Saturday following closure

What  a journey it has been over the last 10 years; thankfully I am now in a secure place where I can reflect on, and describe, difficult times associated with my mental health, in the process reaching out to other affected people, to give them, perspective and support.

In sharing my story, I have been able to describe my, lived experience,
in having suicidal thoughts.

With proper, professional treatment, I have recovered.

It has been an exercise in self-care, where upon I needed to de stress my life and retain an interest in everyday things.  And yes, to maintain perspective and balance in my own life.

With my experiences in life … circumstances from my childhood, farming and a flyin/flyout background, I am very aware of the effects those work scenarios have on our decision making, …and wellbeing. Childhood traumas can cause serious health problems in our mature years. In any event it’s important to be aware of any anxiety and stress and be prepared to get help!!

So it has been that journey of self-discovery and recovery, for myself, which has made me aware of similar debilitating issues in other people. Damaging stigmas for instance, which create negative thoughts, can be a very real part of most recoveries.  And now, in doing presentations, which I am privileged to do, I am able to reach out to the broader  community, in doing so, reducing the stigmas I mentioned, but also encouraging people to listen to, and further discuss particular issues.

People also need to know that there is help out there with the likes of Lifeline and Beyond Blue, your doctor, …. as well as your friends. You are a good person, so be kind to yourself … and have pride in yourself.

I’d like to share a poem which I wrote some time ago after completing what turned out to be an emotional therapy course. It was time for me to return home; to finally leave people with whom I shared  life stories … and the special  emotions.

Saturday following Closure

As I lie here this morning, with feelings exposed
Awakening and loving I realise that this is the time for myself
I cannot be there for anyone else
I struggle to realise
I’ve come from a place,
to where I am now

My feelings exquisite
all touchy and bare

A fire in the hearth
I sit by its side and the shadows play over my feelings and soul

I go in there further, and look to my thoughts
For the moment … I simply reflect
on the times we have had…
The highs and the lows
my tears run free
Of poignant reminders
yes those things that we shared!

I savour the moment and think of you now
we’ll gather once more, together again
For this moment
the best friends that I have
For you see me …. and know who I am

But now it’s time to move on …
my plane will be waiting, and the car is warmed up
My heart is unfolding
as I think of the people, waiting for me

However, before that, I want you to know
that no matter how distant
no matter how far
A small part of my soul remains with my friends
In concert somewhere
To soar and to fly
To mingle and laugh
To hug and recall
But for now
It is time …to move on …

There will always be Paris

Hey you. Yeah it is me, actually you. Future you. I get it is weird. It is weird. And I know it is not a good time right now with everything that has happened. You’re feeling pretty raw. No one knows what to say and you can’t switch off your brain.

No one ever tells you that the hardest bit of surviving a suicide attempt is living through it afterwards.

I’m just here to say thanks. Thanks for making the decision to live, even though you still don’t think it was the right decision to make. I was there with you for it all. The weird looks from people, the friends who didn’t understand and the feeling of just trying to constantly catch your breath.

I would love to be able to tell you that it all gets better from here. But that would be a lie. You’re already starting to work that out I know. You’ll have lost friends by the end of this year. And there will be more you will lose. Over time it will be like this veil gets lifted and you’ll see the crap you’ve put up with and you’ll just walk away slowly. And boy do I mean slowly!

So there’s those losses. And they will hurt. But there will be lots of new things too. New people, new places and new love. Again things and people will hurt you but you do get stronger. You travel. You embarrass yourself in Paris jumping up and down in glee but you do not care. YOU ARE IN PARIS.

You find comfort in music. You find yourself practicing mindfulness without even thinking about it. You do things you never would have ever dreamed of. Life still kicks you, but you kick back and each time that inner strength grows. You laugh so loudly that you make others laugh. You travel alone, watch movies alone and learn to like yourself. You are no longer defined by how they saw you, instead you create your own you.

Your son has your character. You have a lot to answer for with that one. Just like you he feels everything intensely. But, that means he also laughs loudly and loves fully too. In love, you finally found someone who enjoys you for all that you are. You took him to Paris too.

Since surviving fourteen years ago you have now fallen in love with life. Bringing life into the world made you want life to always be safe. It isn’t sadly. Not all your days are in Paris after all, but you have been there three times with full intentions of returning. They are three times you gave me amongst so many other things by choosing to live.

There will be a time each day where you will remember what could have happened. Over the years you will unpack a lot of anger, regret and heartache. You will grieve. The coldness and forgetfulness of those you loved will scar, but time will heal those scars I promise.

You are a wife, mum, daughter, friend and teacher. You are a storyteller. You are constantly inappropriate, swear too much and are addicted to coffee and colourful dresses. You are lots of things to lots of people, but the most important thing is that you are you and that you are here.

I see you now. Confused, in pain and scared. But through all that I see someone I am so grateful towards. I am here. You are here.

We are here.

There will come a time when the memory of what could have happened does not hurt so much. Instead, that stab will be replaced with feelings of strength, determination, passion and enthusiasm. There will be joy. There will be dancing. There will be love.

There will always, ALWAYS be Paris.

Peta Dampney

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable

On the 19th of September 2011 my life changed forever. It was on this day that my soul mate and partner of 15 years, Steve, suicided.

Up until this point in my life I had what others would consider a blessed life – no major tragedies, no major losses, just getting on with everyday life with the love of my life. Suicide was definitely NOT part of my life.

I now know that it is impossible for anyone to experience suicide first hand and NOT be changed forever. My life is now divided into two distinct phases – before and after. Some days I struggle to remember the person I was before I joined the club that nobody wants to join. It seems like a different world to me.

My ‘new normal’ has a gaping hole in it, black with grief and longing for a person I will miss forever. Conversations that will never take place, experiences that are now mine alone. Suicide is isolating. All I have now are the memories, which are a bittersweet mix of the most wonderful to the most traumatic.

It would be several years before my path led me to Roses in the Ocean. Up until that point, I was living life as best I could – doing the ordinary things we all need to do. At that point I did not realise the power in my story- I just thought it was my average life. Little did I know that my life was far from average and my lived experience could provide knowledge and support for many people in so many different ways.

Through Roses in the Ocean I did the ‘Our Voice in Action’ and ‘Voices of Insight’ training. It was here that the true value of my story was realised – and I became determined to use my voice.

It was as a result of this training and my relationship with Roses in the Ocean that so many doors have been opened for me. I have been fortunate to be involved in many ground breaking projects in the suicide prevention sector. I have told my story in a variety of public forums. I have been invited to consult with several organisations. Each of these opportunities gives me great satisfaction that my lived experience can make a difference, and that we can learn from the mistakes of the past to make positive change for the future.

It is never easy telling my story, and it takes a lot out of me, but knowing the impact that it can provide gives me the strength to keep going.

It was also through Roses in the Ocean that I was able to meet others in the same situation as me – touched by suicide. It was here that I felt truly heard and understood and no longer alone. The power of numbers, the combined voices of lived experience – a truly amazing experience. I have met a group of amazing women, who are now firm members of my inner circle – even going as far to commemorate our friendship group with matching roses tattoos. To have that support from people who truly understand is invaluable.

So raise the combined voices of lived experience – join forces with others in the same situation. Learn the power of your own lived experience. Break free from the isolation – talk and be heard. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, for it is in the fragility of human emotion that lies the true power.