The Wrong Kind of Sick by Mud

[Trigger warning: suicide and psychiatric neglect]

I felt the ghost of my suicide method lingering around me. I’d worked out my plan, set it all up, just to see what it felt  like. Perhaps I was trying to goad myself into it, perhaps I was already dead. I didn’t tell my family I was leaving, it would be easier that way.

When I found myself sitting in the local hospital’s carpark, my breath caught in my throat. Why was I here? I didn’t remember the drive at all. I didn’t remember anything. All I knew was that I needed help, and urgently. I drew my hand up to my throat and closed my eyes.

“Hello, Samaritans. How can I help you today?”

“I…. I’m going to kill myself. I need help. I’m in the hospital car park with a plan to end my life. Please help me.”

She was an elderly lady, I could tell from her voice. Kind, gentle, soft-spoken. Soothingly, she reassured me that I was going to be alright, that I was going to get help. She suggested we ‘walk in together’ with her symbolically holding my hand over the phone.

I walked slowly, dragging my feet. I stumbled and felt nothing but fear and shame. She spoke about the weather turning chilly, about how she wished she had a nice woollen hat. Did I have a nice hat on to keep the chill out? I did. I listened to her talk about how she liked to stand on crunchy autumn leaves.

Then we were there, standing together under the stark hospital lighting. “Are we there, dear? Pass the phone to the receptionist, I’ll let them know what’s happening, you’re not alone.” I wordlessly passed the phone over and listened to the phone’s mumbles and the receptionist’s “mmhmms”

I didn’t get to say goodbye to the good Samaritan. The receptionist hung up the call. I sent out a silent wish that she would get her woollen hat, and get to stand on some crunchy leaves.

The receptionist filled out a triage sheet. ‘Suicidal’. It didn’t express the enormity of the situation; all of my suffering, all of my pain and emotions were distilled into
a single word.

Eventually the psych liaison ‘team’ came out and called my name. I followed her, dejected, ashamed, hopeless. “Please help.” I whispered to her back as she strode ahead of me. We sat in a small room. Her, perched on the edge of a table, me, drowning in the middle of a too-soft sofa.

“Are you hurt? Have you taken anything?” It didn’t sound like concern. It sounded like annoyance. “No? Then why are you here? This is a hospital.”

My heart shattered.

I started crying; silent at first, then huge, raking sobs. I tried to explain that I needed help, that they always said to go to A&E if you’re in immediate danger.

I tried to explain about my plan. She barely looked in my direction, and with a wave of her hand sighed and asked, “What help do you think you need then?” Her annoyance was growing, it was almost palpable in the air between us.

In my mind I imagined reaching out to her, stretching my hand out far enough to cross the distance between us, and when we would touch, she would understand.
But that didn’t happen. She didn’t understand. Instead she sighed again and checked her watch.

I began to panic, she was going to send me away. I wasn’t going to be helped, to be saved, to be cared for when I needed it the most. I’m not good at asking for help, I already feel like I don’t deserve it. This just cemented it in my head.

“I… I’m going to kill myself… The plan…” I muttered feebly. I was losing what little hope the Samaritan Lady had given me. Then, she spoke again.

“No you’re not.”
“You won’t kill yourself. If you were serious about killing yourself you wouldn’t have come here, you would’ve just done it.”

I said nothing. My mind fractured. There weren’t even any tears left to cry. That was it. It felt like permission. It felt like she was egging me on. It felt like she was saying,
“Go on, do it, then we’ll know you’re serious. Then we will help.”

I imagined her telling the same thing to her child. Would she want them to seek help? Or would she wait for them to attempt suicide before she did anything? I imagined her saying that to someone else just as vulnerable and hopeless as myself.

Then I thought, ‘Maybe she’s right. If I was serious, I would’ve just done it.’ I made up my mind then, I was going to do it. There is no hope, no help, no support, no care for me. So, why not? The people who are meant to be there for me won’t help me, and I have nothing left to fight with.

“I can’t fight for myself any longer.”
“You can be discharged, let me write up the report.”

I watched in empty silence as she rattled out her list of tick boxes that needed filling out. Presenting Symptoms. Crisis Plan. Actions to be Taken. It didn’t matter what she wrote. It didn’t matter what she said or did next.

She had given me permission, she had helped to make my mind up. I left the hospital and made an attempt on my life….

The way that health care professionals treat suicidal people needs to change. Every day they gamble with people’s lives, deciding who gets help and who doesn’t
based on arbitrary grounds. Do you look ‘sick enough?’ Are you ‘suicidal enough?’ Are you the ‘right kind of sick?’

If you don’t meet their flawed ‘criteria’ then you are left to either fend for yourself, or like me, you feel like you have nobody left to fight for you when you’re too scared
and tired to carry on. You feel as though you’ve just been given permission to die.

We need a better system in place, we need more funding in mental health, we need change. Lives depend on it. Am I not deserving of help, just because I don’t fit
neatly into your tick box?

Mud is an artist and writer who paints about mental illness, with a particular focus on BPD and psychosis.

@mud_the_kid (Twitter).

This is a sample article from the Autumn 2022 issue of Asylum (29.3).  Subscribe to Asylum magazine.