This time last year, the name Romechia Simms was relatively unknown — that is, beyond her family, her friends, her bosses, and colleagues. But nationally, she was invisible.
By May 23, that would all change. Most Americans would learn who she was — or at the very least, what her story was — as soon as they opened their morning paper.
That’s because on May 22, Romechia Simms was found in a Maryland park, pushing the body of her dead son on a swing. He had been dead for hours, having died from hypothermia as she pushed him through the night. Less than 24 hours later, her story was shared by news outlets across the country, and the world. Less than 24 hours later, her name was known. And while many were understandably outraged by this tragedy — with many calling for her persecution, her imprisonment, and even her death — many more found themselves wondering about Simms herself, the state of her life, and the state of her mental well-being.
How could this happen? we all collectively wondered. How could a mother let her child die, right before her eyes, and not rush for help?
And it seems those concerns weren’t for naught: In September, Simms was charged with manslaughter, child abuse and neglect of a minor. However, in February a judge cleared of all charges because she suffers from the mental illness schizophrenia. But that doesn’t make things better or easier for Simms. As the mother shared with The Washington Post last week, she scarcely remembers “the incident” — other than to say that voices kept telling her that help was on the way, and to keep pushing — but her actions will haunt her forever.
“I still feel him,” she told the Post. “Some days are worse than others … I just try to keep family and friends around me that love me and support me. But there are times I feel really down and depressed. I think it’s going to be that way for a while.”
And while medication, ongoing therapy, and Simms’ family are all helping her cope, she still cannot bring herself to get rid of her son’s clothes or toys, and she “will never get over losing [her] son.”
“Sometimes I find myself doing weird things,” she continues. “Like I will grab his socks and just hold onto his socks. Or I will grab one of his toy balls and hold onto his ball — anything that helps me to feel close — that I know was his.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), schizophrenia is long-term and severe mental illness which affects every aspect of how a person thinks, feels, or behaves. (For example, schizophrenics can suffer from a wide range of symptoms including difficulty focusing or speaking, having grand delusions, hallucinations, or completely losing touch with reality all together.) And while I personally know very little about schizophrenia, I do know a thing or two about mental illness: I was diagnosed with depression in 2000 and suffered severe postpartum depression months after the birth of my daughter.
And so, as I read her story one year later, my heart breaks for her.
I empathize with Simms; I genuinely and wholeheartedly feel for her. Because that could have been me. If I failed to treat my postpartum depression, that may have been me. I too was despondent. I was hopeless. And I had a vision: a vision of smothering – and killing — my daughter.
The difference between us was that my medication helped. My medication worked.
The difference between us was that I was lucky.
Plain and simple, I was lucky.
Simms will remain free from prison as long as her mental illness monitored by state psychologists; as long as she continues to submit to blood tests — to verify that she is taking her medication — and as long as she agrees to avoid any and all unsupervised contact with children.
However, I’m sure that she sees herself as far from free. I’m sure she will forever be imprisoned by her own thoughts, her own actions, and a life without her son, Ji’Aire.More On