Saturday, 6 May 2017

Lifeline Fundraiser Speech

HBF RUN FOR A REASON LIFELINE WA SPEECH 
By Carissa Wright

She sat across from me in the dim room. Her glasses pointing downwards, skimming her notes the nurses had written about me. I was anxious and fidgety in the brown chair. My mum was sitting next to me sobbing gently. The psychologist looked up at both of us. I felt very hollow and ashamed. I also felt more shame seeing how much it was impacting my Mother. She read a few notes that the doctors and nurses had wrote, discussing what medications would suit me best to able me to continue to get the treatment and help they believed best suited my needs at the time. My doctor then revealed my diagnosis to me for the first time. “We believe you have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder” she exclaimed sternly to both my Mother and I. My Mum started to sob more, and I just sat there blankly, sinking back into the chair wishing it was some type of shell I could hide away in. I felt nothing. My Mother asked, in a panic and concerned way, what was wrong with me.

My doctor then continued to explain the symptoms that come with BPD diagnosis such as: High risk suicide ideations, self harm, impulsiveness, irritability, unstable moods, unable to regulate emotions properly in distressing situations. My Mother had broken down at this stage. You are probably wondering how I was feeling? I was in such numbness from trying to take my own life the week before my admission that I had dissociated. This is the second time I had tried in the space of a year. Dissociation is a form of emotional blockage. Because I felt everything so much, dissociation became a coping mechanism. I didn't know any other way. I would dissociate to the point I wouldn't realise the dangers that my mental sate would put me in until it was life threatening.

My life continued to be one big, dark and scary roller coaster ride. When we leave high school, society teaches us that in order to be successful, you have to have a degree, a house, a well paid job and a family. What society failed to teach us is the stigma surrounding mental illness, and how people like myself can become a minority. People like myself having to fend because one day we didn't know we would be faced with a trigger that was going to send us into a downward spiral of self harming episodes. We didn’t know the fragility of our own life until we were walking ticking time bombs. Being stuck in a dead end job because we impulsively spend our earnings as we dont have any goals set out, as our main goal in this life was to survive and stay a float. Living on bare minimum wages. People will always ask me ‘have you traveled? Travelling is so soul searching and an experience, you should get out there!” Its hard to go to work most days, let alone saving enough finances to go travelling over seas. We have it in us to achieve anything we put our minds too. But unfortunately for people who have a debilitating mental illness, its hard to take control of your mind when its sick. Also having a sick mind in a mental health system that has little to no resources to support your condition can be a never ending lifeline. You get knocked off so many times, you do anything you can in your power to make sure you can cope in day to day life.

When we are in school, no one tells you the impacts a suicide or mental illness can have. Stereotypical labels are attached to Suicide and mental illness in general (ones such as crazy, psycho, nutter). No one ever stops to think about the impact these labels can have on someone who has had a lived experience with a suicide. Whether it be yourself trying to end your own life, losing a loved one, a family member or even witnessing a person take their own life in public. We still choose to turn a blind eye to the reality and repercussions of a Suicide can have or someone’s suffering with a mental illness. When will we learn that Suicide is one of the leading cause of deaths in Australia, as well as the world we live in? What is the craziness in being so paralysingly ill from the pain you are feeling that you resort to Suicide or a form of self harm? You become so isolated and over whelmed from the feeling that it results in a death. There is nothing crazy about being ill. No illness should be viewed as ‘crazy’. We dont view someone with a broken leg as crazy, so why do we choose to still belittle the people who have a broken mind?

When we are in school, no one reminds us every day the repercussions and consequences that our hurtful actions can have. Sure, they will lightly skim over topics such as bullying and depression. I know when I was in high school, we did not learn or were aware of Suicide. We didn’t learn how to practice kindness every day. We are lucky that there are people who didn’t need teaching that. But from my experience, there are a lot of people who need to practice compassion and kindness. Instead they choose to bully and belittle people to the point of them not wanting to be here. To the point that they feel so isolated and helpless.

I reached an age of 17 that I never knew how much the word ‘Suicide’ would be implanted into my mind. It was there like attachment. Something I just couldn’t shake off. It would be there when I was working, when I tried to sleep, when I was with my friends, when I was in the shower and when I was trying to do any other form of daily activity to ease my mind from the thought of this. No matter how busy I was, it still popped up to say hello. It still was there speaking to me, reminding me that its still around and its not going to go away until I do something about it. It was pushing me to limits I didn’t even know the human body was capable of feeling. It started to make me self mutilate my body just to ease the thumping headache it was giving me. I wanted to take back my own mind that this one thought was controlling. Self harm seemed like the only way to control that over bearing emotion. So crippling it would leave me in fits of rage and anguish.

