When I move I’ll take the bottle of soap…

I’ve just washed my hands using the soap I have by the sink. Molton Brown’s unpronounceable ‘Naran Ji’ and I take a deep breath to inhale the smell and let it work through my senses. I don’t use it that often, making do with the less exotic fairy washing up liquid for 2 reasons; the first being that it’s very expensive but the second because it reminds me of a lost dear friend.

We moved into our house 5 ½ years ago and the street was very friendly. It was a new housing estate so people actively went and knocked on new neighbours doors, introduced themselves and then before you knew it you were involved in coffee mornings, trips to soft play and afternoons sitting on the green outside our house. Friendships were formed quickly but they were strong and genuine. We were all young mums together and revelled in a shared support network. The community hubbie and I had found was exactly what we were looking for and we were very happy.

I first met Sarah when hubbie and I called over to thank her for her cards inviting us to have coffee, we popped over and her welcoming husband invited us in there and then and put the kettle on. Sarah opened her front door and always joked about not walking into the right house as she saw 2 strangers sitting at her kitchen table and for one moment was confused. We introduced ourselves and that was that. We stayed for hours it seemed laughing and joking about the common ground we found that lay between us. Children, money, jobs and unfortunately depression.

I was suffering with depression and Sarah had also suffered in the past. We became close and at last I had found someone who knew exactly how I felt, could understand the confusion that is depression and empathise with the feelings of frustration and isolation that depression brings on.

A year into our friendship Sarah’s health started to decline. She lost weight, was unhappy with her marriage and was having disturbing thoughts. Medication didn’t help and neither did talking to her friends like it once did. She told anyone who would listen about her disturbing thoughts and asked to be admitted into the psychiatric unit as she knew she was declining rapidly.

Without much help and therapy Sarah’s mental decline was fast and she eventually took her own life. After disappearing for a day and a night, she was found in a hotel bathroom by a chamber maid having booked in the previous day under and false name. She clearly did not want to be found, this was no cry for help and the notes left for her husband and mum showed this.

She left behind a husband and 2 young sons who just months before she had adored. I was the one when we all got together who said she would dread the school holidays but Sarah was the one who said she looked forward to them as she had her boys all day for days at a time. She was a proud mother, a caring mother but most of all a loving mother. She was beautiful and an amazing friend often making the effort way beyond normal friendship just to help out someone who needed her.

I have my memories; her leaning out of the window one Christmas morning saying ‘the turkey’s off!’ and me asking if she’d like our beef…’ of her saying that she was ‘off to trim her bush..’ meaning the tree outside her house and not the bush we were all thinking of as we stood there giggling while she looked on confused. Of her popping over to show me her son’s first report as she couldn’t really see what the teacher was saying despite the fact he is amazingly bright (and has just told me he’s achieved level 5 in his KS2 sats –she would have been so proud) I have these and more…

The mind can be amazing yet cruel and Sarah’s mind was not well. Those who think depressed people should just pull themselves together clearly have no understanding of depression. If Sarah could have, she would have so she could be with her 2 gorgeous sons and live a life with them. But her mind was broken and just because she was dressed each day and put makeup on; she wasn’t treated as seriously as she should have been. Court cases and compensation can achieve closure over liabilities and give provision for a life without a wife and mum but they would give it all back in an instance to have her walk through the door and wonder at 2 strangers sitting at her table.

She used Naran Ji in her kitchen and when I washed my hands in her sink I often remarked on what a lovely fresh smell it is. Orangey and tangy, a strong smell that stays with you for a while after you’ve used it. I was in a hotel room months later and used the soap without thinking and the same smell flooded my senses taking me right back to her kitchen and her.

I now have a bottle in my kitchen and use it occasionally. I’m moving soon and won’t have the same chuckle as I drive past her house and see her ‘bush’ I won’t imagine her still on the green in her flowing summery skirt with the wide brimmed straw hat reading with one eye on her boys. But I will take the bottle of soap and put it by the new sink in the new house as a reminder of days gone by and maybe I’ll stop asking why? And instead just enjoy the moment, however fleeting, and remember my lovely friend; Sarah.


About littlewhitecottage

Emma is a qualified teacher with 14 years of teaching in many different settings. From teaching adults and children at a music school to choosing to work in a demanding primary school that was failing (which meant moving from an outstanding school – her colleagues were aghast!) to running her own sewing business for the last 5 ½ years teaching all ages how to sew: Emma loves to teach.
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6 Responses to When I move I’ll take the bottle of soap…

  1. Carol says:

    Dear Emma, I’m stuck for words. Take ‘Sarah’ with you & keep her safe and alive in you.
    I have some contact with another blogger who’s husband committed suicide in January this year. RRASHM (http://www.rrsahm.com/) Lori blogs & vlogs about her life ‘The Before’ and ‘The After’. The changes in this beautiful creature are sad & uplifting at the same time. Lori has many words that may help you & Sarah’s husband come to terms with this devastating loss.
    [I have lived with depression all my life &, after 3 failed attempts (yes they were serious attempts & NOT cries for help) I am dealing with it all]

