vida_boheme: (piggy!)
vida_boheme ([personal profile] vida_boheme) wrote2011-11-28 08:25 pm

"He had everything"

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? 



[identity profile] sgamadison.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 08:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I can honestly say that though I have been depressed in my lifetime, it has never reached this level, so I cannot completely comprehend what it is like to live with something like this.

I have lived with people who have experienced it, however, and it truly frightens me to watch what they go through and to feel helpless to say or do the right thing. I've watched as friends dealt with the aftermath of suicide in their families, and I've worried about not being supportive enough or doing enough for the people I know who are suffering.

I saw this today and thought of you (and others dear to me that are struggling right now)

In which a professional athlete talks about his struggle with depression: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/ecoqm1

And I have to ask--is this guy right? Because at what point do you do more than merely 'be supportive'? At what point do you intervene and say, please, please get help (as I have wanted to do with one person recently) or say, "I don't think you've noticed, but you're in a really dark place right now--has something changed?" Because that too, has happened in my observation recently.

I've got people I care about too much to lose to this. :-(

[identity profile] vida-boheme.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 09:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Ah, Stan C... He's a local boy. He's made some monumental mistakes in his life, but I have a sneaking admiration for him as far as being honest about his depression is concerned.

I agree with him that there reaches a stage where general support has to turn into intervention. There have been two occasions when D has sat down with me and simply said, "I really think this has reached the stage where you need to see somebody." In some ways, knowing it was becoming a worry to him made it easier for me to go.

If you're at the point of feeling scared, then tell the person you are worried about. Keep it simple. Offer to make the appointment and go with them. Don't make it a debate if they don't reply. Give them a couple of hours to take it in (the depressed brain is like a buffering YouTube video on a bad connection) and then ask them gently when they want to go.

Sorry if this entry has stressed you. *Hugs*
Edited 2011-11-28 21:14 (UTC)

[identity profile] sgamadison.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 09:55 pm (UTC)(link)
Not a stressor at all, my dear. Simply something that keeps coming up lately and I want to be sure I'm doing as much as humanly possible to be there for the people I care about.

Which is why I am often blithely pretending that I haven't noticed anything is wrong while at the same time shoving my shoulder in someone's face so they can find it if needed. It's a fine line to walk between being there and pushing.

I like the YouTube buffering analogy--I'll have to remember that one. *hugs you back*

[identity profile] berryann.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 09:23 pm (UTC)(link)
People like to judge, Finn, especially in the “he/she had it all” category. Hasn’t our world become nothing but materialistic, in every tiny aspect? Where everything can be measured and estimated by…how much you have? How much you ARE seems not to be THAT important anymore… Everything, your success, your happiness, your level of self-fulfillment, all of it can be easily described by how much you have. And turning it all down in a blink of an eye is considered a blasphemy, isn’t it?

My friend killed himself too. And none of us could predict it. None of could foresee it. None of us could detect any change in his behavior at all. Apparently we didn’t try hard enough. We weren’t his friends enough…

I firmly believe that every suicide can be prevented – on one condition – that at this very crucial moment this person isn’t alone. Because it’s usually a moment – it’s all that it takes. People who want to commit a suicide may write goodbye letters and what not but I think they are somehow convinced that it’s not real and that nothing ‘final’ will really happen till it actually does… I’m sure that if there was somebody with them they’d just shrug, look back and maybe even laugh…till the next time.

It is very sad when people take their own life. It is very sad that Gary Speed killed himself. On many levels. My heart goes out to his family, especially to his kids.

[identity profile] vida-boheme.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 09:42 pm (UTC)(link)
"I firmly believe that every suicide can be prevented – on one condition – that at this very crucial moment this person isn’t alone. Because it’s usually a moment – it’s all that it takes. People who want to commit a suicide may write goodbye letters and what not but I think they are somehow convinced that it’s not real and that nothing ‘final’ will really happen till it actually does…"

I completely agree with this - 100%

[identity profile] talkingtocactus.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 10:14 pm (UTC)(link)
agreed :)

[identity profile] tangotabby.livejournal.com 2011-11-29 05:09 am (UTC)(link)
I firmly believe that every suicide can be prevented – on one condition – that at this very crucial moment this person isn’t alone. Because it’s usually a moment – it’s all that it takes. People who want to commit a suicide may write goodbye letters and what not but I think they are somehow convinced that it’s not real and that nothing ‘final’ will really happen till it actually does… I’m sure that if there was somebody with them they’d just shrug, look back and maybe even laugh…till the next time.


