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Monthly Archives: November 2014

1.

It’s getting harder than ever to come up with new ideas to write about. My old plan – that I would write a new blog every week, rain, hail or shine – pretty much went down the toilet with the car crash, and in any case, I was in hospital for five weeks and hence unable to blog, so why does it matter? At least the whole accident and rehabilitation drama gave me a good month’s worth of entries, I guess. How does Stephen King do it? I guess, where he’s concerned, it’s better to bail out from writing early than stamp it into the ground, broken and bloody and covered in dust and pebbles ‘till it becomes a worthless and shallow shadow of what it once was. I don’t know, though. I still thought Dr. Sleep was pretty good.

2.

My caffeine intake, six months ago, was pretty extreme. Whatever; it got me through my higher education so far, I guess. It wasn’t as bad, thankfully, as 2011, where I’d wake up in the morning with a caffeine withdrawal headache from my eight hours of coffee-less sleep, but it wasn’t great. A positive side effect of my week-long coma in early September was that I think I managed to push through the caffeine addiction while unconscious, so I missed all the usual withdrawal signs (or was subsequently drugged out of said withdrawal signs). One day, after breakfast, Jeremy walked in to discover me with a filter coffee in a sippy cup crammed in hand and a very sheepish looking nurse standing next to me.

“He – he asked for it,” she’d said.

3.

I suppose I can add to my list of things I’m afraid of, “getting drunkenly hit by a car in Berlin”. Of course, the stars sure will have to align for that to happen again. I haven’t been allowed to cross the road by myself yet on doctor’s orders (like I won’t be paranoid and hyper-conscious and sober when I do it), but I think I’ll need practice – since the break I’m not sure how my crossing skills have held up and I’ve never played Frogger.

4.

Zero interest puff pieces lifted from social media, 2:

“That’s awesome” (re a friend’s profile picture of herself hugging a monkey)

“FARRRK off”.

“MAKE SURE YOU DON’T MISS OUT ON OUR NEW SHOW JOIN THE EVENT KEEP UPDATED GET PRESENTS GIFTS YES GIFTS YOU GO GO GO NOW NOW NOW CLICK CLICK CLICK FUNNNNN TIMES YES YOU”

“Todd McKenney also pitched a TV show called ‘It’s A Date!’ but it was just half an hour of him pointing at his ring.”

“good news comes in small packages of contempt”

5.

There is a tiny part of me that thinks that somehow I’m still in Berlin; that this is all a huge fake-out; someone’s sick joke, and I’ll wake up one morning not in my own bed but still stuck in hospital, learning to walk again and chowing down dry and tasteless abendbrot. It’s like those endings to the cheesy Sci-Fi films of the 50s – the beautiful blonde space-pilot, tossing and turning in a bed that doesn’t look like it’s from the year 3024, but instead looks mighty like a single bed from Middle American suburbia, circa 1951. The camera zooms out further and we see that space pilot (pilotess, I guess; ‘cos it’s the 50’s, so everything has to be gendered) is but a 17-year-old girl, practically our age! Finally, her mother, clad head to toe in silk and wearing a facemask for some reason, comes in.

“Elsie!” she barks; the mask cracking with her frown. “Elsie, wake up this minute, damnit! It’s time for school!”

“Gosh,” Elsie says, sitting up and rubbing her perfectly made up eyes. “Cool it, Mom. Why you so frosted for anyway? It’s 7AM; everything’s copasetic.”

Fucking horrible.

6.

That feeling where you feel like you need to explain things to people but they’re in another state won’t go away (it’s a really specific feeling, actually). Like a bar dealing with recent “no smoking” regulations, it’s time to clear the air. I feel weirdly like Cady Heron in Mean Girls at the end of the film. At least I made like Regina George and got hit by a moving vehicle, I guess.

7.

Tumblr post. All the food I’ve eaten today has had phallic appearances. HASHTAG including dick.

8.

Five more text messages selected at random:

“OH GOD IT STARTED AND I AM CRYING”

“Packaging peanut kitty”

“Thanks for your hospitality and caffeine, such a lovely afternoon. Good luck not getting survivor-banged by most of Melbourne x”

“OHHH haaay! That’s great news! Eat it up, lady. This festival is amazing. We are killin it 🙂 here’s to finding u sooner than later x”

“Are you OK???”

Sometimes, I think, the answer is simply too involved for a text message. Especially now that my fine motor skills aren’t up to scratch.

9.

