The older I get the more I realise that everyone has a cross to bear. Obviously everyone has their ups and downs in life but it becomes more and more apparant to me that very few of us come through life without some fairly hefty psychological scarring along the way.
I consider myself very lucky in this respect. Compared to a lot of people I've come through thusfar with very minor damage. There are some things I've gone through which have been trying and some people that have treated me badly along the way, but nobody I'd bother murdering as a result. (Although if Karma would like to give a couple of them facial herpes that'd be super.)
However, I have friends and loved ones who have been hurt. Not in piffling, frustrating ways, like me, but in profound ways. I have friends who have dealt with illness and injury that have been life-threatening (although thankfully, by a whisker, not fatal). I have friends who have suffered rape. I have friends who have suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse. I have friends who have suffered miscarriages and lost children. I have friends who have attempted suicide.
The moral of this story is not "Don't be friends with Andy Head or you'll end up really fucked up" however. The thing is that more and more, I realise that my friends aren't a particularly unlucky or vulnerable bunch. They are simply and unfortunately, a product of modern society, and far from being unusual, they're actually barely in the minority. I feel priviliged that those of them that have shared their tragedies and problems with me have done, but I remain more and more convinced that none of them are as alone and isolated in their experiences as they believe.
One thing I've found through observing my friends is the amazing depth of character displayed by them all. This sounds like a patronising, cheap and easy soundbite as if I'm saying "Aah, aren't they all brave" but I genuinely mean it in the case of the people I'm talking about. Human nature being what it is, not everyone who goes through major trauma is brave, or deep, or a fighter, but the people I know are. Perhaps this is due to me and the fact that I'm a fairly open book when it comes to the people I do and don't like, and empty vessels and the superficial generally get very little attention from me. Maybe it's just luck or coincidence. I have known people who regularly behave like utter arseholes and answer any criticism of this with the excuse that they were called names at school or their parents got divorced and it made them sad. I don't tend to maintain friendships with these people. This isn't to say that these things cannot have a great effect on you, but knowing other people who've been through the same as them and who haven't turned out as a cunt, or who have been through far worse and yet don't seek excuses in their past to explain their current behaviour, I struggle to connect with the excuse-makers on even a basis of superficial politeness. Maybe that's a failing of mine in that I don't give everyone the respect that they deserve for their feelings. Either way, that's my decision however. I know too many people with genuine stories.
Obviously I'm not going to name names but just to give you an idea of some of these people and what they're like I've got some examples.
1) A woman who was raped and fell pregnant as a result and after making the difficult decision to keep the baby, she then tragically lost it to miscarriage. How the hell do you cope with that? How do you come back from that? The answer is, she copes remarkably well. She has mourned and healed beyond anything I would have thought possible. She has held down jobs, she has maintained a long-term relationship and gone on to be a mother. She has her down days. She suffers depression and there will always be a shadow behind her that will remain forever, but it doesn't define her. It's part of her, but it's not the sum total of her. I'm flabbergasted by my friend. She is an actual hero in my life.
2) A guy who, having thought of himself as being perfectly fine and normal all his life, suddenly got hit full-on by severe depression. His depression, brought on by circumstance, but due to chemical imbalance at it's core, quickly became all-consuming. The problem was that he wasn't comfortable with the modern touchy-feely culture of talking about your issues, or admitting you have a problem. When he had to take time off work the public nature of having to admit to the problem, as well as all the crap that was going on in his life anyway, was too much and he tried to kill himself. Fortunately he was found just in time. His courage was not the obvious kind. His courage was in picking up his life, getting back into work and family life and doing so whilst admitting he had a problem and suffering what was for him, the greatest indignity of people knowing what had happened. Again, he will never be the same again, but rather than fold against his history, he has moved on, one step at a time.
3) A mate who surprised me hugely recently by telling me how he'd suffered severe sexual abuse as a child. He is the last person in the world I would expect to have gone through something like that, let alone be talking about it. This is a guy who is hard as nails, the life and soul of the party and the kind of person that others turn to for help and advice. The events of childhood have cast a shadow over his life however, and come out in ways that aren't immediately obvious until you peel back the layers. He IS the life and soul of the party, but as much as that's who he is, it's also a convenient cover for his problems with drink. The drink is part of a self-destructive pattern he's in which also includes violence and attempted suicide. A lot of this is recent and he's at a low point right now and struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The thing is that I know that Number 3 is as strong as Number 1 and 2. He may not feel it right now, but he is. I hope he reads this and sees that people can go through appalling tragedies and come out the other end. He has a lot of people in his life who love him and care about him, and he has all the honesty and integrity that the first two people have. I don't know the future for him, but he's done well to talk about it and I'm honoured he has trusted me and I'm glad he's taken that step. Hopefully he keeps taking steps in the right direction because he's a lovely bloke and doesn't deserve any of the shit he's been through, not that anyone does.
In some ways I think fate has a way of giving some of the strongest people some of the worst shit to deal with, if only to be an example to the rest of us. Thankfully fate knows I'm a total pussy and has left me alone to all intents and purposes and long may that continue. Numbers 1 and 2 show me the kind of person that make me believe in mankind and it's possibilities. Number 3 isn't there yet, but has everything he needs to come through the present and be an example to others of what it's possible to live through and put behind you. He's a hero waiting to happen.
Thankyou to all the heroes in my life. You have strength that stretches further than you think.