I got a job working for a large corporation, although it was initially just because I was working for a temping agency but I was very quickly running some critical processes. I stayed at the company for nearly 20 years, survived many problems with corporate life, going from the days of opulence, huge expensive Christmas parties, with sales people snorting cocaine in the toilets, teams days in country manors, to failed systems upgrades costing the company about a million pounds a day, leading to multiple rounds of redundancies, constant restructuring, and a revolving door of Directors.
Around the turn of the century, I became heavily involved in anti racism, mostly online, opposing and exposing racists and fascists in various forms. I learnt how to collect data on them, analyse it, spy on their private messages, and even uncover people working undercover with anti fascist organisations. I spent a lot of time around serious Neo Nazis who would pick apart. I learnt their ways, how to counter their arguments. I receive death threats from people who I knew, knew where I lived. This damaged me, and after about 8 years, I quit.
Back in June 2018 I was in full time employment but spending a couple of hours a week in group therapy at the Complex Needs Service in Oxford. I had no official diagnosis because I decided, on the advice of a Doctor, to keep any specific mental health diagnosis off my medical record, firstly because of the stigma around mental health problems but also because it felt wise to wait until I’d got further into my therapy, in order to make a more healthy decision. At that point I felt fairly certain that my main diagnosis would be for Borderline Personality Disorder (alternatively known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder), I had completed the relevant questionnaire (DSM IV) at least twice and examined the main traits of BPD, I felt I had all of them to a problematic degree.
In about 2016, I finally managed to be referred to an appropriate local mental health service and began a few years of mostly very intensive therapy. I did Mentalisation Based Therapy, Emotional Skills Group therapy, focusing on emotions, unhealthy thinking habits, grounding techniques. Then in 2018, I was accepted into a Therapeutic Community for 15 hours a week, along with up to 17 other people with personality disorder traits, trauma and various serious problems. There were several therapists in the group, plus a psychiatrist but this was not a traditional clinical setting. There were very clear boundaries in how the group worked, disclosure had to be kept within the group. Jobs such as cooking and shopping, were shared and rotated. There were weekly psychological education slots, where we would learn about things like Transactional Analysis, communication styles. Drama triangles and so forth. Largely though, it was about relationships, with others and ourselves. It involved understanding my unhealthy defences, stripping them away, being challenged by everyone, exposed to my vulnerability, for 18 months.
I had done 10 weeks of Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) and was about 10 months into the Emotional Skills Group (ESG). One of the possible places to go on to after ESG, is what is known as a Therapeutic Community (TC). The TC takes place in the same building as ESG and 2 members of the TC take part in the ESG group each week but as co-facilitators (along with staff members such as the therapists and a psychiatrist), so I was familiar with the concepts of the TC and some of its members. I had gained a lot from being in group therapy but I realised that my journey wasn’t over, actually in many ways, it had just begun. So I decided I would apply to join the Therapeutic Community. I knew joining the TC would be a big commitment, it’d be hard work but despite the preparation beforehand, I wasn’t prepared for just how hard it would be. I thought I might even be able to continue working part time whilst putting in 15 hours a week in an NHS mental health facility along with up 17 other people with personality disorders, who had suffered trauma. Part of me felt ashamed of the idea of not working but letting go of that later, proved to be a useful relief, to be able to get on with fixing myself without the anxiety around work. Initially I also thought I could get away with only doing 10 – 12 months in the TC instead of the full 18 months, partly because I knew that after 12 months, my employer would cease to pay me, I’d have no income and I’d be living off my savings, that idea also fell by the wayside quickly. I had timed things very accurately and close to time limits, done my afternoon and full week visits to the TC so that I would be in the best place to make up my mind. So I applied to do the “Joining Case Conference” for the Therapeutic Community
My ‘joining case conference’
My case conference was on a Tuesday morning at 9.30 am, about a week after I had booked it whilst still in the Emotional Skills Group. I was met in the foyer of the building by 2 TC ‘members’ who were acting as hosts that day and was welcomed into the building which I was already somewhat familiar with anyway. After hanging out in the kitchen and garden for a while with the TC members, we all went into the main large group room for the Opening Meeting at 9.15 am. All the TC members (including 3 therapists, a psychiatrist and 1 or 2 students) sat as usual in a big circle of chairs. There was 15 minutes of TC business, which as usual only TC members could speak in and then came my time.
I had prepared some text about myself, based on guidelines from the TC, which I read out in the allotted 10 minutes. There was a little bit about my history and problems at that time and I’d already got used to the idea that there’s not enough time to cover everything. I wasn’t on any medication so nothing to talk about there. I spoke about what I thought I could bring to the community and what I thought I might find challenging about being a member of the TC. I felt reasonably confident because I had been a reliable member of ESG, I was prepared to commit the time required of me.
I am a very creative person. Since about the age of 5 or 6, I have taught myself to play various instruments. I started with drums, then keyboard from about the age of 7. When I was a teenager I took up playing bass guitar, which became my main instrument for many years. I have played in a large number of bands and played many gigs, mostly in smallish venues. I never got anywhere particularly significant, but that’s ok. In 2010 the band I was in at the time, Spiral 25, finished. I decided to start my own project, I teamed up with a friend called Nell, and we became a duo called The Neon Violets. We had no guitarists, and no singer, Nell played the drums, I played bass, and decided to do the vocals myself. Later, Nell left, the band became a three piece, with guitars added. There were a few different line ups and we did reasonably well but I was feeling quite jaded, finding it difficult with the heavier sound, and struggled to complete any recordings because of what I now realise was gender dysphoria with my voice. So I formed another band, deliberately based on a Doorsy 1960s sound, but I probably struggled even more with my voice as it was even more male sounding than before. I always enjoyed singing, but listening back could feel unbearable.
The two bands existed alongside each other for a while, until The Neon Violets finally ended.
In 2016 I started My solo project, Fire Healer. There were many reasons for this, including that I wanted to be able to do music without relying on others, and have a setup that was quite portable, so I could Travel me play virtually anywhere. That has remained my solo music outlet, since.
There was a very big difference between my parents. My mum was genuinely caring and loved me. My dad was probably only really in love with himself. He sailed very close to the wind with affairs, risked our family and my security, to feed his ego.
Things got too difficult in our home town, my dad got a job as a prison officer down south, so we moved away to go and live on an estate next to the prison he worked at.
Things got worse, and when I was 7 years old, my parents finally divorced and my mum took me to go and live in Oxford, where I have been ever since.
