My worst enemy is my memory…

William would be four this year. We would be planning his transition to pre-school. Buying him his first little uniform. We would be watching him play and encourage his little brother, perhaps having a calming effect, perhaps feeding his boisterous side; we will never know. We would have to keep reminding him to be quiet, be careful not to wake your little brother. So many things that we should be doing, but we’re not.

Everyday is full of moments, where we are stuck in a time, a time where life stood still. The only way I can explain what it is like to live with losing a child is like being on a train. You can see life, almost reach out and touch it but you have to mind the step. There is something permanent between you and it. Sometimes you sit, motionless from behind a pane of glass, taking in all that is going on around you, sensitive to your surroundings, hyper-sensitive, noises, colours, movements, proving all too much. Other times you sit back and watch it whizzing by, knowing that you can’t get off, you are in transit, your world is moving, but you are stationary, perfectly stationary. I feel as though I am a ghost. I can see in, but people can’t see me.

Sometimes I’m strong enough to stand and get off at the stations. Step over the gap. Feel the rush of air in my hair. Be a part of life. I think taking part gets easier with time, I suppose more experienced with the grief. Perhaps recognising your personal cues, noticing subtle changes in your mood, your  motivation, knowing when rough times are coming, eventually you learn that your train is waiting, all you have to do is get back on it when your knees buckle. And they do buckle. Sometimes I have a bad week, and I put one in front of the other just for one solitary ‘good’ day.

Every time I sit in front of a camera and talk about William, about his death, about how much it hurts to miss him, it takes days, sometimes weeks of sitting in my carriage on that train to prepare. My eyes shut, feet firmly rooted to the floor, preparing. Preparing to relive, preparing to reignite that fear, those emotions, and go ‘there’. But it doesn’t quite compare, it doesn’t even come close to what I had to endure today.

You know when you have children and all of a sudden a switch is flicked over, it is no longer about you, but this tiny, fragile, human being you have created, and the FEAR. People try to explain the fear to you, an emotion like no other, a feeling of complete helplessness, like you are living in constant dread that something bad is going to happen to your little bundle of joy, every time the phone rings and it flashes up ‘nursery’, you fear the worst. Every time they step outside, within 3 seconds you have visualised every possible option of what could go wrong. The cars, falling debris, is there anything they could potentially trip on, eat? anything? maybe a piano might fall out of the sky and land on them? irrational, I know, but we have all been there. That feeling of not having total control over our little ones, even worse knowing they have no fear, leaping around the front room like they’re in mortal combat, but what we see is mortal danger. Now imagine all those fears being realised. That moment, when completely out of your control, their life is taken, snuffed out in one single heartbeat, not because you put them in harm’s way but because those that were supposed to relinquish the danger, increased it. Because their incompetence led to your child taking their last breath at the tender age of one. That fear is no longer a fear, but reality.

Now I know, I know what it is like to live the unimaginable, the pain that just cannot be expelled. I know what it is like to live without my child, I know what it is like to have stretch marks, but no baby to cradle in my arms. I know what it is like to go in to hospital with my baby and to walk away broken, leaving my baby behind. I know what it is like to wake every morning, knowing I will never see, hold, touch, smell, kiss or soothe my baby to sleep ever again. Ever.

Now imagine living like that and then adding another baby into the mix. All the fear that I experienced first time round with William is now tangible, it is no longer fear to me but a plausible, possible outcome. It is almost an expectation. In 52 days Arthur will be 382 days old, the age William was when he lost his life. I feel completely and fully committed to the belief that Arthur is on loan, that in 52 days he will be taken away, and it is soul-destroying. No one can convince me otherwise, no one can assure me that Arthur won’t die, no one has that power. No amount of counselling, EMDR, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, writing, talking or other form of therapy will make me feel any differently; and if Arthur reaches 383 days old I am of the belief that it is borrowed time.

Arthur is now the same size that William was, he sleeps in the same positions and like most infants is living with an insufferable cold. Par for the course when they start nursery, multiple children together is like a germ fest, but you can’t stop them living, socialising and growing up. Arthur has been suffering with a cold for nearly four weeks now. It has been worse at times and I have taken him to the doctors on several occasions. I knew that it was viral and not bacterial but I feel reassured knowing that his throat, ears and chest were clear. Towards the end of last week his little cough had become worse but during the night he became a little wheezy, and the next morning it seemed worse so we called 111. We saw a doctor and he was prescribed antibiotics. Arthur napped at lunch time but when he woke he just didn’t seem himself and he had a temperature. We called 111 and they sent a paramedic. This paramedic determined based on Arthur’s observations that an ambulance should come to take Arthur to hospital. Arthur’s temperature was 39.1c, he started to vomit and his respiratory rate was double what it should be. He was just not himself at all.

