The Tale of Three
By Thane Zander
It started in the Navy, three good mates ending it all through suicide. Two of them were pretty dark deep characters, the third the life of the party. All three were unexpected. The family of the two darkest ones closed up shop and never talked about it, but Mandy, the wife of the third did, only though after I ended up in Taharoto Mental Health Unit and talked to her, nearly a year to the day when I found myself close to ending it.
Mandy told me she couldn’t see it coming. Matt, her husband was a Maori from Te Puke and after his Dad died he was beholden to take up the mantle of Rangatira and to deal with the Iwi land deals, something she said he wasn’t ready for. Although she didn’t see his suicide coming, she did notice that he was getting moodier and silent, a sure sign something was up. But she couldn’t talk to him about it. But she did say that after he gassed himself that his whanau put undue pressure on her and she got the feeling it was his whanau that drove him to take his life.
But that was then. My own first encounter with suicide goes something like this. From 1997 when my wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and until 2000, I was deteriorating mentally and physically. Looking back now I can see I had undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder and OCD issues. My family duties dwindled markedly as the drinking, the gambling and the whoring slowly but surely consumed me. I was at risk, and after one bout of gambling in Dunedin (where I hooked into the grocery money) and feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt, I found myself perched on a fifth floor balcony ready to jump. Somehow in the melee of my mind I managed to talk myself down, using the consequences of my actions to diffuse the situation. As soon as I had done so, I rang Gambling Hotline and sought help. I wasn’t to meet suicide for another four years.
The second time is a weird one. I hadn’t felt suicidal at all, and I was in the midst of a deep powerful mania, complete with voices. One of those voices persuaded me to end my life and join the next alien spaceship heading off planet, a Soul Cruiser. So I downed 20 sleeping tablets in one hit and went to bed to meet the next part of my journey. Before this attempt I had been awake for about five days, highly manic and in a dangerous frame of mind. Suffice to say, that attempt failed too, with me waking up 2 days after the attempt as if nothing had ever happened. I think my sister may have been aware that something was amiss when she looked after my house whilst I was recovering from my third attempt, some days after the second.
I found myself away from my Foxton home. My car was on the side of the road with dents in it, and the motor was kaput. I flagged down a local to go ring someone to come pick me up. At this stage I was probably hypomanic, flying at 30,000 feet and not making much sense of anything. But when she dropped me off at a farmhouse, I freaked out and ran back to the car. Some twenty minutes later a policeman drove up and asked me what was wrong. I told him I needed to see the CATT team as I wasn’t too well. He drove me towards Palmerston North and nearing the city limits I had a voice that told me “they’re going to take your brains” and the voice said it several times. I freaked and jumped out of the moving Police Car, barrel rolled on the road, leaped to my feet and jumped over the fence near me to run away.; 7.5 meters down I hit the road with both feet, smashing them both, my ankles and both bones in my lower right calf. I passed out and woke in hospital some days later with two casts on my legs and being treated for infections and a broken head. From what I understand the Police treated this as a suicide attempt, and now I have an understanding how easy it is for voice hearers to take the actions they do.
I lost a former flatmate and friend to suicide early this year. He was a voice hearer and in the 8 months he’d been living with us, he attempted suicide four times, by hanging in the carport (public), by overdosing on his meds, and by cutting his wrist. A lot of people said he was just attention seeking and most times his cries were ignored. When he stepped in front of the train, those who made those statements were very quiet.
These are my thoughts on suicide. As one that has been through many facets of suicide I strongly believe we need to open the floodgates and let the education waters flow through society. Forewarned is forearmed. If people know others stories and can learn from them, then there is a chance we might just start lowering the rate. If education and advertising attributed to the lowering of the road toll and made people aware of the consequences, then the same should apply to Suicide.