“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
- J.K. Rowling
August 28th, 2016.
Remember the date. Because it’s important, and I’m going to come back to it a few paragraphs from now.
In 2015, I lost a friend to suicide. In 2016, I lost another. The passing of my friends devastated me. To lose a loved one is always a sobering experience. To lose them prematurely because of mental illness is earth-shattering. I have always believed that a family is defined by much more than biology. I consider my friends to be a band of brothers that I love so dearly that I am willing to sacrifice anything to protect them. The knowledge that two of those brothers could be so affected by mental illness that suicide became their only hope of salvation breaks my heart.
I know what it’s like to feel low. I spent years feeling angry, confused, scared and alone. And for the longest of times I never believed that I could feel any other way. I used writing to express myself, and created this website as a means of trying to work my way through the endless fog inside my head. And yet despite spending years writing endlessly about my periods of self-loathing and misery, I never actually hit rock bottom. I came close. But the people I cared about had always given me hope; they were my reason to carry on, even when I felt like giving up.
And then on August 28th, 2016, my life fractured. I lost the girl that I believed I was destined to grow old with. In doing so, I lost my happiness, and the desire to be Chris Nicholas anymore. On that day, I hit rock bottom so fucking hard that I didn’t want to write, or eat, or be anything. And then fate kicked me while I was down, taking away the certainty of printing my sophomore novel with the publisher who had produced my debut piece.
Until that day, I had envisioned a life where I would marry my partner and create a living from writing books. When I was down, or angry, the knowledge that I had a woman who loved me and a future brighter than I deserved spurred me on. Her love brought a smile to my face when the demons in my head were trying to eat my alive. So, when she left, and my battered body collided with the unbreakable surface that is rock bottom; all I could do was lay in a damaged heap and cry.
As I cried, my parents asked me if I was going to be OK. When I told them that I didn’t know, they asked me something that made the hurt I was experiencing feel so much worse. My mother and my father looked me in the eye and asked:
“You’re not going to hurt yourself, are you?”
In the darkest moments of my life my parents were so concerned for my wellbeing that they were worried that I would try to harm myself, or that I would take my own life. My mental state was so fractured that they were frightened that after years of moving through cyclical battles with depression, I was going to give up. I told them that I wouldn’t. Until that point in my life I had been petrified of death, and even though I had been down, I didn’t ever want to lose myself. But what I didn’t tell them was that in the months after my partner left me, the thought of no longer existing had crossed my mind.
Agh, shit. I’m getting all teary. This isn’t the easiest thing to talk about. So, let’s take a brief interlude for a moment. I want to clarify a few things. I don’t want your pity. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, or to be concerned for my state of mind. August 28th, 2016 is the most important date in the history of who I am not only because it’s the day that I hit rock bottom; but also, because it’s the day that I stopped running from my demons and began learning how to overcome them. In the months that have passed since, I have used my heartbreak and devastation to build the solid foundations of a happy life. It hasn’t been easy. I have had to confront my shortcomings, and learn to love my flaws. But in doing so, I am beginning to become the man that I should have always been.
This post isn’t about me. It’s about you. And the people you care about. It’s about talking openly about suicide and mental illness, and starting a conversation by saying:
“My name is Chris Nicholas, and know what it feels like to lose someone that I love to suicide. And I know what it is like to feel so worthless that the idea of no longer existing becomes a viable means of coping with pain.”
Maybe in doing so, I can encourage someone else who is going through what I did, and what my friends did, to reach out and ask for help. Maybe by sharing my lowest moments with you, I can encourage you to lend your heart and mind to someone who is trying their hardest to fight their way through the hells of a life plagued by depression, anxiety, or whatever else, giving them a reason to live when all hope is lost.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 45% of the global population will experience mental illness of some form in their lifetime. Of those that are diagnosed with a mental disorder, a staggering two thirds will never seek professional help. When you factor in the percentage of sufferers that remain undiagnosed, and that 90% of people who take their lives experience mental illness; and that suicide ranks within the top twenty causes of death on a global scale, the need for a societal change to how we perceive suicide and mental illness becomes apparent.
The bullshit inference society has created that says that mental illness, anxiety or depression shows a weakness of character is wrong. You are not weak for feeling down. You are not alone for feeling fractured. There is no shame, stigma, or dishonour in admitting that you need help. Mental illness is a fault in your psychological makeup caused by a chemical imbalance inside of your brain that you are in no way accountable for.
Take it from someone who has stood on the precipice between life and death and found the strength to survive: it is alright to not be OK. It is alright to feel unwell; or to be angry, or scared at times. That doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. What isn’t alright, is for our society to continue to lose so many lives to self-harm because we’re simply not doing enough to help those in need.
When I hit rock bottom I found a peace in myself that I never thought existed. Sure, falling from grace hurt. I lost someone who I had believed would love me for the rest of my life, and in doing so I lost myself. But I talked to my loved ones, and they listened with endless patience as I cried myself through the hurt and attempted to find who I was once again. Had I not have known what it was like to lose people that I love to suicide, I may never have found the courage to confide in them, and to get out of bed and face each new day.
Through conversation, my friends and family saved me. And I guarantee that if you ever find yourself feeling as low, and as worthless as I did, your loved ones will do anything in their power to help you through too. All you need to do is cast aside the stigma of mental illness and ask for help; or to offer your heart to someone you know who is going through difficult times. Once you start a conversation and remove the perception of weakness and fear that surrounds mental illness, you can find hope, compassion and love within your peers.
When I began to talk, I realised that the people around me weren’t afraid of holding a conversation about my depression. I had just been so angry for so long that they didn’t know how to approach the subject without pushing me further away. They had been waiting for years for me to open up and tell them why I felt the way that I did. And, maybe if I had of confided in them earlier, I wouldn’t have lost as much as I did. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to hit rock bottom and start over again.
I used to be a boy who suffered from depression. I called myself a world eater and a wolf as a means of inspiring the strength within myself that I needed to keep fighting when I felt like I was falling apart. Since August 28th, 2016, I have become a man who calls himself a world eater because by doing so I can inspire strength within others when they feel as worthless as I once did. I don’t feel down anymore. I don’t feel angry. And I have just two regrets in my life. The first is that I didn’t speak out about how low I felt sooner. And the second… Well, I think that goes without saying.
To anyone who is struggling through anxiety or depression right now I would say this: It is alright to not be OK. And you are not alone for feeling broken. You’re with me; and millions of other individuals who make up the estimated 45% of people who experience mental illness in their lifetime. If you ever find yourself standing on the precipice between life and death, searching desperately for a reason to continue to live; I want you to reach out and take the hand of someone that you care about. Do what I did: cry. Cry your fucking lungs out. And when you have no tears left, talk. Let your loved ones help you find yourself once again.
If you’re not ready to talk to the people that you love; then use this page. Talk to me, or the other people who will read this post. Share yourself, and find solace in the knowledge that no matter how low you may feel, you are never alone.
Authors note: On November 17th, 2015, my friend Jason lost his battle with depression and took his own life. Since his passing, his brother Ben has been working tirelessly to raise awareness for anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. In June of this year, Ben will be riding his bike around Australia, covering more than eighteen thousand kilometres as he attempts to encourage others to talk openly about mental health and suicide. Ben’s courage in the face of adversity and heartbreak has been a huge inspiration to me, my friends, and family. If you would like to follow Ben’s journey, or offer your support: you can find more information here at www.rideforjase.org.