I was already panicking and experiencing flashbacks from the paramedics being in our front room. The big, bright yellow wagon parked outside, just like when William died, blocking the road; a paramedic car too. It just haunted me. The equipment, the vocabulary, the dark green uniform. I knew Arthur was not seriously unwell, I knew he was ‘safe’ to some extent, but what I wanted was for them to go and revive my other baby, who I imagined to be lying on his nursery floor, dead. it took all my might to convince myself he was not there. The mind is a dangerous and powerful entity. You may not see it on the outside but if you could just see inside you would see torment.

Every single second of being conveyed to hospital in an ambulance was agonising. Cradling my little baby, one who looks so similar to William, sat on the same trolley’s, in an ambulance that looked identical, on the same route, the same visuals, the same sounds. As I sat there cradling Arthur I closed my eyes, and I smelled his hair, the same, sweet strawberry smell as William. Knowing that Arthur was safe, I wished and prayed so hard that the tiny little poorly baby I was cradling was William, that he was alive, that what happened on the 14th December 2014 was a nightmare and I was now waking up. But it wasn’t.

I will never wake up from that nightmare, but what is certain is that everyday there are triggers; reminders that force me back there, and I don’t want to go back there, but I have no choice. You see, living the way I live isn’t a choice, it is something that I must bear, I’m fed the tools with which I must rebuild my life. It is not how I want it, nor how I planned it. It is something that changes daily and no matter how much I fight grief I cannot change it. I must embrace all the changes that each day brings. I feel safe in the knowledge that with every step I take it is one step closer to my little William.

One Step Closer…


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

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PTSD and me

Today as I stepped out of bed on day 550 without you I looked out of the window for some inspiration. I didn’t find any.

There is no one day easier than another, I am yet to wake up any morning and think, well I don’t miss you as much today. My thoughts are always with you. My tears are all for you. I suspect you can see mummy from the little white fluffy cloud on which you now reside; but I know if you can see your mummy you’ll also know that she can’t help it. I have long since given up thinking that time heals, that one day I’ll come to terms with losing you. Simply, I won’t, how can I?

More than ever I can’t cope with knowing that I couldn’t save you. You didn’t deserve this. You deserved the world. You deserved to be happy. You deserved the chance to live your life how you chose. Your life so cruelly taken away from you by others. Maybe that day they went into work with something on their mind, perhaps they were tired. But you gave your life for their mistakes, there is no bigger sacrifice, and if mummy could she would give everything for you to have breath back in your broken little body.

Sweetheart, I think that some people think that after 550 days I should be functioning better, that I should be capable of getting through a day without breaking down. Or that perhaps I shouldn’t be as vulnerable and fragile as I am. I don’t think anyone will ever understand the path that I tread. It is not a path that anyone else can say they have been on, after all, only I know my pain of losing you. Daddy treads his own path, others tread different paths. But no one treads mummy’s path.

The moment that mummy heard those words ‘I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone’ my life changed irrevocably. There was no going back, no going back to the normal life we had created together. No more cosy morning snuggles, no watching you point your toes and jiggle your little feet when you are excited, no sneaking into your room in the night to stroke your silky soft hair. Mummy used to do that, you probably knew that, but you let me, because you know mummy needed to. What I would do to just hold you one more time.