I understand that generally people with brain injuries don’t recover as quickly as I’m doing, but it aggravates me that a select few of my therapists refuse to believe that I’m as okay as I am. You’d think that their response would be “that’s amazing!”, not, “oh… are you suuuuure?”. Yes. My feet are still attached to me, actually, so I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing an hour’s exercise bike ride each day.

10.

For the longest time I was horribly concerned about the back of my head. I never had the patience to grow my hair after shaving it, but, funny thing, when you’re in hospital, hair styles tend to lose their importance. Until this week I had three jagged lily white scars across the back of my skull, but today I’ve realised they’re slowly growing back with hair. Patience, it seems, is a virtue. Now that I’m back in Australia, one of my recent missions was to get a haircut that I deemed fashionable – in South Yarra, filled with hipsters and tiled surfaces – and, as a sort of reclaiming of my body (or at least my scarred head) I got my hair cut the way I’d do it. The way I used to do it. Whatever else, I am sick of patience – everything that’s majorly wrong with me at this juncture (mercifully physical) seems to require a tonne of waiting and medical guessing. My eye? “Oh, let’s maybe try patching it, we can look at corrective glasses later on. It might get better on its own.” It might, but so might Christmas.

11.

I’ve written two plays since returning to Australia – neither of which managed to tire me out, but simply holding a conversation, in certain situations, can. Being predominantly a writer, I’m clearly majorly successful at meaningful interactions.

12.

Sometimes there’s too much and you’ve gotta let it out.

Sometimes, if you do, you’ll discover things about yourself and the world that surrounds you.

1.

I sit in a neuro-psychology session in Spandau Hospital, with my slight, rusty-haired therapist, Lisa:

“Okay,” she says. “We’ll continue testing your brain’s capabilities. I’ve got a series of math questions to ask you.”

I blanch: my stomach spreading ice-cold tendrils up through my sternum at the thought of Dreaded Mathematics. “Ah,” I stammer. “I’m happy to do anything you ask, but just so you know, maths may be a slight issue. I’ve been terrible at it for something like ten years.”

“Terrible?” she says, cocking her head.

“Really, really, bad,” I explain.

A beat, and she nods her comprehension, setting out a series of wooden flash cards.

“Okay then, let’s begin. Seven times twelve.”

A half an hour later. I think, as expected, that I’ve failed the test and there’s a heavy silence between myself and Lisa.

Sooo,” she begins. “Were you always this bad with math before the accident, or…?”

2.

I’m caught in a small group of people in the Malthouse Theatre’s vast foyer, enjoying the free food on offer that signals that tonight was the opening night for Calpurnia Descending, a high-action romp fuelled in equal parts by insanity, sheer intelligence and razor sharp edges. My friend, Ash, now de-costumed post-performance, is chatting merrily away:

“Now,” he says; his voice belying the same level of faux-concern as the doctors in my life, tones thick and dripping with saccharine intention. “I want to ask. Were you always gay before the accident, or did the car crash make you gay? I’m very sorry if it was the car that made you gay; you’ve got enough going on without this extra disability. Very, very sorry. We can offer you a lobotomy if you want it fixed?”

3.

Midday, two weeks ago, and I’m sitting in a small hospital office with Jane, my Australian neuro-psych.

“Maths questions!”, she announces cheerfully, retrieving those familiar flash cards from the depth of her desk. As in Spandau, my entire body seems to sink and shiver.

“I’m pretty atrocious at math,” I explain. “Always have been.

“How ‘bout we try anyway, hm?” she insists. “Now: what’s five times twenty-two?”

I haven’t the foggiest.

Once more, the silence between us is foggy and thick with my embarrassment. I feel like a mathematics-based lover who can’t perform when the pressure’s on. My results, I can tell already, are pitifully flaccid.

“Okay,” Jane speaks, pointed cheer and concern masking her voice. “Did you always have trouble with math, or… since the brain injury…?”

Walking through the labyrinthine halls of Caulfield Hospital, I’ll occasionally get a whiff of that generic, unpleasant hospital smell – the pointed stench of human shit mixed with erect, white pressed thick starched sheets and the unmistakably depressing smell of hospital food (which has, like airplane food, a strangely disinfected scent about it, as if the nurses had surreptitiously added a smear of White King to your egg salad sandwich.)

It is a week ago, and we are waiting for Jane to arrive and go through the test results that will essentially decide my fate for the immediate future. We have been waiting for ten minutes.

