vida_boheme: (piggy!)
posted by [personal profile] vida_boheme at 08:25pm on 28/11/2011
If you're one of my UK f-list then you won't need any introduction to Gary Speed and the tragic news that he took his life on Saturday night. If you're outside the UK, let me give you a brief introduction:

Gary Speed was one of the best football players of any generation. He turned out for 535 games in top-flight football, made 85 appearances for the national team, and scored 135 goals. He was honoured by the Queen with the MBE medal.  Aged just 41 years old, he was chosen to manage the  Welsh national team - taking them from 157th in the world to 50th in just eight months. Gary was admired by his peers and the public. There had never been a negative story about him. He was married to his childhood sweetheart, had two sons, and lived in a £1.5 million mansion in the Cheshire countryside.

On Saturday he appeared before millions on the television show Football Focus, where he was lively, knowledgeable and flashing that wide smile. Then he travelled home, and sometime in the next eight hours he hanged himself. 

I was on twitter when the news broke, and his name became the top trend almost instantly. In the first hour, when no cause of death was know, the tributes were fulsome (as well they should be). Then the confirmation came that he had taken his own life. Tweets took the expected turn: "we saw him yesterday afternoon - he wasn't depressed!" "He didn't look ill!" And of course, the perennial favourite, "he had everything, why would he take his own life."

He did, he had everything you would think a person could want in life. Everything. So if that's true, how much uncontrolled despair must have overwhelmed his mind that night for him to decide the world would be better off without him?

We think we've come so far in the way society understands mental illness, and then we see the open, honest, unfiltered thoughts of individuals and realise we haven't come far at all. Why can't we see that something desperate must have been going on in his mind that night? As someone who lives with unipolar disorder, takes medication to control it every day, and has suffered through suicidal thoughts and desires in the past, the comments that failed to understand were deeply upsetting. Then came the abusive, critical comments calling him a coward and a fool. That was the point that I decided it was better if I turned off the tv and got off twitter. I felt triggered, and was shaky and weepy for most of the next 24 hours. In fact, it's upset me so much that I had to let it out of my head somewhere.

It's scary enough to see how cruel and quick to judge the public are when they've never been there themselves. It's worrying that there have been a plethora of campaigns, newspaper articles, books and TV programmes aimed at expanding the public's understanding of mental illness, and yet so many can't grasp that mental states are still physical states, and that the illness part of mental illness is not something to be shrugged off by an act of will. Asking what a person 'has to be depressed about' makes as much sense as asking a diabetic what they have to 'be diabetic about'. It's not something we chose; it's something we manage.

So why did Gary Speed's tragic death shake me (and a number of fellow sufferers) up so much? It's because he had 'everything to live for'. It's because he smiled and laughed and joked on my TV screen and then went home to his family and their beautiful house - and then the black dog came in the night and not one jot of the everything-he-had-to-live-for could fight it off.   

It's the chill of recognition that shivers across you. You've come home at the end of a day that was soft with smiles only to find yourself suddenly in the dark. You've sat under the same roof as everyone you love and wondered if the world wouldn't be better of without you. So far you've fought the black dog off by daylight -  although some nights it's been a close run thing.

Then you wake up one morning, turn on the news,  and you're confronted with the awful truth of living with a mental illness: a lot of us don't survive. And you can't help but wonder what was the final straw? And you can't help but think 'will the night come when that voice inside that says, "the world would be a better place without you" will be too loud to ignore'? And most of all, you feel a leaden dread in the pit of your stomach.

Because if it can happen to Gary Speed, with Everything To Live For, then why not you? 



Reply

From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User (will be screened if not on Access List)
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

January

SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23 24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30
 
31