How support from my family and counsellors helped when I was suicidal

Joyce talks about her experience with suicidal thoughts and how support from friends, family and counsellors helped

Written by Joyce Reilly


Although this is a difficult story for me to tell, the fact that I am writing about this now shows me how much strength and resilience I actually have, something that I found with the help of family and friends. If I can find that, others can too. Here’s my story.

There is help out there. I’m still standing today. You are never alone and you will never walk alone.


Following my mother’s death, I felt empty. I never ever talked about it. I guess I just didn’t know what to say, or express the pain I was feeling in my gut. But now I have words that can describe how I felt. Those words were confusion, loneliness, heartbreak, and an overwhelming sadness. I was eight when she died so I barely understood the concept of death. I had no idea that death meant somebody was gone forever and they would never return. There were no exceptions, not even if it was your mother.

I remember the moment that I realised I had to live the rest of my life without my mother. I thought about the big things she will miss out on in my life like graduating, getting married, having children. Nothing will ever prepare you for the realisation that the person you adore will miss out on the milestones in your life. I cried an awful lot after that, I couldn’t stop myself. I felt like a part of me was missing. I was completely heartbroken, and in denial. People would always tell me that she’s with me in my heart, but that just wasn’t enough. It soon began to take over my life, I began to grieve, and self harm. Thankfully more supports are available to young people who are dealing with grief these days. If I had had professional support at that time, things may have been different.

I couldn’t function during the day. I would dread that moment of waking up and knowing I had to get through another day. I cried everyday. All I had to do was think of my mother and I would break. It wasn’t as if I had no friends. I had a circle of friends at my new school, but I just felt so alone like nothing mattered to me.

Feelings of hopelessness

As a teenager, I battled anorexia, self harm and endured bullying in school. Suicide wasn’t something I had ever had a discussion about, or researched. Of course I knew what it was before this point, I had never considered it. One day, I found myself in the middle of breakdown. I looked in the mirror and started thinking that I’m not good enough, that my life was a joke. Having been bullied in school for years, I felt like I was still trapped and like the bullying still existed in my head. The thoughts would grow and grow and I remember once I actually grew to be afraid of them.

I had to live with these feelings of hopelessness everyday. They changed me as a person. I became selfish and only thought of myself and my needs. It was meltdown after meltdown and breakdown after breakdown. It was exhausting. I was living in my past even though I had escaped being bullied and tormented, It was still very much alive as ever.

I just wanted to end it all at this stage. I attempted suicide for the first ever time when I was only 15. It happened in the middle of a breakdown when I just couldn’t think straight. I was aware of what I was doing and the people I would leave behind, but all I could think about was being with my mother. It all just seemed so simple, until I saw the hurt I caused to so many people.

Working with my counsellor

It got to a point where it was a vicious circle, where I just saw no way out. I was at counselling session after counselling session, and I wasn’t making progress. My counsellor even asked me “what would your father do if he lost you?” I just replied “he’d get over it.” I was emotionless. It got to a stage where I turned into a liar. I would tell people what they wanted to hear and then I would try all over again. I had tried several times at this stage to take my own life as well as desperately self harming until it got to a point where I was uncontrollable and I had to be sent to an impatient centre for treatment. After seeing the pain I had put my family through, I agreed to this in a bid to save my life and get better.

I spent two months away from my family in an inpatient unit for young people in Dublin. I was in there from February until April. I remember one morning in the hospital, I had a massive breakdown the night before, and I woke up the next morning in this hospital bed, and I couldn’t help feeling angry at myself for putting myself where I was. A nurse came into me then, and said something that will stick with me forever. She said ‘’Joyce, that’s it. That’s the worst part of your life over now. It’s over, there is nothing worse than losing your mother. You hit rock bottom, and now you can only go up.”

You are not alone

I got out of hospital in April 2014. It is now many years later. Do I still have my problems? Yes of course I do, but doesn’t everyone? You are not alone. You never were alone. When I was at my lowest point I always remembered a lyric Eminem rapped in one of his songs ‘’And it’s as though you feel you’ve died ‘cause you’ve been killed inside. But yet you’re still alive, which means you will survive.’’ That line stuck with me. I was still breathing and my heart was still beating. That has to mean something. I constantly told myself that in hospital.

Support from friends and family

The thing is though, I didn’t pull myself through this alone. I just don’t think that’s possible when you are that depressed. The only way I survived suicide was through help from others. Despite what anyone may say, if you are in any situation that you feel like you want to take your life, pick up the phone and call someone. It can be a GP, Pieta House, a parent, a friend, a teacher.

Some people ask me how I’m so strong or the most popular line is ‘’how are you still here, after everything? You are just so strong.’’ My answer is simple. It’s resilience. When things started to look up, I realised I didn’t want to be another statistic. I wanted to be the reason someone looked for help, the reason someone reads this and says to themselves, you know what she’s right. I want to be the person that I didn’t have when I was going through the motions. There is help out there. I’m still standing today. You are never alone and you will never walk alone.

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