I consider asking Jane, when she finally arrives, whether she’s always ten minutes late to appointments or whether that’s the accident, but decide against it. She’s asked enough questions about whether I can successfully control my anger “since the accident” already, and I don’t fancy giving her more fodder to wield.

4.

Apparently getting hit by a car makes you the hot topic de jour for a host of people. Countless messages, generic in their tone and emotion, have flooded through since it happened, from people I haven’t spoken to in years, the majority beginning with the most horrid and weirdly insistent greeting, where the tone is directly indicated by the amount of “aaa”s included: “Baaaaaaaaaabe!”. My feeling with these is if you didn’t feel it necessary to catch up with me pre-car crash, why should the accident change anything? I get it, but I’m as alive as I was before the crash and subsequent coma.

The car crash also introduced me to – besides a score of asphalt and the dangers of drunk 5am road crossing, that is – the concept of something I’ve dubbed “survivor banging.” To explain; I have never been more sexually attractive, apparently, than right now, right this second, as a person who almost died, completing menial exercises to return to the person I was beforehand, at least mechanically. Countless men – the majority of whom I’ve never spoken to or met in person – have cropped up, mostly through social media, to hassle me in ways previously unheard of.

“Hey bae,” one gay might pop up on Facebook messenger. “What happened to your eye??? :(“

“Got hit by a car,” I reply, bored already of telling the story and the inevitable route I can already tell this conversation will take. “The muscles behind my right eye are pulling my vision up and out, so I’ve been given a patch to help correct it.” 

“Oh no!”, the reply comes quicker than lightening and with about as much subtlety. “That’s so horrible! I’m glad you’re okay, though. Burgers soon???”

Yeah,” I think. “I’ve a gimpy eye and twelve hours of therapy a week, completing menial tasks like “using chopsticks” and “running on a treadmill.” Real sexy. Let’s defs burgers soon, I totes can’t wait.”

5.

The other phenomenon, it would seem, is the two-pronged fact of my recovery. My doctors and therapists themselves are amazed at my recovery and that I didn’t end up a quadriplegic, which is both parts encouraging and terrifying whenever one of them stresses how close I was to never walking again. The other part rears its head whenever I see a friend I haven’t seen since before Germany: the attempts to explain the subtle differences in my abilities and how I try and deal with them (I didn’t, as Jane has yet to ask me, spill my tea before the accident, indeed, my balance was far better than it is now). In many ways, I’m reminded that I present as an elsewise normal person – albeit, a normal person with jagged scars through the back of his head – and the need to explain how close I came to sitting, drooling and blank-eyed in a wheel chair, is somehow necessary.

“This totally isn’t the same thing at all,” someone might start, “But when I was ten I didn’t wear my helmet bike riding, and I once hit my front yard gate and flipped over it and the handle bars, hitting my head on the pavement below. I mean, I was alright, obviously, but for a few months afterwards I used to get splitting headaches and couldn’t go biking again.”

“No,” I think. “It totally isn’t the same thing at all.”

6.

I am sitting in an off-white office in Caulfield Hospital with my parents and physiotherapist, the sound of treadmills and feet far off a strange backdrop to our conversation.

“You need to give him some independence,” my physio, Christie, smiles. “I know it must be tough after all that’s happened, but he’s moving back to Sydney, isn’t he?”

Mum gives me a side-eye. “Yes,” she says.

“Exactly!” Christie adds. “And you can’t be there with him, so you’re going to have to let him do things on his own. God, a 26 year old boy! I’d be going insane locked up in all of this!”

I tense up, the muscles in my torso running stiff and hot from my pelvis, up through my back and chest and around my neck. It seems as if my whole body is running on high alert for news of my fate.

“O…kay,” Mum replies. “We’ll give it a try.”

7.

“You’re a writer?” Jane asks, voice brimming with curiosity. “We can help you with that. If you wouldn’t mind, just send some of your writing to myself and Danielle,” (the occupational therapist) “and we can assess it for you.”

“Assess it? I think. Yes, I would mind, actually.

“You know,” she continues. “We can see if it’s any good.” Then: “Sometiiiiimes, the thing with people with brain injuries is they think things are good when they’re actually not. Don’t want you to make that mistake.”

With sudden terror, I resolve to get someone I trust to read the things I’ve written since the crash and tell me if they’re any good or not.

“It’s all good,” I try. “People have read them and it all just feels the same as before the accident.”

“Here’s my email,” she passes me a business card breezily. “Just send along whatever you’re comfortable with us reading.”

