Thursday, 9 June 2011

Diary: Suicide and Beyond

DIARY: June 2011

I tried to kill myself last week. 

I failed.

Should I be glad I failed or disappointed? That answer changes from day to day depending on how I feel. The mixed emotions are profound but how the hell do you put it into words? How do you describe a feeling or emotion with simple text? I don't think you can.

I have "clinical depression", whatever that is. I always just thought depression was ... well, depression. I assumed there were different levels but apparently there's also different types: clinical depression, chronic depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder and more. I didn't use to worry too much about it and thought that everyone gets depressed at some time. It's just part of life. Boy, has that changed.

[...] Clinical depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Individuals with clinical depression are unable to function as they used to. Often they have lost interest in activities that were once enjoyable to them, and feel sad and hopeless for extended periods of time. Clinical depression is not the same as feeling sad or depressed for a few days and then feeling better. It can affect your body, mood, thoughts, and behavior. It can change your eating habits, how you feel and think, your ability to work and study, and how you interact with people. People who suffer from clinical depression often report that they "don't feel like themselves anymore."

I have to admit I don't feel comfortable writing about this and have only told one person. Since most people I know don't have any idea I write this blog, I am able to open up more here and actually tell it like it is. For over a week, I have spoken to most of my family and some friends and told them I'm not feeling the best and having a bad week but that's as far as I have gone.

The leading cause of death for Australian men under 44 is suicide. The leading cause of death for Australian women under 34 is suicide. And more people die by suicide each year than they do on the road.

Strangely, the main reason for not telling my family and feeling hesitant in writing this is that I feel silly. I can't even accomplish something as simple as knocking myself off. I have always thought that those who fail at a suicide attempt didn't really try hard enough and weren't fully committed to ending it all. Is that what I did? Should I have taken more pills and did I purposely take less than what was needed to finish the job? Probably. If I was really serious, why would I worry if I would have enough meds left for the rest of the week? Why didn't I just take them all? At the time, I was convinced I took enough to kill a horse or two but I still had in the back of my mind what would happen if I failed.

Clinical depression is not a sign of personal weakness, or a condition that can be willed away. Clinically depressed people cannot "pull themselves together" and get better. In fact, clinical depression often interferes with a person's ability or wish to get help. Clinical depression is a serious illness that lasts for weeks, months and sometimes years. It may even influence someone to contemplate or attempt suicide.

So what happened in the days following my attempt? Did I feel relief or regret? Did circumstances magically resolve themselves? Did some good news come in or something positive happen that helped me get on with life? Absolutely not. In fact, it was the start of a horrific week which got worse each day. I didn't get paid by a client as promised, I was now short of my daily meds, ex Mrs Wright was home sick all week - constantly angry and demanding - and on it went. I kept remembering the day after trying to escape my shitty existence. Instead of being escorted through some beautiful, ornamented gates by an old man with a white beard or sitting at the bottom of the ocean because I had been reincarnated as a mud crab, I instead woke up as usual to some seriously annoying birds trying to tweet and my dogs by my side. Maybe I would have tried harder if I knew what was yet to come.

Well, it's a new week and most of the pressing issues have been resolved. I am trying harder than normal to stay balanced and get ready for my move to the coast. Unfortunately though, the depression is more severe than normal and each day is really a struggle. I have decided that maybe I do need to see a shrink and explore the possibilities of confronting my depression. My doctor is convinced that seeing a shrink would be pointless for me but what have I got to lose? If there is one thing that I am certain of, that is unless something changes, there will not be a follow up article to my next attempt.

Silence On Suicide Does More Harm Than Good
by Lainie Anderson
June 2011

In July last year, the South Australian Coroner Mark Johns called for suicide statistics to be published alongside the road toll. Since that time, just over 100 South Australians have died on the state’s roads. More than 180 South Australians have killed themselves.

Despite Mr Johns’ call, suicide statistics remain unpublished. The topic by and large remains taboo. And desperate people keep taking their own lives because their mental illness isn’t properly treated, or because friends and family don’t have the confidence or the skills to raise this most delicate of subjects.

As a community, we’ve got to stop being so squeamish about suicide. It’s the single biggest cause of death for Australian females aged 15-34 and males 15-44. Latest statistics show that 2130 Australians took their own lives in 2009, compared to 1417 road deaths for the year and 1837 from skin cancer.

