health

Gone.

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My Mum committed suicide on April 9, 2000.  I was 21 at the time, in Japan on a Monbusho scholarship.  I had called the day it happened, or the day after, when there were already relatives in the house trying to function for my family members.  My brother’s girlfriend answered the phone and told me Mum wasn’t there.  I had my results for my first semester exams.  I wanted Mum to be proud!  I said I’d call back.

My brother’s girlfriend answered the phone the next day too.  It was so confusing.  She said Mum was out.  Again?  Where?  Why?  Mum was never out.  That was the thing; that was how things had become.

And then I got the call.  On my boyfriend’s mobile the next night – which was strange, again.  I answered in Japanese, moshi moshi, and I heard my brother’s voice.  Kate!  It’s Paul – in Osaka!  I’ve come to see you!  I was so excited.  I danced with abandon on the street, dark and glossy with spring rain as we waited for the taxi.  I knew it didn’t make sense but who cared!  Paul had come to surprise me, we would go straight to a bar and I would show him my Osaka, the place I had come to know in the last six months.

The elevator doors opened and there he was.  Paul in Osaka.  He lurched forward and hugged me tight.  Too tight.  He wouldn’t let go.  And then he said it.  Mum’s died.  Mummy’s gone to heaven.  I’ve come to take you home.

My life has never been the same, and I lost that girl, right then I lost her.  The girl dancing on the street in the rain with excitement.  Gone. I couldn’t yet process that I had lost my Mum, but I felt that loss of me.  It wiped me out.  It effaced me.

Mum threw herself off the overpass onto the Monash freeway.  It was about 9am on a Sunday morning.  I think she may have seen my father drive past first with my sister in the car.  My mother had asked my sister to come down and visit her – Jane lived in Canberra at the time – because she was not okay, and Dad had picked up Jane from the airport that morning.  I think of all these initiatives they have now, R U OK Day, and Beyond Blue, and signs up in doctor’s waiting rooms – and yet, it was too hard for my Mum.  My timid, Catholic mother, who didn’t know why she had depression, and didn’t know that it was okay; that she needed help and it was okay.

God only knows the state of her mind that morning.  Dad said later that she seemed ‘very dark’.  She hadn’t been sleeping properly.  She had just started a course of Zoloft proscribed to her only a few days earlier, but she hadn’t even told my Dad.  Was she so ashamed?  Scared.  In my mother’s mixed up mind she thought it made more sense to end it all that morning rather than face change, face humiliation, get help.

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Her death is too horrifying for me to think about.  But I often wondered – in those last spilt seconds, did her life elongate, did a part of her mind wake up and realise what she was doing, that she was making a horrible mistake?  Did she die with regret and shame and horror?  What was she thinking?

My Mum doesn’t fit the statistics.  She was 52 when she died, married with four grown-up children, a teacher.  She was to become a grandma to seven beautiful grandchildren – including my daughter Emi – but she didn’t know that then.  I wish she had’ve known.  I wish she had’ve known that there was help out there, that she could have got through whatever it was.  That we would have been there for her.  I would have done anything for her, to help her.  I would have brushed her hair and gone for walks with her and told her anything, given her anything.

Gone is permanent.  My Dad has remarried now, and my brothers have three children each, and my sister and I don’t talk much about Mum’s death anymore.  None of us do.  Sometimes we look back at things that have happened and we attribute it to our grief.  To what happened to all of us.  But we can’t change it. Nothing can bring back our Mum.  We miss her.  We love her.  We forgive her.  We don’t understand and we never will.  We grieved in private over the years, independently of each other.  We couldn’t really help each other.  We got on with things because we had to, not because we wanted to.  Our family was gutted that day and it’s never been the same.

I wanted to share this because I believe in the help that is out there.  I know systems are not perfect and that facing problems can seem insurmountable, but no-one deserves to suffer like my mother did; no-one deserves that death.  No family deserves what happened to us, on Mother’s Days, at Christmases, all those private moments, all that pain.  We all lost.

If you need immediate help, you can contact:

Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

SANE Australia has fact sheets on mental illness as well as advice on getting treatment. Visit www.sane.org or call 1800 18 SANE (7263).

You can also visit beyondblue: the national depression initiative (1300 22 4636) or the Black Dog Institute, or talk to your local GP or health professional.

Kate is an aspiring writer and mother who works full-time in the community sector in Melbourne.  She is writing her first novel about loss and friendship, and has been writing for Spook magazine this year. You can find her on Twitter here and her blog here.

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