The Hidden Village of Aspergers

May 23, 2014

Quiet Beach

On some quiet beach, we sang songs for the sea
On some quiet beach, lost with the waves we breathe

TW: attempted suicide

It’s taken me ages to gear up to writing this, because it’s not going to be easy to write. I was motivated to write this post today for two reasons. One, a guy I follow on Twitter posted about suicide and selfishness, and it got me thinking. Two, Midland Railway, a band I used to play in, have got back together and are playing in the Retro Bar tonight, and the last time I played with them, I ended up trying to kill myself.

I have three suicide attempts under my belt. None of them have been serious enough to warrant extended hospital stays, though I did have counselling. The first time, I tried to hang myself, but something made me grab hold of the noose. I managed to pull myself back from the brink. I can’t remember what started it.

The second time, I was in my second year of university. It was a tough time. I was bogged down with coursework, my housemates and I were not getting on, I was juggling my degree with student council and other commitments, I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back, and to top it off, my gran had died. Everything came to a head when I found a note on the fridge – my housemates often communicated by leaving notes – about putting single items in the washing machine. It was clearly aimed at me as I’d washed a towel. I slashed my arm. Later, I was in the union and two of my housemates blanked me, and I was pretty wound up. I went to Hulme Hall for practice with another band I was in, but no-one showed up. I sat around crying for a bit, then went the chemist, got some Nurofen and was in the process of wolfing it down when a housemate found me. She made me throw up the pills and called an ambulance. I spent a few hours in hospital, but luckily I was OK and I was discharged. As I walked home, all I could think of was the final line of the poem Mum read at Gran’s funeral: ‘I am not there, I did not die.’

When I got home, the door was locked. I rang the doorbell. One of my housemates answered, gave me a dirty look and walked upstairs without a word. The housemate who found me must have told her that she was partly to blame for my overdose. We later got into an argument and I thought that had cleared the air but things were never the same after – they didn’t buy me anything for my birthday, even though we’d all celebrated theirs, and they’d walk out of a room when I went in. I dropped out of uni and decided to repeat the year. On the advice of a counsellor, I moved out of the house and spent the rest of the year in Richmond Park, before going back to my parents’ house in Chester. Before I left the house, I left a note explaining what I’d done. My housemates never spoke to me again.

Two years later, I was playing at Joshua Brooks with Midland Railway and got into a heated argument with the drummer over some sticks I thought I’d lost, culminating in me threatening to smash him over the head with my guitar, and frantically rummaging around on the floor looking for the sticks, screaming my head off. As soon as I got home, I ate all the pills in the house I could find, and posted a goodbye message on my Livejournal. Sarah, the other female band member and a good friend of mine, came over and kept me company until the ambulance arrived, and my then boyfriend also came and sat with me in the hospital. I was kept in overnight on a drip to get the crap out of my body. Later,┬áthe male members of the band kicked me out behind my back (Sarah was kept out of the loop). I only found out because my then boyfriend told me. I don’t want to go over old ground too much, but suffice to say, whenever I hear about Midland Railway now and see them on my feed, I feel sick and shaky. I’m back in the hospital again.

When I told my mum about my first overdose, her legs went. My maternal grandad was mentally ill and had attempted suicide several times. I remember one time when I got a frantic call from the counsellor’s office telling me to ring Mum. I’d made some comment about slashing my wrists the previous night, and she was frightened and had called the counsellor’s office. I rang her to tell her I was OK and she started crying, and I hated myself so much for what I was doing to her. The thing is, as I’ve said before, however much you may love your family and friends, when you’re suicidal, they do not figure. There is no room in your head. All you can think about is disappearing. You cannot go on anymore; you just want to wipe yourself out and cease to exist, and never mind who will have to pick your body off the floor or out of the bath, clean up the blood, make the phone calls. Your entire world is that little box of pills in your hand and you think of your gran and your dad and how you want to be with them. No more pain. No more sadness.

What does this have to do with Aspergers? I think it comes back to emotional difficulties – emotional and sensory overload, not knowing how to cope, and it all comes to a head and when you tend to see things in black and white, you think of extreme options. So many times I’ve had a bad day at work and thought, “I can end this. There’s one way out.” I think of pills, of ropes, of bleach. I had such a moment lately – luckily, Mum and Jack were able to calm me down over the phone.

I’ll be honest. The main reason why I’m not dead is because I love Mum and Jack and I can’t bear to think of what me dying would do to them. Obviously, there are other people in my life who I care about – my stepfamily, my other relatives, my friends – but I know how much my suicide attempts hurt them. Jack even argued with Mum that I wasn’t safe to go back to uni. One good thing that did come out of it, though, was Jack sending me a text telling me that he loved me and he just wanted me to be OK. Nothing brings my family together like a crisis. I’ll elaborate more on this in Guestlist To Hell, the final post of the series.

