Stories of hope and recovery
Struggling with thoughts of suicide can feel overwhelming. Feelings such as uselessness or self-hatred can be so strong that you feel unable to look past them, towards your future. Some people may even feel like they have no future, or that they don’t want one. It’s ok to feel like this. But it doesn’t have to be your reality. With help, things can change.
We want you to know that people can change how they feel and think about themselves, no matter how dark their world might seem.
We spoke to Naomi Ball and David Stocks, who are suicide survivors. They shared their stories, including their recovery journeys.
How my struggle with suicide began
"I first planned to take my life when I was 17, after feelings of self-hate and self-blame overwhelmed me. The thought of no longer having to deal with my emotions and struggles filled me with relief. Relief that I'd be freeing my family of their burden. My suicide attempt was unsuccessful and soon after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I felt hopeless, useless, and worthless.
I spent the next 13 years in and out of hospital being treated for schizophrenia and psychosis, making multiple attempts to take my own life throughout. I withdrew and isolated myself from my friends and family. I had so much hatred for myself that I didn’t want care or support, I just wanted my life to end."
Finding a balance
“After years of struggling with suicidal thoughts, I became tired of constantly wishing for it all to end. I didn’t want to keep fighting it. I wanted to win.
Throughout this time, my relationship with my mum grew stronger and stronger. She was the constant pillar of positivity and understanding that I needed. My trust in her, and her love for me, allowed me to gradually tell her more about my feelings and what I was experiencing.
Things changed for the better following a lengthy 14-month admission to hospitals. At the end of my time in hospital my psychiatrist referred me to an in-patient therapeutic community. It was here that my life changed. I shared my journey with the group, opening up about my past and what I had experienced. This is what made the difference.
I felt like I had nothing to be afraid of anymore. I laid my skeletons bare, in a room full of strangers. Talking about my deepest, darkest secrets had set me free".
“I had taken back control".
“It’s been three years since I was last admitted to hospital, which is the longest I've been out since I was 17. I still have a fantastic relationship with my mum and have just started my second year studying Psychology and Counselling at university.
When I was struggling with thoughts of suicide, it felt impossible to look past the immediate feelings of disgust and uselessness I had for myself. I piled guilt on myself for thinking about taking my own life, and even more for trying. I have now found peace with those feelings, when I think about my life now, I feel hopeful, useful and worthy".
“I feel like my life has purpose now. I’m looking forward to my future, and I’m excited that I've got one".
What's your advice to others?
"To anybody who is battling suicidal thoughts, my advice would be talk about them with somebody you trust, whether that’s a family member or a friend. Reaching out about how you are feeling will open the door for care and support".
"Help is out there for those who need it. You’re not alone".
"It started with a cup of tea"
"I was admitted to a psychiatric ward in the middle of the night, feeling lost and afraid, my emotions were all over the place. I didn’t know where I was, all that I knew was that I had been admitted for my own safety, as I wanted to end the pain that was inside me. It wasn’t the doctors and nurses that made me the cup of tea, it was my fellow patients, patients who I could see were going through the same things as me, people I could relate to. That cup of tea made me realise that I wasn’t alone. The cup of tea was so much more than a cup of tea to me, it was a life raft in an ocean of emotions, waiting for calmer seas".
I found a focus
"Whilst I was on the ward, I took to completing a book I had started writing. I wrote it on a beat-up old laptop that the staff kindly kept in the linen cupboard for safe keeping, as at that time, I wasn’t technically supposed to have a laptop on the ward. This flexibility of the staff proved invaluable to me, as it gave me a focus and took my mind away from the troubling thoughts that had engulfed me.
As the days went by, my frequent visits to the linen cupboard aroused the curiosity of my fellow patients. When asked about it, I had to assure them that I didn’t have a fetish for clean linen and that I was actually storing my laptop in there. Upon further enquiries, I rather hesitantly revealed I was using it to write a book. This intrigued my new found friends even more and it wasn’t long before they persuaded me to read out some of my book aloud to them".
Restoring my self-belief
"Even in my darkest times, I never lose my sense of humour and I deliberately chose a humorous section of the book to read out to them. It was with some trepidation that I read it, but there was nothing more rewarding than having a ward full of depressed patients, laughing at something I had written.
Their faith in me, gave me faith in myself and spurred me on to write more of my book. The book became my therapy and as the weeks and months went by my book neared completion, until the end of my stay in hospital, was marked by the finish of my book.
I was discharged from hospital a changed person. During my stay I received invaluable help and advice from the staff, but more importantly I received support from my peers who had been through similar things to me and who restored my self-belief".
"When I left the hospital, I wanted others to read about my experience. I went to speak to someone about publishing the book I had written in hospital, even though I was initially told that I wouldn't have a chance of getting my book published, I managed to get a publishing contract with the first publisher I sent it to. I went on to have a successful book launch at Waterstones and a full page article about me and my book in the local paper.
This inspired me to want to give something back and so I started volunteering for Rethink mental health charity. Through Rethink I campaigned at the local Party conferences, this led to a full page article in the Guardian about me, people power and mental health issues.
Through my work with Rethink, I then heard about a leadership programme that Radar (now Disability Rights UK) were doing. At that time I didn’t realise that mental health was considered a disability and I certainly didn’t class myself as leadership material. I eventually applied for it and was amazed to get a place on the programme. I gained lots of experience and opportunities from this programme which eventually led to me leading the programme. To celebrate the success of the leadership programme I also got to speak at N0.10 Downing Street and was honoured to carry the Paralympic torch at the 2012 Paralympics.
I now work for the Black Country Mental Health Trust as a Suicide Prevention Community Development Worker, helping other people overcome difficulties in their lives and change their lives for the better, as my life had been changed".
"All of this happened because of that cup of tea"!
"That cup of tea was a chance for me to talk and be recognised for who I was and to have someone understand and listen to me. That is the power of talking and listening. It is also the power of peer support, which has been fundamental to my journey".
What's your advice to others?
"I am telling this story as a story of hope and recovery. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t see any hope and had no concept of recovery.
No matter how desperate things may seem, there is always someone who can listen and understand. There are reasons for living and what seem like insurmountable problems can be overcome with a little help".
"I offer you hope".
A poem by Amanda Hemmings - Sponsored by Black Country Healthcare Disability Staff Network
Today my happiness and hopefulness are continuously collapsing beneath
a tidal wave of thunderous thoughts,
they keep imprisoning my mind into believing
that I’m too broken to strive,
they keep convincing me that this sea of sorrow is something
that I can’t survive.
I keep trying to retreat to memories of serenity
to escape these silent screams.
I keep trying to recollect my list of aspirations
that hold my ambitions and dreams.
I keep trying to listen to melodies of tranquillity
to escape this constant restlessness.
I keep trying to look at the spring sunshine
to escape my surroundings of cloudiness.
Every coping mechanism I kept trying wasn’t working,
so I began lifting the curtains off the heavy burdens
with the help of the helpline that I began calling,
the person that answered asked how I was doing
and I said I wasn’t coping,
I said I was struggling,
that the pain I was experiencing
was preventing me from feeling like I wanted to keep living.
They caught me when I was falling.
As my tears fell like heavy rain
I kept talking,
they commended me for my honesty
and kept listening to everything I was sharing.
That phone call I made today helped me to keep breathing.
Think about reaching out to someone today,
your support could help them to also keep breathing.