I can’t remember what I was looking for, but the other day when I was nosing around the flat I found some very old photographs that I had never been aware of. There were dozens from my childhood and teenage years. I’d completely forgotten what I used to look like, and the photos came as a shock. I thought there were no photos left from my childhood, but it turns out my mum kept some. I used to think I was an ugly child – skinny and spotty and just plain odd, but the photos show that I looked fairly normal. In some of them you can clearly tell I will turn out gay – but that’s another story! In most of the photos I actually look quite happy, as if I’m having a good time.
I thought my entire childhood was a miserable ordeal! There are pictures of my baptism, my first ever trip to Brighton, my Holy Communion, my first day at secondary school, family holidays to Devon, and even an old ID card from college which I was sure I’d lost. In many of those pictures, I was a happy, normal child; you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. In reality, a lot of my childhood was unhappy, but not all of it. It was really in my teenage years that the problems started.
At the age of fourteen I was really underweight and spotty, and my hair was greasy and long. There’s one awful picture from that time which I would be embarrassed to show people. In it you could tell I was a miserable adolescent. Most of all, I felt very sorry for myself in that picture. What happened to make me look that way? Of course, that was the worst time of my life, I’ve always known it, because I became depressed and excessively anxious for the first time. Looking back, I’m relieved not to be that person any more, but I think in my head I’m still running away from bits of that time. I still dream about school every night, being forced to go back and complete the lessons I didn’t complete. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.
Apart from one or two pictures where I was a very unhealthy-looking teenager, all of the pictures are really nice, and I’ve put them up on facebook because I’m not ashamed of my past any more. For years I’ve tried to hide from it, but I’ve come to realise that it’s unfair to deny that I ever had a childhood. There were happy times, so it seems, and I was loved by the people around me. My mother and aunt Emily appear in lots of the photos; it’s clear that they’ve both been there my entire life, and I have a greater fondness for both of them than I ever did. Seeing the changes in myself and my mother over the years was incredible; I was a toddler once, and she was a young woman! Even she looked happy in the photos, which says to me that I was always the centre of her life. With me there, she is always happy.
This has happened at a funny time, because I am just about to embark on steps 8 and 9. I wrote my list of amends to be made this morning, and I will be going through it with my sponsor in the week. It’s not a long list, but I believe it’s thorough. All the people I can remember hurting are on it, including myself. My mother is owed the most amends, and I look forward to making them to her. Just thinking about all this, I want to cry; whether out of sadness or happiness, I don’t know. My life is really changing beyond recognition, but still the past terrifies me. A lot of the amends will be very difficult to make. I haven’t hurt an awful lot of people in my life, but the people I have hurt have been hurt badly. It all comes back to my character defects, of course. The belief that I would be abandoned and rejected every day led me to push a lot of people away.
While all this is going on, I’m getting on with my novel, which is going extremely well. It’s become more autobiographical than I expected it to, and I love it. I can’t wait to finish it and get it out there.
Last night I enjoyed the gay meeting in Soho which I previously had quite a significant resentment against. I saw a lot of friends there and afterwards some of us went for dinner, which was lovely. I used to dislike that meeting because it can be more like a social gathering than an AA meeting sometimes, but last night I felt part of the group and I was able to relax in it. Maybe I’ll start going regularly again.