All I ever wanted was for someone to save me. I wanted someone who could sit next to me and reach inside my chest, scoop out the pain and discard it. I wanted someone who could let me sleep without seeing Amelia die over and again. Just one night, I’d like to lay down and not close my eyes to see her comatose and covered with wires. When I look back to the days after she died, I never did what I should have done; attempt to talk and heal. Instead I buried all of that hurt under layers of anger and distracted myself with talk of family meetings or holidays. I was 24; not long out of my childhood and had only recently discovered what it was to be a dad.
When I held her we created a bond unique to us. I stood in the maternity ward and cradled this small person who shared my DNA. I cried with joy that I could raise this person to live a life better than anyone could dream. She had ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes and I could wrap my arms around her to shelter her from everything. When she died, she had ten small fingers and ten small toes and I held her again – as the life had left her body. I bent towards her, to kiss her head which was already cooling and I wept, again. This time I wept for the life she would never have. I saw moments dash through my mind – her graduation, her wedding, her own children – all things that would never come to be.
As much as I know that I had all of the information I needed, it doesn’t stop the guilt from uttering the words “Should we switch off the life support?”. It doesn’t alter the fact that I – a man so used to videogames, fantasy worlds and beer – had to remove the only thing that connected my own child to this world. I had to cut that bond that we’d made only a few years before. We would no longer wake early before everyone else to watch Spongebob; we’d never laugh together and I’d never hold her hand inside of mine.
All I wanted, although illogical, was for someone to remove this moment from my history. I wanted someone who could give me Amelia as she used to be in life, rather than who she became in death. When I close my eyes I want to see her smile and watch as her eyes light up a thousand memories. I need to be able to feel her presence in some way.
What upsets me the most is that when Amelia died, I did too. I don’t mean that the version of me who was present expired. I mean that I as a person died inside, as if all of my energy had been squeezed from my core. For ten years I’ve walked as a shell, with nothing inside remaining but a boiling anger and a hideous sadness. The moment I made the decision that I needed to, I became a faded photograph – someone who is present but not quite there. I became intangible and unreachable to those around me and to myself.
I woke up the morning after Amelia died and wondered if I could continue living and I’ve done the same thing every day since then. The “accident” as we call it created a fissure through me that I cannot cross. I can see what might have been or what could be across the chasm, but I cannot reach it. And so I wake each day wondering whether today will be the day that I take my own life, in the hope that this act is what builds the bridge over the void.
All happiness is tinged with despair and heartbreak. Each moment of joy is shaded with grey or muted beneath a fog. Love became something else entirely – maybe out of the need for distance to prevent future hurt or maybe because I cursed myself every single day and wanted those around me to live a better life. I became so good at hiding who I was and how I felt, yet I yearned for someone to invite me out for a beer and talk about her. I wanted someone else the whole time. I protected everyone around me and forgot about myself. I didn’t want to open the conversation because how could I do that? What words do you use when you want to tell someone you love and who loves you that all you think of is death. How do you pick up the phone and tell the other person that today you considered killing yourself?
In this dark world everything changes. Love becomes hate, joy becomes sadness and ambition becomes failure. When you wake every day and tell yourself that you are worthless, it becomes ingrained and a part of who you are. For so many years I told myself that I was worth nothing and that my grief was ridiculous. It was only very recently that I gave myself permission to grieve for my daughter. Depression from bereavement creates a glass box around the person who lost another. A glass box that can only be broken from the outside and yet everyone who walks past cannot see the self created prison. They can’t see me banging and pleading to be let out. So they continue on and the glass gets thicker.
All I wanted was for someone to notice. I went to all the appointments, I took all the pills, I cut myself and wrote endless blog posts about my misery and depression and yet so many people kept on walking past. They stop by the box with post it notes that say “I’m here if you need a shoulder” or “You can talk to me anytime”, but I can’t do that. I can’t ask for help, just like I can’t turn back time and stop my family from having a day at the park.
As each person walked past and offered a sincere, but impossible to grab, helping hand, I slipped further away. I began to hate and fear; to spit and cry. My words became a venom which poisoned all around me… And all I wanted was for someone to save me.