By WENDY SQUIRES
The last week or so I have become a woman obsessed, juggling so many feelings I am finding it hard to keep track of which emotional ball belongs in which hand.
You see, I am taking the murder of sex worker Tracy Connelly, which I wrote about in The Age and Mia Freedman so eloquently humanised last week, extremely personally. And I can’t apologise for it. It is just how I feel.
When I become emotionally affected to this level, I like to stop and ask myself what’s really going on. What buttons has this tragedy pushed in me that I am feeling so raw and sensitive and thin skinned?
Part of the answer, I realise, is that I am overwhelmed with the public response to Tracy’s death. It is as if my faith has been restored with the heartfelt reaction Mia and I have received from readers who are too distressed by brutal death.
But here is the real truth to what I think is really affecting me so deeply – I know I could have been Tracy. It wouldn’t have taken much more in my childhood to tip me over the edge and in to an abyss with little chance of escape. And I never forget it, not for a second of a minute of any day. It is so intrinsic to who I am its like it’s a part of my DNA.
I don’t want to go in to too much detail of my childhood other than to say I was raised by an alcoholic father with severe mental health issues after my mother left. I brought myself up while trying to save him at the same time and it was bloody tough. I felt different to other kids and was ashamed of who I was and how I was living. I felt like white trash, a lesser person, and believed everyone around me thought the same.
But somehow I got through and, at 16, left home to become my own legal guardian. I did HSC while living with my musician boyfriend who would regularly pawn his beloved guitar to keep us afloat and get me through sixth form.
His generosity and devoted care for my future was an absolute gift that changed my life and destiny (thanks Bob if you ever read this) and I am forever grateful to have been its recipient.
But there was a time around 18 when I had to make a choice as to which direction my life would go in. I had found a new family and sense of belonging with a group of friends but suddenly drugs and needles had become a harrowing presence.
One night, after watching yet another one of our gang figure “why not” and plunge a needle in their arm I found myself alone. I was the only one holding out, the last begging, “please don’t”.
It was then the peer pressure ramped up. I shouldn’t condemn if I don’t know what it feels like, I was told. And so, terrified I would be ostracised, I found myself with a tourniquet strapped around my arm and a full syringe about to plough in to my vein. Bob tried to stop me but I was scared I would be ostracised if I didn’t join in. I would lose the family I so desperately wanted.