As I entered my third and (supposed to be) final year of university, I felt like I was doing pretty well. I had a boyfriend, lived in a nice house close to the shops, was doing pretty well in my course and thinking about what I wanted to do after uni. However truthfully, I wasn’t happy. I had been feeling like my relationship wasn’t quite working for a little while, but I kept ignoring it, thinking things would get better after this or that happened. Of course they didn’t, and two days after my 21st birthday I packed a bag and went to stay with a friend. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make, as I did and still do care about my ex, but as a couple we just weren’t working out. After we broke up, I started to feel a bit better, freer like the cliched weight had been lifted from me. I started making plans for moving myself forward, and thought that things would only get better now. Then three days later, on November 8th 2012, I received a phone call. The nursing home in Bristol, saying that my Mum had passed away.
The first thing that happened after the nurse told me was that I stopped breathing for about ten seconds (though it felt like ten minutes), thew my phone across the room and burst into tears. I wasn’t even quite sure I’d heard what she said correctly, so I made my friend pick up the phone and speak to her. Time really did seem to slow down, I had a million thoughts racing through my head but none of them made any sense. I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening, it felt completely surreal. As soon as my friend got off the phone, I had one thought; I had to get through to my younger brother. I called him about twenty times, with no answer, called his college and texted his friends. More than anything else I knew that I wanted him to hear it from me, not some social worker or college tutor or even his foster parents. It was our Mum and though I couldn’t be there with him in person, I had to be the one to tell him. Eventually I got through to him, and promised I would be in Bristol as soon as I could the next day. Then I had to tell everyone else. I posted a status on Facebook simply saying “R.I.P Mum, I love you forever ♥” and then came the messages. I got comments, texts, private Facebook messages and phone calls. It was overwhelming the amount of support I was receiving, but I ignored my phone from the morning until the early evening, then I had to pack up my things, get on a train and begin the journey to Bristol. As soon as I got there I was back in planning mode, working out what needed sorting and who I had to contact to do it. Basically, I did what I always did best – pushed away all the negative feelings and emotions, and thought they would just go away after a while.
Through the next weeks I had times when I broke down and cried, mainly when I was on my own, but I tried to just keep going and keep moving forward. I felt that my Mum wouldn’t have wanted me to fall apart and break down, she would have wanted me to be OK. So I tried my best to convince everyone, and myself, that I was fine. There was a lot that had to be sorted out with the council and the funeral and so on, and I think I was definitely working on autopilot and denial that anything was wrong at that point. When the funeral eventually arrived, I had well and truly tricked myself into thinking I was fine, and that everything was back to normal. A part of that was that I had become very close to a male friend who I’ve know for a couple of years, and I used that as a massive crutch for my happiness and mental state. However after a while that ‘relationship’ ended, which looking back was definitely for the best. I did this one more time before everything caught up with me in a big way, and I hurt someone who I cared about in the process. I’m truly sorry for that, but at the time it was all I could do to retain a tiny bit of sanity. So I left the wonderful guy who had looked after me for a while, and ran away back to London.
I then told myself that I would just focus on uni, and in the new term I threw myself back into everything; the magazine which I’m assistant editor of, the research group I’m a part of, and all of my courses. I was going to get through my last year, and make my Mum proud. But little things gave away the truth; I began to have great trouble with sleeping (way worse than the awful sleeping pattern I was used to), I had times where I just felt like staying in bed and not doing anything at all, and the worst – I developed a mild anxiety around death. I would wake in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep, terrified I might just not wake up again. I felt so alone, even though I was surrounded by friends, in my head it was if I was on an island and could see everyone else going about their lives so far away from me. I started to question the point in everything, and then the point in life, and every day was just another day closer to dying. I was completely consumed by my own thoughts, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t cry. Inside my head I felt like screaming, but the tears wouldn’t come. Sometimes a few would escape, but then my brain shoved them away before they could turn into a full on sob. I stopped going into uni, feeling like there was no point, and feeling too ill and tired to do much more than go to the kitchen to eat sometimes anyway. I used up the last of my money going out and getting drunk, which was the most social contact I had all week. I was in a really bad place, and finally having to deal with all of my emotions. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was that pushed me over the edge, but I spent most of February, and a bit of March just sinking into the feelings and ignoring all of my responsibilities. Put quite simply, I was giving up.