There’s an image of me from a day now almost lost. A few years ago, it was. I’m about to leave the house and head down to the shops at the bottom of the road. I can feel myself on the verge of a panic attack but try and block it out. Try and pretend it’s not happening. My hands are shaking. I’m salivating. Feels like I’m gonna throw up. Keep telling myself to keep it together, but as I get to the front door, I collapse into a heap. I’m trying not to cry because I’m not supposed to which only makes it worse. Wish I was more for real. Wish I could be like everyone else. All curled up, this is where I remain for the best part of two hours, not doing anything other than staring blankly at the wall. Looking at the dust. At random stains that would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed. A few years before this, I was supposed to be meeting up with Sarah back when the two of us were engaged. She was getting the train from Harpenden to Luton, and me a taxi from Dunstable. But I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t pick up the phone to call one. The thought of going outside was too much. The idea of being untethered kept growing until it took over completely. Kept thinking the sky was going to fall down, or that the earth beneath my feet was going to give way. Eventually, I phoned Sarah to tell her I couldn’t do it but burst into tears halfway through trying to explain myself. I’m not sure she believed me, but I don’t hold it against her, for not even I myself knew what was going on at the time. For many years, I kept my troubles hidden. Never spoke of my depression. Never spoke of my drinking. Didn’t know how to, and whenever I’d attempted to reach out, no one had ever seemed that interested. My struggles with drinking began at university. Nothing major. Nothing dramatic. Just overindulgence, and a wish to make something happen. When Sarah and I lost baby Bethany though, and when I couldn’t seem to express my sorrow, the bottle was there for me. It seemed at times to be the only thing in my life that ever was. Such a foolish thing. Such a creature of misfortune. But as Bukowski once said, it’s about how well you walk through the fire. Could’ve given up long ago, but stubbornly, foolishly, I kept at it. Away from others, I wrote night after night. Wrote when no one else was looking. Wrote because it was the only thing that seemed to make sense. The only thing that allowed me to deal with the confusion that for so many years had threatened to pull me under. This whole thing is a mess, and yet if I’ve discovered one thing, it’s that there’s beauty in this life. Sometimes you have to dig for it. But it’s there. There’s beauty in the struggle, and there’s beauty in finding your voice and speaking your truth, even if your back’s against the wall every lonesome step of the way.