Saturday 17 July 2010

Me and the Zebra

Hello, hello.

Do you remember how, when I first introduced you to Zebra, in this post:... I promised to attempt to enlighten you as to why, despite being a relatively well-adjusted adult, I'd taken a plastic zoo toy on holiday with me?

Well, as promised here goes, I'll do my best: In short - it was for old time's sake - but allow me to explain properly ...

Zebra's creation myth begins approximately 15 years ago with a story my sister's oldest friend, a teacher, told her about a small girl she'd had in her reception class ....

The girl had carried a toy zebra with her everywhere she went and the adults around her recognised that she was using it as a comforter to help her through the daunting task of starting school. One day my sister's friend decided to address the issue with the zebra girl:

"Is he looking after you?" she asked.

"No ... I'm not scared." she replied "He is! I'm looking after him".

And, to be honest, that's really all I know about the girl who carried her zebra everywhere with her, just in case he got worried about being away from home.

At least, that's all I know about the original girl who carried her zebra everywhere, because there was another one who followed in her footsteps ...

Around the time I heard this story I was spending a lot of time at home myself. I had clinical depression and was afraid of most things and couldn't face going most places.

Which is when James bought me my own Zebra: As I gradually built myself up he used to go everywhere with me. The zebra, not James.

Although indeed James did actually have to go most places with me until I was back on my own two feet. Once I was, once I'd begun taking baby steps without my family and James beside me, Zebra took their place.

Well, like the little girl said ... he was scared of being out in the big wide world on his own so how could I leave him behind? He needed me. I was the brave one in the relationship.

So I kept him safe, in my pocket, while I went for walks to the end of the road and back to see how it felt to be outside alone.
Next he became my travelling companion when I managed to start taking trips by bus, after which
I let him come to college with me ... and then university, because he'd be anxious if he'd been left on his own.

Which is also why he had to come with me to work with me when I got my first 'real' job. And why he came along to every scary new place and social occasion in between. All of which goes some way to explain why his stripes bear scuffed and faded battle scars:But at least we won the war.

It's telling that, when I wanted to introduce him to you a few weeks ago, I couldn't find him.

I looked in the bureau in the hall, near where we keep our coats and bags. The place where he used to be kept within easy reach for whenever I went out and couldn't face leaving him behind ... Eventually, after looking in every pocket, bag, cupboard and dark place I could possibly contemplate having once upon a time left him, I found him in the back of the drawer I keep my belts in. Obviously!

And even though he's not afraid any more, I have it on very good authority that when I plunged my hand in that drawer and felt four small hard plastic feet poking out amongst the leather and fabric ... there was a great deal of relief at our being reunited.

For both of us.

So now what? What do we do together now he's no longer afraid of life?

Well, we start on a new journey together. We open an online shop. We start selling things I've created ... we see where we go from there.

It's a venture which could be daunting. It's one which could make you more vulnerable than you've been in a long time and it might just be enough to make you the tiniest bit scared .... if you're a zebra.

Luckily for him though ... he's got me.



  1. Awesome and brave, the pair of you.

  2. Soooo courageous! Not just in what the pair of you have achieved together but in sharing it with us too. Thank you! What an inspiration you are to all those of us who are often anxious and much afraid.
    Huge hugs

  3. all of which proves you are never too old to need a friend and never too young to need someone to lean upon. lovely story too.

  4. Great story, I love knowing the background on your shop name. He looks like a fine fellow indeed. I carried a rock with me for years. I found it in the driveway when I was a teenager and contemplating things that shouldn't be contemplated. I still have it, though like you and your zebra now I'm not quite sure where it is stashed.

  5. Zebra is very lucky to have found you. A zebra may feel a bit bipolar at times - find that things are very black and white, good and bad - and it takes a very special friend to help a zebra feel safe in a multi-coloured world.

    Of course, the other thing about zebras is that they don't like being taken for a ride, so you have to empathise without controlling them.

    He and you are great travelling companions

  6. Oh, my lovely friend. You have always been such an inspiration to me and never more so than right now. Because, every so often, I forget that there are people who understand - and then someone reminds me.

    Good luck with your newest venture. I can't think of anyone more deserving of good things x

  7. Thankyou for sharing your very inspiring story with us Julie and well done for managing to turn things round in your life, so brave!
    Good luck with The Carousel Zebra - can't wait to see it all! You are a truly talented lady!
    Jacqui :-)

  8. It was brave to share your story with us. So many people have problems with their mental health, at some point in their lives - I have - yet there are still so many taboos about discussing it, acknowledging it or admitting to it... I was ill after the breakdown of a (very) long-term relationship. I had a wonderful supporter and helper - who is now my husband - so I was lucky and didn't need a zebra. But I can relate to you and your zebra...
    Well done for turning your life around and getting back to a life outside as well as inside. I wish you success with your online shop. I am so glad I started mine (while recovering from a back injury). It's been great and has started to take off now.
    Remember you are in charge of it; you set the goals and you can go as fast - or slowly - as you wish.
    Let us know when it's fully up and running - I'd love to go and browse!

  9. What a beautiful and courageous story, thank you for sharing it. May you, James and zebra have many, many good things come your way. x

  10. Thank you all so much for your kind words and for sharing your own experiences.

    I'm always amazed in 'real' life just how often, when I've mention my experience of depression to someone, they've begun to tell me their own stories.

    I've found that through simple details, told honestly, others feel able to open up and share something they don't usually talk about.

    I was once wholly terrified that someone would find out my 'secret'. Now, a long time on, I am telling anyone who will read it on here, and your responses alone make it worth my while and answer any doubts I had about it.

    Thank you :)

  11. What a lovely story, Julie. I'm glad your zebra managed to let you get further away!

  12. So glad thew two of you `re back together again - and what a lovely tribute to him that he's in the name of your new shop!

  13. Aw Julie, such a moving story of you & your Zebra. Sending you a hug (((hug)))

  14. Lucky Zebra to have a friend like you. Is he coming to skipton I'd love to meet him?

  15. love everything about this :) and so LOVE the layout you dedicated to him!

  16. I came to this post following your link on July MinN post, Julie - I had noted it and thought I must go back to read that story - what I didn't expect was to be so moved by it. And I found myself really, really wishing my son had had a friend like zebra. You are a very courageous young lady to tell your story and mental ill-health is something we should indeed be more aware of and so much more tolerant of. I wish you and zebra many years together where he doesn't need you to take him out in quite the same way. Many (((hugs))), Jennie x

  17. Absolutely love your story and love that you shared it.
    Zebras are very awesome and our Zebra loving girl will love hearing your story.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing the link to this post. It was wonderful to see your name in my inbox but even more special knowing all of this.xoxoxo

  18. I so love this! You are so brave to tell this story and for that I send you much love and respect.
    I had clinical depression some years and couldn't go anywhere on my own, I would not even go into the front garden alone. It took time, patience from those that I love, a great GP and of course medication. About a year on from my darkest days I went to London (on the train) on my own and it felt wonderful. I didn't have a zebra during this time, I just had support and a belief that I could get better. Thank you so much for sharing.

  19. I love this. So honest and helpful and true. Reminded me at the end quite deeply of the velveteen rabbit ( one of my favourite stories)

  20. I love this. So honest and helpful and true. Reminded me at the end quite deeply of the velveteen rabbit ( one of my favourite stories)


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