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If you suffer from mental illness, the "Beyond Now" plan could save your life.

This article may be triggering for anyone suffering from a mental health problem, and won't be suitable for all readers.

Some time ago the fog was just so thick and the pain of living was just too much. So I worked with my mental health team to put a safety plan in place. Let me be really clear here, I didn’t want to actually die, I just wanted to be out of the pain that I was living in and there is actually a huge difference. 

Living with mental illness for me (at least), is something that is quite invisible to the rest of the world. It isn’t just something happening in my brain where everything is misfiring and the serotonin levels are dropping but a visceral feeling in every other part of my body. 

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It isn’t a pain that I can just take a pain reliever and it will go away, or have a lie down in a dark room so that when I wake up it is gone. It is there - ever present in everything I do. This is what I refer to as the pain of depression. 

Deep depression, for me, is when you simply can’t move and can’t function because you feel so worthless and useless, but you are terrified of failing and letting everyone around you down. It is wanting to hangout with your friends but not around people. It is caring about everything and nothing, feeling everything and then feeling absolutely nothing. 

It is those moments of nothing that scare me the most of all. It is always a little bit scary when I can feel the fog descending. I never know if this will be the time or the moment that I descend into that absolute darkness that I just can’t get myself out of. 

It was after one of these moments of absolute darkness I spoke to my psychologist about what I could do differently. How can I "make myself safe" when I didn’t want to die but desperately wanted the pain of life to end?

Fortunately, she knew me well enough to know that what I needed was a plan and she had recently done specific training on a tool called Beyond Now by Beyond Blue to assist someone in that moment when it was just too much. 

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There is a basic assumption that when someone dies from suicide that it could all have been avoided if only they had just made a call or reached out. I have heard this time and again when deaths of high-profile people are reported - "if only they had just called me I could have helped". To make this call is the hardest thing you will ever need to do. And it requires a level of rationality and reason that is often lost in that moment. 

That is why it was so important to make this plan when I was feeling good. I hoped I would never need to use it.

The key ingredients of a safety plan include: 

  • recognising the warnings signs

  • making sure I am safe 

  • reminding myself of all the reasons I have to live

  • family or friends to talk to 

  • professional support. 

We talked about the key people in my life that I can reach out to, unconditionally, who won’t try to fix me, simply just be there for me in that moment. 

It also meant having a conversation with "my people" long in advance about what I might need and hopefully never needing them. It meant having backups. 

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While I live with mental illness, it is something that never leaves me. For everyone else in my life it isn’t a daily fixture. I am acutely aware that reaching out is not always 'a problem shared, problem halved'. It can actually mean that I am ringing them to unload my crap on them. 

Mental illness is unpredictable and I can’t really 'plan' when I might need 'my people', most people have jobs, a life and their own family, so can’t just drop everything because 'Cath is having a moment'. These reasons sit in the back of my mind and they are big contributing factors why I often suffer in silence. 

That said, after discussing my safety plan with my psychologist, we talked about how my loved ones wouldn’t say yes to being part of my support crew if they didn’t love me or weren’t willing to be that person for me at that moment. 

Sometimes I haven’t been ok and have needed to call a friend. Fortunately for me on that day, at that moment, she could take my call and was perfect. She was simply there for me, quietly on the other end of the phone. She didn’t try to fix me. She didn’t tell me it was going to be ok because we didn’t know that. She also didn’t make me feel bad or silly for struggling. She was just there. 

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Making a safety plan was not easy. It  sometimes feels like I am not doing enough or trying hard enough to be okay. I know that's not true. I know that's just my mental illness talking. 

I often feel a lot more like Eeyore surrounded by a world full of Poohs, Piglets and Tiggers. The beauty of Pooh, Piglet and Tigger is that they don’t try to get their dear friend Eeyore to be happy for them, they join Eeyore where he is. 

My dear, dear friend Jane says to me that for her “even if I am Eeyore and she is my Tigger, life with Eeyore in it is far more preferable to life without Eeyore.”

If you are like me and sometimes have those really dark moments in your life. Talk to your mental health team in your rational moments about how you can put into place a safety plan to help you through. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Mental Health: It is difficult to talk about how we really feel and it is different for everyone. No two people will experience something the same way. Which is why we're asking everyday women and some of our favourite celebrities to talk about their mental health/wellness/illness. To share your Mental Health Story, email [email protected] with 'My Mental Health Journey' in the subject line. 

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