My Story By Leigh Holmes
My Story By Leigh Holmes
Of all the things you envisage having to write when you have children, their birth announcements invitations to birthday parties, graduation celebrations their wedding , and maybe even announcements of the birth of a grandchild, this is the one you never ever expect to have to write . the open letter to the world explaining how and why your precious child tragically passed away.There are things that I will share with you about my daughter and her passing that I am passionate about but I think I should get the biggest one out there in the open from the first.
My beautiful talented amazing daughter was responsible for ending hr own life. People often say committed suicide. I and many other parents who have experienced the same indescribable experience disagree with this term. Elle did not commit suicide but she certainly died by it.So who was Elle?Elle came into this world in a hurry she talked at 9 months old walked at 10 months and from then on seemed to take every experience the world had to offer and make the most of it . Throughout Elle’s short 15 years Elle was the almost dream child. Funny, mischievous , Caring about her family committed and openly loving to both me her mum and her little brother Sporty, Elle was captain of the schools swimming netball and football teams Academic ,she was a world scholar in top set for all her took her As chemistry and IGCSE Maths examinations years early. She was the kind of kid every teacher wanted in their class, smart funny sociable with an incredible work ethic .
She was the kid that would be chosen to be the ambassador for the school and indeed this year she went to Tanzania for 10 days to work with a primary school renovating the buildings and teaching the children. She was in short the kid every kid wanted to be and the one other kids parents hoped their kid would make friends with. Elle was also a fantastically loyal friend and an empathic ear to all those who needed it and I don’t say this through the rose tinted glasses of a grieving mother the stories that came out about how many childrens and adults lives my child had positively effected after she decided to end her life made me wish even more if that were possible that my baby had lived to see the sun rise on that Monday.So now the question the one everybody wants to know but nobody really wants to ask me ….Why did she do it ?To be honest I don’t know why my loved brilliant popular talented funny girl made that decision . Elle left no note not to me or her brother whom she adored beyond words nor to her boyfriend or her close inner circle of friends. There was no explanation , no good bye.For days we forensically mined her phone, her computer her internet history her diaries anything to find answers.
What we found was this.
Her spiral descent into despair had not been something that had happened slowly over time . It almost seemed like in a few short hours her mind became overwhelmed and snapped.Nobody who saw her in the weeks and days and hours before her death would have said that this was a child suffering from depression . The morning before she died she was revising for her year 10 exams and had gone to our schools summer fayre and had a great time with her sports team in the afternoon she’d been dancing around barefoot in the restaurant she worked in singing along with the rock songs and making the customers smile as she filled their orders and I have a wonderful video of her filmed a few short hours before she made that fatal decision laughing with her brother and friends as she tried and failed to catch grapes in her mouth. If you watch that video you’d think the only thing in that child’s immediate future would be lecture from her mum about all of the grapes now filling the upstairs landing and band room. There was no sign even then that this was a child in crisisWas it problems in the family?Certainly not with her brother who she adored and tormented in equal measure but I have asked myself over and over is this my fault?Elle and I had just hit that point in every teenagers life where she was pushing boundaries and I was standing my ground. We had rowed significantly a few weeks before after a series of issues with her sneaking with her friends to out of bounds areas of the city we live in ,and breaking her curfew. And yes there were things that were said in those rows that I wish on both sides had never been said just as in ever row that has taken place between people ever. I still think despitethe decision she took I was blessed with a wonderfully easy child unlike many others my daughter did not have an issue with either drug or alcohol,abuse although she was beginning to experiment with alcohol like many of her friends.
So was it the row?
From the time the children could understand we have had an unspoken way of telling each other we loved them , One person would take a hand and squeeze it 3 times I Love You the other would then squeeze back four times I Love You Too we always do it even big as they are. The Sunday after the big row Elle and I went to church not speaking to each other but in the middle of the service I held her hand and squeezed 3 times expecting her hand to remain limp it didn’t she squeezed back I love you too and then hugged me tight which is how we remained for the rest of the service. We talked and hugged through the rest of the afternoon and put right the things that were wrong on both our sides . This was two weeks before So did she feel unloved unvalued or unsupported at home no she did not. But Elle most certainly had her demons Through looking at her internet history after her death it seems some of those demons were externally introduced thoughts of needing to be skinnier prettier have different hair shape you name it . We found secret accounts linked to pro anna ( anorexia and bulimia websites) which almost seemed places were our young teens were encouraging each other not to eat or to purge. Elle did go through a short phase when she was 13 of not wanting to eat but that seemed to resolve relatively quickly indeed she never seemed to have issues with eating things she liked . in her room that morning I found 2 table spoons one of half eaten peanut butter and another of half eaten nutella a half eaten banana and a can of coke. But It appears that when not at home but with her group of friends Elle was purging after eating .
The problem as a parent of a purging child especially if they don’t do it at home is you can’t tell its happening it is not like anorexia where its obvious, bulimic teenagers often don’t lose weight and even the dentist assumed the change in her teeth was down to over brushing with too high a fluoride toothpaste than what it actually was ,damage caused by regurgitated stomach acid. It was so hard to see her iPad filled with images of how much she hated her body and how significant her online presence on Instagram was. She was also active on self harming sites sites which show teens how to cut and how to carry out the necessary first aid when they do. Elle had begun to deal with this significant body image disorder by self harming to a serious degree a few days before she died. She had cut her self so deeply that she had scared herself. She always wore large colourful sweatbands to represent the countries we lived in or a chunky purple bracelet her friend bought her the month before for her birthday either one was a common sight on her wrist so we all missed it. She said in the last few posts that she shared with a friend that it had frightened her and that she agreed that she needed to stop.
Her friends were aware of the purging and the cutting but like so many teenagers they believe that they are indestructible and can sort each other out. Indeed the night Elle died she spent time on the phone trying to encourage a friend not to do the very thing she did not to end his life because life was worth living. Which makes it even harder for me to understand . As a family we went to bed that night about 10 pm at some point later Elle appears to have become distressed and was text messaging her friend . Her friend could not possibly know the state of mind she was in as text comes with no body language to explain the meaning of the words . So please as you read this know there is no blame associated with the texts her friend sent. Her friend is a talented young artist who also was exploring her own demons and sent Elle an image that she was working on. The image was dark and showed skulls and nooses and statements that had Elle lived to take her exams the following day would have been dismissed as Emo stuff It seemed that on the Friday Elle had had a disagreement with both her boyfriend and another best friend about her purging and whilst her boyfriend and Elle had made up and elle had promised that she would stop things hadn’t gone as well with the third friend.
In her texts Elle asked her friend if she had been given up on. The response she received was remember another young teenager who had no idea what was going to happen, but the précis of the response was yes. At some point about 1-2 hours later my wonderful baby died of mechanical aspixiation. Elle’s passions were twofold the first being her passion to make a difference to the world she dreamed of being a child psychiatrist and a famous singer as her second passion is music and musical theatre she performed in every play at school every production with her drama school every assembly every music event. Through her music she gained solace encouragement and a sense of well being .Her last gift to the world is her song Mirror Mirror she wrote this for her friend but the message of hope that the last verses contain are for every teenager struggling with their own demons whatever they may be. Elles life was tragically short and the holes she has elft in the hearts of everyone who knew her will never be filled. But she would want to carry on making a difference through supporting her charity you can help make that happen and help save other teenagers from making the same mistake and other families from being left to ask why.