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Monthly Archives: September 2015

1. Agatha Trunchbull (1996-1998)  

The demonic headmistress from Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda was quite simply the bee’s knees (or, the bee’s headmistress). Sure, Matilda was intelligent and sassy and interesting and basically everything I wanted to be at age 8 bar a girl, but the Trunchbull was something else entirely. She wasn’t just smart, she was conniving. She had a nose for danger – and for chocolates. And she hated children. (This is a personality factor I appreciate much more as an adult, but still… she had it going on, is what I’m trying to say.)

I worshipped in particular the Pam Ferris iteration from the 1996 film adaptation. She was broad. She was mean. She couldn’t be bullied – as I was so often, being a butterball eight year old who loved books and hated confrontation. Best of all? She was fat, and she made no excuses for it. She had her cake, and by god did she eat it. (Except for that one time with Bruce Bogtrotter.) I wanted so badly to hold the sort of confidence that she possessed, and felt that if I was the principal of a school and knew how to throw a shot put or force a snotty fat kid like myself to eat his body weight in cake, I might have it.

It was hard to imagine any of my school companions slapping her in the stomach like they did to me. She’d have thrown them straight in the Chokey.

2. Vegeta (1999) 

The sometime antihero of that favourite anime for sad nerdy boys everywhere, Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta was a hero of mine for much the same reasons as the Trunchbull, but replacing the world “fat” with the word “short”. (Not that I am or was short; I just felt that we could relate as we both knew what hardship was.) This wasn’t a hero-worship situation, however, as much as a terribly awkward and confusing crush as I slowly began to figure out that girls weren’t what I was particularly interested in, and that maybe my family’s jokes about my “little girlfriends” were incredibly off the mark. (And kind of gross and heteronormative, but again, that’s more something I appreciate more as a grown man.) Also he was super muscly, which again linked into the body image dilemma.

Before I’d met any boys that I liked or harboured secret crushes for, I’d coax myself to sleep by imagining that in the dead of night I’d be wizarded away to the cartoon world of Funimation and fighting Saiyans, and Vegeta would be my prom date, regardless of whether their primary-coloured cartoon world even had a prom. I didn’t really have any concept of sex, let alone gay sex, so these feverish late-night dreams only involved lying clothed together in my single bed, Vegeta’s muscled arm held protectively around me, helping to scoop up my broken parts.

It was all very strange and, had it actually have occurred, been all types of illegal.

3. Sienna Primrose (2005-2007)

Sienna was a girl in my year-level at high school. While I was still intensely in my chrysalis stage (that of simultaneously realising that exercise existed and that my choices in fashion were directly up to me, not my parents) I was in awe of anyone who seemed like they knew themselves; what they wanted to do in life, and how to dress. Sienna had a fierce black bob framing her face (one that she only acquired in later life, but one that my brain has stitched onto every memory of her like a Lego hat made of fashionable hair) and perfect red lipstick (see the previous bracket; replace “Lego hat made of fashionable hair” with “candy lips in a devastating shade of red”.)

Sienna introduced me to Patrick Wolf, the Grates, art as an achievable concept and legitimate pastime and the idea that a LiveJournal didn’t always have to be lame if you wrote it correctly. Sienna was, it seemed, effortlessly cool. We didn’t fall out or anything, simply went off in different directions, but I’ll have a definite fondness for Sienna for quite a while yet.

She taught me something I still haven’t quite learned: though your seams are showing and you’re mentally ill or a little bit mental, if you don’t let it show, they’ll be none the wiser. And that way, you can pick who gets to see your seams.

Honourable Mentions:

Trent Reznor (2006):

For showing me that emotions are okay, or at least marketable if you have a platinum award-winning album to package said emotions in.

Gary Numan (2009):

For the graffiti on the back of the toilet door at my undergraduate uni: “GARY NUMAN MAKES MUSIC AND HAS HIS PILOT’S LICENSE, TOO. FANCY THAT!”

My 2nd year university creative writing teacher (2010):

For smelling like cigarettes, having epically back-combed hair, a leopard print blouse and a familiar shade of red lipstick, and for giving me my first (undeserved, I felt) HD.

Rose McGowan (2004-2006):

If only because I wanted (and kind of still want) to be Courtney in Jawbreaker.

Charles Busch (2007):

For opening my 19 year old mind to the fact that theatre could be anything and setting me on the playwriting path. (Or maybe it’s a Dishonourable Mention: Charles, if not for discovering you I could’ve been a barrister or something and rolling in cash.)

Ambivalent Mention:

Myself (1988-2015)

I’ve never understood the phrase “be your own hero”. I’m not sure why. I’m not my own villain, but I’m certainly not my own hero. (Even a cursory Google of the phrase shows endless “KEEP CALM AND BE YOUR OWN HERO” posters; people with the phrase sharpied across their knuckles and it written in rainbow-coloured-in texta. Deep, you guys. So deep.)

I’ve been working for at least ten years, maybe more, to try and make myself acceptable to myself. Slowly, it’s been working, and for that I’m thankful, but I think it’ll take a while longer yet. People have told me how proud they are of me, how hard it must’ve been to get through everything I did since the 28th of August, 2014, and… yes, sure. It wasn’t easy. I won’t pretend that it was. But I’m not a hero, and certainly not my own for it. I did what I had to do. I saw the potential of having to stay in an environment I hated, with legs that didn’t work, and decided that I needed to get the hell on with it and out of it.

I love myself.

I’m taking care of myself.

