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

 

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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

The conflicting emotions of a bereaved parent

William in his final outfit xx

William in his final outfit xx

I can remember back when I sat down on Thursday 18th December, 2014, and I typed into Google ‘baby coffins’, closely followed by ‘coffins for children’. It was about 4 pm and I had been awake since the 14th of December. I knew we would have to pick a coffin, but when the funeral director mentioned to us that we would need to pick one I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to search for it, I didn’t want to see it, I did not want to know. I knew I had to pick it. I knew I couldn’t delay the decision, my little boy was coming home from his post-mortem and he would need somewhere to sleep. It took all day of staring at the screen to raise my trembling hands and type those words into Google. I didn’t want to but I knew I had to, but I also knew I had to get it right, it had to be perfect, this would, after all be William’s final little bed. Rather than moving William into his toddler bed, we were preparing to encase our little boy in the most beautiful satin. A bed that once closed would never be opened again. This decision was agonising, my whole being pulled in every direction. My mind was screaming WHY, WHY, WHY, my heart was screaming NO, NO, NO but my head was trying desperately to fight to make this decision.

We did make a decision, and on Christmas Eve at 3 pm, William’s coffin arrived, and instead of taking him to sit on Father Christmas’ knee with our family, I opened the door at the funeral directors, alone, and I opened the lid, and there was my little William, the fierce pain that drove me to walk forwards, the intensity of love that allowed me to wrap my arms around my delicate little boy and lift him into my arms.

The mother in me that needed to nurture him, he was cold, he needed to be warm. Being torn in two, I didn’t want to be sat there holding my little boy like this, but I knew I needed to dress him. Paul and I had carefully picked out the little clothes that he would wear. The little baby grow, ‘Mummy’s little star’ emblazoned across the front, could not have been more perfect. He is mummy’s little star, and now he really was the brightest star in the night sky. I was shocked how hard it was to dress him, it was easier to dress William when he was wriggling all over the place, but now, he couldn’t help me, his weight so heavy in my arms. We had picked his little birthday outfit to wear. We didn’t want to let these clothes go, we wanted to hold onto them forever, but we knew that his little first birthday party was so happy, we have so many photos of William in that little outfit. So we knew we had to do it. Before doing the little button up on his chinos, I took the opportunity to poke that little bum, still so squidgy. After putting his stripey little top on, I pulled his socks on, and I couldn’t help but let out a little giggle as I talked to him, and made him promise mummy that he wouldn’t take them off. He didn’t promise, but he didn’t take them off. I wish he could. We didn’t put any shoes on him, he didn’t like shoes, the shoes he took his first steps in are now hanging on our wall at home.

The shoes of 'those' first steps xx

The shoes of ‘those’ first steps xx

After dressing my precious little boy, I sat in the box chair, my legs over the arms, cuddling my little boy into me, so tight, and I broke, I hated this, I hated this so much but I loved it, I loved holding him, I felt safe, I felt at home, I felt like we were one. His beautiful hair was still so shiny, so much hair, I ran my fingers through it as my tears soaked their way through. The glitter still in his ear, from the little Christmas Tree he’d made us on his last day of nursery. I now knew I’d made the right decision to ask the pathologist not to wash him. I couldn’t bare to think at the time my beautiful little boy laid out in an operating theatre to be washed with cold water, but I knew I had to ask them not to, I knew I needed to see this glitter in his ear again. There it was. A painful but beautiful reminder of my little boy having fun.

When i knew William was going to have a post-mortem I toyed with the decision of whether to look at the scar. I knew I would. I had to know. I didn’t want to know, but I had to. I did look. A red raw Y right there, it was horrible, someone had touched my little boy, someone had hurt him, but I knew they hadn’t, I knew they’d been gentle, the scar, just like red pen. I spoke to the pathologist that carried out William’s post-mortem, I didn’t want to, but I had to talk to the man who had known my little William, had seen his beautiful little soul. Amongst other things, he said to me, ‘he’s simply so beautiful, such a lovely little boy’ I hated that, but I loved that, even in death he was beautiful. I had asked him not to cut or shave William’s hair, I just couldn’t bear that, to strip him of the feature that made him look like a little boy and not a baby. He didn’t, you could barely see the scar. I traced my finger along the stitches, I slowly covered them up with William’s locks, a scar never to be seen again.

William was 70 cm long when he died. Too long for a baby coffin, but too small for an infant coffin. We placed a little teddy with him to keep him company, a photo of his mummy and daddy on his chest, his arms wrapped around us both. How I wish I was going with him, to not be trapped here without him. Everyday I struggle with this inner fight. Not wanting death to separate us, I fight not to join him, knowing how precious life is, but at times, and more often than not, this fight is impossible. Living, existing, but not really wanting too, but not wanting to die either.

I didn’t want to see William this way, but I knew it was the only way that I would be able to, so I did, everyday until the day I was no longer able to. Sometimes if I was able, I visited him twice a day. Christmas Day I sat with him alone, my coat wrapped around him, his head resting on my chest, I closed my eyes, and for the first time since he fell asleep, I could fall asleep, safe in the knowledge that he was here, with me, where he belonged.