“He’s fine,” Mum says. “I’ve read everything he’s written, since, and it all makes total sense.”

“Oh,” Jane says. “Good to know.”

I wonder why it takes the authority of Therese to make her believe my writing is okay.

8.

It’s October 31st. My parents are out and I’ve gone, with Jeremy, to the local BP. My jumper has a bone structure design knitted on it – the skeletal cross section of a human chest – and my eye-patch is, as always, strapped on, and I’m acutely aware that I must look like the most confused, apathetic Halloween-goer in the neighbourhood.

I approach the cash register and place my things in a small tower for the cashier to put through.

“Costume?”, she asks.

“No, car crash,” I reply, my brain already switching into a bored type of auto-pilot. “It stuffed my eye, so this patch helps fix it.”

Silence. The cashier, turning crimson in her silence, scans the rest of my items, then: “Sorry,” she says softly. “I was gonna say, you’re welcome to have some lollies if you are in costume.” Then: “I can just give you some anyway.

With that, she trots off to find the supply of Halloween candy.

9.

We’re sitting in a quintessentially “Melbourne” hipster café, Jeremy and I, waiting for his friends Amit, Georgia and Emma to arrive, and I can feel that familiar dryness and lump at the back of my throat; my nervousness at meeting new people running at a pitiful high.

Half an hour later, his friends have arrived, laughing and joking and smiling. I do something, or say something, kind of stupid, dropping my serviette on the ground.

“Oh,” Amit says in an impressive mock of the tones I’ve now learned to hate. “Is that ‘cause you got hit by a car, or…?”

“Yeah, it is,” I reply. “I was carrying a serviette, actually, when it hit me, and now I just can’t look at them the same way. Too many memories, y’know?”

We laugh, and a certain ease begins to slide over me; calming me, I realise that this is what I’m missing: this good humour, this refusal to treat me differently whether for better or worse; people’s ability to make light of the situation and offer me a lobotomy or mock my classic Bryant clumsiness like they would any other friend. Unlike my ability to use chopsticks, it seems, my humour hasn’t been crushed under wheels and hard Berlin pavement. That humour, no matter how bleak, allows me, in a way, to be treated as I was before; as an actual human, not a new best friend or survivor worth banging, and, when attempting to outrun the veritable darkness that seems to have overcome so much of my life, that’s important – by God, it’s important.

1.

I am sitting in the office of Dr. Mithu Pallet, the doctor overseeing my rehabilitation programme. He listens intently, occasionally locking eyes with me, his darkened gaze boring through my eyeballs and into my very brain itself. He nods and occasionally speaks in vague affirmation of what I’m saying: “yeah, sure, uh-huh, oh, that’s when the double vision came in, definitely.” I finish, and there is a full half-minute’s silence, his eyes still boring into me as my own dart nervously around the office, trying to find something, anything to affix to. I wait in terror and the thick of his silence for news of my fate.

“You definitely shouldn’t drink for at least a year,” he says, eyes still tearing into me. “At least. So that makes it… October 17, 2015, correct?”

I nod in affirmation. Somehow I’m just relieved he didn’t comment on how stupid an accident it was – though I probably did that enough to relieve him of the duty. I don’t imagine that it’ll be a particularly tough period of sobriety, though. I very much don’t feel like alcohol anymore, even the very thought of it sends my stomach into knots of fear.

2.

And I am standing with three gorgeous friends – Michael, Laura and Robbie – in a bar in Berlin. This is the night of the accident. I have a gin and tonic in hand – the prices are cheap, extremely cheap – and I nurse it with gusto. My head’s not spinning so much as sinking, and I’m happy, somehow – pleased as punch to be with my lovely friends in a lovely European country I’d never visited before in a lovely bar with a lovely drink and a lovely Australian expatriate drag queen with the lovely name of Olympia Bukkakis.

Later, much later. Some four hours later it’s nearly go-time, and I’m standing in between some brittle foliage on a median strip snaking down the middle of a relatively quiet road. In front of me – the endgame – I see the bright white light of a German bakery, somehow still open as if a sign from God him or herself, and I blurrily think that I might finally get to try a German-made pretzel – and before that bright light, a collection of smaller, fuzzy, white, red and blue headlights darting around like mechanical fireflies, somehow buzzing ‘round my head from far away like bizarre mechanical vehicular ventriloquists.

I take a breath. I can almost taste the bakery’s produce. With gusto and certainty, I step out onto the road in an attempt to cross. Of course, I never made it. I also never got to try that German-made pretzel.

