Sophie Mei Lan begins her new series on mental health by sharing vulnerably how finding her own suicide letter was a stark reminder that she needed help again
People often say “suicide is selfish” but, if you’re like me and have tried to take your own life, you’d know that more often than not you’re not in a rational state of mind when you convince yourself your death would make things better for others. You believe by taking your own life you are actually helping others.
I was busy being busy. I wasn’t giving myself space to create or to practise my faith and I had been reducing my medication
But as a fortunate suicide survivor, it was actually discovering my own suicide note that acted as a stark reminder of how my life story could have ended without faith, creativity or medication. Here is a snippet of what I wrote to my two daughter’s at the time:
“Sat with tears streaming down my face, my liquid waterproof eyeliner is still clinging on. This cheap stuff has seen me through the pain of induced labour, the trauma of life and will probably be the one thing that stays the same on my face. Mostly, as it is my natural juxtaposition, my face also wears a beaming smile; I guess my heart sings through my smile.
“I was blessed with a kind, loving and giving heart. I thought the world was as open as my grin; I thought everyone had the intentions I was born with and I thought that everyone loved others before themselves.
“The world can be very different to what I have always believed to be true. I do still believe most humans are born beautiful, loving and kind but then I think evil behaviour can destroy people. I now realise that not everyone is as fragile, delicate and as caring as me. I am far from perfect, but then maybe I know too much just how imperfect I am. I justify others’ cruelty as their pains and they are re-enacting what has been done to them. But maybe that is the problem of being born the way I was.
“I never justify my actions as a result of past trauma; I always would offer my life up on this earth to sacrifice myself for any pain I have caused, even unintentional pain.”
I got as far as the planning stage of suicide but then a routine visit from a mental health nurse gave me space to talk – even when I didn’t want to. That, as well as positive cards from my church family and a prayer that I stuck up in my bathroom, remind me to get help when I need to.
Recognising when you need help
While God, medication and my church family have dragged me out of the doldrums of mental illness many times, it can be a lot harder to know you need these foundations when you’re feeling ‘OK’.
A few months ago, I convinced myself that now I was feeling good enough mentally, I could go it alone and reduce my medication. I had also become ‘too busy’ to pray. But things quickly declined in my life when I suffered a personal tragedy. At first I couldn’t work out why I was wandering around feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by life.
I was busy being busy. I wasn’t giving myself space to create or to practise my faith and I had been reducing my medication. The one saving grace is that, as a dance and fitness coach, I kept moving daily, which kept me motivated. But at times I felt unable to cope, lonely and life seemed chaotic. I wasn’t ‘poorly’ enough for it to have been obvious, but I couldn’t work out why things were deteriorating.
I found myself pining over ‘Facebook memories’ of past smiles, happy times and fun days out. But finding the suicide note I’d written during the very same year reminded me that those Facebook memories were superficial because behind closed doors I wanted to cease to exist.
I realised I needed to reconnect again, rather than going deeper into the pit, and, since that time of reaching rock bottom, I had learned the building blocks which have given me a reason to live again.
Learning how to stay well
My continuous recovery is based on my ‘staying well plan’, which includes spending time with my church friends and the Bible, making time to write and exercise as well as taking my medication.
I realised that being consistent through the good days and bad is key to managing my mental health. I would recommend that everyone should have an individualised ‘staying well plan’. Looking back to see how far I’d come proved to me that there is always hope and how fortunate I am to be alive today.
For my mind to be balanced I know that I need a Bible in one hand and my medication in another, as well as the opportunity to write, move and vlog. I now view this balance as integral to my life, like movement. We each need to exercise to get fit but it doesn’t mean that once we get fit we stop exercising.
We each need to exercise to get fit but it doesn’t mean that once we get fit we stop exercising
In recent years I have built a system that all my work (and life) is centred around: the eight pillars of wellness, which include: emotional/mental, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual. We need to recognise how inter-connected they are and take care of each area. For example, I take medication for my head just like I would take it for my physical health, because both my mind and body are important.
I believe that life is full of light and shade; it is the darkness that makes the light shine all the more. We all need to keep looking after ourselves through the light and dark moments alike, and I’m here to share ideas with you how to do this each month, drawing on my own experience of recovery and learning to feel at peace in mind, body and soul.
I can testify that even in our darkest days, when the world feels impossible, there is always hope and God can breathe light back into your life.