Some Consequences Of A Failed Suicide Attempt

A Photographic Documentary

Back in March I tried to end my life, although on this occasion I didn’t want to die. I have long term mental health problems, and one of my symptoms is suicidal ideation. When the thoughts became so bad that I was scared that I was going to act upon them, I asked for help. The support that I recieved was OK, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

This wasn’t the first time that I had tried to commit suicide, but it was the first time that I hadn’t wanted to die whilst the intensity of suicidal thoughts built up. I’ve been in a coma before, my next of kin has, on previous occasions, been told to prepare for my death, that I would not make it through the night. However, this attempt to end my life has had some serious physical and mental consequences. I’ve added some suicide helplines at the foot of this post.

IMG_20190614_090027The ambulance took me to the Whittington. I was stabilised in A and E and then transfered to the critical care unit. The doctors informed my friends not to expect me to make it through the night.

rhdrMy photo’s of my time in the Whittington are limited, and from when I was well enough to be sent from the critical care unit to a general ward.

fznorI had no intention of creating a photo documentary at this point. I took the photos because I loved the views of London.

IMG_20190513_124829My overdose left me with pneumonia on my lung, which turned into a septic abscess. This needed to be removed so I was transfered to the Heart hospital.

The surgery which I needed to undergo was complicated. The abscess released the poison into my blood stream and this lead to a cardiac arrest. My heart stopped for three minutes, again it was believed that I wouldn’t pull through. My cousin took this photograph when I had begun to awaken out of the sedation.

qrfI needed to have a central line as part of the operation. Central lines enable the delivery of IV fluids during and after an operation. The catheter goes into the superior vena cava.

qrfTo perform a thoracotomy an incision needs to be made from underneath the arm pit, around the side of the body and under the breast. The surgeon can then access the lung.

qrfThe chest drain was painful and uncomfortable, but a necessity to drain fluids from the chest. I also required five pints of blood to replace what I had lost.

hdrplI don’t have the large veins in the arm that most people do. It’s so difficult to put a cannula into me because they need to go into tiny superficial veins. They also dislodge very quickly with me, so I needed them replacing often. There were occasions which cannulisation required an anaesthetist to use an ultrasound to find a vein.

qrfThe quality of care was incredible and I found the whole staffing team to be amazing, supportive and empathetic.

hdrplPost-op it took me over a week to get on my feet. Physically I was very weak, but having the chest drains and a urine pot from catheterisation meant that movement was limited anyway. Once they were removed I was filled with relief to be able to move.

qrf

Other injuries that I have as a result of my overdose are pressure ulcers. I developed four of these whilst I was unconscious in the time between trying to take my life and the police being called. I developed the one above whilst under sedation. I’ll write more about these below as well as show a couple of photos of the ulcers.

qrfI lived in this chair, it was my refuge and the beginning of my recovery. But the chair was also a place of vulnerability. Ward round was a necessary daily occurrence, but I also felt trapped and cornered with up to seven people surrounding me.

qrfLooking at this photo now I feel some fondness towards the bed. I slept in it at all hours throughout the day and night. I was so exhausted that during visits from family and friends I would still go to bed and sleep. I could only lay on my left hand side and I was scared of falling out of bed. It was difficult to get into a comfortable position because I didn’t have the strength to pull myself with just my left arm. I could use my right arm at the time.

I still struggle with exhaustion today. I’m having to really listen to what my body needs. Listening to my body is one of the many silver linings from my experience.

qrfWith five pressure ulcers I’m unable to take a shower. A sit down strip wash was all that I could, and can manage.

fznorMoving from one hospital to another and being on four different wards meant that my family and I gave up on trying to put clothes and belongings into drawers and the wardrobe.

qrfI hate feeling trapped, it scares me and leaves me panicky. I was unable to leave the ward for around two weeks post surgery. It was impossible because I was so unwell. But as I got my strength back I was aloud to go out for 20 minutes at a time. This helped to reduce my anxiety.

hdrplOnce I left hospital I was so weak as to be incapable of doing anything other than basic functioning. I had a friend stay with me for the first week, and then I want and stayed with my cousin. I’m still recovering, but I’m most grateful for P and L for making life easier. L’s art and craft room became my home during my recuperation.

