End of a Degree. (*Trigger Warning)
I've finished my exams now. Degree over. I don't know what I've got yet, but I did some maths and in all likelihood I've got a high 2:1. Not bad I guess when you factor in chronic depression.
I've begun to have quite loud suicidal thoughts. Obviously, I wouldn't be writing about this if said thoughts weren't under control; this is not a cry for help, a request for sympathy or a public suicide warning. I'm simply choosing to talk about something that I don't think people talk about often enough.
It's odd, but I've assumed for a long long time that at the end of my degree I would commit suicide. I don't know why it made sense in my head to wait until my degree was over, but it seemed reasonable to me that getting my BA was the last milestone before death. I think about suicide on a fairly regular basis - even on my best weeks, I'll think about my body hanging from a window or tree a couple of times. But now my degree's over, it's really struck me that all I actually "planned" to do after my degree was to die. And that thought is making things difficult.
I haven't looked in to careers. I've not done any internships or placements. I haven't (despite telling people I have) looked in to joining any postgraduate programmes. And it's not because I'm lazy, it's not because I think I can fall back on Mummy and Daddy and get them to pay my way, it's not because I'm angsty and confused about my next steps. It's because the "plan" was to graduate and commit suicide – I would never have a job, a career or any further education to worry about because I wouldn't be around.
I've noticed over the past few days that these thoughts have made me act strangely. I saw a very dear friend of mine, and I concentrated quite deliberately on having conversations about how her life was sorted out – as if I was checking that my suicide couldn't set her back because she'd be too busy with plans. I've realised that lately I have the urge to pick fights with my current partner, in a vague hope that one of them will blow up and we'll break up (annoyingly, these end up being disagreements at best...). I've also been calling home more often, and I think maybe it's because I want to remind myself that my suicide would really hurt my family.
Well, why should it be? You'd tell someone if you had gastrointestinal flu or if you'd had a seizure recently or if you were going to the doctor about passing out etc. so why shouldn't people like me be able talk about the worst parts of our illnesses?
My Mum asks me a lot what it is that people can do to help. And I tell her the same thing all the time: I have to help myself. And sadly that's true – my friends could hold a "John we love you, please don't kill yourself" party tonight and all I'd hear would be a voice saying:
"Ignore all of this. It's meaningless. Kill yourself."
And maybe for some people it's different, and maybe there are things that could be done which I haven't discovered yet. But I think what means the most to me is knowing that certain people are there, and that they'll listen to me. It's only a select few people, and frankly only two of them aren't related to me by blood: but that's all I need. I think that's why Nightline and Samaritans are such bittersweet services: they obviously provide an invaluable service, but it's sad that people feel so isolated that they can't speak to someone they know, or rather that the people they know haven't made an effort to be supportive and let them know that they're willing to listen. (I'm not having a go at Nightline or anyone who's ever used crisis services of any kind: I'm simply saying that I think it's sad that sometimes people use those services because they feel that they have no alternatives and that no one they know would listen to them.)
I think this is an especially big problem amongst students. Everyone's either so self-centred, or so busy, or so much more interested in hedonism that the mentally ill get overlooked. The ill get overlooked in general for that matter. On the whole, talking to another student about mental health issues is like letting off a stinkbomb - even the most conscientious, kind person would rather be going out to a club than listening to you talk to them about troubling thoughts.
I don't think the voices will win – if I did, I definitely wouldn't be talking about it. But it's difficult to take those next steps when you'd planned for reaching the end of the road. It reminds me of a Wallace and Gromit cartoon I watched when I was little: Gromit is on a fast moving toy train and he sees that it's running out of track. Because it's a cartoon, in a lightning flash he picks up a boy of toy train track pieces and lays them rapidly in front of the train he's travelling on, preventing a crash.
In some ways, it feels like I'm doing that now. I'm trying not to crash. I'm trying to survive and to make new plans. I guess inevitably some people will get angry at me for posting this, crying out:
The two things I cling to, and that are getting me through each day at the moment, are love and hope. Yes, it's a cliche. I'm also painfully aware that in some ways it's no better than my suicidal thoughts – love and hope are just as crazy and illogical as depression when you analyse it all. But love and hope should be constructive, and surely to be constructive is better than to be destructive? And on that note, to you brave few who read past the warning at the beginning, I think I've talked enough. I'll get back to fighting those voices!