Review: A Boy Made of Blocks

*Will contain spoilers for the novel*

Evening everyone!

You know, there’s very little that’s more British than wishing for rain while the sun is shining in a clear blue sky. We are never happy with the weather.

Okay, there’s a good reason for it; we need to roll out the lumps in the horse’s fields and we can’t do it while the ground is like iron, which means I get to ride the quadbike, which is AWESOME. And I just realised how incredibly middle-class that sentence makes me sound. I am so sorry.

58103

It’s one of the many things you don’t have to worry about in Minecraft. The earth always breaks when you want it to, and it regularly rains like a bitch. If you don’t mind the odd zombie hanging around (or a skeleton, God I hate skeletons), it’s pretty idyllic. The very ground beneath your feet bends to your will, which is at least part of the appeal of it for Sam in Keith Stuart’s novel ‘A Boy Made of Blocks.’

Some scene setting; Sam is eight, and on the autistic spectrum. He’s fairly high-functioning, but he had his moments – a lot. Alex is his father, and is, to put it bluntly, a complete mess. Jody is his mother, and perpetually stuck in the middle. Sam likes to play Minecraft, and Alex eventually realises that it may be the only way he and his son can reliably communicate. There are some other characters which move in and out of the story as necessary, but I would say they are more central to Alex’s story arc than Sam’s.

58103

The book is based on the author’s experiences with his own son, and I think that real-world edge really shows through; it manages to be both very true-to-life and heartwarming novel. It’s told from Alex’s perspective, so we don’t get a lot of Sam’s psyche; nevertheless, despite the insider view, I spent the first half of it wanting to punch Alex in the face (sorry mate), and the second half of him yelling at him to sort his life out. I can’t really blame him, in some respects. We’ve all been there, on occasion – life falling to pieces, no idea what to do about it, and burying our heads rather than try. It isn’t an excuse for not trying, though. There comes a point, even when depressed, one has to say ‘enough,’ and I think Alex was long past that stage – to the point I felt sometimes it was being milked for dramatic effect, but mental health issues aren’t overcome in a day, so Mr Stuart is forgiven. For now.

But I got so furious every time Alex got angry with Sam, whenever he shouted rather than tried to understand, whenever he gave up and snapped rather than tried to get down to Sam’s level, or Jody’s for that matter. Like he’d rather cause an argument because that’s what he’s expecting. There was a lot in the family dynamic that reminded me of growing up in my own household; not so much in terms of character personality, but in their interactions. It’s even true today, though these days my parents won’t even mention one another unless made to. It hit me quite hard in that area.

58103

No wonder Sam wants to run away and hide in a sandbox world. I did the same thing with storybooks. The same ones, over and over and over again, because they were predictable and therefore safe. I could deal with them. And Minecraft itself isn’t just a ‘run wild and free’ kind of game, even though you can build basically anything you want to. There are rules for it; all your recipes have to be exact or they won’t work, you can only pick up certain blocks if you break them with certain kinds of tools, certain things only spawn in certain places or biomes, it’s actually quite formulaic. You know what to expect. But there’s just enough freedom to make your own mark on the game. And okay, I can only really understand things once I’ve experienced them, that’s just the way I work, but I think the way it brought Sam out of his shell is actually quite accurate. In the same way I related (hah, still do) a lot of the world to what I read and saw in stories and films, Sam relates the real world to the virtual blocks of Minecraft, and in that way he starts to understand it. And so he starts to understand his dad, who starts to understand him, and it’s that understanding which starts to draw the family back together, in the end.

It was really beautifully done. And I guess that’s the point – if we don’t understand,or even try to understand, nothing will ever get better.

58103

Yeah, I guess it was one of those books which hit me in all the right places, even if the protagonist spent a lot of it annoying the hell out of me. And it portrays autism in a realistic light, rather than the overly positive or negative skews you can find depending on which media you access. Yes, I think it made a bit of a meal of Alex’s issues to try and create some drama and sympathy, but in terms of its portrayal of Sam and the spectrum, I thought it did a wonderful job of showing both the beauty and the strain. 9/10 would recommend to someone who was lowkey interested in the subject, or to someone looking for a starting point to learn about autsim.

