“I Had No Idea Anything Was Wrong…” by Richard Wiseman

Topic: Warning Signs

At the end of August 2008 I tried to kill myself. Shocking thing to read and it should be an embarrassing thing to write down really, but it isn’t. It’s a miracle I’m sitting here writing this, too. I took thirty four Co-Codamol tablets and washed them down with a bottle of wine and went to sleep in the spare room. In the morning I was still alive, amazingly, but I was in a very bad way physically.

I won’t go into how my wife became aware, the trip to the hospital with my children in tow and all of that. Suffice to say that when the doctors did the math for my weight, height and amount of Paracetamol in my body they didn’t rate my chances. I was put on a small ward full of dying people. I was linked to a Parvalax drip and left in my own clothes for three days. People died around me, but I got better.

How or why I got better and walked away with no damage to my body at all is either down to genetics or a miracle. I choose the latter.

Now the thing about suicide attempts is that there are really only two kinds. There are those who do something then tell someone, the ‘cry for help’ category, and then there are those who seem normal and they just turn up dead; their attempts on the whole succeed. The latter don’t leave notes, no-one notices that they are heading that way and there are no warning signs that anything is wrong.

A brief history of the events leading to my suicide attempt is, for the most part, not very dramatic and so shows that some events in a person’s life can be more significant to that person than they appear to others.

My story is that I had been teaching at a school so badly run that it was extremely stressful, but that wasn’t the reason I ended up on the road to self destruction. The turning point was when I dealt with a shocking and abusive incident at the school and, according to the private occupational psychotherapist I saw afterwards, it cracked something inside. I had time off directly after the incident, but the county occupational therapist I saw for one session didn’t think there was anything wrong, so back to work I went. A year and a half after the incident I cracked and took a nose dive. I’d kept all my turbulence under the surface and limped along doing my best to keep going.

Again I won’t detail the abusive incident, the lessons learnt or how it led to me being stitched up by the school I was working at and paid off to leave. They were afraid I was unstable, in spite of my seeing five psychiatrists, who all declared me completely sane and returned me to work.

Those five Psychiatrists, seen over six months, declared me sane and cited some form of stress related PTSD. I can safely say I’m the sanest man you know of because I’ve been interrogated thoroughly by some very eminent psychiatrists and they found nothing; always makes me laugh, that.

The point is that why did no-one notice I was going to self destruct? There were no warning signs. There never are with cases like mine. I don’t fit the ‘cry for help’ category. No-one knew what was going on in my head and I simply made up my mind, worked it out, timed it and, leaving no note or explanation, aimed to end my life; simple and plain I wanted out.

I’m not supposed to be here. I shouldn’t have made it, but I survived. Unlike my cousin, who just over a year ago hanged himself, with no note and no warning; found, horrifyingly, by his father, my uncle; unlike the sister of a friend whom the police found in her car in a remote spot; unlike the boyfriend of a maths teacher I knew years ago; unlike so many who look fine on the outside and crack on the inside, but show no sign that anything is wrong.

There are many people who for one reason or another think that life isn’t worth living. They are of course wrong. Life is worth living. It’s just that for some people something breaks inside and they can’t cope with the emotional or psychological pain. They determine to end their lives and generally succeed. Afterwards the people around them ask themselves what went wrong. The people around them are also angry with the suicide and angry with themselves. They wonder if they could have stopped it. They wonder endlessly if they can think of any sign that might have helped them stop the person. The answer is that usually for the determined suicide there are no signs, and that’s how they succeed.

My wife was shocked that I had tried to kill myself. She’s a caring loving woman and she didn’t understand why she hadn’t noticed anything was wrong. Of course she asked me why I could be so heartless as to want to leave her and the kids and I had to tell her that I wasn’t in my right mind at the time; that it seemed to make sense at the time; she still finds that hard to understand, but I told her that, much as I love her and the kids, I had got to a point where for some erroneous reasons I couldn’t stand myself.

Since August 2008 I’ve been faced by lots of people who care about me asking why? They all say that they wish they had seen the warning signs. I’m here to tell anyone who has known any suicide that the fact is that there are no warning signs on the road to genuine and determined self destruction.

The relatives and friends of determined suicides are usually left saying “I had no idea anything was wrong…there were no warning signs.”

I’m going to add a postscript to this somewhat grim topic and I tender my apologies to anyone who finds it incongruous, either because of their personal experiences with suicide or because it seems to take too lightly the topic of this post. I defend my postscript with the argument that if I had not taken myself and life too seriously the events relating to me, described above, would not have taken place.

Postscript

In the brilliant film ‘The Odd Couple’, the original version, starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon, based on the brilliant Neil Simon play, the character Felix has turned up at a poker game at Oscar’s flat. Felix is suicidal and imparts to one of the poker players that he has taken a whole bottle of pills; the others, with the exception of Oscar, are in uproar. One poker player shouts ‘He took a whole bottle of pills, Oscar!” To which Oscar replies ‘They could be vitamins; he might be the healthiest man in the room!”

