With all the lovely “back to school” photos swamping social media at the moment, I have been swept back in time to last September. Despite frequent attempts to return, Lizzie had not attended school full time for almost a year. As a three tier system, she was due to move to upper school. During the last week of the summer term, we had agreed that she would not move to the upper school in our catchment area and frantically searched around for a new school: the majority of her school year were going to the local upper school and since the onset of her illness, Lizzie had suffered horrendously at the hands of children she’d been at school with since she was tiny. Bullying comes in so many forms I’ve discovered: ignorance is no excuse. I feel so strongly that as grown ups, we have a responsibility to teach our children about others who may be “different”. I accept that there is so much fear surrounding mental illness, particularly when it involves self harm and suicidal ideation, but that still does not warrant ridicule and derision.
Anyway, I digress! Lizzie started a brand new school, vaguely knowing just one person in a huge school: a massive hurdle for any child let alone one with the issues suffered by Lizzie, a child who couldn’t face school at the best of times. My heart was in my boots all day; I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t function. I couldn’t bear the thought of her suffering any further, of feeling like a fish out of water again.
She loved it! The relief was huge, but sadly short lived. Lizzie attended her new school for just two weeks before she took her first overdose and shortly after was hospitalised for the first time. She said loving school didn’t change how she felt inside, that it was her last hope of being “normal” and the realisation that that was never going to happen, was just too much to bear.
So I look at all these wonderful pictures on social media (mine included!) it draws me right back to September 2016. I so desperately wanted to be the parent I used to be, the parents I saw on social media, whose biggest worry was a child liking their new form tutor or their school shoes not rubbing. Oh I’m not judging, I promise: every parent worries and those worries are always valid because they are generated by love. But the fear and worry we held was so deep, so guttural that it rendered us immobile sometimes. I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t miss that feeling and that I am somewhat relieved this September. But I counter that relief with the heartache that I’m not waving my daughter off to school and hassling her to do her homework. My positive in all this is that she is safe and receiving at least some education in hospital. What this reinforces within me is that I must always remember that things could be worse and therefore I have hope, and hope is enough right now, it has to be.
Stay strong x