We lived in shared housing at first, not a healthy environment. This included a heroin addict getting into my bed when I was about 9 years old. Later my mum got a council house, when we lived with my mum’s boyfriend, who I was afraid of and had no good relationship with, and my younger brother.
My dad married the singer of the band he was in, an alcoholic ex drug addict who had several previous marriages and had been treated very badly, she was really a very nice person, but quite messed up. During a gig at a local community centre she got drunk, got in my dad’s van, and literally drove through the doors of the community centre, My dad moved in with her without even asking, and I saw them on Sundays when we would go to a string of different churches, sometimes I would stay over, sleep the night on the sofa downstairs while they argued. We went on holiday to Ibiza once, where I first got very drunk on rum and coke and champagne, which my Dad thought was funny. I was 12 at the time, My dad punched my stepmum on holiday, and gave her a black eye during a row. They finally split up after 7 years of this, I saw her one last time in the car, she was driven off and I never saw her again.
My Dad was in the prison service for about 30 years, working in a Therapeutic Community. He became the prison counsellor for the child killer, Myra Hindley, and was frequently in the media, perhaps most notoriously for taking my 6 year old stepsister into prison to walk hand in hand with Myra and her lover. It sometimes feels like he had more of a connection with serial killers, rapists and paedophiles than he did me, and sadly that may be the truth of the matter.
At 17 my Dad arranged for me to visit his prison. I had spent some time with him on gate duty, but I’d never been inside the prison itself. So, I became the youngest person to be officially allowed to visit the inside of an adult prison, in the UK, where a talked to prisoners in their cells and had a tour of the wings. I think I was offered to go and visit Myra but turned it down.
I really enjoyed The Mandalorian, it’s a very well made production, actually, I think I prefer it to the Star Wars films (don’t shoot me, unless you’re a Storm Trooper, in which case, fire away, you’ll never hit me anyway!). I think there’s still a long way to go, but it was great to see a strong woman character in a prominent role, the character of Cara Dune, played by Gina Carano.
There’s been a bit of a dilemma I’ve considered for many years now, which is around separating the art, from the artist. For the most part, I can still enjoy, for example, certain pieces of music, written or performed by people who have expressed opinions or done things that I don’t agree with, or even that I’m fundamentally against. Although I can still enjoy what someone does, without agreeing with what they say or do, I think it’d be fair to say, that it does change my relationship with the art. It may be, that my enjoyment is interrupted by my thoughts and feelings associated with the artist, at worst, those feelings could be bad enough, to make me not want to have anything to do with the art anymore.
Around the time of the end of the second season of The Mandalorian, I became more aware of Gina Carano, and sadly, I was disappointed in what I was hearing. It seems some of Gina’s comments, mainly on social media, had a strong emotional effect on some people. I hadn’t really looked into them in depth, the gist of it was that Gina is quite conservative, there were accusations eluding to her being the kind of person who has strong views, possibly against people having to wear masks during the Covid Pandemic. I think the thing that caught my eye, was that something she’d written, or done, was considered by some, to be transphobia. It seemed fairly straight forward. From what I understand, Gina felt she was being pressurised into putting her gender pronouns on her social media profile. I think people, even cis gender people, making their pronouns known, is a good thing, it helps those of us who are non-binary, or transgender and so forth, feel more accepted. However, I think it’s up to individuals if they wish to show their pronouns, and certainly, I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to feel like they are being pressurised into it. I don’t know the details of what happened, Gina’s feelings are important, so are the feelings of those who feel marginalised.
There are differences of opinion, but all opinions are valid, whether I agree with them or not. Someone holding an opinion that I disagree with, is not a problem in itself, people have a right to freedom of thought. People have a right to freedom of expression too, but one of the problems I see increasingly, that goes along with the notion of freedom of expression, is the way some people, seem to act on those opinions, as if they are entitled to use their freedom of expression, without considering the consequences.
For me, I think consequences of freedom of expression, is mainly about relationships, how we relate to each other. Perhaps every set of interactions we have with another person, or people, is a relationship. I think that the healthier our interactions are with each other, the healthier those relationships are. The healthier the relationship, the better the connection, regardless of differences of opinion. A better connection, means greater empathy with each other, and empathy, I think, is crucial to resolving conflict.
Having empathy for someone, doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with someone. I see empathy as a skill, it can be learnt, it can be switched on, or switched off. I think people in general, perhaps more so in modern society, switch empathy off, often. I think this happens in part to protect ourselves from our own feelings, because sometimes, having empathy for someone else, can result in exposing our own feelings about ourselves and the world around us, this can be painful. Maybe it’s not just empathy though, compassion, having it, and showing it, is important.
There are things that perhaps we all do sometimes, which helps to switch off our empathy and compassion, ultimately, to protect ourselves, even to make it easier to use offence, as a defense. If we switch off empathy in a situation of conflict, it can make it seem easier, emotionally, to fight back against a perceived threat.
One ‘tool’ some people use, to switch off empathy and compassion, is humour. In particular, humour that could be perceived as passive aggression. This leads me back to Gina Carano. It may be, that there were people who felt attacked by something that Gina had written in response to a suggestion around displaying her pronouns. I’m not commenting on whether or not anyone was actually attacked, more the perception. Perhaps people who were interacting with her, had switched off empathy, assumed she was inherently ‘wrong’. What I think I do know though, is that Gina Carano’s response, was to display joke pronouns on her profile. Obviously, with something like that, there’s no explicit reason given for it, but I think Gina herself said it was just humour, in relation to feeling pressurised into displaying her pronouns. I am not so sure it was just humour though, sure it was funny, but I doubt the intention behind it, was simply to make people laugh. Instead, I suspect, this seemingly small act, this piece of humour, was passive aggression, directed at those who she felt were pressurising her. I could of course, shrug it off, on its own, it’s not a big deal.
I think often, particularly in social media arguments, there’s a kind of contextual isolation that happens, probably as a form of defense. What I often think I see, are people isolating comments, quotes, from wider context. A piece of writing by someone, can be broken down, even sentence by sentence, and then in doing so, a single sentence can be pointed at, fixated on. By isolating only part of the argument, that part of the argument, may seem harmless on it’s own. The statement might be a truth. Then some people might apply a fallacy to this, which is that because this one piece of writing is true, or just seemingly harmless, it in someway invalidates the arguments of others, and in turn this can diminish the feelings of others, who see the wider context.