Some people don’t understand that by the time I have managed to dress myself in the morning, I have already been awake crying for several hours, if I’ve been to sleep at all. Some people don’t understand that some days fast movement, lots of noise or colour gives me a sensory overload. Trying to explain to someone why I’m so hypersensitive is virtually impossible, let alone trying to explain how the flashbacks cripple me. You see people don’t understand PTSD, people think I should stop thinking about it. How can I? Could they? I don’t think so, not if they had witnessed losing you. I can’t stop thinking about it, I don’t have a choice. PTSD isn’t simply a memory recollection, something you can summon and then change to think about something completely different. When my brain decides, I will re-live the moment that I found you again. Frozen in bed, not being able to move, paralysed by fear, in my mind, you are next door, in your cot, passed away. Somehow the light, the sounds, the smells are the same. It is that morning again. I can’t remember how many hours I sat cross-legged on your floor, hands tightly gripping the bars of your cot, head pressed against the bars so hard there were two lines on my forehead, staring, my eyes pleading with the spot where you took your last breath, pleading for you to not be there, not like that, not again. I think it took 6 hours for my brain to realise that you weren’t there. For those 6 hours in my mind I had been staring at your broken little body. But of course you weren’t there. Try telling my mind that. It is like being trapped in a nightmare, not able to wake up because of course you are already awake. Being suffocated by the nightmare as you have no idea that it isn’t real or that it isn’t really happening again.

PTSD is so debilitating. I don’t get a choice, I can’t just not think about ‘it’. The trauma of losing you so vivid, mummy is forced to re-live losing you all over again, I can’t help it. It’s not just a memory, it’s not something that I can distract myself from. It is not something that I can explain to people unless of course they have experienced it. They do not understand that one minute you are seemingly ok and confident to the next minute being scared to exist in what is a co-dependent bubble. And when it strikes it is like having a wound re-opened, and left constantly open. Social situations are a no go area, draining, emotionally exhausting, overwhelming, frozen and incapable of functioning. In a nutshell PTSD is not being able to differentiate in your mind the past, the present and the future.

I wish people would be patient, I wish people would not judge. I wish I didn’t have to keep justifying how and why I feel like I’m in a sinking abyss. No one will ever understand the pain of losing you, a life sentence, one that will not be over until I take my last breath and we are together again.

You will never know sweetheart how much mummy needs you. You changed my life, mummy is so blessed that you picked me. I sit here looking at your photo’s, your captivating smile, your sparkling eyes coming alive from every photo. You probably see mummy touch your photos, hoping that she can feel you chubby soft skin once more; but I never will. I remember the last time I ever held you. I traced every inch of your little body with my finger, my eyes closed, assigning every little fold and crease to memory. Even then, twenty days after you had passed away you were still perfect. God, mummy misses you so much. People just don’t get it. It just does not get easier.

So, my message to the lovely people who I encounter every day in my life, please don’t judge, don’t criticise, be patient, be calm, be respectful and most of all, give me time. I estimate it will take a lifetime.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

My inspiration for 2016 – William

My boy and I

My boy and I

As the evening draws in and darkness approaches, I say goodbye to 2015, but I do not welcome 2016. For I would not have cuddled my baby in 2016. This year I didn’t hold my baby alive, and next year I would not have held him at all. Although William lived for 382 days, he did not live one full calendar year.

Not only does today represent the end of a very hard and very painful year, today marks 382 days without my baby. William has been gone the same number of days today as we were blessed with him. How does that seem possible? The most exhilarating and amazing 382 days, compared to the most harrowing 382 days. I simply cannot make sense of it, I still cannot understand, accept or seemingly learn to live with it. I’m happy with that, right now, I don’t want to. Why should I? Losing William has enriched my life with the ability to see past what most people understand as a ‘good life’. To really understand the depth of love is to lose it, not until after you lose it do you realise how much you relied upon that love. How much you needed that love. How much you needed that person.

Earlier, I sat and thought to myself, ‘you’re not even 30 and you’ve outlived your child’. I sat in William’s room and looked at his tiny little clothes, thinking how small they would look next to him now had he been here. His room should not be tidy, it should be cluttered with his toys. His cot should be a bed. His changing mat replaced with a potty. Our home is stuck in a particular time. A time that stood still the moment William took his last breath. Will that change? I don’t know, not yet, I don’t want it to. William’s high chair is still in the kitchen, his cups and beakers are still in the cupboard, his cereals still stand on his shelf along with his other food bits. Well past their sell by date, but somehow to get rid of these would be like somehow getting rid of a piece of William. I am not ready for that separation yet. William’s pram is by the front door, the stones in the wheels from the last time it was used. His little coat still hangs on its peg and his toys still have pride of place in the front room. His car seat still adorns the back seat; every time I look in the rear view mirror I see it and it makes me smile. Imagining catching his eye as I drove along, his little face would burst into the biggest smile, babbling away, deep in conversation with himself after nursery. The replacement beaker still stands on my bedside table from the night he died, in case he needed another. The beaker that he last drank from in his cot is where he left it, the last thing he ever touched. I sometimes pick it up and place my fingers round the handles, knowing his chubby little fingers gripped this very handle. Knowing that his touch was once here. I still haven’t washed his handprints from the inside of my bedroom window. An ever lasting reminder that ‘William was here’. His toys are still in the bath and his toothbrush and toothpaste still in their little pot. For us, nothing has changed, our life hasn’t moved on, our life at a standstill, forever waiting, but I know we’ll be waiting a lifetime, William’s sweet giggle won’t ever resonate through our house again, his cheeky grin won’t fill my rear view mirror and his little fingers won’t ever hold that beaker again.

