EMILY GILL: WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY

I remember swallowing all those pills down with a big glass of milk and then wrapping myself in my favourite blanket on the couch with hopes I would never wake up. The next thing I remember is an out of body experience I will never be able to explain. I could hear my Dad crying saying that he loved me while he was on the phone calling 911. I could hear sirens coming in the background and eventually feel the first responders taking my vitals. However, I remember feeling like I couldn’t talk or move. I don’t remember much after that until a few hours later when I was being forced liquid charcoal down my throat. My teeth felt like they were wearing sweaters and my whole mouth was pitch black. 

These memories although foggy will be with me for the rest of my life. There were many factors that led me up to the moment I decided I should take my own life. I was never really scared of dying, I was scared of having to live in constant fear and pain. Unless you have been in the position I was, you truly have no right to judge and if you are judging I ask you politely to stop reading this here. People don’t understand how stressful it is trying to explain whats going on in your head when you don't even understand it yourself. When you are first admitted into a psych ward you go through extensive interviews and tests. I remember talking to multiple doctors over and over again until they could come up with a diagnosis for me. I know some doctors, nurses and social workers only saw an incredibly privileged young girl wearing name brand clothes, who looked like a golden child, with extremely loving parents in the waiting room. I don’t think it was until I started begging one doctor to admit me into a psych ward that they realized how serious I was about not wanting to live. Most teenage girls want to be partying with their friends instead of being in a hospital. However, I knew that if they discharged me it wouldn’t be that much longer until I would be right back in front of them or even worse not alive. I told them my story, that I felt crazy, I felt disgusting and that I was unworthy of living. Shortly after I was being stripped of any sharp objects on me, my cell phone, the laces on my shoes and was admitted into a psych ward. 

This psych ward became my home, it was my safe space for a very long time. On my first “accompanied pass” a dear friend of mine took me to get some fresh air. I wore my slippers and pjs walking around downtown Toronto for about 15 minutes before I had a panic attack and had to go back to my new “home”. I spent the rest of the night talking to one of my nurses about how I was determined that everyone was looking right through me, like they knew what had happened to me. This is where my love for long showers started. Although, I shared a room and shower with four other patients I would spend a long time trying to wash off the disgusting feeling over and over again that I felt for years. This disgusting feeling about myself stayed for awhile even after being discharged from the hospital. For two summers, I was too scared to go out in my own city because I wasn’t known as the popular, outgoing and smart girl anymore, I was now known as the crazy girl who tried to kill herself for attention. Looking back now, what astonishes me is that all the people who were judging me didn’t know the truth to why I decided to take my own life. I guess that is the worse part of the stigma because if you were to make a Facebook status about having diabetes, or any other physical illness, you would have friends making support groups, receiving hundreds of likes and being called a champion for bravely fighting your illness. However, if you make a status about having a mental illness you are called psycho, a coward, selfish, you lose friends and you sure in heck aren’t called a champion. 

As I said before that psych ward became my safe place, my floor mates became my family and my medical team became my heroes. Some conversations I had while sitting around the colouring table with other patients are ones I will cherish in my heart forever. I had never been able to be raw with people who truly understood what it was like to feel what I was feeling. Those conversations are what I keep close to my heart on days where I feel hurt by people’s lack of understanding for mental health. When I went back this fall to visit after a few years, that warm fuzzy feeling I once had about the psych ward was gone. This is the moment that I was reminded that even though I may still have scars, I courageously survived. It took me three hospitalizations, extensive therapy and a lot of support for many years to finally accept the truth that I am not crazy, disgusting or unlovable. 

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15 to 25 year olds in North America. Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide and 25 people will have attempted and failed. I recently heard a statistic that made me realize that much more how lucky I am to be alive. Out of those who survive their attempts just over 90% are left living with severe repercussions. These repercussions could be anything from being paralyzed from the neck down from failing to fully hang themselves, hooked to dialysis for their kidneys, or even their face appearance altered from a bullet. This was another shocking reminder of how lucky I am to be able to share my story today because I have no permanent damage done to my brain, liver, kidneys or the rest of my body. I know what I have been through and after much healing I have accepted it. I also know now that I have people willing to stand beside me no matter what happened in the past, a diagnosis, or what today’s society makes people believe about someone with a mental illness. 

I am proud to say I am a suicide survivor.