In the case of Gina Carano, it may have been a small piece of passive aggression, manifested in humour. This can be pointed out, and people can be told “look, it was just a joke, it’s harmless”. Maybe Gina felt overwhelmed, angry (this is not wrong, it just is), and she simply reacted in a way that she’s learnt to react. If that’s the case, at the point at which she did what she did, she probably had empathy and compassion, switched off, she may even have known this, and felt justified, because she felt under attack. Was it a healthy thing to do though? I think probably not. Who wants conflict? In the heat of the moment, a quip, a piece of passive aggression, can be the go to thing, it’s easy to do, and we might tell ourselves “I don’t give a shit what they think”. What’s the most likely result though? If Gina had paused for a moment, grounded her feelings, she may have still thought that she has a right to freedom to expression, and indeed, she has, but what about the consequences of exercising it? Even if she still concluded that she doesn’t care about the people the passive aggression might be aimed at, would it still be a healthy thing to do? I think not, and the reason I think that, is because it probably wouldn’t be exercising self care. It might make her feel ‘good’ for a while, ha, she sure showed those idiots, but it was never likely to resolve the conflict, in an unwinnable fight. She threw a punch, maybe a good punch, but one that had the effect of getting punched back even more, because the result of her seemingly harmless bit of humour, was that she was perceived as being transphobic.
Ah, but, of course! Gina wasn’t responsible for what happened next, right? She was just exercising her freedom of expression, that’s more important than anything else? It was justified? She was under attack. If people respond badly to a bit of humour, that’s their problem?
Gina thinks she’s being punched, she punches back, she’s a better fighter, she has to win. Except this is not a fist fight, and it’s probably not a fight that is winnable. It’s a conflict of opinions, in a relationship, between strangers, with little or no connection, no empathy, no compassion for each other. The conflict is probably unwinnable, simply because its a conflict of opinions, either side could declare themselves the winner at any point, but the fighters will either just get fed up, and walk away with a false sense of achievement, or feeling like it was utterly pointless, or it’ll just keep going with no end. Really, perhaps the goal here is not for a side to win, but for both sides to find a way, to stop punching each other, and effectively hurting each other. It probably needs to be up to the individuals involved, to change what they are doing, rather than expecting the other side to change, or trying to force them to change. This may mean, that one or both sides, might have to do something that they might feel, is making a concession, or even showing weakness. It might even be, in my fight analogy, that someone has to in effect, drop their guard, and just allow the other side to throw their punches. This is fine though, because, it’s not a real fight, no-one is getting physically hurt.
In the case of Gina Carano vs The Pronoun Warriors, perhaps Gina was driven to punch back, because she though she had a right to. She also had a right to choose not to fight back though. Then again, I suspect fighting isn’t all about hitting your opponent until they fall over, anyway.
Gina could have just walked away, but then, I suspect, that didn’t seem like an option, maybe because she was stuck in the fight, not seeing that it wasn’t a real one, one that is truly winnable, with structure and rules that are set out beforehand, and maybe because she felt she was justified in using her freedom of expression, however she wanted to, regardless of consequences. Unless you really enjoy the thought of potentially spending months or even years, stuck in an annoying, unwinnable situation, continuing with the same tactic, doesn’t seem appropriate. Maybe it’s not a case of enjoying it, maybe the fight is a distraction. When we’re fighting, we’re focused on the fight, not on other stuff, such as messy, painful feelings, perhaps about other things that are going on or have happened in our lives. So in that respect, it’s potentially a form of avoidance behaviour. You probably can’t avoid yourself forever though, and the older you get, the more you fight, and the less you’re dealing with things that are more important. As time goes by, it can be more and more difficult, to get out of the fight, and most of the time, you’re probably fighting yourself.
There may have been another option. Being assertive. It’s okay to be annoyed, or angry. Gina may well have been justified in feeling whatever it is she felt. If the subject causing these feelings, is important enough, it may not be healthy to be passive about it (although, there may be a better outlet for feelings about it). If we’re passive, emotions such as anger can manifest themselves somewhere else, unhealthily. Passive aggression is one way in which normally being passive, or feeling like you don’t have a voice, manifests itself. My point, so far, has been that I don’t think passive aggression is a good way of getting yourself heard, respected, or your beliefs accepted. Instead, it’s likely to push people further away, and to push someone further away from themselves.
Assertive Communication, involves communicating your thoughts and feelings, in a way that is empowering for you, and respects the opinions of others, even if you disagree with them. All opinions are considered valid, there’s no right or wrong opinion, these are opinions, thoughts, feelings, ideas. We may disagree intensely with someone else’s opinion, their opinion might even seem abhorrent to us, but it’s still a opinion that is valid. Crucially perhaps, whilst being passive may not be a good option, being aggressive, in a situation where there’s no physical threat in particular, is also generally not a good option either. Probably immediately, the most important thing to do is to walk away, or just pause. Clear your head, then be aware of your emotions, but bring them down to a level where they are not in control of your actions. If you then wish to continue to make your point, the best option, is could be to do so assertively. That can be hard, because it means you’ve got to change the way you do things, which probably means accepting that you can’t make other people change, at least not directly, through aggressive communication. Once you’ve let go of the unhealthy defenses, and of the overwhelming emotions, you are free. Once you are free, you may start to be more aware of yourself, as a whole, also more aware of those around you, including those who may be trying to fight you still. Things that people say or do, can still hurt, be aware of the pain, consider why you’re feeling it. Is the pain really a direct result of the immediate situation, or might it be a manifestation of something that has happened in your life before? If it is the latter, then remind yourself that you are not there anymore, you are safe. You have your freedom of expression still, but you are also now in control, you can choose how you use that freedom to get the healthiest result. Understanding that perhaps your perceived opponent, although you disagree with them, may actually have plenty in common with you, they may be stuck in the same place you were stuck in. Listening is very useful. What you may find then, is that things that seemed like a personal attack on you previously, actually weren’t really about you. Asking questions can be good, it can not only reveal useful information, but it can also cause the other person to slow down, and think. By being interested in the other person’s opinion, even if you think you don’t agree with it, it can have the effect of the other person, feeling valid. It’s possible that what they say may irritate you, but the content of what they are saying, is only part of the importance of it. From here, it’s possible that dialogue begins, and from that dialogue, both sides, can connect, particularly if you guide the conversation more toward things you might have in common.
After a while, it’s just possible, that what seemed like an endless fight to the death, becomes two people, or more, having a conversation. The conversation can still be feature a disagreement of opinion, it may still never on the whole, be resolved with all people in agreement (it might though!) but importantly, it won’t be so distressing, it’ll be on more common ground, understanding, and can lead to peace.