Thanks for reading, and stay awesome!

089b8abe0653d8fa3a7378f8093a72b3_minecraft-quiz-by-minecraft-alex-clipart_150-300

 

A Boy Made of Blocks (link to Amazon)

Minecraft (Mojang)

Diamond Pickaxe

Alex Skin

Now trending – #ignorance

Hola!

black-glasses-clipart-black-glasses-hi

Last week, I quoted an old opinion article from the Evening Standard, talking about how we need to stop giving kids diagnoses like dyslexia and dyspraxia, and dyscalculia and the like, blaming the failings of the education system and the willingness of teachers to believe these children have ‘brain diseases’ rather than bucking up their act and teaching them maths. You may also recall I got a Bit P*ssed Off about this.

It seems to be a trend.

Fessing up to my own ignorance first; until I did a Google search for autism a while back (for something else), I did not realise that there are people out there who do not believe the condition exists. I was moderately horrified (though I suppose, in the end, not really surprised) to find that this was the case across the board for learning disorders, and mental illnesses in general. Like this article from the Telegraph quoting a group of academics who want to drop the diagnosis of dyslexia because they fell there are no unifying characteristics for it. (To which my slightly incredulous response was, ‘Have you never heard of an umbrella term?). I had a fight with my flatmate’s boyfriend last week when he came out with the phrase ‘People with depression should just grow a backbone.’ (He apologised afterwards, but only after being shouted at for five minutes straight). This afternoon I was chatting to a bloke with an autism spectrum disorder, who apparently was made to attend a “special needs school” because nobody ever thought he’d amount to anything. Can’t vouch for its veracity, but all together it got me thinking about how we find out about learning disabilities and mental health.  I’ll tell you something – at school, when I was growing up in the 90’s/early 00’s, we were taught zip until A-Level, and then only because I took psychology.

hypodermic-clipart-eps-images-289-hypodermic-clip-art-vector-tcgn8w-clipart

We all ought to know about the whole ‘autism is caused by the MMR jab‘ debacle that went down in the early 90s. Essentially some idiot published a paper of (completely fabricated) data that established a ‘causal link’ between MMR and autism, and anyone who’s ever done scientific research will know that concrete causal links are something of a holy grail, especially in psychology. This particular link was, of course, pure bullshit: yet is still extensively quoted by the anti-vax movement even today – America’s very own President Fart included. Because obviously, your child dying of measles is preferable to them having autism :/sarcasm/. What really gets to me is the wilful lack of education that these people seem to display. It’s not like we’re blinding them to the benefits of vaccination: we’re giving them reams of information on why it’s good for them, and the health of the population as a whole. We’re practically shoving it in their faces. Are they listening? Big Fat Nope.

(I should add, my mother and father were some of the ones that listened; autistic or otherwise, I was vaccine-ed up to the gills. Five-year-old me was not impressed).

It’s the same, I think, with mental health disorders. It’s gotten better, there is no doubt about that at all, but the second (and I mean the second) someone who has a mental disorder gets a gun and shoots someone/gets shot by the cops, everyone with a mental disorder immediately feels the fallout. Sometimes I feel like no matter how much we try to teach people about these disorders, and how to manage and care for people, and treat people with these disorders, it falls completely on deaf ears – or that all ears turn conveniently deaf whenever someone with a mental disorder commits a crime. And when you have people who are supposed to be professionals coming out and saying that disorders such as anxiety and depression are nothing more than myths…it’s enough to make anyone despair.

hypodermic-clipart-eps-images-289-hypodermic-clip-art-vector-tcgn8w-clipart

It’s evident through history as well. One of the prevalent theories of autism through the 50s and 60s was that of the ‘refrigerator mother’ – the idea that autistic children are the way they are because their mothers are emotionally distant. This has thankfully been disproved a thousand times over, but the idea remains – as shown in this 2012 article arguing that children with autism are simply deprived of love. This, as we all know, is bullshit. I and people like me, react differently to the world; this does not mean we are neither capable nor deserving of love.