Yet while $7m is spent on mass media advertising to curb SA’s road toll alone, there’s nothing similar to curb the incidence of suicide. So what needs to change?

Experts like Mr Johns and SA’s Public Advocate John Brayley says the task is two-fold: prevention and awareness.

Around 70 per cent of suicides are associated with depression, so reducing the stigma of mental illness and expanding services are fundamental. Most other suicide victims are in a ‘situational crisis’, so timely access to crisis counseling is also essential.

Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire says SA’s services are simply too haphazard, and this week called for a Suicide Prevention Coordinator to be funded in Thursday’s State Budget.

In response, Health Minister John Hill revealed that his department has for some time been preparing a Suicide Prevention Strategy “to focus our efforts on the things that will have the most impact”.

It will include a new Suicide Prevention Advisory Committee, reporting directly to the Minister on the success (or otherwise) of measures, any gaps in services and ways to better coordinate government agencies.

That’s the first we’ve heard of it – and it’s a welcome initiative. But it still leaves us with the mammoth task of raising awareness and reducing the stigma of suicide in the wider population.

With church ministers and chaplains dealing with suicide on a weekly basis, the Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia, Rev Rob Williams, agrees. He too is calling for urgent action on suicide awareness as well as prevention, and the Uniting Church is now forming its own taskforce to drive the issue forward.

“There’s got to be more that we can do and we think a good place to start is lifting the lid on the secrecy surrounding suicide. Certainly, a sensitive and gentle shift in the way media look at these issues is something that we are very interested in.”

The Australian Press Council is interested too. It’s currently reviewing its 10-year-old reporting guidelines on suicide and will release the findings later this month.

A major issue, of course, remains the fear of copy-cat suicides. Some still believe that instead of preventing suicides, increased reporting will merely cause more. But with so many Australians taking their own lives, it’s time to mature our thinking on that score.

People who are truly intent on killing themselves have an abundance of information to make it happen – not least in the online world where traditional media guidelines are ignored with gusto.

The mainstream media has a responsibility to continue treating suicides carefully and sensitively, but surely one way to achieve that is by publishing regular figures (similar to the road toll) to keep the issue high on the public agenda.

As a community, we’re then sending a message that – like road deaths – suicides are preventable and we’re committed to curbing the toll. That’s got to be better than pretending 2000 Australians aren’t killing themselves each year.

Lifeline offers 24 hour crisis support on 13 11 14

Many Chronic Pain Sufferers Ponder Suicide
Verity Edwards
June 2011

A NATIONAL study on chronic pain shows a third of the population suffers from the malady and, of those, 20 per cent have considered suicide and 5 per cent have attempted to take their lives.

Chronic Pain Australia president Coralie Wales, who commissioned the study of 2500 people, said most sufferers also felt stigmatised, believing they were perceived as drug addicts or bludgers. "The more stigmatised you feel, the more likely you are to commit suicide," she said.

Chronic pain is defined as that which persists for more than three months. It affects about 6.5 million Australians.

A 2007 Access Economics report estimated chronic pain cost the nation $34.3 billion a year in lost productivity and on health service demands.

Ms Wales said South Australia treated chronic pain sufferers worse than any other state, because they were forced to collect their medication from the Drug and Alcohol Services, alongside drug addicts.

"In South Australia it seems that anyone who takes an opiate seems to be a suspicious character and you have to be fearful of opiates," she said.

Ms Wales said the situation was so bad that chronic pain sufferers were forced to move interstate for better access to medication.

Colin Shaw moved from Adelaide to Brisbane a year ago to seek treatment for his cluster headaches. "Collecting medication alongside addicts was one of the most inhumane things. It was soul-destroying," he said.

He has attempted suicide four times.

Mr Shaw, 49, has suffered from up to six cluster headaches a day for more than 20 years. He says they are 10 times worse than migraines.

"It's like you've got a fire hose going through a small tube. It's like you're literally bursting, combined with a knife behind your eye," he said.

"It's just cost me so much. It's cost me my family, my social life, my work as a photographer. Everything is gone."

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Bob Affenhaus said...

G'day Terry,

I've written something for you. It was just easier for me to format it if I posted it on my blog. Let me know if you want me to take it down and it's as good as done.


zoot said...