This one should probably come with a Trigger Warning. It features abuse. Not very graphic, it’s about someone I once knew, a long time ago, but if you’re in a particularly sensitive state in relation to stuff like that, then maybe now is not the time to read it, so it may be best not to read on.
I think it was my first week as a member of a Therapeutic Community and perhaps as a baptism of fire, in the weekly psychological education slot, we were covering sexual abuse.
So there I was, about 44 at the time, sat in a group of about 17 people mostly with trauma, watching a therapist write some words on a white board. These words, were the definitions of sexual abuse. Aside from the subject matter being understandably anxiety provoking anyway, as I read the words, a wave of severe anxiety, almost panic, rose up from within me.
The specific wording, I cannot remember, but what read was something like “You don’t have to have been physically abused, for it to be sexual abuse”. I felt very ill and started to wrestle with myself over this, minimising my own feelings, comparing them to others, but this was a point of very profound realisation for me, which right now, sitting here writing this without my support network, I struggle to put into words but what I realised was, that by this definition, I had been sexually abused.
When I was 17, I a girlfriend who introduced me to a man called Leon. Leon was, I think at the time, a 41 year old, self proclaimed ‘old’ hippy, who lived on his own, he sold drugs (cannabis), and had fairly regular visitors, like me, and even some who were younger than me.
I was by this time, used to hanging out with older people, I was very immature, quite socially awkward, I had mental health problems, along with alcohol and substance abuse. Like many teenagers, I thought I was wiser than I really was and my personal boundaries were very poor, almost non existent at times. I was also still in the midst of discovering my sexuality, starting to accept that I was bisexual, at least internally. Also I was discovering my gender, but gender simply meant biological sex at the time, I had no good language to realise what my gender really was, it was mixed up with my sexuality, and I think, looking back, that I not only projected myself as a young girl, but I was treated in a similar way to other girls.
I was much more introverted in those days, hiding behind my long hair, still a child really, with so much anxiety, I felt paranoid a lot, but I have come to realise that mostly I think it wasn’t paranoia, it was my intuition. My self esteem was so low that I didn’t trust my intuition, or at least listen to it, and I didn’t really have the language to describe my feelings, or anyone I felt comfortable with talking about them.
I became friends with Leon (or so I thought). He was full of anecdotes about living in London in the late 60s and 70s, how people were very free with themselves, having sex in the park, being around famous musicians, taking drugs and that whole seemingly liberated lifestyle.
I started to look forward to going round to visit Leon. I felt noticed, wanted. I would go round, sit on the chair at the end of his bed, he always sat on his bed. We listened to his record collection, smoked, drank lots of tea, he might even make me food, so I kind of felt looked after, I felt special for a change.
Mostly Leon dominated the conversation, actually not just the conversation, but he dominated me. He sometimes made seemingly nice comments about me, I think he may have complimented me on who I was, but actually I am not sure, because what I do remember are comments on my appearance, for example, him telling me I had that cute strip of hair on my stomach below my belly button (while waving a finger towards it, pretty close to me).
‘Compliments’ on my appearance, weren’t the only comments he made though. Leon frequently showed annoyance, or even anger toward me, perhaps for turning up late, not doing some small thing, making me feel like I’d let him down. He started to pass comment on my friends, telling me that they were no good. Generally he built the relationship up to be an older man, acting ‘parental’, teaching me his way of thinking. He was person of rigid routine, and order, in control.
Sometimes mutual, young friends would also come round. There were even a couple of ‘group massage’ sessions.
The cat was very much out of the bag (and among the pigeons) when he offered my free drugs in return for him giving me a blowjob. I just froze, sat that dumb. I think he attempted to protest a bit, then fortunately shut up about it.
There were incidents with other young people as well. I turned up and knocked on his door one day, and a stranger answered the door, a young boy, younger than me, maybe only just a teenager, answered the door. “I don’t know what to do, Leon is having a fit on his bed”. So, Leon was epileptic, he made sure I knew it, and what to do if he had a fit, move objects out of the way, make sure he couldn’t harm himself, and just wait for it to pass. He did however, also make comments about him being a good fuck by sitting on his cock while he had a fit. We went upstairs to his room, and there he was, on the bed, seemingly having a fit. However, I’m pretty sure, I heard the words “fuck me” come out of his mouth. The boy looked pretty shook up, the fit ended, everything returned to normal. I never saw the boy again.
Clearly by this point I knew what was happening, and that’s where my feelings of shame took over. I knew it, but felt out of control, and I started to consider what I knew he wanted. I slept over a few times, slept on the floor, but I was only a very short step away from something happening, but it didn’t, I felt dirty, wrong. I think that annoyed him because he’d worked hard on me but was getting nothing back. He was I am sure, only a short step away from taking what he wanted, but I think he knew it’d be too risky to just go for it, because despite everything, there was still a risk I’d tell someone. Later in life, during therapy, I recognised this pattern as grooming.
I think all of this happened only over the space of a year or two, but it felt like longer to me. I even spent my 18th birthday with him, which word got around about, and comments were directed at me. I remember someone in my presence talking about “someone” having their 18th birthday at Leon’s house, probably clearly knowing it was me. I said nothing.
I continued to go off the rails, practically living like a hobo. One day I was went to see a friend, a girl who also knew Leon, and we decided to hitchhike to Glastonbury Festival, which we did, jumped over the fence, spent the £15 I had to my name virtually as soon as I was in, ended up begging for food, wandering around in a daze in the heat. I think there were problems between me and my friend, I had feelings for her, I had a lot of hormones racing around, and although she was around the same age as me, she was also more mature, and sexually active. Actually though, I think I just wanted affection, from someone my age, who felt safe.
After we got back from Glastonbury, I went round to see Leon. I was slightly drunk, which was pretty normal by that time. I sat down in the chair at the end of the bed, he sat on his bed. He started talking about Glastonbury, he had a disapproving, annoyed tone about him. Clearly he’d seen my friend before me, and he started having a go at me about how I’d been difficult with her.
That when I kicked off. I had enough, and I bit. I just got up out of the chair, annoyed with Leon, with being got at. That’s when it happened. Leon quickly got up off the bed, rushed toward me, and before I knew what was happening, he had me pinned up against the wall by my neck, growling in face. He must have released his grip, I was terrified.
I ran out of Leon’s house, and I never looked back. I bumped into him in the street one day, maybe a year or so later, where he tried to tell me *I* had problems. He had found a broken mirror that fell out of my pocket when he’d attacked me, and was probably telling people that I had tried to use it to stab him. I hadn’t, it was just a piece of mirror. A broken mirror, reflecting a broken person, me.
