Warning: This post might be triggering for those affected by suicidal thoughts.
I’m not suicidal as I’m writing this, but I’ve thought about it a lot.
Conversations with mental health professionals after the event play out again, and again, and again in my head. There is one thing in common, in every one when asked some version of “Why didn’t you call before you did something?”, my response (should I choose to say it) would be “That I didn’t think you’d take me seriously”.
I’ve never experienced this myself, because I’ve never interacted with an NHS crisis service before the event, as I have no confidence in my own ability to tell if I’m about to hurt myself, so taking the risk of having someone else tell me the same thing deters me. Unfortunately I also know people who have spoken to crisis services before acting and been told that they wouldn’t be seeking help if they were really suicidal.
This is the tricky bit. I know when an incident is on the horizon. However when I’m stuck in the middle of one I feel incapable of reaching for help until it has resolved to the point I’m in need of A&E, minor injury, or I no longer plan to do anything, and just want to tell someone so it isn’t a secret or burden to hold forever.
I don’t know how to get away from the fear of being judged by a professional. There are amazing people who work in mental health services, where I have felt safe and not judged, but just the knowledge it is a “luck of the draw” whether I get a professional I can talk to or not is enough to make it really hard to initiate.
The fear of being judged permeates assessments by professionals, depending on the professional I’ll disclose different parts of my story, all of it true, just focussed on the stuff they already know, or sometimes (when with a more difficult professional) can’t do anything to make the situation any worse. I see all professionals on a spectrum from “perfect” to “awful”, so my stories go on the spectrum as well. The closer to “perfect”, the more of my story you get, and the more you get, the more I believe you can help.
Intrusive thoughts are restricted so tightly I’ve only initially disclosed them when already in significant distress as a last resort for finding help. On the plus side, the existence of them was written in my notes, so more professionals became aware, and eventually I could talk about them with my normal psychiatrist. I probably would have been comfortable discussing them anyway with the people I talked to, but having their mere existence in my notes gave me a starting point, and they started the conversation so I felt confident it wasn’t “attention seeking” behaviour.
And that brings me onto another part of a fear of being judged. A fear of being seen as “attention seeking”. I haven’t had this said to me, maybe because of the lack of attention I seek to avert an incident, only afterwards when there is a concrete physical ailment to treat.
The best I can do is honestly briefing a professional how I’ve been, not how I think I’m going to be. The past seems set in stone, I can’t alter my current behaviour to make my past more attention seeking. Discussing the future on the other hand (especially when my “choice” to self-harm is emphasised…).
If you can reach for help before something happens, then that is great, don’t feel bad about doing so, unlike me…