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Darcy Milne (0:00)
We acknowledge the lives lost to suicide and recognise those who have survived suicide attempts. And those who struggle today or in the past with thoughts of suicide, mental health issues and crisis situations, we acknowledge all those who have felt the deep impact of suicide, including those who love care and support people experiencing suicidality and those experiencing the pain and bereavement through suicide. We respect collaboration with people who have a lived or living experience of suicide and mental health issues and value their contribution to the work we do.
I spent a lot of time at home shut myself off in my room and I just kept thinking next got to be more, there's got to be more to life than just the pain that I'm feeling.
Darcy Milne (0:43)
Welcome to holding on to hope, the series that shares the stories of everyday Australians that have experienced moments in crisis and found a path to support. Whilst all of the stories shared offer hope and inspiration. At times, you may hear something you find triggering, if you or someone you know needs crisis support, please phone lifeline on 1311 14 Text 0477 1311 14 or visit lifeline.org.au/get Help for lifeline chat service, which is 24/7
Hello, and thanks for joining me. I'm Ruben Mackellar, and I'm a telephone crisis supporter at lifeline. I'm one of the voices you may hear if you call for support. On today's episode, we are joined by Anwyn. Anwyn has struggled with depression and anxiety since early childhood, growing up in a dysfunctional and unsafe environment. As she entered early adulthood, all at the same time, she moved from a small town to a big city began unravelling her sexuality, lost a parent and found herself in a building fire. Feeling loneliness and isolation crowding in around her Anwyn attempted suicide. Now leading up to the 10 year anniversary of Anwyn’s attempt, she reflects on what helped her through and how she copes with pain today.
Hi Anwyn thank you so much for joining me today.
Yeah, thanks for having me, Ruben.
I'd like to invite you to share a bit about and whatever you're comfortable in doing so about your childhood and growing up, what was that like for you
I won't go into too much detail. But I think in terms of my childhood, some of the key words I would use for painting an overall picture of my experiences were, I was very lonely, very isolated, I was in a, what I would call a dysfunctional family, I experience some quite traumatic things from a young age. And from that young age, I have always kind of had depression and anxiety present in my life. And I've always had from memory like those feelings of depression and anxiety, right through from early primary school to all the way through my high school years and into becoming a young adult. And until now, where I'm no longer in that young adult category anymore, which is something else still grappling with.
Yeah, cuz with what you've experienced over that time, I know you sort of mentioned some pretty big emotive words there feeling isolated with what had gone on for you, during your time of growing up, can you share a bit about you know, what that was, like? What was it like going through some of the experiences and some of the trauma that that you had to deal with. I can understand it, it would have been very tough. And to use the word, again, very isolating for you.
The isolation came in a few different forms. So I grew up down south from Perth, so it's a regional area. So locationally, I was also coming to terms with my sexuality, throughout high school and into my young adulthood. So I identify as queer. And that was another thing that I found quite isolating, in a place where there weren't many people that around, I could do direct contact, for kind of like, visually like to be able to see them, you know, for representation. And I was also isolated, like physically from my family. So I lived alone with one parent and the rest of my family at that time lived in Perth. So I was also quite isolated from them as well. So it was very lonely. It was very hard. It felt like a lot of times that I had nobody to go to I had no one to turn to. And I think that's something that I took with me for a long time on my mental health journey that there was no one to turn to, and there was no voice like, you know, there was nowhere where I could voice how I'm feeling or what I'm going through. And, you know, that took me all the way through into my young adulthood and it's something that I still have to kind of unlearn or relearn. Now that's not necessarily true. That's definitely how it felt at the time and it's very scary, it's very scary to feel that way as well to feel so alone. And like, there's no one no one that may understand you, or there may be no support for you. Or sometimes I felt that I didn't even have words to describe what it is that I was going through as well, especially not having any things like representation around me. So that was very difficult.