It was 2009 when i first lost a friend to Suicide. He was 19 years of age, just like me. A talented sportsman, a placid and genuine soul. I remember I was driving down Bussell Highway after visiting my Mum in Capel. I had received the text message and my sister was with me in the vehicle. I was sent into such a state of despair. His death had released all the trapped pain inside of me. I thought to myself ‘I know exactly how he feels and why he did it’. Usually people tend to question a death if its from a Suicide. A lot of my high school friends couldn’t comprehend it. They were shocked, confused and seeking answers. I just sat silently knowing I understood why. We can all start to understand why by listening to people speak openly about it. We dont want you to feel the pain we feel inside. We want to be able to sit with someone and understand the storm thats coming over us. We want someone to not push us away when we start to say openly ‘I am feeling suicidal and I would like your help’.

What I have found throughout my time after being diagnosed with Borderline, is how a lot of people I have come across and have had experience with suicide/mental illness, is majority of them live in a ‘self preservation’ mind set. Not the self preservation where you need to look after yourself. Its the side of self preservation that borderlines selfishness and arrogance. Self preservation is important, dont get me wrong. What I am saying is self preservation is sometimes used as an excuse to abandon someone during a crisis. A lot can drive the abandonment (for example, the person thinking the person in crisis wants ‘attention’). What we do know about Suicide being spoken about is the seriousness of it. It should not be judged, ridiculed and ignored. If someone is reaching out to you, you should do everything you can to prevent them acting on the ideation they have in that moment. You may be at work, so you send them a message letting them know someone has been contacted and is on their way. Another small step that can be done is reassuring them you can come to them after what ever other commitment you have at the time. Suggest to stay with them over night so they can speak out about it. While doing this, also encourage them to seek professional help. People who are in a suicidal state of mind are irrational. No logic will be present, so that explains the irrational behaviours you may witness when you are trying to help someone you care for. These are just small steps you can put into practice that could prevent a suicide and help save a life. You cannot save everyone, but you can be educated and try. There is no harm in trying and learning how to help someone.

I remember one of my most challenging years with my illness was in 2016. I was experiencing the grief of having a broken heart. I understand everyones heart will be broken in their time here on earth. I wouldn’t wish upon anyone the grief I was feeling when my heart fell to pieces. Experiencing BPD and heart ache nearly cost me my life. My suicide ideation was heightened to the point I didn’t know if I could see the other side. I didn’t shower regularly as I could barely leave my room, my appetite diminished and my dissociation was causing me to have frequent episodes of suicide ideations. My friends spent a lot of time trying to find me when I wouldn’t answer my phone. I never had a first name basis with the local police before, but they started to know who I was due to taking me back and fourth to emergency at least once a week. I would spend 24 hours in emergency, with people looking at me like I had committed some crime. I felt like a prisoner to my own mental illness. I hid in a park one night down the road where I was living just to escape the feeling of despair that over took my mind and body. I was sick, emotionally worn out and I felt like a person who was dressed in rags and dirt, even though I was fully clothed. I didn’t even feel like a person, just a complete shadow of my former self. Some black shadow wandering aimlessly around the place because that is what you are meant to do when you have an illness. Just solider on, even though you were only just holding yourself up.

Hospitals start to become your second home when you have a mental illness. But it isn’t like the stay a lot of others get to experience when presented to hospital. Now before I dwell into the negatives about hospital stays and mental illness, I want to thank all the mental health professionals out there who have given me that extra push to keep fighting because they had that compassion and empathy towards me when I couldn’t have it towards myself. Those small things you all did built a stable home of resilience in me today. You sparked the fire in me to keep pushing through when I was ready to leave. So please dont underestimate the complete and utter gratefulness that I have been lucky enough to be handed some of the most hard working health professionals here in Western Australia.

