I’ve just finished reading ‘All The Bright Places’ by Jennifer Niven, described as “The story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.”
I’m drawn to books about or by people suffering from mental illness – partly because when I’m suffering myself, they are the only books that speak to me. They make me feel less alone.
The boy in this book is called Finch. He suffers from the intense highs and despairing lows of bipolar disorder. There are so many things he said that I identify with and want to share here.
- Each day he wakes up and asks himself “Is today a good day to die? If not now, then when”
- Standing on top of the bell tower at his school he thinks “I could just step off.It would be over in seconds. No more hurt. No more anything.” I often have this thought walking along the cliff tops, the roof of a multistory car park but the top floor of the office at work.
- How for the millionth time in his life he wishes he has an illness that people could see.
- The suicide ideation – researching various methods like hanging, drowning, over-dosing, shooting himself, stepping in front of a train.Finch also struggles with images of seeing himself dead which is something that also really affects me when I’m not well – I see myself hanging – it’s not just the thoughts but these images that appear in front of my eyes.
Violet, the female character in this book who meets Finch at the top of the bell tower describes her experience as:
When I went to the tower, I wasn’t really thinking. It was more like my legs were walking up the stairs and I just went where they took me. I’ve never done anything like that before. I mean, that’s not me. But then it’s like I woke up and was standing on that ledge.
This sounds very similar to my own experience of attempting to end my life on December 2nd last year. I hadn’t slept for a few days and laying in bed at 4am in the morning, decided I need to know how to tie a noose if I was going to hang myself and looking it up on You Tube. I was in a bedroom at the same psychiatric hospital I’d been in 5 months before. During that first admission I’d fantasized about hanging myself in the shower. This time I was going to do it. I had a scarf with me and also my laptop cable. I took them with me to the bathroom and I remember looking in the mirror and seeing someone staring back at me. It didn’t feel like me. It’s like it was my evil twin who was trying to kill me. Obviously it didn’t go as planned as I’m here writing this, however that feeling of not recognizing the ‘me’ that was doing this and the image staring back at me from the mirror is haunting.
Finch and Violet quote Virginia Wolf poetry to each other. I’ve imagined that this could be my suicide note too and wonder whether it would be any comfort to my mother.
I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel that we can’t go through another of these terrible times…So I am doing what seems to be the best thing to do….You have been in every way all that anyone can be…If anybody could have saved me, it would have been you.
Finch writes a list of things that help keep him ‘awake’ which reminded me of own list of Things that (sometimes) make me better. His list also including running, writing, being around water, planning and organizing. I’m understanding more and more that it’s the everyday things that make life more bearable and enjoyable – the little things.