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.


Dearest William…

I hope you are ok? Mummy is missing you so much. Mummy is finding it so hard at the moment, it’s so hard to live without you. It has been 15 short months since you went to live in your new home. 15 months is longer than you lived for. 15 months isn’t very long in the context of a lifetime, well not mine at least. 15 months is long enough, what is 15 years going to feel like, or 50. I hope by then I’m with you. I hate this sweetheart I really do. I can’t remember the last time I was happy. The last time I really laughed so hard. I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t have a care in the world.

Losing you is the hardest fight that I will ever have to face, and it is a fight. The constant urge of wanting and needing to give in is prevalent. I am but one breath from being with you, but that feels like a lifetime away, well it is a lifetime. It is probably a good job that we don’t have on/off switches. I would have flicked that switch a long time ago, to end this part of my life in purgatory, and to spend the rest of my time, with you. Only with you. Well not just with you, but the two other little children, who sadly, mummy didn’t get to give birth to. See, you were so special, the little one that made it. I was honoured to share my birthday with you. You couldn’t get a more perfect gift than you.

You changed my life, you changed me as a person, you see I don’t think people realise quite how much. Before you arrived I had resigned myself to a life with no children. Growing up I was fiercely independent, I knew my mind and where I wanted to be. I grew up very quickly and left my childhood behind. Nanny and grandad worked so much, every day in fact, so I spent a lot of time with your great nanny, and auntie Joyce. But I learnt how to look after myself, I worked hard as soon as I was old enough, I did well at school, but I always did my own thing. I was the only one who really exerted control over me. When I was told at 11 years old that it was unlikely I would have my own children, I planned around it, I never grew up playing with dolls or talking about children. Even nanny and grandad didn’t think I was maternal at all, throughout my pregnancy I worried I wouldn’t be good enough, I worried that I wouldn’t know what to do, and I worried that I wouldn’t be a good mum. I remember being in labour and I said to daddy “what happens if I don’t love him, what happens if he doesn’t love me?” Daddy assured me that would never happen. Daddy was right (don’t tell him I said that), for once I have no problem standing on the tallest building and shouting, your daddy was right. My goodness I have never loved anyone or anything as much as I love you, and you loved me.

I knew how special you were, I knew then. I know now. I will always know. You were the one that allowed me to lessen the grip I held on myself, you allowed me to live with more freedom, allowing myself breathing space. You taught me there was more to life than working 24/7, you taught me that it didn’t matter if filing wasn’t done the moment the bills came through the door, you taught me that it didn’t matter if the washing didn’t get done, if the dinner wasn’t on the table at 6. I had spent the day encapsulated in our bubble of love. That is the power of love. A total force of nature. You taught me to be selfless, to be patient, to be compassionate, to love with no expectations. You taught me how to live. I owe my life to you. I owe everything to you. I gave you everything I have.

Being separated from you has ignited sheer desperation, a yearning and need that I cannot fulfill, manifesting itself as pain. The price I will pay for the rest of my life for loving you so much. That pain will only increase as the love intensifies and the ache in my arms becomes heavier. At the moment I’m not living peacefully, you probably know. You can probably see my struggle. The tears, the sleepless nights, the nightmares, flashbacks and hallucinations. You probably know that I’m not working. The visions of your broken little body now not just thoughts but tricks of my mind. I don’t like it. I can’t help it, your broken little body can appear on the windowsill as I’m sat in the office working, reflections in the mirror as I look at myself, or like the other night, I woke screaming, sweating, having had your little hand drop on mine, but not your plump, dimpled little hand that I used to hold but your stiff, cold hand, the entirely different hand that I saw after you had died. Why do I experience this, I don’t know. As much as I have experienced your waking moments, I also experienced your dying ones too. I experienced your death, and as much as your little life made the biggest impact on my life, your death did to. Your life happened, but so did your death.

What am I supposed to do without you? How am I supposed to live without you? All I want to do is come home, but I am ‘home’ but I’m not, my home is with you. We should have been making memories today, you would have been making me a card at nursery, you should have been here to see me open it, and help me eat my breakfast in bed that you and daddy made. We should have gone out and filled our day with more of those infectious smiles and laughed until our cheeks hurt, making memories. I should have heard you say ‘mummy I love you’ I should have been able to say, thank you sweetheart, I love you too. But I can’t, instead I’m sat in bed looking out of the window. I can see white smoke from the chimney across the road, make its way into the dark dusky sky, wishing I was a free spirit like the smoke, making its way into the atmosphere. I just want to be free again, but until we are together again, I know I never will be. I live everyday with the guilt, guilt that I couldn’t protect you, that somehow I didn’t do enough to save you. I hope you don’t blame mummy as much as she blames herself. The thought of letting you down, leaves me barely able to live with myself, but Daddy is doing his best to look after mummy’s broken soul.

