By Desiree Alan

(1) In Australia, 1 person in every 4 hours attempts suicide. On 19 June 1990, I was one of them. I woke this particular morning to see light coming through my bedroom curtain window. I pulled the blankets up over my head. I did not want to live another day in this world. I told myself that I am really going to do it. I will die today.

I lay in bed until I heard my flat mate leave. I got up to pack all my belongings into my two bags, all that I owned in my life. I did all this as if I was in some kind of trance. I found a piece of paper and thought it was best to leave a suicide note, just details of how my parents could be notified and where by belongings could be forwarded. I then went into my flat mate’s wardrobe where I knew he had his rifle waiting for me. I took it to the bathroom and lent it on the sink vanity. I kept on telling myself you have to do this. Nobody loves you and it would be great to meet up with Corrina, my older sister who had committed suicide only 3 years ago. I was a nervous wreck by this stage so just to relax myself I went to where the liquor was. What ever it was it was very potent and along with my negative thinking of wanting to kill myself, I can only remember walking down the hallway to the bathroom. The rest is a blur but I know I held that rifle to my head and shot myself thinking I would never see this world or be in it again. But I am here, however I cannot see it, smell it or taste it. However I am very glad to be alive today.

This suicide attempt of mine did not just happen over night. It was happening over many months of losing my self-esteem and confidence and of feeling rejected. Having just moved into a new city and making a few key friends had been great. At first I had been very excited and loving my new life in Surfers Paradise. After many months of holidaying and spending all my money reality set in. I needed to find employment. After all the interviews, questions and rejections I was unable to get a simple job. My positiveness was burned out. Months went by and I felt inadequate and I had no confidence within myself. I started to withdraw from my friends, as I did not want them to see this ugly side to me. I didn’t have the spark and happiness I always had. I did not like this deflated person that I had become. Therefore I bottled up all my emotions and feelings thinking that nobody cared. A lot of negative input was happening which was driving me crazy. At this stage of my life I was now facing depression, the lowest of lows and I did not know that I was very mentally sick. It was a very scary feeling getting dragged into the black hole. I was no longer in control of my life.

After all the good nurses and doctors saved my life they found out with a number of blood tests that I have Bipolar Mental Disorder. It is a chemical imbalance of the brain. If I had only opened my eyes and sought help. I could have been put right with just taking some lithium tablets each day. It would have made my severe mood swing more level. Now when I remember the last three years of my life there were series of hyperactivity and fewer depressions. We can all make it through the bad times if only we think right.

(2) I was in intensive care on a life support system and after three week of being unconscious, I came to. I heard the male voice of my doctor tell me that the damage to my eyes was severe and I would never see again. Those words hit me so badly. I’m alive. I did not succeed. I wanted more than ever to be dead. These things happen for reasons–I knew that it was not going to be an easy ride to rehabilitation when they discharged me from the Gold Coast Hospital and transferred me to the Princess Alexandra Hospital to the Head Injury Dept. This was where all my rehabilitation work would be done, road to recovery. I felt lonely and isolated in my new dark world, not knowing anyone in Brisbane to come and even visit me made it worse. In these next 2 months of being hospitalised I had too much time to think lying on my bed. The endless questions of what am I going to do with my life now- Where am I going to live- Who will employ me- It all seemed so negative. With my arms out stretched I would find my doorway and venture out to the long corridor. I would stop and listen. What I heard in this Head Injury Dept. shook me up and really made me take a look at myself. I could hear wheel chairs going past, a person on crutches and even people trying to make conversation by yelling. They could not communicate as they had head injuries. That’s when I said to myself ‘esiree you are only blind, with no sense of smell or taste. You have two good arms, two good legs and you can walk. Why not just go and show the world that you can do it and make a life out of what you have. You are so lucky not to have brain damage and you can do it.’ One of life’s’ most difficult decisions is deciding which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn. I knew I was then and now ready to cross many new bridges with a new zest in life and I wanted to burn all my negative thoughts and turn them around to positives ones. With that important decision I felt stronger that ever in my new blind life, no more suicidal thoughts. My medication was working.

What has worked for me throughout my ordeal was having a dear friend and now love of my life called Clayton to visit me and feed me with his positiveness. He would take the time for me to go out for day trips out of hospital to break me in so as to speak, with the real world because I was unable to see or even smell the atmosphere. He is still with me to this day and I love him. I have always made the time to listen to motivational tapes to pick my thinking up. I have grown in so many ways with all the tapes I’ve listened to. It’s a must. I then learned the power of exercise and what it has done for me mentally and physically. I did not want to become a big fat blind blimp, knowing that if I did not do some type of exercise I would. I discovered a gym in January of 2001 called the ‘porting Wheelies’, a fantastic gym for disabled persons. I still go now, twice a week religiously. To work off my tensions and pressures of day to day life is taken away from working out at my gym for an hour and a half. It’s like a natural high. I have now discovered what endorphin’s are. Only with exercise will you know what they do. You fee on top of the world and that’s where I prefer to be nowadays. To compete in judo tournaments mean everything to me. It’s a great challenge to be up there and to fight what I used to have, sighted judo players. I train long and hard for both swimming and judo but what it has taught me that I am not handicapped but handicapable. I am determined to some day represent Australia in swimming or judo, perhaps both. Just by thinking right we all can pull ourselves out of a rut, face challenges like I have and jump over all those obstacles that seem to be staring us in the face. I have found that setting myself goals in life and to aim high in what I do works for me. With my love of judo I am determined to get my black belt. I do not wish to start something and not finish properly. My goal to make the para Olympic swimming team is great. These two goals of mine are the greatest in my life at the moment and by working towards my goals every day in training it makes every day a wonderful day to be in.

(3) There are tell tale signs we should look for in a person that is contemplating suicide. If all of a sudden they drop out of their social circle of friends, their confidence is lacking. They may seem to be nervous and not able to make eye contact with the other person or they find it hard to hold a conversation. They may suddenly gain or drop weight. They are only a few of the major symptoms of feeling terribly low with oneself and are a cry for help. A nice friendly way to approach a friend or person you know in this type of situation to help would be to talk to them easily and friendly and to suggest they may see a doctor or a welfare officer to talk their way through their problem. I found the best way for me was to speak to a psychiatrist to release myself – uncork my bottle so as to speak. We all need a person to talk to at these desperate times in our lives before it’s too late. Do not ignore your daughter, son or loved one at their crucial time of life. They may seem very within themselves and very distant but depression however deep set will not just erase itself. We need to persist in every way to these people to show them that they do have a purpose in life and we do love and care for them. By buying him or her motivational books or tapes to listen to will be a great help to lift their thinking just a bit more. Get them out to see some of the beauty in nature like the beach or park, to fill their lungs with fresh air. Slowly that dark cloud will disappear with time and perseverance. Nothing is worth suicide.

I have written a book called ‘My Life in the Dark’. It comes from the heart and deals with not knowing and not wanting to accept that I was mentally ill. I share all the days where I wanted to take my life but did not succeed. I thank God for that now. I write of how I had to reconstruct my new life being blind and to make it a positive and more fulfilling life. By listening to motivational tapes and my love of sport have really helped my zest for life. I hope my book will help some of you as it has helped me by sharing it with you.

I leave you with my favorite saying by Winston Churchill. ‘never give up.’