Thing is, as I said before, I never really expected to find the same case with dyspraxia as well – I guess because I grew up with a name for my difference, I simply took it for granted. Not to mention I study psychology, which probably colours my view somewhat. But then you get stuff like that Evening Standard article, and this book (the blurb actually makes me feel a bit ill). You note they both call learning difficulties ‘diseases’ as opposed to ‘disorders.’ Shoot me down if you will, but I think calling them diseases is a complete misnomer, and not for the reasons you might think. Yes, disease has a different stigma to it, but the word also implies that there is a ‘cure.’ And there isn’t. There is no cure for what I have, there is no cure for what my friends have, and in trying to cure us of autism, or ADHD, or dyspraxia, you’re more likely to destroy us. It’s like thinking you can cure someone of being gay, something else that makes me feel ill – the curing attempts, not the gay.

hypodermic-clipart-eps-images-289-hypodermic-clip-art-vector-tcgn8w-clipart

And who suffers for this ignorance? The academics in their ivory towers, the titled professionals and the opinionated parents? No – it’s us. The labelled ones. Parents will scour blog-sites and newspapers for confirmation that this scary thing their child has is curable, and meanwhile I feel like nobody wants to understand why I am the way I am. Until my diagnosis, I’d never heard of dyspraxia. Nobody ever talks about this stuff, and it’s a crying shame. Because until we do, this culture of ignorance and fear of the unknown, or the different, or the extraordinary, is only going to grow, and prevail and I do not want to know where it may lead us.

So can we get the #ignorance trend out of society, please?

Stay awesome, everyone.

newspaper-clipart-newspaper-clipart-6

Glasses

Needle

Newspapers

Borderline Blues

It’s getting cold again. It’s definitely hat weather up here – even Rafferty, my adorable giraffe, is getting in on the action.

p1010134

Hello, Rafferty.

 

But I’ve had something of a rough day today and I wanted to talk about something.

Being borderline is painful.

filigree-divider-clipart-etc-4eerlo-clipart

I should explain I’m dyspraxic. I may have mentioned this before. A few facts here. Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder, is at it’s heart a motor development disorder, which often goes hand in hand with mental difficulties as well, like organisation difficulties, speech and perception, and planning; I call it a lack of processing power. There are days a person will say a simple sentence to me, in perfect English. I will hear that sentence, and will have to spend a good couple of minutes to work out what the hell that person meant. I am no less intelligent than anyone else on a Masters Course, but I look at things differently and sometimes more slowly than the rest.

I am also borderline autistic. Borderline meaning I have all the major traits; delayed speech, delayed social development, stereotypic hand movements and a real aversion to eye contact and intense stimuli like bright lights and sudden loud noises – just not enough of them to warrant the full diagnosis. The way they teach it, and the way that a lot of publications write (academic and otherwise) focus a lot on early development and autism in young children, because this is when it’s most salient. It’s pervasive, though, and continues into adulthood. But I don’t get why every autistic person portrayed in the media, especially documentaries and the like, is either a genius, or in need of permanent home care. It is a spectrum, and a long one at that.

filigree-divider-clipart-etc-4eerlo-clipart

The nice part of it is that I’m seeing more and more news crop about about shops and airports and cinemas becoming more autism-friendly. Autism friendly cinema viewings, for examples, have lowered lights and loud noises to stop sensory overload. The music and announcements are turned off in certain Asda and Toys R Us stores to allow children and adults with autism to shop in comfort. And I’m happy for them, if that’s the right phrase. Delirious, in fact. I’m only borderline, and every time the fire alarm goes off, I have a little panic attack (especially in the case of our halls fire alarm, which includes not only a siren, but flashing lights and an announcement declaring there is a fire in the building. Well no shit). It’s like a stimulus sensitive person’s nightmare. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those further along the spectrum.

