Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes.

So many have read my Facebook posts, and label me an attention seeker, a pessimist or simply ignored them. If you knew why I behave the way I do, would you still react the same way? Would you still ignore me, as if I was a stranger? Would you have done differently? You decide.

Growing up, I lived in a dangerous area. Many of the houses were allocated to low income earners, and drug dealers/users were everywhere. There was often random violence. On my way home one night, a guy jumped over a fence and punched me in the head, and ran off laughing. Our house was broken into on two occasions and robbed. Syringes could often be found on the street. I once saw a friend's father try and commit suicide by cutting a small hole in his chest and attaching electrical wires to it.

Around Grade 5, I was shot at whilst walking to school. The moment stands vividly in my mind. A car, driving slowly behind me. I watch the passenger window slide slowly down. A gun barrel pokes out from the widening gap. A load crack, as if a firework was set off next to my ear, even though the car was several meters away. No bullet hit me. But it sure scared the hell out of me. No one believed me when I told the story. But I remember.

One of the earliest traumatic events I recall happened in Grade 6. I had three friends I was close with. One day, we met at one of their houses. We went into his bedroom. They proceeded to snort white powder, which I assumed was a drug of some sort. Then they all pulled out knives and threatened to stab me if I didn't do as they said. Terrified, I complied. They made me strip my clothes off and dance. They filmed the whole thing. Then the revealed it was all fake, that it was a practical joke. I told them if they deleted the footage, it would be okay. The next day, I found out that they showed the video to half of the kids at school. Humiliated, I was forced to change schools.

I believed that going to a new school would give me a chance to start over, make new friends, recreate life and do things different. But it never happened that way. I had to walk to school everyday because I got smashed if I got the bus. That walk... it was an hour each way. Everyday. For six years. I had few friends. But I did have some, it felt like things were looking up.

That was how things were growing up. I understand I was slow to mature, and I earned my fair share of bruises from being a smartass. I'm not oblivious to the fact I wasn't easy to get along with... but that's the way things happened.

Toward the end of high school, I met a girl from NSW on a chat program we used to use occasionally. I had a girlfriend at the time, but she became a close friend. When my relationship failed, I got in touch with her, decided I should actually meet her (This was before the advent of social media, I'd never even seen a picture, or even spoken to her). So I jumped in the car with my best mate and we headed north.

Instantly, we had a connection. If you've ever believed in the concept of a 'soul mate', someone out there who is so compatible with you that you couldn't imagine life without them, you'd know how I felt. Even though she had a boyfriend, we still nearly kissed that first night.

From that point, it became a frequent occurrence that their group would come visit us, or we would go up there and hang out. We drew closer, yet never crossed any boundaries. I was patient, and although I had deep feelings for her, I also didn't want her to be mine by cheating.

One night she came down seemingly at random, and we all went to a club in the city. She approached me and told me things weren't working out with her boyfriend. I told her that I didn't want to rush anything, that I would be there for her, even though my heart was smashing in my chest. Later that evening, a friend told me he'd seen her kissing my best friend. I didn't believe it. But I turned around, saw it myself. My world crashed down around me.

When I say best friend, I don't mean closest. We were literally born on the same day. He'd been by side through everything, knew what I felt for her. And in that instant, everything was gone. I know they say you should never let a girl come between friends. But this was THE girl, and THE friend. I've never been able to forgive him for what happened that night. Worse still, we were both in the same circle of friends, and things were never the same after that.

So, eventually I moved on, I didn't quite lose all my friends, but there were certainly a few less afterwards. I met someone new, to my surprise, among another group of friends. Things progressed and I decided I was happy, I had a good, healthy relationship, a decent job, things were looking up again. Yes, I'd lost a very close friend, but I'd found a path to follow through life, and still had many other friends.

The relationship I was in deepened until I decided to propose, under a set of waterfalls in the middle of a rainforest. And, to my delight, she said yes! In the time that followed, we took out a loan and built a house. We went on a trip overseas. Things were great!

