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Beechworth to Bridge Inc

Sally Hayden

Secretary of Beechworth to Bridge Inc

Suicide is such a polarising word. I don’t want it to be, yet it is still hard to talk about my experience with suicide ,as I still feel such shame associated with my story. In being part of the B2B team and supporting Lisa’s cause, I am learning to feel that talking about suicide and how it affected me can help others and is not in any way shameful.

I had a promising start to my school days – regular high marks and talk of what I could ‘be’ or ‘do’ when I finished year 12. My interest waned and the high marks I received dropped as I discovered the joys of being a teenager through year 11 and 12. My VCE/HSC marks were not poor, but average, and I felt that is what I was, ‘average’. 

 

Instead of taking some time off on a gap year I started an Arts degree at Deakin University in Geelong. I was majoring in psychology and enjoyed that subject but struggled with the other subjects and with the lack of structure in my life. I battled through the first year then halfheartedly started a second. My parents paid for my whole first year which had meant that I wasn’t even accumulating a HECS debt. 

 

As soon as I started that second year I knew my heart wasn’t in it.  All I could think was that I had wasted my parents’ money and I was just average at best.  Nothing like the bright future my parents had envisaged.  I told my parents that I was dropping out of uni and the disappointment seemed to be all over their faces.

I moved home and had to find a job. The job I found was in an office in Brunswick. You were essentially part of a team and went out each day to different regions, dropping off books to businesses with a hope that you’d return in a week to deliver the books that they had ordered and to collect the money. I was shy. I hated the job. I could see others in the job succeeding but I wasn’t. 

 

Any pittance I made I spent going out with the team for dinner after work. I’m surprised I made it home okay each day. Several members of the company decided to move to Sydney to start a new branch of the business. I blindly followed, craving success but only knowing what it was like to feel like a real loser. 

My parents weren’t keen on me moving but I had become adept at making it seem like things were okay – bragging about my work, dressing nicely etc. Inside I was nothing. I was lonely and depressed and didn’t know it. Once in Sydney, the situation didn’t improve. Not only was I still earning a pittance but I was having to pay my share in rent. When I could, I would drink. It blocked everything out and I could pretend there wasn’t a sad lonely girl inside. 

After two months living like this I was at breaking point. I drove my boss’s old white van into an unknown suburb. I went to a bottle shop and bought a very large bottle of Jack Daniels. I then went to a chemist and pretended I had a horrible migraine. They gave me a packet of the strongest tablets that could be given over the counter. I just wanted to block everything out…forever. I drove into a church yard and went inside the church. I am not religious but was hoping to find someone to help me. All the doors were locked and I felt even more alone.

I stopped at a payphone and did the part that still chills me to the bone and fills me with shame; I rang my mum and said goodbye to her. She was very confused and I wouldn’t answer her questions.  I find it hard to forgive myself for what I put her and my dad through for the next couple of days.

I walked away from the phone and drank half the bottle of whisky and swallowed half of the pills. I continued to consume both as I drove slowly around a very random suburb. I had had enough by that stage. I started losing control of the vehicle (thank god it was only going at a snail’s pace). I side-swiped a parked vehicle and came to a halt. 

 

I vaguely recall being yelled at then dragged from the van. I later found out it was the man who’s car I had crashed into. He and his wife looked after me and were able to get in touch with my boss and my family. The following days were a blur. 

 

My family came straight up to Sydney and got me.  Dad drove their car and I drove mine with mum beside me. I was confused, I was desperately depressed and mum seemed so angry. In hindsight she must have been going through a full range of emotions herself. 

I didn’t get any help. I should have but my parents didn’t want to talk about it and they felt the best thing was for me to go and work for dad for a while. In a way, they were right. I worked off my debt, enjoyed the physical work and found solace in my dad’s calm and resolute manner.

I want anyone reading my story to know that, like my friends have shared in their stories, 'it is okay to not be okay’. I wish I hadn’t pretended to be okay. I wish I had sought help. I wish someone had asked me if I was okay. 

I am a bright and happy adult with empathy, caring and compassion. I will help others because I understand.