So I sit here, alone in my home on Christmas Day 2013, and I already have tears in my eyes writing an update for the last 12 months. Running this site makes me very emotional. It touches me that so many people in dark and desperate places find their way to LostAllHope. It saddens me there are so many people in those places. It upsets me that so many people don't get the support and help they need.
It has been a very difficult year for me. Still grieving after the loss of my mother, I went through an extremely tough four months at work. I felt I was living life right on the edge of an emotional meltdown. There was huge conflict with my partners at work, I was getting into bed with my heart thumping thinking about it all, and not sleeping well. I could barely speak to my partners I was so angry with them, and had I not been on 12 months' notice, would have quit there and then, despite me being the third biggest shareholder! And this was a job I had previously done and loved for 13 years. Work had always been the great constant in my life, but no more.
On top of that there was huge friction in my family over administering the estate of my dead mother, which I was responsible for, and I was making no progress in having a relationship. With both my parents dead, I was feeling more alone than ever before.
Every time I went on holiday I was lonely and miserable - so much so I frequently paid to come home early. One holiday I remember taking a walk and contemplating what reasons I had to keep living. Fortunately I came up with two, and that was enough. I could not cope with too much time to myself though.
Looking back I am struck how quickly things can change, as I am actually feeling more happy, more content, more connected to myself, more alive, than perhaps ever in my life. Well, in some ways it was quick - in others it was the result of all the time and effort on courses and in therapy.
The work stuff was all about expression and communication. We had the corporate equivalent of marriage counselling. We all talked about how we were feeling and what was at the heart of the conflict, and we found a way to get over it, and work better together. It took time and effort. I was petrified at being in a room with my partners and having to tell them what they were doing that pissed me off. But now things are better than they ever have been, and despite a terrible financial result, we look forward to 2014 with more optimism than ever. I am genuinely excited to have the job I do. Same job as 12 months ago when I hated it, just a different way of looking at it.
The family stuff is also behind us. More communication issues. I would be a liar if I said I don't acutely feel that I no longer have any parents, even though they often seemed to drive me crazy when they were alive! But time does reduce its impact.
I had my first relationship for over 9 years! It was short, and I did freak out, but it was a start. Then I had another, and she freaked out, and I had to deal with the disappointment of it not working out. Which was tough. But I am learning a lot. And now I am having dates with a number of women, and feel hopeful something will develop with one of them, if I let it. Which I am working hard on doing.....
I did a couple of really hard personal development courses this year, and combined with my therapy, they seem to have made a difference, in my relationships with women, and most importantly, with myself. Once again, expression seems to be at the centre. I was shocked to find that my desire to keep other people happy was so great, I could not even tell someone I was uncomfortable if they were leaning against me when we were sitting together. What chance did I have of expressing difficult things????
It was no wonder people could never connect with me in relationships - they didn't know who I was. I was too scared to say what I wanted - what happened if they didn't like me? Which meant I was never going to get a relationship that I wanted, as I could never express it. How could I deal with an argument? Too scared to say how I was really feeling, or tell people about my dark moods - how could anyone love the "real" me??? Could I even work out what the "real" me was feeling, or wanted?
So 2013 has been about getting in touch with the "real" me. My sadness. My loneliness. My yearning to be loved. Working out which sodding film I want to see when I go out with a friend. Telling a lover that although I do really like them, I can't actually sleep if they don't bugger off to the other side of the bed and give me some space. And these were all immensely difficult things to feel and say. For me, jumping off a 150m high platform with just a bungee cord attached was much, much easier. In fact, pretty much anything I have done in my life was easier.
But somehow, being able to feel what I am feeling, and express it, and connect with others in that place, is transformative. I don't use that word lightly either. Over the past couple of months people are noticing. I seem different. Happier, calmer, more relaxed, sexier, more confident, more playful and funny. Even I am noticing. I don't hate myself; maybe even starting to love myself (he says, bursting into tears over his keyboard as he types what seems like something so immensely hard to say).
For years I knew people are attracted to confidence, and I struggled to work out what confidence was. I now know. Confidence is not being afraid to show who I really am. My fears and insecurities, as well as my love and passion for things and people in life. And let me tell you, when I am down the thing I want to do least is tell someone else how down I feel. That this seemingly capable, successful and in-control person can actually be deeply insecure and feel like a total failure. Yet it is the thing that is most powerful - to be seen for who I am. And what is success and failure anyway - just some judgement we put on ourselves, that has developed via our parents and our upbringing. But we all carry it around like a millstone around our necks.
It is funny how expression, something that is so simple, that everyone has access to, is so hard to do. But being able to connect with people can transform the worst of lives.
It is just over three years since the site was launched, and we had our one millionth visitor in October '13. Site traffic has grown so much it will be less than 12 months before we get our two millionth visitor. In the last year I have received emails from those as young as 12, and as old as 80. To see so many teenagers ready to end their lives before it has even begun is particularly sad.
We had to remove the facility to contact us from the site, purely because too many people were asking for advice and guidance, which we can't give, and aren't trained to give. But please feel free to provide any feedback you may have on the feedback form at the side of every page. I am afraid we can't respond though.
If there is a theme to the emails I see, it is people feeling alone. Disconnected. Their emotions repressed, and often hidden away from the world. The young not realising how many other people their age are going through something very similar to them. I wish I could connect everyone up so you could all realise how NOT alone you are. And if there is anything missing from the lives of the suicidal, it is connection with others. Being seen and loved as we are. To think, there are millions of people crying out for the same thing.....and it isn't even something that requires great skill or money to attain.
I also wish help resources were more available to those in need. I see many people, as I once was, feel hopeless that anything can change the way they feel about themselves and/or their lives. But trust me, I am not some special person, imbued with huge amounts of inspiration and motivation. I know what it feels like to go through life hating every minute of it, wishing there was a way to break the slow torture each day brings.
The reason my story is on the site, and some of yours (and it is only a small selection of the emails we get), is really to prove that life can change. Help is out there, but it can take time, effort and motivation that people struggle to find, especially after trying other solutions. I think sharing the problem can help though, hard as it can be to tell someone close how you really feel. It was certainly hard for me. Somehow talking about how I really feel does help though. I think the same is true for a lot of people...