Terry - to talk anonymously and in complete confidence to someone who is non-judgemental, non-sectarian, non-interventionist and who will not offer advice, call Samaritans Crisisline on 1800 198 313 (they're based in Perth).
I, for one, would be very sorry to see you disappear.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't usually comment here and I don't really have anything to write. However, this is a topic close to my heart given I lost a much loved person who was close to my heart. It compels me to react. I guess all I can write is that I hope you find peace in a way he never did. You have my empathy.

Michelle said...

Just offering *hugs*

Terry Wright said...

Thanks to all.

This was the hardest thing I ever had to write. It was even harder deciding whether to publish it or not.

I am just blown away by how compassionate some people can be. Those who contacted me or left comments here, thank you - you have given me new hope for mankind.

Puja said...

I am glad you are alright and I am sure things will just keep getting better for you with time.

Take care!

Gledwood said...

Hi I only just found this post. I had depression for a long time and was constantly stumped when googling the condition by those FUCKING RIDICULOUS DSM IV DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA which are absolutely meaningless to anyone who's been depressed for a long time. They are parroted ad nauseum as if they're a description of the illness, which they're not. The DSM was only ever written so that different drs would apply the same label(s) to similar cases.

Nowadays we hear a lot about depression being a chemical imbalance. But people are losing sight of the fact that when you lose your temper your brain chemistry becomes as deranged as you are.

I used to have a really old psychiatry book that actually listed depression twice, as "neurotic" and "psychotic" depression. Psychotic in this context meant "a serious mental illness that is not a neurosis". You didn't necessarily need delusions or hallucinations, though they were possible with the psychotic form of the illness.

Well I've had depression for years and always assumed mine was partially psychological and partially genetic/biological in origin. My Mum gets depression every single year. And I had an unhappy childhood. Lots of fuel for the fire.

Did you tell your dr about any of this? It wouldn't jeapourdize your script would it?

I hope you're physically OK. I once took a bottle of antidepressants, puked most of them while I was unconscious... but woke up at some indeterminate time feeling sicker than I've ever felt in my life.

People never seem to understand that the action of seriously trying to take your own life can badly shake you up, same as if walking through a dark alley somebody jumps you. I can only speak for myself but it really shook me up. I hope you're feeling better now.

Bron said...

Dude! I have emailed you, I hope it's still the same email. xo

Ant Rogenous said...

Hey Terry,

I've always admired your work on this blog for its honesty, courage and integrity. It speaks volumes for the bloke who writes it. Keep punching mate.

Much love,


Terry Wright said...

Once again. Thank you.

Gleds, thanks for your thoughtful comments. You are the king of diary type blogs. Your regular posts capture much of what I want to say but I seldom write about. I don't know how you get the time to read other blogs let alone respond but you always do. Thanks.

Bron, Ant ... I have "known" you for quite a while and both of you have helped me previously. Ant, you defended me years ago against some nasty people which I have never forgotten. It was a brave move from you and shows what sort of person you really are. Be proud, my friend, you have some unique qualities. And Bron. What can I say? As usual, you seem to say just the right thing at the right time. You always go out of your way to say something nice. The messages of support from both of you mean a lot ... more than you probably think. Thanks.

Puja. How we ever crossed paths is bizarre. We have nothing in common whatsoever and live in different cultures and countries but we read each others blogs for some reason. You too, have lighten up my day. Thanks.

Dave from Albury said...

Hi Terry,

Your writing has always been full of courageous honesty, this especially so. Please take care.

Puja said...

Yes Terry. Pretty weird considering I don't even know what Heroin looks like in real life. Infact, I am one of those 'annoying' kinds who can't even stand people smoking plain cigarettes close to me because it suffocates me, quit alcohol totally and now am averse even to the taste of alcohol in whatever form, and so on :(.So drugs are a far bet!

But in the end I am a firm believer of 'addictions are an illness which need a cure. You do not punish a person who is ill, do you?'. If addiction to something as common as cigarettes can ruin my fathers health and as chain reaction the life of every family member in different ways I really do wonder what other addictions can do.

But all said and done..I started reading your blog after watching 'Ben - Diary fo a Heoin Addict'. It totally made me lose my sleep - I guess I am girly that way!! That's how I got curious about Heroin and started reading up on it like a mad woman.I still have no idea why ,as I don't know a single addict personally. So since its heroin which caught my attention ,obviously, I couldn't have missed your blog.

Lastly, besides being very informative your blog is one of the best 'resources' for me to know and understand Heroin addiction. I do understand being a non addict I can never understand it 100%. Still, I get curious very easily that way. I sure am glad that I came across you and your blog.

