Suicide survivor shares his story of hope
- Credit: Paul Dickson
I wrote the first draft of ‘Cry to Be Heard! My Road to Recovery’ in italics on lined paper over a period of 60 hours in 1987, breaking only for light meals and sleep. I had been advised by ay psychiatric nurse at the hospital where I'd been admitted, to keep a journal. I’d never kept one and really didn’t want to. Yet I found writing down the events preceding and following a suicide attempt from a car park the year before, amazingly cathartic. I shared the story with both the nurse and my excellent GP at the time, John Lofting.
Over the next few years some close friends read the story , one commenting that maybe someday it ‘deserved to be shared with a wider audience’. The drafts gradually morphed from typewriter to computer document. In 2015 I finally felt able to open up about my journey to the local media. I did approach two mainstream publishers, but they weren’t interested.
In 2019 I paid for my hospital notes from May 1986 onwards and was delighted to see how relevant dates, injuries and recording of my fluctuating mood tied in remarkably accurately to my memories.
During the lockdowns last year I revisited the latest draft, taking out some of the rawness and adding in reflections made over the previous five years. A mutual friend suggested I contact local publisher Paul Dickson, whom I knew quite well, having worked with him at various events.
Paul read the first five chapters just after Christmas 2020 and immediately wanted to see more. He suggested I add a third part covering 1988 onwards. The final draft was published this year to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day.
The title of the first hand written draft was simply ‘Cry!’, also the title of one of the four poems at the end of the final draft. Paul thought there needed to be more to it and after a remarkably short exchange of emails, given that the title is quite important, we settled on ‘Cry to Be Heard! My Road to Recovery’. I found that my recovery started when I was really listened to by both my GP and psychiatric nurses, rather ironically a year after the ‘incident', so the word 'heard' is quite critical and indeed it is a very personal account.
The first part of the book is entitled ‘ It’s Not the Despair It’s the Hope…’
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‘Clockwise’ was one of my favourite films of the 1980s. The plot revolves around an obsessively punctual headmaster, Brian Stimpson, played by John Cleese, desperately trying to get to a headteacher’s conference in Norwich. The plot becomes excessively convoluted. The scene that sticks in my mind is Mr Stimpson sitting on the verge of a roadway dressed as a monk with the car that is his only means of transport disappearing over the horizon. He turns to Laura the pupil he has coerced into driving him to the conference and says, ‘It’s not the despair, I can stand the despair, it’s the hope ‘.
Having suffered from severe depression in the mid 1980s and more recently a high level of anxiety, I can resonate with the idea of hope seeming so allusive, that thinking it’s within reach is almost unbearable.
My story takes the reader from my personal hopelessness to recovery, with sometimes almost brutal honesty, yet with large amounts of humour. The huge amount of positive feedback I have received reflects my aim of making a still taboo subject accessible , as tragically over 100 souls a week are taking their own lives within England and Wales alone.
The book ends with the words of Julian of Norwich and one by Manuel from Fawlty Towers, "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well ….eventually" . I believe we must all try to live in hope and offer it to those who need it most, however allusive that might seem.
Steve's book is available at Jarrolds in Norwich and Cromer, Waterstones at London Street, Norwich, Revelation Resource Centre on Redwell Street in Norwich, Green Pastures Bookshop in Dereham and at allthingsnorfolk.com with £1 of every copy sold (£12 RRP) going to Norfolk & Waveney Mind.