Let’s start this tale at the end because it’s important. Instead of being dead, I’m here to tell you this story. Alive, well – and with a lovely wife, a daughter who brings sunshine to a cold, rainy winter’s day and plenty of the worldly possessions which make living in England a very pleasant experience. In fact, by any standards I have done very well and, as I walk round our paddock in the soft evening rain, I thank God that I am alive.
But, I came within half an hour of committing suicide and ending my life – and that is important to remember.
Let’s re-wind my life twenty-five years. There you will see me – fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog, nice house in the country, beautiful wife and posh bungalow. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anyone less likely to take their own life. But the potential for self-harm and suicide lies within every one of us – it really does. The rich, the famous, the successful and, like me, the extremely happy and burstingly self-confident. Every single one of us carries the seeds of our own self-destruction – but few of us ever see them.
It’s July. Tomorrow we are going on a three week trip to Athens – driving all the way through the Balkans. We have been planning the adventure for six months. The car is packed. The ferry booked. The route planned. I have one more day at work then 12 hours later we’re heading south for Dover.
I kiss my wife goodbye. Goodness me, what a stunner. Big smile that you would saw your right arm off for. “Have a lovely day. See you tonight. Love you lots.”
Smile, kiss, wave – and then I’m gone.
I leave work early today so that we can have a quick meal and then make the last minute checks before we leave for Athens.
I’m singing to “The Beatles” as I pull into the drive. Where’s my wife’s car? That’s odd. She must have just nipped out for some last minute supplies.
The note was pinned to the door. It was brief and to the point: “I don’t love you any more so I have left. I know that you love me but I don’t love you.” And that was the end of 15 years of marriage.
First there was the concern. Was my lovely wife ill? Was she in danger? Was she looking after herself? I drive myself to near hysteria trying to care for her.
Then there are the tears and the endless hours of aching sadness. Then there is the sickness, the diarrhoea, the weight loss, the hair falling out and the endless sleepless nights. Finally comes the realisation that no matter what I do or say or dream or plead she is gone forever.
But no matter because everyone knows that I will pull through; get stuck in; stand up straight and get on with my life. Because that’s what I do. I’m the fixer, the doer, the problem solver – and now I am on my own and I feel really very frightened – truly terrified.
It’s quite an interesting experience falling into madness – really it is. Slowly, everything begins to go velvet black. A very deep, warm, velvet black. There is one speck of light. It is a pale, dull yellow bat like creature. It is me. The bat/me flies along the edge of the velvet cliff. It, I, know that if the bat/me flies over the edge of the cliff it will fall into the abyss and never, never, never return. So the bat/me flies parallel with the cliff hovering in indecision. Madness and sanity are sharing the same bed – and there is only room for one of them.
Some hours later, a colleague finds me curled up in a ball in the fire escape sucking my thumb like a baby.
The doctor is politely brusque and feels sure that I will soon get-over-things-and-get-on-with-my-life. After all, what else can an intelligent manager, dressed in a smart suit and with an expensive briefcase possibly do? Get a grip of yourself man and pull yourself round.
He gives me a spectacular selection of tablets in industrial portions. Unused to any medication of any kind, I take the recommended dose and don’t wake up for sixteen hours. When I do, I feel terrible. There is an overwhelming sadness and the tablets only make me feel worse – much, much worse.
The pattern is soon established. Wake up dull and sad. Struggle through the day lying to colleagues, lying to friends, lying to myself that I am feeling better and then go to bed empty, sad and tear stained.
But the tablets are seductive and offer a way out. I don’t want to make a cry for help. I don’t want anyone to see how much I am hurting. I just want to end my life for the very simple reason that I want to stop hurting.
I tidy the house so that I will not embarrass my Mum and whoever finds me won’t think I was a lazy or dirty person. Then I get everything ready. The industrial selection of pills and two bottles of cheap whisky. Together, they should do a rather effective job. I don’t write a note because I don’t want to explain anything. I just want to stop the pain. It’s really no more complex than that. I just need to end the hurting.
Then the phone rings. It is a colleague. He is in trouble and can I help him out because otherwise he will miss a key deadline. I look at the pills and whisky and put them to one side – just for half an hour. He has a real problem and he really does need my help. So, I get out my large notepad and start work. An hour later, I phone him back and he transcribes my notes – this is pre-computer and way before the first ever e-mail.
Can I sort out the next bit? Yes, I can. And the next section? Okay. Then it’s half past eleven and my eyes are burning so I stagger to bed and fall asleep.
The pills and whisky are still on the dining room table the following morning but now they belong to someone else.
I still stop for a brief weep on the way to work but the sadness is in retreat. A month later I go a whole day without crying. Three months later I can talk to a girl again. Six months on and I can smile without guilt or regret. As the new Spring arrives, I wait nervous as a teenager by the river bridge for a first date with a real, live girl who wants to meet me. She wants to meet me the confident, smiling, successful man – not a dead person.
So thank you for reading this story which is absolutely true in every respect. Please do not fear your suicidal feelings or be ashamed of them. They are there within everyone of us. But remember that no matter how sad your life is at present it will get better and in your time of pain and doubt phone one of CALM’s team and let them give you that first hand up to your future happiness.