When we got back, though, it seemed like she was always unhappy. And when I asked why, she became irritated and we would argue. Eventually, matters came to a head and she told me she wanted to split up. I convinced her to try to work things out. She came home after a night out with friends and confessed she'd cheated on me. I forgave her, I just wanted things to work out.

One day, I bought dinner home and we sat down to eat. She looked me in the eye and told me she no longer loved me.

I'll never forget that moment. I was wearing my favourite sunglasses. I made a sound, a heart-rending shriek, a sound of pure anguish and hopelessness. I smashed my glasses into a thousand pieces on the kitchen floor, and ran into the bedroom, crying so badly I thought I'd throw up from it.

After three days of non-stop tears (I actually took time off work, I was too unstable to go in) I arranged some accommodation and started to grieve. I foolishly agreed to give her the house and took a sum of money for what I had contributed. I guess I did it because I hoped that we would still be able to work things out.

I don't think many people understand how truly horrible a divorce is. Because you don't just lose the person you love. You also lose your home. Which we had painted together. Designed and built together. We had a dog, which I never see anymore. And as if things couldn't get any worse, she got cervical cancer. I visited her in hospital and cared for her as best I could. She had it removed, and it posed no real threat to her life. But she could never have children.

Afterwards, through a chance visit picking up personal belongings whilst she wasn't home, I discovered her new boyfriend was someone who used to be a close friend of mine. That hurt nearly as much as the divorce did.

We had originally planned a trip to America. Deciding there was no way I could possibly stand to go, I gave her the ticket, as she said she was giving it to her mother, and seeing as how they would visit family over there, I agreed it would be okay. She lied, and took her new boyfriend instead, which I only found out about because of a Facebook post.

Heavily depressed by this point, and not having any of the hugs and cuddles I had grown used to, I took up an offer that a friend put out there. He wanted to introduce me to a couple of girls he knew, saying it would be a fun night.  Desperate and lonely, I agreed.

When they arrived, I found out they planned to smoke meth. At the time, I was attracted to one of them and I thought there would be no harm in trying it, so long as I was careful not to abuse it. How wrong I was.

I ended up buying drugs to keep them around. I realised somewhere deep inside they were using me, but I justified it by telling myself it was worth having the with me. All in all, I blew over twenty grand on drugs, losing my friends in the process. And I also lost my job, lied to my parents, became a horrible person to be around. At my worst, I went around twelve days without sleep. I lost  nearly twent-four kilos, becoming a skeleton. I was hopelessly lost.

The girls stopped hanging out with me. What was the point? I had already lost everything by that stage. My drug use got so bad it put me in hospital. I completely lost my memory, every thing I had learned. I decided that this horror had to end.

I went cold turkey. It took months to get a regular sleeping pattern back. To even think of putting my life back together. I lost everything I ever had, even nearly my family.

When I finally beat the drugs, there was no fanfare. No congratulations. No sense of achievement. Just a hollow sense of understanding just how badly I'd messed up. In addition, I realised that not one person aside from my parents stood by me. I was alone.

A year has passed since the most cataclysmic event ever to happen to me. I'm slowly trying to rebuild my life, to rediscover joy and purpose. I still haven't managed to find full-time work, despite applying for over a hundred jobs in the past seven months. Most of my friends have completely turned their backs on me. And, most recently, we found out my mother only has months left to live.

At least I am drug-free. I have my health, and I won't give up. But I carry my demons with me wherever I go. I can't drown them because they know how to swim. I know at some stage this year, I will have to deal with my mother's death. I worry that there is no one in the entire world that cares about me enough to help me get through this. Lately I can barely manage more than four hours sleep. I lay awake at night, thinking of everything I've lost, fearing it's all my fault.

I can't excuse what I've done wrong. I can only explain, and hope people are understanding enough to say kind words instead of condemning.

So when I write a post on Facebook saying I need a hug, I'm not seeking attention. I had them for years and now I feel lost without them. When I say no one cares, it's because that's how I feel sometimes.  When I say something that sounds depressing, it's because I've reached my limit and can't put on a fake smile. Don't ignore me when I cry out. You may be the only reason I continue to suffer in this world. Please. Don't shut me out. I'm scared. Lost. Sad and alone. Please don't ignore me.