January 29, 2014

Anatomy of a panic attack (in the style of Katniss Everdeen)

Filed under: mental illness — kankurette @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

(Note – I’m a fan of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series and was recently reading Mockingjay, which gave me the idea for the style of this post. Also, I’m going to warn for mention of self-harm and eating disorders.)

This is what happened last night, and I’m still recovering.

I’m at work. 8pm: Everton are playing Liverpool at Anfield. I check the score on the BBC website: 0-0. Half an hour later, we are 3-0 down.

Something snaps.

I am crying and cannot stop. I am the only person in the office. On Facebook, my mates ask if I am OK. I tell them that I am alone, reassure them that I am not going to do anything stupid, even though right now I want to go to sleep and never wake up. Thoughts flash through my mind. I am surfing the web, looking at TV Tropes, and the pictures of cute anime girls set something off and I am thinking of my dad and high school and everything is getting too much and I just want to hide under my desk. The office is warm and I am too scared to go home. Scared of what I might do. I am trapped in the office. Should I just go to sleep here? But I am out of coffee and shampoo and I need to go home. I remember how I broke down screaming and crying at the Space gig in Birmingham, and how Tommy Scott hugged me and calmed me down and made sure I was OK. I wish he was here, or someone. Dad. Mum. Richard. Anyone. I don’t want to be alone. Not like this.

It takes me fifteen minutes before I am able to leave work. I am not kidding when I say I have to force myself to walk to the door. Turn off the lights, set the code, lock the door. Then out into the open. The air feels cool on my face. Every step is heavy. I briefly consider flinging myself into the canal.

Panic. My chest suddenly goes tight and I can’t breathe. I have some kind of air hunger – something is sitting on me. Crushing my chest. I take shallow breaths. Still crying. Cross the road, walk past the building site, up Whitworth Street, onto Oxford Road. Pull my hood up on the bus so no one can see me. See the crazy woman crying. I flick through songs on my iPod, but am unable to concentrate. My eyes are red, my hair is sticking to my face. At Sainsbury’s, I buy batteries, shampoo, other things including cookies which are going cheap. I need comfort food.

I get home, and check the score. 4-0. I am almost numb with misery. I pick up a kitchen knife. Better get this over with. Slash my arm four times, one for each goal, the last wound being deeper than the rest. Blood streams down my arm as I hunt for plasters and bog roll to stop the bleeding.

I cannot go on Twitter. They will be laughing. Laughing at me. The stupid bitch who supports the wrong team. Telling me to cry more. Kill myself. Look, the blues are quiet tonight. I must be quiet or I will say something stupid. Something regrettable. I cannot let them see me like this. I know my friend Gina will be worried, so I make sure to tell her on Facebook that I am OK. At least, I am alive. Whether I am OK is debatable.

Blood is dripping onto the floor. I throw away the bits of paper from the plasters, the antiseptic packet. I grab a j-cloth and wipe the blood off the desk, off the floor. The wound is still bleeding and I have to change the dressing. I get antiseptic. Wipe off the blood which is streaming down my arm. It stings, but I must endure. Then I peel the plasters off the largest wound. They are red and wet, soaked in blood, and the sight of it makes me cry even harder. The wound smiles up at me. I rip off pieces of bog roll and hold them against the wound. I want my mum, but she is in Cambridge.

I mindlessly shove chocolate cookies into my mouth and vomit them up. Eventually, a kind of numbness sets in. I feel nothing. I am hollow and empty. Emotion has drained out of me with the blood. I start to feel exhausted and weak. I just want to go to bed and forget today happened.

The next day, I wake up with a headache that doesn’t go away with codeine. I eat the rest of the cookies and vomit them up, and try to sleep but the man who does my garden is here. I ring my mum. I eat lunch. I call in sick to work, pick up my meds and go back to bed.

I am still in a bit of a daze. Still unable to believe that I did something so stupid over something so petty. But then it’s the littlest things that set you off. Sometimes things build and build. And then you snap. Even now, looking at football things makes me feel sick and shaky. I don’t want to add it to the list of things that set me off.

Now I am waiting for the Nytol to kick in. Not enough to kill, but enough to help me sleep.

March 15, 2012

Someone saved my life tonight

Filed under: childhood,mental illness — kankurette @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , ,

As it’s Mother’s Day this weekend, Time To Change have been publishing blog entries about people with mental health difficulties and their relationships with their mothers, good or bad. I thought I’d add my bit, for one simple reason.

My mother is the main reason why I am alive today.

I’m not just saying that, either. My mother is my main reason to stay alive, to keep on fighting the depression and Aspergers and the nasty little voice in my head that tells me to harm myself. My mother gives me hope and lifts me up when I’m down and always has my back. My mother understands what it’s like to be depressed, having suffered from depression herself. She’s not going to tell me to pull myself together, because she’s had people say the same thing to her, and as we both know, that is not how depression works.

