Mental Health Awareness Day

Monday, 23 October 2017

I have said it before and I will continue to as I feel it is the most apt description of infant loss:

It is surreal.

In day to day life I feel as if it, and Ezra, everything, is an abstract. An event. It feels as of I have watched this horrible thing happen to another person. I suppose it is a continuation - and lack to acceptance - of the shock that I felt in the first weeks. Those first weeks are something I simply do not think about because the feelings are still so raw, writing this now I feel my throat close and my breath stop. I remember it exactly, though I genuinely wish I couldn’t.

I read somewhere that the amount of grief one feels equates to the amount of love, and I suppose in some ways thats true. I cannot imagine ever feeling anything quite so painful, so bad emotionally that it transcended that abstract and became physical. It was, and still is, a physical pain, maybe because it is a physical loss. I don’t know. 

It was mental health awareness day – smack in the middle of baby loss awareness week/month – the other day, and because of a fussy baby I didn’t get time to write anything about it. 
Until recently I didn’t have mental health problems of any significance. I used to look at all of my friends and the people around me of whom it seemed all had some kind of problem and I felt positively normal. I felt almost a sense of pride in that, but I didn’t quite settle it with myself that I did have mental health problems, they just hadn’t been acknowledged.

When I was 17 I had an eating disorder, in that I basically just didn’t eat, I had competitions with a friend of mine on who could lose the most weight, burn the most calories, I was all up on tumblr with thinspo, with my rib cage out, being congratulated on it, and this all started when I was around fourteen. I’d been self harming on and off for quite a while, but again it was never acknowledged. I cut myself so badly once that I had to go to the hospital, I was stuck back together, went home, and it was never spoken of. To my mother, mental health problems were a sign of weakness and it seems that if it was ignored it didn’t exist, and so I thought the same.

I passed my problems off as nothing really. I got over the eating disorder by myself. I stopped self harming by myself. Everything that happened I dealt with by myself. 

When I got pregnant I knew I was going to continue with the pregnancy and that I would have to do that by myself. That was fine. How much harder could a baby be over everything else? And so, when he was born, I did just that, a little help here and there but mostly alone. And when he died it was very much the same. Those around me acted selfishly, I think, looking back, there was a lot of anger from me because I felt that I wasn’t being supported in the way I felt I should have been. I didn’t have enough time with him on my own at the hospital, I regret not staying longer, I regret withdrawing from the situation and not taking the time with my son I could have. I regret that nobody was there to tell me to do that. I want to be that person that says take the photos, even if right now you don't want to, it's better to have them and not look at them than want them and not have them. I want to be the person to say, hold your baby and lay down with them and spend as long as you possibly can with them, nobody will begrudge you that time.

I honestly believe that the reason I did not kill myself in the two weeks after his death was that it would take too much energy, and that was energy I didn’t have. I wanted to spend all of my time in bed and I did spend a lot of it there, much of it doing nothing and the rest of it planning the funeral and fending off internet trolls who, I genuinely hope, die horrible deaths. I was fending off the grief of other people, too, I wanted to have my own grief and my own sadness, and not have to share that with others.

I had a lot of anger in me, a lot of hate. I hated the fact that this had happened to me and I hated the fact that I was the only one that had to deal with it. I hated other mothers for their seemingly easy lives. I hated those who had living children, even more so if they seemed not to be grateful, if they took them for granted or were annoyed at their crying and fussing all I could think of was IF ONLY YOU KNEW! IF ONLY YOU KNEW WHAT YOU HAVE! It drove me insane. I hated pregnant women as much too. Everything to do with babies and pregnancy and family I just hated. Adverts? Fuck them. TV shows? Nope! I hated adults too, because they were what my son would never get the chance to be. I was very much a baby of rage. After his loss my patience plummeted.

I couldn't bring myself to care about anything but myself and my sorrow and I didn't even begin to think about anybody else or anything else. I lived, for those months, very selfishly. I called people out on what they said L, I cut people off as friends and as family if they didn't behave the way that I wanted to. I was, I am, Ruthless. It seems to me, in hindsight, that my grief has manifested in a steely sense of self preservation.

I very much let myself spiral out of control in terms of my drinking (I have a predisposition, I think, for alcohol abuse, it seems to run in the family), and I did that on the understanding (with myself) that it was because I was upset and I knew that. Knowing that made it okay. I stopped drinking during the months of TTC, but hammered it back when my period came. 

Since then, I did not change my outlook on mental health – an outlook I subconsciously had, really. I ignored it all. I distracted myself with TTC, and with a lot of wine. This the selfishness. People around me did nothing about it because they figured that I had suffered so much that I was allowed to drink, to spiral. But that didn’t really work, and for the first time ever I decided to get myself therapy. I had referred myself before Ezra was born due to my inability to confront emotions and accept them (still a problem) but I chickened out and never ended up going through with it. This followed me through his death and into Edith’s pregnancy. 

People were excited for me but I couldn’t see past that day, I still can’t. This is how the death of a child changes you. I am happy now, with Edie, but I think constantly of her dying, it has become more of an inevitability, a when rather than an if. I have a baby now, yes, but in my mind that is all I have and all I will have. I buy for a toddler and plan towards it and talk about it, but it’s not a reality, no matter how much I try to tell myself it is more likely to happen than not.

I suppose that's something to work on in the future, but something that is wildly difficult to navigate and something that is to be expected of someone that has been through what I, we, have. And it is so important to talk about it because it's so rarely spoken of.

I'm still sad. That will never go away. In moments of quiet I find myself crying and I find myself getting angry again, with the entire world, for allowing this to happen to me. I'm unsure as to whether it's something that ever gers better and maybe it's more dependent on the person. Many people on instagram in this baby loss community seem to be okay. They are eloquent and talk so much of thankfulness and remembering their babies in such charming ways, but where is their anger? I'm certain it's there and just bubbling away under the surface. I need to read more of it but when there is nothing to read I suppose you have to write it. 

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