“I remember the wild agony of no way out and how the stars looked, endless and forever, and your mind can feel like it’s burning up at all the edges and there’s never going to be any way to stop the flame.”Ann Voskamp
Only those who have experienced the trauma of a suicidal mind can truly understand how agonisingly dangerous it is.
We usually do the upmost in our lives to avoid things that might kill or harm us. But when it is your mind trying to kill and harm itself – it can feel impossible to get away from. It takes you hostage, binding you up with all its lies and accusations, torturing you inside your own head, home and life.
Refusing to let you go.
If only I could explain to you what it feels like…
I recently read the beautiful article on suicide that the above quote is from. And straight away I connected with the author whom I instantly knew understood.
You see I never used to understand.
I used to assume that I would never think that way. That life couldn’t get that bad for me. That I couldn’t be that selfish. I assumed that my ‘superior’ coping mechanisms could surely carry me through any storm that came my way.
Until life took me through seasons when I truly felt …. “the wild agony of no way out…”
At the end of April this year I dramatically relapsed in my spinal CSF leak and arachnoiditis symptoms…AGAIN!! After eighteen months of clear improvement since my last epidural blood patch. Everything came crashing down again physically and mentally.
And I found I had absolutely NOTHING left to fight with.
I had completely burnt myself out physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually from fighting this horrible condition and all the misunderstanding’s surrounding it – for so long.
I ended up stuck in bed nearly all – day and night – in almost perpetual intense, agonising pain. Everything simply exploded symptom wise and it felt like I was getting every type of headache and nerve pain in my spine you can get on top of the ‘low pressure’ issues. It was non-stop, non-positional pain, and made worse by the fact I was hardly sleeping at all.
I am only now beginning to feel more ready to talk about what happened back then more openly. Rather than just wanting to hide from the world and not speak up.
It’s only crippling shame that tries to keep me silent.
But as I get increasingly well, I know that part of my healing and restoration comes in being able to talk more openly about how bad things were. I know that the only way to deal with shame is to speak it out. So as to process my own journey and also to connect with others’ suffering and struggling, as well as to help others to understand more.
So here’s some more of the brutal and raw truth about the traumatic wrestlings of a suicidal mind. At the time, I wrote some poetry in my iPhone notes. I guess to try and process my thoughts and explain to others how it felt. I did show these to my husband at the time which he appreciated – even though they were often painful for him to read.
This Pain in My Head
I am going mad
This pain in my head
Persists and won’t go away
It’s killing me slowly
Polluting my life
Stealing everything away
What do you do When you are Drowning?
I am drowning – can you see?
My head keeps sinking below the surface.
My legs furiously attempting to keep my head above the waves.
I have no strength left to fight.
My legs are growing so tired.
My mind just won’t stop whirring.
The pain won’t let me go.
I am suffocating – can’t you see?
Where life is being squeezed out of me.
My energy leaving me, my endurance gone.
My life just a shadow of what it once was.
I am in inner & outer torment – can you see?
The pain and debilitation slowly taking over all I am.
Like gangrene it eats away at me.
Stealing my life, my strength, my hope
I love you all so much – can you see?
I am devastated by just what may be.
To think of your tears, your cries, your heartbreak and pain.
To think of destruction eating away at your hearts.
To think of the backlash and the battle.
To think of all the awful desolation left behind.
How could I?
How can I?
What am I supposed to do?
Do I keep existing or allow the waves to take me where they will.
So the battle rages and I sink yet deeper still into the darkness.
The pit of despair – a place that won’t let you go.
Destruction all around me.
Despair keeps on calling my name.
I am stuck in the pain and anguish of living here.
Trying to love here…
Trying to suffer well…
Trying to hold on…
Trying to clutch on to life…
Trying to not let go…
I am losing…
I am losing…
I don’t want to be lost
But devastation is calling my name.
The Torment of Pain
Pain torments you it pulls, pushes & wrestles with your mind
Persistent pain consumes you until nothing else is left
It eats you alive leaving your flesh exposed
Infection after infection ravages your thinking
Mind constantly infected
Trying to hold on
Trying to hold on
By my finger nails
Trying to hold on
How Long am I Supposed to Endure?
How long am I supposed to endure?
She asked, writhing around in pain
How long do I need to exist in this for
She asked, living as if death was life
They tried to understand
but still couldn’t see
that never went away.
The torture of not knowing how long to endure
Was stealing her whole life away
The problem was
she could no longer see
a future any better than this
She tried and she tried to hold on for love
But the pain was pulling her to defeat
Many would question the size of her love
The fact she could not endure or remain
But that is because they never lived in her body
And never kept on feeling her pain
Somehow reading them as separate poems doesn’t quite do justice to the intensity of the trauma that takes over your mind when you are backed into the ‘corner of dark shadows’ that is suicidal ideation.
Your mind is completely out of control.
You can no longer think rationally. It’s just a massive ball of dark, oppressive and negative thoughts crippling your perspective and adding to your intense internal and external agony.
I still felt so much love and love was actually my only anchor and light. But love was often even painful to feel, because you think that if you really loved others – that much – you should be able to endure and remain.
But you don’t have any energy to remain anymore.
And as dark as dark can be.
….And I was hardly sleeping at all. So there was no relief.
That’s why it’s called ‘mental illness’ – because you are extremely unwell.
And you just can’t ‘snap out of it’. Or just ‘think positive thoughts’. Or ‘reign in your thoughts’. Or simply ‘change your perspective’.
You no longer have that ability.
Your mind is no longer your own.
Without the love, compassion, support and care of my amazing husband, family, church family, friends and doctors, I am not sure I would have made it through.
It still scares me to know first hand what a vulnerable and dangerously over stretched mind can end up like.
But I do know talking openly about it shows how far I have come since then. To know that I was simply very very sick – both physically and mentally. It breaks my heart to know that others are facing this same battle – in similar and very different ways – each and every day.
Unless we can try to listen and understand more what goes on the the mind of someone feeling suicidal, we won’t be able to help them overcome the immense stigma, shame, misunderstandings and trauma of that experience. We need to know how to best try and help ourselves when we find ourselves there. As well as helping those stuck in the oppressive prison of a mind on the edge of suicide.
So that’s why I am opening up my own immensely humbling experience again. To let another struggling soul know today that you are not alone. I have been there and I want you to know…
It can get better again.
I know you can’t see it – yet.
I couldn’t either.
I only felt the ‘agony of no way out.’
But one day the sun did again begin to break through the clouds.
And I began to walk out.
Albeit bruised, battered, burned, startled and scared from the fight. But I made it through again. So please just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Just hold on a little bit longer.
Allow someone else to walk through it with you.
And then get strong enough to share your story. Because it might help to reach and save another struggling soul too.
“I wanted the brave to speak up, to speak the Truth and Love:Ann Voskamp
Shame is a bully and Grace is a shield. You are safe here.
To write it on walls and on arms and right across wounds:
Always safe for the suffering here...”
If we only knew what fire every person is facing — there isn’t one person we wouldn’t help fight their fire with the heat of a greater love.”
To read more about my first mental health crisis please try this post; ‘Breaking Through the Darkness .’ To read more about my beginning to understand how crippling shame had become in my life please see; ‘The Shame of Chronic Illness and Pain.’
UPDATE: Please note that in August 2020 I was also diagnosed with arachnoiditis as well as a spinal CSF Leak – I now have radiological evidence to support both those diagnosis. To read more about the new diagnosis please see this link.
For more posts about my story of living with a spinal CSF Leak please look at the subject heading on the menu bar above.
Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.
For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.