I’m quite nervous about posting this blog – it’s not a blog like my others where I give advice on something concerning mental health, it’s instead a part of my life which, after 4 years to this day, I haven’t really ever confronted. So I’m writing this blog as a means of coming to terms with my past and hoping that in doing so, it will be therapeutic to me in a way. And if at the same time it shows readers that they’re never alone and that there is hope out there for all of us, then that’s an added bonus.
TW: Suicide, eating disorders, addiction
Four years ago today, I was 17 years old and in second year of university, literally only two weeks away from celebrating my 18th birthday. Yet I was suicidal. Four years ago at the time that I’m currently writing this, I decided that I wanted to in fact stay alive, and this day is probably the most pivotal moment in my life so far. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in October 2015 (although I had been struggling with mental health for far longer than that), and on November 4th my depression had gotten so bad that I had seriously thought about ending my life. I couldn’t live with myself anymore, I had lost those close to me through struggling to cope with my mental health by using alcohol, bulimia, drugs and smoking weed as a coping mechanism. I was very rarely sober, I would go partying almost every night to get intoxicated to numb the pain and go home with a stranger to help take away such strong feelings of loneliness – and I eventually became so ashamed of my behaviour that I could no longer live with myself. I was falling behind on uni work, not turning up to classes because I was too depressed or anxious, and I just generally felt like a failure. I had thought about suicide a lot, but didn’t want to act on it until I was certain that there was nothing else out there which would make me want to stay. So I thought of one happy place, and if that place couldn’t save me, then nothing else would.
The night before I went to kill myself, I had written out all of my suicide notes, and my heart was hurting so much. I think a part of me always knew that deep down I wasn’t ready to leave this Earth. One person in particular was really hard to write the suicide note to – my flatmate/best friend who felt like a sister. Her cousin had killed himself after a high school exam, I was in Poland with her when she had seen his gravestone for the first time, and something she said kept echoing in my head: “if you could see your own funeral, you would never kill yourself.” After seeing how heartbroken she was seeing the gravestone of a cousin she hadn’t spoken to much until shortly before his death, how could I do that to her as one of her closest friends?
I had told my family that I was going to Aviemore (my happy place) a few days in advance, just so that if they never heard from me they’d at least know where I was. Things weren’t great between me and my family – my dad was the only one who I seemed to have a good relationship with at that time. He phoned me the night before to chat before I went to bed because we’d talk over the phone at least once a week, but that phone call was the hardest. My dad isn’t the sort of person to say how he feels, to show any sort of emotion or vulnerability, so when after chatting for a few minutes he asked me when I was next home and I said that I didn’t know, he said that he was really missing me, and it was so hard to hide the fact that I was crying so much at that because I didn’t want him to know that I was struggling, and certainly felt guilty about wanting to kill myself after he said that.
The next morning I left my suicide notes on my bed, took one last look at my room then headed straight to McDonalds to get a double sausage and egg McMuffin along with hash browns and loads of other junk food there as I thought that this would be the last chance I’d ever get to eat them. (Wasn’t vegan at this point obviously!) I’d gotten on the train and I instantly felt a deep melancholy when the train went by my student halls and Stirling, as it felt weird that I wouldn’t be seeing it again. The train journey was so magical, and it just felt great to see somewhere new and go someplace by myself, yet it wasn’t enough to make me want to stay.
Aviemore was my happy place because my family and I had spent a week in a campervan around Scotland and it was the last holiday we had together as a family. It was also where I went with some friends and an asshole of an ex the summer prior, and it was only when I got away from my ex (found out that he cheated on me there – a few hours after he was comparing my butt to my friend’s while walking to a lake – who does that?) I then found the lake with my best friend at that time without him and his friend, and I had felt so free and happy even then, so it seemed fitting to go to a place that brought me joy even though I was having a bad time.
