To All The Stephens I’ve Loved Before

This is going to hurt a bit, but I need to get it off my chest.

I’ve been all different people all throughout my thirty-three years on this Earth. I’ve been a youth worker, a customer service rep, a politician, a guitarist, a photographer, a son, writer etc. I loved all the people that I used to be, they make up who I am today – so why can’t I love that person?

For a long time, longer than I can remember, there has been a deep seated self-loathing that I have struggled to contain. It manifests itself in the twisted reflections I catch of myself, in the way that I can’t make a decent meal, along the tattoos etched into body. I can’t tell you where it comes from, but I can tell you that it hurts.

I fundamentally don’t like myself, and I often wish that I could be someone else. That I could slip this skin and change who I am. Like the Doctor in Doctor Who, to completely regenerate my entire being into something new and different and untainted by the trauma and mental illness that has plagued me for so many years now; but that is not the reality that we inhabit, and so I must find ways of coping beyond taking a bath or trying yoga or depending on the kindness of strangers.

Strangers haven’t been very kind of late. As a non-binary person newly coming to terms with my gender identity, alongside my own sexual orientation, I have been deeply impacted by the increasing onslaught of media pressure on trans and non-binary people. I have never experienced such wanton and unchecked cruelty by some of the most powerful people against the most powerless. There is evil within that spectre that has infested our society, and most certainly has blood on its hands.

Following the publication of the Nolan Show podcast ‘investigation’ into Stonewall, I was so incredibly despondent and defeated that I finally broke. I had a stupid fight with my husband over something inconsequential, and had just come off a long stint of twelve hour shifts in work. I was exhausted both physically and mentally, and spending hours on Twitter and social media looking at the ever flowing vitriol against people like me tipped me over the waterfall.

I got in my car, I broke down in tears and I started driving. I started driving towards Black Mountain in West Belfast with the intention of doing something drastic and irreversible to myself. I could only think that there was no other way forward through the pain of the mental anguish and self-loathing which has been compounded by an uncaring and malevolent political and media class that has gender non-conforming people within its crosshairs.

Never ending waiting lists for treatment, the rising rates of deaths by suicide, the ever vicious headlines and column inches by the ‘silenced’ transphobes that never seem to shut the fuck up. Coupled with mental self-neglect and a need to have the noises in my head come to a close I found myself tumbling out of my own reach and towards a darkness that hasn’t visited me in a long, long time.

Thankfully there was a great big pair of arms waiting to catch me as I fell – the love of my husband and friends. I turned the car around and came home, the cheeks on my face stinging from the tears that wouldn’t stop. It’s an emptiness that’s filled with an ongoing monologue that tells me I’m useless, that I’m not a good person, that I don’t deserve the things I have worked for. It’s all total bullshit – but it’s loud bullshit.

Worst of all is that I believe those voices over the people in my life who would take a bullet for me. I’m safe now – I am working towards letting myself heal and reflect and restore my own energy to get back into this fight. “It’s our fight, not just yours.” as a very close friend of mine told me.

I’ll be okay, but I will be away for a wee while. Not sure how long that will be or in what capacity I’ll be back but promise me I will be back x

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