It was just over 30 years ago that you turned up, uninvited, at my door.
I’d just had my first child, a strong, healthy boy and at a week old my mum and I took him out for his first stroll.
Having coffee in a regular haunt, I felt your intimidating presence but as we hadn’t been properly introduced yet I wasn’t sure who or what you were.
On our way home, I nipped into a corner shop to grab some milk and heard on the radio the terrible news of the Hillsborough disaster: 15 April 1989.
By the time we got home I was aware you were following me and getting closer. I began to tremble and sweat, and my mum looked increasingly worried as I began to ramble. You had convinced me that Hillsborough was a bad dream and the tragedy was all in my mind. As I entered my flat – the safe haven full of happy memories and hope for the future – you pushed past me and made yourself at home. My nightmare houseguest had arrived and refused to leave for a long time.
You robbed me of the ability to love my son. The cruellest thing that could happen to a new mum. You stole my happiness and the joy of those who loved me. You enjoyed that my being awake was a nightmare. Sleep – when you allowed it – brought the only solace where I dreamt of a life before you.
You are a demon, a ghoul, a vile creature whose sole purpose is to destroy the lives of as many people as possible. But because you’re invisible to most, for a long time no one believed you existed.
You have spent 30 years turning up at will and forcing yourself into my home, my hotel rooms, my workplace. You follow me everywhere, you’re obsessed. My evil invisible stalker.
So many people on whom you have inflicted your presence have given up. Destroyed, battered, weakened. They decided they couldn’t live another day not knowing when you would appear to wreak havoc on their already fragile lives. They didn’t want to die. They wanted the pain you inflicted on them to stop.
I remember the feeling of relief when you left the first time.
It was like a heavy blanket of despair being lifted from on top of me. Feelings of love and hope started to flow in, and a sense of calm allowed me to feel life might be worth living again.
I am so incredibly lucky that I have a family who never doubted you were real and tried to shield me from you as best they could.
I wanted to shout from the roof tops about you. I wanted the world to know about the invisible serial killer that lives amongst us and is the most dangerous of them all.
But 30 years ago I was a lone voice shouting, like a mad woman, into a void.
Women of my grandmother’s generation warned me to keep quiet. No one wanted to talk about you. Rumour had it that my auntie Vera had spoken up and had spent her remaining years in outdated asylums as a result.
I didn’t really care about the consequences. I was so incandescent with rage that you, so cruel and sadistic, could inflict such pain, despair and hopelessness on so many. I made a decision to keep shouting.
I’m still shouting 30 years on, and over the years our army has grown and now we have each other.
We know you’re still there but we aren’t as afraid because we know you will leave.
I’ve learnt that you wait for me to leave my door ajar, so these days I’m ready for you.
I live my life to the full in between your unwelcome visits. You have made me grateful for feeling normal. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to be excited, happy, even ecstatic, but I’ll settle for normal because you stole that from me, and it was hard to get it back.
So, go on, lurk on street corners, hide in bushes, but we know you’re there. We know we can’t defeat you but our greatest power against you is that we are living our lives despite you.
We are winning.
Limited Edition Signed Copies of The Unwelcome Visitor by Denise Welch are available to order online at WHSmith, whilst stock lasts.
Mental Health Support
If you’re worried about your mental health or that someone you love may be struggling with theirs, please seek help immediately. Resources are available from mental health charities such as Mind.org.uk and you can make an appointment with your local GP for advice and support.