Some might say that we struggle to move on because we keep those things in their places, but that is not true, William was and still is a part of this household and this family. I need William’s things around me, to look at, to touch and hold, sometimes I remember a different memory and it makes me smile. Time does not heal, whoever said that was so very wrong, time may give you the ability to live a different life but it does not heal the gaping chasm that William has left. The scar tissue has not begun to form. I have no protection from falling in that pit. As time passes my flashbacks and PTSD seem to be increasingly more and more crippling. I don’t need triggers, those thoughts, visions and memories are right there, right in the forefront of my mind. This is what grief really does to you. There is no let up. It does not discriminate. It holds you firmly in its grip. Am I depressed? Yes, clinically so. Do I take medication to help me sleep, to stave away the crippling symptoms of anxiety, to help lift my mood, to help discourage suicidal ideation? Yes. Do I have a drink? Yes, just like you I have shit days, sometimes things go wrong, normal things, like the washing machine that William decided he needed in heaven on Christmas Eve. Do I struggle to get out of bed? Yes. Do I struggle to concentrate? Yes. Do I struggle to remember things? Yes. Do I struggle to go out, to be motivated? Yes. Do I care? No. I am simply a machine. I plug myself in at the end of the day, I recharge and get up and do my jobs the next day. Do I do them with conviction? No. Do I do them with care? No. Do I do them because I want to? No. Do I do them with hope? No. Am I worried? No. This is life. This is the card that I have been dealt, but goodness me, I’m in better shape than William is. His little life snuffed out because people did not do what they were supposed to do.

This year I have been well and truly submerged against my will into everyone’s worst nightmare. The terror that runs through my veins, the fear that makes my heart beat, very few people have experienced and I’m thankful for that. My eyes have been opened to a world of mental health that I only knew existed in the media. Don’t walk around with your eyes closed, make eye contact with people on the bus, the tube or walking down the street. If someone drops something, help them to pick it up. If someone elderly say hi, say hello back. Take the time to love, because you don’t know however small these little gestures are to you, to someone else they will be the highlight of their day or week. For someone else you can bring joy and comfort. Not just family and friends but strangers. Life is too short, I know this, you know this, please don’t walk around with your head down, rushing everywhere. Don’t sit on the bus on your phone, say hi. Give that homeless person a sandwich and a hot drink. Pick up the phone to your elderly relatives whom you rarely speak to, they won’t be there forever, they helped create the world that you live in today. You are their inspiration, be someone else’s. Most importantly. Look at your child and know, really know that you are their world. So make sure they know that they are yours.

My life is run on passion and love and drive and determination, my life is run simply on my resounding, unwavering love for William. He is my guiding light. He is my hope. He is what drives me, knowing I must get the answers, knowing I must fight for him, knowing that I will never settle for anything less than the truth. My life is not run on hope for the future, nor happiness but a bittersweet necessity to share my son with the world.

To be blessed with William, was to be blessed with love. My life furnished with everything it could ever possibly need and more. I cannot even begin to put in to words the sheer desperation I have to be with my son. The only hope I have is that is not too far away, hard I know, but the truth. But for now, my only wish for 2016 is that everyone will learn what really happened to William and what should have happened and in doing so educate themselves about sepsis and hope that those that made mistakes never make them again.

For now, I say goodbye to the last year that I ever held my child. Something I don’t want to do, but of course, no one can stop time. If they could I would have stopped it a long time ago. My wish for all of you in 2016 is that it brings you as much comfort as you have all brought me in 2015. That it brings you time with your loved ones that cannot be replaced. Love, learn and be inspired. William is my inspiration. My life and my love.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

 

Christmas and grief

Sitting on Santa's knee for the first time

Sitting on Santa’s knee for the first time

Today is a sad day, every day is a sad day, but this time last year we announced when William’s funeral would be. Instead of uploading hundreds of photos that all seemed to look identical, William covered in paper and sellotape, playing with the boxes that the toys came in, instead we were inviting people to his funeral.