January 3rd, the day the angels came to earth and took my boy away, 9.45 am, that was the last time I ever saw my son. Ever. I couldn’t close the lid, but I did, because I knew it had to be me. How could I close the lid on my son, knowing I would never see him again. Darkness enveloped me as I stood staring at my boy for the last time, but I knew that I had to turn around and leave him. It hurts, it hurts now, it really fucking hurts. It hurts, knowing that was me, it was me who closed that lid, it was me that walked out backwards, not taking my eyes off him. It was me standing in the way of the light that would take him. In that moment I knelt on the floor and I prayed to God to take me too. I begged him, like I begged William to wake up, our cheeks touching, as I wailed on the floor next to him. God didn’t listen and he wasn’t listening now, if he was he wasn’t doing much about it. It’s not his fault though, I know that. There is one person who the ultimate responsibility for William falls, and that is me, one of the biggest conflicts of all. I know it wasn’t my fault, I know that, I would have, and still would do anything to put breath back in his body, but I couldn’t save him. I tried, I fought so hard. I fought with every ounce of my body and my soul to get him the help he needed, but he didn’t get it. There are people out there who know this and they will live with this knowledge for the rest of their lives. But they don’t have to live without their son, they don’t know what it feels like to blame yourself but also to know it’s not your fault, they don’t know the pain of finding their child, dead. They don’t know the pain of picking their child’s coffin, they don’t know the heartache of picking the last outfit their child will ever wear, and they will never know the pain of closing that lid and walking backwards out of a room, never to ever see their child again. I will never forgive them.

So you see, every moment is a fight, every moment is painful, every step hurts. Every breath is taken wishing it was your last, but knowing that it’s not. And i can tell you that the more you love, the more you fall. And I have fallen, I’m still falling, at a million miles an hour.


http://www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

Your definition of hope, my definition of hope…

“Hope” – noun

  • a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
  • a feeling of trust

“Hope” – verb

  • want something to happen or be the case

Today I answered a question when submitting content for a book, What is your definition of hope? No-one has asked me this question, nor have I spoken of hope. This word has peppered so many conversations since William died, but never mentioned by myself, because what do I hope for? Honestly, I hope that when I close my eyes tonight, it is for the last time. That when I wake it is with William.

My desire to be with William constantly squares up to the pain that I feel. A daily battle, there is no choice, there is no mercy, no resolve. The only desire I have is for William to be here with me. My life dictated by this desire, some days the hope of not waking for another day over-rides the pain, the hope that tomorrow might not happen. Other days, the pain paralyses me in its unforgiving grip. You see, the only desire i have, will never happen, not ever. Stripped of this desire leaves me with nothing apart from the hope that tomorrow is the first day of my eternal life with William.

Have you tried to live without hope? It doesn’t matter what I have in my life, a good man, a good job, wonderful family and friends, the list is endless, but it’s not William, my son, my world, my life. There is nothing that I wouldn’t sacrifice including my own life to give William his, to give him the chance to breathe, to love, to grow, to learn, to live the life that we gave him. Everything pails into insignificance, there are no variable factors, there is nothing that I would rather have in my life than the opportunity to be with William. I am focusing on William’s Legacy, I am busy, I do work, I am fundraising, I am doing my degree, but these are not reasons to stay here, these are not hope. They are part of a life that I have been left with, not by choice, but forced upon me.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is I would like you to try to understand the difference between your hope and the hope of a bereaved parent.

You hope that your child will sleep through the night so you can get a few hours sleep. I hope that I don’t sleep, because sleep induces nightmares of the day that I found William  in his cot, never to wake again.

You hope you’re doing the right thing, the guilt that disciplining your child brings. I hope that William doesn’t blame me, I hope he doesn’t wonder why I couldn’t save him, the burden of guilt I carry, a heavy weight around my neck, always.

You hope that your child’s first day of school goes smoothly, hope they will be full of smiles when they greet you at the end of the school day. I hope that one day I will get to actually see my child again, hope that I get to see William with my own eyes.

You hope that as your child grows up, makes friends, becomes more independent, that they return to you when they need a hug. I hope that one day I will be able to hold my baby again, physically, be able to smell him, to touch him and to never have to ever let go.

You hope that when your child has flown the nest, you secretly hope they have washing they need to bring home so you get to see them, hope they come home for a meal. I hope that William will be waiting for me, when I arrive in Heaven.

Hope for me is defined as being relieved of the sheer pain that emanates from my heart daily, but knowing this will never happen until I am with my baby again. Hope is that one day people will understand William isn’t replaceable, I don’t want another child, I want the child I had. Hope is that there is more understanding and compassion in a world that can feel so harsh and isolating.

Hope is knowing that one day, I will close my eyes and when I open them, I am with my forever child. I hang onto this. This is my only hope, and I hope that day is tomorrow.


http://www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

Are you dealing with depression?

