Further to my post earlier today, I wanted to take some time to explain what taking an overdose is really like. This might be distressing for some, but if overdosing is something you are considering, then you need to read this. If you know someone who wants to kill themselves by pills, point them here, if you have a child that self harms, point them here. In fact, point everyone in this direction.
Now I want you to know something. Talking about this is something I find exceptionally difficult. There are aspects that embarrass me hugely, and bits that make me sad. I have even physically gagged while writing this article. However, if someone reading this reconsiders overdosing as a result, it is worth it. It will also help those who think taking huge amounts of tablets will just mean they go to sleep and wont wake up (yeah, I used to think that).
So lets start at the beginning. No doubt you have now been round to every shop you can think of, and bought (lets use paracetamol as an example as it is the most commonly used) 2 packs in every shop. I expect you got the ones without sugar-coating as they are cheaper. You know, the ones that are rather large, round, and taste awful if you have them on your tongue too long. So, now you have all the tablets in front of you.
The information below is from my experiences only and should not substitute seeking medical advice. What I am writing applies to both those that self harm by overdosing and those who are attempting to end their lives.
You have gotten the drink ready, written your note, and now you are staring at the packets. You start taking them one by one. You speed up a little as you gain confidence. This isn’t so bad!
After about 20 minutes, you start to smell something you can’t quite describe. It isn’t a nasty smell, but it isn’t going away. After that, you start to feel a little dizzy. The room begins to move. At this point, you start wondering if this was really the best idea you ever had. Then you realise you feel really sick. But you are so dizzy at this point there is no way you can make it to the bathroom. So you puke on the floor. Violently. Repeatedly. By now, you have decided you don’t want to die. At least not like this.
You have (just, and only just) made it to the phone. You have dialled 999 (or 911 for those across the pond) and you know an ambulance is on the way. The operator asks you to unlock or open your door to allow the ambulance service entry. That’s when it hits you. You can no longer feel your legs, and you are frozen on the spot. You can’t move. Panic sets in at this point. You have just decided you want to live and then you can let help in. You are going to die in that very spot. The panic attack leaves you in even more pain. You start to cry as you realise how stupid you have been.
Your stomach has been entirely emptied now. There is simply nothing left in it. So your body starts bringing up bile, that burns your throat raw. After that, the blood makes an appearance. You are retching SO HARD that you shit yourself. That is the worst bit. At that point you realise exactly how bad things are.
Fortunately for you, a neighbour has a key and is able to let the ambulance crew in. They take you to the hospital, and you are put on a drip (activated charcoal and stomach pumping are other options if the overdose was caught early). You are still being sick however, and by now it, along with the agonising spasms in your stomach, is causing extreme pain. And they wont/ can’t give you anything to help with the sickness or heart burn, and absolutely no way can they give you more painkillers to help with the pain.
If you are lucky you will get a nurse that cares. For the most part, they think you are wasting their time. They would rather be dealing with emergencies that are not deliberately self-inflicted. You will meet with the Psych team. They may decide to keep you in, but if they don’t they still write to your GP. They will make the appropriate referrals and work out if medication is right for you. Oh, and you will be picking up just 1 weeks worth of meds at a time. They don’t trust you any more.
Despite all of that, it probably wont be the last time you do it. Because guess what? You survived! What better way to punish those who love you for caring than hurting them again? You know that disappointed look that only a parent can give, the one that cannot be ignored? Well you are special. You can ignore it. After all, you know they would be better off without you. It doesn’t matter that they would be devastated for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t matter that they would lie in turmoil every night wondering how they could have changed the outcome. You have sentenced them to a lifetime of misery with one final act.
The good news is that actually killing yourself is harder than you think. The sad news is that most suicides are accidental (cries of attention gone wrong or attempts to relieve the pain).
Stay away from the tablets. Trust me. Use this instead.
If you are lucky enough to survive overdoses, there are still other things to consider. For example, despite being on a cocktail of drugs I have to take them all in one go as if I try to take them 1 by 1 my body thinks I am OD’ing and I throw up. The same happens if I sip drinks (I tend to gulp now). Half of my liver is damaged beyond repair. Believe it or not, I am one of the lucky ones. So go ahead. Take all those pills. You know best after all, and this will never happen to you.
IN THE EVEN OF AN OVERDOSE (EVEN JUST SUSPECTED) CALL FOR AN AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY.