Today I’m Alive

This blog post is going to be one of the hardest I’ve written since the death of my son, and may perhaps be too difficult for those who know me well to read. I am going to be open and honest as I believe we should not shy away from mental illness. People need to hear about its horror, but if you know me well and don’t want to know any more, then you should stop reading at this point.

For the past few weeks, I’ve had an overwhelming sense of guilt – guilt for letting my little boy go without me on that fateful day; guilt for not being the one there to hold him when he was so badly hurt and dying; guilt for being such a bad mother. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many people tell me it wasn’t my fault, that there was nothing I could do, that I’ve done nothing wrong, it won’t make a difference. The guilt won’t go away until my mind is ready to let it go. It has been termed ‘delusional guilt’ by my psychiatrist. Whatever it’s called, it’s real, it hurts so much and it haunts me every day.

This delusional guilt has told me that I deserve to be hurt too. I let my little boy get so badly hurt therefore what right do I have not to be hurt. And so I’ve been hurting myself. I won’t go into too much detail, but cutting my skin has been one way. The other, which has made me loathe myself, has been to overeat then make myself sick.

Whichever method I choose though, it isn’t enough. It’s not enough to take away that feeling of guilt. It doesn’t equal the suffering my little boy had to endure. It has made me feel a desperation so real and horrifying that I’ve wanted to tear myself out of my skin. How can I be called a mother if I wasn’t there when my little boy needed me the most? If Ned had to die (and I’ll never understand why he had to be taken), then he should have been in my arms, not a stranger’s. I was robbed of that. Robbed of the chance to hush and soothe my little boy and tell him that everything was going to be ok. Robbed of the chance to say Mam’s here.

That’s how I decided. The only way I could do that was if I died and Ned was placed with me, wrapped tightly in my arms, safe for ever, with Mam.

So I went to Ned’s grave and took a vast amount of tablets. My husband suspected something was wrong and phoned the ambulance. The ambulance came and I was taken to hospital.

Needless to say, I survived. And I know I have to be here for Tomi and Cai who I love with all my heart. I know I have to be here for my husband. I know I have to be here for my close friends who have been with me every step of this horrifying journey. And I know that people will say how could she do that? She has her family who need her. How can she be so selfish?

But that’s what mental illness does. It takes away your rational thoughts. It takes over your whole body until you have no control. It is so powerful and so frightening that you must ask for help if you’re suffering in any way. It starts like a seed and it grows, its roots take hold, your mind flowers into what the illness wants. No one else can see it. You can hide it away. Your secret. But you can’t hide from it. It will follow you wherever you go. You can’t run away.

The incident I’ve written about happened at the weekend – merely days ago. My sons know nothing of what happened and I would never allow them to know the extent of my illness. But I do want to talk openly about my experiences because they are so terrifying and so difficult to comprehend, I hope that someone will read my blog and find some form of relief from reading it.

And I’m here to say that self-harming doesn’t work. I did it to cause myself pain but what was actually happening was the opposite. It was numbing my pain. The pain of losing my little boy. That pain will never go away. How can it? To bear that pain daily is an immense battle. It is a pain like no other and unless you’ve experienced it yourself, you can’t even begin to imagine, even if you think you can.

When I got up this morning I made two decisions. First and foremost I will try to keep myself alive for my two precious boys who need me now more than they ever have. Secondly, I will write my second book – I’ll write it for me and I’ll write it for Tomi, Ned and Cai. For my three boys.

I have daily care to support me. But for all the support I get, I am the only one who can control what happens. If I want to live, then I have to fight the battle in order to do so. I have to live with the pain. The pain I carry is worse than any pain you could ever imagine. It’s physical, emotional and mental. It is all-consuming.

But today I’ve battled it. Today I’m alive.


6 Months Gone …

It has been a little over six months since my little Ned died – 6 months, 14 days, 3 hours and 40 minutes to be exact. Yet it still feels like yesterday. Only everyone else has moved on, as life does, but I can’t. I don’t think I ever will.

My life is passing me by. I can’t remember where summer went. How can it be autumn with its fallen leaves, russets and misty mornings? Surely the pain becomes bearable over time, some say. Time heals. No. Time doesn’t heal because you can’t turn back time.

This week, I learnt the true meaning of the word ‘unbearable’. On Thursday, the pain of losing my little boy was so overwhelming that I collapsed outside the school and fell unconscious. An ambulance was called and I woke up in A&E. My body had been physically and emotionally unable to bear the pain of losing Ned. It is simply unbearable.

I have weekly bereavement counselling, weekly sessions with a mental health nurse who tells me her role is to keep me alive, regular appointments with a psychiatrist and my GP. I have been referred to the psychologist. My medication is continually increased so that I can function on a day-to-day basis. I carry many labels – depression, anxiety, delusional, post traumatic stress disorder and grief. They are the frighteningly real ingredients that make up me now.

You may have seen me smile the other day. You may even have heard me chuckle because I’m getting better at it. At functioning. Outwardly at least. Inside I’m screaming. I’m screaming so loudly yet it feels like I’m six-feet under because no one can hear me. If you can see the smile, why can’t you see the pain? If you can hear the chuckle, why can’t you hear the scream?

That’s the trouble with mental health. It’s hidden from sight. It’s a whispered secret. It’s a covered wound. But it’s real and it’s terrifying and it hurts. It’s a lurking darkness that smothers and suffocates. Some days it has complete control over me. I overdosed again three weeks ago, not an attempt to end my life, but to end the pain and darkness, just for a while; to stop the endless stream of questions that churn in my stomach and painfully pull at my heart – Why Ned? Why take a happy little boy with such love for life? My little boy. My little boy who wanted to learn to ride his bike with no stabilisers; my little boy who couldn’t wait to start his Stage 3 swimming lessons; my little boy who wanted ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ sung to him every night; my little boy who would throw his arms around me and hold on so tightly I would have to prise his little hands off; my little boy who every night would say that he wanted to feel my kiss on his cheek all night till morning; my little boy who didn’t deserve to die.

And there are the images that haunt me when I’m cursed with being awake, yet too bone-tired to get out of bed. Two cars colliding, the noise of squealing tyres, metal crushing metal.

Then morning comes, another day. I get up exhausted and go through the motions. Today could be an ok day where I can share a coffee with a friend and smile. I might make it to evening without being floored by the pain. Then I sit at my son’s graveside and I cry silent tears. I drag myself back home and crawl into bed, relief flooding through me that I’ve lived another day. I’ve breathed through the darkness and made it to the other end. But then come the long night hours with their nightmares until dawn once again breaks on the horizon and a new battle begins.

This is life with grief and mental illness. It’s a life I grip onto with the very tips of my fingers as I dangle temptingly over the edge of the precipice. I am so fortunate to have a handful of people in my life who are my safety net. They have been there when I have let go in my search for release.

So here I am. Not a second of a day passes without I think of my little angel. Not a second of the day passes without I fight to stay alive. I fight because I want people to remember my special little boy – the little boy with the dimples and the sticky-up hair; the little boy who lit up a room instantly; the little boy who touched so many hearts in his short life. I must stay here to tell his story, to share his memory because I am so very proud to have been his Mam.

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Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners (dedicated to my little boy lost)

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