When I was a kid, Mum constantly taught me social skills, and although I felt like she was always finding fault with me, in retrospect, it paid off. When I had a breakdown in 2005 and nearly dropped out of university, Mum communicated with the disability department on my behalf; she helped get me the support I needed, and it was her who persuaded me to get out of the toxic house situation I lived in and move into temporary accommodation. She rang the Council last year on my behalf when I was panicking after receiving a phone call from bailiffs about unpaid council tax. She’s sat with me in doctor’s appointments and put me up when I’ve been vulnerable and afraid to be alone. We held hands at my paternal gran’s funeral, and I calmed her down when she had a panic attack when my brother didn’t come home on Christmas Day in 2010 (he was OK, thank G-d).

We haven’t always had an easy relationship, and maybe I’ll write about that some day. I got on better with Dad, and when he died, I had to learn to get on better with her. At times I felt like I could never do anything right, that she was disappointed because I wasn’t into normal girl stuff and that I wasn’t the daughter she’d wanted, that she wanted someone she could dress up and discuss make-up and clothes with, and got someone who was more into music and books. Sometimes I wondered if she hated me. She’s made me cry and I’ve made her cry. I’m not proud of that. I admit I wasn’t a nice teenager. I might not have been into drink and drugs and fucking random guys, but I was a cutter, and I was constantly angry and rude and bitter and withdrawn, hiding in my bedroom for hours. And yes, like every other teenage girl, we had the usual ‘you’re not going out looking like that’ argument, or the argument about safe sex (the awkward moment when your mother finds a morning after pill booklet and asks everyone in your family whose it is, until you come clean). We had screaming rows. My brother just sat there and took it, but I always answered back. Sometimes I’d just scream, because I was too frustrated and upset to say anything.

However, since I went to university, things have changed a hell of a lot, probably because we’re not in each other’s faces, and we’re both happier and more stable now that my stepdad is out of our lives. I ring her every week because I know she gets lonely, and because we both need someone to vent to about our jobs, and it’s just nice to hear a familiar friendly voice at the other end of the phone. She comes and visits me regularly as I live nearer than my brother, who’s in London, and although at times I feel a bit embarrassed for being more dependent on her than other people my age would be, I accept now that I can’t take everything on on my own.

My biggest fear is my mum and brother dying. I’ve already lost my father, and I know no-one lives forever, but losing one of them would be like losing my arm. I love them both so much. It didn’t hit home to me how my mental health problems affected Mum until she rang up the university counsellor’s office in a panic because the night before, I’d made a comment about slitting my wrists. As soon as I rang her at the counsellor’s request to let her know I was OK, she started crying. I wanted to hit myself for frightening her so much.

When you get older, you start to realise that your parents need you too, and it is kind of weird when Mum asks me for advice, but at the same time I’m flattered that she respects my opinions enough to ask for them. Cliched though it is, I want to give something back. If I could repay Mum a tenth of what she’s done for me, I’d be happy. I can never repay her enough. She is my fucking rock. She’s always believed in me and I feel like she finally accepts me now. It’s been a rough ten or so years, but one good thing about the depression is that it’s brought us closer together. She’s always willing to learn more about Aspergers and will always tell me about someone with Aspergers who’s been on Radio 4 (I swear, that station seems to have some kind of fetish). I’m going to see Radiohead with her in October and I’m not ashamed at all – I’m glad I’ve got a mother with such great music taste.

Mum sometimes worries that she failed at raising us, but as far as I’m concerned, she did the best she could. She remarried because it felt like the right thing to do at the time, and none of us could have foreseen that it would end bitterly. I wish she’d stop beating herself up over that time. I can understand why she did it. She was lonely after Dad died and she just needed someone else in her life.

Look at me. I’m starting to tear up now. There’s so much more I could write, but I’ll save it for future entries. So there’s only one way to end this: thank you, Mum, thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you.

December 4, 2011

On suicide and Clarkson

This is not going to be an easy post to write. But a lot of people have been talking about Jeremy Clarkson’s comments on suicide recently – not to mention that one of my beloved Everton FC’s former players, Gary Speed, recently killed himself – and I thought I’d weigh in. What I am about to say will piss a lot of people off, but here goes: Clarkson may be a professional douchebag, and the way he expressed his sentiments was pretty disgusting, but I can see where he’s coming from. I’m not universalising my experiences; everyone has a different story to tell regarding their mental health, and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself.