During those times where, as you said, you're going through, I guess, the motions of, you know, feeling like you didn't have anyone that you could speak out to, and even geographically, you know, where you are placed, you know, the challenges that that came for you they're having to go through this alone for, presumably, if I'm correct, and hopefully I'm correct here a number of years. And still today, you know, was there a time for you where you did hit rock bottom with what you're going through and having to work through and, and I'm treading carefully here with the words that I use, but you know, having to keep things quite silent.
Yeah, so I definitely have hit a rock bottom. Sometimes, you know, when you're on your mental health journey, it feels like you hit rock bottom several times. And sometimes you think you've hit rock bottom, and it gets worse. And for me that worse came after a series of events. So at this point, I was about 18, or 19. And I had already been experiencing depression and anxiety for 10 plus years at this point, you know, I knew that I had depression and anxiety. But I think like a lot of people I kept telling myself, it's not that bad. And it's just something that happens. And I wasn't really seeking help at that point. And so a few large events happened kind of almost concurrently. So the first thing that happened was my stepdad passed away unexpectedly. So he died of a heart attack when I was 18. And it was very shocking, was very out of the blue and just kind of tipped my world upside down in terms of feeling safe or feeling safe, kind of from the world like for that to happen when you're 18. And losing a parent is very, very difficult. And then shortly after that, in a bid to kind of find myself in the world, I had gone on student exchange. And while I was on student exchange, I was in a hostile fire. And so in this hostile fire, I lost all my belongings, I lost my passport, I lost everything that I had, I was literally just in my pyjamas. And we're actually coming up to almost at the 10 year anniversary of that fire, which I realised when I realised I had to renew my passport. So after those two events, they were quite for me traumatic and scary. On top of all these things that I had already been experiencing for a very long time and kind of pushing down, my world kind of just felt like it fell apart. So all of these, you know, I was grieving, I was scared. I was kind of really distrusting of the world. So to have two really bad significant events happen. So close together, really made me kind of question, why is this happening to me what those kinds of thoughts were rattling around my brain, and then all of the things that I had been experiencing for my whole school life started to kind of bubble out of me. So it was like, more apparent how much anxiety affected my everyday life. Like I've always known that I'm an anxious person. I used to whack school a lot based on how I was feeling. But when all of these events happened at once it it just kind of blew up. It was just like, Oh, yes, I am very depressed, I am very anxious, I am very alone, I am very isolated, no one understands me. And my thoughts started to go, what I considered to be darker, and they were coming up with like, My pain is too much for the world, and the world would be better off without me. And my pain is hurting others. And if I made this stop, then I essentially thought I was going to be helpful to those around me. And those kinds of thoughts led me to attempting suicide.
After your attempt, you had a unique outlook on life. Can you share with us about your list and how it changed how you stepped out into the world?
Yeah, so after I attempted suicide, and I almost had some darker moments from there on. As I said before, sometimes you think you're at rock bottom and it gets worse. And two of those experiences were some one from my family saying that I was selfish for what I had done and another person who While I was hospitalised and my friend had called them, letting them know I was in hospital, they said, they would see me the next day, they weren't going to come in to the hospital that night. And that took me almost all worse place. And I was thinking, Well, you don't know that you're going to see me the next day, you'd know the situation, you know, I've just attempted suicide, why would you assume that there is a next day, and it hurt a lot, and it was very, very painful. And the weeks afterwards, I spent a lot of time at home, shut myself off in my room, and I just kept thinking, There's got to be more, there's got to be more to life than just the pain that I'm feeling than just the hurt, and just thinking that everyone would be better off without me. And so I made a promise to myself. And I made a bucket list. And I said, If I finish every item on this bucket list, and I still feel as alone, as hurt as isolated, as distraught, as I do now, then I will allow myself to die. And saying that now, it kind of blows my own mind a little bit. Bit of a risky, I feel like a little bit of a gamble with myself, but I was just so you know, I, I just believe there had to be more from life than what I was getting out of my own life and from the pain, and I can't even remember most of the list to be honest now. But the one thing I can remember was, I would call it a low bar item. And it was basically, it was something about pushing myself out of my comfort zone. And I had written attending a movie alone. And I started to make my way through this bucket list for probably the next year are immediately after my attempt. And you know, it also coincided with beginning to reach out. And it I was doing these things on this list, and I was doing these things that I thought would challenge me and empower me or, you know, just bring a little bit of happiness or excitement to my life. But at the same time, what I had done is I had reached out to friends and I had told them what had happened. And I had reached out to my university. I think that I don't know how university systems work now, but I highly doubt that this is the way to go about it. But I essentially wrote a big email, telling all my lecturers and my course coordinator and I CC them all, I think there was about like, 10 lecture at senior lecturers in this email, and I said, you know, I'm experiencing a lot of problems. I can't do anything right now. What can you do? Like, how can you help me, and I'm very, very, very thankful that at that time, I got a lot of good help, I got a lot of good help from my university, I'm very thankful for my course coordinator, who honestly has just really helped and change the course of my life, I feel I don't know, if she would ever know that. But um, and I had a lot of good friends that had helped as well, when I had told them about this experience. A couple of people stayed with me for a few nights here. And there. A couple of people took me into their house for a few nights, here and there. And through those, I guess, connections and through going on these little activities that I'd written on my bucket list, I slowly started to find experiences and feelings and emotions that weren't just pain, and they weren't just the trauma that I had been kind of what's that word? I guess pushing down for so long?
