Even Superheroes need a little help

It’s ok to take off the cape. A fathers perspective on loss and mental health.

Michael Story

Tommy's Stories by Michael

It’s ok to take off the cape.

This is probably the most personal piece I have written to date. It’s not a poem like my recent scribbles. This is difficult but something I need to say as I believe I’m not alone. This is my story about trying to be Superman and live up to a stereotype. The reality is that pressure was my kryptonite. To understand I need to go back to the beginning.

As a child I was fortunate in many ways. And one of these was I never experienced grief until aged 9. That was when my beloved granny left and my little world took it’s 1st blow. As the years rolled into my teenage ones certain circumstances chipped away and my confidence was hanging by a thread. The world wasn’t so kind.

Undeterred I took the leap at 17 and as I write this 18 years to the day I joined the Royal Air Force. It was half escape and half adventure. And boy was I in for a culture shock. Living in a barrack block with more people than the village I grew up was a shock to start. Did I cry myself to sleep? 1st 2 weeks absolutely. Did I want to go home? You bet. However this was when I 1st discovered a resilience that would serve me in years to come. 18th of April 2000 was the day I graduated from recruit training school. It was the day I proved my doubters wrong and proved myself right.

 Now fast forward and in-between travelling the world and working my way in life the day came where everything changed for the better. I had met that 1 person who was my soulmate. Almost instantly my gut told me my destiny was in front of my eyes. And so came the decision that it was time to leave the service I loved so much. I had found someone I loved even more. Whilst I admired those with families in the RAF I always shuddered seeing folk sent away for months from wife and children. Many people coped perfectly fine. The life they knew they signed up to. However I also saw others break apart. Even at an early age I vowed I wouldn’t be that man and the decision was made. 2 years later married and that was when events we could not control took shape.

Our 1st child was on the way in our 1st year of marriage. Nervous? Yes. Scared oh yes. Excited most definitely. And on the 6th of May 2009 our 1st born child named Kyle came into the world asleep. He was simply perfect in every way. This was when I took up the cape.

From going to register a birth and death of my little boy to carrying him home. Trying to be a rock for his mum. My grief was delayed as I thought this was the man’s job. To this day I deeply regret not crying at Kyle’s funeral.

Fast forward 10 months and I between such sadness our beautiful daughter Amelie blessed our world. A true gift who helped to mend our broken hearts. However again I felt a duty to be happy and look after my young family. My grief stayed silent.

November 2013 and our world took another painful blow. My beautiful wife diagnosed with cancer aged only 26. All I could scream was why us? 4 months of intensive treatment and blue light trips. Some testing times. My wife fought like a lion. And is now 4 years remission as I speak. The cape came out once more. To look after my wife and be a daddy to Amelie. Working to pay a mortgage and travel hundreds of miles a week. Making decisions not to eat so I could have enough fuel to hold Rachel’s hand for that extra day as she had to stay 65 miles away for duration of treatment. Superman was breaking apart whilst holding a glass smile for the rest of the world.

Then came the silence. When the world stopped and my brain did too. My wife was better. Amelie was well and I had completed the 1st of my marathons in Kyle’s name. A tidal wave of emotion so powerful you cannot stop it. I simply cried. I would cry in work in a corner where no one could see me. I would cry in my car. The cape still clinging to my back as I didn’t want anyone to know. I was hurting too. I wasn’t the hero some may have thought. In my head I was a failure.

Once more fate had a kick when Amelie was diagnosed with psoriasis aged 6. Why?????

2 more years of 400 mile trips a week to hospitals. I would walk on broken glass to make Amelie better.

And so when Amelies skin got better the silence returned. This time the cape was torn and badly damaged. I wasn’t a failure. I couldn’t go on trying to fly with broken wings. I went to see my Doctor. I was suffering depression. For too long I was ashamed. Scared. My Dr sat and listened as I poured my heart out and fought 1 last time to hold those tears back. He was simply amazed my walls remained intact as long as they did. Now they simply fell.

I have taken a step back from volunteering from a charity I simply adore. I have stepped away from a lot more. I need the time to focus on my family and enjoy the good times in life again. I need to be able to grieve and become my old self again.

It’s no shame to cry. And I hope and pray that anyone else out there can let go of the cape. Mental health is vital and sadly as much a taboo with some as child loss.

My name is Michael and I don’t have to be superman anymore. I can be Clark Kent as i have my Lois by my side.

To any parent going through similar. You are never alone. I for 1 will always pick up my phone as I know countless others will too.

You can read the original story here republished with permission. 


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