* This blog comes with a trigger warning - Suicide
People say that Instagram isn’t real life. That people only put the best version of their life out there. This couldn’t be further from the truth for me. On my Instagram account, I’m finally myself, I’m the person that my friends know and love in my most relaxed moments.
Admittedly my mirror selfies aren’t exactly ground breaking and I don’t write particularly long
captions, but what I post on stories, is the equivalent of me dancing as if no one is watching.
In short, Instagram saved my life.
On the13th November 2019 is the day everything changed. I took a call at work from my mum, this always makes my heart go as I know she only ever calls when it’s an emergency. She told me my uncle (her brother, the male who influenced me most growing up) was missing. I was confused, what did she mean missing? My Aunt had called her, *Tom was last seen standing on the wrong side of a bridge near my house, a passer-by in a car was concerned so pulled over, but by the time they got to the point where Tom was last seen he was gone.
I don’t remember too much about what happened next except the desperate need to be with my mum. I’d only seen Tom for his birthday a week or so before. The text I sent him to this day, is still on my phone, telling him about my new wardrobes but also asking if he was ok as he was unusually quiet and didn’t eat much of his food. He was a pub food connoisseur and knew ALL the best bargains and always encouraged us all to eat, so seeing him leave food was completely out of character. I still have his reply.
‘Oh your wardrobes look amazing and the whole bedroom has been transformed!! I imagine that you are so happy to be able to put your clothes away and get rid of the hanging rails. Ok we will obviously liaise with you before coming over and I will of course check on the return journey that we don’t have any stowaway dogs!! Thanks for your concern and I’m getting there!! Take care and lotsa luv to you all’
I never replied to this message… I’m a bit crap at replying to texts. Tom was always the MOST positive person you could meet, nothing was ever too much trouble, nothing was ever unresolvable, everything was always going to work out fine I knew he’d not been sleeping but took his text at face value. The Saturday morning after he disappeared, I went with my mum to the bridge where Tom was last seen. There were fire engines, search and rescue teams, so many emergency services. I wasn’t cold but I couldn’t stop shaking.
I don’t know why I felt the need to be there, I just felt so helpless that I wanted to be near where he was last seen… I knew there was nothing I could do but I felt it was the very least I owed him. One of the search and rescue team explained to me the complexities of trying to find a missing person especially if he had jumped into the water, that it could take days even weeks or months to find a body in the worst case scenario.
I looked around at all the people here searching for Tom, it was a Saturday morning on the run up to Christmas. I thought about how annoyed their families would be that they got called out to work on a weekend morning. I overheard people walking past complaining about the areas that had been cordoned off and one man saying that he ‘didn’t know what all the fuss was about, they should just wait for him to pop up in the water in a few weeks’.
Tom’s body wasn’t found until nearly two months later over 40 miles away. A man out fishing who had taken photos that day noticed something odd in the background of one of this photos and had alerted the Police. It was Tom.
I became obsessed with suicide. I needed to understand it, know why people do it, find out how painful it would have been to drown. I knew all the stigma around suicide, how people sometimes say it’s the most selfish thing anyone could do – but I knew I felt guilty. Guilty that I’d let him down but also guilty because when people would say ‘I just can’t imagine feeling that low, feeling so bad that you don’t want to be alive any more’ I could imagine feeling that low, I had been that low, on many occasions in the past 10 years I had thought about dying many times, but in that past year I had come far too close to it than I should.
A few week after my uncles body was found, I found myself parked up in the car park near the bridge where he’d jumped, tears streaming down my face, I got out the car and walked up to the bridge knowing that I wanted to jump too, that I didn’t want to be here any more. I’d fought these feelings for so long that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I thought about all the people I loved… I was convinced that they would be better without me.
It didn’t feel like it would be the selfish thing to do, it felt like staying was the selfish thing to do – making everyone experience my misery, ruining everything for everyone, I felt all I ever did was bring upset and sadness. I didn’t enjoy anything, nothing made me smile. I just felt overwhelmed and tired. So so tired all of the time and this would be a way to make it all stop. What was the point in life? What had I done with my life? What had I achieved? In that moment in time I genuinely thought the answer to all those questions was ‘nothing’ I was a waste of a life. My phone flashed and it was a message from my mum, telling me she couldn’t have got through this without me. I knew I had to drive home, I knew I had to get help. The next day I went to the doctors and in what felt like finally admitting failure and concerned they would tell social services to take my children away from me, I told them exactly how I had been feeling all this time. That my mind was constantly racing with different emotions, that my moods would just flip at the tiniest thing, that I had become unpredictable, I couldn’t keep a lid on my anger or control my emotions, my head felt like a whirlwind that I had no control over and I no longer liked the person that I had become. I couldn’t breathe I was so hysterical.
The doctor prescribed me flueoxetine and within days I started to feel more in control of my emotions. I was able to rationalise things rather than be overwhelmed by them and I was for the first time, able to find the words to communicate how I was feeling. It was like a cloud had been lifted and I started to realise that it hadn’t been normal how I’d been feeling. I’d been telling myself for so long that ‘everyone feels like this’ from time to time but they can just handle it better than I can.
It might sound selfish but Tom’s death made me take a long hard look at myself. I never wanted to admit it, because I had no reason not to be, but I wasn’t happy. In fact I was the opposite, I was in a very deep and dark depression and had been for years. But that was ok, because once I admitted it, I knew I could make a change. I knew I had to choose to be happy. I’d let Tom down. The guilt will never ever leave me. The should have, would have , could have haunts me most days. I can’t change the past but I can change the future. I can make a change so I don’t put my family through what we went through with Tom. But most importantly I started to focus on ‘what would make me happy’.
I realised I had nothing for ‘me’. As ridiculous as it sounds, I knew I had to start something and I had been thinking about an Instagram account. Giving me space to explore things I had a passion for but had never followed up – Interior design and Fashion. Everything I read told me accounts ‘should’ be niche, ‘shouldn’t’ cover too much. But this account was for ME.
I knew nothing about Instagram when I started and its been a huge learning curve but very quickly I knew this hobby was making me better. A better partner, daughter, friend and mother. The fire had been lit in my belly, I started to live in the moment, enjoy things, to feel like I could be myself and that actually, who I was now, was a really nice girl.
I was accepted, accepted for my quirks and for being my true self. I wasn’t just a mum or my job title any more I was ‘Holly’ and people liked and engaged and chatted because they liked me and wanted to hear what I had to say and I hope they feel that I want to hear what they have to say too. Within months, I felt a part of something, a community that allowed everyone to be themselves, picked me up when I was feeling down and more importantly, allowed me to be there for them in a way I hadn’t been able to be there for people before. Because now I’m brave. I’m not scared to tell people I’m not doing great, or scared to ask them if they really mean it when they say they’re ‘fine’.
Holly on one of her Instagram Live Series
Don’t get me wrong, of course I still have bad days – some really bad, dark days and I’ve many a time felt like closing my account. But Instagram for me is the best form of therapy I could have ever had. As well as the group therapy I feel I’m a part of, there are a handful of what I can only describe as INCREDIBLE women who have done more for me that they will ever realise. People that I would never have possibly met in real life, but they are my soul mates. These women truly are my tribe and I will be forever grateful to them for the inspiration, growth and empowerment they give me.
For anyone who has ever commented, liked, watched my stories or followed me – YOU saved my life. Thank you.
Find Holly on Instagram here
Thank you so much Holly for taking part and telling your story in this safe space. Speaking about mental health is so important and it shows strength by reaching out.
Whatever you are going through there is someone out there ready to talk to you
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