And then when for you and you touched on the list and obviously the initial connections or openings that you had with people around what was going on for you and how hard it must have been for you? Can you sort of share with us what it was like to and even if it was, you know, the email to the university and to your coordinators, what was that like you know, really reaching out for hope, you know, mine the obvious pun with the podcast. But what was that like for you? Because I know myself being on the phones being able to again, and I've mentioned it in previous podcasts just being able to talk about it. I think we miss underestimate the feeling that comes with that. It's not easy, but what was it like for you? Can you share with us how it was like
To start with it was really scary to be open and vulnerable to people, especially if you don't know how they're going to react or what they're going to say. But for me, I really I was in a place where it almost didn't matter. I had to do this I had to do this for myself. I had to reach out I had to tell people my situation because I felt like that's the only way I'm going to be able to keep going forward with where I'm at and putting it in an email sending text to my friends was my best method and my best way of doing that sometimes when I get very distressed I, I can't verbalise anything, but I can assure you, I've been thinking about it I have been ruminating for 1000s upon 1000s of hours about it, I'll probably have a million speeches written in my head. But if I'm just stressed, or if I'm too anxious, or if I'm too scared, I can't verbalise things. And so I reached out in the way that was my way, and was useful to me. And that was, yeah, through email, and through texting people and being able to lay it all out, communicate to them, what it is I'm feeling and what I've been going through.
I think it's a really sort of powerful message you've touched on there, and particularly with what you're going through, I'm sure you know, some of our listeners or watchers can really relate to potentially a moment in time where they have had to do what you've had to do, and to realise that, you know, there are a lot of people out there that really want to be there for you, and really to never feel alone in that experience as much as it would feel that way. And for whatever reason, that may be, there are always people out there that are willing to help.
Darcy Milne (16:15)
We hope you're enjoying this episode. If you're not ready to speak to someone, but we'd like more information, curated resources and personal stories to support your journey, please visit Self Support Toolkit. Now, back to the episode.
