10 years ago I heard through my family, that a second cousin of mine had been sectioned in a mental hospital; he was only 18 and I didn’t know him. I did know what his Mother was like however, and my ears pricked up. I suspected immediately that rather than insane, he had simply been misunderstood. His Mother was very over-protective and any normal teenager might be deemed crazy by the reactive backlash her overbearing may produce.
I paid him a visit and felt confirmed of my theory. He had been driven to some minor violence and locked away. Oh and experimented with hard drugs, which were now more available to him than when he lived at home. He was of course drugged up on prescription pills, and had a new set of friends on the ward, who were troublesome enough to help keep him sane. We became firm friends; I knew I could fill a unique role where other relatives would fail. Having gone off the rails myself I knew that if I hadn’t had the freedom I’d had in those formative years, I could have ended up in the scary place he was. As it was I was able to find the best possible place and friends with which to share that experimental time. My crazy cousin was no more mad than we had been, except that a duality of a loving/repelling relationship with his Mother blocked his potential to find commune elsewhere. In this light my own Mother’s seeming hatred of me was a blessing; she’d had no problem freeing me.
Growing up became a big ordeal for my cousin; there were several episodes in hospital, rounds of medication, sheltered housing, therapy. Other people in the family didn’t know what to make of him, but I remained constant. He grew enormous for a few years on the drugs, and let his hair and his beard get longer and wilder. His room was a state of filth with quantities of porn, piled, scattered. But he did learn to cook and sometimes accommodated my non meat-eating ways, even if he threw a steak on his own plate to balance the vegetable overload.
He was shy of women as girlfriends, but comfortable as their friend. Most of the people in his family were women, and when he was housed with lots of people I saw many girls come to him for counsel. When he got better his sisters invited him to stay for long periods.
Confidence takes such a long time to establish, and normal work has eluded him. He is much better now though and been off the meds for some years. He looked like a new man when last we met in the Summer, much slimmed down and clean-shaven. He was doing some voluntary work and about to begin a course in Autumn. He wanted to take me out for a meal, he has ever been grateful to have a kindred spirit to talk to. I remember nearly 3 years ago, he came to see a show I performed with a friend, and in the opening scene, I climbed out of a suitcase, naked. I had not warned anyone prior to performance of the nudity, and it was my cousin who decided never to come to one of my show’s again! At least he always asks now if there will be me naked in the show and on finding there will be he declines invitation. I guess it just feels wrong to see one’s family naked for some.
My cousin took a picture of me in Highgate Wood
I met my cousin when I was in the middle of a long relationship with an Italian, and had become somewhat estranged from friends of my wilder youth. My cousin was not dissimilar to some of the men I used to know, and I guess being away from them made me warm to him the more; he bridged a gap, and did not arouse Massimo’s jealousy! I grew very fond of my cousin and he laid down a lifelong foundation in me for a love of bears – men who are big and gentle, kind and strong.