Rachel’s story

Rachel small picture

I was first treated for anxiety at the age of eleven and I have a long history of depression and substance abuse. I got clean a few years ago and my mental health was improving, but then I developed an eating disorder which eventually led to me drink again. I knew I was spiralling down but didn’t realise how bad things had got until one night when I had a complete breakdown. I was seconds away from jumping off a motorway bridge when a member of the public phoned the police. The police took me to hospital and I was admitted to a psychiatric ward.

When I was discharged from the ward, I was still very suicidal. The Home Treatment Team told me that my thoughts and feelings were wrong and that I should try to focus on a long term goal like moving house or getting a new job. How could I do that when even surviving the next couple of hours felt impossible?

Whilst on the ward, I had come into contact with a mental health liaison police officer who told me about the Man about a Dog project. Not long after I was discharged, I started to come to the project and see other people who were struggling with the same thoughts and feelings as me. They were all survivors of suicide attempts and had managed to keep going despite still battling suicidal thoughts and feelings. They were the first people to tell me that my thoughts and feelings were not wrong and could be managed. They encouraged me to keep going, an hour at a time, a day at a time.

When you feel suicidal, there is a battle in your head between the little bit of you that wants to stay alive and all the reasons why death is the preferable option. When you are not well, the battle is constant and seemingly overwhelming. I had been involved with the project for around eight months when the suicidal thoughts and feelings again became overwhelming, and I took an overdose. I was in a coma in intensive care for a few days and I very nearly died.

The next few weeks were very difficult but I felt glad that I was still alive, rather than feeling devastated that my attempt had been unsuccessful. I was determined to get ‘back on track’ straight away and the support from the project was invaluable. Man about a Dog has helped me to keep fighting the battle and to hold on to the bit of me that wants to stay alive. Today, I can enjoy my life rather than just ‘hang on in there’ and survive.

Volunteering on the Man about a Dog project has given me the opportunity to share my experiences with others so that they too know that they are not alone in managing their suicidal thoughts and feelings. I have seen how common suicidal attempts are, and they they often go unreported and unspoken about. Surviving a suicide attempt can be a difficult and lonely experience. For me, it has not been so because of the Man about a Dog project and I know that I would not be alive today without it.