Memories of the occasion

This time last year I was on the wane. I had been buoyant up to this point. There was someone I liked and I was bright with her and flirtatious and there was the sense in both of us of much more to come. Then it changed because I changed. With Christmas encroaching I thought of mum, who always took an infectious delight in this time of year. I felt her absence and mixed with the sorrow at her passing I think there was a sense of self-pity at what I had lost. Twelve months on I think there was also another element – fear.

It’s hard to describe the darkness that descends upon you when you’re in that state of mind. My depression at the occasion is explainable, though I hadn’t experienced anything quite as keen in the years preceding. I don’t know if it was a trigger, but contributing to my despair was fear at what was happening with the girl – when you have something to gain you also have something to lose. I became self-conscious as the critical moment came closer, and it just so happened to coincide with the arrival of Christmas.

It was an awful time that had widespread ramifications – some not so good, but some positive.

It virtually kyboshed my opportunity with the girl. That’s not dead altogether but it’s on life support. I felt regret at that for a long time and took responsibility for stuffing it up for her as well as me. I’ve let that go now.

The positive to come out of it may well be a life changer. I emerged from that dark period thinking that everything must change. I realised there was something fundamentally unhealthy in my behaviour. On the surface of things I had escaped the worst of it – I was no longer homeless and unemployed, I had a modest job, a roof over my head, some income. Yet the effects of that bad time when on just beneath the surface. I carried it still, was restless and sometimes angry, I was ashamed, embarrassed and secretive. It was a toxic mix that impacted directly on my behaviour and general state of mind.

I don’t know if I’d have woken up but for that bout of depression. Probably I would have eventually, but better late than never. Coming out of it I understood I had to be more open and honest. I had to let go of the things that were weighing me down. I had to embrace my vulnerability and show it to the world.

It hasn’t been easy and it’s far from complete, but I know it’s been the right decision. I feel freer generally, and having taken the excruciating step of revealing my shameful secrets have discovered it’s not nearly as hard as I feared it would be. I backslide sometimes, sometimes I revert to old habits, and it seems despite this talk of being open and vulnerable I appear to be as formidable as ever. But I have made progress.

This Christmas I don’t know if I will feel the same brooding sorrow as before. I don’t think so. Christmas day for me will be at home with Rigby with a bottle of bubbles and a feast worthy of the occasion – a butterflied chicken, and all the trimmings. I look forward to it. I’ve had other invitations but on this I’m firm. I can have an authentic celebration just the two of us, and when people ask I tell them. I could never have done that before.

For the rest of it, let’s just see how things pan out into next year. As I say every year, next year will be big.

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