I just wanted to publicly thank two people who saved my life in 1997.
I was in my first year at University with all the stresses, excitement and intoxication that this entails. I was discovering who I was, and who I wasn’t. I had no idea, but the freedom to be anyone I wanted was liberating and terrifying at the same time.
I was in sparkling new halls of residence sharing a flat with a couple of lovely girls who I was friends with through the first year, but drifted away from when we moved out in the second year.
I had great neighbours and a host of luscious people to befriend.
My neighbours in the flat directly above me caught my attention. I can’t remember quite how we all met, but I am pretty sure there were buckets, alcohol and chair-dancing involved. They too were 2 lovely girls, one looked like Kate Winslet with a smile that lit up the whole room and the other looked like Cameron Diaz even at 8am lectures. I was smitten.
We quickly became good friends and spent many happy hours talking rubbish, eating strange concoctions and getting uproariously drunk. When they were home and wanted to call me they would stamp on the floor (which was the ceiling of my room), when I wanted to call them I would bang on the ceiling with my broom. We sometimes used the in-house intercom, but it wasn’t as funny as trying to tap out the rhythm of Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees with a wobbly broom handle.
Occasionally they would send down aid packages tied to a belt which they swung down from their window to mine, other times it was notes asking to borrow sugar.
One time, I remember them asking for help with preparing a chicken to cook. They couldn’t bear to touch it as it reminded them of babies or something. I was a vegetarian, so naturally I danced it around the kitchen like some kind of macabre Buster Keaton.
I am talking about these two wondrous people as if they were one person. They weren’t quite that inseparable, but they both saved my life together.
I had been simpering after a fellow from the SCUBA dive club for months and was eagerly awaiting his return from the recent break. I met up with him at a local bar (having filled myself up so much with Dutch courage I was leaking) and he let me down gently, saying he was with someone else.
This would not normally matter, but I was not a normal person back then. I went back to my halls to talk to my lovely neighbours, but they weren’t in.
I was distraught, destroyed, and grief-stricken. Convinced that I was a bad person that didn’t deserve friends or boyfriends, I staggered back to my room and attacked my left arm with the blade from a disposable razor. I wasn’t trying to kill myself at that point, just wanting to let the pain out somehow and seeing the blood flow down my arm seemed to be a physical outpouring of the pain I felt inside. I wrote a note about it, and sat in my room wondering why no one was coming. Then my head cleared a little and I thought “I need to talk to someone about this”, so I staggered back up the stairs to my neighbours.
Bless them, I can’t imagine what they must have thought to find me on the doorstep tear-streaked, blood-soaked with a dozen slashes across one forearm, but they took me in and cleaned me up. They held my hands and cried with me and told me I should get the cuts stitched, but I refused to go to a doctor. I don’t remember much after that.
Later that week, or month or year (I’m still not sure when), they sat me down and told me that they didn’t think they could share a house with me (we had planned to move in to a shared house in our second year) and that I needed professional help.
I was hurt and angry, but I knew deep down that they were right. They could not rescue me from myself, and I could not expect that of them. I went to the doctor, took a deep breath and showed her my scars.
Thus began my journey into counseling, anti-depressants and psychotherapy which I believe has saved my life. I started healing myself from the day my friends saved me.
I lost touch with my friends after university, but thanks to the amazing power of Facebook I found them just around the time I moved overseas. I don’t think I ever properly thanked them for what they did for me, so this is for them.
Thank you Sian and Julia, you saved my life.