For years after, I minimised what happened to me. I even blamed myself. I was ashamed. I hadn’t been sexually assaulted, so how could it be sexual abuse? How could my experience be valid trauma, compared to others? I asked myself this, because I felt invalidate, and a big reason why I felt invalid, was because I had been a young person dominated and groomed by an older man, who enticed me in with stories of free love, with promises of drugs, and who used invalidation, isolation, shame to abuse me, to break me down, to control me. When I fought back, the moment I showed that I had an opinion of my own, that I might be able to take back control, he assaulted me, and at that point, he lost, but I had already lost, and this was no win for me.
How I truly take back control though, is to be the better person that I am. I am older now than Leon was then. He’s been the subject of one of my psychodramas in therapy, where people played back some of what happened to me, so I could be me, now, the adult, and look back on myself and him then. As part of that psychodrama, I went into the scene in the bedroom, before anything happened, and I spoke to my younger self, and I told that child, that they were ok, that they were loved, and valid, and this man was wrong. My final act, was to have the person playing Leon, try to talk to the adult me, and I chose to completely invalidate him, but ignoring him, making him irrelevant, instead focusing on the younger me, telling myself to get out of there now and don’t look back.
FIRE HEALER PRESENTS
8pm. April 24th 2021
A SELECTION OF CLASSIC AND MODERN TUNES FROM MY VINYL RECORD COLLECTION!
A LIVE, IMPROVISED PERFORMANCE WITH ELECTRIC & ACOUSTIC MANDOLIN, GREEK BOUZOUKI, BASS GUITAR, ACOUSTIC GUITAR, PERCUSSION, KEYBOARD, AND VOICE.
FIRE HEALER PRESENTS
7.30pm. March 27th 2021
A SELECTION OF CLASSIC AND MODERN TUNES FROM MY VINYL RECORD COLLECTION!
A LIVE, IMPROVISED PERFORMANCE WITH ELECTRIC & ACOUSTIC MANDOLIN, BASS, ACOUSTIC GUITAR, PERCUSSION, KEYBOARD, AND VOICE.
Today I went on a journey to visit my doctor. Aside from a half an hour walk, a week ago, I’d not been out of the house for about a month. This time, I was on mission.
A few months ago, at the end of 2020, I attempted to get my doctor to refer me to a Gender Identity Clinic. At the time, she didn’t know how to go about doing it, so after the call, I even researched it online for her, then sent her a link to the referral form. Several weeks went by, I heard nothing, so I got back in touch, at which point she told me she’d accidentally deleted my email, said she’d look into it, and she’d get back to me. Weeks went by again, and I called her back. By that time, she’d made some enquires, but wasn’t sure which Gender Identity Clinic, to refer me to. I was pretty sure it would be Tavistock & Portman, in London, but she’d been told they might need to refer me to somewhere in Northamptonshire. So I waited, again.
Christmas came and went, so did 2020. Still I heard nothing. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling exceptionally low, and needed to call her anyway. Finally, she essentially did exactly what I had done, months ago, which was to search the Internet, find the site I had, and she started filling out the form as we spoke on the phone.
Great! At last I was getting somewhere, I really needed something to work towards. I knew it was still probably going to take 4 years to get to the clinic, once I was on the waiting list, but it was movement. I received confirmation of the initial referral. It wasn’t over though. The Doctor called me last week, and told me she needed to fill out quite a complex form, which included mental health history, and some physical checks. This meant that I’d have to go to surgery, which caused me some anxiety about going out to a surgery in a pandemic, but it needed to be done, so we booked an appointment for today, my day off.
It was snowing, very cold, I wore a couple of layers, some thick tights, a warm cardigan with a hood. I wore one of the blue medical masks, then 4 layers of silk scarf on top of that, and set off in my nice cherry red vegan platform Doctor Marten boots, into the snow. I didn’t really need a coat, I was walking a couple of miles, and I walk fast. I was a bit anxious getting there, mostly no-one else seemed that bothered now about the pandemic, I was one of the only people around, wearing a mask. I got to the surgery door, rang the bell and waited outside. I don’t think the receptionist heard me, and she was on the phone, so I continued to wait. Fortunately a woman came out of the surgery, looked like she’d just finished a shift, and asked me if I was waiting and had I rang the bell. She asked my name, but, whether this was in my mind or not, she seemed to repeat it in an unusually deep voice, which set my gender dysphoria off. I went inside, waited for a while and my doctor came downstairs to collect me.
The doctor had already filled in some of the form, but as she read it out, realised she’d misgendered me, and kept correcting my pronouns as we went a long. I added some stuff about being socially transitioned. All the time, the sound of my own voice was triggering my dysphoria as well. Although I know, people generally can’t, or won’t say anything, there’s always this thing in my head, that tells me underneath, they don’t accept my gender. One of the questions on the form, asked if I’d officially changed my name, which I explained I hadn’t, but really only because I still haven’t chosen a new surname. The Doctor seemed surprised I was planning to change all of my name. I’d thought about this, but my full legal name actually misgenders me 4 times. Both my first and middle names, then my surname “Chapman”. Plus it’s my Dad’s name, and I intend to erase all connections both with him, and my old self.
We completed a blood pressure test, checked my weight, and height. No idea what relevance that had, but it was requested. Apparently I’ve put several inches on my waist over the past year, which is hardly surprising given the complete lack of exercise I’ve had. We completed the mental health questions, although it always seems to fall short, given everything I’ve been through.
I left the surgery, and headed home. I was pretty anxious, and craved chocolate, so even stopped at a shop on the way, to buy myself 2 large bars, which if it wasn’t for the mask, I’d probably have eaten by the time I got home. I didn’t want to spend much time in the shop, which had a make a makeshift screen at the till, made from a clear plastic film. I attempted to pay by contactless card, but the shopkeeper mumbled that it was a minimum £3 only. I could have added more chocolate to get over the threshold, but instead decided not to, and handing him a £20 note.
I carried on home, got up the hill, and decided to kill two birds with one stone, by going to the pharmacy to pick up my antidepressant prescription. I’d never been on them before, things had been so difficult recently, with little hope of getting what I really need, including a social life, so I caved in and agreed to start on 50mg per day of Sertraline. There were about 3 other people in the pharmacy, I kept my distance, but then just as I was about to walk up to the till, some man decided he was more important than everyone else, and went around the wrong way, to pick up something from a shelf, and proceeded to ask the pharmacist about it. This annoyed me. The man went away, and the pharmacist came and spoke to me. “Hello sir, how can I help?”. “I’m not a sir, I replied”. He corrected himself, called my “madam”, but then still accidentally called me sir a couple more time. I asked for my prescription, I don’t think I hid my annoyance. He was okay really, but this is the kind of thing I have to go through, particularly as my prescription still had my full name on it (although the surgery now had me down as “Siobhán”). I don’t really understand why we need titles. Who cares if I’m a “Mr”, or a “Ms” really? Why do people feel the need to refer to others as “Sir” or “madam”? It’s not the nineteen fifties anymore.