Asking for help/accepting help is not something that I do. I’m a hermit, I live alone and I do everything for myself. Being so unwell has meant that I’ve had to ask for help from P and from L. The thing is that my belief is that it’s not acceptable to impose myself upon others. However, I’ve found out that people want to help and that they are pleased that I have let them in. I have a lot to learn about human relationships.

hdrplThe right hand side of my body was so tender following surgery. In order to open my chest the surgeon had to cut through skin and muscle. Although it hasn’t hurt it has felt very uncomfortable. The only relief from the discomfort has been cuddling a pillow. It’s bliss when the discomfort goes away.

hdrplThe team at the Heart hospital wanted me to have plastic surgery to debrided the dead skin, and then a skin graft to replace it. I felt so traumatised that I decided that I couldn’t go through with it. The trauma which I experienced was related to having surgery and then cardiac arrest. I’ve felt terrified of having another procedure.

rhdrThe same has been true about this ulcer on my heel. I couldn’t allow them to cut the skin away. The thought of it has brought me to tears. However, this week has been a turning point. I agreed that plastics could debrided the skin by using tweezers to turn the edges back, and then a scalpel to remove the dead skin. I’ve also had the dead skin removed from my arm this week in the same way. The healing process will last for many months, but it will be quicker now that the dead skin has been removed.

fznorI am grateful to be alive, but at the same time I’m frustrated at the amount of medical appointments I have. To assess and dress my injuries I see plastics at the Royal Free, podiatry at St Pancras, and three visits per week to my doctors surgery to have the dressings changed by a nurse.

qrfRecovery also means getting back into normal living. I have been able to finish the third embroidered photo for my final Foundations in Photography assignment. This is the start of the fourth photo. I use a black and white photo, taped onto a self portrait, in order to prick the holes into the self portrait. It’s a slow process, but it’s mindfulness and rest. I look forward to the embroidery. It’s such a rewarding process.

fznorI haven’t felt able to get out with my camera, I’ve been exhausted. But while I’ve been out I have been making potography with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I love how this guy is so loving towards the pigeons.

I had no intention of documenting my time in hospital, nor my recovery. However, a friend suggested that I document the progress of the wound on my arm, and I then figured I could piece together a photo documentary of my experiences.

Attempting to end my life was as an experience of intense suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to die on this occasion, and I’m very grateful to be alive. Many people attempt suicide and sadly, a lot of people succeed and die. Help is available and we do not need to be alone with our thoughts or experiences.

If you are feeling suicidal then know that it is OK to ask for help. You can speak with one of your trusted friends or your Gp, or call a suicide helpline.

Grassroots is a charity in the UK that has a focus on preventing suicide. They have a Men’s Suicide Prevention Campaign which encourages men to talk with their mates about mental health and suicide, “This campaign focuses on encouraging male friends to look out for each other. The aim is to foster open and direct conversations about any concerns, including thoughts of suicide and mental health issues.”

Suicide Charities and Telephone Lines.

UK

The Samaritans Call 116123

CALM 0800 58 58 58

The Listening Space (London)  020 3906 7676

Papyrus (young people) 0800 068 4141

USA

National suicide and crisis hotlines

India

AASRA 91 22 2754 6669

Australia

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

 

Mental Health – Health Update

rhdr

The photos in this post were taken on the day that I tried to end my life. These were all shot near the Barbican in London on an overcast and wet day. It had been a wonderful and enjoyable day. I had no intention of trying to commit suicide, I was just overwhelmed by the suicidal ideation which had been building up in intensity over the previous 10 days. Although it may be hard to get your head around, I wanted to live, I was happy and I had been seeking support to try and fight off this aspect of mental illness.

