Ross's story: Improving my mental health after after a suicide attempt

​* Trigger warning. This discusses suicide*

When I was 14 I decided that I wanted to kill myself. I had a loving family and a group of supportive friends but couldn't shake the feeling of being unhappy. 

I wouldn't have ever confessed that I was feeling depressed: I was confused about how I was feeling and what I wanted. All the different emotions and thoughts were swirling through my mind and the easiest option seemed to be to take my own life. 

I decided that, one evening, I wanted to take my life. I left a note on my desk and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up and begged my mum not to make me go to school because I felt so sick – which was true! I clearly wasn't well... 

My mental health was not good at all. However, I didn't really know what mental health was at the time and just got on with life. I tried to see that waking up the next day was obviously some sort of sign that killing myself wasn't a good idea and I didn't try to do it again for 10 years. 

I carried on working hard at school, went to university and experienced the worst stress of my life when training to be a secondary school teacher. Luckily for me, the stress never caused me to dip back into feeling "depressed" again and I was able to just keep going.

Starting work

However, the emotions and feelings started to creep back in again when I entered the world of work. Every time something small went wrong at work or at home I felt completely useless and resorted to being low and wanting to kill myself again. 

I never spoke to anyone about how I was feeling because I was worried they would be upset about it. 
I didn't want to share my story with a complete stranger because I wanted to be able to tell someone I could trust, but I didn't want to speak to my friends or family because I felt as if they would judge me - although now I know they wouldn't have! 

But hearing from someone you love that they want to kill themselves cannot be an easy thing to hear. How can someone who has built a life with you feel so miserable and want to kill themselves?

Counselling

I ended my eight-year relationship and broke off the engagement to my fiancée. After months of feeling low I decided to go and get some counselling to help me. I spent about three months going to weekly sessions with a counsellor and managed to gradually get better each week. 

Some weeks I felt amazing and didn't think I needed counselling and then some weeks I would slip back into feeling low. During the counselling sessions we discussed the idea of being an optimist and a pessimist and, ironically, I considered myself to be an optimist. 

I was always desperate to have a positive mental attitude and would usually appear to be happy and positive to those around me. 

I remember speaking to a colleague about feeling depressed and she said that I "never appeared to be suffering" and I think that said a lot. It said that it wasn’t obvious to others that I was feeling low and I was doing a good job of hiding or masking it. I had never really intended to mask the way I was feeling before – it was more just not admitting or coming to terms with the fact that there was an issue. 

My counsellor also recommended finding things to do which could cheer me up and get me out of the low moods. I expressed that when I'm feeling low, nothing can make me feel better. Someone could offer me £1 million pounds or a lifetime supply of jelly beans and I still wouldn't be happy.

Sometimes I think just feeling low is natural. We all have highs and lows but, unfortunately for me, the lows are a bit more extreme in comparison to someone else.

How I became better 

Fortunately, I was able to write down a long list of things that I like doing which I could try and do when I was feeling low. I had things like: walking the dog, eating junk food, watching Netflix and listening to my favourite songs. I sometimes even push myself to go to the gym because I know the positive impact that physical exercise can have on the mind. Simple yet effective. 

I'm also able to be a lot more reflective and can acknowledge when I'm feeling low or if I know I'm going to slip back into old habits. I'm fortunate enough to be able to have a good relationship with my colleagues, and my line manager is extremely supportive. 

The most important thing is that I'm able to be a lot more open and express how I am feeling. I sometimes meditate and teach the kids at school how to be mindful and use a range of different and fun activities to achieve this. 

I occasionally use Instagram to express the importance of talking about mental health and find the platform a good way of releasing my thoughts and feelings. 

I'm in a new committed relationship and am much happier. I am able to share with her how I am feeling and can be honest and know that we can help each other through our problems. I'm also lucky: really really lucky. 

I know some people experiencing depression who can't even get out of bed in the morning and while I can relate to how they might be feeling, I have to express some gratitude to being able to say I'm getting better and have such a brilliant support network of friends, family and colleagues. 

I take each day as it comes and I'm able to deal with my mental health in a way that I never thought I would be able to. I have a range of strategies that I use to help me get through feeling low and for the first time in years I'm happy and motivated to keep getting better.

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