The country was rocked this week at a story that was close to my heart.
A young boy, Luke Batty, wanting 5 more minutes of special fun, playing cricket with his Dad. Just 5 more special minutes with a person who loved him. A person who cared for him, and should be his protector and guiding light.
The same person took that 5 minutes of innocent special bonding and killed his beautiful 11 year old son.
Murdered, horrifically, and violently at the hands of the man he loved – his Dad.
It echoed the deaths of little Darcy Freeman, thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge by her father. Or the drowning deaths of Jye, Bailey and Tyler Farquarson, at the hands of their father.
Leaving the country grieving for kids they had never met, killed at the hands of their fathers. Leaving people trying to comprehend how a parent could do this to their own child.
What followed was an outpouring of grief, anger, hurt, disgust, emotion that can’t be explained. There was disbelief and hatred, and the question “how could a father do this to his son?” No-one could fathom this.
The most calm and graceful reaction to Luke’s murder was that of his Mum, Rosie.
Young Luke’s grieving mum was a pillar of strength, of grace, of dignity, of compassion and poise. Rosie had suffered many times at the hands of Luke’s dad. she had been beaten, and kicked, verbally and physically abused at different times for more than a decade.
This amazingly strong woman had no hatred, not one ounce of anger. Rosie displayed compassion, understanding and love for a man who was ill. He had just taken her only child’s life, and she was compassionate, understanding and showed no malice, spoke no hateful words toward him. It’s left many asking how could she be so strong?
I believe this strength, compassion and understanding comes from people who have lived and loved someone who is mentally ill.
Rosie understood the struggles of this man, she showed compassion, knowing this was illness to lead him to be this person. Rosie knows how much love Luke’s dad had for Luke, she saw it, she felt it, she felt the same love. Rosie also understood the violence, the uncontrollable rage, the sad place that Luke’s dad had been in.
Rosie loved a man with mental illness, and in my experience, although they were estranged, that love doesn’t waiver, or leave.
Luke has lost his life to a man suffering a debilitating condition, a condition that can improve with diagnosis, psychiatric support, and if needed, medication. A condition that doesn’t have to be this scary, misunderstood, or taboo. People should feel that they can seek help, and not have to suffer or try to manage this alone.
As I watched the news reports with my estranged husband a few nights ago, I had tears in my eyes. My estranged husband burst into tears, the story was painful, it was raw, and He knows that a few years ago, this murderer could have been him.
My estranged husband suffers mental illness. He has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety. He is medicated for all 3.
It was a violent psychotic episode, and a fear for my life, and the lives of our children, that saw us split.
For the most part, he is happy, funny, silly, loving, caring, amusing but stable. There have been times where that stability had been off balance.
There have been times where he’s been so unbalanced that I’ve come home to find him unconscious, having taken an overdose of medication, with him requiring time in ICU.
There have been times that he has been unbalanced and flown into a fit of rage, yelling obscenities that he would never utter in times of clarity and wellness.
There have been times where he has punched holes in walls, thrown things, smashed things, put his arm through a plate glass window.
There have been times that he’s prevented me from leaving to a safe place, we both know that in times of instability, I am the only one who can get through to him. I’m the only one that can talk down the ‘voices’, if I had been able to go, or call the Police for help, I have no doubt in my mind that he would be dead. In times of unbalance he challenges me to get the Police involved so he can die, so the Police can take his life, so he can be a ‘victim’ of Suicide by Police. It would end the pain and confused suffering going on in his head.
No one is immune to mental illness. It effects all races, all genders, all socio economic groups, all levels of intelligence. Yet no-one talks about it, they’re too ashamed, too embarrassed.
It should not be something that people suffer in silence, people shouldn’t feel ashamed for needing or wanting help. Help should be easily accessible, it should be obtainable and it should be supportive. It does not have to be tackled in silence.
Thinking back through our relationship, the only times we have had arguments is when he has been unstable. Whether it be during a change in medication, or forgetting his meds. Or a period of high stress or change in sleep routine. All things that can cause the psychosis to gain control. We then work intensively to gain that control back. And we have succeeded every time – so far.
I fully understand Rosie’s reaction toward the man that killed her child, an understanding that I don’t think anyone would comprehend unless they’ve lived with, or loved someone with mental illness.
I understand Rosie’s compassion, the understanding, and in a way, the sense of relief – that her estranged partner can never harm her or be unwell again.
I understand the love for someone that lacks the ability to remain calm, or rational, or sane.
I’ve loved a man suffering like this for nearly 17 years.
RIP Luke Batty.
May your mum find a way to cope without you, I offer her so much love and strength.
And may your dads demons allow him to Rest in peace, now that he has left this world also.
A horrific tragedy that is becoming to familiar.