fznor

The consequences have been severe and challenging, and I’m putting together a documentary photo series to chart my experiences.

rhdr

My mental health has been unstable since leaving hospital. I’ve had intrusive thoughts about being shot and being followed. Sometimes the intrusive thoughts are visual and scary. I get images of my throat being cut and of people shooting me. This has increased my paranoia and I’ve sometimes been unable to move off of my sofa if a car pulls up outside. I believe that if I move then the people in the car will notice me and then attack me.

rhdr

For some reason I stopped meditating a while back, when I was really ill with my anorexia, but I have now returned to my practice. Twice daily meditation has helped reduce the paranoia, and my doctor has increased one of my meditations. Things are beginning to ease off now, such a relief.

hdrpl

My attempt to end my life resulted in physical complications. I developed pneumonia and a septic abscess on my lung. I required surgery to have it removed, along with part of my lung which had died. On the operating table I had a cardiac arrest.

rhdr

As my lung has started to heal I have been able to work at a better pace, and I’m no longer scared of people walking into my right hand side, the side of my body where my chest was opened.

fznor

My memory and ability to communicate is improving. There are occasions in which I get lost in a conversation, or cannot find the right words, but this is happening less than previously. qrf

Fatigue is still a problem. If I have a busy day then I need to have a nap, sometimes I need to have a complete day of rest the following day. I also find that my fatigue gets the better of me, which means that I’m going to bed around 9.30pm, but I’m sleeping for longer and sleeping through the night which is fab.

rhdr

The biggest challenge at the moment is that I have five pressure sores, some of which need dressing three times per week. On top of this I also have weekly podiatry appointments for the pressure sores on my feet, and fortnightly appointments for my arm. Worse still is that I’m scared of knives. The dead skin on the pressure sores on my feet needs to be debrided with a scalpel, and i cant cope with that. My fore arm is covered with a large pressure sore, and I have now come to terms with that being debrided using tweezers and scissors. The same can’t be done on my foot because the skin is different there.

rhdr

The great news is that I’ve got my mojo back now. You can probably tell because I’m following blogs and blogging myself. Such a relief. Most importantly though is that I’ve returned to my final assignment in Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts . The embroidery is going well and I’m more than pleased with my progress. The embroidery is slow progress but it is progress.

 

 

A Good Day For My Mental Health

It feels like my mental health has been quite challenging recently. The paranoid thoughts and feelings have been a struggle, although shifting from intense paranoia, which is terror and panic, down to self obsession, which is accompanied by anxiety, has been a blessing.

Today has been better still. A day of relative comfort, peace and some joy, with a bit of anxiety in the mix.

I followed my morning routine, which includes my embroidery (the butterfly is beggining to pull together), and then I went to St James Park.

IMG_20190602_142451.jpg

The amazing thing is that I have to wear these hideous hospital boots to protect the pressure sores on my feet, and the park was packed, and I was fine.

I took my Olympus OMD EM10 MK iii, with the Mzuiko 60mm f2.8 macro. I’ve come away with 3 photos that I like of a pochard, a red crested pochard, and my favourite was of the female red crested pochard. Very sublime and no red crest. I can’t post those as yet as my computers not up and running.

The wind was blowing petals and other bits of plants and trees, sorry I don’t know the name of these “other bits”. They kept getting stuck in my throat and causing me to cough. Here’s one of the little blighters.

ptr

It’s nice to have good days.

Wishing you all peace and joy.

Two Years Blogging On WordPress

anniversary-2x

WordPress sent me a notification that I have reached my two year anniversary of being a WordPress blogger. During that time I’ve seen some amazing photography by my peers, followed some awesome blogs from awesome people around the world, developed a new online community, taken advice about what camera would be better for my long term development, and some how I have 1,919 people follow my blog.

WordPress has been a wonderful platform for me, my prose and my photography.  I’m most grateful.

rhdr

Slowly Getting Better

I have really been through it recently, but I am on the mend.

