Dear Jack,

It’s Mum.


I know it’s a bit odd me sending you a letter like this because…well….because you and I have always been very good at talking in real life, we’ve always had a very open and honest relationship. But right now things are just a little bit different. At the moment, sometimes, it’s really hard to just say what I want to say, or say what I really feel, because I know you can’t or don’t want to hear me and because I am scared and I think you are scared too.

At the moment you are in a really, really dark place.

I recognise it and I know it’s somewhere you have been before. I think the first time you went for an extended visit there was when you were about 10. You wandered there after some of your friends moved on to “big school” and were encouraged in that direction by the pressure of SAT exams. You didn’t like it there at all. You found it hard to keep control of how you felt and behaved while you were in this place and you were such a lovely, good boy who didn’t want to be feeling “bad”. You thought that you were somehow worthless.

Even though you only resided there for a short while it was so, so hard for a Mum to watch. So hard to hear the things you felt, that you were so very good, as you always have been, at putting into words. We went to see a doctor, but by the time things got moving and you saw another doctor you were already finding your way back to yourself and back to me. The light was coming back on and we were both, I think, relieved.

But, just like that bit at the end of a horror movie, when the evil thing that was thwarted suddenly turns out to still be there, after this boyhood trip something, a trace, came back with you. There was a dark patch, a shadow that varied in size but never quite let you be. Sometimes it would grow and take a nasty stranglehold on you and sometimes you fought it off all on your own, or we would talk and scare it away. Sometimes you asked for help. I’ve always been hugely proud of you for that. When school let slip in your last year that you were having counselling I was so pleased that you knew yourself well enough and were sufficiently brave to seek support.

You profoundly disliked school.

To be honest you profoundly dislike a lot of things, you always have. You have a very dark way of seeing the world. Full of negativity and disappointment, but also full of love and humour. I know you see and understand and appreciate people so very well. You sense the vulnerability of others and you reach out. You have a fabulous and dry sense of dark humour and you floor so many with it and make yourself an attractive person who is just so easy to love.

Even though you never appreciated school, you realised on leaving that it had provided the kind of support, friendship and routine that had kept that dark shadow largely in check. When you walked away from it and from the institution it provided, the dark being found space inside you and outside you in your newly spacious life, to grow and to deepen and to take over; and slowly take over it did.

Your fabulous laugh that lights my life has grown quieter and less frequent.

Your dry humour has turned to cynicism and dark thoughts of a hateful and seemingly meaningless world.

Your high ambitions that changed throughout your childhood but remained big have turned on you. They have taunted you and called you a fool for thinking you could achieve anything. The darkness has enclosed you, it has cut of the light, it ruined college and made it a prison from the very beginning. The darkness has even cut you off from feeling my love at times, but it can never do that for long because frankly my boy – I and my love are too fucking strong!

Depression now has it’s name after all this time and it has always bought its side-kick anxiety along. While depression makes you voiceless and silences you, anxiety needles at your ribs and makes it hard to breathe. It pulls at your joints and ligaments, it makes you guard yourself from its blows and clench your muscles. It makes you fight, rage, break things, yell and run and yet it disables you.

After so many fleeting visits Depression has you trapped this time. From the day you told me, less than a month into your college career, that you were “feeling down again” I have watched you sink further and further into a smog that surrounds you so much of the time. Sometimes you seem to emerge from it for a while but over these months I have learned to see that you simply hide it, camouflage it for a while in order to seem more “normal”. You swallow it up, breath it all back in, that smog, and you carry it with you. It chokes you and blots out the light and makes everything a worthless grey. It causes you so much pain that I can feel it in my very bones. Just like I felt it when you fell over as a little boy and just as I felt it when you first had your heart broken, it resonates across the space between us and I sense it in my very core.

The pain and the struggle are so very exhausting, they make it hard for you to exist. Sometimes you want to stop.

You want to end.

You don’t want to be.

You feel this so much that you barely manage to do the things your still growing body needs to survive – eat, sleep, rest, wash…………. it all…. just…….. stops.

And yet – you are so very brave, my amazing boy, because despite all of this you are still here and you are still fighting. I know you think that it is fear that has kept you alive, that a stronger person would have been brave when the desire to die took hold and wouldn’t have feared the pain. But I think the opposite.

I think you are amazing.

I think you say NO from somewhere deep inside that hasn’t yet revealed its strength and I hope you feel my love, reaching out to you and holding you in those moments and telling you to PLEASE, PLEASE hold on.

I want you to stay so very, very hard and so very much my beautiful boy, but not for the reasons you might think.

Although I am honestly petrified sometimes of what might happen, I don’t want to keep you here with me, safe in my bosom like you were as a baby, your baby days are past.

I don’t want you to need me all of the time, like you did as a small boy because I know that you are a strong and resilient man who can stand alone.

I don’t want to keep you where only I can hear you or protect you from the big, bad world world because I think that you have a great voice and brilliant and inspiring things to say and because I truly believe the world is a beautiful place, so much of which we both have left to experience.

I know, because you have told me, that you have times when you feel happy, briefly, for a while, in a moment and you are already learning to breathe those moments in. You make sure to mark them when they happen, because you know from experience that depression stops them staying with you. So I just want to say one last thing before I go.

In my life so far I have had so many beautiful and amazing moments, some small and some big. Some I have stopped and absorbed, others I wish I had. I know that at the moment you can’t take these flickers of joy forward, sometimes even as far as the next breath, but here is an idea. When you are choked by darkness again and you feel the desire to end, to escape, think back to one of those happy moments. I know that at that time you won’t feel its brilliance or know the joy of it, but just think of it and the fact that it existed, because I have a promise (and you know I don’t make many of those).

I promise this – that if you live it, your life will bring so many more moments, so many that you will lose count and memory of them all. Remember, in that darkness, that this is what you will lose if you chose to leave, that you will lose the very possibility of all of those moments, all of that joy, all of that love and however short lived it might be, some of it will be so much worth the wait.

With all of my love,

Mum x


3 thoughts on “Dear Jack – One Mum’s letter to her son with severe depression

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