What forms of support do you draw on? Now, you obviously mentioned that you do text if you're unable to verbalise things, what supports do you draw now, that helped when you're having a difficult time, you know, your non negotiables
you know, this has taken me a very, very long time to build up. And it's taken me a long, slow journey, working out what works for me. So there is things like texting people, which I learned early on, but I also one of my non negotiables is I have therapy. And I've been in therapy for a very long time. And I am very privileged and lucky to have found a psychologist that I gel very well with. And I feel that I have made a lot of significant process. And I feel that we kind of have grown together on my journey through mental health. But that is a non negotiable for me. So to me, it's like, yes, it costs me a lot of money. It costs me time, can be very energy intensive and emotional to work through that kind of thing. But I think of it as like, a kind of, you know, oil change on a car, that kind of metaphor where it's, you know, if you want to keep your car running, that's what you've got to do. And that's, that's one of my non negotiables. So I go to fortnightly therapy, I live with my wife. We've been married now for five years. And one of the things that we are working on, I would say so you know, I'm not 100% good at it. But I'm definitely better than I have been. And I'm better every year. And that's communicating how I'm feeling. So I think a thing that I have learned over the years, and thank you to my psychologists for pointing this out is that people can't read my mind. And I assume that when I'm distressed, everybody around me knows. And they can tell, because I'm feeling things that are so big and so painful. I'm like, of course everybody can tell they can see it. And few times my therapist has pointed out that she can't read my mind, and she can't always see it. And my wife has had said the same thing where she has said, I don't know what you're feeling, I could guess but I don't know. And so another big key thing for me and that's becoming non negotiable is that I have to feel my feelings. And if I am trying to reach out or if I'm, you know, wanting something from somebody as in support or something, I have to communicate that to them, I have to communicate what's going on the inside to them so that they're not guessing. And they're not trying to respond or provide support based on guesses. They are going with that actual information that I have given them. So that's two key things. Another thing is that I have a few little things stashed around my house that are like, I have this box that I carry around with me and I have ADHD and this is a big ADHD tip so anyone who has ADHD and also needs to do a lot of nice cute activities for themselves. This works fantastic for me. So I have this box full of activities and it's like little cute activities that I can do and they range across my emotional range. So I've got something in there for if I feel extremely depressed, if I'm really lethargic, if I'm excited, and I have this box and I pretty much have it with me in every room. That I go in my house because I have ADHD. So I might forget where I put it, which happens all the time. And that's just full of little things that I can do to make for myself to kind of whatever's needed for me. So if I need some comfort, I have a comforting thing in there. So it might be a little soft toy, or it might be a note that someone has written me that makes me feel good. And I also have things that, you know, may stimulate me may engage me if I'm feeling really frustrated, or angry, or if I'm feeling really depressed or scared. And so that has been kind of a bit of a game changer for me the last couple of years, because I have so much value from that, and from little things that I can do for myself to also comfort myself in distress and this box of activities kind of provides that like a easy kind of gateway to reminding myself, Oh, yes, I also am capable of caring and nurturing and providing comfort to myself as well.
You probably alluding to, you know what I would use to sort of simplify this, as you know, really, you're giving yourself a really helpful toolkit, of course, things can change and, you know, be adapted over time. And, you know, you've got to do what makes you feel comfortable in the process. But I feel even like what you touched on, you know, communicating how you feel, it's, again, one of those big understated things that we often don't recognise, we sometimes think that the way we're sort of displaying however, feeling or how we will act, basically how we walk, is sometimes how people, you know, basically take on how we feel, and sometimes it is communicating and again, verbalising that but also just, you know, even in the emotions that you sort of show, I don't know where I'm going here, because I could be going into a bit of a tangent, but I always use the best analogy with going to a doctor, you know, it's very easy, when you're going in with a broken arm, or you're going in with a cold, you know, they can see those physical symptoms, and they can pick up on that, and you know, know what to do, but with mental health, it sometimes is harder than that, you know, unless you verbalise it, they or the people around you that are there to support you aren't going to know you know what's going on and how much it is affecting you. So, thank you for sharing your non negotiables, it's, it's always interesting to hear what different people do and how they operate in that space
On that I found something that's really, really helpful for me. And I learned this off one of my closest friends, and it was basically, she was having a tough time, and she was talking to me about it. And I am someone who's also, you know, I'm very open to kind of sitting with friends in, in, in their distress, or if they're upset where I am capable of doing so. But in this particular occasion, I was trying to problem solve. And she said to me, no, I don't want problem solving. I want comfort. And that conversation has also kind of changed my life and my approach to how I reach out. Because I realised, how often do I may I go to somebody, and I'm telling them my problems or my issues I'm experiencing, and I'm getting really frustrated at their responses. And I'm, like, have started to think why am I so frustrated at them, you know, these are people that care for me. And it's because they are trying to problem solve, and I don't always want that. Sometimes I just want someone to go, ‘hey really sucks, I'm here for you’. And being able to say that to someone doesn't, you know, beat for me to go to a friend and approach them and say, hey, I'm going through this really tough time. I'm not really after feedback, or constructive criticism right now, I just really liked some support, I always kind of thought, you know, kind of said to myself all but you know, they're my friend, they should if, if they knew they, you know, if they cared, they would be able to just do that anyway. But it comes down to again, like that being able to, they can't read my mind. So being able to approach someone and say, I would really like some support emotionally and I just want you to be here with me and a lot of people are willing to do that, because you have also kind of laid out a pathway for them to help you. And I'm not saying it's on the onus of the people who are distressed to have to do that. I'm just saying it's a very useful thing to have in your not physical toolkit, I guess in your
Yeah, of course. And, you know, we know being on the phones at lifeline that we aren't problem solvers at all. And you can really hear through the people that we do speak to just being listened to and understood is really critical and you can hear it in the person's voice. You know, I know personally when I've had situations where, yeah, I know, you know what's going on, you know, where the end goal is, but I actually just want someone to hear me out and you know, feel understood and feel listened to.
