I want to tell you about my amazing son Oliver
Oliver was a bright, inquisitive and adventurous child he always wanted to know why? We described him as colourful and he was, he lit up a room, provided us with lots of happy fun filled moments and we all loved him. I can remember being summoned to school often and hours spent trying to explain why rules were rules as Oliver tried to push every boundary. He was never in any real trouble though… not even a detention and certainly never suspended or expelled. It seemed that although he was hard work, constantly on the go, exploring and investigating, everyone loved him and found his mischievous antic hilarious.
As he reached he teens he began to get really bad acne on his back, this troubled him greatly Oliver wanted perfection in all things. He saw a dermatologist and was prescribed a drug called Roacutane The treatment worked well, Oliver was on the drug for two years.
( I have since read that the drug can cause depression and suicide – Oliver took it until he was 16 , he didn’t die until 12 years later so maybe it wasn’t a contributory factor but I wonder about it .)
I first really noticed that Oliver was unwell when he was around seventeen. He seemed to develop poor self-image he was always comparing himself to others, not tall enough, not handsome enough, not sporty enough. We tried so hard, we encouraged, praised, nurtured and loved him.
He was very clever went to university with excellent A level grades, he was a high achiever but it never seemed to be enough. Oliver had lots of personal issues that others – outsiders would never have known. He was convinced that he had no friends – returning home most weekends saying he was lonely. On his 21st however we were overwhelmed by the amount of friends that joined us to celebrate.Oliver was always the popular one.
We helped him to get a flat – he had a good flat mate and a very good job. Oliver, to the outside world seemed to have everything.
He didn’t like a lot things about himself, personal things like that his hair thinned or that he wasn’t tall and seemed to have anxiety a lot of the time. Every day he’d phone home and I’d listen as he told me he didn’t want to carry on – I’d hold him with recognition of all the good things and how amazing he was.
He was binge drinking and I knew he needed help so I managed to persuade him to be seen at The Priory. I didn’t realise that by Oliver agreeing to be seen I would be excluded from his clinical affairs.The frustrating thing is that once your children are older you can’t converse with their medical teams it’s all about confidentiality and I couldn’t access information.
When Oliver took an overdose – his flat mate found him. I was impotent, I couldn’t engage with anyone about my son because he was an adult! He was very clever – he told everyone different stories he was so convincing. He had counselling – lots of it but there was no communication about his well-being to us his family. Finally he was sectioned, I thought he would be safe but after an Oscar winning performance he was released. I tried to get help but no one listened to me. Oliver was still talking to me, I knew he was at risk but he told me that if I told anyone he wouldn’t ever speak to me again. I tried to let people know but they seemed oblivious – choosing to believe my mentally ill son and they released him.
Not enough was done to help Oliver – I will never accept his choice because he was too ill to make any decisions about anything.
Finally Oliver ended his life alone in his flat.
I feel I failed him,but I was failed. Failed to acknowledge that as a parent I knew my son and I knew his capabilities.I knew he would try to kill himself again but my pleas for help fell on deaf ears.
I believe that Oliver’s problems began when he was 14 and because we didn’t tackle the problems then, they festered deep within. He was a troubled confused young person.
In the end he couldn’t cope with life and made the only choice he thought he had. He wanted to die.
People say I am brave, they ask how I am – how I have managed since Oliver’s death. I don’t know – it hurts every day and every day I miss him. I live on because I have two children who also miss their brother and because they need me.
The sense of failure can be overwhelming – the should haves, would haves and could haves, but the truth is I couldn’t do anything because here in the Uk patient confidentiality and red tape prohibits unauthorised involvement of anyone once the person is an adult.
My lovely Oliver is really dead – it seems unbelievable – he isn’t in some faraway place – he isn’t ever coming home. He is gone from us forever – my beautiful colourful bright baby son.