Adrian Edmondson has admitted that he has spent a significant portion of his life believing that “suicidal impulses are typical.”
After a dispute with his ex wife, the 65-year-old related an episode from the 1970s in which he put his life in danger by tampering with the brakes of his motorcycle before speeding away.
She begged him to get treatment, but he resisted until 2011, when he was struck by the suicide deaths of two friends.
‘I vow to never cause so much suffering,’ he remarked.
‘I believe suicide thoughts are common,’ added Edmondson, whose friend and co-star in the comedy Bottom, Rik Mayall, died of a heart attack in 2014.
I’ve lived with them all my life. I’ve looked at Tube trains rushing into the stations… I’ve looked over cliffs. I’ve read up on the contents of the medical cabinet. I know how to do it.’
Edmondson, who told his story in an essay for Radio 3, spoke of his marriage at university when he and his girlfriend were 19. They separated 18 months later and, in a row, his ex-wife threw ‘her wedding ring under the wheels of passing traffic’. He said: ‘That night I slacken the brake cables on my motorbike so that they’re basically useless and go for a ride.’ He told listeners on his Signs Of Life series how he came to a crossroads and drove on.
‘The other drivers swerve, skid about, blow their horns, and miraculously avoid me.’ After this a doctor put him on tranquilisers. He said of them: ‘I don’t like not being able to think, even if the thoughts are somewhat gloomy. I stop taking them. I go back to uni.
‘I pretend nothing has happened. I sit my finals… The force of repression has always been strong with me, I’m quite good at drinking and letting things get worse.’ In his late 30s he became an insomniac and began hyperventilating. But it was not until 2007, when writing the sitcom Teenage Kicks with Nigel Smith, that he started to change.
He said: ‘[Smith’s] remarkably cheerful. One day I ask him how he manages it… He says that suicidal thoughts are not normal. This is a shock, and it’s when I start to get an inkling that I might be nuts.’ He then finally revealed to his wife his history of suicidal thoughts.
‘It’s not the sort of thing that comes up when you’re dating, and I never found the right moment to tell her that I’m nuts. She’s shocked. I am a very good actor. She’s sad and worried… and tells me I really need to see someone. I agree and prevaricate.’
In 2011 the suicide of two friends moved him to act. He said: ‘I finally go to see a nut doctor. He puts me on anti-depressants and I worry they will alter me and take away my creativity.’ Concluding, he said: ‘I can’t say that I’m normal but then I don’t think anyone is. We are all nuts.’