Before & After

A friend of mine remarked the other day that I seem to see my life thus far as a before and after, a life split in twine, with the person I used to be before my mental breakdown at the not-so-tender age of 29, and the me afterwards. The thing is, certain life events can be so cataclysmic, there’s simply no going back to who you were before. That’s just the reality of it. Being a ward of the state as a mental patient is that kind of event. Once I’d caught the last fleeting glimpse of my mania (and the euphoric high that went with it), I felt nothing short of a social pariah. Who would ever again want to be friends with ‘the crazy’? Luckily, I had a handful of friends who stood by, steadfast and undeterred. And for them I am, of course, eternally grateful. But the truth is, it never leaves you altogether, that niggling feeling that perhaps you really do belong on the fringe, alone with your thoughts and your cat who’s happy enough if you just keep her well fed and tummy-tickled.

It’s no secret that I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo. That’s nothing new. I played with imaginary friends well into primary school whilst all the other kids were tentatively trying out first kisses or furiously competing for King status on the four square courts, desperate to be little lords of the playground dominion. And every Halloween I dressed up and paraded around for the day, not caring one iota that it wasn’t the least bit cool in those days. Later, in high school, overwhelmed as I was by the sheer size of it, I spent most break times, my nose buried in books, occasionally picking up stompies and throwing in my two cents as my friends chattered away.  To this day, some still call me ‘Stompies’ or ‘What’s this?’ as I tend to drift in and out of conversations, especially in crowds. If anywhere, it was in my varsity days that I came a little more into my own. All the same, I may have been a bit the weirdo with my love of brightly coloured jumpers from the children’s department and the glitter-dusted lime green birkenstocks I lived in for years until they finally caved in on me. I’d like to think in those days I was simply an acquired taste. If anything, I’ve always been a little on the enthusiastic side when it comes to the people who feel like kindred spirits. Perhaps for some, that can be endearing. But, you see, here’s the thing… The question of my popularity never bothered me. I was merrily just being myself, and whoever came along for the ride was welcome. Always welcome.

My breakdown changed all that. Suddenly I was living with a diagnosis: bipolar status. Who knew? I wondered when I finally left the Elizabeth Donkin Hospital. Had word travelled about all my embarrassing manic antics before I’d been taken off to Dora Nginza that fateful night in a police van? I asked myself these questions, but in my heart, I had no doubt. I live in the kind of place where word has a way of getting around. Quickly. True to my expectations, I was not welcomed back into the fold with open arms by one and all. And in life, and the person I am today, this has made me slower to trust than has ever come naturally to me. When I occasionally do open my heart a little too readily, perhaps bear a little too large a piece of my soul, I’m left feeling betrayed by myself. I tell myself I should know better by now. But in the end, my insecurities lie within me alone. Where once I dismissed all those eccentricities as nothing more than that, a few harmless quirks, I now look for signs of madness. And that is unkind of me. I deserve better, I know this.

But there is a silver lining to my Friday musings… Thankfully, I have a best friend who handles the damage control when I’m not doing a very good job of loving myself. Nadine Rose Larter. Some of you may know her. A truer friend you cannot find. Since I first introduced her to John Irving, all those years ago in high school, our friendship has never skipped a beat. She always knows just what to say. Whether it’s the friend or the writer in her, who knows? But she’ll never tell me I’m not a weirdo. In the end, she knows that I know, deep down, I don’t need to be told I’m ‘normal’. What is ‘normal’ anyway? Some of us might just be better at playing the game. So show me a ‘normal’ person and I’ll show you a unicorn. (Don’t I wish!) Instead, she speaks only words of wisdom and tells me that of course I’m a weirdo. But you see, it’s why she loves me. And I may not need her to say it, but, boy, doesn’t it just feel oh so good to hear it once in a while! So today, without further ado, I’d like to declare this a belated Wednesday Appreciation post, dedicated to a veritable force of nature, and my bestie, Nadine. You’re where I find my happily ever after!

 

nadine-rose-larter

My Human (and maybe, just maybe… A unicorn!) 

If you’d like to get to know Nadine better (and you SHOULD!)…  She’s pouring her heart out for readers, one and all, at: 

http://nadineroselarter.co.za/

and

http://passingtheopenwindows.co.za/

Photo credits: Noah Daniel, her 8 year old

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