Gary Speed saved my life – my hero

TW// Suicide, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD

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Again this is no analysis of a player of team, but a personal post about me and how Gary Speed has probably saved my life. This blogpost contains content of suicide and mental illnesses, so if you feel this might be triggering – I suggest you look at one of my other articles or just go on and support someone else’s website 😊

I’m not going back to every little detail of what has happened to me a decade ago, but for me it’s important to tell you guys that I was struggling (and still are struggling) with the aftermath of sexual assault when I was 19. This caused intense Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), OCD and my Bipolar depressive episodes became really, really bad. They became so bad that I’ve tried to kill myself at 3 different occassions.

I can hear some of you thinking: why? There is so much to live for and everything can get better! Yes, that might be true, but the things is with mental illness – you can’t think straight anymore and it’s quite possible that none of your thoughts make sense. The events that have happened to me were of such an impact that I felt incredibly unworthy, worthless and most of all, I didn’t feel human. People had stripped me of that pure humanity, and because of what happened I now felt like I couldn’t contribute any more to society.

In dealing with severe depression and the thoughts of not wanting to live anymore, you have entered a state of emotions that can only be described as focussing on your own. I was so busy convincing myself whether I should die or not, that I didn’t think about others – it was very egocentric in that regard. But the ironic part was, that I was trying to convince myself that me being dead, would be better for others. I wouldn’t be a burden anymore, people could go on and live their full lives without feeling that weight of me on their shoulders. Suicidal ideation, suicidal feelings, and being suicidal, aren’t logical feelings – yet they are very valid feelings and they are incredible difficult to deal with.

Didn’t I have people who helped me? Oh yes, I had a lot of help, from the people that knew. I tried my best to keep this a secret, to keep this away, to keep up appearances. I didn’t want people to know I was suffering, because if just a few people knew, only a few would miss me when I was gone. At least that is what I believed. In keeping people away from me, I would shelter them from my depressive state. – now as I’m writing this done, I can see how this doesn’t really add up. The thing is that when you have decided you don’t want to live anymore, you are blind for any reason and have worries that people might have for you. They are so desperately trying to keep you alive, but you are blind for what they are showing, deaf for what they are saying and it hurts me to say, but indifferent to what they are feeling. That’s why it’s so hard to deal with someone who is suicidal.

For me, there was no question that I wanted to die. “Depression is like living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tries to die” – and that is what it was to me. Every day I wanted to die, but my body refused to some extent. Those attempts which naturally failed, should tell me something, as the reactions of people would do. But no they didn’t help me or get through to me. But one thing did: the news that Gary Speed had died.

I realise that the first part of this blog post has been doom and gloom, and about me – but Gary Speed’s death triggered something in me. Make me feel an emotion I didn’t think I’d had. Gary Speed was one of the footballers I only really knew from his later stages as a player, playing for Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. I just adored the man. The way he passed the ball, the way he moved on the pitch, and the way he coached his peers: I was in awe with Gary.

I was in tears the day I found out he committed suicide and I was heartbroken. I watched all the available videos on his playing career, his moments as a pundit on TV, and his interviews as being the manager of Wales. What struck me is that I was struggling so much with my identity, my Welsh heritage, and what I wanted to do with football in the years before – and he gave me a sense of those three things. I was not only mourning his death and the influence he had, but also myself. What had I become? Why did I become so incredibly numb? And why was this the first thing in over a year that really touched me? To be honest, I haven’t got a clue, but what I do know is that this was a wake-up call to me.

I felt strangely connected when I heard he died the way he did, as in he felt the same loneliness while being surrounded by family friends. The incredible depth of it, it just hit home to me. I bawled my eyes out for days, for every little thing and I just knew that there was truth in the following: I didn’t want to die, but I wanted the pain to stop. Going into therapy I always carried an image of Gary Speed, because he represented to me everything what I held dear: football, identity, pride and the idea that he suffered from the same things I suffered.

For me it was a turning point, which Gary Speed never got to unfortunately for all the ones that loved him and cheered him on. I managed to turn my depression into something I can live with. Gary Speed has helped me in the tragedy that meant the end of his life. But I’m eternally grateful for him, his moments in football as a player and as a manager, but most of all for showing us how precious life can be and we should always keep fighting for mental health services. I’m still here because of Gary Speed, and I wanted to share that with you.

I don’t want to die anymore, and that is incredibly huge. Thank you Gary. RIP.

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