It’s irritating as all-get-out, because as much as the dyspraxia diagnosis felt like it fit me (and it does, it fits me like a glove), every time someone talks about autism as a condition or their personal experiences of high-functioning autism, I feel like that fits me too, especially when I was younger. I’m autistic but I’m not. I’m dyspraxic, but sometimes I don’t know where the line is.

About this time last year, there was a fantastic blog post (which you can read here) which cropped up on my Facebook about having mild autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. This is essentially how I feel a lot of the time, diagnosis or otherwise. And there’s a lot of hate out there about it being ‘just an excuse for shitty parenting’ and a fake diagnosis. It isn’t. I made the massive mistake of clicking that option on a Google search earlier, and now I honestly feel physically sick. Later ranty blog post alert. Blogs like the one above, and a hundred thousand others will tell you it’s not like that. These are real people with real experiences.

filigree-divider-clipart-etc-4eerlo-clipart

In some ways, I’m not really qualified to talk. I’m sort-of autistic, not absolutely autistic, and either way I’d be high-functioning. High-functioning autism is defined as having an IQ of over 70 (which is the average for people on the spectrum). This basically means that people with HFA have a greater capacity to learn things like social skills and ‘scripts’ (even if I’m still reeeeally bad at new situations. Seriously, new situations; I lurk like a creepy lurker). Still autistic. And dyspraxic. And a trainee psychologist, and a horse lover and a knitter and a walker and a consummate nerd who like Rooster Teeth way more than she should, who is head over heels for her boyfriend and want to go inter-railing next summer.

filigree-divider-clipart-etc-4eerlo-clipart

Not being Aspie enough for the full diagnosis, and yet experiencing everything a person with Aspergers does, is not easy. Plus dyspraxia means I spend most of my days walking into doors. It’s a crazy-weird thing. And I’m not sure I’d change the way I think. I just want to be able to manage it right.

I am capable. But sometimes I feel no-one seems to think I am.

Stay awesome!

thumbs-up-right

For more about dyspraxia: The Dyspraxia Foundation

For more about Autism and Aspeger’s Syndrome: The National Autistic Society

A short note here; for the love of God, don’t go via Autism Speaks. They do not speak for us. Trust me.

Also a brilliant friend of mine works for the NAS and she’s quite frankly amazing, so; cheeky plug.

Thumbs up source

Filigree Divider source

 

Mental Health Top Tips – What’s Top and What’s Not

NEWSFLASH: Today (10/10/2016) is World Mental Health Day. I’m ashamed to say that Facebook had to inform me and it almost completely blew past me.

You may have noticed the mental health is very close to my heart. Today, 1 in 4 people in the UK have been diagnosed with some kind of mental health problem.  I personally have never been shy or retiring about the fact that I am one of those people. I have been through CBT, I feel far more in control of my low moments; but from personal experience, the truly bad days never really go away.

This is not the case for everyone. I know people who have been in therapy for years and it has done nothing for them. I know people who believe there is no help for them and therefore refuse to seek help altogether. Around a year ago I wrote an article regarding the crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525 and the stigma surrounding depression (to be found here), so I won’t return to those issues in as much detail here.

The other thing that cropped up on my Facebook was The World Mental Health Foundation (who sponsor World Mental Health Day) stating 10 Top Tips for looking after your mental health. These tips appear to be ubiquitous; most of them are listed in every single self help book, mental health leaflet, motivational poster and God knows what else that one can find in any relevant charity or GP office. However, this doesn’t mean they should be discounted.

frontbrain1 [Picture Source]

Because I can rattle for England and in the interests of keeping this post both readable and digestible, I’ll post five tonight and five tomorrow.So, let’s have a look at the first five:

  1. Talk about your feelings

The oldest one in the book, but nonetheless a goodie. Talking can be massively cathartic, and ‘guided talking’ (which is how I like to think of counselling) can lead you down mental pathways which are very illuminating.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ in mental health therapy – which is a good thing – but not everyone responds to them, not to mention that a significant proportion of people relapse following completion of treatment. Add this to the fact that most people don’t want to talk about their feelings. In spite of the advent of the internet,(where any idiot can post their opinion – case in point; me), we live in a very insular society.