When I got to Aviemore I instantly felt a feeling I hadn’t felt in a looong time – happiness! I got the bus to Nethybridge and was the only one on it for the whole 20 minute journey so I was talking to the super friendly bus driver pretending to be a French tourist (fellow language geeks will know what I’m talking about!) and it was starting to become clearer to me that with taking a step back from university and routine, I was starting to find my happiness again. Before I was badly depressed I was such a social butterfly: I was so bubbly and happy-go-lucky, speaking other languages or speaking to people from different cultures always made me feel so high on life. However my depression caused me to retreat into myself – I seldom socialised and had totally lost my passion for languages – so pretending to be French like before and chatting away to the bus driver was the first indication that things were looking up. When I got off the bus the air instantly felt so fresh – it was nothing like the air in Glasgow or Stirling! I then walked by where I had stayed with my friends and through the forest where my ex was throwing sweets at me because I wasn’t reacting to him comparing my friend’s butt with mine – how mature (!) From reliving weird memories like this, I was able to have some well needed alone time with my thoughts, and for the first 2-3 hours of the walk I was still so set on killing myself, but was finding myself more torn as time went on.
Then there was one part of the walk that just seemed to change everything. The walk was all forest and flat land until this point, so when I left the forest to find such a vast area of space with nothing but huge hills and mountains surrounding me, I went into hysterics of both crying and laughter. It was like this huge weight had literally been lifted off of my shoulders but the fact that it had been lifted gave me such anxiety because I had become so used to how it felt. I just began to spin around in circles laughing and happy crying at the sky because I felt like it was so stupid of me to want to kill myself when there is so much more to life than university. I had to take a seat because I was so overwhelmed that it made me so dizzy, but there I spent about 15 minutes looking at the mountains in such confusion and wonder, amazed at how just being around mountains made me realise how insignificant both myself and my problems were in the grand scheme of things. (Not in the sense that my life/living doesn’t matter, but more so the fact I had let university and my life’s issues get me down so much when the answer to happiness was in front of me all along: nature).
So it was at that moment that I went from around 80% set on ending everything to around 10% sure – I wanted to wait until I arrived at the exact spot where I was going to kill myself before deciding for sure. My plan was to go to the bench by the lake and overdose on painkillers and antidepressants washed down with a bottle of vodka, but when I got to the lake, its beautiful dark green colour made me forget that that was even on my mind. I sat there for like half an hour, no longer thinking about any of the problems going on in my life, but simply just marvelling at the beauty of everything around me. Such simple things like the colour of the lake and the patterns it would make in the wind, the sound of the wind making the leaves on the trees rustle, the warm autumnal colours of the leaves against a grey sky, the darkness starting to creep in but was still light enough to see, which gave off a very ethereal, mystical feeling which made me feel at peace as there was a stillness to everything surrounding me. Such simple things that I had never really appreciated on that level until then. I then sat with my medication in one hand and the vodka in the other, and just began to laugh at myself, that I was going to leave such beauty behind all because of university. I got rid of the vodka and put away my medication, as I had no desire to take them and in turn leave this life anymore.
I headed back and put in my earphones – I was practically skipping all the way back! I couldn’t stop smiling so much from ear to ear, and the songs I listened to at that very moment still give me chills to this day, and immediately take me back to that environment and the feelings I had. One of the songs was called Amor Fati by Washed Out, and when I was on the bus back to the town centre I googled what it means as well as the song’s lyrics: “Amor fati is a Latin phrase that may be translated as ‘love of fate’. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary.” And I began to see my whole life journey as fate: maybe I just had to get to a point so low to put into perspective what really mattered, and the things that really mattered were a lot simpler than I would’ve thought. So I began to live my life that way – every incident, no matter how big, small, good or bad, as something that will undoubtedly push me in the right direction to where I want to be. I felt like I had been through some sort of awakening or rebirth; it’s really a feeling that I can’t even put into words. I now strongly believe that if I hadn’t gone to Aviemore that day and in that mindset, it’s highly likely that I wouldn’t be vegan, or recovered entirely from unhealthy eating habits, and would probably still struggle with addiction to some extent. I believe that I had to go through such hardship in order to come out of it as a totally different person today.
