Worth Living Ambassador Ann Ottaway
Ann is a 30 year old former legal assistant, animal lover, and a believer in new beginnings. She shares her recovery journey with the hope that her story allows others to realize they are not alone.
When I made the decision that I wanted to end my life I was adamant that my only option to stop hurting was to cease to exist.
I was hospitalised by law, not by choice, and I was furious. I wanted nothing to do with anyone who interfered with my plan and spent the first few days of my hospitalisation in bed out of protest. Eventually, I became worn down by this as I realised the longer I remained in bed, the longer I would be forced to stay.
In my mind, I was playing their game – if I pretended to co-operate they would let me leave and I would be able to follow through with my plan. Unfortunately, I was not in a hospital that specialised in mental health so the days were long and tedious as there was no programming. Nurses would check in and if I was lucky I would see my doctor briefly.
Fortunately, all of this free time allowed for me to get to know the other patients. Prior to being hospitalised, I wasn’t very open about my mental health issues. Close friends knew but otherwise I had made the decision to keep it quiet. The hospital was different, everyone was there because they had mental health issues of one sort or another. For the first time my mental health wasn’t invisible; I was in a gown so that I could be identified as someone who was being kept on the ward legally. It was as if I was wearing a mental illness uniform and everyone could see what was invisible for so long. I was surrounded by other people in the same situation as myself, what did I have to lose?
It didn’t take long for me to get to know the other patients and before I knew it, I started to think my life wasn’t so terrible after all. If the other people there had experienced the same hardships as I had, and could find the strength to go on, then so could I.
After a few days, my mornings were made brighter by the warm smiles and friendly hellos from other patients who took the time to get to know me and share their stories. It felt like a small family, we were all in it together. I saw how everyone supported and encouraged one another and before I knew it, I was joining in. I no longer stayed in bed all day. I wanted to get up, I wanted friends and family to visit and eventually I wanted to get better. I connected with a close friend whom I met in the hospital and we would spend our days sharing stories and even laughter. Through brief intervals of time, I was able to let go of how unhappy I was. If I could make a friend in the worst of times, surely I would be okay.
After a weeklong stay, I took a week off from work and then tried to get back to “normal” life with plans to attend regular counselling and new medication in the works. On the Monday, I felt rested and started the work week strongly. By Friday, I was suicidal all over again and went to the emergency centre of a psychiatric hospital. I packed a bag and showed up prepared; I wanted to be admitted and I wanted to get better.
In this hospital, I made more friends, heard more people’s stories and was encouraged all over again. I had groups to go to every day and I had a safe place where I was taken care of while I sought further treatment. I knew this was what I needed to do. I ended up leaving my job and my plans to move to the city. I went back to my parents’ home and enrolled in a Partial Hospitalisation Program. It was there that I really discovered myself. I went into the program not knowing who I was or what I wanted from life. I just knew that I didn’t want to feel worthless anymore. I was ready and dedicated to getting better. I worked hard, I practised the tools that were given to me and one day, I felt happy. Genuinely happy.
After 15 weeks of treatment I am now enrolled in school to embark on a new career. It is terrifying at times to know that have started my life over again but I have a life to start over. I almost didn’t have that chance. Had I not been suicidal and had I not been hospitalised I would still be stuck in the depths of my illness; I would still be miserable, I would still have low self- esteem, I would still be abusing substances and I would still be pretending to be happy while feeling lost inside.
I strongly believe that every struggle and awful feeling that I experienced brought me to where I am today. Had I not hit rock bottom I would not have been able to lift myself up. I have a new outlook on life now that would not be part of who I am had fate not stepped in and put me in the hospital, introduced me to the amazing friends that I have met, strengthened my relationships with family and long-time friends and put me in a treatment program that gave me the tools to manage my symptoms.
In an odd little way, being suicidal saved my life.
If you , a family member, friend, or colleague is experiencing thoughts of suicide or distress, call 911 now.
Other resources :
Canada- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention www.suicideprevention.ca
USA – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom www.nhs.uk