I was wobbly on my feet. My legs felt like jelly. I was in Intensive Care, so I figured my attempt was a near-success. I didn’t and still don’t remember what happened to me, immediately after I tried to kill myself. Bubbly nurse came back into the room and handed me a scrap of paper. There was a phone number written on it, for my local mental health crisis team. “Here’s the number the psych doctor promised you.” What a joke. Even I knew more phone numbers of organisations to call for support. And what’s more, that knowledge didn’t save me from myself. What did they think a scrap of paper, with one solitary phone number scribbled on it would do?
I put my coat on and waited to be formally discharged from the hospital. The doctor who unplugged me from the machines, like a mobile phone came into the room. He said I was free to go home. He gave me a list of symptoms to look out for: palpitations, jaw pain, arm pain, severe indigestion, vomiting, convulsions, unconsciousness. If I experienced any of the things on the list, I was to go straight back to hospital. He also said that he was trusting me to go to my GP and ask for help with my depression. So I was on conditional discharge. The truth is, I desperately wanted and needed help. I’d do anything to get better, to live.
I left the hospital, carrying a plastic bag filled with the clothing I wore on the night. I don’t remember the journey home. I must’ve fallen asleep, because I woke up on the sofa to find my usually aloof cat lying next to me. She sensed I was awake and lifted her head up to look at me. She rubbed her face against mine and licked my nose. Maybe she knew what I’d done? I sat up. My husband handed me a cup of tea. He looked like a haunted shell of a man. Guilt punched me in the gut. Was my marriage over? Had it been caught in the crossfire? An innocent bystander in the wrong place, at the wrong time? I hoped not. But maybe he was better off without me and my emotional baggage. If he packed his things and left, I wouldn’t try to stop him. Nor would I blame him. I apologised, and felt so angry with myself. The words “I’m sorry” just don’t cut the mustard. They don’t make things better. They don’t undo what I did.
My Dad, Sister and children arrived. I hugged my sons tightly and hated myself. My Dad hugged me and my Sister sat in the sofa at the other end of the room, and turned her face away from me. She couldn’t bear to look at me. Who could blame her? She said she was going back home the next day. She had work to go to and a life to resume. She and my Dad left after ten minutes. I know in my heart of hearts, that that’s the last time I’ll see my Sister. My neighbour came round, armed with a Get Well Soon card, flowers and a card with an angel pin on it and a poem about hoping my guardian angel will guide me through this terrible time. I was moved by this gesture. I asked my neighbour if she knew the truth and she nodded solemnly. I later found out that she’d rushed out to the ambulance, and watched as the paramedics battled to restart my heart. She’d spoken with them and asked what had happened. They told her what I’d done.
Work. What about work? Do I still have a job to go to? My husband and I work for the same company and he’d spoken with the operations managers there. He told them the truth about what I’d done and surprisingly, they were sympathetic and understanding. They told him not to worry, they’d arrange for us both to have some paid time off. I’d recently been promoted to staff trainer, and I had also applied for a place on a development programme. The programme would involve being mentored and trained to become a team manager. I figured they wouldn’t want someone like me on the programme. I’d killed my career, before it had even started.
On the Monday following the New Year, I went to my GP. I asked for help. She looked at my medical records and saw that I’d had a bad experience with Fluoxetine. She explained that given the circumstances, she wouldn’t prescribe it to me again. She persuaded me to try Sertraline. I put my misgivings aside, and agreed to try it. She wrote a prescription out for the pills and asked me a few questions, about my current mental state. After I answered her questions, she handed me some leaflets for local support groups. I was also instructed to make a follow-up appointment with the surgery, for two weeks later. I left the surgery and resolved to do whatever was necessary to recover.
“What happened to me, that night?” I asked my husband. His shoulders sagged and he looked down at his hands, which were now in a tight ball in his lap. He didn’t want to talk about it, relive it. I understood and didn’t press him further. Finally, he spoke. “You were unconscious on the sofa. I called an ambulance and by the time they got here, your heart had stopped. The paramedics had to shock your heart in the back of the ambulance. They took you to Intensive Care and put you in an induced coma. You woke up too soon. You had the tube down your throat and you were gagging. The nurses pushed me out of the room and put you back into the coma. I thought you were going to die.”
To be continued…
Photo by Stephen Di Donato, courtesy of Unsplash