I didn’t have any food with me and only had around £3 as I didn’t plan on coming back at all, so when I went to the town centre afterwards to find food, I was blessed with such a simple act of human kindness but because of the day I had, it meant the world and was like the icing on the cake for me. I was going from pub to pub trying to find some food with the very little money I had, and after trying several different places I finally landed at a place called MacDui’s. I explained to them that I had lost my friends on a hike (obviously couldn’t explain the real reason why I was there!) and they recommended me the haggis, neeps and tatties as it was the cheapest on the menu. I was able to charge my phone, warm up and they even gave me tea and biscuits free of charge. We chatted for a while and by the time I finished the meal and went to pay for it, they gave me it for free; all they asked for in return was for me to write them a good review! I then left for my train with a heart that had never felt so full, and thanks to their kindness I was able to see that there is so much good and so many good people in the world! With depression it was so easy for me to dwell on the bad (and sometimes I still do!), but there is far more good in the world than there is evil.
On the train home I was sat behind two people speaking Spanish, and I immediately got so excited hearing a foreign language being spoken that I just joined in speaking Spanish. They were very clearly not in the mood to talk, but I was just in such an incredible mood that I didn’t bother stopping – they even moved carriages at one point which normally would bother me as I’m very self aware, but I felt so on top of the world that I couldn’t stop smiling so much despite that! Speaking with strangers and not picking up on the vibe that they don’t want to talk isn’t something I ever do, so I can’t help but laugh about it looking back – was like a ‘Donkey being annoying in the carriage in Shrek 2’ sort of moment.
When I got home the first thing I did was see my flatmate (he’s one of these people that feels like a sibling because we’re that close) and gave him the biggest hug and I had never felt so happy to see him, I was so happy to see my other flatmates and my halls again too! I then got rid of my suicide notes and felt like I had come back a totally different person – I’d never felt so happy to be alive! And that was the day that set the motions for how I’d live the rest of my life up until now. From then until around March I gradually weaned myself off of my medication and resorted to more natural methods (vegan diet and lots of time in nature), I began to drink, smoke and party a lot less until April and I overcame my struggle with bulimia not too long after then as well. My 18th birthday was 2 weeks after I had come back from Aviemore, and I had so many friends there that it really hit me that I would’ve left them all behind had I acted on my depression, and it’s for that reason that I say that that night is the best night of my life. I know that for some people mental illness can win the battle with suicide so for that reason I feel extremely grateful that I was able to push myself to find the very thing that I didn’t know I needed, which saved me in the end. Looking back now, it’s scary to think of all the amazing experiences and incredible people I would’ve missed out on if I had killed myself. I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, graduated university with a first class degree despite everything, or travel the world which is my passion.
For every year that passed after the 4th November 2015 until now, I tried to treat it like any other day. I’d push it to the back of my mind as I didn’t want to go back there. Today has been the first time I’ve sat down and confronted my past, by writing this blog but also by taking a moment to feel grateful for every single thing in my life today no matter how big or small, as it served as a reminder of something that I would’ve lost entirely had I killed myself. When the sky was getting dark today I played the songs from that moment and it took me back there, and I wish I could’ve just given 17 year old me the biggest hug ever. I wasn’t able to go to Aviemore today like I wanted, as I haven’t been able to walk for around 6 weeks now due to an accident in Italy, which has also had serious impacts on my mental health, but although I couldn’t physically relive things today, I’m glad I was able to emotionally. Even though I still have bad days where I feel annoyed and frustrated at the fact that my leg and foot got 2nd degree burns on the first day of the well-needed holiday that I bought myself as a graduation present for getting through 5 years of absolute hell, I’m thankful that the mindset I gained while in Aviemore is still present- that I am taking all the bad days and moments as a necessary part of life to help get me to where I want to be in life, even though the reason is presently unclear to me.