Gary Speed

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.

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4 Responses to Gary Speed

  1. Susan says:

    Thank you for your sensitive comment, Eleanor. I hope you are right. God speed poor Mr Speed…

    I got into a ferocious row yesterday on a private blog with someone on this very subject whose first comment was “how could he be so selfish as to do that to the people he loved”. It got nasty when one of my blog friends went and backed *her* up, making me feel very betrayed and vulnerable! (I dropped her) But I was very angry and did not hold back. What an uncompassionate thing to say. As if we live solely for family and relatives.

    And I believe that people with depression and suicidal impulses are not “weaker” than other perhaps less privileged people who don’t have those impulses. Look at David Walliams who suffers from depression and swam the Thames, for God’s sake. Depressives are remarkably strong-willed people – the problem is that the will bends too easily and focuses too brightly and sharply on the internal spot and devastates all it touches therein…

    But you know all this, it will not be unfamiliar territory, I imagine. Thanks again for your thoughts. Oddly enough the first adjective to come to mind when I read your writings is “sane”, because that’s what they are 🙂

  2. Alan Garde says:

    I read this article from another professional sportsman who was brave enough to speak up about his own issues

    I can’t think of a clearer, more poignant description of how it feels to be on the ‘inside’ of depression, of being trapped in a bell jar. He says “The main thing I want to say to people is that if someone has left you through suicide it wasn’t that they didn’t love you, and that’s important to say that”. That made me think of Susan’s comment above and the argument she got into. Anyway, the article is there and I think he was incredibly brave and says it a lot better than I ever could.

  3. Ruth Hardy says:

    I guess people can’t ever really understand unless they’ve been there. Or as that old indian proverb goes dont judge me until youve walked in my moccasions.

    I had one of those blip days yesterday, you know the ones where you wake up wanting to cry for no apparent reason. Nothing had changed from Wednesday I just didnt feel like facing the day. I have a great boss who gets me and Im on flexi this afternoon just so I can look after me. People look in and see someone with their own home a job and great friends and family and so often dont understand the difficulties of a minute following another one. You cant explain it you just feel it. Having said all that we know the chemical imbalance and control it… one day blips are better than months sat in the wardrobe scared and too tired to get out. I too am glad for a faith that gives me hope and a greater perspective on this life and the next. Im sad andstrangely glad of a condition that is hereditary because I know my family understand without explanations and love me regardless.

    As for today well Im sat waiting for the great treat of having my hair done and later taking my youth group ice skating. Little things but with a day like yesterday theyre big enough to get me back on track.

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