He has told me that he has taken a large overdose of tablets, that he wants to die.
He reclines on the ambulance trolley refusing to talk to me, of what he has taken we are not sure. We've done some detective work and from the empty packets it looks like it might be a lethal dose.
Luckily for him, this lethal dose can be treated in hospital.
I ask him why he wants to kill himself.
'I've got nothing', he tells me, 'nothing to live for'.
He's eighteen and already he thinks that his life isn't worth anything.
He lies there, hood drawn over his head, repeating how he has nothing and how he wants to die.
We arrive at hospital and he is put into the resuscitation room.
In the next bed over there is a ten year old girl. She has a lot of medical problems and one of them has gotten suddenly, severely worse.
She struggles for her next breath. The anaesthetist is called and they prepare to intubate her and take over her breathing.
Every breath she draws in is fought for, every moment is now a battle for her to stay alive – and she continues to fight.
Her parents want nothing more than for her to see tomorrow. They pray, her doctors and nurses work, she continues to fight.
Across the world people die – they die because they don't have food, beccause they don't have clean water, because they aren't vaccinated against the childhood diseases that we in the developed world conquered years ago.
People in tin shacks struggle to make it through a life of crushing poverty, they take what joy they can in the little things in life.
And across the world, in a country where you are fed and clothed and housed, where you have access to good quality medical care a teenager who 'has nothing' takes a handful of pills and calls an ambulance.
12 thoughts on “Nothing”
I'm signed up to livinglifetothefull.com, and I think you can self-refer from anywhere. The only problem I have is finding the motivation to sit down and do the work when 'there's no point, its all in my head anyway'.
I think you have misread this post. I never say that mental illness isn't real. It's purpose was to show how depression and suicide can hit you even if you live in a part of the world where you never have 'nothing'.It's about how, when you are in the fits of depression, it drags you down to below the mood of people who really do have nothing.
If I were to be ridiculing depression I'd be ridiculing myself after all.
As someone who lost a very dear friend to suicide, on her third attempt, I've come to view depression very, very, differently from before. Until then, I may not have had much sympathy with this kid. Like you say, there are always folk worse off than yourself. Having sat and listened as she poured out her heart after the first attempt, I saw a whole new side of life. This was a young woman with, on the face of it, everything to live for. Yet she wanted to die. I had a few sleepless nights getting it all as straight as I could in my own head. Depression dogged her, on and off, for a while, and her treatment always seemed disjointed. There are people who care, there are people who want to help, but it was sometimes like she was supposed to ask for help. Eventually, she took enough pills to end her life. She didn't call anyone, and by the time she was found, it was way too late. She'd been dead for hours. I will always miss her.I really, really hope that this poor lad gets the help he needs before he reaches that stage.
Whilst I *completely* agree that we are damned lucky in this country to have socialised healthcare and clean water and enough food, actually, in his head, he may not have had anything to live for. Depression is like that: it muddies your sight and makes you think that your life is empty and your existence is meaningless, and you don't know that it just isn't true.I can say this with clarity now, but I can promise you that tomorrow, or next week, or next month – the next time I wake up and I don't even have the energy to cry, let alone get out of bed, the next time I wake up and feel that useless, I won't remember leaving you this comment. The only thought I will give to the good things in my life is how much better off they would be without me, and as I type this now I know that that is ridiculous, that my life is worth something, but when depression trips you up, there's no seeing that.
Of course, some things can help – make you tall enough to see the top shelf in the library where all the good books are hidden, as it were – cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling, and if you're lucky, SSRIs, but if you don't have those things, you're screwed.
I'm fortunate that my PCT provides a computerised CBT course free of charge which people can refer themselves to, so I recently started on the road to beating this damn thing, but I have to move house shortly, and I wonder what will happen to me then, when I lose access to my treatment. I've lost count of the kinds and dosages of SSRIs and MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressants I've had pumped into me for the last four years, and I just don't respond to them. I won't get to finish my CBT, and I may never learn how to get better.
It's not his fault, and it's not anybody else's fault if they don't understand that. Depression really is one of those things that you just cannot understand until you have felt it yourself. I'm not sure even supporting someone gives you understanding: you have to actually *be* there and come out of the other side before you can truly “get it”.