Anonymous said...

Terry, You are not a failure. The courage you have shown in beig so honest with yourself and the world through this blog is amazing.

I have battled my own internal demons and have found talking to someone is an amazing help.

Take care and look after yourself.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Dave.

I appreciate your kind message.

You wrote this back in march:
The reality is that there is no recipe, no sure fire plan, no invaluable secret that will change your life and bring you to some imagined place that is somehow better than where you are today. Pretending otherwise is the least helpful thing you can do ...

How apt.

THR said...

Hey Terry,

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. Take care of yourself, and please think over whether you'd like a professional person to talk to. It's worth giving it a try at least, even if you're skeptical. If you ever need some names of good people or any other advice, don't hesitate to drop me a line at my email.

Best wishes,


The Editor said...

Hi Terry,

Sorry to read that. Hang in there buddy, we need you!

Change is the only constant. Therefore things must get better.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks THR, Michael and Anon.

I appreciate the concern.

I'm hanging in there best I can. Sometimes it feels like I'm losing my mind. And there's nothing worse than not being in control.

I have to say that I'm stunned at the kindness shown here.

Thanks again.

Jimmy said...

You can do it, sir! I know people who have! Nothing is lost while we are alive, just don't lose hope! Good luck.

call Australia

Firesnake said...


Only got to read this late yesterday. Glad you wrote it up mate, because like all your posts it serves a genuine puropse. I was gunna email but as others will definitely read this post might leave my crappy "wisdom" here.

Somewhat surprised, given shared experiences, and the fact that you're unique in dealing with long term consequences. You're rational, confident, independent and well grounded in your ontology - all of which comes through in your writing.

Given certain affinities I know that you know that I know... well, you know. At times I've wondered given the familiar struggles and noting the odd change in routine. I think depression's par for the course - forget chicken and egg nonsense - and the reality is many of us get very little out of helping others pay off their new beach house.

As you note it has many expressions. One of the toughest is even when one's feeling OK the inability to function persists. Feeling perpetually lousy is one thing, but starting to see things as demonstrably pointless as a result of our own actions is an entirely different path. Or it manifests as misdirected energy, doing what seems really important only to then feel it's worthless. Cheated by our own stupidity.

That growing feeling of hopelessness combines with that vast fucking wasteland dotted with mocking failures that appears to be our past. Things seem overwhelming, it's hard to concentrate and basic things take ages or never get done. Despite that we're often always busy and badgered by the feeling there's no time to slack off.

We have so much to do because we feel we've fucked up so much and we even fuck up so much with that there's this ever growing pile of increasing urgency. Added on is the cornucopia of past exploitation, misplaced trust, belittlement and worse that to even think of broaching makes one gag or just freeze. A quick look at the balance sheet confirms it's not just pro bono but futile to keep going. That would be insane it seems and often feeds anger, resentment and misery.

It's then easy to see logic in just stopping. Rather than an ideology it begins to seem like a right. It not only makes perfect sense but it's a seemingly rational choice given the alternative torture. Having given things a decent bash the only other certainty is ongoing exclusion. I myself still get pretty fucking livid when I hear people call suicide selfish. It's a pointlessly retarded meme that I suspect has origins in ignorance, poor insight/empathy and no real experience. But I reckon that's par for the course too. Being misunderstood or surrounded by those incapable of understanding, but who justify their own worth by excluding others is an ongoing reality.

You've probably picked up from older posts an the odd conversation I've lost a few friends to suicide, and others to what kind coroners call 'misadventure'. Or nasty accidents and violence of splendidly creative endeavours. I don't think telling oneself there are others worse off helps an iota, but the old adage that it could be worse is true. No matter how shit things are the probability that the next day will have you wishing you were 24 hours back in time is actually very high....

Firesnake said...

..... Truth is there's no grand awakening. No aha! No fair cards. You'll likely in time get better at handling this. Or manage new crises easier than you'd expect. Last we spoke I was squeezing off 'done. Managed that OK to find out weeks later I need the type of full hip replacement people twice my age usually get. Couple of months later I'm bleeding from a certain orifice like I was in a Kill Bill movie. Given the fact this was all that was making it's way out not having malignant hanky panky was rather less likely than likely.

