Birthday reflections

CW: vague mentions of suicidality and suicide attempt.

I turn 24 tomorrow. I didn’t plan on turning 24. Now I have no idea how to feel.

I remember once describing to my Psychologist E the sense of inevitability I felt about suicide. I would look at statistics about the links between Bipolar and C-PTSD and suicide and think to myself ‘that will be me one day, I just know it’. For instance, people with Bipolar are 17 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. That statistic felt/feels very real to me. I felt like eventually, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, I would succumb to the overwhelming voice in my head telling me to harm myself. Well, I take no pleasure in saying this, but I was right.

One day this year it all became too much for me and I tried to end my life. I don’t plan on talking about this in great detail. For a number of reasons. If you follow me on Instagram you will know my thoughts on advocacy and suicide prevention. I posted recently about how it is important to share from a scar not a wound to ensure you are helping others and not hurting yourself. And my suicide attempt it still very much an open wound for me. I do not feel I can talk about it in a responsible and safe way. Yet. For more of my thoughts on talking about suicide safely see my post on Suicide and Media.

So where does this leave us? Just a few short months ago I tried to end my life. And yet here I stand; about to turn 24. You would think I have more to celebrate than anyone. I mean, I did look death in the eye and live to tell the tale. And yet, I don’t’ feel like celebrating. I feel very sombre and reflective in the lead up to my birthday. Each person who wants to greet me and wish me a great birthday is a reminder of the souls I would have hurt had my attempt ended differently. The guilt is overwhelming. I almost feel like I don’t deserve to celebrate my birthday or enjoy the love and gifts when I was so quick to choose to abandon life and all it offers.

One thing that is definitely true about near-death experiences, intentional or otherwise, is that they do give you a new perspective on life. And the pressure I would have otherwise put on myself about turning 24 is severely reduced. The pressure of the number and the sort of responsibilities it brings does still scare me. But it also excites me. The weight of expectations I am putting on myself about what a 24 year old should be like is being met by another voice saying ‘you survived for a reason, it will work out’.

You may be wondering what your friendly, neighbourhood, suicide-attempt survivor does for their birthday. Good question. When I reflected on what I wanted to do for my birthday, I realised there were two key things I wanted to capture in my celebrations. 1) The present and 2) The future. To focus on the present I decided to do things I’ve always talked about doing and wouldn’t have been able to do if I had passed. So I am going bowling (an activity I find super fun but never get around to doing) and going to a speciality cocktail bar (one that I have been talking about going to for literally years). To represent what my future will look like I will be spending the day with my partner and also having my new car delivered by the friend I am buying it from. My entire birthday celebration is centred around living in the present and looking forward to the future; two things I stopped doing when I was suicidal.

It’s taken me hours to write this post as I really had no idea how to express all that was going on in my head. When I first started writing I had no idea how I would finish or what it would look like. And I guess that’s kind of what my approach to life is right now. I’m learning to go with the flow more with a wisdom that can only come from surviving the battle against one’s self. And I never thought I would say this but I am grateful to be turning 24. I look forward to what my life will hold for the next year. And I look forward to celebrating future birthdays. I desperately want to grow old someday. And I’ll try very hard not to forget that as my mental health continues to ebb and flow in the future.

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