Thursday, 22 December 2011

Leeds Debacle

An article I wrote has been published in issue 6 of The Leeds Debacle. They edited it a bit, mainly due to length, and the fact there's another article about Garry Speed, but here's the unedited version for you.

You just never know

On Sunday 27th November, Gary Speed, Wales and Leeds United legend, hanged himself in his garage. It's led to much speculation about why he did it – obviously. He was young, at only 42, and seemed to have everything you could want. A loving wife, two children, a flourishing career as Wales manager and a television pundit. I'd never heard of him having an affair or marriage problems, unlike many other footballers, and no one has revealed he had a drug or alcohol addiction. It's a tragedy, and for anyone worried, this piece of writing isn't going to undermine that.

The overwhelming feelings are that he had so much to live for, and we all watched him on television the day before, and he seemed fine. At these times, for me, the media simplifies things a little too much, and shows its ignorance of depression. It may be a cliché, but it's impossible to tell from someone's outer what is going on inside.

I'd been trying to write a piece on depression for this issue of The Debacle, and was finding it hard to come up with an angle which didn't sound like I was after sympathy for how I was then, or applause for how I am now. Since being diagnosed with depression, I've been trying to explain what it's like; I'm not ashamed of having mental health problems, but I do find it infuriating. Some people have similar experiences, so that's easy. What's difficult is trying to explain to people that I haven't suddenly started feeling like this – I've been feeling like this for years, but just tried to shut it out, forget about it or otherwise ignore it.

Everything finally came to a head just over 3 years ago. I was about to turn 33, and my home-life wasn't going quite as I'd expected. I'd wanted children by the age of 30, but they seemed to be getting further and further away. I'd hoped I'd be able to stop working and be a full-time mum, possibly a child-minder. We were thrown off the adoption register because it was taking too long for me to lose another half a stone on top of the eight I'd already lost, and it made me give up on children.

Instead I threw myself into my work, and then realised that I hated my job. I tried to leave by demanding a pay-rise I was sure would be refused, and instead I got it. Things started getting even more stressful, until finally I was having a meeting with two colleagues, and the whole left hand side of my body went numb. I suggested to someone I was going to hand in my notice, and a few people said that if I left, then they would as well, as it would be unbearable without me there. At the time, I felt like I just couldn't be responsible for everyone leaving, and so I would have to find another way to stop working there.

Now I get to the point of this - this is what depression does to you. I went home, and decided if I couldn't leave my job, then I would have to kill myself. Notice the wording – there was no doubt in my mind at that point in time. It was my only way out.

I planned my suicide over the next two months; I arranged a couple of days travelling round visiting people around the country so that no one at work would miss me, and my husband wouldn't suspect anything. I went to Newark with a load of pills and even made it to the car park of the hotel I decided to stay at. In the end, my desire to see the friends I'd arranged to visit was too much, and I thought that if I still wanted to, I could always stop on the way home instead.

Obviously I never did it. I drove home two days later, went to see the doctor, and told my husband what I'd nearly done. I can't remember how I told him, but I remember the shock in his face. To clarify, my husband and I are close – I tell him everything, and we spend a lot of time together. He knew about the numbness at work, he knew I was stressed, but the fact I might want to be dead was a surprise. He asked if I was unhappy with him, and I had to try and explain that it wasn't about being happy or unhappy, more the opposite – just not being able to feel anything about anything any more.

If I'd have managed to kill myself in Newark, whether on the way there or back - then what would people have said? I hadn't told anyone in those two months how I was feeling. Perhaps there would have been discussions similar to those about Speed's appearance on Football Focus - “I saw her yesterday, and she seemed fine,” or maybe even people thinking I'd had everything to live for – a good home, a loving husband, a secure job. I remember hearing that the night before he tried to kill himself, Stephen Fry attended a party, and spent the whole night chatting freely, and laughing and joking with everyone.

In conclusion, we may think we know someone's life. We may see them, and think they have it all, and therefore they must be happy. They may seem fine, jolly even. But depression isn't anything to do with how happy you are, in the same way that weather takes no notice of whether you're working - sometimes it's just about trying to enjoy your day off in a thunderstorm."


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