I was planning on posting my next Alexandria recap tomorrow (sorry, later today), but my brain wouldn’t let me sleep until I wrote this.
It started Saturday evening (which is another couple of posts away), but really hit me the following afternoon. I was sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for the shuttle to the airport and I caught myself scanning the room for people I recognised, knowing full well that the few who had still been there at breakfast Sunday morning had either gone home or out for the day. It was the same at the airport – I knew of a couple who were catching a flight an hour before me, and although I hadn’t gotten to know them very well I semi-consciously hung on to the idea that maybe I might get that one last visual reminder of the friendship and support I had felt over the last few days. As I became aware of what I was doing it struck me – just how lonely I still feel, nearly three years into recovery. I have such a strong urge all the time to prove that I can cope by myself, to make people proud of me, so they will accept and include me. I still don’t like to show vulnerability to anyone and I don’t like people offering advice, because in my head it feels as if they are judging me as incompetent and weak. I am tough in all the wrong places, because that’s the only way I have been able to survive.
Last week I felt part of something special, something progressive and important. More than that was the sense of community. I felt accepted and valued, and for longer than I can remember I didn’t feel like my life was something to apologise for. If anything my history was seen as a strength – that I had lived through such things and come out the other side with something to offer in terms of activism and advocacy. And I felt so moved by the fact that everyone in that room had come because they wanted to save others from the same illness which tried to destroy my life and kill me. I didn’t have that support when I was ill, and that was devastating. I’m not trying to lay guilt on my parents here, or the friends who were too young to understand – but the teachers who turned their heads, the therapists who should have helped my parents help me, the doctors who swung between telling me I was attention seeking and childish or conversely, that I was hopelessly and chronically sick. I needed someone to stand up for me then. I needed someone to tell me that they loved me, believed in me, would never give up on me, would not let me die and would not make me face this alone. At the grand old age of 27 this thought – this grief – still makes me curl up like the suicidal eleven year old I used to be, and cry.
I hadn’t realised the extent to which I still carry that loneliness with me. And I will devote the rest of my life to this cause if I can stop just one child from having to go through that.