Now, I expected to feel a bit flat given I'd been on methadone over a decade but this was highly irregular I was starting to think. The upside was I could die drug free and Brian fucking Watters could remember me in his next book about that very benefit. Well after about five weeks some clever colonoscopy snips, minor surgery, biopsy after biopsy and rogering examinations with a device from the Inquisition that I fondly called the backward fart machine, I sadly learned I would not be in any of the good Majors offensive books.

The strangest thing was I didn't get stressed or elated on either side of things. Still need the new hip and I'm starting to walk like Tony Abbott's taken over one half of my body. And it bloody well hurts, but it's cool. Anyway I think the present is influenced by the past in this case. In a nutshell endogenous issues have far outweighed any exogenous issues.

You're gunna be OK Terry. You already have a strong ability to cope and thrive. A clarity of thought and organisation that is hard to miss. I wish I could manage the same. Don't take things too seriously or try and live the next ten years in your head. Getting through a day is good enough.

You've got a lot to offer in an area starved of critical input, so you're seriously needed. That's something to be proud of so don't deny yourself that. You've created something very positive here. It's up to you about talking to someone or even trying online gigs like MoodGym. But think about it.

Anyway, I've taken over your site and should piss off. Hopefully the ubiquitous nature of these feelings are familiar to you and others who find themselves in that situation. I sure lived with 'em as second nature and have no idea what's ahead. But things do get easier with time.

All the best for now - I'll be in touch via email.


Guy Ferguson said...

In short, others have said it and I add my voice. You are important to us. You are a sane, rational voice in a subset of society that is seen as anything but. Your site is not just appreciated, it is necessary.

Anonymous said...

Terry, long time anon poster. I cant add much, but have u thought about taking up Scuba diving?? U can see the bottom of the ocean anytime u want! :)

reb of Hobart said...


I was diagnosed with clinical depression some ten years ago.

At the time, I didn't really take the diagnosis seriously.

My life was falling apart, and I was unable to function properly at work or even just interact with other people including my family, partner and friends.

But I never really thought of it as depression, that just seemed "too convenient" an "excuse" for what I viewed as just my own personal weakness and sense of inadequacy.

I've been on anti-depressants for the last ten years, and my life has improved considerably.

There is hope. Beyon Blue is a good place to start...

Never give in, never give up..


David said...

What right do we have to prevent suicide from taking place?

Devil said...

You know, I can relate.

I have Aspeger syndrome (a sort of Autism) and ADD (similar to ADHD but I'm not hyperactive).

A few years ago, when I still didn't know that I had Aspergers, I was bullied for 2 years.

I felt like life couldn't get any worse.

I went to the bathroom, locked the door and sat on the floor with a knife in my hand.
My mom was in the kitchen, vacuuming so she didn't notice. My little sister was in her room, she didn't know either.

I just sat there and saw my reflection in the knife that was going to end my life.

People make it so dramatic when someone ends there lives in books or movies, in reality ... Everything has slowed down and a few thoughts might linger in your head.

All I could think about was ... "Is this what my life has been reduced to? Killing myself because I'm different from everyone else, giving those assholes bullies all the power over me?"

I got angry. I was disappointed in myself for not being stronger.

I know the same thing didn't happen to you, but you should know ... There are many people who think the same.

'What one thinks, a million minds have the same thought and a million others will think the same'.

It's not a quote, it's just something I came up with when I decided not to end my life.

Now, I know what I have and I got out of that hellhole. I didn't let them win.

I hope what I told you made you feel a little bit better :)

Devil said...

You know, I can relate.

A few years ago, I wanted to commit suicide because I still didn't know that I had Aspergers (a kind of Autism) and ADD (almost like ADHD but I'm not hyperactive).

I was bullied for 2 years, and that just made me so very depressed and hateful against everyone.

So my mom was in the kitchen, my sister was in her room and I went into the bathroom and locked the door, and just sat there on the floor with a knife in my hand.

In the movies and the books, they make it so dramatic ...

I just sat there, time stood still and a few thoughts were buzzing around in my head.

"What was going to happen to my family after I die?"
"Am I going to be talked about at school when I die?"
"Will my sister cry and miss me?"
"Will my mom?"

And then I came up with this "One thought you think has appeared in many minds, and will be thought my many"

Meaning, whatever you're thinking, a lot of people have thought the same.

I got angry and disappointed. Angry because I was thinking of killing myself because of the assholes in my school were bullying me.

And disappointed because I thought that I was stronger then this.

I know the same didn't happen to you, but maybe it'll make you feel a little bit better. :)