I have just typed ‘depression’ into the Google (UK) search engine to see what the definition is according to the official Oxford Dictionary. It wasn’t until page 4 that I found it: “A mental condition characterised by severe feelings of despondency and dejection, typically with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep”. People, me included rarely reach page 4 of the search engine. Our impatience and need for information sees us settling for an answer on the first page, even if it isn’t the answer that we are looking for, we make it fit. Those of us searching for depression looking for information or self-help on the internet more often than not find it on the first page. Especially with a very general term like ‘depression’. It remains to be seen whether the answer we are really looking for is on the first page, we operate under the same veil, we accept what we read, less than 10% of people advance onto page 2 of Google, like they say ‘when the glove fits…’

So what information did I glean from the first page? Well, there are links to the NHS website, several large charities and a self-help website. If you had any doubt before starting your search whether or not you are depressed, you will diagnose yourself after the first few excerpts. Who of us doesn’t suffer with low moods? Who of us doesn’t experience stress at work? Who of us doesn’t have periods of time when you feel tired or you can’t be bothered to go out? I would guess, and it’s only a guess that a large proportion of the population at some time in their lives experience these symptoms. So does that mean we are all depressed? Feeling low maybe, a little worried or anxious about something, but would you be concerned enough to visit your doctor thinking you are suffering with depression?

Whichever website you read, on as many pages you can bear to scroll through, the common denominator is that depression is a mental health condition. How a person behaves, how a person reacts to certain information and situations, what threshold a person has to cope in different situations, their thoughts, feelings and sense of well-being. Not only can these factors alter when a person is depressed, these factors can alter, resulting in depression. A condition that cannot be seen, a condition that is judged, a condition that people loosely use ‘oh, I am sooo depressed’. It is a condition that is very personal. Unique to the person that it is plaguing, treatment varies from person to person, antidepressants might suit one person but another might need a more holistic approach. Some don’t talk and suffer in silence. One thing for sure is that for those suffering with depression, hearing the words ‘snap out of it’, ‘you just need to do something to get over it’, ‘think more positively’ amongst other things, is not only ignorant it is very hurtful.

I am grieving, does that mean I am depressed? Initially probably not, as I succumbed to shock, numbness, anger and denial, you ride on the crest of a wave of grief, and as the wave breaks you come crashing down. At this point reality sets in, I am left to resume what my life is now, having to live life on life’s terms not my own. The pain of being left behind by someone I can’t live without. My natural reaction to grief persists, and will do until my last breath, but depression loiters, how can it not. Do I feel low? Yes. Do I have an aversion to going out or doing things? Yes. Do I feel hopeless, helpless and useless? Yes. Do I feel guilty? Yes. And the worst feeling of all, do I feel suicidal? Yes. These are some of the reasons I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Reluctant at first to diagnose any medical condition, after all, a mother is likely to react in such a way to losing their only child, but I have progressively sunken lower. I function, but emotionally and mentally I’m stuck in a washing machine on a never-ending spin cycle.

Do I suffer with anxiety? Yes. Do I suffer with PTSD? Yes. Do I suffer with insomnia? Yes. I have never been familiar with these conditions, let alone experience them. So this is new to me. Do people understand why? Yes. And I find myself thinking, well my baby died, my beautiful little boy died and I found him, the way I feel is totally justified. But why do I think this. I think this because unless people know what your story is they judge you. Stood behind me in the queue in the supermarket they whisper ‘you’d think she’d brush her hair before going out’, but what they don’t realise is that going out is a major feat on its own, being in an environment where there a smiling, happy toddlers, my mind constantly trying to process what William would be doing in that moment. Would he be running off up the aisle, giggling? Probably. Would the cashier lady comment about how cute he is? Definitely. Would I struggle to juggle my keys, purse, shopping bags and wriggly toddler all the way to the car? Absolutely. So no, I didn’t make sure my hair was neat, because when I got out the house the last thing I thought about was brushing my hair. I got in the car and looked in the rear view mirror at William’s empty car seat, and drove past his nursery on my way to the supermarket. The last thing I was thinking about was the way my hair looked.

My message here? Don’t judge people. When you bump in to someone in the street and they’re in a dream world and they don’t apologise. Don’t think they’re rude, that could have been me walking down the street after visiting my son in the chapel of rest. When you are sitting in a cafe having a coffee and the person on the table next to you is moody, and has a face like thunder. Don’t tell them to ‘smile love, it can’t be that bad’ that actually was me, I was waiting for my grief counsellor. And when you’re stood behind someone in the supermarket whose hair isn’t as neat as you’d expect and you think they’re scruffy. Don’t judge. That was me. If you knew why, would you think the same? Would you judge me as you had done 5 minutes earlier? No.

Depression in all its form’s, largely isn’t visible. Just because we don’t walk around on crutches with a limp doesn’t mean we aren’t suffering. Don’t make assumptions about people, be kind to people, be understanding and compassionate in all that you do. Life is too short in comparison to the length of death.