Christmas, a time of year that over the centuries has evolved from its very religious beginnings, now a commercialised time of year, that we all use as an excuse to down tools and spend time with our loved ones. Who can blame you? No-one needs an excuse to see that joy on their little ones faces, that excitement of knowing Father Christmas is coming, writing a letter to Santa, leaving a mince-pie, carrot and a tipple for Santa on Christmas Eve, visiting any number of events laid on by local attractions for our children to sit on Santa’s knee, and finally that sound of tiny stomping feet and squeals of glee, when they discover Santa has been, a stocking brimming full of toys that will be played with once, a tree that is barely recognisable under the weight of all the gifts.

We had none of that. We will never have any of that. William didn’t get to learn about Father Christmas, William didn’t get to star in his first nativity, William didn’t get to write a letter to Santa, he did sit on Santa’s knee, his bear containing William’s ashes gripped tightly by Santa, but that isn’t what we imagined would be the first time William would sit on Santa’s knee. We didn’t get to track Santa’s sleigh as he visited those in the Far East before he made it to the UK, we didn’t get to buy him a personalised book from Santa. On Christmas morning we awoke to silence, no little feet stomping down the corridor, no squealing, no excited little face, no ‘mummy, daddy, he’s been’. No William.

Our floor was clear of wrapping paper, we didn’t have an obstacle course of toys littered around the house. We didn’t have a little boy to give his first brussel sprout too. We didn’t get to show him a cracker, he didn’t get to wear a party hat or a cute little outfit. We didn’t have the struggle to put him to bed, too high on the simplicity of playing with his toys. We didn’t get to pack him and 500 toys into the car to visit family and friends, where his beautiful smile would make anyone’s Christmas. No, we had nothing.

Instead we went away, we went to stay somewhere completely unfamiliar, needing to get away from the suffocation of William’s absence in our home. But, regardless of where we were, the crushing pain packed itself in our suitcase and followed us. My heart hurts, it physically hurts in my chest, it doesn’t go away when I breathe in or out, whether I lie down or stand up, whether I have a glass of wine or not. My chest is crushed, my heart aching, aching to hold my little boy on Christmas. Last Christmas William’s fragile and broken body was still with us. I held him for several hours twice on Christmas day. I cried over his beautiful presence, I held him so close, I feared I might squash him. This year, we didn’t even have that. There are very few that will understand this pain.

Paul and I stayed in a beautiful hideaway in Dartmoor National Park, there were families with children there, but we spoke to lots of couples who like us were ‘hiding’. Christmas not a happy time for them either. Some vastly wealthy couples, but grief does not discriminate, a loss of both parents recently meant one couple needed to be somewhere unfamiliar. At Christmas dinner, we had William’s teddy in a high chair, the chap on the next table ordered his parents favourite wine. Simple things, that somehow bring us closer to those loved ones we so desperately pine for. We met a U.S district judge, a man with a very powerful and influential position in society, reduced to tears by William’s story. For some Christmas isn’t a time of joy or craziness, it has become a time of painful reflection. A time that you look at your watch and hope that another hour has passed.

Every painful aspect a reminder of what should be, William would have loved the Christmas tress in every room, William would have loved splashing in the muddy puddles in his wellies, William would have loved the array of treats littered around the castle to keep the kids entertained, William would have loved afternoon tea, bitesize little sandwiches, perfect for his dinky little fingers, William would have loved to have found the stocking hanging on our door on Christmas morning, William would have loved to decorate the Christmas tree in our room, William would have loved the table magician, William would have loved the owl that sat on the reception desk, William would have loved watching the hunt as the horses and hounds made their way off the estate, William would have loved to sit in front of the grand fire by the most extravagant Christmas tree waiting for Father Christmas to call his name out to go and collect his present, William would have loved to watch the ferret racing, William would have loved the playbarn, William would have loved everything, but William was robbed of all of those things and we were robbed of William. All I wanted for Christmas was my son. Just one second, just one cuddle, just one stroke of those chubby little cheeks, just one look at that infectious smile, just one smell, just one touch. Just William. This is a wish that will never be answered.