Whenever I feel shame and guilt over my actions I think of this and it makes me laugh. I suppose you could say that’s what writers are there for; to help us make sense of the world and share experiences so that common understanding is spread amongst the human race. Let’s Write On…

Comments
10 Responses to ““I Had No Idea Anything Was Wrong…” by Richard Wiseman”
  1. Anne Katherine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with this very difficult topic.
    I hope it eases the mind of the mind of people who have to deal with a suicide firsthand. I know the first thing you think of when something like that happens is “what were the signs” and “what could we have done.”
    And your explanation makes so much sense – when dealing with suicide and when dealing with other catastrophic situations where people seem to go off – that at times like that people are not in their right mind – they are not in the place where the rest of us usually are… and so really, no matter how hard we look or try to place blame…that really is the wrong path to take. Sometimes it just happens. For reasons we will never really grasp.
    I am so glad the miracle happened for you, your wife, and your children…and for us here on the internet and am so glad you had the courage to share this!

  2. I read this the day you posted it, and ‘liked’ it, but felt unable to comment at the time. I needed to go away, digest it, read again, and think about what you’d said. My mother died 24 years ago, and I’ve still no idea whether it was suicide or not; the inquest ruled accidental death, but, there’s always a nagging doubt.

    I’m sure had I done a similar thing, I would have kept very quiet about, and prayed that nobody found out. Thank you though Richard, for sharing what must have been an incredibly difficult time, not only for yourself, but also for your wife and children.

    At the time of Gary Speed’s (the Wales football manager) death by suicide a few months ago many people were shocked that a seemingly healthy person with no obvious worries (apart from managing Wales) should suddenly kill himself. I even blogged on that incident and I know you read my blog occasionally, so that post would have been representative of the bewilderment that people feel when such events happen.

    All the best Richard, and keep on blogging!

    • Thanks Chris. I’m sorry to hear about your mother and I know that my uncle, who although he knows my cousin killed himself, has no answers as to why? Not knowing what has happened to those we love is the worst thing. I have a prayer diary and your name is in it, so I pray for you at least once a day and I’ll add your mother. There’s a lot more of this issue about than people realise. I think that many people find the world a bewildering place at times and at other times it can seem like hell. I believe it’s a miracle I’m alive and that God has a reason for wanting me to be so. It may be that I have a small thing to do in God’s eternal plan, but I have found my way closer to God because of what happened and perhaps that was all it was about. It’s often said that God breaks the hearts of his believers, at times, in order to make them understand how He feels watching the human race. Either way it’s been nearly 3 years now and I don’t take life for granted any more. Like Hezekiah I have been gifted more time and I propose to glorify God every day of that time.

  3. Jared Karol says:

    Richard, So glad you’re writing with us at The Write On Project. Your honesty and courage to share this story is what we’re all about. I, for one, am glad you failed in your suicide attempt, and that you are here to be part of this community.

    -Jared

    • Cheers Jared. I’m really warmed by the comments and enjoying being part of this writing community. The world is broad and wide and the internet has meant ‘meeting’ people I wouldn’t meet otherwise; so it’s all good. Have you met that pastor yet? I’m catching up on blogs after having the flu, so I may have missed a post. I’ll check today. Still want to know how that ‘story’ goes on.

  4. talleygilly says:

    Richard – I must echo the remarks that 1) I am so glad you wrote this and 2) I am so glad, if you were going to fail at anything in your life, you failed to end yours. Thank goodness for that, and for your wonderful family. Your story is such an important one to tell, and I am so grateful you did so. When I was a child, the mother of a neighbor killed herself, and I have never forgotten the impact on that poor family. My parents explained to me at the time, that suicide is the dark place you go where you feel there is no other choice but to escape everything–you simply cannot see any other way out. It helped me understand a little bit, the depth of despair, even at that young age. . -A

  5. Thank you very much for such a lovely response. Suicide is a rather odd ‘place’ to end up, no doubt about it. I think more research should be done regarding it. Anyway, today is another day and that’s what I’ve learnt; keep going and keep positive & talk to people more; express my feelings; blogging has helped and more than that the wonderful responses one gets and the opportunity to read about other people overcoming great difficulties inspires me too.

  6. Dayle Lynne says:

    This was very powerful and I thank you for sharing it. There have been two people in my life who have committed suicide. One was a school friend who I enjoyed hanging out with at school, but I never really got close to him. I went through that wondering with him . . . wondering if I had gotten to know him better, could I have helped? The other was my grandmother, but that was many years before I was born. She had a very troubled life and succeeded after several failed attempts. For a long time, I struggled with her choice to end her life. She left 3 children behind and I wondered if my father would have been a better dad had she not killed herself. I came to a point of understanding with her after going through my own issues . . . but I still wonder about my high school friend from time to time. Your sharing of something so deeply personal has helped me put some of those feelings to rest. I’m sure some will always linger, but I have more peace with it now. Thank you.

    I am so happy that your attempt failed . . . even happier that you now believe, know that “life is worth living”. My spiritual beliefs are all over the map, but I do believe there are lessons to be learned from all events in our lives . . . and sometimes, like this time, they’re biggies!

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

    • Richard Wiseman says:

      It’s hard to say what anyone who genuinely tries to kill themselves sees, feels or thinks when they are in ‘that place’ and that is what bothers those left behind most, it seems. ‘What were they thinking?’ That’s what everyone asks me ‘What were you thinking?’ I say it’s hard to explain what I was thinking because in so many ways I wasn’t myself, I’d been changed by circumstances.Some people it seems get to ‘the place’ where not being alive seems as promising as a good night’s sleep after a terrible and tiring day; strange as that may seem. As for lessons learnt I think that I’m meant to be alive to tell the tale, for a start. I thank you for your kind comment, belatedly I admit, but I’ve been novel writing, again, bad habit, and I have catch up sessions on blogs and comments. Thanks again and God bless you and yours.

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