The author as a child.

Beauty Left Behind

By Harry Hitchens

On the evening of June 9th 2018, two days before my 23rd birthday, I tried to end my own life. I didn’t want to die. I just couldn’t bear the idea of living any longer. The desperation is like nothing I’ve ever felt. But I was fortunate enough to have been saved by my closest friends before it was too late. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ll never be more grateful for anything in the world than this second chance.

I cried for days after. Every time I heard a beautiful song, I’d cry. I could look at a painting and cry. I might see my ex-boyfriend with his new man or a friend I hadn’t seen since before that night and ball my eyes out. Because everything I saw, heard or did was a reminder of what I would have lost. I was beginning to process the sheer beauty in the world that I would have left behind.

I’ve considered writing about this ordeal for some time. So many things have stopped me so far — mostly an overwhelming pressure to seem capable. A concern that I may come across as broken, unreliable or attention-seeking. Even after displaying such clear signs of difficulty I am uncontrollably ashamed of my own condition. Up there in my noggin, I know it’s unfair to myself to think like that. Intellectually, I understand that transparency and a wider conversation can genuinely help some people.

I’ve found that logic and reason fail to help me reconcile my challenges. Knowing it’s all going to be better one day won’t stop the emotions rising up, just like knowing that your broken leg is going to stop hurting doesn’t mean it isn’t fucking painful at the time. It just takes guts — pure determination to not give up. At least with a broken leg you’re likely to see a full recovery. My mental health illness will be with me until my death and although it might not affect me acutely all the time, it will linger on. I sometimes wonder whether I’ll run out of bravery again.

Courage isn’t something I had much of directly after my suicide attempt and my confidence is taking time to build. Every day I think about that evening, however happy I might seem on the surface. I see flashbacks flicker through my head of my childhood and I have graphic and disturbing nightmares almost every single night. The realest desperation hits when I’m so frightened to fall asleep in a period of total exhaustion. That combination can prove fatal.

When I was being driven to the hospital in the police car (there were no ambulances available) I cracked my first joke. We live in a very wealthy borough of West London — the kind of place Hugh Grant would call home in a movie. When they told me which hospital we were going to I asked them how far away it was. When I heard it was close by I said, in an overly posh accent, “oh well thank goodness we’re not leaving the borough.” It wasn’t a great joke but the car erupted. My friend Adrian was sitting in the back with me and we shared a glance as if to say: we’re going to be fine. This was the beginning of an imbalance in my attitude towards my condition.

It felt uncomfortable, so soon after such a momentous life event, to be joking about anything at all.

When I decided to end my own life and failed I thought there would be a service that picks you up and keeps you safe. A group of wiz-people waiting in the wings to press pause on your life, help you recover and become a new man. I mean surely there would be some drastic action taken?

In reality I was fixed up, examined by a psychiatrist and determined fit to leave. I was also told to up the amount of times I see my therapist to twice a week instead of the once I had been committed to for nearly 3 years. Within what seemed like no time at all I was back lying in the very bed I had written my suicide note in just a few hours before.

In the weeks after, various friends of mine reached have out in the most supportive, reassuring and lovely way. And some, including people I once loved dearly, have still said nothing at all. I’m laughing again, as well as crying lots, and generally I feel quite grateful. But the imbalance I mentioned earlier still exists. It’s a sensation that indicates just how early on I am in my journey to recovery. A feeling that suggests I haven’t truly dealt with what happened that night. The flashbacks continue, the nightmares only allow me 4 hours of sleep each night and I’m eating myself to an early grave to deal with the deep sadness.

I’m still here, feeling on the brink of a collapse even bigger than before and seemingly unable to take a sustainable enough of an action to be certain I won’t try to do it again.

On my good days, the world seems like a great place that’s occasionally tarnished to look nasty. On my bad days, the world seems like a wholly negative place that’s every now and again dolled up to look worth living in. I’m just doing my best to consider the former notion more regularly. I feel alone in my struggles even though I know so many people are suffering.

It could be an underfunded system, it could be a question of priorities — it could even be our human brains ignoring the pain that would disable us if addressed. All I know is that something in my life needs to change and I seem to be the only one who’s going to be able to make it happen. It shouldn’t be like that, but that’s just how it is right now. If I am to reconcile that these issues will be with me for life I’ve got to develop a way to understand and control my feelings instead of trying and failing to eradicate them all together.

To be continued, if all goes well.