final edit blogs
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.
I'm my fathers daughter...apparantly.
I look a bit like him.
Same curly hair, same blue eyes...same, two, matching dimples in my cheeks.
I think like him too it would seem...only that bit's not so great.
Because you see, my dad had "issues", as did the rest of his family.
My nan churned him, his brothers and sisters out in fairly quick succession before deciding that actually, they cramped her style a bit...so off they all popped into care for a while, while she went off to bingo, dated the man from the bookies and laid on the chaise lounge for months drinking her sherry.
Anyway, long story short, the kids came back, completely ravaged and traumatised, my nan still didn't like them, and simply watched disinterested, as one by one, they became mental ticking time bombs, as they tried desperately to figure out what they had done that was so wrong that they had to be sent away in the first place.
Not one of them saw 50.
My dad was 38.
I didn't meet my uncles; They died when I was a kid. John drank, fought, womanised and gambled his life away on the streets of London, and my uncle Bill killed himself in the bathroom after discovering that his wife had been having an affair; One rejection too many I'm guessing.
But it was my late Aunty Sheila who really got under my skin.
She died alone in a basement flat in London many moons ago. No-one reported her missing. The flies on the window the only giveaway that something was amiss inside.
She used to come to our house when my brother and I were kids.
We'd all try and hide from her.
We were embarrased, ashamed... Unsure what to do with her, and so we did what everyone else did back then...we ridiculed and ignored her. Couldn't wait for her to leave...on the rare occasions my mum let her into the house in the first place.
She used to wear a brown fur coat, my aunty. Her shoes were too big. If she had any on at all. Her hair would be matted and her glasses were cracked. Her nails were long and dirty, and back then I thought that she looked like a witch but then I was only 5.
I used to hide from her behind the sofa, well either there or in the pantry. She scared the living shit out of me.
And then I became her...
It took a while, granted. It didn't happen overnight. I didn't just wake up one morning wearing dirty clothes, with matted hair and dirt under my nails - I morphed into her gradually. It took a good six months I would say to fully become her after my mental health took a nosedive and went and hit the skids.
And then it was me that people talked about and ridiculed.
Me, that people pointed at, or crossed the street to avoid.
Not my Aunty Sheila.
And I went to Button moon for a while, while the world went on around me, and the demons in my head declared an open house and a free-for all, with drinking round the clock...and I got thinner, madder and dirtier with every day that passed as I tried to keep up with it all.
Days passed and button moon got crowded. People came for the free drinks and a day at the zoo. They wanted to see the main attraction - which of course was me...I just didn't know that then. And they would buy me drinks and they would laugh at my clothes and my tangled, matted hair and they would point and they'd whisper and say "Look at the state of that" ...and then they would laugh as I'd fall over, and snigger as I would drink myself unconcious and they would go back to their non-fucked up lives and their perfect homes and everything would be just peachy for them whilst me and everyone else who was like me just slept where we fell on the cold-hard floor of groundhog day, praying that no-one would piss on us in the night.
And then I got well again...
And I left Button Moon and the madness behind and I hid myself away for a while while I tried to make sense of it all, and when finally, it did make some sense, I picked up my phone and I wrote about it...
And now I write about that time, and the madness, the shame and the stigma... the sheer bloody loneliness, and the terror that you feel when there is something wrong with your head but you don't know how to fix it and no-one wants to know you, and you are so lost and lonely and sick of people picking the very meat off your bones that you just want to curl up and die...
I look back now with massive hindsight and realise that my late Aunty Sheila was no more scary than I am. She was struggling and she was ill. There's a massive difference. But people talked about her because she was different. She didn't look right. Her clothes were dirty and her shoes were too big...
Well I've walked in her shoes - they don't fit me either...
But I learned an absolute shitload about peoples perceptions while I was wearing them...