Which brings me to a really good question because that connects what we're talking about, which is obviously Lifeline. Now, you have used the lifeline tech service as a big advocate for texting and you know, how it's helped in your journey and even to convey how you're feeling and what's going on with you. Can you tell us about your experience with this service and why you prefer communicate how you feel through writing rather than on the phone?
I have used both calling and text service and for me the calling was quite difficult because as I said before, when I'm just stressed, I can't verbalise, I find it so difficult, It's like, there's a bit rocky in my throat. I suddenly all my words disappear, even though I've been ruminating for hours, days, weeks, whatever on it. Whereas being able to use the tech service was, yeah, I don't know what to say, I'm starting to become like, starting not to be able to vote was not in a bad way. No, just it gave me the, it gave me the space to say what I really needed to say, at that time. And, you know, because I was able to say what I really felt in that moment, I was able to be listened to as well, I was able to be listened to by the person, on the other end, without fear that I've, you know, not spoken correctly or not said it correctly or not, it hasn't translated how I wanted, because I feel that I'm much stronger at writing or texting and so you know, I can reread it before I hit send, and then send it and yeah, that was so helpful to me. And it has been helpful to me, you know, in a few of those kind of dark moments where I am quite distressed, or I am thinking suicidal thoughts, where I'm feeling quite down and, and it has been really helpful to me in the past.
Oh, it's so great to hear. And when that you've used the service, and to be able to share your experience, I have obviously done phone work, and I love doing my work on the phones, but I have had some experience on text and it is really amazing to see how the interaction, you know, unfolds, you know, from the fact that you really can't interpret tone in that moment. But you can also feel the message that's coming through and having to be there for someone like yourself, or, or anyone that that texts are, it's really special. And you know, obviously you've had your time texting the service. And I really appreciate that you've used that as well, both the call on the text, and we touched on the word loneliness, and isolation, but what would you tell your younger self experiencing those two emotions, loneliness, and isolation?
Geez, there's so much I wish I could tell my younger self, and a lot of it centres around, you know, you aren't alone. And you can feel like it. And at times that feeling is very, very strong, it may be a case of help is just around the corner, it may be a case of, I'm looking at, you know, reaching out in the wrong direction, and that that can happen. Not everyone has the capability or capacity to help, which is why something like a lifeline service is so good, because the people are trained to help you in those moments, I think I still get lonely, I still can feel a bit lonely at times now. And I'm really, you know, I've been in therapy a long time, I have really grappled with it at times. But I'm really starting to come around with that's okay. It's okay to feel lonely, it's okay to feel it is okay to feel that it doesn't have to last forever. You don't, you're not necessarily going to be in that state forever. You may not ever be alone forever, you may not feel this isolation and this loneliness forever. And I think that's a really hard thing to know, when you're in the thick of it is very hard to know, when you're experiencing that. And you're surrounded kind of by your own emotions of loneliness to be like, Oh, well, maybe I won't be lonely in the future. But you won't be because there are how many people in this world, there will be times when you don't feel lonely. And I really wish I knew that back then. And I think the other thing that I would like to say to my younger self, and I kind of extend this to also anyone kind of feeling a bit distressed or alone right now, if they're listening to this, and that's Thank you. Thank you for making it through. I think that's something I didn't hear enough, or haven't heard enough in my life where I am battling one of the most painful things that somebody could battle. And I thank myself that I you know, made it through and I thank anyone who is making it through now and anyone who has made it through and you know, it's a really really hard, hard thing to get through. But, yeah.