Last Tuesday I had surgery on my lung, it was a success, but surgery had complications and I had a heart attack immediately after. I’m out of intensive care, and I’ve had one chest drain removed. Every day I ask for the other one to be removed, and their response is always “maybe tomorrow”.

qrf

Mental health relapse has been scary this time. I wasn’t depressed, in fact far from it. Life is good and I have so much potential, but the suicidal thoughts were overwhelming. I wasn’t found for three days and had aspirated vomit, and that settled in my right lung. The immediate priority was a stay in intensive care to bring me back from the overdose. This was followed by time on a general ward being treated with anti-biotics as preparation for surgery.

One change of hospital later (to a thoracic hospital) and it was surgery last week. My stay on intensive care was a further 6 days, and 5 days back on the ward.

qrf

I’ve complained about the NHS before, and with very good reason. However, this time I have nothing but praise for the excellent quality of care in both hospitals. Excellent doesn’t sum it up well enough.

I’m grateful to be alive. Very much so, and for that I’m very grateful to people whose names it would be inappropriate to mention. Thankyou all whoever you are.

fznor

I have a hospital acquired skin infection now, which is quite serious. There is a plan in place to deal with it, which will mean being transfered to another hospital. I don’t want to go. I’m tired of hospital, I don’t want a skin graft. Treat the infection – yes. Take away the dead skin – yes. Plastic surgery – no. The wound can be treated with an anti-bacterial/anti-microbial dressing. I don’t care about having a scar.

Any how, life is surprisingly OK in hospital, but I do look forward to getting home.

qrf

I’ve added this into the digital sketchbook side of my blog. I can see that this mini series has potential to be built upon.

Intuitive Eating – My Anorexia Recovery

Things are going very well for me, and on the whole my eating is now intuitive. I am able to select foods that I want to eat. Sometimes I have the foods that I want to eat, and other times I eat something that I fancy. I may eat out or I may cook at home, depending upon my other plans.

Here’s a salt and chilli beef which I cooked at home.

hdrpl

Many places in London have Street vendors who sell a variety of foods. I’ve seen bubble waffles for a while, but I haven’t dared to have one until Saturday.

IMG_20190303_093533.jpg

It was delicious. Hot Nutella on the waffle, with chopped snickers, strawberry, cream, and more Nutella drizzled over the top.

I had this at snack time, but because the calories were so high I considered it to be lunch and had a snack at lunch time. My nutritionist was impressed that I was able to do so.

My Anorexia Recovery And Self Care

My recovery has developed very quickly since August. Initially I was on a weight gain regime, then onto maintenance, and now I’m learning some flexibility.

My nutritionist agreed that I could try a new food this week. We didn’t specify what that should be, but that I could choose it on the day.

rhdr

Yesterday I ate at East Street in Rathborne Place, just off of Oxford Street in London. East Street has a menu of many Asian foods. I chose a hot and spicy Thai chicken dish with Jasmine rice. Now that’s the kind of food I want to eat more off. It was delicious. The service was quick, friendly and accommodating (I changed tables because I felt a draft where I initially sat), the food was tasty, and the restaurant was stylish.

I needed some new clothes, and purchased a fab pink jumper and matching pink shirt, pink really suits me, but my real self-care was buying a bath bomb and soap from Lush.

fznor

This was a reward for me having the courage to follow my heart and move to London. The photo of the bath bomb isn’t good, but the bath was. I smell like a fizzy lemon. Truly lush.

It was cold and wet in London yesterday. Not my favourite conditions to be outside in, but there’s always a photographic opportunity if we seek it out.

ozedf

 

Anorexia And Moving Towards Intuitive Eating

If you have an eating disorder, the chances are that you’ve shut out your body’s desires for so long that you don’t know how to recognise cues for hunger or fullness.

