Janie, the Black Armband, and my Current Mental Health

Hey folks

Friends on Facebook have been aware for a little while that my mental health hasn’t been great. As a result, I stepped back from a lot of the people that were in constant contact with me and made a concerted effort to not engage with a lot of people. I was emotionally burned out from life in general and as a result, wasn’t able to take the barrage of people needing or wanting my attention. It was one trickle in what was already a huge flood and I was already going through a lot (more on that another time).

After about three weeks of this, my brain started to repair itself. There was a lot of processing and a lot of relearning where my boundaries were.

The thing about healing is that it’s not always a straight line. I found myself in a place where for a little while, I could finally relax. So, one afternoon, in my girlfriend Kimberley’s, arms, where I felt safe, comfortable and loved, I started to remember things about my first girlfriend’s death that I spent a lot of energy forgetting. When it began, I went into shock again, but for the most part was fine. It was only later, walking home from the train station that I remembered everything.

I remembered eating little and drinking next to nothing over the second weekend in November of 1994, spending most of the weekend in my room, talking myself into a near frenzy before I’d created a memory that I could handle.

I remembered the car, going over what seemed like over a hundred, three doors down from Janie’s house.

I remembered being on the other side of the fence, spotting her. Shouting “Hi!” That feeling of simple happiness as I saw Janie while I crossed the oval. Seeing her there was a joyous surprise.

I remembered the moment of impact. The noise that couldn’t decide if it was a squelch or a snap. Watching the body of a barely thirteen year old girl shattered by a blue Ford on a Friday afternoon in November.

I remembered watching the girl that had given me my first kiss an hour beforehand die and the special kind of numbness that only shock and depression can bring.

I remembered my twelve year mind, having seen his first moment of true Hell deciding that if he hadn’t truly seen it happen, then maybe, somehow, she could be alive and in his broken, shock-addled brain, talking him into making it so.

I remembered the news getting to the school that a girl had been killed by a car nearby. I was so broken that I thought it was a surprise to me.

I’d carried that around for 22 years, without realising it. When that wall finally came down, I shattered again. It’s only now that I’m realising how badly, and how it set up the patterns for fear of loss. It’s also not the only tale of loss for tonight.

1998 was the year that I met the Black Armband. I’d spent a Saturday afternoon wandering around and came across some neonazi graffiti. Hating the Nazi Swastika with a passion, I decided to “fix” it, by turning it into a flower.

The only problem was that the Neonazis hadn’t actually left….

Being drunk enough to think that a curbstomping was a good idea, but still sober enough to be able to do so to a stupid sixteen year old kid, they tried to grab me and I ran. I ran the way that only someone being chased by Neonazis can run. Then, I started climbing fences. It was the third fence that had them catch up with me. It was also the third fence that had my salvation.

Four random strangers, one of whom lived where I’d more or less invaded, formed a line between me and my pursuers. Trying to get past, I saw one of my pursuers being kicked in the face by a woman a foot shorter. I then saw her being punched in the face, before my memory goes hazy. I remember being held down, but not because people were trying to do me harm. The Neonazis were gone and I was being side-eyed by one of the four, with a look of trepidation on his face, before the introductions were made. It was with Rusty, Dion, Lady Jane, and Franklin that I had my first taste of beer. I was nicknamed Mutt, because I’d shown up in their lives without dignity, but I seemed to be more or less unkillable.

They were The Black Armband and I honestly thought that they had a chance of making it big one day. Somehow, I ended up writing lyrics for whatever new stuff they wrote. One of my fondest memories is sitting around a fire in a metal bin, with Rusty strumming the guitar while we chatted and then breaking into Jeff Buckley’s rendition of Hallelujah. The way that the five of us came together was incredible. It was also the last time the five of us would.

A week later, Rusty had both of his arms broken while trying to fix a car. A fragment of bone made its way into his brain and he died from complications around that. With his hands shattered and no chance of ever playing the guitar again, I’m pretty sure that his soul had left him before the bone fragment hit his brain.

Franklin died of an intentional drug overdose two years later in 2001. A couple of hours beforehand, in a fit of spite, he told me that Rusty had been in love with me. With the amount of adoration and admiration that I had for Rusty, my life would have taken a rather different turn had I known this while Rusty was still alive.

Lady Jane and Dion died on their wedding night in 2006. They were deeply in love and had eloped to Vegas to get married, as Lady Jane was initially from Nevada. They’d taken a walk and had been gunned down by gangsters who had mistaken them for someone else. They died in love and they died together. That was the only mercy that the world showed the Black Armband.

Cut to the present day. I’ve outlived a lot of the people that I grew up with, due to the sheer amount of time I spent at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. I’m only realising now how deeply all of this has cut me and how it’s affecting me now. It’s not just with a death in the family, or the passing of a friend that these wounds get revisited. It gets worse when the depressive states kick in, as this becomes amplified and I feel every moment all over again should it seem like someone might somehow step away from me. There’s a special kind of terror that for me, comes from knowing that somebody’s not going to be there anymore which is intensified, because they chose for it to be true. It feels like a death that continues because the person continues to be around after the “death” of sorts. This special kind of terror is something that I hope nobody who reads this will ever have to understand, but I think that way too many people recognise. Between this and low self-esteem, it’s a perfect storm of mental fuckery. It’s why while I’m fairly open up to a point, you’ll not get anything from me beyond that point until I choose to open up to you. For a lot of people, that day will never come. If I get too close, people might die, or worse, leave of their own volition.

All of this has contributed to the negative effects on my mental health and I’m doing something about it. I’ll be going into therapy soon, as these thought patterns have been playing a part in mentally and emotionally destroying me and I don’t want this to destroy the good relationships in my life. It’s already done that too many times.

I didn’t mean for all of this to come out, but fuck it. It’s caged me for too long. I’ve carried a lot of this for a long time and I’m tired and I think more than anything, I want people to understand why I’m exhausted.

Before I sign out, there’s a few people that I’d like to say something to.

Kimberley, you did the near fucking impossible and created a moment of safety where I could begin to remember. I hope that you can one day understand how grateful I am for that without ever being wounded enough to understand why that gratitude is there.

Phoenix, you were, are, and continue to be a miracle. You provided me with a haven when the memories of Janie came flooding back and with the exact balance of safety and space that I needed.

Laura, we met up for coffee and chats and you had no idea any of this was going on. You managed to make me feel human, hell, even GOOD, when I didn’t think that anything could, simply by who you are. You helped the healing to begin.

Tashie, you were there for me in a  way that I don’t think anybody else could ever have been. I have no words, except thank you.

For now, I think I’ve overshared enough.

Southern Howler, Signing Out.


~ by southernhowler on April 27, 2017.

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