So, after maybe walking a 4 mile round trip in the snow, I got home. At least I’d got some stuff all done in one go. Now begins the start of both my Gender Identity Clinic journey, and the start of me being on antidepressants for the first time ever.
I wish I could say this year was looking promising, but something tells me, it could be as tough, if not tougher, than last.
It was February 18th, 2001, a Sunday evening. I was 25 years old, and living with my then girlfriend, Katie, in her house in Oxford. As usual we were sitting in the kitchen at the back of the house, when a friend, Chris, turned up at the door. Chris had been a close friend of mine since 1993, actually, I was his registered next of kin, since he was estranged from his family, for very tragic reasons.
At the time, Chris (sometimes known as Kit), was 39. He suffered from very severe mental health problems, mainly paranoid schizophrenia, as well as having some fairly unusual physical problems, including a hunched back. In addition to this, he had been known locally, on the streets, often begging, wearing a long world war one Great Coat, sporting a long wild looking beard, with longish, unkempt dark hair. He was normally seen as quite a wild character, he tended to talk loudly, loved dancing and singing along, in a fittingly crazy manner, to classic and progressive rock, which he had a habit of playing very loud. Despite his appearance, and his deeply troubled and tragic past, Chris was, though, generally, and genuinely a very nice person, he was generous and caring, but there was a deep darkness, and sadness about him, for good reason.
There was something very unusual about this visit from Chris on that Sunday, and it was easy to spot why, because Chris, was very quiet, thoughtful, and subdued in his manner. Maybe because Chris wasn’t his typically loud self, his sadness, seemed to me, to be almost deafening, it more than filled the gap where the madness usually was, Perhaps this was why Chris was normally the way he was, the overt loudness would fill up the space, so the sadness had little room to show. It was always there though really. I could see it in his dark eyes, and I knew very well, his history.
Chris sat with us in the kitchen, though relatively quiet, he was still a potent presence in the room. Katie made us all some food, we talked a bit, and then went upstairs to my room where he sat in his wicker chair, and we watched an episode of his favourite TV programme, Star Trek: The Next Generation, on my old colour TV. After watching Star Trek, Chris just got up out of the chair, and quietly left. Katie and I talked afterwards, noting how strange the visit had been, due to Chris’s manner.
A few days later, we were in the kitchen again this time with another friend, Larry, when two police officers appeared at the door. I opened the door to them and they started asking questions. They asked us if we knew Chris, and asked us when we’d last seen him, so we told them about his visit on the Sunday. The officers explained that he’d not been seen for a few days, and then left, with the intention of visiting his flat again. After the police had left, we talked about what had happened, and I think we probably knew something bad had happened, but at the same time, Chris had gone missing before, for many days, then later turned up.
I can’t remember exactly what happened next, I think the officers may have come back later that evening. They brought with them some of the saddest news I’ve ever had. The police had been unable to locate Chris, I think they’d looked through his letterbox, and something roused suspicion, so they broke down his door.
That evening, when the police entered Chris’s flat, they found it in a mess, and they found my friend, lying there, dead.
Chris had a very tragic background, which I’ll explain a bit more about shortly, but although his apparent suicide, was a shock, it wasn’t a surprise. He’d talked many times about how he would take his own life, he even had some fantastical ideas about how he’d do it, including a plan make some homebrew wine, and fill his flat with gas from the wine, to suffocate himself. In the end, he used his bootlaces and a pair of pliers. Perhaps because I knew Chris so well, I think strangely, it was fairly easy to accept his passing. He’d been in so much mental pain, every day of his life, I knew it was like torture for him, and this was a release from that.
I was of course, still distraught though, I’d lost my friend. I considered him my best friend, and since I was his registered next of kin, I was considered family, and initially I was asked to formally identity his body. We got to the hospital to identify him, but fortunately, I was saved from a probably horrific, and damaging experience, due to the fact that Chris had some fairly unique physical aspects, which meant he could be identified easily.
So, to why it came this point.
About 8 years earlier, when I was 18, I was living in a shared house in Oxford. These were generally very crazy times, I was unemployed, very poor, and I had alcohol and drug problems. I lived in a culture that existed around people with serious problems. One of my housemates, had been doing Tai Chi lessons at the local community centre, and he mentioned this schizophrenic man, called Chris, who had also been in the lesson.
The house next door to me, 20 Crown Street, was ’emergency housing’, the landlord, Mr. Farooq, had a contract with the home office, he owned about 50 houses around East Oxford at the time, and these houses were filled with people with severe problems, ranging from alcoholics, heroin addicts, women who’d been in abusive relationships, criminals, people with HIV and AIDS, and schizophrenics, often all under one roof.
Chris was one of those people, placed in the emergency housing next door to me, and seemingly left to get on with it, for the most part, aside from having a Community Psychiatric Nurse, and a Social Worker.
My first encounter with Chris, was suitably Chris-like, a first impression that probably should have been shocking to me, but which seemed authentic. There was a knock at the front door of my house, and since I lived in the room closest to the front door, I opened it. Standing there, was a hunched back man with wild hair and beard. The next thing that happened, was this man walked up to me and said, “Hello, my name is Chris, and I killed my grandmother.”
Despite the very shocking introduction to Chris, for some reason, I did not feel threatened, I didn’t feel unsafe. Those words “I killed my grandmother”, I think were probably somewhat detached, possibly conditioning as a result of being in various mental institutions, an openness, that cannot be denied, it was what it was. I think I was quite immature though, possibly naïve even. It wasn’t the first time I’d met murderers who were seemingly ordinary, pleasant enough people, either. I had thing of just accepting people as they were, and not judging them simply for who they had been, and what they had done. I’d already met people who I instinctively knew, were dangerous, and I didn’t get that feeling from Chris, despite his honesty about the terrible crime he’d committed.
I am sure that Chris himself, knew more than anyone, just how awful what he’d done was. He often said that what he’d done, was the worst thing possible, and I believe, he totally believed that. He woke up every morning, knowing the full extent of what he’d done, and hated himself for it.
