I can't understand you when you all talk at once
We all assume the worst part of another person's recovery is the most dramatic. Tales of being fed and dressed by a carer. Being so thin your body is covered in bruises where your bones meet mattress. Possibly the hour at the age of 26 that changed your life. The 60 minutes that started with you sitting on a train but ended as you lay dying on your bathroom floor.
There are too many people in this room-there cannot be enough air for us all to breathe
I'll tell you a secret though; if you're hearing about it? It's not the worst part. The worst part is always the bit you can't revisit. Not for years. Just in case you remember. Just in case it happens again.
Please stop staring at me
In 2009 I was at the point where I could walk. Sometimes. And stand. Sometimes. I'd moved hundreds of miles from home and taken the first job I'd had in years. And I coped. Sometimes. Nobody knew anything about my background. To them I was just a socially awkward girl who was terrible with adults but good with kids. A few suspected I was mildly autistic.
I'm nodding and smiling and making all the right noises in response to you but I can't keep this up for much longer. I need you to leave right now pleasegopleaseleavepleaserightnowjustleavemealone
To simultaneously want to be around people. To crave being included, but be so bad at it is devastating. To dream about being back in the world for so long, yet be totally unequipped to cope with it is indescribable really. That was the first time I really understood that people do die of loneliness. People do need other people. It's how we are built.
I can't live like this anymore I can't go on. How can I get up and do it all again tomorrow? I haven't even gotten through today yet.
I did get better at it. Slowly I remembered the sequence of the dance I learned so many years ago. Stand. Look someone in the eye. Walk and talk at the same time. But I never forgot. How it felt to be that alone. That hopeless. I moved to London. I got a job in television. I learned how to consistently maintain my body's recovery. The world became more manageable. I never forgot how 2009 felt, but I never talked about it. Just in case it happened again.
How can a person that's almost fixed feel so very broken?
Fast-forward to 2012 and I'm introduced to a wonderful organisation called Kick it Out. This is their 20th year as a charity that works tirelessly to promote ending exclusion in football. At all levels. In every community. A charity dedicated to inclusion. That understood the horror of isolation. It felt like the missing piece of the puzzle to me.
I know you think I'm listening. But I'm counting how many steps there are between me and the nearest exit because the walls are closing in again and I need to get away from you all.
In the year or so that I've been an Ambassador for Kick it Out I've seen them reach out to people of all ages, from incredibly challenging socio-economic backgrounds. I've seen them give hope. Demonstrate constant support behind-the-scenes. Consistently produce incredible results that belie their limited number of staff and resources. Sometimes I'd come along to events and tell a little bit of my own story. Otherwise I'd just stand and watch quietly. Watch them transform people's lives through encouragement and support. Kick it Out knew. They got it. That people need people. That inclusion is what matters more than anything else in the world.
We spend so time time looking for one person who will love us. Who will be the medicine for our pain. Who will make up for all of the dark, scary shadows of our past.
It's a big ask.
What if instead we looked for ways to always feel included. Always feel part of something bigger than ourselves. What if we actually built a life in Recovery based solely on how we felt about other people, rather than how they felt about us? Because that sort of loves never goes away. Never lets us down. Consistently keeps us company.
Then we are never alone.
And to be honest I could live the rest of my life without ever being loved by one person again. But if I ever stop loving people back?
Then I'm done.
So. That's why Kick it Out is my Valentine...maybe next year they can be yours too...