Often, I feel like a fraud. I have very few physical problems when compared with the people I work to help in the disability sphere. I'll give you two specific examples: the first is someone who was blown up by terrorists in a club in Bali. After the blast, he found himself alive, but surrounded by the remnants of others who weren't, including 5 of his friends, and a man desperately trying to hold his own intestines in. I asked him how it had made him feel, which to my surprise he confirmed that nobody had done before. I guess fear and tact is the reason most steer clear of being so direct, but I have neither of those when it comes to difficult subjects - I'm straight in there with the questions, because I'm genuinely interested in the answers. The second is someone who lost 3 limbs to an IED (improvised explosive device) whilst serving in Afghanistan, aged 19. I've also met Simon Weston, who was the most injured soldier in the Falklands conflict and has since managed to rebuild his life very successfully. I'm willing to assume, from the way they talk about it, that unlike Simon, neither of these two friends have come to terms with those events yet, which is unsurprising and also upsetting when you care about them and wish you could heal them. I often try to imagine myself in that situation, just after an explosion has ripped my body and the bodies of others around me apart as if we were made of inconsequential material. I feel angry and yet determined on their behalf. My mental scars are like paper cuts compared to theirs and yet here I am, twenty years later, so moulded by the past that I am childlike in my emotional responses to normal life.
Naturally I will say out loud that I understand how everything is relative. Of course I'll frame it the way everyone else does - but inside I still kick myself daily for falling to pieces when I have all my limbs in tact. I'm someone who chooses to ignore my mental health, because to acknowledge it would be like admitting I left my mind back in 1996 (I did). But it's like trying to compare apples to oranges - we each have a unique experience of life, and what one person breezes through effortlessly, another finds an impossible mountain of emotional turmoil. Maybe with the more widespread access to FMRI scans that can reveal which parts of a brain are used during a specific action, we'll be able to understand what the hell is going on.
From time to time I wonder whether there'd be any physical manifestations of the inner turmoil - the brain is plastic after all, and over time one can alter one's physiology just by thinking. It seems a little odd to me that BPD is so damn stubborn; it's generally caused by trauma during childhood, but it doesn't respond well to any form of medication for the most part - only 5% of those diagnosed get any relief with drugs. Having been a human guinea pig for a psychiatrist in a rural area with no experience of diagnosing or treating my condition, I can say with a pretty large degree of certainty that I don't respond to medication AT ALL. If only he'd known enough to not have put me through what was essentially a pointless battery of psychotropic/psychoactive/serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and benzodiazepines, perhaps I'd have managed to stay awake for long enough to pass my A Levels. As it was, I went from being a straight A* student, to barely scraping a pass mark.
I've already talked about the many unfortunate things that happened during my school years, but I was expected to do well at sixth form college, the bullies weren't there anymore and I had 11 GCSE's under my belt, only two of which were below an A grade. I thought, and I'm sure my mum thought, that I'd sail through college in the same way. I hadn't counted on flunking every subject, including music, which I lived and breathed and spent every spare second doing (FYI I only got a C because my performance was A standard, whilst my exam was terrible - I remember writing my name on the paper but nothing else).
It seems perverse that the 'treatment' I pushed for at the time ended up rendering me useless and costing me my education. And I did have to push - I finally annoyed my psychiatrist enough for him to do some research and then ended up at The Priory, where I was offered 4 months as an inpatient by a doctor who specialised in his own version of borderline personality disorder. By the time the NHS agreed funding to cover the £60K it would cost for this programme, I'd lost interest and decided I wanted to get on with my life. It was only very recently that I realised I needed to prevent my son going through any of this, and therefore mummy had to sort her shit out. You might be thinking that it was my own fault for not taking the opportunity, but that's sort of the thing with mental health - it influences how you think about everything.
I actually think it was a good thing. Now that I can look back and reflect, I would've ended up as another out of work session player had I gone to music college, not that I'm in any way implying that it's not a worthwhile career, but one needs a good head to make it work. I'm the one who dealt with the tumultuous years that led me here, and I'm also the one who ended up with a job and private medical insurance to cover a treatment programme I probably should've had at the beginning.
I'm forever turning on the TV to see friends I studied with performing on enormous stages in stadiums across the globe, and wondering why I didn't work harder. I suppose the point here is that I am truly one of the lucky ones, because now I know I can actually make a real difference to others in sharing my mistakes. Creativity is a dangerous beast - it sparks at the first signs of danger, yet switches allegiance as soon as the chaos calms. Maybe I will write a new album, maybe I won't. But for now I'll channel my leftover mind into as many distractions as possible. Recovery is still a long way away, but at least now I'm on the stretcher being pulled into a rescue helicopter.