Majority of the time when people are rushed into emergency with a psychical symptoms present, they are handle with great care and consideration. They are placed into the waiting bay, and handled in a professional manner. Unfortunately, this isn’t the same approach to people who have a debilitating mental illness. A lot of nurses in the emergency department have only experienced the impacts of mental illness through their study and their degrees. For their own choice, they decided they didn’t want to be a nurse in a mental health role which is completely respected, as we all have our own paths in life to want to do something that will make us feel accomplished and fulfilled at the end of the day. In saying this, it still doesn’t justify some of the unprofessional treatments I have witnessed nurses as well as doctors display in the mental health system. We are questioned when we have blood dripping from our arms. We have had people roll our eyes at us and tell us that we will be fine when we speak out about how we have thought about ending our lives. We are told ‘there aren’t enough beds, can you stay with someone instead’. If they do decide to have us stay in hospital, we are poked and prodded. We are given medications. We are ignored when we ask simple requests. We are told ‘if you didn’t do something so silly in the first place, you wouldn’t be in here’. All these small actions can have sufficient consequences on the people who do have the courage to go to hospital and get the helped needed. But instead of help, we are shamed because we cannot control the crisis at the time. If we had any other choice, why would we ‘choose’ to hurt ourselves? Why would we ‘choose’ to have suicide ideations that can leave us hospitalised, or in worst case scenarios, can lead us to never waking up again?

Logically to me and to all the other people who live in this darkness, our approach to suicide and mental illness should be on the same wave length. But we still seem to be a bit backwards in that approach we have. Instead of people validating others who feel this way, we tend to find these people saying ‘well with my experience with my friend who had depression, she never acted like such and such is acting. Just ignore them, they dont want to help themselves’. Its these attitudes that can leave someone like myself feeling completely defeated. Once we hear these words from someone, we decided to crawl back into the shell held over our heads and not speak out, as we feel no matter how much we scream or cry in fits of despair, we will not be heard. No matter how many times we end up in hospital, we will be viewed as ‘attention seeking’.

In saying this, there is something I discovered when I felt so deflated. I found myself trying to ‘win’ my health back in others who had those attitudes, the ones who were holding my head under when I asked them to give me a hand to get up to the surface and out of the depths I was sinking in. I then found myself ignoring the ones who were standing beside me, offering that small hand of help and hope. The ones who asked me if I was okay, instead of shutting me down as soon as I spoke up. The people who have maybe upset me at the time, but have come back an hour later or even in the moment to say sorry, then offer some support when they have realised how their words or actions could of impacted me. People who knew the definition of accountability. I was so fixated on changing all these peoples negative approach to mental illness and suicidal people’s minds, that I slowly left the people who do understand it or who were willing to understand behind. I was draining all this energy to the point it was sending me into a downward spiral. So if you suffer quietly or loudly in this room and have done something similar to me with trying to change people’s perceptions and attitudes to mental illness and suicide, leave the ones who dont want to learn behind. I assure you that your life becomes a lot brighter when you concentrate and value the ones who do have that love and care for you unconditionally. The ones who can differ between the person you are, and the illness you suffer from. But never fault yourself for challenging those people who dragged you down, who couldn’t love you and for seeing the best in these people, even though they failed to see the best of you.

What they need to teach us in school is how our actions have consequences. What they need to teach us in school is compassion goes a long way, and that selfishness doesn’t always mean success. What they need to teach in school is how to say the word ‘suicide’ without having some

damaging label attached to it. 8 lives are lost a day to suicide. Mental health facilities and phone lines are useful and can help save lives. We should never underestimate the effect those facilities can have for our mental states. But if not available in a crisis for what ever reason or if we struggle to turn to those options, we all need to be that difference as well when crisis hits. You just listening to me speak right now can lead to you reaching out to someone who you may have unintentionally left behind in the past. I have a plea, and that is listen to the persons own experience. Do not relate it back and compare it to the way you would handle it if you were suffering. Everyones pain is different and everyones pain is valid. Kindness creates light when darkness is presented. Be that flicker of light, when someone is in that room of darkness. Do not be that person who turns off someones switch and leaves them there, alone in the black, cold and damp room trying to claw their own way out.

So the lesson I will give you outside of a classroom today is that we can all be that hope in someones life. I hoped something, someone, somewhere could give me that helping hand when I was at my wits end with my mental illness. When I reached out, hope was right beside me. Hope was found through all my close friends in this room, strangers in this room and the community that has joined us today in this room. Just be you listening creates hope for others out there. If we can create an ever lasting stand of hope in the form of people, then we can help save lives today. Dont you ever forget how much you can impact someone else’s life just by reaching out and pulling them out of the water when they seem to be going under.

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