I met Stephen in 1997, around the time of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I immediately took to Stephen. He has an endearing nature, the ability to hold a conversation and an outlook on life, based on true, hard circumstances, that has made him the person he is. Like many of us from that time, he was damaged from an era of discrimination and a feeling of failure, that only the person who thinks and lives it can really understand. Reconciling what could have been and what should have been , can be difficult for the person involved. It can be a lonely process, wrestling demons on ones own, even more so, when people seem unwilling to listen, so wrapped up in their own shallow world.
Even though the 1990s were a terrible time for discrimination, the majority of gay people, seemed happy going along in their fantasy lives, believing their gay, drama fueled existence was the most important part of everything that was going on in the World. Although, there were people like myself, who fought many difficult circumstances, the majority were content to just carry on, living their one track gay lives, without meaning and fulfilling very little.
Stephen and I come from the same small town, living only meters apart, though never really knowing each other at the time. In reality are lives were very different. I came from the local council estate and Stephen lived in the posh bit round the corner. Stephen went to prep school and a Catholic Secondary and I just went to the common old Community School, at the bottom of the road. My father knew Stephens father on a political level, Stephens Mother was a Civil Servant, who used to deal with my benefit claims now and again, but really our close proximity might as well have been miles apart. We never mixed. I remember when I first met Ste, after Jason and I returned from a stint living in Australia, how like me he was and every inch a Fareham boy. That was the connection we had and I believe my relationship with Stephen started from that point.
Stephen and I never had a friendship without trouble. We were so alike in many ways, opinionated, entrenched views and not afraid to speak them as vocally as we could. Most people took great offense to the words we often spoke. In all honesty, most people didn't understand much of our ramblings, which can be difficult when you are trying to get your point across, frustrating isn't the word. We lived with Ste for a while, which was probably trying for all of us at times, but it taught me much about the person he was, his values and the things and people he held dear and was worth every day we spent living under the same roof. I wouldn't change it for the world.
As Jason and I parted ways, under the worst of circumstances and our friendships broke down, both of us too bloody minded to admit fault, I have to say, we never expected to have Stephen back in our circle of friends, but life is funny that way and fait dealt a new hand, with which we were given a second chance. I discovered Stephen also had Bipolar and I believe that was the catalyst for us both establishing a frienship again, a friendship we could never have had back then. They do say the only person who understands Bipolar, is someone else who has it.
Like most friendships these days, ours was born again on facebook. Both Stephen and myself were always vocal about our feelings and I could always tell when he was approaching another cycle, as I am sure he could with me. As I lost friend after friend, who didn't 'get it', Stephen was still there messaging frequently. Unknown to me until recently, Stephen was messaging Jason throughout the duration of my relapses. They spoke on the phone, at times where my life was in the balance. Stephen gave Jason the help he needed to get him and of course myself through the hardest of times. I'm not sure either of us would still be together, if it wasn't for wise words and reassurance from the one person who truly knew what was happening to me.
Over the last seven months, I met Stephens partner Shaun, who like Jason suffers the stigma of mental illness, along with his partner, for no other reason, than he loves him. Shaun is a carer professionally and from what I know, personally too. Like my relationship with Jason, theirs can be hard too, but the strength I see from Shaun is without doubt. Shaun's life has been difficult, and he has learned much from that. Just like the four of us, who's strength lies in the battles we have fought, Shaun has used his experiences into building a life with Stephen, that both Jason and I are envious. Their life together is the most important thing, not the baggage and clutter we accumulate over time, just the love of two people who care deeply about each other.
We spent a wonderful three days with the two of them, at their home in Cornwall. The welcome we received was fabulous. I can safely say the time we spent with these two, certainly made us realise much about our own life that was wrong. Shaun took Ste away from destructive influences and has helped change Stephen into the person I always knew he was. He has settled into life in Cornwall perfectly. He is a local in every sense of the word and you can genuinely see how happy they both our, in Shaun's home town of Newquay. If I know Stephen at all, I am sure he was reluctant to leave his life in Southampton, but if he hadn't I'm not sure he would be where he is today. Jason took me to Australia to save me, as Shaun took Steve to his home, to save him. That is love, true love!
As Shaun and Steve's life took a turn for the better, ours nose dived, so seeing them, in their own home, on their own territory, really bought home, what is important in life. They have both shown us, just what is significant in a relationship, and as we reach a cross roads, they have given me increased impetuous and stamina to reach my goal in life, which isn't all that different from theirs. It is now time for me to stand up and be counted and do what is best for Jason and I, a view reinforced by two friends, who Jason and I look up too and aspire to be. How things change eah, but then friendships do change over time, luckily ours has become stronger, happier and the best I could have ever wished for.
Thanks to you both!