I have felt nothing but guilt, my whole body consumed by Williams last few hours, what must my boy have been feeling, what did he want to say but couldn’t, what sort of mother am I to listen to what I was told to do, what sort of mother am I to listen to people who had no idea what they were doing, not just one person but multiple people, not just once but multiple times. The one thing I wanted to do and prided myself on was protecting my little boy, knowing that no-one could ever protect him and love him like I do. But sepsis does not discriminate, William was not unlucky, William was let down in the most unimaginable way possible. They have taken away our Christmas, our birthdays, every day, our life, our William. No manner of apology or putting right what went wrong will change anything, nothing will bring William back. Nothing can make Christmas bearable. Nothing can take away the fear, the anxiety and the guilt that any mother would feel for not somehow saving her child.

During midnight mass in the local church, William’s teddy wrapped in my embrace, I struggled to make it through the service, the tears came rolling down my cheeks, choking on the tears, the words the heart cannot speak. As I stood, I went to the vicar and I asked him to please pray with me. He held me and William, and he prayed that his little soul would be in peace and to bless his beautiful soul. He also prayed for me, William’s mummy, to find comfort. I am yet to find any. I know that day will come, I know that day will be when I get to join my son again. In a place where there are no hours, days or years, where it is eternity. Where there is peace from this suffering, where I know that I will never be separated from my darling little boy again. A place where the first thing I will do is find my son, and the second will be to never let him go again. On that day, and that day only I be happy.


 

www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

What is mental health?

Before William died I had no experience of the mental health care in the UK. I’d had no reason to need it personally, nor had I known anyone personally suffering with their mental health. It wasn’t even taboo, because I didn’t even afford it much thought. I would often catch the news, mental health being known as the cinderella service of the NHS. Hard to access, not enough facilities or not the right facilities. This may be true in some areas or for others experiences. But, I can say that had it not been for the care and guidance of the mental health team in Cornwall, I would not be here. They have been the scaffolding that has been wrapped around me for the last 11 months, and continue to be. When I fall I know they are there. When I’m falling and I don’t know it, they catch me.

Anyone in my position will know that time is like a punishment. Nothing you can do to stop it, always ticking by, excruciatingly slow. Initially, days passed in shock, weeks passed in disbelief and months have passed without me even knowing, carried along on the tidal wave of grief, churning me round and round in the eye of the storm, discarding me just where it wants too. In the initial few months, everyone has time, everyone touched by William, and they now have a life tinged with sadness, but albeit a life that they return too, maybe after the funeral, maybe after the inquest, maybe when I returned to work. Slowly people drift away back to their own lives, no time to sit with me anymore to go over and over things like I did back then. I still need to do that, so who do I lean on, who do I turn to when people are living their lives and I am on my merry-go-round of despair and can’t get off? I turn to those who I know will always be there, with a bucket load of time. Whether it be when I have a complete meltdown in the dairy aisle of the supermarket and the crisis team need to come and rescue me or whether it be the day before my scheduled one to one appointment and I need them now. I know I can rely on them to change my appointment.

I have full capacity. I am not mentally ill. I have a problem that they cannot fix. They cannot bring William back. I could be hospitalised because of my suicidal ideation, but knowing they could not fix me, and they would only be removing me from everything that is William would increase the intensity of those feelings. So, what do they do? One thing they haven’t done is give up. But, one thing they have done is respect me and respect my decision. I am a vulnerable, high risk adult. What does that mean?

Vulnerable Adult – A vulnerable adult is described as a person aged 18 years or over, who is in receipt of or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.

High Risk Adult – Current or recent moderate / high risk of intentional self harm

So that is what I am. Am I embarrassed or ashamed to be in this category of society? No. You see just like any other debilitating illness, mental health problems are real. They don’t go away when you take medication. You can’t ‘just get over it’. You can’t make yourself want to live. You can’t make yourself eat or sleep if your body is telling you not to. You can’t stop tortuous memories of finding your son passed away in his cot. You can’t stop hearing the call handler’s voice as she talked you through CPR. You can’t ever stop the image of your child in his coffin just pop into your head. You can’t stop that fear of knowing that tomorrow will be just as bad, after all William won’t be here then either. With these flashbacks and thoughts come physical side effects. Chronic insomnia, days with no sleep, after two, three or four days you start zoning out. In a complete daze, losing hours at a time. Sometimes you imagine things to move, sometimes you think you hear something, but you are alone. It is terrifying. Sometimes the anxiety is so bad, regardless of how much medication or exercise you do, you cannot write, because the tremors control you. Sometimes I cannot stand colour, movement, noise. Why? Because I simply cannot process it. The scores of pock marks on my skin, when in an effort to control my anxiety I pick my skin. Or bite my nails. Or pull a few hairs out. Sometimes I don’t want to talk, or involve myself in the conversation. Why? Because sometimes it is such a huge struggle to even be in another person’s company, when all you want to do is be swallowed up by the gaping pit of grief.