Do not get me wrong: talking about your feelings is healthy, particularly in those feeling isolated and scared. It’s up to the individual, however, to decide whether, and indeed when, to talk and when to stay silent. You shouldn’t push someone into talking if they don’t want to; it helps nobody.

closing-the-gap

      2. Keep Active

This is one I am a big fan of. I know not everyone is into fitness, but I love going for a run or a cycle if I’m feeling down or stressed. There is a literal stack of evidence that exercise improves mental health; it releases endorphins (the brain’s internal pleasure hormone) which promote general wellbeing, not to mention the physical health benefits. I could sit here spouting them all day (but I won’t, because that’s not why I’m here).

It’s not an alternative to therapy, mark you. At the height of my depression I was cycling and riding almost every day and I still felt like hell – in fact, it shut my background noise up so that I had more time to focus on the crappy thoughts – which arguably made it a lot worse. However, walks can help on a down day (or night, but if you’re going to go out walking at night, please be careful). Runs as well, if you are that way inclined. But for serious mental health issues, therapies (both pharmaceutical and psychological) are recommended. Exercise is not a cure-all.

closing-the-gap

      3. Eat Well

I think this one is a little bit nebulous, to be honest. Laying aside the fact that people on special diets such as coeliacs or lactose-free are perfectly capable of living on these diets and being perfectly fancy-free, it’s a very under-researched area. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some merit – logically speaking, if eating the right diet is an aid to weight loss/gain, healthy skin, the improvement of general body functioning – why not improved brain function as well? An article written by Nutritionist Resource (here) links food consumption habits to conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. As with all mental health issues, however, it is never this simple; for example, there is evidence to suggest that most psychological disorders have some kind of genetic component. Don’t panic – these gene variations are small and not particular heritable, but their presence alone is enough to complicate matters when it comes to predicting and managing mental health issues.

I think that eating the right diet is important anyway, but when it comes to staving off or preventing mental disorders, I think that there is too much going on in the brain to ascribe a major significance to this approach – yet. As for the future…who knows?

closing-the-gap

      4. Drink Sensibly

The World Mental Health Foundation classes this particular tip under ‘Don’t drown your sorrows in alcohol.’ Not arguing with this at all. They’re right – alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant, no matter how crazy and alive it might make you feel when you’re out with your friends, dancing on the table with your shoes on your head or something equally odd (I maintain to this day, the video does not exist). Alcohol dependence is not a fantastic coping mechanism and adds a whole new dimension to treatment. Unfortunately, it does tend to co-occur with issues such as depression – keep a sharp eye.

I’d like to add a another dimension to this tip myself however – drink enough water. The average human needs up to 2.5 litres per day to maintain a good level of functionality (link and link). This is surprisingly hard to achieve (or maybe I’m just lazy), but it does make a difference – it aids digestion, brain function, cell function…it’s an all around good idea. Personally, I feel much better in the morning if I’ve drunk enough the day before, and like sh*t if I haven’t.

closing-the-gap

      5. Keep in Touch

I would really like to class this under ‘talk about your feelings,’ but I feel this pertains more to having a social life than to talking to a professional or having good ol’ rant to your best friend. It’s also about maintaining good relationships, and being able to recognise if someone is toxic for your mental health. I’ve had to back away from friends sometimes for a good long while because they’re simply not good for my state of mind at a given point in time. There is nothing wrong with this. If they care, they should understand. If they don’t, they’re not worth your time.

Humans are inherently social animals; no matter how much of a misanthrope you might make yourself out to be, as a species we don’t react well to being alone. There have been studies which have shown that social isolation (real and perceived) activates the same region of the brain that processes physical pain; the cortex begins producing a painkiller. Being left out literally hurts. It therefore makes sense that keeping in touch with friends should help with mental health issues. It’s often not easy, however; on a bad day, the idea of being in the same room as someone else can be the worst thing in the world. It’s made worse if you live alone or with people who you don’t know terribly well (like a house-share or a student flat), or if you have to go into work when the last thing you want to do is be social. Having the support network certainly helps, but that same support network should understand if you need some alone time as well.

