By Kit Treadwell
Content Note: discussion of suicide, depression, mental health experience
I’m really bad at committing suicide. In fact, I’m so bad that – as you’ve probably guessed, given that I’m writing this post – I haven’t succeeded yet. In Cambridge terms, this is perhaps an irony. In an academic environment that can sometimes be viewed as not accepting anything less than perfection, three attempts all failing is, well, unacceptable. Given that I’m so bad at it, arguably I have absolutely no right to be speaking about it. After all, it’s stigmatised enough anyway. What insights can I give? I suppose I better let you in on a little secret: I’m actually quite glad that I’ve failed three times. I suspect this isn’t what most people mean when they say “it’s okay to fail sometimes”, but I’ll take it.
Anyone who has struggled with mental health problems will know, and presumably hate, the phrase “things will get better”. I know I do – as someone who doesn’t have the patience to bake cookies without eating the cookie dough, the idea that I have to wait and maybe (God forbid) put in some effort is an anathema. Yet I reiterate: I’m quite glad I failed. So why? Well, I’ll try to avoid any form of toxic positivity, which can be incredibly damaging – after all, it shifts the blame onto the one suffering for having the wrong mental attitude. With that caveat allowed for, I suppose life is, in fact, not that bad. Expecting perfection and bliss immediately is impossible and unrealistic, but there are certain moments that I’m quite glad I didn’t miss. Not big ones, either – I read a book with image plates in the middle! That’s an adult thing (aka just disguised picture books)! I went to a cat cafe! I’ve embarrassed myself for charity! Twice! None of these were revolutionary, but I’d be upset to have missed them. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that if you are experiencing pain that is bad enough to create suicidal feelings, you should look to the future. That’s probably really painful right now. First of all, I’m so sorry for everything that you’re dealing with. I don’t know the details, but I have been in a similar situation. I can only say how incredibly brave you are to have gotten yourself this far. You deserve nothing but the best, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now. The pain isn’t your fault, and it’ll go away soon. It might come back, but so will you, and next time, you’ll be ready.
And if nothing else, let me remind you that there is a path out. In fact, there are lots of them. They’re going to take time and energy, sure, but not to choose one. I, a self-professed gormless idiot, have made it this far. So can you. No one can force that path on you (though lots of well-meaning people will try). It is your choice, at every stage. Ask for as much or as little help as you need. You don’t have to behave perfectly. You don’t even need to behave; sometimes just curling into a ball and waiting it out is the best thing you can do. Don’t be afraid to fail – I did and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.