I have been suicidal, but even at my lowest, I would never have considered throwing myself in front of a train. It is one of the most disgusting and horrific ways a person can commit suicide. Train drivers have had to quit their jobs because of train deaths. Maybe it’s because I was raised to be considerate, maybe I’ve been conditioned into caring too much what people think, but I never once considered going down to Piccadilly or Oxford Road and leaping onto a track as a train was coming in, thereby ensuring some poor train driver would end up in therapy, while some unfortunate railworkers cleaned up the bits of me that had not been splattered all over the front of the train or screaming passengers. My reasoning always was that I didn’t want to involve strangers, I didn’t want to be a nuisance to people on trains, and I didn’t want a disgusting messy death that would end up on Rotten.com. Each time I’ve attempted suicide, it’s been with overdoses of pills. The only strangers getting involved would be the paramedics who would find my body, hopefully before it became one with the carpet. There would be no traumatised driver or bystanders. It would not be a grande geste, just a small, hopeless death in a flat somewhere in south Manchester. I would take my pills, post my goodbyes on Livejournal, lie down and wait to die.

I can joke about this because the alternative option is to cry about it. Sometimes I feel what I did was so pathetic, I have to laugh. I didn’t even take that many pills. The first time, I was swallowing Nurofen. The second time, I think it was anti-depressants, codeine and G-d knows what else. No stomach pumping was involved, although the second time, I ended up sleeping in the hospital with a drip in my arm to fight off the meds. I was given some counselling the next day and released. The first time, I ended up dropping out of university for the rest of the year because I simply could not cope anymore. The second time, I was worried I’d miss my presentation on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in my Assent & Dissent in the Third Reich class.

I mention causing an inconvenience. The reason why I wanted to die in both cases is because I thought I was an inconvenience. The first time, I thought my flatmates would be happy if I was dead. Their behaviour towards me afterwards made me wonder if I had been right. The second time, I’d had a screaming argument with one of my bandmates at a gig. I removed myself from the house in 2005, and was thrown out of the band without my knowledge in 2007. I genuinely believed, both times, that they would be happy if I had died, and that I deserved to die because I was making them unhappy.

Not once did I think about the effect it would have on my family and friends. G-d knows how my friends must have felt when they discovered the suicide note on my Livejournal. Maybe, deep down, I didn’t really want to die and I was hoping they’d catch me before it was too late; I can’t recall clearly because my mind was such a mess at the time. But I thought, for some weird reason, I would have to be considerate and at least let people know I was going to die so they wouldn’t wonder where I was. (Luckily, the one bandmate who actually gave a shit about me called an ambulance, and my then boyfriend sat with me in the A&E. Even if I did dump him a year later, I’ll always be grateful to him for that night.) But I didn’t think about the impact it would have. I didn’t realise my mum would have to sit down because her legs were shaking, or that she’d ring the university counsellors in a panic because I’d said the night before that I wanted to slit my wrists. I didn’t realise my brother would be frightened of me going back to uni in case it happened again.

When I was suicidal, I was selfish. The only person I really thought about was myself. People with Aspergers are often accused of lacking empathy, and while I don’t lack empathy myself, I admit I didn’t consider people’s feelings at all. You don’t. All you can think about is wiping yourself out of existence. You don’t think about upcoming gigs or Naruto chapters or friends’ birthdays. You just want it all to stop. I do consider what I did to be selfish, albeit unintentionally – when you want to kill yourself, you’re hardly thinking rationally. It’s not like going down to the corner shop to buy milk. Even if it’s calculated and planned out, you are not yourself.

I don’t know if Clarkson’s ever lost a loved one to suicide, but I have friends who have, and family who’ve lived through continuous suicide attempts, and I can understand why they might be angry. To people who have never been suicidal, it’s hard to rationalise and explain. It can be seen as the ultimate act of selfishness, with no heed to how the people left behind might feel. I’m not saying “OMG people who kill themselves are bastards”. But if either attempt had worked, Mum and Jack would have been angry as well as sad, that someone they loved could hurt them so badly. G-d knows what was going through Mum’s head the first time I did it, besides ‘oh no, not Lotte too’.

I wonder how many people with Aspergers have resorted to suicide. Bear in mind that a lot of us cannot deal with strong feelings, and that we cut ourselves or smash things or hit people because it’s the only way we can express those feelings. When you’re suicidal, you’re overwhelmed with feelings and the only thing you hear is the screaming in your head and that one little voice telling you that all you have to do is pull the trigger, jump off the chair or onto the tracks, eat the pills, shove your head in the oven. You can’t talk to anyone because they won’t understand or you can’t articulate how you feel or you’re scared you’ll upset them, if you’re me.

I’ll probably write about this again in more detail. There is so much more I could say about the times that I’ve been suicidal. One thing I will say in conclusion is that suicide is still something a lot of people don’t understand, and maybe they never will. Clarkson, professional troll though he is, is one of those many people. To the rational-minded, it’s crazy and selfish, even cruel. But you’ve got to remember that it is not a thing that can easily be rationalised.

To any of my family reading this: I’m sorry if I upset you.

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