I am having to practice mindfulness whilst I eat to try to relearn awareness of these cues. There is improvement, and I now sometimes feel hungry or full.

qrf

My nutritionist is helping me with this process, and I know have a new goal. I still have a meal plan, but rather than having a set menu of meals and snacks every day of the week, I can now choose what I want from that plan at each meal.

hdrpl

My fridge freezer and cupboards are now full, it feels so grown up. Some days it’s easy for me to choose, and at others I can only stick with what I would have previously had for that meal, on that day. Progress not perfection.

Chicken with walnuts, fried with peppers and soy sauce is still one of my favourites.

hdrpl

I’m pleased with the progress I’m making

UK Based Eating Disorder Charities

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Men and Boys Get Eating And Exercise Disorders Scotland

International Eating Disorder Charities

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

Peer Support groups

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous

Smart Recovery

Over-Eaters Anonymous

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Two vlogersI have found useful who are in recovery or recovered

Megsy recovery

Tabitha Farrar

Anorexia Recovery – Christmas – New Foods – What Is Hunger

Right now I’m very pleased with the progress that I’m making. Food is certainly something that I’m enjoying. The obsessive thoughts that I had around food have decreased considerably, but they are certainly intense when my emotions are strong.

The most difficult time over the Christmas period was when shopping the day after I arrived in Cork. I had a shopping list for breakfasts, lunch and snacks, but I found being in a new shop, in a new town and being around so much food was challenging.

hdrplProfiterole, cheesecake and Ben and Jerry.

I heavily over-ate one night whilst I was in Cork, and I had a couple of nights where I had a few chocolates. So what! It’s no big deal, and I didn’t go into guilt and shame.

I had several foods I hadn’t eaten for a long time, which included Chinese and Asian street food, ham, tomato and salad sandwiches, a full English and Christmas Dinner.

IMG_20181223_222144.jpgSingapore special chow mein.

I cooked Christmas Dinner. I love cooking and I was very satisfied with my cooking. Roast lamb, roast beef, sprouts cooked with bacon and pear, honey glazed parsnips, glazed buttered carrots, fluffy roast potatoes and breaded mushroom for starter. I’m very impressed with the progress that I am making.

IMG_20181225_152729.jpgI cooked this Christmas Roast. 

It also feels like my weight has stabilised. I don’t weigh myself, but I don’t think I’m putting on anymore either – which is a relief.

I’m going on holiday to India next year, so I need to be flexible with my eating, and I want to learn to eat according to hunger and fullness. I experience hunger so infrequently. I didn’t feel it at all when I wasn’t eating, so anytime when I feel slightly hungry or slightly full is a time of excitement for me. I’m focusing intently on my stomach and tummy before, during and after eating. I’ve now had two very subtle feelings of fullness. I can’t believe how excited I feel at feeling hungry or full. Life is bizarre.

IMG_20181223_180751.jpgI can’t believe how wonderful a ham sandwich tastes.

Things are going well. I still get some intense thoughts about eating or restricting, and shopping disturbed me so much that it triggered my neuro-muscular condition, but overall my recovery is going well.

Mental Health Professionals Stigmatize People With Mental Illness

Sadly there is a host of peer-reviewed research which highlight the reality that mental health professionals stigmatise people with mental health problems.

Although this is a disturbing finding, being on the receiving end of it is far worse. I have experienced this as an inpatient, as an outpatient and also in general.

I’m aware of these attitudes, but today I perceived stigmatisation by a former mental health professional. Yes some of my photography is disturbing, yes I’m aware of this, but do I have to hide my lived reality, whether past or present, so as not to offend you? No! My lived experience is real, and as a visual artist I will retain my authenticity, even if you believe it to be attention seeking. It isn’t, but to describe it so only increases the social exclusion that exacerbates mental health problems in the first place.

At some point in the future I will write a photo essay which explores stigmatisation by mental health care and general health care professionals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16445483/

https://academic.oup.com/schizophreniabulletin/article/32/4/709/1934707

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0840470416679413