It was bound to happen. If you raise your head far enough above the parapet, there will be some outraged, small-minded wanker hovering there with a Home Bargains bazooka just ready and waiting to shoot you down. And I’ve just caught the back end of some shrapnel.
That this particular Troll may think that I am a self-absorbed, egotistical wanker on some quest for personal glory by virtue of bearing my entire soul in the pages of a book for all to see is their opinion, and they are entitled to it. However, had they taken the time to read my book and even begin to get any sense of the person I am, then they may have reason to question those initial judgements about me. But sadly, whether by sheer laziness, ignorance, or a mixture of both, they have chosen not to.
I haven’t taken a hit at this point. I realise and fully understand that people are people, and for every ten-thousand lovely, kind-hearted empathetic, supportive souls out there, there will always be one amoeba floating about at the bottom of the pond.
But the really painful, upsetting blow comes with an accusation from said Troll that I am somehow ‘cashing in’ on the fact that my old friend, Ness, took her own life. That fills me with a sickening mix of sadness and fury, on so many levels. The fact that I am sitting here, compulsively writing this at 5am after an entirely sleepless night goes some way in explaining the depth of my feelings on this.
You see, dear, ugly Troll, I spent many hours, weeks and months deliberating over whether to even refer to Ness in my story. I consulted with her lovely Mum, and asked for her thoughts. Ness could have remained anonymous. She could have just been ‘A Friend’ who had taken her life. Would that have been more acceptable to you? If she hadn’t been given a name, and remained without identity, would that have met with your approval?
And you throw a further hateful question into the mix. You ask, ‘where was I when it mattered? Where was I back then?’ And – clearly – you haven’t even bothered to read my story, to know that I was nowhere. I wasn’t there, as you quite rightly assert. But – if you’d taken the time to find out or even ask – it was far worse than being nowhere. It was a place I hope you never have to go. Throughout those desolate years, I was hoovered so far up my own backside living a fake life, that I couldn’t see daylight. Inching myself from one day to the next as though crossing stepping stones perched perilously across a gaping crevasse, whilst on a heady cocktail of Prozac and booze to numb the pain. That’s where I was. And I’m sorry for that. If I could have pulled myself back from that place, and been there for Ness, do you think I would have chosen not to? Do you think it was my choice to lose an entire decade of my life to mental health misery, whilst watching other people living life from the distant side-lines? Or are you simply too ignorant to care?
And – FYI – it wasn’t just my friendship with Ness that was impacted throughout that godforsaken time. EVERY relationship was affected. I didn’t go to see my own sister with her two young children in Portsmouth, because I was too entirely satiated with my own sorry little life; I have cousins I don’t know as adults, because a ‘vacant’ sign hung from my window for such a long period of time. I didn’t go to their weddings. I don’t know their children. I walked away from university without one single friend as a direct result of my mental health battles. It was all just too painful to even put into words.
So, you dare to ask me where I was? The pit of hell is where I was.
My friendship with Ness was different to yours. We don’t share the same memories. You weren’t there when she drove us up to Newcastle in her Peugeot 105, with N-Sync blaring out whilst I questioned why the birds would all build nests in one tree and not spread out a little, given that they had the choice. You weren’t there when she drove us the wrong way around a round-a-bout in Newcastle city centre, following our trip to the tattoo shop (mine means special fried rice.) You weren’t with us when we walked through town on our lunch break and a bird shat on her face outside Greggs. You didn’t come on the awkward double dates; and ‘MALCOLM’ socks means nothing to you. You didn’t receive 14 missed calls and 4 voicemails from her when you’d walked out of a temping job, because your anxiety had become too overwhelming. You didn’t drive over to my dad’s in Leeds with her one time for my birthday, when I thought no one cared. Ness did. She cared.
Because I don’t share your memories, as you don’t mine, then does that make mine any less valid?
Let’s talk about grief. My grief is and was different to yours. I didn’t cry the loudest, or go on charity walks. I didn’t join you in your own suffering, and collectively mourn as others did. I vanished back to my own insular prison where I would remain – still on Prozac and booze – for a good few years, whilst all of the shock and the impact hit me in my many quiet, solitary moments. You weren’t to know, and I wouldn’t expect you to. But does that make your grief any greater than mine?
And, I should remind you, that this is my story. It is about my life, and my journey. It isn’t about Ness. I don’t know what caused her to be swept along the tsunami of hopelessness from which she couldn’t return. I have no idea what took her to that place, or how / when / where the monsters began to consume her from the inside out. That isn’t my story to tell, and it isn’t my journey. That Ness played a part in my life for however long, and that I have so many lovely, crazy, happy memories of a beautiful girl I once called my friend, I am honestly grateful. But my story is not the same as hers.
Finally, Troll, I would ask you this. What are you bringing to the party, today? What are you contributing to even begin to help another person to feel less alone, or more supported in this mad old crazy world? What’s your legacy? Is it to stand at your morally defunct gates and guard them with your Home Bargains bazooka? Is that all you’ve got? Because surely you can do better than that. Are you going to be continually outraged when you see other people – other good people – trying to make a shit of a difference? Are you going to continue to judge them, and project your own self-defeating, minimalist standards onto them? Because on that, my friend, we differ. On that, I’m glad we don’t share the same memories of either joy or grief. I’m glad that you didn’t come to Newcastle with Ness in her tin can Peugeot, and that you weren’t there when the bird shat on her face. I’d hate to share those memories with somebody so small minded and ignorant as you.
So, crack on and be outraged by me, ugly Troll. Be appalled that I dare to tell my story, and be disgusted that I am living the happiest life possible, today.
Crawl back into your hole and fire your bazooka.
Hopefully, it will backfire.