Saturday, 9 March 2019

"I HAD BEEN HOSPITALIZED BY PEOPLE THAT WERE SUPPOSED TO LOVE ME" | A GUEST POST BY PETER MCDONNELL


I saw Aimee’s recent post about her experiences with suicide which I found insightful and I’m sure it will help lots of people. It got me thinking that if I could write a similar article about my own experiences then maybe it could help people too. 

It is not really a grey area for me at the moment. I drive my car underneath the bridge I chose to jump from in 2002 many times a week and it doesn’t affect my mood. If people around me are discussing suicide stuff I feel like I have something to add to the conversation but I’m lucky in that it doesn’t trigger anything negative, although driving underneath the bridge is a bit weird to think “Wow. I jumped off that once.” 

I jumped from a 25-foot-high road bridge in 2002 with the intention of killing myself. I broke my back – three lumbar vertebrae, and both wrists, and spent ten weeks in hospital. I had to lay still for eight weeks and after 12 weeks I was completely recovered, though I have an increased chance of arthritis in later life. One of my colleagues I worked with at a mental health training and consultancy company 2007 – 2011 did the same thing and has been unable to move from the neck down ever since. So, I do feel quite lucky. 


In December 2001 I was sectioned at Parklands Mental Hospital after presenting with a serious mental illness, I thought I was the modern day Christ and had powerful telepathic abilities. My diagnosis was ‘Cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature’. I was acting on my delusions. The week before my sectioning I tried to repair a live electrical socket without turning off the electricity, thinking that God would keep me safe. I had a painful shock but was unhurt. The day before my sectioning I travelled to The Ritz Hotel in London (not a short journey) to meet my imaginary friend who I thought existed somewhere on Earth and had been sending me telepathic messages that she was staying there, room 213. I took my roller blades with me to skate from Waterloo Station to the Ritz and actually skated right into The Ritz – there was no one on the door, so I rolled right in, queueing up at reception and confusing the receptionist a bit. The next day I had decided to meet her at the top of The Eiffel Tower and was on the phone buying train tickets to Paris when my parents became aware of the gravity of the situation and later that day I was detained on the mental health ward as I was putting myself in danger and needed urgent treatment. 

I had been hospitalized by people that were supposed to love me. The thing that made it so hard was having no idea what was going on. I didn’t understand anything about it and that it was temporary, I just knew that this was unbearable, and I had no reason to think that it might get better. I was also only 19 years old and was going through all the other difficulties that teenagers have. So, I tried to hang myself on the curtain rail and on the light fitting on the ceiling but failed. After two weeks, I escaped and jumped off a nearby road bridge.  An inexperienced nurse let me off the ward to go to occupational therapy, she wasn’t aware that I was not supposed to be doing that.  I knew the authorities would catch up with me soon so I ran quickly to a 25 foot high bridge and just let myself fall backward.  I blacked out straight away and have no memory of how it felt to land – I never felt any physical pain from it.  I was unconscious for about three days afterwards and woke up in hospital to find I now had three broken lower back bones and two very broken wrists and that I was not allowed to move from the neck down for eight weeks.  I then had a very hard three months.  It was hell and nothing short of it, I was very agitated from medication side effects. Agitation is a well known possible side effect.  I was deeply embarrassed about it, the other people on the ward were all talkative – but what was I going to say?  I had three months of constant flashbacks - blacking out did not spare me that, and I also acquired an incredibly strong vertigo sensation that was unforgivably constant for three months.  Day and night, and it interrupted my sleep massively.  I got two hours a night if I was lucky.  But I did get through it and six months later I was happy again, though my 15-year journey with mental health was just beginning. 

It’s hard to give advice on this subject. I have said to a few people “hug the person a lot. As much as possible. Tell them and make sure they know without a doubt that you love them.” It’s not about making them feel guilty about feeling suicidal and that by ending it they will ruin your lives or inconvenience you. It’s because often, especially as teenagers, we read people’s (family members) behaviour wrong and it might seem that people (your parents) don’t care and that they are being hard on you because they don’t like you, let alone love you. Adults find life tough too which can be mistaken as ‘uncaring’. Sometimes when you are considering suicide and you then think of your family appearing to hate you, it’s easy to think “well, surely if I kill myself – that’ll teach them and that they should have treated me better.” That’s how it happened for me, and I know some people don’t have family at all, but thinking about my lovely nieces and how close they were to never knowing me is emotional and unbearable. 

But it is true for everybody that the things that make a person feel suicidal can and often do change for the better. My mental health has been good for a while now. I’ve had a big turnaround. 

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