Oh, and then when honestly, you know, thank you. I feel you know the words and how you're putting things together with this to describe your situation. I can't say that this is, you know, representative of, you know, everyone that's going through what they're going through because again, everyone has a different story and a different set of cards. But those two big feelings, you know, loneliness and isolation that they really unnatural feelings that people will be feeling for a prolonged amount of time, the way you put that, and specifically, when you talk about, you know, what you'd say to younger self, I feel I wholeheartedly agree with that, I'm glad you've been able to call that out Anwyn.
You've recently celebrated your fifth wedding anniversary with your wife, Christiana, if I've got that correct. And you have a lovely dog called Lola, what's in store for the three of you coming up
This year, and this is goals for all of us are to be present in our life, basically. And that is to whether we are enjoying it, that's whether we're sad, that's whether we're scared, that's taking opportunities that we might not normally or maybe we have always wanted to. And it's really just being present and being present with each other. And I feel like sometimes in the past, you know, I focus so much on my goals, or I focus so much on being mentally better, or, you know, having good health or building my career or whatever it is that I miss a bit of the present. And I want to stop doing that I really want to be present. And some of that present is going to be feeling again, some of the loneliness and some of the feelings that have stemmed up from the traumatic stuff that I have been through, you know, I'm going to probably experience quite a few different emotions when we do get to the 10th anniversary of my suicide attempt. And that's okay. And it's being present with that. And so, already the year has started off, there's been a few big things, events that have happened that already challenging, but every single day, I've also found something quite nice out of the day, or I've found something that I have enjoyed in the day. So it's really led me to also, you know, having that presence has also led me to kind of doing things that I actually may want to do in the moment, rather than putting an expectation on myself to get it done. So that might be sorry for anyone who doesn't live near the coast. But that might be on a lunch break. I go snorkelling if that's what I feel like. And yeah. Yeah, that's kind of really started to open my eyes and empower me to be doing things that I want to do and not because I feel that I need to do them. And that's changed a lot of things for myself, and I really hope I can maintain that. And I really hope together, Christiana, and I can maintain that both individually and you know, as a couple and what's in store for Lola, I'm sure a million more treats. She is the most spoiled dog of all time. Every single person that has met her loves her. I cannot explain how much people love this dog. My mom has notoriously been kind of like anti pets like she has never hated animals but she's never been like fully, not really. I wouldn't say either way. She's an animal person. Yeah. Loves Lola loves her gets you know, in winter Lola gets if my mom's babysitting, Lola gets put up in front of the fire on a little blanket prime positions. So yeah, I'm sure for all it is a very good year and in store for her.
Awesome and when and yeah, I know I made a little snide joke during the podcast, but you know, you being able to just hop off and snorkel very jealous. I know a lot of people that are able to do that but you know, just an example of you know, things that can make you feel present in the moment and I do wish you all the best going forward for yourself Christiana and Lola and, and what's ahead for you and to finish off, you know, thank you so much for sharing your story and being part of the holding on to hope podcast, I really appreciate it lifeline, really appreciate it and we look forward to seeing more of your work and your passion and your advocacy in the suicide prevention space.
No worries. Thank you, Ruben, and thank you yeah, for all the work that you and lifeline do.
Darcy Milne (34:22)
Thanks for listening to holding on to hope the podcast. Lifeline is grateful to all holding on to hope participants for choosing to share their personal lived experiences openly and courageously. In order to offer hope and inspiration to others. Your act of kindness makes for a better world. And remember, if you or someone you know needs crisis support, please phone lifeline on 1311 14 Text 0477 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au/get Help for lifeline chat service which is 24/7.