Okay, that’s it for this half. I hope that’s been at least partly interesting an informative, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the rest.

Stay awesome!

220px-yin_yang-svg

Note; if anything discussed above has affected you, or you feel like you need to talk to someone, below are some links to sites which can take you further or give you more information. These will be specific to the UK (as I know most about this system) but there will be similar sites for people living in different countries and continents. Help is out there somewhere, promise. 

http://www.iapt.nhs.uk/about-iapt/

http://www.mind.org.uk/

Brain and heart picture source

 Yin-Yang picture source

 

 

 

The Crystal Heart: or, Some Words for the Boy who Broke my Heart

Some warnings for subjectivity and a need to get emotions off my chest.

Evening,

I think I seem like a stranger to you now. Remember me? You liked me once – enough to take me out and give me a time I will never forget.

You don’t even know what you did. You can’t realise. I’d like to help, if you’ll let me. Since I haven’t the means or opportunity to find words to say to your face, let me tell you a story.

It’s hardly T H White – just simple words from a simple girl. A folk tale, if you will.

The Crystal Heart

Once upon a time, in a green land far to the south of here, there was a young, ordinary girl. Not a princess, or a duchess’ daughter, but not a pauper living in rags. Not great beauty, but not ugly. She carried with her at all times a crystal heart with many facets which was the source of her trust. For many years it remained whole, reflecting the purest, brightest light. She took good care of this crystal heart, for often her friends had nearly scratched and chipped this heart, so she kept it safe and took it out to clean and care for it regularly.

When the ordinary girl fell in love for the first time it was with another girl, a warrior girl, and they courted for a while. The ordinary girl loved the warrior, and the warrior loved her. When the time to part ways came (for the ordinary girl was moving away to a far northern kingdom), she was very sad, but her former lover said to her that they would always be friends, and that she would always be there if she was needed. But when the time came for the former love to stand by her promise; when the ordinary girl had need of her, she was met with coldness, and hard words, and strange looks. Unwilling to lose a friend she cared for, the ordinary girl did not give up, and persisted, asking her old friend and love to stand by her promise, but was met only with silence. The ordinary girl was devastated and the crystal heart cracked in her pocket, leaving a fissure that reflected light the wrong way. She felt it within her heart, and it hurt for a very long time. But she eventually realised that she had to leave her behind and move on. That was the first time.

So time went on, as time will, and the ordinary girl grew in confidence. She made many new friends in this northern kingdom and soon forgot her sadness. But the crack in the crystal heart remained, and she kept many of these friends at a safe distance for fear that one of them would crack her heart further. During this time she was courted by a musician, a sweet boy who loved her for her graceful dancing and quick tongue, and whose musical talent she greatly admired. But this boy was fickle, and took her for granted, forsaking many meetings for the sake of his other friends, or his bed. The girl grew tired of being treated as such, and tried to make him change his ways. But she was met with silence, or short denials, not apologies or efforts. Slowly, the fissure in the crystal heart grew wider, and as much as the ordinary girl treated it carefully, padding it in soft cloths and soothing words, it grew heated and the crack widened. The parting with the boy, when it came, was welcome, but she felt his betrayals in the crack in her crystal heart. That was the second time.

Once again time went on, as time will, And the ordinary girl continued to meet new people and make new friends in her northern kingdom. It was here she met the third, a dashing young adventurer, a friend of her best friend, who took away her breath with his stories of adventures and derring-do in far away lands to the north, south, and west. Although the travels of the ordinary girl could not compare to the young adventurer, this boy seemed eager to hear her own stories of life, and they spent many nights sharing each other’s wisdom and adventures. The ordinary girls’ crystal heart did not mind such conversation, and was content to sit cool while they talked. The fissure, it seemed to the girl, had begun to lessen slightly. But it remained, whenever the girl took it out the clean and care for it. She no longer felt it. She believed herself in love with the young adventurer, and one spring night, it seemed to her that he confessed the same feelings in return.