Mental health is not a choice. It does not discriminate. No matter your colour, your religion, or where you were born. If it wants you, it will take you.

Everyone in their life at some point will have suffered a bout of depression, most people have seen or gone through trauma like a car crash, a marriage breakdown, or the loss of a parent. But life after losing a child, is an indescribable journey of survival. A life sentence.

People move on. But I am stuck, sometimes the quicksand is deeper and the struggle to fight to get out is just that, a fight. On these days, I know that if I call the mental health team, they will come with their scaffolding, they will build it up around me as high as I need it to go. They don’t just build it and leave. They wait. They listen with compassion. They cry when I cry. They don’t try to fix me, knowing that I can’t be fixed, they guide, advise, and aid. And most importantly they do not judge, they understand. They understand that mental health is not a taboo. It is very real.

I saw one particular psychiatrist for months. We had intensive EMDR sessions, followed by psychotherapy. As a doctor he wanted to fix me, make me better, but he knew, he understood, all he could do was help to make the path I am on a little easier, so maybe when I get to the end, it wouldn’t be the end.

Not many of you know but at the end of January I spent time in a secure psychiatric unit, why? Because I had tried to take my life earlier that week, I was found in time. Had I not been found, I would not be here. Several days later I knew what that feeling felt like. The desperation to be with William, it is not a means of escape, it is not me trying to escape the pain. It is about wanting to be with my son. To sit there and actively know that what you are about to do is end your life is an extremely courageous and brave step to take. Knowing there is no returning. No going back. To be at a point, where for whatever conflict is taking place in your head, people need to exit their life, is not a cowardly way out. For some it is the only way out of a lifetime of enduring pain. For some it is a means of escape, who are we to judge, that whatever is happening in their head is tolerable or not? Because I for one moment ask you to put yourself in my shoes. If you lost one of your children, what would be your oblivion?

When I was in that psychiatric unit it was very apparent that I am not mentally ill. I have heard of schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders, split personality disorders, bipolar as I am sure most of you have, you might know someone with one of these mental health conditions. But wow, those people do not need shunning, do not need bullying, those who are very poorly require the most intensive round the clock care that can only be given in a secure unit. I sat with one man. I won’t tell you his real name, but I’ll call him John. John was 35, that is what he said anyway. He shook my hand and said hi, my name is John. I politely replied, that my name was Melissa. Within 15 minutes we had repeated that very small conversation over 30 times. Did I mind? No. John told me about his job in a shop. Told me about what clothes he sold, he told me about the people he worked with, he told me where the shop was. John had been in that unit for 5 months. John didn’t have a job. John didn’t work with anyone. I don’t even know if he was 35 and his name was John. But it didn’t matter, because for those 15 minutes he was happy. Is it his fault that he has been afflicted with a terrible mental health illness? Does he deserve it? Did he ask for it? The answer to all those questions is no. But John didn’t get a choice. Schizophrenia and psychosis picked him. I was there purely for my own safety. John was there because that is where he was living.

So I ask you, when you see me walking down the middle of the high street, my eyes bloodshot from the lack of sleep, my hair not brushed because when I left the house I was too busy kissing my son’s casket goodbye to remember to brush my hair, that I am on my way to have more scaffolding put up to help me continue the fight. Without that scaffolding I wouldn’t be here. Without the mental health team I would not be here. I can’t help the way that I feel. I can’t just change the way I feel, it’s very real and all-consuming. Knowing I can make that choice tomorrow prevents me from doing it today. It has worked so far. I have a safety net. Suicide is my safety net. I don’t need judging, I don’t need fixing, I need scaffolding. If you want to judge or fix then please don’t. If you want to scaffold, build away. I do not see it as ending my life, I see it as going to continue it somewhere else with my son, for eternity.

Www.justgiving.com/Williamoscarmead