In the following few days, possibly weeks, I spend a lot of time with Chris. We talked all night at one point. Chris was very open about his experiences, what he’d done. At one point, we were in Chris’s flat, listening to various pirated cassettes of rock music, on a tape machine that had no fast forward button, it was late at night, and Chris rummaged through some of his possessions, then pulled out a stack of papers and handed them to me. The large volume of typed papers, were Chris’s psychiatric reports. Which I then read through.
Thinking back, I don’t think I ever realised what effect all of this might have had on me. There I was, still a teenager, but one who had already been through plenty of struggles, living on benefits, in a house full of people with serious problems, sitting up all night, with a paranoid schizophrenic who had murdered someone, reading through his detailed psychiatric papers.
I learnt a lot about Chris’s life, very quickly.
So what brought Chris to this point?
It seems Chris had experienced a very difficult, probably very lonely childhood. He told me that he’d been told, by his mother, I think, that he was the product of a rape. I heard stories about how Chris believed his could control the weather, how he’d spent some time locked in a cupboard. Chris had some physical problems, particularly with his spine, I can’t remember the name of the condition, but I think it might have been genetic, and to do with the curvature. The story goes, that Chris, maybe still a child, or teenager, had an operation on this spine at one point, a metal plate of some sort had been inserted. Perhaps the worst thing he recounted, was that he’d had to lie down for a whole year of his life.
Chris’s mental state got gradually worse as he got older. Clearly he was suffering from paranoid delusions. He experienced a range of voices in his head, but to him, they were real, including the voices of seven sisters, and the obligatory voice from under the bed.
Chris lived in Bracknell, quite an uninteresting town, I think home to the 3M company. At one point, later on in his life, in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Chris decided to visit a friend on a caravan site. He walked to the site, in the pouring rain, wearing only a pair of jeans. At one point, the police stopped Chris during his journey, but for some reason, they just let him carry on. Chris reached the caravan site, soaking wet, and went inside. His friend had an open fire, maybe a stove, and as he was drying himself, a voice told Chris to put his hands in the fire, which he did.
There are probably a lot of stories that I’ve forgotten about and may never remember, but most important are the events leading up his grandmother’s death.
After leaving home, and I think this is coming up to around 1982, Chris was living in a house with one of his brothers. He didn’t have many possessions, at one point he lived off of apples he took from an orchard, which he ate whilst staring at the floorboards, probably listening the voices, left with only his imagination, listening to his own paranoid fantasies, which started to feel like reality to him.
The person who Chris felt closest to, in his life, was his grandmother. Chris really loved his grandmother, and would often visit her. She was probably his world, at least, his real world, rather than his internal one, based on fantasy. Sadly, the two worlds of reality and fantasy began to merge for Chris, to the point that he believed they were one and the same.
The paranoid fantasy that had become consuming Chris the most, was one in which Chris believed in the existence of extra terrestrials. These aliens, were abducting people, and experimenting on them. Where things took a turn for the worse, was that Chris started to believe that the aliens, were targeting his grandmother. Chris truly believed, that the aliens would abduct his grandmother, and place her in some form of machine, and as a result, she, the person he loved most in the world, would be in pain, forever.
This fantasy, which became reality for Chris, was too much to take, and so, one day, in 1982, Chris went to visit his grandmother, with the intention of ‘saving’ her from an eternity of pain. To this end, he committed the act that he would come to know as being the worst thing anyone could ever do, and would torture him for the rest of his life.
That day, Chris killed the dearest person to him, his grandmother.
I have decided not to say how he did this, it’s too traumatic and I don’t think its necessary. I think Chris realised quickly what he’d done, I can’t remember exactly what happened next, but he was arrested and put in a cell, probably sectioned under the mental health act, fairly quickly.
Chris was distraught. I don’t think there are words to convey just how bad he felt about what he’d done, instead his next actions speak for themselves. At one point, his was in a cell, with little, or no clothes, or anything. Chris managed to get hold of a biro pen, he then used the jagged bit on the pen lid, to try to kill himself, by digging out the veins in his wrists. He was unsuccessful of course, and the scars remained visible up until the day I last saw him.
Chris was assessed, convicted of the ‘altruistic’ murder of his grandmother, then sent to Broadmoor hospital, where he spent about 12 years, along with Peter Sutcliffe (The Yorkshire Ripper, who also was committed to Broadmoor that same year), one of the Kray Twins, and various others, mostly other very tragic, seriously mentally ill, but dangerous people.
Chris was given ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), which I think at the time, may have been done without anesthesia, and which involved passing electrical currents through the brain, in order to trigger convulsions, which can treat some mental health conditions. Although Chris maintained that this didn’t really work, what it did was make you ‘smile’ so that you wouldn’t have to go through it again.
After 12 years of being in one of the most notorious secure hospitals in the UK, Chris was released. I think initially he went to Fair Mile Hospital, a lunatic asylum in the village of Cholsey, near Wallingford. Then from there, I think he was at Rutland House in Oxford, which at the time was a Therapeutic Community.
At one point, Chris was getting on the train, going to Oxford, and wandering the streets. Then somehow he got a place in emergency housing, which takes us up to that that day, in 1993, when I first met him.
Chris lived at 20 Crown Street for a couple of years, it was a very crazy time for all. Chris did not want to be alone, he would take in homeless people, and let them live on his floor. At one point I counted about 9 people living in Chris’s small flat in the attic of the house. Chris didn’t go out much, and kept an open door. He had a chair he’d sit in, in front of the door, and was always hospitable.
In order to control Chris’s schizophrenic behaviour, he was given drugs, sometimes forcibly, if he refused. The main drug he was given, by way of injection, was a drug called Depixol, an anti psychotic, which had some terrible side effects. After injections, Chris said it felt like his body was crawling inside, it was very uncomfortable, and he took pills called Procyladine (or Chemadrine) for the side effects, which I think had their own side effects too. One of the main side effects for Chris, was Tardive Dyskinesia, essentially, very bad, involuntary shakes. Chris like to write, he wrote Tolkienesque fantasy stories, but the shakes made it difficult, or even impossible to write.
At some point, relatively early on in our friendship, I was registered as Chris’s next of kin. I think possibly, initially, Chris wanted a friend with him, for visits to psychiatrists. I sat in with some of Chris’s sessions with professionals, I don’t think I was welcome though. As well as that, I went on daytrips with Chris, his CPN, and social worker, including a trip to the standing stones at Avebury, which was an interesting journey, as Chris had made some cookies with hashish in them, and attempted to offer them to his CPN and Social Worker, in the car on the way there. I think they looked at each other and politely declined!
