When I saw Dierdre—my old therapist, a long time ago—she told me that recovery isn’t linear. She told me that she didn’t think that getting together with Alan Sebastian would solve all of my problems. Alan Sebastian can’t undo all of my trauma or make-up for all the things I lacked. But he definitely helped.
She was right, of course. Because she was a very good therapist.
The therapist I found in Sydney wasn’t as good. But eventually I found a different therapist who was okay, and I started to get better. And Alan Sebastian definitely helped. Alan Sebastian is good at everything.
It’s not the first time I’ve just sort of… stopped and not been able to do anything for a while. But it doesn’t usually last this long. Alan Sebastian tries, but we’re burning through our savings.
It took a while for our sex life to get back to what it was. It’s taking a while. But we’re getting there.
I sleep better now.
“I think we should move back to Havenport. We’re all miserable here,” Mani says one evening while Alan Sebastian is out running.
I blink at him. “I thought you were doing better at school?”
He had some trouble making friends when we first moved. But he’d said it was getting better.
“I am,” he sighs, “Even though I miss my old school and my old friends but I… think I could settle in here. And eventually, if I was here long enough and I moved somewhere else it would be this place, and this school, and these friends that I’d miss. And next year is HSC. And then after that it all changes again, regardless. So I think if we stayed here, I would be fine. After a while.”
“You see?” I say.
“And you,” he continues. “That could have happened anywhere or at any time. It was because we came here but not because it’s here.”
“I just had a ticking time-bomb in my brain that got triggered.”
“Yeah. So wherever we go, or wherever you go, you can get better. It’s not about where we are. It’s about what happened to you in the past.”
“So you and me… We’re unhappy. But our problems are not because of being here. And regardless of where we are, if we stay or if we go… we’ll get better and we will be okay.”
But even though he’s saying everything I would say, it still feels like he’s trying to convince me of something.
“I don’t think the same thing is true of Dad,” says Mani.
I sleep better now.
Alan Sebastian does not.
He stomps and slams doors and spends hours in bed with the blankets over his head. He keeps breaking his glasses, and his phone. He has bruises on his thighs from where he hits himself when he reaches breaking point, and fingernail-curved scabs on the backs of his ears.
I’d assumed he’d get better once he was no longer so worried about me. And it’s helped a little, but his mental health is not improving along with mine. He’s tried different doctors but he feels like it never does any good because he doesn’t know how to explain. His clothes are baggy and his hair is falling out. He’s being wound tighter, and tighter, over time.
“I know,” I say.
He’s tried ear plugs. And noise cancelling headphones. We have black-out curtains. But he doesn’t sleep. He’s tried different medications and sleeping pills but the side effects always make him feel worse, and he stops taking them.
He’s never slept well, but his insomnia hasn’t been this bad since he lived in Melbourne. He slept better as soon as he moved back to Havenport, and in with me and Mani. He said it was because he was with me. But I wonder how much of it was just being in the country, rather than the city. How much of it was just… being in the place that has always been his home.
“Mani thinks we should move back to Havenport,” I tell Alan Sebastian, when he gets home.
“Why? I thought he was doing better.” he says.
“You’re not though.”
“I don’t think this is a problem you can solve by trying harder,” I say.
“I am so… tired,” he admits.
“If you could live anywhere in the world, literally anywhere. Where would you go?”
“Wherever you are,” he says, stubbornly.
“Assume that wherever you pick, I’ll go with you. I want to be wherever you are too. Anywhere. Where would you choose?”
He takes off his glasses and scrubs tears from his eyes.
“I want to go home,” he says.
So we do.