The day my mum tried to take her own life, I was viewing a house. I switched my phone on to silent whilst being shown around & chatting to the agent. When I came out I looked at my phone & I had 36 missed calls. I’ll always remember it was 36.
I remember clearly looking at my phone & being really confused, just for a moment …but then it hit me. The fear of why I would have so many missed calls from different numbers, most had been from my friend Ali. My first initial thought was something had happened to my son but then I realised it was more likely to be about my mum as Ali lives in the same road as her.
I was already shaking when I called the last number I had missed which was the landlady of the property my mum was staying in. She answered, voice shaky & desperate. “Tina!! thank god! You need to get to the flat, there’s been a fire!!!”
It never ceases to amaze me that our brains can think so many thoughts in a ridiculously small amount of time. The first thought when I heard the words fire, was an image of my mum burnt all over, it was horrific. I also thought she was dead. I pictured the flat with flames billowing out, her inside. All these thoughts & more had gone through my mind in grafic detail in a matter of seconds..
I have no idea if I finished that call. I think maybe I didn’t, because before I knew it I was in my car speeding at an alarming rate, going down a one way street the wrong way & on my way to the flat which was only 5 minutes up the road. I do remember very clearly what I was like in the car. I was driving so erratically & screaming “no no no!!! Please god please god let her be ok!! Please mum!!! Don’t die don’t die!!!!”
I was hysterical. I arrived at the road without taking anyone out thank god! I had a few near misses with cars on the way which in hindsight was so dangerous, stupid & selfish but I was in shock. As I came to the road all I could see were two fire engines, an ambulance & a police car or two. I drove at speed towards them & mounted a curb almost hitting two frantically waving police officers.
I literally pulled the hand break before I had come to a stop & jumped out of my car. One of the police officers came over & took my keys off of me & I started trying to get to the flat but they held me back & I remember trying to fight them off. I managed to get to the ambulance in time to see them tending to my mum & I could see that although she was unconscious, she didn’t appear to be burnt & she was alive!
My dad, sister & husband appeared from nowhere. My husband took me & held me in a grip so tight I felt my body shaking uncontrollably. I will never forget whilst he held me & I looked over his shoulder I could see my friend Ali, outside her flat just a few doors down & she looked pale, in shock & like she’d been crying. I later found out she had tried to comfort my mum after the fire crew had got her to safety. Ali knew my mum & I will be forever grateful that she tried to give her comfort & reassurance whilst she was still conscious. She must have lost consciousness shortly after in the ambulance because by the time I arrived in intensive care, she was totally unresponsive.
The staff were incredible. There was a whole team of people tending to her & I was ushered out of intensive care because I was too hysterical. I was given something to calm me & the rest is a blur. I don’t even remember when I learnt that she would be ok. It was days before she was fully able to talk & get on her feet. She had been injured whilst being dragged out of the fire, her back was hurt & she had some scrapes here & there, she had inhaled a lot of smoke & her liver & kidneys took a real pounding from the overdose but that was it!! She was alive!
The aftermath of the fire was heart wrenching. The feather duvet had exploded leaving burnt feathers stuck to everything. The whole bedroom was black, all her belongings were covered in ash & smoke damaged. To think my mum was planning to die in there. It’s too painful to think of but it enters my mind when I least expect it.
Although there had been a fire, that part was actually an accident. My mum had taken an overdose & decided to have one last cigarette. The pills must have started to take effect & she dropped the cigarette. A neighbour smelt smoke & called the fire brigade & they saved her. Coincidentally, it was a man from my school who was a firemen that pulled her out. Another person I will be eternally grateful to, as well as all the crew.
So what happened to me after this? Well, I am left with phantom ringing. I think I hear my mobile phone when it’s not ringing. If I can’t get hold of my mum, I go into immediate panic. I try my best not to but if after a few calls & no answer I start to think the worse. It’s left me with anxiety, an even greater fear of death (not mine but family) I have reacurring nightmares & I suffer from PTSD.
When a person tries to take their own life, the last thing they are thinking of is what it will do to loved ones. I asked my mum years later, what was going through your mind? Did you not think of us? She said all she could think was she needed to stop the hell she was going through, the torture of her own thoughts & to end it. It wasn’t a cry for help, it wasn’t an attempt to get attention. She wanted to die because it felt like the only way out.