3.

2005. I am standing in the kitchen, helping my mother with dinner.

“You know,” Mum says, “your birth-mother has problems with alcohol, so you just need to be careful with that.”

“With what?” I ask, making her spell it out like the petulant teenager I am.

“With alcohol,” Mum says, matching my tone, “it’s written in your genetics. You might find it hard to deal with.”

“Hard to deal with?” I throw back at her, ever the little shit.

“Hard to give up.” She returns the serve over the net with sudden force, her vocal gymnastics far overtaking my own. This time, I remain silent.

4.

Three weeks ago.

“I’ve heard about this drink,” mum says, “This pretend wine; Grapetiser or something, and, given it’s your birthday coming up, I thought we might get you some so you have something to drink when the occasion comes.”

I’m reading the Sunday Age, or attempting to, but my brain won’t focus and the world, it seems, is conspiring against me and my attempts to read.

“No thanks,” I reply, knocking her offer back a little too quickly, a little too rudely.

“Why not?” Mum asks. “It’s not alcoholic, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Not worried,” I shoot back. “I just don’t see the point in having fake wine if I’m not allowed actual wine. It’s fine, I don’t actually want wine, but I don’t see the point in drinking “almost wine”. It’s like someone on a diet trying for low-fat McDonalds. I’d rather just have Diet Coke or something.”

“But Diet Coke has artificial sweeteners and they give you cancer,” Mum replies, voice sharp and cracking.

“Fine,” I reply, hand holding open the newspaper at the article I’m apparently not allowed to finish. “I’ll just have water, then, it’s not a big deal.”

“That’s no fun, though,” Mum says.

I’m aware, I think, but not much in life is; and booze got me in to this situation, so I’ll be damned if fake booze’ll get me out.

I wonder idly how best to explain to her that if I’m to abstain, the best way to do it is to simply to cut all alcohol-related products out, way out, that even when I could drink, one glass of wine or beer would lead to a desire for more, and that that’s what needs to be quashed within me, and the consumption of an alcohol-adjacent product won’t help

I decide instead to leave it be.

5.

In Spandau Hospital, Berlin, they often gave me – whether I liked it or not – a product with meals entitled Maltz Beer; the country’s leading brand of alcohol-free-alcohol, a honey-esque thick brown substance that only resembled legitimate beer if you squinted while you drank it.

On the few occasions that an English-speaking nurse was delivering the meals, I’d get asked if I’d like something to drink, and by force of habit I began to ask for Maltz – not particularly because I desired it, but because the hospital, it seemed, was a soft-drink free zone and I’d find myself rather often not in the mood for hospital coffee and tea (both had the subtle flavour palate of dirt peppered with chopped up earthworms and despair).

I fear in this regard I may have given my parents the wrong idea with regards to my soft-drink habits, but when it comes to it; anything’ll taste good on a 35 degree day when you’re crammed in with an array of stale patients without the joy of airconditioning.

6.

Some disturbing facts I googled myself in the midst of a curious phase one night last week:

– patients in the midst of recovering from a traumatic brain injury who return to drinking too soon are up to 8 times more likely than any other kind of person to repeat said traumatic brain injury.

– as a brain injury patient in the midst of rehabilitation, I’m up to 8 times more likely than a mentally healthy person to develop depression across my recovery period.

The thought of going through depression – a disease I’ve seen many of my friends struggle with across the years – or having to do any of this a second time chills me to the bone.

My Mother’s reaction to these facts: “Don’t worry, you don’t need to be depressed; you have your family as a support network and so many people have to go through recovery without any kind of support network, so that must be why it happens.”

I consider telling her that depression takes no names or prisoners, and that if you’re going to get depression, that it’s in no way a matter of need, you’ll get it regardless of mental strength or support network or whether you deem it “just”.

But then she smiles at me, an earnest, wide smile, and hugs me, and I decide to drop it.

7.

The hardest thing isn’t my own abstinence in the situation, which has been actually incredibly easy, it’s been the reactions of the people I’ve told. Reactions so far have included:

“Oh my god.”

 “But you love wine?”

“Chris not drinking? Wow, okay.”

“A year? That’s such a long time.”

And the reactions of some of my closest friends:

“That sounds like good idea.”

“That makes sense.”

“Wow. Yeah, you actually might find you never drink again.”

And as my birthday came around, numerous messages filtered through my way:

Happy Birthday you beautiful boy! I hope your day is great and you have heaps of wine and cheese and cats to brighten your day!

