Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Reflections on my suicide attempts

Last week I gave a presentation on my experience of depression to a group of social work students at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford at which one of the students asked me about my suicide attempts.  Her question was about how I was discovered before I came to any serious harm and, as two of my attempts were due to a kind of 'reaching out', were they genuine attempts to kill myself.

The tutor explained to the student that a person isn't exactly acting rationally at times like that as I seemed to be having trouble finding an answer to the question.  I have to say that the tutor was precisely right but I've been considering the matter further and I think I have a reasonable explanation for what happened at the time.

At the time of each attempt on my life, I have genuinely and consciously wanted to end my life.  Nothing would have made me happier than to have not survived each attempt and that ultimate end was the purpose I had planned for myself; not some stupid cry for help but an end to my suffering.

The problem with my personal brand of mental health issue is that I have a rather aggressive and irreconcilable cognitive dissonance (the ability to hold contradictory thoughts at the same time).  This cognitive dissonance manifests itself as a kind of dual personality, not a case of multiple personality disorder, but a definite warring personality.

My assumption is that, whilst the conscious and self-destructive side of my personality wanted to die, the subconscious and life-affirming part of my personality was causing me to act in a way contrary to my conscious wishes.  Basically, my subconscious 'Eros' was subtly trying to subvert my conscious 'Thanatos'.  I had no control over my actions during this period of irrationality.

My conscious mind was so set on the act of taking the overdose that it missed the stupid actions my unconscious mind was taking to prevent my death.  My unconscious mind made me make the ill-considered telephone call to my old therapist, wanting to apologise for wasting two years of her time during the group therapy sessions we had together.  That's not to say that my conscious mind didn't feel apologetic but that it simply didn't care to voice that apology.

The second attempt was an overdose at home on the day my wife told me she wanted a separation.  I went into the spare bedroom and took an overdose, a month's worth of the two anti-depressants I was on at the time.  It was an error to stay in that room because, even though my wife had no reason to come into the room and she was not really in the mood to be around me, there was the possibility of her discovering me before the drugs could do any damage.  I can only assume that the decision to stay in the apartment was down to irrationality and my subconscious 'Eros' doing its level best to keep me alive.  I don't know if the overdose I took would have killed me or not although that was the intent but my survival, if death was indeed the consequence of the action, was due to the ill-timed telephone call for me that brought my wife to the room to get me.

My last attempt so far, an attempted hanging, was foiled by no such subconscious actions or errors but by an unknown hand.  I was blacking out when a brilliant flash appeared before my closed eyes and I was, to all intents and purposes, thrown back by the light, loosening the belt around my neck and bringing me back to consciousness.  What saved me could have been as simple as a muscular jerk accompanied by the sensations of a brain becoming oxygen-deprived but I really don't know.  One of the students asked if, perhaps, my failure to successfully commit suicide was a sign that I was meant for something better.  My answer now is the same as the one I gave last week which is that I don't believe in God but I could be wrong about that and it could be that some higher power saved my life by throwing me back.  I do not know what happened that day.  I only wish I had an answer for that.


  1. I read this and considered the suicide attempts of my daughters (2 of my three suffer from depression) and my own feelings. I have never consciously wanted to die but I have wanted it all to stop and the last time I was very stressed and depressed I considered walking out into motorway traffic quite coolly (it was in September 2011). What I have to watch for is a kind of detached feeling I get if depression takes hold which clearly thinks of escape.

  2. I lost my sister to suicide. My heart goes out to you. There are people who love and need you. Please don't leave us.

  3. Very valid points, very little is thought of those who will be left behind. problem is when you are in that state of mind you just want to exit.
    I have up and down days and today has been both. fighting not to catch the bus.