On a cold February night almost three years ago, I was sitting in the car in front of my son's dormitory, holding my phone. Josh, then 20, had been depressed for three years and called to say he wasn't feeling right.
It rang our alarm bells. Without telling him, my husband Simeon and I jumped in the car and we drove the eight miles to Bristol and talked to him all the way, "How are you?" I asked. "Um, not good," he replied. Then I said the words I never thought I would have to say: "Do you think there's a chance you might kill yourself Josh?"
"I don't know, mom," he replied quietly. & # 39; I'm so tired. & # 39;
Amanda Prowse shared the excruciating pain she felt when her son's depression got so out of control that he felt suicidal and the strain on her family and her relationship with her husband. In the picture Amanda and her son Joe
We kept him on the phone and mostly talked rubbish, but he barely answered. We had just stopped outside when he said the trigger words: "I'm just … I've had enough."
That's it. We jumped out, grabbed him, put him in the car, and took him home so we could watch him day and night.
I thought mental illness was something that happened to other people. It turns out that we are different people. For the past six years Josh’s illness has sledgehammered everything we have ever taken for granted and hijacked every thought. I still wonder, am I the worst mom in the world? Did I do something to make Josh feel this way? Did I lose sight of the ball?
I spent hours in desperation trying to imagine the fear Josh felt for suicide to be the best option.
And I've learned so much too – so much that I hope it will help other mothers reading this.
Little things: I can now ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no”. "How are you?" Requires too much thought for a foggy brain and can feel like pressure.
I also learned that it's not my fight, it's Josh's. I made so many mistakes, put pressure on him to go to university, and thought this was his path to success. To believe that the saying “I love you” could heal anything.
When asked how we did it, I don't have easy answers. It takes time. But communication is the key. I used to be afraid of even using the words "depression" and "suicide", but honest conversation is vital.
One night when her son Joe was in college, he called and said he wasn't feeling right. She and her husband Simeon (pictured together) jumped in the car and drove to his dorms to take him home while they kept him on the phone
My advice to other parents in a situation like ours? It is not always best to go straight to "Solve" mode. Sometimes it's best to just let your child “be”. I kept trying to fix what was putting Josh under pressure.
Whatever your own dreams for your child, it is important to realize that there is a good life with depression and a good life without a university.
I remember the day Josh was born in the winter of 1997. He held him in my arms and wished him health, happiness and success. I never thought that the only thing I would pray for more than anything is that my beautiful boy didn't kill himself.
My career began in a cruel turn when my son's mental health deteriorated. I started writing in my 40s. At 52, I've written 25+ novels and reached millions worldwide. When my books hit the charts, Josh was the worst. But unlike in my novels, in which I can shape the results of family dramas, I had no control over real life.
As a kid Josh was smart but had dyslexia and dyspraxia and struggled to fit into school. When he was ten, he was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare disease that affects connective tissue and causes him daily pain. When I look back I can see that he often seemed a little anxious and I worked hard to bring him moments of joy.
During the painful process of seeing her son suffer from depression, Amanda says she learned it is not her struggle and admits that she made many mistakes when it came to Josh's sanity. In the picture Josh and mother Amanda
I forever spoiled him with pizza, candy, and toys that I couldn't afford. My marriage to Josh's father ended when Josh was a toddler. Then, when Josh was eight years old, I fell in love with Simeon, an army officer and the father of Josh's school friend, Ben.
I took the plunge and their duo merged with ours. The four of us gathered around the kitchen table to eat, watched movies together, and had wonderful vacations. Josh loved Simeon and I loved Ben. Our family unit really worked. We thought as parents we were doing everything right. Maybe we were a little complacent.
Josh was academically outstanding, getting A's and A's on his bachelor's degree and a promised spot to read life sciences at St. Andrews University. I made myself believe that he was within reach of a successful life.
HOW MOM SAVED MY LIFE, BY JOSIAH HARTLEY, Jan.
I know what it feels like to stand on the edge of the abyss and not worry about anything but ending the silent nothing. Feeling the dark hand of depression gently pressing on your back encouraging you to do so.
My recovery was painfully slow, but the colors were gradually reappearing. Mom didn't know how to help me and her naivety when it came to my depression was breathtaking. She asked me if I wanted to go for a walk or go on vacation when I could barely lift my head from the pillow. But all of her efforts came from a place of love and I will always be grateful that she never gave up on me.
My journey to and from hell took about six years. I am not free from depression and accept that I may never be, but now I see a curve in the road ahead of me – and around that curve lurks the slightest possibility of something else. That's enough for now.
My gradual recovery has led me to exercise, weight loss, the great outdoors, an obsession with music, and the love of my two French Bulldogs. Life is more of an adventure now, rather than a chore, although there are still dark days.
You might think that if I had taken suicide seriously, I certainly would have. But now I know that even though I wanted to die that day, I didn't necessarily want to die the day that came after. And that's the whole point.
So no matter how bad you feel, how deep, how sad, how broken, please wait because tomorrow you may feel different. Give it time. Give it another day and then another.