It reads to me like a bizarre check-list of things I’ve been vaguely known to enjoy: like, these are things you like, yes?? As these messages shot through, hypertext bullets made of writing and half-good intention and sheer facebook laziness, the one thing I couldn’t help but think when I read them was: Really? You’ve known me for four years and all you can remember about me is that I like wine, cheese and cats? Right. Clearly I need to be more memorable or start making a more genuine impression.

8.

I’m standing on rehearsal break in a nearby Brighton supermarket, scanning the aisles for ready-made cans of Campbell’s Soup for dinner. I am 19. My phone, a colour Nokia stuffed messily into my pocket, bursts suddenly to life, vibrating and singing out Ocean of Noise by The Arcade Fire, some three good years before the “indie” craze would really hit off and ruin most of the things I liked by violently stamping the word “HIPSTER” on them in bold red letters.

I retrieve my phone and pick it up, not bothering to check as to the identity of the caller but instead pressing it cold to my ear. It’s probably my director wondering where I am, I think.

“Hello, Christopher speaking,” I say.

“Christopher,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice slurs. “I was watching Charmed just now and it got me thinking of you,” the voice says.

“Who is this, sorry?” I ask listlessly, eyes still scanning the countless cans of soup.

“This is your mother,” the voice says, sharply.

My birth mother, and by the sounds of it, she’s drunk.

“Sorry,” I say, heart racing in overdrive. “But I can’t really talk right now. I’m just on a break from rehearsal and I need to have some dinner.”

“Okay, fine,” the voice snarls and hangs up.

Five minutes later, still in the supermarket, a text message:

I think its really rude u dont wanna talk 2 me cos ur with ur friends. Im your mother, u cant switch me off.”

I think: I wish I could. And then I begin to formulate a reply.

9.

My world is painfully foggy from too much wine. I am twenty years old and standing with my housemate Jacob in the main hallway next to Monash University Clayton Campus’s Student Theatre. My world is currently contained in the takeaway latte coffee cup sitting hot in my hands. Our good friend Tess approaches us with trepidation, greeting us as she comes nearer.

“Hi boys,” she smiles.

“Hi,” I reply, and massage my temples.

“I’m curious,” she begins. “How many times a week do the both of you drink? It seems to me like you’re always hung over and I’m just a little concerned you might spur each other on.

I try to think: why did I drink last night? And then come to the painful, bitter realisation: to quell my feelings.

“I just want you both to be okay,” Tess says. That’s funny, ‘cos so do I.

What am I gonna say? I think to myself. The truth? I’m finally processing the enormity of my recent break up; two years now seems like a hugely long time to be with someone and I’m weirdly scared and suspicious of everyone I meet and that I’ll never like or be liked by someone, anyone again? I drank last night to try and do what I’m apparently unable to do which is control my emotions? That sounds fucking lame.

Tess smiles and hugs me, her strength wrapping round my torso and filling me up.

Could be a start, I think.

10.

From 2009 to 2011, I spent a good four months of every year abstaining from drinking – partly just to prove to myself and the world that I could, and partly as a weight-loss booster, even if I had no weight to lose.

One day, in late ’11, I read on Wikipedia (that bastion of internet truth) that high-functioning alcoholics will often take a month or two of their year without the booze just to prove to themselves they still can, and because if they can this gives them free reign to go harder the rest of the year. Whilst I never did that, that still scared me enough to (weirdly) cease my abstinent periods altogether and instead instigate a new rule – that of drinking only during weekends, and only when out with friends at parties. That rule, like the factoid on Wikipedia, didn’t last as long as I felt it should, and now neither are in effect.

11.

Call it low self esteem, anxiety or simply shyness, but I have needed, in the past, to be intoxicated to even have the strength and mental fortitude to make new friends or to tell a boy that I have feelings for them or, god forbid, to actually instigate anything, as positive an experience as that clearly is. As the years have gone past and I’ve matured, this crippling insecurity and idiocy has still held me tight, but I’ve also in many ways began to move past it as I’ve realised how little each rejection (or acceptance) actually has meant for the related relationship or friendship, and how much this attitude I held actually stood deeply in my way. Be that as it may, the most fulfilling experiences of my romantic life have all taken place as I can remember them: stone-cold sober, feeling the fear and anxiety and heatbeat and sheer excitement of it all and allowing it to all come crashing down around me.

