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Six Years Later: Annual check-in with my Mental Health issues

Six Years. 

In the year of social distancing, venue closures and quarantine measures, I’ve tried to avoid the lamentation of missed annual events, supporting others who have found the special dates the hardest to cope with. When people are sad that there will be no birthday or anniversary celebratory get-together, I remind them that the key part is that we make the following year’s. And the one after that. And as many as we can. We can sacrifice one to make the rest.

With this, dates in 2020 have mostly passed unnoticed or forgotten. Except one,

Six years.

I never forget July 3rd. It isn’t a date for celebration or for family gatherings. It is a day of reflection; for me to pause and gather my thoughts on another 12 month cycle and any hint of progression. Six years – but it could be any number. It feels as though it could have been a longer time ago, yet equally it could have been just last year.

Six years since I stopped fighting, like the hens we lose when their broken bodies can’t pass eggs safely anymore. They fight for days and days until the moment that there is no fight left.

Six years since I felt fully prepared to leave everything behind, since I made every preparation possible to slip from reality as seamlessly as possible, with nobody needing to feel guilt or shame.

Six years since my redemption arc began and the story should have led me around the globe and to a philosophical discovery to be worthy of a best-selling contemptuous self-help book. Something cynical with quotations that can be crocheted into a fireplace frame or shared as a motivational Instagram meme so that people who have never needed to edit a damn thing in their life can erroneously tell you that a book changed theirs. You should read it. You should read that book by that person who recovered from their brief period of grief, because if it was that easy for them, what the hell are you struggling for.

Sadly my book deal never came. Instead, I’ve spent six years trying to find a present away from my past so that I can partake in a future. I have no inspirational quote for you.

When the pandemic hit and the pubs closed, I busied myself by trying to clear out the shed I'd once made into a space for beer. For 18 months it had began to be filled with ancient bibelots turning it into more of a storage area or – God forbid – an actual regular shed.

I had to transform it back into something more. But not too much. I fixed the holes at the back and tried to mend the shelf. I left the spiders though. Whilst hardly my favourite animals, six years of questioning my own mortality at least squashed any mild arachnophobia. They deserve a chance too. 

I'd sit upon a high bar stool, resting on my makeshift bar top. A grown man, alone in a shed. Visitors would come and speak in disbelieving tones. "Where's Mark?" "He's sat in the shed." "He's sat in the shed?" I’d take video calls and Zoom meetings here. "Are you... are you just sat on your own in a shed?"

Questions without reasonable answers. Six years I've been answering them. Six years and still fighting for justification for life. When everything is a question that you struggle to answer, the resolve weakens again. Actions require reason and rhyme that it never becomes more tiresome trying to find. 

Six years. 

Six years of trying to answer the one question that everybody needs to ask. They need the answer to understand. They need to hear the justification to comprehend what would take somebody to that moment. And it can come in any form. But why didn't you sleep well last night? But why are you not coming out? But why are you being grumpy? But why?

But you're alright now, aren't you? 
So I sit alone on a bar stool in a crooked shed, listening to flies struggle in the cobwebs they’ve fatuously fallen upon and watching the birds in the hedgerow opposite that I’ve finally decided to learn the names of, years after the Grandfather I can’t speak to anymore tried to teach me; a Grandfather that may die before I’ve ever mustered the courage to fix one of many broken family relationships.

I sit isolated from a household and miniature family, mostly furry, that I can never fully give myself too in fear that it will all overwhelm me once more and I will break it before it is repaired.

I sit solitary to let those six year old feelings overcome me every now and then. I need moments to feel overwhelmed with forgotten pain. They are buried like a memory capsule, left as an encasement of a moment to be left for years but that could always be uncovered too soon.

Six Years.

Six Years since I gave my mother a hug that Thursday morning. “You are coming home later, aren’t you” were her exact words. And I just smiled; putting on a smirk because no mother, I’m not coming home later. And you’ll get the phone call and then you’ll find the note and I’m so so sorry but I’m not coming home.

But I did.

I came home but was never really there. We didn’t talk about it until some years later, when my growing silence and disengagement nearly broke my closest family bond.

Six years. It comes from a different lifetime and a different person. Yet these are the same bones forming the structure for the same broken mind that couldn't see beyond the following day. That person did die six years ago but their ghost haunts me every single day. 

So I sit in my shed. A cat jumps on my lap and purrs softly for nose rubs. It is my second cat, when i had never owned a single one six years ago, named after a beer that had never been brewed six years ago, in a town I would have never have thought of living in six years ago, looking out over my world that wouldn't have existed had I not gone home that day. 

I'm so so glad that I'm here six years later.


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