There had been months of ongoing stress, then grief and then anguish. When I wanted to talk, I was told, “Don’t go there, it will just upset you”, “Come away from that place”.
Eventually, my mind was too full, in absolute turmoil. It was like very loud, unrelenting noise, noise that wouldn’t let me think clearly. Nobody could shout over it, nothing made sense and all the time the grief – that huge chasm that cannot be closed.
I continued to live on ‘automatic pilot’, going about my everyday life, but nothing touched me. I was in the world, but not part of it. Eventually I got to the stage where I couldn’t continue and decided to end the pain. It wasn’t a sudden, compulsive decision. I considered the various options and chose one. Once the decision was made, I felt an instant calm.
One of the women I worked with had been trained in picking up various signs of stress and recognised the change. She alerted my husband who picked me up from work and drove me to my doctor. My doctor asked me outright if I felt suicidal, if I had any plans to act on it. I told her I did and she asked me if I would agree not to do anything for two weeks. Oddly enough, I was agreeable, because you see, having made the decision and the arrangements, it didn’t matter when it was going to happen, I was going to be free.
My husband was furious. I remember him yelling at me for being selfish, what about him, our children, our grandchildren. It didn’t matter, because the words couldn’t touch me and the feelings didn’t exist. I was numb. That was all outside, in the world I was no longer a part of. His words mingled with all the other noises in my head and all I knew was that soon they would all stop.
The doctor had given me some tablets, they made me sleepy and somewhere in my sleep there was a quiet place. I was upset to wake and find the noise still there, so I slept some more and somewhere over the weeks that followed the waking noise got less. I began to see the people I loved, hear their voices, enjoy their presence. It still took me a year or two to get over the grief but I could deal with it.
I can only talk from my experience. Talking to me, asking if I was okay, would not have worked when I got to that final stage. The words would not have broken through.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to allow people to talk — just talk, so they don’t get to that critical stage. It reminds me of a piece I read years ago.
When I ask you to listen to me, and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I have asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me (strange as that may seem).
LISTEN – all I asked was that you listen – not talk or do, just hear me, I can ‘do’ for myself.
I am not helpless … maybe discouraged and faltering – but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and weakness.
When you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get down to the business of understanding what is behind the irrational feeling, and when that is clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense, when we understand what’s behind them. So please listen and just hear me and if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I will listen to you.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis or suicide prevention support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp, or call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.