I've been thinking about this for the past few hours.

I don't believe that it's 100% true. It may take "just a moment" for the final step, but it's much more than a moment leading up to it. People can (and do) jump or shoot themselves whether or not someone else is there trying to stop them.

Someone being there may stop a specific instance, but the person *truly* determined to commit suicide will just make damn sure no one is around to stop them the next time. They are *counting* on it being final.

TBH, I don't want to believe it's true. That places an unfair burden on the people left behind. It's not fair to saddle them with more "if I'd only been there" guilt when they're saddling themselves with it enough on their own.

I'm certainly not saying that people shouldn't try to prevent suicides! Of course they should, and fortunately preventive efforts can be successful. Particularly for those whose suicide attempts are a cry for help rather than a determined effort to die. I just think it's unrealistic to believe that *all* of them are preventable.
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[identity profile] ariadne83.livejournal.com 2011-11-30 11:30 am (UTC)(link)
I firmly believe that every suicide can be prevented – on one condition – that at this very crucial moment this person isn’t alone.

*nods*

That was certainly the case for me.

[identity profile] talkingtocactus.livejournal.com 2011-11-28 10:13 pm (UTC)(link)
absolutely couldn't agree more. it took me a long time really to get to terms with being ill myself because on the surface i too had everything - i come from a well to do background, i'm not living hand to mouth, my parents are nice, i went to posh schools etc. but that's all surface stuff, it doesn't make any difference to whether you get ill or not. and actually although it sounds kind of self centred to say it it almost makes it worse because you have the added guilt of being ill and no one can understand why. i have several friends who went through child abuse and/or poverty (or both and more) and i used to say to them i don't get it, how can this be valid when i haven't been through your crap and you're ok? it's not a nice situation.

i thought collymore's post was fantastic, i've not been a fan of him, but it really was great, and i tweeted to thank him for it.

i just hope this story encourages more informed thinking on this.

[identity profile] tangotabby.livejournal.com 2011-11-29 05:17 am (UTC)(link)
>>> 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."<<<

People who haven't been there really just don't get it :-( It doesn't seem logical to commit suicide when you're got an outwardly great life, but depression *ISN'T* logical!

And those comments really hurt. I still remember a friend saying to me, "How can you be depressed?!?! You've got a great life!" And it HURT! Unfortunately at that point I was asking myself the same unfair question, so her comment, frankly, made me feel even worse. Even knowing that it's a *physical* problem and not something I can battle with will power alone, when the demons have their hold on me and I *can't* think logically, the question comes up again in my mind. I'm lucky that treatment has made those episodes fewer and less severe, but they're never going to go away....

[identity profile] sherry57.livejournal.com 2011-11-29 08:18 am (UTC)(link)
I've been hyper-stressed, I've been hyper-worried but I am lucky that I have never got to the level of any serious thoughts of suicide even thought life has sometimes looked extremely black to me.
Real depression must be so hard to fight and sadly and tragically, some like Gary Speed, like the 16 year old neighbour of my parents, like countless many others, lose the battle.
I wish there was a real cure for this dreadful illness.
I wish all sufferers all the courage in the universe it takes to deal with it.
Rest in Peace Gary. My prayers for others that they find a way to live in peace.
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[identity profile] ariadne83.livejournal.com 2011-11-30 11:26 am (UTC)(link)
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?

THIS. SO MUCH THIS.

I was depressed for three years to the point where I would turn on my laptop in the morning and then go into a fugue for ten hours and not be able to tell my husband what I'd done all day except... read... stuff.

And the absolute worst part was that I had everything: a loving family, steady work, a supportive partner, lots of friends. There was no "reason" for me to feel down, or numb, or hopeless. And that led me into a downward spiral where I felt bad --> I felt bad for feeling bad --> I berated myself for being irrational and ungrateful --> I got sicker and sicker.

I've been so, so fortunate to have my husband, simply because on the worst nights when I quite seriously debated with myself whether or not the world would be better of without me, I could tell him. And he wouldn't freak out. He'd sit with me and talk to me and do whatever I asked that I thought might help. And I've been especially fortunate that he's fought for my right to recover at my own pace.

I can only ever feel sorrow and empathy when someone takes their life, because there have been many, many times in my life when that could have been me.