I think, perhaps, there’ll always be some part of me sitting in the dark with this collection of faceless, beautiful boys, holding on to my terror and attempting to send signals their way; hoping for some back in my direction. But I realize, now, that there’s nothing romantic about this – regardless of how much you think you are, you’re actually not being aloof and mysterious. You’re shaking, cold and in the dark, in a park or at the beach or in the dark and warmth of your bedroom, too chickenshit to commit to kissing someone you really feel strongly about.

12.

I’ve realised, after much thought on the subject, that what I’ve been given is a chance: not to break the cycle of alcoholism because I never bought into it, but to teach myself some real life-skills.

There’s a voice, floating at the back of my head. Not the voice of Dr Mithu Pallet, or my mother, but of something else entirely: a voice that says: it’s time to take chances, to push yourself, speak the unexpected and speak what you really feel. You deserve this

And I realise, with that voice, that I’ve put alcohol in control of many emotional situations simply because I am afraid. I am afraid of people, when I have no reason to be; I am afraid of what they might say should I speak my mind or divulge some honest feeling. The ironic thing being, of course, that although I initially used alcohol to quell my fear in general, the biggest fear in my life, at present, concerns my near-death on a cold Berlin road and that I almost ended up a stone-cold corpse or drooling vegetable; completely unable to do the thing I love.

This time has come, this voice says, to speak up. To stop being afraid of people and of what they might think of what you have to say. You have nothing to lose. Take a chance and see what happens.

1.

I wake with a start in the depths of Spandau rehabilitation centre, disoriented and agitated. My mother, halfway through a crossword perched merrily in her lap, peers over the crossword book to observe me, face brimming with curiosity as to my emotional fate – will I be aggressive and, as her, my father and my boyfriend have termed it, “slappy”, or will I be blissful and unable to say a handful of words without getting the giggles? It is roughly lunch-time. I turn to her, and smile, voice low and conspiratorial. “Good afternoon,” Mum smiles back. “You’ll know this. What’s another word for ‘panache’?”. I brush the suggestion away before it can infiltrate and cloud my mind. I’m getting better at it. “Don’t know,” I reply. “Is anyone else around?” Mum puts the book down. “You do so know,” she shoots back. “And no, they’ve gone out to get lunch from the cafeteria. Yours’ll be arriving soon.” “It’s Jeremy’s birthday soon,” I say, “and I’m gonna make him a cake and get him a present. I know what cake I’ll make.” “For next years’?” Jeremy asks, walking in with my father as if by magic. “Er, no,” I say. “This years’.” I watch, uncomprehending, as my mother and Jeremy shift their body weight awkwardly and share a pitying look. I think to myself that I’ve ruined the surprise. It’s September, and Jeremy’s birthday is in January. Nobody dares correct my error. Little do I realise that a few days time will begin a weeks-long cycle of horror and realisation and sharp, all-encompassing guilt and self-hatred on my behalf as I attempt to recall a host of deeply distressing memories from deep within the hodge-podge of my brain; the cloudy, muted memories, it seems, of someone else possessing my body and having their way with it.

2.

Some four weeks later, we’re back in Melbourne, in my childhood home. It is roughly lunch-time again. My parents are sitting in the lounge-room, reading the newspaper. I’m sitting in my room, flipping through a magazine carelessly. “Jeremy,” I start, murmuring in what I hope is a carefree way. “Would you mind making me a cup of tea?” “Of course,” he smiles, and departs for the kitchen, near where my parents are. Excellent, I think. The game is on. The nearest JB Hi-Fi is a kilometre away – about twelve minutes by regular foot, and certainly far longer than it takes to boil a kettle of water for a cup of tea – but still I decide in that instant that this is the moment I should depart – in secret, of course – to retrieve Jeremy’s birthday present for his October/January birthday (in actual fact, it being mid October, it is only a week and a half from my birthday – “What do you want for your birthday?” Mum’d asked me, “Nothing,” I’d replied morosely. “I don’t feel like celebrating anyway. Doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate.” “You’re alive,” she’d offered, cutting my moroseness down like a dead Christmas tree falling at the close of the holiday period, “I guess,” I’d replied. “That’s present enough. Maybe if you could magically get back my leather jacket.”) I stand on uncertain gelatinous legs, holding myself up on the walls of the hallway, my legs doing a fair impression of the “mashed potato” dance as I go. I reach the front door and my hand shoots out – half to open the door, half to steady myself – and the door key cuts hard into my palm, leaving a tiny indent in my flesh. Perhaps Dr von Helden was right, I think, conjuring images of the stern head doctor at Spandau in her lily-white jacket who had violently resisted our repatriation back to Australia, not wanting to prove her right. I open the door and imagine the road to the JB – one I’d walked hundreds of times before – and imagine myself attempting to hold onto nearby fences, falling onto the road, cracking my skull on the asphalt and being run over by a car. “I’m very sorry,” the shadowy doctor in my mind – who bears a striking resemblance to Dr von Helden – sighs, “but there’s nothing we can do.” “Please,” my imaginary mother wails, beating her chest. “I’m so sorry,” shadow-doctor replies, “It’s just, we’ve never seen someone with two traumatic brain injuries before. One on top of the other. The placement is really impeccable. I’m afraid he won’t ever recover.” “What’re you doing?”, Mum asks sharply, standing in the hallway behind me. I start. I hadn’t heard her approach. “N-nothing,” I stutter, shutting the front door and making my way back to my bedroom. The present will have to wait. “You’re weak”, a voice in my head hisses at me as I crawl back onto my bed, body shaking. “You disgust me.”

