You don't need a degree in fashion to fit in in rehab....Because everyone looks the same in there. Tracksuits and hoodies by day, Pj's and hoodies by night.
We were one huge "blind date from hell" fest. Styled by W*therspoons and the stuff that J*remy Kyles wet dreams are made of.
We all looked rough as rats.
Because you're not out to impress anyone in rehab. Or meet the love of your life.... You're too busy trying to get well. And so for a girl like me who normally won't leave the house unless I'm mascared up to the max, not having to make the effort for a while was liberating.
The first few days I was in there, I did do the works.....habit more than anything. But then I realised that it would be much more productive to grab an extra half an hour in bed every morning, and rock up to morning check-in looking like a garbage pail kid like everyone else, than faff about trying to get my eyeliner straight for a bunch of people who actually didn't give a rats ass what i looked like.
I've always been a 'fixer'... I'm brilliant at it. Which is a shame, because up until now, this amazing ability that I have to pick people up, straighten them out and get them back on track again has seemingly never applied when it's my own problems that need to be dealt with.
The last few years have been ridiculously hard for me. An incredible amount of shit landed in my general direction and it's taken me a long, long time to claw my way out of the absolute madness and mess that that caused me and begin to regain enough confidence to attempt to rebuild.
A friend of mine is writing a book - A compilation of personal accounts centred around the #metoo hashtag.
Because we share this in common, my friend and I. We've both experienced the devastation, but thankfully, years later we've worked our way through it and come out on the other side using our respective coping mechanisms. Mine involved talking to a trusted friend at the time, seeking professional help, and eventually writing about it years later on my blog. My friend however, took a slightly less conventional approach....
We were chatting online. We talked about the book; discussed our own experiences, and I asked her if she had ever had counselling. After a minutes hesitation, her reply was "Not unless you count talking to the fridge"...
It was meant to be a joke, but it gave me a kind of lightbulb moment...which I thought that I might share...
You see, a fridge is designed with a door that can be opened 24 hours a day, meaning that it's always there when you need it. That's kind of handy at 3.00am when your head is going crazy and there's no-one else around...
A fridge can't talk, so it can't "give advice" or interrupt you mid-flow. It can't tell the time or walk away either...meaning that you can talk for England if you need too and it won't be going anywhere until that shit is off your chest. No, a fridges job is to basically chill the wine and keep the chocolate safe for when you've finished off-loading and need consolation...
It's the perfect tool for the job.
Once upon a time there was a lost little girl, whose world was all scary and dark. Her father had died, her mum had hit the bottle and there was no one left to take care of her, so she would sit by herself watching cartoons, or reading her fairytales, and she would dream about the day when she would be big enough to fend for herself in the world and not have to worry about other people all of the time.
But she was shy and unsure and frightened of everything, and so she pretended that she had wings made of steel like her cartoon hero "Batfink" and then anytime she felt scared or alone, or lost or afraid, she imagined those wings of hers wrapping themselves around her, and she wouldn't feel afraid anymore.
And she grew and she grew, and her wings made her invincible, and gave her the confidence to overcome anything that she was unsure of, and people all around her wondered what her secret was...
This is a blog about my mum.
I don't write about her very often. Our relationship is complex and mostly non-existent. Which I hate... but that's how it's always been so now I just get on with it.
As a child, living with my mum was like trying to balance a handgrenade.
On a see-saw.
With no hands.
My little brother perched on one end, me on the other, and my mum the un-exploded bomb in the middle, in all of her unpredicable, chaotic glory rolling around between us, the pin constantly working loose but never quite coming out completely.
The fear of that pin coming out caused me to live my life in a constant state of high alert and high anxiety, which now I mostly manage, but back then was horrendous, because I never knew for sure if my day was going to be a near miss, or a series of expertly timed explosions.
It was excrutiating.
So this is a story about a man.
A funny, intelligent and articulate man who has recently snowballed into my day to day life. Out of the blue. From Nowhere. Completely unexpectedly, and completely unannounced. I'm still attempting to process it all. It's kind of a complicated story. Involving an extremely complicated man.
We crossed paths via social media. He'd followed me on twitter. I checked his profile and clicked onto one of his blogs. And time kind of stopped for me. Literally. As I re-read his words and struggled to take in exactly what this guy was telling me.
