Me and Mannie, my ever present friend.

Mannie has always been around, I don't remember exactly when we started to be so close but its been a long time.

My earliest memories of Mannie are probably around the age of 10, maybe 11, before that even though he was there, he doesn't stand out to me.

Although I have a good relationship with Mannie now, it hasn't always been that way and I really didn't think much of him, he was always an irritation, getting in my way, stopping me from doing the things that I wanted to do. Constantly there questioning what I was doing, you know the sort, just plain infuriating and draining.

Boy would Mannie get on my nerves quickly, even when I treated him badly, he just came back for more and wouldn't leave me be. Mostly, I did what I could to ignore Mannie, but no surprise he was my ever present shadow.

I didn't grow up in the best of circumstances, money was tight, housing was in a difficult area and home life was tough. I'm not sure that they would see it this way, but I was horribly bullied by my older siblings, they were closer in age and didn't treat me and Mannie well.

I was also bullied outside the home, there was a lot of community violence where I lived. A large part of my childhood was spent looking over my shoulder in fear. I remember relaxing my guard one time walking home from primary school, caught up in being a child with my friends, when suddenly I was lying on the floor with blood pouring from my head, A 12 year old girl that didn't like me and Mannie had thrown a broken half brick at me, I didn't really ever relax again, even with friends.

People who remember, say that I was a sensitive kid. I'm not sure if I truly remember being that way or its just other peoples thoughts influencing mine but around eleven or twelve years old I started to deliberately change this and also I started to recognise Mannie was becoming an issue by drawing attention to me all the time.

Mannie wasn't well as I became a teenager, but we didn't talk about it, I don't remember being told not to but you know it just developed that way, me not saying anything, no one asking, everyone ignoring, I was both scared of, and embarrassed of Mannie so I kept telling myself to ignore him and make sure no one else saw him. I got really good at that let me tell you.

As I grew through my teenage years into my early twenties there was no way I'd get caught in public with Mannie, he wasn't allowed out unless there was no one else around, in private I started drowning him out when he became loud, so he took to whispering constantly, he was becoming more ill all the time and it seemed the only thing that would help him were drink and drugs, and no I don't mean the prescribed kind, I made sure these were in plentiful supply for him.

You might not think pleasantly of me at this point but I honestly think lots of people would do the same, you see for the longest time he was trying to convince me to end my life, he was determined I should and very inventive in his ideas and reasons, several times he nearly won through so I had to do things to keep him silent.

I moved away at 19, I left my home town and I thought that was it, I'd be free, life would be great, but Mannie would turn up again anyway like a bloodhound with a scent, always catching up with me. He seemed better for a while and I would start to accept his presence once again, but it never lasted long before we went back into the same routines, him causing me issues, me trying to drown him out and get rid of him. This was always followed by another escape to a new place, trying to recreate myself without Mannie around. I got pretty skilful at this dance and keeping him away from people I knew or loved.

He caught up with me again around 10 years ago, you never do get away from a shadow, it was a horrible time, it cost me my work, it cost me friendships, it nearly cost me my marriage and it nearly ended my life. Something had to change.

It wasn't until I dared to tell others about Mannie, to share my difficulties with him and to start to treat him better, helping him be well, taking ownership for me and him that we got better at being together. We went to counselling and we both started to thrive, getting back to being who we really are. I treat him well now, I look out for him, I make sure he is fed well, that he is nurtured and respected. I wish I could have been nicer to him in the past and so I make up for that now, if he starts to get ill and I cant cope I get support and help for him. We work best together when we aren't afraid of what others think and we focus on the daily question we pose every morning,

"What will I do to thrive today?"

Mannie was his nickname, it became shorthand for me telling him to 'man up', I call him by his real name now, Able.

This reflection on my life is inspired by the Ted Talk with Kelsey Leonard from the Shinnecock Nation.

I now give my mental health its own 'personhood' with fundamental rights, I try to treat it with respect, with love, the give the right fuels and the right influences so that I can nurture it like I would a friend, a family member, a loved one, so that I am 'Able' to thrive and live my best life.

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