William you allowed me to see life through different eyes, you allowed me to open my eyes and experience LIFE. William, you gave me love, a love that I didn’t know existed, you gave me love that was beyond my imagination. William, you made me a mummy, you made me your mummy, thank you. Thank you for picking me. It will always be you.

As another day draws to a close without you, another mother’s day without you, one more day closer to you. I look up to the night sky and like every other evening I say to you, goodnight sweetheart, I love you. Your mummy xxx





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.



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.


The power of a memory

The most captivating smile xxx

The most captivating smile xxx

If a smile could say a thousand words, then this would be it. The smile that has taken my breath away so many times, and continues to do so even as I write this. Even more so because this smile was for me. Those magical deep brown eyes sparkling through those long lashes just for his mummy. How can he be gone? I remember that day, we had just finished getting ready to go and feed the ducks, still on maternity leave we spent every day in each others company, I could think of no better place to be. Grumpus had just taken his socks off, and I had given in and relented, giving him the remote control, fascinated with the buttons I managed to put his socks on successfully, and his shoes, and for those who know Grumpus this was an achievement. It didn’t last long, as soon as I started the car, I heard the familiar sound of velcro ripping, followed by a gentle thud as one shoe, closely followed by the other would make contact with the floor. By the time I had reversed out of the drive I would catch sight of him in the mirror playing with his socks. Did I mind? No. Did I find it funny? Yes. My smile so full of pride I would turn to be met with a smile just as big. These were the moments, single moments in time that remain imprinted in my mind. Grumpus was so much fun. A beautiful soul inside and out.  The power of this memory is spell-binding. It leaves me crippled with tears. Tears of joy that I was blessed to experience them, but tears of complete despair that I will never experience this again, this is all it will ever be, a powerful memory.

Just as powerful and equally as crippling is that moment, THE moment, the single moment in time, one single moment that my life came crumbling down to my feet. As much as I am reminded of those precious memories I am plagued with the one that took it all away. As deep as William’s smile is imprinted in my mind, the moment I found him dead is just as deep. If the call handler of that 999 call stood in a crowd of a thousand people, with my eyes closed, I could pick her out. How she remained calm whilst I screamed hysterically down the phone at her, is a job I do not envy, was she traumatised when she ended the call, after being told ‘life was extinct’, yes. She is human, she will remember that call just as vividly as I do. As William laid on the floor by my knees in front of me, I placed the heel of my hand just above where I felt his ribs join, and I followed her instructions “….and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4….rescue breath 1…..rescue breath 2…..and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4….” and it continued for an agonising 3 minutes and 44 seconds. Every second that I watched the digits change on the phone display 3:40, 3:41, 3:42 I felt my life slipping away, the paramedics came thundering up the stairs, I continued CPR to the call handlers steady rhythm, 3:43, 3:44 then the paramedics took over. A mask was placed over William’s mouth and the I could see the paramedic feeling for a pulse in William’s neck as he squeezed the breathing bag, desperately trying to get oxygen into my baby. The sleeping bag William had spent his last night in had been pulled off, his little vest cut off, the second paramedics hands reached round each side of his chest securing pressure, his thumbs compressed William’s chest with so much force, over and over and over, until he stopped. The paramedics took one glance at each other, and I knew. As the paramedic removed his hands from William’s chest I screamed, he turned over his left shoulder, gasping for breath amongst screams, I was delivered the most powerful memory ever to be imprinted in my mind “I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone.” Perhaps the most powerful words ever spoken to me. A power of a memory, a definitive moment in time, the power that has to change your life is quite astonishing.

I had only ever heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the news. I never really understood what it was, I certainly never understood how debilitating it is, it has left me completely defenseless; powerless to act against by body’s own mechanism to remember, to visualise, to relive that moment. It leaves me crippled unable to function. Unable to circumvent the most harrowing moment of my life. It doesn’t matter how much time passes, I still remember this memory as much as I remember the beautiful memory of his smile. I don’t get to pick which memory I will be thinking about at any given moment. All it takes is to hear someone say ‘1’ and the 2 and 3 and 4 shortly follow in my mind. My whole mind and body transported back in time, I have no choice but to process that moment all over again.

I am completely at the mercy of my mind. Whatever memory pops into my head is how my day will go. The mind is the most powerful tool we have, but it is so very dangerous. It captures every memory, not just the most amazing and captivating ones, but also the most painful, enduring ones. I don’t get a choice. To know this much pain is to know this much love. All consuming, in everything I do.