Because as I read this blog it was clear that this guy had had a plan. Which didn't involve following me (or anyone else for that matter) on twitter if it had worked. He wouldn't have had time to sit about surfing the internet and making new aquaintences. He would have been way too busy being dead. Which is kind of a full time job once you've comitted to it. And from what I could see he was pretty comitted. Up to his neck in it actually.
Anyway. Long story short.
Despite his well thought out and carefully articulated plan, involving ingesting enough prescription medicine to knock out a small country, washed down with copious amounts of tepid white wine, coupled with the fact that nobody actually knew quite where to find him whilst all of this topping himself on social media business was going on, (which didn't help the emergency services who were at this point frantically attempting to locate him), for some unknown reason, somewhere along the lines that night it didn't quite work out.
Mainly because he found himself very much "Not Dead" . When he woke up very much alive on an acute psychiatric ward. From an induced coma. With tubes going into places that really should only allow for stuff coming out. Along with various other pleasantries that had been carried out in a desperate attempt to save his life.
And that's how the weirdest friendship in the world began. I sent him a message. He messaged me back. The rest is history.
He's bringing out stuff in me that I can't describe.
I feel an incredible protectiveness towards him. We are similar in lots of ways and share the same history. I'm hearing my story but told by a man and from a mans perspective. We are both alive when we didn't actually want or plan to be. And dealing with the implications of that. Our similarities are beyond weird.
We talk every day.
I try and walk the line between keeping him cheerful and making conversation that isn't going to be too overwhelming. There's a lot going on in that head of his right now what with him still being alive and all....
I take the piss a lot. There is no elephant in the room during our conversations. It's how it should be. And I send him stuff. Snapchats. A song from the movie "Suicide Squad". I call it "My cheer up song." It's a private joke. Thankfully, he thought it was funny too when I explained. We share the same dark humour at times.
He has an adopted sunflower.
He didn't get a say in it really. I just gave it to him. It lives in my bathroom where it gets plenty of sun. He gets regular updates and photo's - as though he's signed up for some random charity or other off the TV. "Look Nick - here's "Sunflower" chilling out on my windowsill." ( He doesn't have a name. He's just "Sunflower"), or "Nick, check out Sunflower and his brother in this pic. Your's is kicking ass. He's grown loads"....
Although obviously Sunflower is a metaphor, Sunflower is real. He is growing. Every day I see tiny changes in him. My friend is growing too. He might not always think so but he is.
I've known him no time at all, but I have the greatest respect for this guy and I wish that I could do more to help. I want him to be well. And far away from a psych ward. Being comfortable in his skin. Being happy. But that's not my job to do and not my thing to wish for. It's his. It has to be his.
I don't have a magic wand. I can't just wave something and make him better. It's not that simple. Only he can decide where he goes from here. To a Penthouse or a Park bench. It's a 50/50. It's going to be a long haul. But if this guy is half the guy I think he is, he'll do it. With bells on. He just needs to cut himself some slack.
In the meantime, I'm honoured to know him. It's like I see into his soul. And hopefully my chit chat helps. So for now the songs, the snapchats and the crazy Sunflower photos are staying on the menu. To try to compensate for the terrible hospital food. While he puts himself back together however he sees fit. Until he doesn't need them anymore. Maybe because he'll have his own garden again and can grow his own Sunflowers. No internet intervention necessary.... Or no garden at all. It's up to him. It's his life. And gardens are over-rated anyway.
Basically, what I'm trying to say to this man is this. That the past is the past. It's happened. It's gone. Nothing and no-one can change that. And despite his best laid plans for his life at that point, fate appeared to have a different agenda when the shit hit the fan for him that night. And maybe there's a reason for that.
So he's alive. With a fresh clean slate. If nothing else resonates right now, it's a start.
Also known as a beginning.
But if I did have a wish for this friend of mine, it would be this.....That you would choose to begin Nick.
Mental illness runs in my family.
Addiction and suicide are rife - My fathers side mainly.
I have his hair. And the same blue/grey eyes. I wonder if this counts? That one day this will be enough to tip me over - and I get to join the ranks of all of those who came before me.
They grew up in and out of care, my fathers family...Seven institutionalised adults came churning out of the machine after my nan decided that she didn't much like children after all once they'd arrived. I can only imagine the damage that did to them all...I can't even begin to imagine how that must have felt.