The ordinary girl no longer felt ordinary, and felt instead that she could dance among the clouds. She waited in eager anticipation for their next meeting. But when it came, her supposed lover was cold, and distant, and shunned her with silence.

The ordinary girl was very confused, and hurt, and sad. Of all her betrayals, this hurt the most. In time she received a message from him that gave his reasons why they could not be together. At first she was grateful simply that she had done nothing wrong. But the next time she took out her crystal heart to clean and care for it, she found to her horror that the fissure had widened enough to crack the heart almost in two. Its shine was dull, and reflected very little pure light, instead refracting it in jagged, glaring colours.

The ordinary girl was upset and angry that her adventurer had done this to her. She felt hurt, and used, and wasted, and decided from henceforth that she would never love again, that her crystal heart was no longer capable of sustaining the trust that love demands. That was the third time.

Time wen on, as time will. Many months passed, and the ordinary girl buried her anger, though it never stayed away long. The sight of her former companion continuing his life apparently as though he had never met her, fueled it with sadness and despair. But then she met a man, a clever and caring scholar who listened to her troubles and soothed them with gentle words and a quick and ready laugh. This man loved her for every cracked facet of that crystal heart, and through his steady resolve to be there for her always, and in never letting her down, she felt that fissure begin to heal. Little by little, in frightening and sometimes painful increments, the crack in that heart became smaller, and smaller, until at last, after many months, it narrowed to a tiny chip in the surface. It could once more sustain her love and trust for this man, and it had learnt many lessons from its broken state, the first being that it never wanted to break again. Her lover understood this, but made her no promises, for her was only human. She loved him the more for this, and felt her anger at the young adventurer who’d so nearly shattered her heart beyond repair begin to cool. She left him behind.

Finis

Did they live happily ever after, the ordinary girl and her scholar? I don’t know – that’s rather up to us. But what of the young adventurer? Well, he fell in love with the ordinary girl’s best friend. The one he knew first. The one I’m fairly sure he liked before he even began to look at me. That is the epilogue I can’t truthfully say I wanted.

Don’t think I’m not happy for you, because I am – as long as she’s happy, and you’re not hurting her, I won’t come down on your head like a ton of bricks. But you are my greatest regret, and I will never stop wondering what might have been, and be sad that we can never set it right. That I can never be sure whether those words you said were simply to sweet-talk me into your bedroom or whether you really meant them at the time. Whether you liked me, or cared for me in the fist place; because if you had cared, would you have dropped me the way you did? Two minutes out of your ‘very busy’ schedule would have sufficed. Not the cold shoulder.

Just do right by her like you never did by me, please. I never loved you, just the idea of you – I am not jealous, the precise opposite in fact. Maybe it would be easier if I was garden-variety jealous, but I’m not. I’m just sad. And I don’t really care anymore if you don’t care, because I think if you did care it would make it worse somehow.

Do we deserve a chance to clear the air? Do you want to clear the air? Are you so blind you can’t see the air needs clearing? What do you think of me, if anything? Questions I am happy not knowing the answers to, yet would like anyway. Questions I can never ask you, a year and a half down the line.

But thank you, not just to you but to all three people who almost shattered my heart. You taught me three important lessons.

  1. When to let go and how to recognise when someone wants you to
  2. Never date someone because you think you should
  3. Love the person, not the idea of them.

Because of you, I can love my partner with all my heart, because I know my worth and I know what healthy love is. I am settled enough in my own skin to not allow myself or my heart to be treated badly anymore. And I forgive you for almost breaking it.

I hope I get to tell you that myself one day.

Yours ever,

An old friend.

Note:

All characters are real, all are deliberately vague for that reason. Only those who know what I’m talking about will know who they are. All of them probably had their reasons and I hold none of them any true ill will. I just had to get this out.

Continue reading The Crystal Heart: or, Some Words for the Boy who Broke my Heart