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My Story as a Survivor - By Emily - Trigger Warning

I attempted suicide for the first time a few weeks after my 16th birthday. It was a Saturday. Parts of the week leading up to it are still very clear in my mind, though other parts are blurred and some things I don’t remember at all.

I remember that I made up my mind on the Wednesday. I don’t remember a definitive moment. I remember that I went to school each day like normal. I remember that I didn’t bother writing down homework or tasks set because I thought I wouldn’t be there when it came to handing it in. I remember going out for dinner with my best friend on the Friday evening, knowing what I was going to do the next day. I’ve discussed it with her since, and she says looking back it was obvious because of things that I said but she didn’t realise at the time.

On the Saturday evening I attempted for the first time.

I had always been a perfectionist as a child. I was terrified of not getting 100% in school. Of my teachers being upset with me. I had grown up feeling left out, alone, and confused – now I know this was my autism, which wasn’t diagnosed until I was nearly 17. At primary school I was bullied. I didn’t understand the way the girls in my class acted. I didn’t understand why they didn’t seem to like me. I didn’t understand why I didn’t fit in. At secondary school within the first week I formed a small group of close friends who I am still best friends with now, and will always be, and I’m so grateful for them. However, the years spent feeling left out and unwanted didn’t go, and neither did my struggle to communicate in certain situations and know how to act socially. I did a good job of ‘masking’ my autism, something many girls with autism do, meaning they aren’t diagnosed until later on, and so my struggles went unrecognised.

My anxiety got worse in year 9, when my panic attacks began on a school trip. I then had multiple panic attacks a day for months. I became increasingly terrified of being out of the house, especially in busy and loud places. My anxiety disorder stemmed from this worry of having a panic attack in public, made worse by comments others were making at school, of ‘wanting attention’ and ‘faking it’, to my friends, and also to me on an anonymous social media site. I began to hate being looked at by others, whether I was panicking or not. More than ever I not only wanted to fit in, I wanted to blend in, or hide, or disappear.

My anxiety from here just got worse and worse. Anxiety over if I was going to get ill and die. If my mum was going to be in a car crash. If my sister was going to be kidnapped. I began spending hours on end writing in a book details of every disease and illness I could find online – symptoms, statistics of death, precautions, treatments, etc. If I didn’t like the way a page looked, i.e. if it was ‘wrong’, I’d rip it out and do it again, and again, and again, like I did with my homework. I’d be awake until the early hours of the morning trying to rewrite it ‘neatly’. My thoughts about germs spiralled. I washed my hands hundreds of times in a day; they bled constantly. At school I’d sit with them in my pockets, covered in tissues, and struggled to write without blood going on my paper. I’d shower as many times as I could without my parents questioning it. A voice in my head began telling me that if I did certain things, my parents would be safe, no-one would get ill, and so I began tapping my books on my bookshelf each 10 times, and my light switch 100 times before I went to bed, along with other rituals.

This only got better when I began not to care if I got ill, because the thought of death suddenly wasn’t terrifying, but was becoming more appealing each day. I began to not have the energy to do all the rituals and routines. Depression took over.

When I started sixth form I was on a high. I decided I wasn’t going to be anxious anymore. I was going to push everything to the back of my mind and start over. This positive mindset lasted for about a week and a half. Then on the Wednesday I left a lesson and had a panic attack, and I realised I not only couldn’t deal with it anymore, but that I didn’t want to even try anymore. I was done. I didn’t want to reach out for help because it hadn’t worked before.

No-one really noticed. I’d only been in sixth form a week and a half, so my teachers didn’t know me. My friends were preoccupied with everything being new, and new people to make friends with. They probably thought my mood was to do with the change, as I find change difficult. My parents knew I was down but didn’t realise how bad it was.

The only way I can really describe myself in that week is that I was like a zombie. I didn’t cry, even though I’d never felt pain like it before. I don’t know how I got up each morning, but it was like a force forced me to take each step, to do each task in the day, to make it to the end. I felt low, a hollow, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had no energy. I felt deflated, defeated, and undeserving. I guess it was these feelings combined which led to what happened.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. Sometimes I wish it had. Sometimes I’m glad it didn’t. It wasn’t the only attempt over the last year and a half – I’ve lost count of how many there’s been. The sadness and lowness return every so often, and each time I think I won’t make it through. But I’ve survived each time, and now my last attempt was in January. I’ve fought the urges and the thoughts so often, I’ve not let my OCD, Depression, Anxiety or BPD beat me, and I’ve started to embrace my autism.

I’ve put hundreds of hours of work into therapy, spent months on end locked in psychiatric wards and spent hours practising my coping skills which have been drilled into my head. The quote that says ‘I haven’t come this far only to come this far’ stands true. I’ve survived. Not only have I survived, but sometimes, sometimes I thrive on my fascination at the world, and my passion and determination, which I am harnessing to begin my course as a Mental Health Nurse in September. My survival is something which I owe multitudes of to nurses who have been there for me when I was most sick and my parents couldn’t look after me anymore, who helped build up my hope in living, and who have just generally been a friend to me when I had no-one else. I want to help others the way they helped me, because I believe everyone deserves a second chance at life after an attempt, and a third, and a fourth, and so on, because everyone’s lives are valuable, and everyone is special and needed in this world. To end on another quote:

“The storm doesn’t last forever. It can scare you; it can shake you to your core. But it never lasts. The rain subsides, the thunder dies, and the winds calm to a soft whisper. And that moment after the storm clouds pass, when all is silent and still, you find peace. Quiet, gentle peace.” – SL Jennings

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