I got my first computer with internet connection back in 1998. I was studying my first course with the Open University and a computer was required for the course, but I very quickly found my way into the world of the internet. At the time I was pretty depressed and needed as much support as I could get, and after a short while found my way to Healthyplace.com - a large American site with information about a multitude of different mental health problems, but also, and most importantly for me at that time, a large community in their chat rooms of people at various stages of difficulty with mental health problems. At this time of my life I spent much of my time hidden away in my flat, afraid of the outside world, and desperately lonely, but through the discovery of these chat rooms I was able to partake in the world in some way or other and also get and give support at the same time. As I guess you get in all open chat rooms, there were the occasional cranks who'd turn up, but the majority of people there were genuine and I made some very good friends. One of these friends was someone who went by the name of Blue chickpea, and who turned out to live only two streets away from me! Blue chickpea turned out to be called Janine, and was a few years younger than me, but we got on well. Like me (at that time), Janine struggled with self harm and was a member of a closed group online for people who do or have self harmed, and she asked me if I'd like to join. She put my name forward to the moderator and before long I found myself in the middle of a lively, and tremendously caring, bunch of folk dotted around the UK (and one or two ex-pats). Although I haven't self harmed now for almost five years, I'm still a member of the group, which is a bit like a family. This group has its own chat facility and one night, several years ago now, I was talking to Janine in there after a particularly rough day and I'd harmed myself. It needed medical attention, but unfortunately the attitudes of most A&E staff towards people who self harm is one of derision, anger and time wasting, and these attitudes make you feel even worse and your self-loathing even stronger at a time when your self-esteem is somewhere around zero. It's a time when you need support and understanding, not berating. Janine knew the attitudes I'd face and she knew of the state I was in. She also knew that I was really quite agoraphobic too, which would compound any other fears of going to A&E. It was three in the morning and she offered to come with me. She came round, and this was the first time we met person-to-person, rather than online. We got a taxi to A&E, and all the while Janine talked to me to keep me focussed and calm. When we got to the hospital Janine booked me in; she came with me to the triage desk and later into the room with the doctor; she both distracted me and comforted me in the waiting room; and she stood up for me against the hostility of the medics and nurses who were on that night. Janine made me feel that I was worth standing up for. She believed that I deserved to be treated with care and given support. Janine made me feel valued. She was a good friend.
That was only the first time we met irl (so to speak). We met on many other occasions too, but that time meant something particularly special to me. However, Janine was something of an inspiration, because, as I've already said, she had her own difficulties and struggles, but she'd turned herself around. She'd turned her whole life around. She'd gone back to college and got excellent grades in A-levels/HEFCs; she'd broken free of her self harm; she'd got into university and was achieving well beyond what she'd ever dreamt she could (we all knew she could though).
Janine died very suddenly and unexpectedly just before new year.
It was her funeral today, but I couldn't get there.
The world has lost another truly wonderful and inspirational person, and again at such a young age.
Sleep now, Janine - Blue chickpea - and rest in peace.