I’m writing this in the wake of World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s decades since I thought I wanted to end it all and failed in my attempts. Now, living my dream life, surrounded by love and happiness, and with so many positive mindset tools in my kitbag, I want to be here – living life to the full and making a difference – for as long as I can stay.
Those times, though, left a mark.
All those years and months spent planning and plotting an escape route created a super fast autobahn neural pathway, and my wiring can take me from okay to a scary place in seconds.
I spend a lot of time, in quiet contemplation, consciously creating ‘road blocks’ to slow those thought processes.
Most of the time, that works – but not always.
Most of the time, I’m okay. I’m happy. I’m surrounded by love. I am absolutely NOT suicidal.
Those old, long-learned thought patterns still creep in from time to time.
They sneak up on me if I’m feeling tired, if I’m run down, if I’ve been overworking, if my hormones are popping (or dropping!)… there are all kinds of reasons to explain these unwanted Black Dog visitations.
I know I’m not the only one.
Being LGBTQ+ doesn’t automatically mean we’ll be experience mental health challenges but, for sure, we’re at a higher statistical risk.
A Stonewall study found that over the previous year:
• half of LGBTQ+ people had experienced depression and three in five had experienced anxiety
• one in eight LGBTQ+ people aged 18-24 had attempted to end their life
• almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life
We don’t talk positively about mental health enough…and we certainly don’t talk about the speed and ease with which our brains can take us to a dark place once we’ve been to rock bottom.
If we’ve spent any amount of time in the depths of depression, it’s entirely possible that we’ve unwittingly created a high-velocity mindset superhighway between feeling okay and considering a permanent vacation.
And that’s why I keep stepping into my vulnerability, feeling the fear and speaking up anyway.
Thinking about it doesn’t mean we need to act on it. We’ve had those thoughts – urges, even – before, and we’re here to tell the tale. Tomorrow might be better. The day after that, better still. Every time we get through is proof of our ability to stay here and make the very best of life.
We need to do everything in our power to stay positive and build our optimism.
Do whatever it takes.
I do a gratitude exercise every morning – name five things I appreciate in my life. They can be really simple things: clean water from my taps, the ease of making a cuppa, my dogs’ unconditional love, my cats’ purrs, the wonder of being able to wake up next to the woman I love, the sun showing up every morning…
I drink water first thing, eat breakfast (even if it’s only a quick protein bar), do some exercise (any is better than none!), spend a bit of time on personal development, do my best to keep my health good and my sleep patterns decent.
And I do my level best to avoid falling into the comparison trap as well – I don’t look at others showing off shiny lives and start judging my levels of ‘success’ against theirs.
Every year, I speak up and remind the world to look deeper than face value.
So many people see the optimistic ME of today and assume I have all my shit together and the universe always showers me with good luck, riches and rainbows.
It’s so easy to look at other people and fall into the comparison trap. That’s one of the most damaging mindsets if we’re struggling with our mental health, and it’s one I’m determined to highlight – and break – whenever I can.
We never know what’s going on in other people’s lives, but the Fakebook and Instaglam world can paint a picture of perfect abundance and leave us feeling horribly inadequate.
Every year, on World Suicide Prevention Day, I go live on my social channels as well.
If I can break the pattern for just one person, if I can persuade just one human being to say ‘yes’ to life, it’s all worth it.
This year (watch here if you choose to) I spoke about the difference between active and passive suicidal ideation, why we need to learn to listen deeper, and why some of us need to be really adept at breaking out patterns and recognising what’s going on.
If you’re ever feeling alone and scared, please, please speak to someone – either a trusted friend, family member or colleague, The Samaritans, Mind, MindOut, or any other organisation that specialises in mental health and mindset support. Stonewall lists a number of LGBTQ+ friendly support organisations HERE.
Talking DOES help.
Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve been able to help you or, perhaps, given you a few thinking points to help you support friends and family members who might be struggling.
From the vaults: watch Rob Harkavy’s interview with the founders of suicide prevention charity SOS Silence of Suicide here.