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This is the first installment in a series entitled "We're Gonna Burn Down the Circus"—be sure to keep an eye out for the next chapter.
"Here enters the barrel of monkeys and their lion."
This story is about how the circus in my head formed and how I cage the animals that hound me.
It’s about how we, as a community, can set fire to this mother of a circus—not only for ourselves, but also for others—and burn it to the ground to break the cycle of abuse, to break the stigma around mental health, and to break down the walls round our society. I hope it helps you in some way, as much as it has helped me to write it.
I have ummed and aahed about whether or not to write this book for a very long time now, and then once I started writing and liked what was coming together, it took me a long time to decide to put it out there for all of you to read it.
Everything in this series is true from my perspective. Obviously, those on the other side of the events will have their own spin on things and I have no problem with that. I have given myself this space to clear all the weight off my shoulders and be able to move on with my life after being weighed down by the actions of others that happened so far in the past.
The big red and white tent is up.
That super annoying, old school circus tune is playing on repeat in my head.
I step out into the center ring, covered in sequins, with my big black badass top hat on and it starts.
The scraggliest big black dog runs up behind me, like a shadow that's ready to engulf my being and a nasty ass mama monkey and her baby have jumped on my shoulder, screeching in my ear to their own cruel song of self-loathing.
The roaring, unforgiving crowds fill the seats. Reporters grab out their pencils and notebooks, ready to write every last excruciating detail of my failure down for everyone to read and hear about. The dancing horse is kicking the dirt, ready to bite my hand as I offer it up gifts. The lion is uncaged and flicks its mane through the air, looking majestic and graceful, but ready to attack any defenseless children at any given moment. The performers stand ready to carry out their carefully choreographed acts, while I wait patiently, nervously to don my dancing bear costume. To perform the routine that I am so used to and know by heart.
I must remember to keep my happy little mask on tight. Don’t ever let the mask slip.
But it does slip. It falls to the floor with an Earth-shaking shatter. While the circus carries on with its performance, I quickly put the mask back to its perfect position as if it never slipped and carried on with my own performance.
I CANNOT let it slip again. I have to staple this damned thing to my face so they can't see what is really underneath. They don't want to see. They just want the show to go on as planned with no “mistakes.”
There’s an old Russian proverb: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
But since the age of about eight, this has been my circus and these sad little annoying as hell creatures are my monkeys. Every character at the circus, right down to the crowd and reporters, plays their part well.
So before we can set fire to the circus and rid it from our minds, first we must tell the story of how it came to be in the first place.
Here enters the barrel of monkeys and their lion.