Until he took his own life, I’d never heard of Gary Speed. Although he was Manager of the Wales Football Team, and I am Welsh, I am not a football fan. However, the intensity of the shock at his death has flooded the media since it happened, and I now know something about this man.
It’s clear from the tributes that he was loved, respected, skilled, talented, succcessful,and a devoted family man. The President of FIFA said that he was a ‘model professional and a fantastic ambassador for the game’. He’s been described as a ‘great person’, ‘a rare player who was respected by all supporters’, a man who ‘had the world in his hands’.
Many people have said that he had no reason to commit suicide. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever know why he did it, except for possibly his very closest family and friends, and even they may not know. All I can say is that from my own experience, and the experience of others that I have read about, this is not uncommon. The desire to end your life does not depend on the apparent quality of your life at that time. I truly believe that it depends on the wrong balance of chemicals in the brain.
There are people who have been through the most horrendous trauma who have not ever considered suicide. There are people, like me, who have, if not seriously considered ending my life, been aware that there is no joy in life at all and that at times death would be a relief from the pain and misery and depression – despite having everything that we had hoped for in life, despite there being no apparent reason for us to want it to end.
There are also many other combinations of feeling – those who have been through appalling trauma and taken their own lives, those who have blessed lives and are happy and enjoy themselves to the full, and every variation in between. The point is, when someone commits suicide, you cannot make any assumptions about why they did it. The chances are that their levels of seratonin were too low, their levels of cortisol too high, and why that might be may be obvious, or completely baffling.
Having been in a very bad space myself, very recently, I can say that I know I could not hear what others were saying. I know that when I was at the lowest of the low, nothing anyone else could have said, would have made any difference to me. Perhaps that impulse to carry on living and drag myself up came from something deep within me, or from Higher Powers (which is my personal spiritual belief). Perhaps Gary Speed, and all of those other people who do choose to end their own lives, did not have that impulse for reasons we will never know. But my belief is that it’s unlikely that once that decision had been made, anyone, saying or doing anything, could have made any difference.
My heart and my deepest sympathies go to Gary Speed’s family and friends, and to all of those who are mourning him. I hope (and in fact I believe), that some part of his consciousness, or soul or spirit, will be able to perceive the reaction to his death. And that having left behind the imperfect body that had the insidious and destructive disease that led him to his death, he will be able to feel the love and appreciation that he was not able to feel within life.