Part 2: Important lessons I've learned after my suicide attempt
Leanne talks about the importance of taking time to yourself and appreciating the little things in life
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This is the second part of Leanne’s article. You can read part one here.
Recovering after my suicide attempt
The idea that you are the only version of you that will ever exist has really helped in my recovery. In the entire time planet earth has existed, in the entire time it has yet to exist, there will never be another you. You are unique, you are a once off piece of art. I may not be the smartest, I may not be the prettiest. I’m the most disorganised person I know. But one thing is for sure, I have a lot to offer. I have potential and I have a kind heart.
For me, feeling suicidal was very much the feeling of nothingness. I felt as if I had nothing to offer and nothing to gain, but that’s not true. One of the first things I did when I knew I needed to get better was, I bought a camera. I have always loved photography, always will. It wasn't a very good camera, I found it in a charity shop under a pile of wires. But nonetheless it was a camera and I loved it. I brought it home, cleaned it, put it on my shelf. Now I have almost 40 cameras sitting on 3 shelves.
The importance of choice
I started a new job recently and was taught a very valuable lesson by one of my new employees. Life has a beautiful way of placing people in your path when you're most in need of them.
He taught me that life is nothing more than your decisions and choices. We all have a choice, no matter how small or big that choice may be. We can choose to stay in bed all day, we can choose to get up. We can choose to be negative, we can choose to be positive. We can choose to love, we can choose to hate. Everything we do is a choice.
At the time, I was feeling very under the weather. I was overwhelmed with work and friends and things that needed to be done. I had taken on far too much and was crumbling. My best friend had just moved over to Munich, I hadn't seen my other friends in so long and had kept my distance from everyone. I wasn't sleeping properly, I was putting on weight. The world was getting to me and I had chosen to fall victim to it.
Everyday I was considering just disappearing for a while, getting the first bus I see to wherever possible. But it was then the idea of choice kicked in. I chose to deal with the situation sensibly and talk about how I was feeling. It was long overdue, but I did it.
Important lessons I’ve learned
The last few months of my life has probably been some of the lowest, highest, emotionally confusing months of my life. I'd be a hypocrite to say I don't still get sad, that's far from the truth. The older I get, the more I realise how sadness is a part of me and who I am as a person. Just like happiness, sadness is an emotion which must be embraced and expressed. It’s totally okay to have a good cry every now and then.
I'm happy that I've been given the opportunity to write this article now as recently, I pulled out of a very sad, negative period of time and came out the other end.
It’s about 6 years since I tried to take my own life. In that time, these are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned:
- It’s okay to have ‘me’ time. True love starts with self love, self love starts with you. Make time for yourself, take care of yourself. It took an awful lot of people to remind me to do this.
- Do what makes you happy. I’ve come to realise that I’m only here for a good time, not a long time. There’s no point adding to the stress.
- If you like music, listen to music. If you like dancing, dance. If you like to draw, draw. Embrace who you are and enjoy yourself. Connect with others through your own interests.
- Appreciate the little things in life. Appreciate that you have a comfortable bed to lie down in. Appreciate that you have a friend to text when you receive news. Appreciate that you wake up each morning with a full day of mystery ahead of you.
- If you’re lucky enough to still have your parent(s), tell them you love them as much as possible. They deserve it.
- Smile when you meet strangers, even say hello. Unlike your physical health, mental health is invisible. You can’t see what the person standing next to you in the queue, or sitting next to you on the bus, is thinking. Be friendly, be kind. Be the reason for someone else’s happiness, or their smile at least.
- Be kind, always. Even on your worst days. It’s always returned.
- Rid yourself of negative people and situations. Life is too short.
- Find an escape. If I’m not listening to music, I’m writing or taking photographs. Sometimes doing all three at once. I have found my escape from the world, I break away from reality with an album or a book. It’s important to have an escape that allows this break.
Asking for help is difficult, but so important
I can only speak from experience and I know how hard it is to look for help. I know how irritating it is when people keep telling you how sad you look, how distant you seem. I know how hard it is to be standing outside the door of a counsellor but walking away at the last minute. I know how hard it is to be so sad that ending your life seems like the only option you have.
From absolutely nothing, I created my very own mental health campaign allowing people to speak openly about how they feel. SmileForMe has not only helped me recover but countless others. Mental illness is not a secret anymore nor should it ever have been. I took my first photo for SmileForMe on the 1st of January 2018 and have now built a career for myself purely based on helping others who are going through what I went through.
There is help out there, there is a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how small it may be. From tiny sparks grow great flames. Take your time, go easy on yourself. We’re all only human and only capable of so much. Do yourself a favour and ask for help.Talk to someone you trust and love.
Appreciating the positives in my life
When the world had completely ended for me, I crumbled and broke down to my school chaplain who is responsible for me being alive and well today. Without that first step, I know for certain I wouldn’t be here typing this article.
I still have bad days, but thankfully I’ve learned how to cope. I’ve learned to balance good with bad and appreciate both. Life can’t be perfect, perfection doesn’t exist.
I have a loving family, I have three dogs I love with all my heart. I have a job, I have my cameras. I have made a life for myself that I smile at, rather than cry.
I have friends I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world. We laugh together, we cry together. They make my heart whole and happy.
I have a boyfriend who makes me smile every single day.
Life is a beautiful gift that not everybody gets to experience. So many people get stolen from us too soon who if given the choice, would never leave in the first place.
I’m a huge believer in the Butterfly Effect. It’s something that entered my life during some of my darkest days and has stuck with me since. It’s the belief that even the tiniest of actions have the ability to make the biggest changes. One step at a time.
With the time you have on the earth, use it to the best of your ability. If you want to change the world, change it. The only thing stopping you is you.
Take a deep breath and thank yourself for the life you’re living.
Take a deep breath and smile.