On top of my wardrobe at home is a small blue toy rabbit. It was given too me by my brother, Chris and sister, Jo when I was born and it means the world to me not because it’s worth anything, but because of what it represents.
When I was young, I didn’t start to speak as early as other kids because Jo and Chris would usually interpret what I needed and would speak for me, Jo is six years older, Chris is four and I remember wanting nothing more than to play with them all the time. This was difficult however because I was younger and owed in no small part to a propensity I developed rather early for running off to jump in puddles.
As we all got older it became apparent that I was finding things harder to deal with, particularly as puberty hit and I became a ticking hormone bomb.
This would later be identified by a sympathetic GP as chronic depression, but before being diagnosed, my issues meant that I was never the easiest to get along with and I spent a long time struggling to relate to my brother and sister because our experiences of life were all so different.
As I’ve gotten older and my depression has quietened down with the occasional intervention we rubbed along without much impact on one another’s lives, a prime factor in this was my relocation from Hampshire where I had been born and raised, to Hereford where I went to be with my partner.
Jo and Chris were, by this time, living in London and owing to the geographical distance, the feeling of separation only grew.
Quite suddenly, however, in October last year everything changed and I was shown the truth in the saying that, in a crisis, the people you love will be there.
My sister was one of the first people I told that my Civil Partnership had broken down. One evening while listening to some of the more interesting tracks on my iPod I stumbled upon a song on the Sister Act soundtrack called ‘If My Sister’s In Trouble’. Leaving aside my musical taste (or lack thereof) for a moment, I suddenly realised that if I was going to survive, I would need my family.
In the months since the break up of the relationship, my brother and sister, my parents and friends have been by my side and I guess they always have been. The fact the little blue rabbit has always been nearby is testament to the fact that even while I was living away they were always in my mind, one of the reasons I learnt to cook was because my brother has a few food allergies and I wanted to be able to feed him if ever he came to visit.
My sister is a successful, strong, caring and intelligent woman, my brother is a kind, funny, generous and caring man. When I was younger they were the people I wanted to be, now being older and more comfortable with who I am, they are the people I want to be around and they make me want to be a better baby brother than I had been previously.
In January this year my brother told me he was running the marathon for the Terrence Higgins Trust, his JustGiving page talked about how “stigma and ignorance surrounding HIV is still rife” but that I have “been a great advocate of how people with the virus can still live a healthy life”. These words from my big brother mean more to me than I can possibly express. He ran 26 miles around the capital for THT and I have never been prouder of him. Every time I think on it I well up.
The point I guess I’m trying to make is that when life gets tough, as it does from time to time, and particularly when dealing with HIV or depression, family can provide an anchor, a fixed point around which you can orbit and feel less likely to be swept away.
If you’re lucky enough to have a supportive family, hold on to them, they are the best support you will ever have.
Jo, Chris, this blog is for you, because I want to say thank you. Thank you Jo for teaching me how to tie my shoelaces, thank you Chris for teaching me how to spell ‘because’. Thank you both for not giving up on me. Thank you for being there.
Thank you for being my family.
Steve (@SteveoftheMarch on twitter)