I Was 13 When I First Contemplated Suicide - Here Is Steve's Story
I came from a very loving family, with supportive and generous parents and a caring sister. I lived in comfort and had friends. But as a teenager I was also living with depression which at times left me feeling suicidal.
I started to suffer from the condition when I was around 11, although I didn't realise it was that at the time. It was triggered by a period of very ill health when I was confined to my house with glandular fever and unable to go to school for a couple of months. It was a really difficult time for me; I felt isolated from my new school and missed out on building friendships. Even after I'd got better I felt like I'd missed out a defining part of school life. The tiredness I felt also meant that I couldn't socialise after school and do normal teenage stuff.
I started to feel that I didn't belong anywhere. The more alone I felt the more I wanted to retreat into myself and the worse the isolation got. It affected every part of my day. I would walk with my head down so people didn't see my face. If I was out with my family I would always want to sit in the corner of wherever we were so I didn't have to look at anyone. I ate a lot of bad food to make myself feel better and so gained weight and felt very low about my appearance. I would stay up at night and write lists of all the things I hated about myself. The depression starved me of any energy so it felt like I was growing further and further away from everyone.
Being around people was exhausting because I felt like I had to put up a front. My family knew that I was depressed and feeling lonely, but whenever they spoke to me about it I would put a brave face on and tell them I was fine. I didn't want to burden them with my emotions because I didn't want to upset them. But the reality was I had become increasingly more depressed.
Credit: Childline (note: The people featured in the image are actors)
By the time I was 13-years-old I had a creeping sense of hating myself which I couldn't shake. The depression felt like a big black hole that I was slowly sinking into and I couldn't see a way out. I felt like the only person going through this, that I was the only person who felt this low and worthless. I had convinced myself that life couldn't and wouldn't get any better, so I started thinking about suicide.
I researched ways to kill myself on the Internet. I planned my own death and wrote numerous suicide notes to my family and hid them in my room. I came so close to acting on my plans, but the thought of my family and what my death would do to them always brought me back.
I was having regular meetings with healthcare professionals about my glandular fever and tiredness but I didn't see how speaking to them about my depression would make me feel any better. In my mind there was no one I could turn to for help.
There wasn't a turning point in my story, or an event which I can say helped me to start feeling better other than a belief in myself that I was the only person who could get me out of the hole. The depression had sapped me of any energy so I worked on getting out and getting fresh air. I started to try and eat more healthily and, at first, tried to take small amounts of exercise inside the house as I felt too ashamed of myself to attempt it outside. They were very small baby steps over a long period of time but they were working. In small ways I was building up my confidence and opening myself up to being with people again. I started to feel less isolated and further away from the darkness that had consumed me.
Knowing me now you'd never guess how close I had come to taking my own life. I have a great life - I'm surrounded by close friends and people who love me. I feel very lucky that I haven't had any further episodes of depression but I'm always aware of the feelings and make sure I look after myself and the positives in my life. I haven't let my depression define me and that's incredibly important.
When I was younger I don't think it even crossed my mind that I could speak to Childline about my feelings; I thought it was for people who were being abused or had a specific problem like bullying. At the time I don't think I could see any light at the end of the tunnel, or a way anyone else could help me. I wish I had known it was for anyone who just wanted someone to talk to. It would have really helped me to be able to speak to someone who didn't know me and who I didn't feel like I was burdening when I was depressed. Maybe if I had spoken to someone I might not have got to the stage of feeling suicidal.
My message to any young people who might be feeling depressed or have suicidal feelings is that you're not alone and there are people like Childline you can speak to. You don't have to wait until you're at crisis point to contact them. Also, if you don't feel like you can talk on the phone, you can speak to them online. Also, life can get better - I have a great life now even though, as a teenager, I could never see that would be possible.
If you need to talk, call Childline free on 0800 1111 or visit Childline.org.uk for more information.