On the 20th October last year I fell apart. There’s no need for detail here but I was devastated by something of my own making and quickly I unfurled, lowest ebb after lowest ebb, rock bottom constantly redefining.
On the 20th October this year I will be at the Manchester Blog Awards, short listed for the blog I write about the place where I live.
It’s too easy to say there’s synchronicity to this. After all I didn’t plan for the dates to be the same, nor did I plan to fall apart (although, trust me, it was a long time owing), but there is something there…something I need to acknowledge about what the last year has given me.
Like I say the mental fallout was long overdue. Again, no need for details but I was profoundly unhappy and mentally self-medicating in ways that were destroying things that I held very dear. Coming apart at the seams was ugly, brutal and exhausting but it also presented me with an opportunity, albeit one that I’ve only started to see with the last few months’ hindsight. In living my life the wrong way for so long, being taken to the point of no return and spat out unceremoniously on the kerb-side it was clear that something had to change. Therapy did that. Or at least it helped. A lot. I could go on for ages about how therapy is right for some people and not for others and I know enough practicing psychologists to realise how entirely un-fallible they really are but for me it works. It undid the unbelievable mess of knots in my mind and allowed me to finally start dealing with what lay underneath.
But I digress. Opportunities. Potential.
Trust me, I didn’t always see it this way. The things I lost were mourned at great and undignified length but somehow, eventually, they became…of the past. I miss them, but only in so much in as I miss the ignorance of how damaging they were to me. I sometimes miss a person but I no longer believe I need that person. At the heart of it all, over time, came the realisation that I needed to start living this life, not just hoping for it to happen if only “someone” would "make" me "happy". Reading that back, I am astounded by how closely the literal interpretation of that matches what happened next. Clearly I needed to start loving where I lived figuratively – my own mental health issues, the things I had lost, the things I had left – and then one day an opportunity presented itself for me to do that in actuality.
LoveLevenshulme is a community grassroots project started a few years ago by Matt Clements, a resident who wanted to encourage the people of Levenshulme to see the beauty around them. Matt and his family were up and leaving Levy for the West Midlands and he put a shout out for someone to take over. Without much of a backwards glance I signed up. I don’t know why. All of the above would indicate a deeply perceptive sense of kismet but, frankly, I’m not that clever, nor was I “ready” at the time. I just did it.
And here I am. Three months later LoveLevenshulme has opened up so many doors for me. My fellow LoveLev-er Tim Simmonds and I went on the radio last week to talk about the project and I was asked what my favourite thing about Levenshulme was. I shamefacedly gave the predictable “the people” response, but it’s true – working on the blog has brought me into contact with so many good, good people who are using their creativity and enthusiasm to brighten their corner of the world. I’ve discovered a community spirit I didn’t know existed in an urban, economically disparate landscape and, quite simply, in telling people why they should love the place where they live, I’ve learned to love it myself.
Now I’m not saying that means we deserve to win any awards. After all, it’s a pretty selfish reason to be emotionally tied to blog which is supposed to be about community and I really don’t think the whole “this blog saved my life” angle is a dignified one for the author to be working. That’s why this goes here and not on LoveLevenshulme. The blog in itself is good I think, I’m proud of it and I enjoy working with Tim on it. I think we serve our central aim well and, although I don’t make any grand claims*, I like to think that it is contributing in a small way to some of the changes that are happening around Levenshulme. If those are compelling enough reasons for us to win then so be it, if not then it will continue to serve its purpose for the people of Levenshulme and that’s plenty to be pleased about.
So why am I writing this? Because I’m proud, I guess. Because there I people I hope will read it as a thank you. Because I think there’s a strange kind of beauty in what’s happened and for the first time in my life I can see it. Because I am happy.
*When I first moved to Levenshulme around 8 years ago I was told it was “the new Chorlton”. I have been told this many times since (mostly by estate agents). It is not true, in case you were wondering. We’re cooler.