I agreee with the comment above. It must be so hard to feel sympathy for someone who is making work for you when there are so many people who have illness and injury through no such obvious fault of their own, especially if one hasn't had any personal experiences with self harm of any sort. I've been the person imposing themselves on healthcare providers. In the middle of the the night in an A&E department full to bursting. The guilt from that piled in on top of the guilt that I felt just for being alive at that point. For not having done it better, or planned it better. For NOT being brave enough to die and bottling out and calling help.The crazy things that you feel in that place are not comprehensible by the sane people around you. It seems as though depression, anxiety, hopelessness are not escapable except by this way. At least he called the ambulance. At least now someone knows a bit about what he is suffering. At least now he might be able to get help. And you won't be called to look at the body of a teenager who took the overdose and didn't call for help.
Does not the fact that he called an ambulance means that somewhere in his subconcious he wants to live, to be give a reason for living… at 18 it is too sad to think otherwise…
Perhaps it was a cry for help for this person. Perhaps, like me, he has been ignored by doctors and other members of NHS staff for too long. Perhaps what he meant was “I have nothing to live for. Please help me.” – but he couldn't say it, because he was too scared. It took me three weeks of building up courage to ask for help.Perhaps he really did want to get out of his life, but then discovered, after he'd done it that actually, he wanted to live after all, and that's why he called for help.
You don't know why, because you don't know him. Unless you have been through depression yourself, please: don't try to. You will fall short. Don't give up – support those you know who go through it – but don't try to understand, or to empathise, because this is not something you can imagine.
I agree with all the above comments – I too wrestle with the black dog myself (as has been obvious on this blog in the past and, as winter approaches, I can feel those same thoughts creeping up on me again).I stopped criticising suicide attempts many years ago – I may not understand them, I may think that they are being stupid, but who am I to judge – I can't know what is going on in their heads.So I treat every overdose, be it 'real' or 'call for help' (and I'm not sure that there is that big a distinction) the same. I don't worry about the obviously manipulative efforts, or the people who fake overdoses – Just treat them with respect and decency and take them to hospital.What do I know, after all? I only meet them for a few minutes.(The teenager in question was admitting to the psychiatric ward, so the psychiatrist must have thought that the patient was at real risk).It just strikes me sometimes that there are people struggling for every scrap of life that they can, while in the next bed there are people wanting to end their life.As for folk taking pills and then calling for an ambulance a few minutes later (or texting a friend and getting them to do it), well… I stopped trying to understand some of those motivations years ago. All I can say is that there *are* manipulative people out there, but that they are in the minority.CBT is great and it's interesting to see it being provided online, and that it works online as well. Maybe I should see if I can get myself some of that…
For reference, the cCBT program I was using is beatingtheblues.co.uk and in my area (near Manchester) at least, it's possible to self-refer. I don't know what it's like down in London, but I hope you can find somewhere.
I very much agree with this – mental illness can be just as life-threatening as many physical illnesses. I have to say that as a long-term fan of RAOR and a sufferer of Depression this post has upset me and made me feel disappointed. It is attitudes such as this that make my life difficult.
Having suffered from depression myself, attempted suicide and only just yesterday lost a good friend to suicide it is a tough one. In my period where Im not depressed it is all too easy to see how great my life actually is and how there is plenty to hold on for. However, when the depression kicks in again and as I start to get more and more down and start to hit rock bottom again I cannot see all the wonderful things in my life, all the negatives in my life overtake the positives and I begin to see negatives that I might otherwise have not. It starts to seem as though there are more negatives than there are positives and slowly start coming round to the idea that I might be better off dead.I was lucky that where I was living at the time that the NHS services were excellent and got involved really quickly. However, there are areas in the country where Psychiatric care is not as great as what I received and that is where problems arise. It is where the Ambulance Service and A+E Departments need to pick up the pieces (like they always have to where care is substandard) and Im sure it becomes frustrating for the staff.
I remember planning my suicide I went into different shops buying different drugs (I read somewhere that there were antidotes for medication and I really didnt want to live so I thought if I use everything they cant find the antidote to them all) I put all the tablets into Paracetamol tubs so that they thought I had only taken Paraceamol I waited until I was on my own and that I knew I would be alone for a long time. I started downing handful after handful of tablets, I got to the point when I was about to vomit so I went to the bathroom- I didnt want to be a nuisance and leave a mess to clean up. By this time I estimate that I took approximately 150 tablets, however some of them were capsules- red capsules- and when I vomited it was a pinky-red colour and the thought oh great now I have made my stomach bleed, my ums going to be really disappointed! It was at that very moment I realised I had something to live for but I couldnt see that before. I phoned for an ambulance gave them all false details about me because I was ashamed of what I had done.I am now a student nurse, while training I work as a CSW and as a home carer for different companies, I must admit I have had to have time off work for depression but have never sought medication because Im not sure how it will affect my career but I now always find something to live for even though its hard I know I will make it through…somehow.