There were times when things got very difficult living around Chris, aside from the sheer number of troubled people living with him, people tended to be up all night, and the sound of loud rock music, and Chris’s mad cackling, would annoy neighbours, One of my housemates, climbed the outside of the house one night, as for some reason, Chris had locked the door, and wasn’t answering.
Some of the people around Chris, were rough, and even dangerous. Such as Jimmy, who lived downstairs in Chris’s house. A Scottish heroin addict, with HIV, who was known for biting people in fights. In one incident, I can’t remember why, but it didn’t take much, Jimmy was in Chris’s room, with a wallet full of thousands of pounds, and I caught a glimpse of the knife he’d started to pull out on me, then I got out of there as quickly as possible.
In another incident, Jimmy and ‘Crackhead George’, had come into my house next door, then George left after a while. It was Christmas, and Jane, a young woman I lived with, had been sent some presents by her parents in New Zealand. The presents went missing, and we realised the likely culprits were the two drug addicts. I went out looking for George, found him in a phone box, scoring some drugs, and then demanded he come back to the house. When we got back to the house, he and Jimmy, laughed in our faces. One of my housemates, and I, cornered them both in my room, some money had gone missing too, Jimmy smugly pulled out his bugling wallet and proceeded to mock us by asking us which one of the many notes he had was ours. Then to my surprise, they both started stripping off, mocking us with a strip search, whilst George said to me “You’re enjoying this aren’t you”, implying that I was enjoying him getting naked in my room, which I wasn’t.
Chris was really having a tough time with both his mental health and the medication. At some, I think during 1994, everything got too much for him. For some reason, Chris got the idea in his head, that what had happened to him, with his grandmother’s murder, was triggered by a group of bikers he’d known, slipping him some LSD, although I’d not heard about these bikers before that point, and doubt the story was true. At that time, Chris had a man called Ady living with him, I think he had a girlfriend living there too. Ady had a motorbike, and they decided to take Chris back to Bracknell, for what reason I don’t know, maybe to find these bikers (although this was about 13 or 14 years later).
A couple of days later, Ady returned, without Chris. I think the story was that Chris just walked away and disappeared. I was very worried for Chris’s safety but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I think Chris only had the clothes he was wearing, including the World War One Great Coat, and probably some rolling tobacco.
Chris had been missing for days, maybe even a week or more. It seemed like a long time anyway. One night, I was at home in my room, when I heard some noise outside in the street. I recognised Chris’s voice, and looked out to see Chris sitting on the ground, against the front wall of his house, telling a taxi driver he had no money, and to take him to the police station if he wanted but he had no money to give him. I think the taxi driver just left, and I went outside, called Chris in. He was clearly in state, and had been avoiding taking his medication.
In another incident, Chris had a small walk through airing cupboard type space, just before his tiny bathroom. Chris had decided to grow 14 cannabis plants in this area. They were doing pretty well. I had been in Chris’s flat one day, and popped next door to mine for a few minutes, when I went to go back into Chris’s house, I found a police officer (whom I recognised from about 5 years earlier), outside the house. I asked him what was going on, and he told me they’d be called to reports of screaming, and asked me if I’d heard anything. I said I hadn’t, but perhaps someone had mistaken my friend’s crazy laugh for screaming (entirely possible). I went upstairs to Chris’s flat, and mentioned about the police being outside. The others in the flat, realised this was probably going to be a bust, and started trying to hide things. Of course, the police came upstairs, and walked straight in, all the doors were open. I watched them open the door to the bathroom, and then, well, oh look, 14 cannabis plants. Chris took all responsibility for everything, including telling others to take out what they’d stashed (as they’d have got searched anyway). The police took Chris away, whilst they were waiting for a big enough van to put all the plants into, they asked Chris tips on how to keep the plants. I watched from the upstairs window, as smiling police officers. loaded the cannabis plants into a van, and drive off.
Something odd happened then. Chris had to go to court, and was expecting to be sent back to the ‘looney bin’, especially since he was only out on certain conditions, and could be recalled for growing dope. Chris went to court one day, all ready to be locked up. Instead, someone from the court came out, and told him that his case had been dropped, and to go home. That was the last he heard of it.
Eventually, Chris moved out of next door (and I had to move out of my house, in very difficult circumstances, but that’s another story). Chris got a bigger flat in Salesian House in Cowley. A former monastery for Salesian monks, which had been turned into flats with people with various problems. This is where Chris spent his final years. He seemed a lot happier, but still wouldn’t allow himself to be alone, until around the time he killed himself.
After Chris’s death, the funeral was planned for around the same time as my birthday, March 8th. I had my final gig with the band I was in at the time, Nachala, on my birthday, and one (or maybe two) of Chris’s brothers, came along, it all seemed quite friendly really. A couple of days later, Katie and I went to his funeral at the Crematorium in Oxford. It was very strange, the coffin went out to sound of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin (actually a favourite of Chris’s anyway). I got to meet some of Chris’s family, including his mum, who seemed nice. One of the strangest moments, was meeting another of Chris’s brothers, unlike the other one I’d met, this one, I forget his name now, looked a lot like Chris. For a moment, it was like seeing the person whose funeral I was at, alive and well. We also met Chris’s sister, Sue, and after the funeral, we went to visit her at her house. Sue had Chris’s ashes, and a short time after Chris’s funeral, Sue, Katie, and I, travelled to Bracknell, where we went to a church, and met a priest.
The ceremony at the church, for scattering Chris’s ashes, was attended by just the 4 of us, and kept a secret. The reason for this, was because we’d decided to scatter Chris’s ashes on his grandmother’s grave. It all seems both odd, but at the same time, a fitting end, to a deeply tragic story. All was calm, this was peace, and closure.
The date of birth, on the grandmother’s headstone, read “19th February”. The day after Chris had visited us, probably had his last supper, and watched his favourite TV programme.
I had a couple of dreams in which I met Chris again, after his death, I cried, I’m still sad. It was a long time ago now, and it feels like mostly what’s left, has lived only in my head for all these years. What happened, with Chris, his life, his grandmother’s death, his death, was so unbelievably terrible and tragic, but at the same time, I’m very glad to have known him, and I know I’ll never meet anyone like him again. Reading this back, I am saddened about how awful most of what I’ve written it, but it’s incredibly difficult to not do justice to the story, in a way that seems positive. Chris is someone, who taught me about the complexity, and struggles of being human, that there are many sides to people. I’ll leave it there, just to say, goodbye Chris, it was a pleasure knowing you, it’s been a long time, but you’re not forgotten.