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22nd Jan 2024

‘I’m moving forward after suicidal ideation and finding joy in life again’

Kat O'Connor

Moving forward after suicidal ideation is a complicated chapter

*Warning* Some readers may find this article distressing as it mentions suicide

When a new year begins, many people set resolutions that they hope will improve their lives, and make their days happier and more worthwhile. They hope for a better year, a more worthy year – one full of bright moments, stress-free days, and memories they’ll treasure forever.

A blank page can make us feel so hopeful, but I wasn’t expecting to be here for this new year. It was a surprise chapter, one I didn’t think I’d be around for, and now I feel slightly lost at how to face it.

Last year, my mental health took a hit I wasn’t prepared for. I decided to stop taking my antidepressants in the springtime because I felt strong enough. At first, I felt proud and excited to be so mentally well that I didn’t need to rely on my daily dose of Sertraline. I knew it was going to be a difficult experience. My doctor had warned me, and my peers had too, but I was sure it was the right decision. Anyone who has stopped taking medication will know it isn’t an easy process. It’s one of the most difficult things you’ll probably ever do when it comes to mental health recovery, but it was the right step for me. I slowly started to feel like myself again. I started to experience real emotions again after feeling pretty numb for months on end. I started to feel proud too. Proud that I was strong enough to keep going without my meds, proud that I was healthy enough to learn to live with my anxiety disorder and low mood.

However, most people with mental health issues will know recovery never goes in a straight line. It is the most complex and overwhelming journey full of both good days and horrendous moments. As the months went by, I started to struggle with suicidal ideation. Something I hadn’t dealt with in quite some time, but it reared its ugly head again this year and it was something I never could’ve prepared for.

“You can’t look forward to the future because you can’t see it”

Suicidal ideation is one of the most overwhelming and emotionally draining issues I’ve dealt with. Your every moment feels tainted by the heaviest thoughts and there’s no escaping them. You cannot see a way forward, or a future, or any hope. You feel lost, and hopeless, and like it’s time to say goodbye. You don’t want your story to continue, you can’t look forward to the future because you can’t see it. The only thing you see is a way out and your mind transfixes on it.

There were days when I was sitting on the bus and thoughts about ending my life would pop into my mind. I’d walk into work and act as if all was well whilst suicidal ideation took over my mind. I tried my very best to act like everything was fine because it was my problem to fix, but I continued to spiral. I reached a point where I was ready for life to be over. I wasn’t strong enough to keep going. The mental health issues felt heavier than ever before and I felt like the weakest version of myself. I was ready for everything to be over. I couldn’t go on living my life when my mind was full of thoughts about how worthless it was, and how unnecessary it was for it to continue.

I wrote a goodbye letter. I accepted that my life was of so little value that I didn’t deserve to continue it, but then I found a tiny ounce of strength before taking another step. I thought of all the people I was leaving behind. Realising how much I was leaving behind hit me so hard so I reached out to one of my best friends, who was living in New York at the time. Opening up to your loved ones about what you’re going through is so difficult because you don’t want to unload your struggles onto them, but you also don’t want to hide things from them either. We texted and sent voice notes and ended up going from talking about my darkest moment to Taylor Swift because that’s just how these things go. You unload and confide and then slot back into your old self with the people you feel most comfortable with. The most normal and harmless conversations are the ones that make you realise just how much you’re leaving behind. They show you the glimmers of what you need to hold onto, what you need to stay for, and what you need to keep living for.

Suicidal ideation is something I’m still learning to live with. The everyday thoughts aren’t as strong as they once were, but they’re still there. There are still days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed to even brush my teeth, but there are also days when I meet all of my friends in the pub after work that remind me why I’m still here. There are brighter moments that are slowly outweighing all of the dark ones. I think sometimes we get to a point where the hopelessness clouds our happier memories, dulls the feelings of hope, and fools us into thinking our lives aren’t valuable, but that moment, when you are ready to end it all, can sometimes make you realise that life is always worth living. You need to keep going. You need to keep living. You need to stay because I am so glad that I did. I’m unsure of what the rest of 2024 looks like for me but I’m certainly grateful I’m here for it.

If you’re struggling with suicidal ideation or any mental health issues then you can contact Samaritans on 116 123. You can also contact Text About It, the free, anonymous, 24/7 messaging service.