  2. Wendy Bilton says:

    Hi Emma. Thank you very much for letting people know just how cruel depression can be. Ive been treated for depression for years – yes, too many people think it is something you can put under the carpet, and most certainly you must “snap out of it”. It took alot of courage for me to go to my g.p. What will he think? I cant have depression because Im a nurse, and nurses dont get depression. But thats where they are wrong. And there was a girl I worked with whom, I later found out, had depression too. I remember other members of staff saying that this particular girl shouldnt be working if she was on medication – they knew nothing about me. I hid it well.
    But the day I did go to my g.p. and told him how I felt, I had a whole weight lifted off my shoulders. He told me that post natal depression (I didnt have this, or so I thought) could present itself up to five years after having babies. I didnt know this, and in a funny sort of way, I was glad because I wasnt going mad after all.
    I still get my good days and my bad days. I found out just a short while ago, and just by chance, that a friend (who also happened to be a nurse) has depression too, and so it helps because we understand each other.
    Its been nice for me sharing this. I dont talk about it very often unless Im asked about it normally, but had to leave you a note because I understand how your friend must have felt.
    I thank God though that Im coping with my depression, sometimes even on a daily basis. I feel for your friend……..if only someone had noticed she wasnt well sooner.
    Thank you again.

  3. Thank you for your post. I have left it for people to read so I can have a chance to reply.

    Without going into too much detail I was assessed under a mental health team from the local primary care trust and the outcome was that I was given weekly 1:1 sessions with a psychologist. This continued for just over a year throughout my second pregnancy and for 6 months after the birth. All depression is personal to the person suffering with symptoms manifesting themselves in different ways and at different times. I have anxiety based depression. This means I get incredibly anxious about everything, even things that seem so inconsequential. I doubt my abilities and this culminated with me having severe panic attacks and having to leave my beloved teaching job. I am now far better than I used to be, I am able to function normally but still have the same black cloud that comes over me but the psychology sessions have helped me spot the trigger signs and have given me the strategies to be able to deal with my thoughts and feelings.

    As to my friend, each situation is different and we never really know how another person is thinking but Sarah did say 2 days before she died that she felt nothing for anyone. She felt she was an empty shell. This made me incredibly concerned for her as this was the complete opposite of who she really was. I’m sorry that you misunderstood my writing in thinking that I was criticising her but she had a severe mental illness that was limiting her normal capacity to not only think but to rationalise her feelings. She wasn’t connected to her feelings, maybe this was due to the drugs she was prescribed or maybe this was how she really felt, we will never know now.

    Please feel free to respond I am in no way upset by your post and would look forward to having more discussions. Best wishes E :o)

  4. Kylie Hodges says:

    What a beautiful post. Depression is so evil, I am very blessed to have recovered from depression, but have recently been diagnosed yet again, and given anti depressants.

    Depression, of course, and as you have explained, varies so much from person to person, and even from episode to episode. I have a young child and at the moment my feelings towards my son are the opposite of what you’ve described. He is my whole life and there is nothing outside him, and I’ve realised that this is unhealthy and its being dealt with.

    But depression does have the ability to rob you of love. Everything can, but doesn’t always, become meaningless. And I am so sorry that your friend had this happen, and is no longer in your life. It sounds like she’s left a massive void. So very sad.

  5. claire reid says:

    hi emma,
    i too was diagnosed with depression four years ago.I was a chef in the RAF,loving hubby,loved the job and had just given birth to an amazing baby girl.however 6 weeks later we were posted out of our home to a camp hundreds of miles away from any family or friends.i started back at work in an unfamiliar location,no friends,just left my child with a stranger(childminder) and hubby was awy on exercise,i felt ok for about 6 weeks then i started noticing i was losing my temper with workmates,being over emotional and felt empty,in the end i booked an appointment with the med officer and he diagnosed me as having reactive depression.to cut a long story short;i was put under the care of military mental health team who were fantastic,put on meds for awhile and had 1:1 couselling.the meds worked as did the counselling but i ended up being medically discharged which was a low point as it had been my dream from a young age to join up.but my mental health improved and we ended up being posted back home.
    i hid it from everyone including my hubby-hed come home off excercise and id be the normal happy claire who was coping soo well when in reality i was falling apart.only one workmate knew and he was supportive,letting me vent or understand when i had to disappear just to compose myself when id get upset.when i told hubby he was shocked and upset as he hadnt spotted the signs but how could he have when he was away every other week for nearly 12 months?he now knows what to look for incase it happens again,he also knows that i need my time just to unwind and chill out when things get too much.i know im lucky as i came out of depression with treatment and alot of folk dont.my thoughts are with you and sarahs family.xxxxxx

  6. Tracy says:

    I am lost for the right words to say even though I lost my Father and Uncle last year both through depression and both took their own lives. I too suffered depression for sometime I did get through the depression but I now have panic attacks and agoraphobia but I get by …. my thoughts are with you and your friend Emma xx

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