me what was wrong.  People telling me that, even though we don't regularly talk, they noticed me.  They liked me.  They cared.  They were offering me the chance to talk, without any judgement.  They allowed me to simply say what had happened, without me feeling guilty for talking out of turn.  I didn't insult anyone, or rage about the unfairness of it all, but I stated the facts and was listened to, by people who weren't connected to anyone involved and therefore, who had no previous opinions or feelings of friendship that I needed to protect.  And when I'd got stuff off my mind, they were kind and sympathetic.  Their words were like arms, reaching around me and gently nudging me towards a better train of thought.  Their offers of help were like glue, easing my broken pieces back into place.

As I replied to the messages, I felt the cloak around me getting lighter.  I felt the heaviness in my chest starting to reduce in weight.  It made me strong enough to speak to my family about what had happened and, as always, they were incredibly caring and supportive towards me.  I had kept the afternoon's events to myself, thinking I was this terrible person, who deserved the pain I was feeling.  Talking to people online, then to my parents and sister and sister-in-law, then finally to a real-life friend, made me realise that, at least in their eyes, if not in mine, I wasn't.

But more importantly, it made me realise that there was a way forwards.  My dad used to be a Samaritan and he always uses the phrase: "Do you want to die now?  Or do you want to die forever?"  I suddenly realised that I didn't want to die, forever.

All I really wanted was for the pain to stop.  I wanted to stop hurting.  I wanted to feel less alone and scared.  I wanted to be able to think positively of myself again.

I mean, I wasn't quite HERE yet, but I wasn't as bad as I'd felt, before...

I haven't slept well, the last two nights.  I've replayed conversations, imagined scenarios that will never happen and pictured scenarios that probably will happen in my absence.  I've thought about the days out, the birthdays, the weddings I'll miss, because I'm no longer wanted as part of those celebrations.  None of those thoughts have exactly helped me get a restful night's kip.  But what I have done in the last 48 hours or so, is - inspired by those people who reached out to me online - learn to be kind to myself.

I've watched stuff on TV that I know makes me happy.  I've spent time with my parents, who I know love me and support me unconditionally.  I've eaten chocolate.  I've forced myself to be organised and get tonight's video edited and uploaded to my YouTube channel.  I've taken steps - even if they're just baby ones - towards rediscovering me.  The happy Emma I know I am, deep down.  The good friend I know I was and will be again, for whoever wants me in their life.  The person I choose to be.

Because that's the fact of the matter.  In the end, we choose who we want to be in life.  We can't choose all aspects of our personality - I will always be sensitive (verging on oversensitive) and I will always have a feisty side - but we choose how we control those aspects of ourselves and what kind of people we want to be.  I chose to be someone who values honesty and stands up for herself when she feels she it's necessary.  That was my choice and, really, I stand by it, despite what it has led to.  Particularly as I also chose to be the one who tried to end the initial argument and I chose to use the words "I'm sorry," despite not receiving them back.

In time, I will be okay, somehow.  I'll find my "tribe," as a couple of people have put it.  Maybe "my gang" was never meant to be my gang.  There were five of us.  Maybe one of us was always supposed to leave, or be pushed away, so that the others had a better, even number.  And that person, unfortunately, had to be me.

Every friendship we have in life teaches us something and, in time, I will take whatever lessons there are to be learnt from the loss of these people who meant so much to me.  Maybe I will be able to look back at pictures and smile.  Perhaps I'll always wonder what they're up to and whether they're happy, but maybe it won't be so painful to do, in a few months or years' time.  Hopefully, the sting of imagining the four of them having fun together without me will lessen.

For now, it still hurts.  I suspect it will hurt for a very long time.  But I don't want to be gone, anymore.  I want to stick around and see how I come back from this.  Because I've worked my way up from this point before and I know in time, I will bounce back again.

But I wouldn't necessarily be saying any of this, had relative strangers not taken the time out of their day to respond to that tweet.  Just telling me that my life meant something to others - even people I barely knew beyond their social media profiles - had a huge impact on me.  The chance to talk things through to non-judgemental, non-involved ears was exactly what I needed, in order to gain a little clarity.  So, I want to thank those people.  From the bottom of my heart, I want them to know how much they helped and how enormously grateful I am.

And I want to thank my family.  They know how broken up I am over this.  They understand that I need time to grieve and I appreciate their love and support more than they know.

Finally, I want to thank the friends who offered to be there for me.  The ones who suggested nights out, or coffee and cake.  The ones who said they were shocked and sad on my behalf.  Knowing there are people who still want me in their lives is hugely precious.

To anyone going through a hard time, please know that you aren't alone.  There are people who feel just as lost, just as hopeless and just as frightened as you do.  And there are places you can go and people you can speak to, who can help.  Never go through this by yourself.  Don't be afraid to reach out.  You'll be surprised just how much people care.  

Including me.

Samaritans: Free UK phone number: 116-123
National Suicide Prevention: US phoneline: 1-800-273-8255

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