Anonymous, 24, Essex
as told to Yasmine Blackman
The tattooed gentleman before me sipped his Darjeeling quietly; his face a carefully blank canvas. A regular gossiper and tea drinker at the tea parlour I knew that the quiet ones always had the most interesting stories…
Growing up in Essex, I’d had a tough childhood. Constantly moving around meant I found it hard to settle down and make any real friends. At home life wasn’t much better, with my dad constantly criticising me. He and my two brothers were sports mad, and didn’t understand my passion for art and reading. They would spend their evenings watching the rugby whereas I preferred to have my nose in a book. “What a waste of time “ my dad would sneer.
When I turned 13, my parents announced that they were breaking up. I wasn’t surprised; my parents had been unhappy for years and my dad was a manipulative guy. I fully supported my mother’s decision to leave, reasoning that my dad treated her as a maid and that she would be happier without him. Letting my dad know how I felt, he exploded with rage, threatening to pin me down and ‘smash me in the face.’ Worst of all my two brothers ganged up on me as well, just as angry and ignorant as my dad was. I felt like the black sheep of the family.
Life at home only got worse after that. I spent my days self-harming in secret and drinking alcohol to numb the pain. One night I decided to go to a mate’s party to take my mind off of things. Anything to get me out of the house I thought. At the party I had a few drinks and began chatting with a nice girl. It was the first time in ages that I felt myself unwind and relax, enjoying a change from the tense atmosphere at home. That was until a mate wedged himself between me and the girl, turning his back on me and cutting me out of the conversation completely. I couldn’t believe it; my mates knew I’d been going through a tough time, and not only had they not supported me through it but now they were treating me like I didn’t exist!
Storming out of the house I was furious and hurt; the guys who were supposed to be my mates didn’t care about me at all. They were more interested in chatting up some girl than their mates’ feelings! I’d never felt so alone. Not knowing where to go or who to turn to I smashed a bottle and spent the rest of the night on a dark street corner hacking my arm to pieces.
After that night, I really started to spiral out of control, taking my anger and frustration out on the people around me. I would often tag around with some ‘mates’ and we would terrorise our home town, spray painting peoples cars, smashing windows and making a general nuisance out of ourselves. I would destroy things for no reason other than I was angry, often setting fire to my bedroom walls and putting my fist through windows. It was around this time that I met Maria*, she was as messed up as I was, and we quickly fell in to a destructive relationship. I treated her badly, and she often attempted suicide; we were a nightmare pair and instead of helping each other through our difficult times, we just wound up making life harder for each other. Naturally that relationship fizzled out, and left me feeling even more resentful. By this point my whole family had turned their backs on me, none of them wanting to confront the issue that there was something wrong. I felt as if I had no one to support me and began to lose grip of reality.
I began drinking heavily and cutting myself on a daily basis. I would cut myself in places where no one could see, often up to 50 times a day. Self-harm was the only way I knew how to deal with my pain; it hurt physically, but it relieved the emotional pain I was feeling. It was during this period that I was attempting to overdose almost every fortnight, just wanting my life to end; I was the personification of destruction.
After one attempted suicide I found myself being put on a mental health ward. It was the culmination of an 18 month period of hell and it was the lowest point in my whole life. I felt like every breath was a waste of time, and I no longer found any value in myself – all I could feel was loneliness and utter despair. My mum visited me once, but she didn’t have the strength to see me in that state. I understood, although it still hurt. My dad also visited, but treated it as a trip to the zoo, making disgusting jokes about the other patients who clearly needed help.
I pitied the patients in the ward, especially the ones who were there for attempted suicide. What a waste of life I found myself thinking. How many millions out there would give everything they have for one day in your shoes. Then I realised…that was me. I was alone, with nobody to turn to, if I didn’t help myself nobody else would and I would end up back in that hospital until I wound up in the morgue. Being in the mental health ward gave me the determination to get better.
Once out of the hospital, I decided I had to change the way I thought, and the way I lived. I stopped the drinking and ditched my so called ‘mates’ and the family members who had been so disappointed in me, deciding to remove all of the negative influences from my life. I enrolled in a music course at college, and finally made some real friends who helped me back up whenever I had a down day. It was a long and a slow process but gradually I began to feel better about myself and started to see my life through different eyes. Instead of thinking that I was weak, I began to see how strong I’d been. Instead of worrying about how much money or how many friends I had, I began to focus on my happiness. I focused on all of the things I had already achieved, and all the things I still wanted to do. My life finally had meaning.
Today I couldn’t be happier, with a lovely, supporting girlfriend of two years, and an amazing job as a tattoo artist. I am finally pursuing the things I love and enjoy without constant criticism. I feel sorry for those who are allowing others judgements to affect who they are as a person. You can only be yourself, and it’s your happiness that really matters. Life really is what you make of it. I’m just glad I had the courage to make it wonderful.