It’s hard to talk about birth trauma, but even harder to talk about suicide. Yet I know from the women that contact me and my own experience that dealing day in, and day out, with the impact of a traumatic birth can lead to feelings of suicide and sadly for some the taking of their life.
Trauma invades us. It strips us of hope, it changes who we are, our relationships and our whole life. Left in its wake is often despair, and deep pain that does not just go away but instead can lead to finding every day a battle that we believe we cannot win.
When devoid of hope, everything crumbles. Women have voiced that they have struggled to get through each day, that caring for their baby, home or themselves has become a near impossible task. Yet others appear to on the outside be doing fine to those around them, painting on a smile, functioning as if in dream, yet inside they carry pain and turmoil that burns their very soul.
For me I had dark days where the pain became unbearable. I could mostly function, a mask hiding the torment I endured but the nights came and I would endure panic attacks that lasted for hours and would often put me in hospital. My weight plummeted, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts became my norm. I couldn’t access any support either, but instead with the wrong diagnosis I was moved from service to service, classed as low risk with no one to help me. Those dark days I didn’t want to be here. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to live, it wasn’t that I didn’t love my children. Instead that I felt a burden to them, that they would be better off without me and the pain I believed I inflicted upon them. I wanted to be well, I wanted to be free of the trauma and how it was affecting me, but just didn’t know how. It felt like everywhere I turned there was no help to be found, no understanding, no hope. I just wanted the pain, the screaming in my head to stop, and on some days the answer felt like saying goodbye to everyone I loved.
I am still here to tell my story. I managed to hang on, to believe that maybe, just maybe the light would return. Others however are not. There are those for whom the pain of birth trauma and PTSD has caused them to let go. It means families without precious mothers, daughters, sisters, wives.
So what can help us if we are feeling that hope has gone and we are at the edge of despair?
It is important to know that having suicidal thoughts is more common than we realise. In fact many voice that at times they have felt like life was just too much. When those feelings visit us then we need to take action. Reach out to friends and family, tell them you are struggling, even if you don’t feel to can say you are feeling suicidal. Ask them to support you to find the help you need, even being the ones who make the appointments and then come with you for therapy. Seek help from you doctor, it maybe that you need counselling or other therapy, even medication. Also look to the many organizations out there who are offering support.
What about if the thoughts are so overwhelming that you feel desperate and are making plans to take your life?
Call 999, or attend your local emergency department. Most will have an on duty mental health worker that can assess you and arrange the support you need. You can also call The Samaritans, any time, day or night, from any phone. Sometimes having someone listen is enough to get you through the next few hours.
It can be scary to say that you feel suicidal, you may worry what will happen and what people may think. Asking for help is hard, but it means you can be offered the right help to feel well again.
I have many years now behind me, of watching my children grow, of healing and working through my trauma. Hindsight is always a wonderful thing! Those years have taught me that I was never a burden, my children and my family loved me and wanted me to be well again. That having the right support in place, talking to others who understood and learning about trauma were invaluable to healing. That no matter how dark the day or the night was, no matter how far away hope felt, eventually the light returned. That no matter how bad it seemed I could hold on. Im lucky. I treasure every moment, every memory that I have with my children because I know how different things could have been.
So hang on, even if it’s with your fingertips, don’t let trauma rob you of making memories and loving your little ones. Remember you are never a burden but instead the whole world to those that love you. If hope has gone, if darkness is your companion know that even in darkness we can still see the stars, our stars are those who surround us, who want to help and support us and they twinkle for us until the morning light breaks again.
You can find more support here.