I’ve never had a great deal of sympathy for people who took an overdose without intending to commit suicide. It always seemed like a very dramatic way to express yourself. I didn’t get that ‘cry for help’ concept, it just seemed like attention seeking.
That probably sounds callous, and I suppose it was. It came from a place of not understanding or empathising. I suppose I thought that these things were always considered, planned, so why not find a way to intervene before swallowing all those pills?
I think there is a distinction to be made though, between attempting suicide and taking an overdose. They can be two very different things, as my own experience has taught me. I have taken pills to try and kill myself, and when I did that I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t want to be helped. I’ve also taken an overdose impulsively because I was feeling so desperate that I didn’t know what else to do.
Even in hospital, where doctors see this sort of thing all the time, no distinction was made. They didn’t recognise that it was a decision made in a moment of darkness that I subsequently regretted. They didn’t acknowledge that owning up to what I’d done was terrifying. There was no consideration for the courage it took to say that I didn’t want to die.
There are a lot of reasons why someone would OD. It could be for self-harm. It could be because they really can’t find another way of showing how they feel, or they are scared to find the words. There is a very real danger though, when it is so easy to have access to large quantities of medication, that many people end up doing more harm than they intend. This is compounded by the fact that often NHS staff know so little about mental illness that they stigmatise people or even victimise them for ‘wasting’ their time. It shouldn’t happen but it does. It isn’t surprising that people are frightened or ashamed to ask for help.
The threat for me lies in how simple and quick it is to take a load of pills on impulse. When I’m in that dissociated state and I’ve completely abandoned myself, that awful plan can be enacted in an instant.