I have an innate built in mechanism to deal with emotional upset and distress, stemming predominately from when my Mother passed away when I was thirteen years old. I was never given any proper counselling for it, and at that age, that important developmental period of my life, I had to swallow and hold in all the grief, confusion and loss that the experience involved. Looking back (and hindsight is a fantastic way of understanding where things started to go wrong, alas no use for the present), it was the most single transformative event of my life, the main thing I believe that caused my life to go so tragically wrong in my later years. To try to understand some reasons why I failed in my later secondary school years in terms of not passing my end of school exams (just achieving mediocre grades apart from English Literature – the only subject I passed with any distinction) and from going off the rails during those last several school years, I must begin to look back at the lack of support I experienced when my Mother died. I did go off the rails, I did become a rebellious teenager listening to Rock music, drinking and suchlike, I had an awkward relationship with my Father who probably never understood me (and myself not understanding or probably respecting the grief he was still going through), and so on. Fundamentally, I ended up not resitting my exams and went to work, ending up being ‘encouraged’ to leave home at seventeen and moving into a large town, away from the village and peers I grew up with, having to make new friends in the place I moved to; the beginning of the bedsit years had its inauguration in September 1988.
And so I struggled. For a highly sensitive teenager to have to learn how to do his washing, pay his own bills, cope with having so limited money (I was working on a Government Youth Training Scheme in Catering at that time – and that was low wages), plus suffering the pain of not having anyone in my Family to talk to when I finished work, then it was a very tough, very lonely time. I never finished my apprenticeship in Catering as I could not afford to live on the wages it paid, and the other reason was suffering from eczema. I started work in a Factory afterwards, and yet I still found it hard and tough going on my own even with a small increase in pay. The Samaritans were involved with me at one point between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years old because I had become so depressed living on my own in a pokey, sparsely furnished bedsit and having no meaningful existence apart from going to work and living off, for example, cheese on toast for the majority of the time. A very dreary existence. It was only in later years, towards my twentieth birthday that I changed employment to a much more positive office based job and became acquainted with some really interesting people – those dreary, single unshaded lightbulb days faded fast. Lady luck came a calling, and that I believe changed my fortunes back then. Or at least it started to form a much more individual identity to base my own personal liberty and ethos around; less Metal, more Grunge and correspondingly social issues, please. Identity Politics were the rule. A pure Generation X’er, coming from that screwed up past to want to try and change the world, and back then it was a true ‘rags-to-riches’ story – there was much that was good about me I personally and vehemently believe when I look back, albeit with scar tissue.
However, I still struggled. I still had issues within my makeup that had become so deep and hidden and swallowed into my soul, that on occasion would plague me, like some outbreak of fever whose illness would occasionally burst through the defense mechanisms that I had learnt to build around my hardened, but still sensitive heart, stemming from shutting out heartache, pain and rejection. Big huge, barbed wire defenses. As I grew older, this time living with my partner (later to be my wife), life turned slowly into normality; less the radical, freedom and rock-music loving youth – the one who wanted to change the world – more now into a responsible adult. Knowing about my adoption as my Mother never held that information from me (she told me when I was quite young), my late twenties seemed like a good time to uncover who my natural parents were. There are rules about making contact and when I found out various organisations that dealt with this, the law stated that a period of counselling is required before you make contact. I did all of this, I remained within the guidelines, but when the first letter came from my natural Mother, then all the emotions broke loose, ripping asunder the pandoras box where they had laid dormant for such a long time. It was not a quick process, it took me quite sometime to find her, but find her I eventually did. Terms that come into my mind as I write this tonight are: confusion (I still had the bond with my adopted Mother in my subconscious); love (hence confusion) and elation (hence love). Still, even over fifteen years after finding her, it is very difficult to write this up, to put this onto paper, to explain the most intense emotional ‘fuck up’ I ever had to experience. And all those stories about how good some reunions are, the ones that mess up are hardly discussed, or at least feeling the initial excitement of discovery, the bad tales just do not register. I digress. It screwed so much with my emotions – my mind, feelings and long forgotten things came rushing to the forefront of my life; I felt confused about my relationship with my adopted family, feelings about my Mother dying, age-old issues resurfaced with a staggering intensity that smashed through my old defenses, throwing them aside as a whirlwind would blow away a hastily constructed shelter. I felt emotionally ravaged, torn asunder in feelings of severe emotional intensity. I ended up having a serious breakdown from this crazy period of my life, and that really is all I can say about it, or at least all I wish to publish on wordpress at this time. Looking back (again hindsight is wonderful), my partner pulled me back together, and about a year or so afterwards, I married her and had children. Fin.
I believe that this existence, this life we lead whomever we may be, whatever our social circumstances, either makes us or breaks us, and there is the famous adage that ‘whatever does not kill you makes you stronger’. This so much is true. When I do look back at the things that went wrong with paths I chose, or were chosen for me (or highly encouraged), and the fact that I survived some incredibly rough treatment on occasion, then it made me a much more thoughtful, intense and mentally stronger person; the gift of being able to express some of these emotions on a literal level is something I am grateful for because I felt, with the intensity of living through such difficult situations, I needed to write to find closure, to come to terms with issues. Also, despite the initial feelings of joy and euphoria on finding my natural Mother, I do not think I am such a good advert for adoption organisations; it went wrong for me so I truthfully should not endorse the tracing and finding of your natural parents. If you have a stable relationship with your adopted parents, if you have a secure life, if you are emotionally strong, then go ahead and satisfy your curiosity. If on the other hand you are slightly worried in any way for whatever reasons, then give it a lot of thought. Who will it be affecting? Will it damage your relationship with the family that chose and loved you? And make sure you get the counselling beforehand. I am not sure if the law has changed since the late 1990’s, but that was a requirement before any information about your adoption details were handed over, and rightly so.
To conclude this rather confusing (it seems) post, then I think my character has been formed through struggle. Life has made me what I am today. The power and intensity of life-experiences gave me a hardened shell, and much more tougher skin than I ever believed I could have had when I was that sensitive kid from the South Wales Valleys. I most certainly have frayed edges, but I have an inner strength that has kept me together for all these years, an inner determination to prove the naysayers wrong about my character, to counteract deceit against my person. Even the shock of becoming homeless after my marriage ended never killed me, but it certainly has probably caused a more permanent and deeply emotional scar than anything else I have been through – and that truly is saying something.