That’s the first time I can really say both of those statements genuinely, and maybe that’s enough.

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1.

“Of course your parents are overbearing. Think about it: they’ve been there since the beginning. Since before you could walk. And now you’re a step ahead, mentally at least, and wanting to be left to your own devices, but they still see you as you were four months ago.”

I am sitting in the perfectly tempered office of Anna, my psychologist. It is late December of 2014 and I am quietly dismayed that, as always, she’s countered my irrational irritation with a cold dose of logic and sensibility.

“The first time you left home, they had – what, 20 years or so to get used to the concept. They saw you grow up, start to do your own thing. They probably started to actually look forward to you living independently. This time…” she pauses. “You have to understand; people with brain injuries don’t usually recover this quickly. You’ve matured amazingly fast – it’s like you’ve gone through those twenty years in the space of three or four months.”

The problem is that I want to go out, out into the world, but my parents are holding quite sternly on to me. More specifically, I’ve identified, I’ve gotten used to my parents handling everything for me: it’s become comfortable, and I’ve become complacent in that comfort. Only now, as I start to (attempt to) spread my wings, does their caring (forceful, intense, but caring all the same) get in the way.

“Start small,” Anna suggests. “But you’ll need to start. And you’ll need to start doing things for yourself. You can’t just expect them to suddenly stop and let you do everything again – you’ll need to first show them that you can; that it’s not a worry.”

Okay, sure, I think. I can do that.

Start small.

2.

And it is a few months later when the sun has begun to bleed in painted, gorgeous hues of reds, yellows, purples and pinks across the sky, signalling that night is falling. I have moved in to a small, comfortable but cramped flat in Caulfield with my boyfriend, Jeremy, and have begun to spend my days completing application after application in increasing desperation and learning to enjoy elements of my own personality, of being with myself and living for myself.

It is maybe 7PM, and I am thoroughly engaged with the music pumping through my ear buds, mindlessly ignoring the traffic speeding past me in either direction.

The music comes to a halt as I do, somehow, and I look left, then right, then left and right again. No traffic.

Feeling slight unease bubble up through my chest – the same unease that’s taken hold of me every time I’ve crossed a road since Berlin – I stride out onto the road proper. It’s but a few steps – one, two, three, four, five – to safety on a dead road as the sun sinks down, further down into darkness, and –

And my neck seizes up in fear (and pain; the pain that’s struck me ever since the crash) as I turn to my left and see a car, headlights blazing, motor roaring as it continues to fly down the road towards me.

This is what I get for jay-walking, I think, even if there are no cars nearby.

I am caught, a deer in the (quite literal) headlights, but, unlike Berlin, I am able to throw myself out of the way; scuttle forward and to the sidewalk. As my body reaches the ground, I hear the gargantuan shriek of the car as it passes through the space where my body was a few seconds ago.

As the feeling returns to my now-bruised body, I realise that this was what everyone meant when they said how “lucky” I was to have been hit by a car in Germany, if it had to be anywhere: the speed limits there are much lower, and the cars actually obey them.

Start small: small steps made quickly so as to avoid certain death.

3. 

It’s the third night of my return to Sydney and I’m walking with my good friend Jess through darkened streets; both of us attempting to navigate our respective ways home after a launch party (during which, I’m pleased to note, I didn’t freak out once – almost like a real life normal human being.)

We’re discussing the perspectives of friendship; how confused and taken aback I am by the two week period of veritable solitude I’m faced with before returning to study, how I’m uncertain how to navigate my own attempts at friendship and reconnection when they’re so often forgotten about in favour of the insane workload NIDA foists upon its students; how my initial reaction is one of hurt, but I’m learning, slowly, to dial that shit down, to recognise it as a base reaction courtesy of the brain injury rather than anything to do with my friendships in question.

I hadn’t thought, I think, that everyone’d fall at my feet, but…

But?

But maybe I did, a cooler voice cuts through the self pity worming its way through my brain. Maybe I’d hoped that they’d all be so fucking excited to see me that they’d drop whatever’s going on in their lives to come keep me company. And maybe now I’m hurt, irrationally and illogically, that they haven’t.

Then: Yeah, right.

“Besides, maybe it’s good for you,” Jess says as we navigate the increasingly hilly patch of sidewalk before us. “Just getting used to being on your own again; being independent and doing stuff for yourself. You can do it, y’know; you just need to show yourself that you can.

Start small: small steps to prove that yes, dickhead, you totally can do this.

4.

And I realise, now, as much as I don’t want it to be, maybe it is good. I’ve replaced my parents with Jeremy as a person-shaped security blanket (not that he does everything for me); someone I’ve attached my hopes and fears and safeties to; someone I’ve mentally told myself about: everything will be okay as long as we are together.

And of course, now, we’re not.

And of course, we won’t be in the future – not always.

And of course, that’s much less in than co, a desperate co-dependent hanger-on from my brain injury wildly skittering around and looking for safety and warmth and comfort anywhere it can find it. Safety and warmth and comfort are all wonderful things, of course, but the world – as a large part of me knows; is acquainted with – is not safe and warm and comforting, and more often than not you need to be able to find that within yourself.

You couldn’t find it last year, I think, and look what happened.

Yeah, let’s not get into that.

I used to be okay. I used to be strong – stronger than this, at least, and capable of existing and flourishing in solitary confinement; capable of getting shit done and being proud of myself and –

And?

And I am still strong. I’ve gotten through a hellish myriad of terrible things in the past year, and come out the other side successfully. I can do this.

Start small: sure, but just fucking start.