The Diana anniversary stuff interests me in an entirely personal as well as a wider cultural sense as it reminds me that twenty years ago I was in the cusp of a huge emotional and mental breakdown which was to transform my whole life.
My behaviour became more erratic and less concerned with self-care as autumn faded into winter. By the spring of 1998 I was hospitalised to minimise the risk of me attempting to take my own life again. I don’t think days have ever been so dark or my hopes for the future so bleak. Even now, as my health closes in on me, I am more capable of counting blessings and finding reasons to face my days.
Back then my relationship with my son’s mother had staggered to its inevitable end bringing with it powerful fears that my connection with him would be lost just as my relationship with my daughter had already been ruined by my failings and idiosyncrasies. While I’ve never found a way to make amends and rebuild things with my lost daughter I have at least managed to stay in my son’s life and watch him grow into the intelligent, compassionate and enriching soul he is.
Therapy, in the aftermath of my breakdown two decades ago, led to a complete change of life and ten years of glorious immersion in academia. Another ten years on and my greatest recent regret is the way that my health destroyed my hopes of forging a genuinely meaningful career out of my studies. As I had to remind myself the other day, however, in the time since I have not let my health prevent me from travelling further afield than I’ve ever done before, publishing my debut novel plus several collections of short stories and poetry, recording and releasing two albums, reconnecting with friends I’d lost touch with long before my breakdown. Why I even found time for a pointless short-lived marriage and, more importantly, to ditch some of the more toxic friendships from my world.
I’m not the same man I was twenty years ago. I’m recognisable enough to those who have not seen me in that time but I am less sociable yet more truly compassionate to those who remain within my social circle. All we have is love to light a candle against the eternal dark and if self-love is not the beginning point of the love we then nurture and spread out into our world then we will not shine quite so brightly as we might. I’m not sure I’ll be here in another twenty years; if by some miracle I am I hope I still seek to embody such simple truth.