3.

“FOMO,” or Fear Of Missing Out, is defined by Google as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Back in the day – some five or six years ago, before FOMO actually properly existed – this was often defined as the sinking feeling you’d get when you couldn’t attend an (imagined) great party. How was everyone going? Would that one friend you hadn’t seen for months be there? What music was being played? What food was being served? What drinks were being drunk? It was probably all amazing. Here’s a tip: it wasn’t.

4.

The perhaps more immature part of my brain escaped that Berlin road relatively intact. It calls to me when I least expect it to, wailing at the top of its lungs: “I DON’T DESERVE THIS!”, it screams, rattling round my skull back and forth, “I worked so hard to be there and out of everyone I didn’t deserve this!”. “No,” retorts another part; a part that has seemingly accepted its situation, “But then, if not you, then who? The other people in your course are all extremely talented and hard working. Would you rather one of them take your place?” I think of myself, and the dreams I’ve held since I was 5 of going to NIDA; the dreams I’d coax myself to sleep with in the dark of the night when nothing else would do – back when I still had blissfully misguided dreams of being an actor – and how in 2013 they were, in a sense fulfilled. I think of my self worth, and the worth of the other seven people in my course; of what those seven each mean to me. “No,” I reply begrudgingly, attempting once and for all to silence the voices in my head.

5.

It seems, strangely, not unkindly, that my life has done an extremely rapid 180. Emotionally and mentally, perhaps, I’d said “goodbye” to everyone in Melbourne, at least ‘till the course would end – and accepted that I wouldn’t see them particularly often for quite a while. Now, here I am – back in Melbourne and, yes, surrounded by a selection of beautiful people, all whom I love rather fiercely, but now, cruelly, missing Sydney and all of its beautiful people whom I love rather fiercely, who for the better part of this year populated my life with talent and humour and made it bright and full and exciting, as much as the people I love in Melbourne did (and do) for me. My situation has, without warning, once more entirely moved cities, except that in this instance my life’d been set up in Sydney, and now, as I didn’t expect to, I miss it an insane amount. I had said my goodbyes to Melbourne, but never got the chance to say a proper goodbye to Sydney, and by God, that stings.

6.

One of the things I remember clearly are the halcyon  days – some eight or nine years back – when FOMO legitimately did mean simply missing out on a party or forgetting to hit “record” on the VCR when your favourite television show was playing. Now it stands for something more adult and, in some senses more insidious. I worry that those I knew and loved in Sydney, particular the others in my cohort, won’t forget me but will instead continue along their predestined paths (as they have every right to do) as I attempt to right the violent swerve my life has taken, and that instead of forgetting they’ll simply grow up, leaving me behind, becoming accomplished and successful in ways I could never possibly hope to, and that I’ll be left alone. It’s been a long time coming, but one positive that’s come from this incident in Berlin is that I fear very little anymore. Spiders, dentistry, chainsaws and mass murderers with them, sure, but no longer do I fear missing out. When you’ve been plastered across a curving road at 5am in the morning, some things begin to seem a little infantile. Fear no longer rules me – I don’t give it the chance to. I have learnt, face pressed into hot asphalt and my brain shaken all throughout my skull like a rancid bag of “Shake N Bake”, the squeal of hot tires and numerous screams ringing in my ears – that there are better, more exciting things in life, and that I, and indeed most people I know, deserve more and better. The world is blessedly open, wide open, and fear is no longer my friend. I’m beginning to realise that I already have enough of them.