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You need friends

​Dare to Remember is about many things. It’s about recovery, about mental illness, about therapy, about how life turns on a sixpence.

It’s also about people needing people, specifically friends. The story concerns Lisa, whose best friend Ali dies in a horrific incident that changes everything. Lisa hides herself away from other people. She lives alone, without even the daily contact we take for granted through work, neighbours, friends. Even the local shop feels threatening to her.

But quite soon, despite herself, things begin to change. Her first and best friend is her dog Riley, who finds a hole in the fence between two gardens and takes to visiting Lisa daily. This forces her to make contact with her elderly next-door neighbour, John. Through Riley she becomes friends with John, who eventually asks her to look after the dog on a permanent basis. And when she walks Riley she meets another woman who becomes a good friend – also a dog owner and walker, Jessica. Lisa resists, but finds it impossible to avoid getting to know people, even on a superficial level. Even the woman behind the counter in the local shop becomes a friend of sorts.

It’s through these new friends, together with the support of therapy, that Lisa starts to recover. Gradually she begins to feel strong enough to confront her fears and try to find out what really happened on the night that Ali died – a night that has been wiped from her memory. Only once she remembers, she feels, will she have a chance to recover from the guilt she feels for having survived while her best friend died.

When the friends started to appear in Lisa’s story, I wasn’t consciously trying to point out that we can’t survive without other human beings. But it became clear to me through Lisa’s experience that it’s pretty impossible to cut yourself off completely. I have heard it said more than once that humans would die if they were entirely alone. Lisa is an ordinary person to whom something extraordinary (not in a good way) has happened – and despite her efforts to cut herself off from other people, it proved impossible to make it happen. I thought I was writing a story with very few developed characters, but when I count them up, there are many – some more developed than others.

It just happened. The story showed me, not the other way round, that we all need friends.

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