The suicide attempt I didn’t tell anyone about

As part of WA Mental Health week, I’ve plucked up the courage to share my personal story. If reading it triggers anything in you, please reach out and talk to someone. Contact numbers are at the end of the article.

A life not worth living

When I was 15, I tried to take my own life.

I stuffed a whole bunch of Valium, that I’d stolen from my Dad’s bedside drawer, into my gob and swallowed them all. I’d already written a note to say how sorry I was for everything and I went to bed.

Without realising it, it seemed a childhood punctuated with parental mental health issues, threats of suicide, angry outbursts, fighting, arguing, divorce, emotional and physical neglect, abandonment, fear and feelings of complete unworthiness, had taken their toll.  

The sad thing is, I thought everyone’s family was like mine and I was just weak and should harden up. My lived experience of an unhappy childhood was normal to me. I didn’t know otherwise.

Issues? What issues?

When I casually mentioned to a work colleague, that when I was 14, I was left alone to fend for myself 23 out of 24 hours of the day, he was surprised that I didn’t have abandonment issues. I’d never heard of the term.

Thankfully on that night back when I was 15, I’d only taken enough Valium to sedate a small kitten, so I woke up a little more bleary eyed than normal.

So what did I do next? Did I reach out for help? Did I talk to anyone about how I was feeling?

No. I screwed up the note and went to school as normal, feeling ashamed and embarrassed. How could I even possibly think about drawing so much attention to myself? I wasn’t important.

Fast forward to today and those feelings of unworthiness walk beside me every day. 

Acknowledging Childhood Trauma

I recently took the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) test developed by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US to measure levels of Childhood trauma.

Only 12.5% of participants scored 4 or higher, I got 5 out of 10.

For someone who was so unaware of how his childhood situation was affecting his life, I was off the scale.  

Daydreaming to escape

I know I disappeared into the safe world of my imagination to escape a stressful childhood, but I didn’t realise it had a name, dissociative amnesia.

“Most mental health professionals believe that the underlying cause of dissociative disorders is chronic trauma in childhood. Examples of trauma included repeated physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. Unpredictable or frightening family environments may also cause the child to ‘disconnect’ from reality during times of stress.”

– Better Health Victoria (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders)

I now understand why I spent so much time in my dream world and thus have a very patchy memory of childhood. I’m a Pisces as well so daydreaming came naturally.

Childhood trauma gets stuck into your bones, into your very being, however because of my dissociation, I didn’t know how deep it had gone.

Whenever a painful memory popped up, I instantly pushed it back down again. I pushed everything down, clear out of sight and carried on with life. I never spoke about my past with anyone apart from my husband. It wasn’t important. I wasn’t important.

A life worth living

But when I unexpectedly found myself at the age of 44 writing children’s books with a central theme of going back to tell my younger self that he was unconditionally loved, I knew I could no longer ignore the hurt little boy who I’d left behind all those years ago.  

So now with the help of a good therapist, I’m bringing him home and there’s one message that he needs to hear.

So I made sure the last page of my new kid’s book, Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures, included something that would have made all the difference to my younger self.

“You are important to the world”

And I hope it makes a difference other kids too.

You are important to the world.

I also think it’s a message my parents needed to hear as they had pretty stuffed up childhoods too.

You are important to the world.

I know I’m not the only adult who had hidden their suicide attempt, so this is for you too.

You are important to the world.

And for you, reading this…

You are important to the world.

If you, or anyone you know, needs support, please call a helpline such as Lifeline 13 11 14; beyondblue 1300 224 636; Mental Health Emergency Response Line 1300 555 788 (Metro) or 1800 676 822 (Peel); Rurallink 1800 552 002; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; The Samaritans Crisis Line 08 9381 5555.

Take the ACE test yourself. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

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