But when Josh was in the top six, everything changed. The depression seemed to come out of nowhere. He was suddenly irritable and tired, not answering my questions and not taking a shower. His study plans lay untouched on his desk. Instead, he spent all of his time on his bed with the curtains drawn. We thought he was going to work, but actually he was sleeping.
Little did we know we were on the edge of a cliff about to collapse.
After a lot of pressure and tears, we persuaded Josh to do his high school graduation and he came out with A, B, D. That sounds great, but for Josh it was a massive indicator of how far he'd fallen behind his expected run of A * s. He reluctantly accepted a place at Southampton University in clearing.
He seemed happy enough, although I was concerned to see the social media photos: he was often drunk and passed out at least once. But the students drink a lot, don't they?
He passed the exams well the first year, but when he and Ben returned from a summer trip to Asia, Josh went to bed and stayed there for three weeks.
Ben was returning to Liverpool University, but I was worried about letting Josh return to Southampton. When I tried to seek advice from his tutors, we were told that they could not discuss or disclose any information about a student without their prior consent. It was excruciating.
After all, the depression of students is rising sharply – in the year from July 2016 to July 2017, 95 students died of suicide at British universities, 66 percent of them male.
A month after his sophomore year, in 2016, I was working in Australia when Simeon called: he had brought Josh home. He had found some pills. "He was really bad."
I tried to speak, but my throat had closed. In my darkest moments, I had wondered if he could think of suicide. Josh later told us how he had bought the pills and was about to take them when Simeon, driven by a sixth sense, visited him.
For the next three months Josh's depression was catatonic. At night I would find him either asleep, curled up in pain, or awake, with his device lighting up his face as he watches the boxing sets.
Then he stayed in bed all day to doze off and watch pointless YouTube videos. For him it was an endless cycle trying to pass the time or stop time. I did my best to bring about a sense of normalcy, but it was torture.
After nearly six months, Josh agreed to see our GP who prescribed antidepressants. The first lot caused a major allergic reaction; the second made him feel awful. His speech was garbled and he would stagger, not go.
It was a terrible time and we really felt we were losing him.
After waiting in vain for an NHS psychiatrist, we paid for a private consultation. Josh's dosage was changed and gradually, over six months, his spirits lifted and, to our surprise, he decided to try university again. He got a place in Bristol to start his course again. This time he would be in dorms, with a buddy system for extra support.
Josh decided to change his life after seeing his stepfather Simeon (pictured with wife Amanda) collapse in tears in a pile on the floor, unable to cope with the stress on the family
We took the liberty of believing that everything would be fine – but the roller coaster went on. So this February found us in front of his dormitories.
At home we went into parenting protection mode and watched him like a hawk. I cried and cried between interviews for my last book.
Then one morning Josh announced he was going back to university – as if nothing had happened. We drove him back to Bristol, had dinner and went to bed. At 3 a.m. the phone rang.
Josh was in A&E. He got drunk and cut himself. He later told us that he considered bleeding it to death before a roommate found him and took command. Simeon picked him up, his wrist wrapped in a large bandage. It had a red stain that was soaked in blood.
When I was about to boil the kettle, I heard a knock like someone had fallen. I immediately thought "Josh!" But it was Simeon. My darling was lying on the carpet with her hands over her head and sobbing. It was a rock bottom for all of us.
I remember rocking Simeon and yelling at Josh and asking him to do something so we could help him or this disease would destroy us all.
That moment was a turning point. Josh says when we were both so broken, everything changed for him and made him realize he had to find a way through the fog.
Subtle changes began to happen. Although he didn't want to, Josh washed himself. He let me change his sheets. He sat down to eat with us and even went for a walk. We have dogs for Josh in the hope that this would help too.
He examined how diet and alcohol affect depression, reduce alcohol and eat healthier. The changes were incremental.
Amanda (pictured) admits she put pressure on Josh to go to college in hopes that it would bring him success, but the family has since given up on the prospect and five years later Josh is drug free
The biggest change, however, was when he decided to leave university. As a mom, it's hard to let go of your pursuits for your child, but I just wish I had removed them from this environment sooner. It obviously made him sick.
Where are we now? Five years later, Josh isn't cured, but he's alive and that's all. He's drug free and doesn't see a psychiatrist regularly, but he knows one is in place as a safety net. These dark times severely tested my relationship with Simeon, but we survived. Straight.
Josh's biological father has been very supportive of us and Josh seems very comforted when he knows that we are all taking care of his back.
We're not looking too far ahead. Josh writes and plans business projects. He seems happy.
I'm still afraid that something I say or do might accidentally send him back to the bad days. At worst, it felt like living on the edge of a knife, with an abyss on either side; The knife burns, I'm barefoot, I can't breathe and no one can hear me calling for help.
It's about the same these days, but I'm wearing shoes and I've found my voice. I can call for help and I plan to.
Excerpt by LOUISE ATKINSON from The Boy Between, by Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley (£ 8.99, Little A), published November 1st.
If you need help with feelings of suicide, call the Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org. The lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
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