All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

Inside the Brown Book: Journal Writing

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INTRODUCTION

FOR MY 18TH BIRTHDAY I WAS GIVEN A BROWN LEATHER BOOK SLEEVE. IT HAD ON IT’S FRONT A CELTIC KNOTWORK DESIGN, AND TO THIS DAY HAS BEEN THE BEST PRESENT I EVER RECEIVED. IT HAS HOUSED FOR 8 YEARS MY EVER CHANGING A5 SIZED JOURNALS; JOURNALS WHICH HAVE CAPTURED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT I’VE EXPERIENCED IN THAT TIME.
IN MY FIGHT WITH DEPRESSION JOURNAL WRITING HAS BEEN A CONSTANT HELP AND COMPANION, UNLIKE PEOPLE WHO CAN’T ALWAYS BE THERE, YOUR JOURNAL ALWAYS IS. IN THIS SERIES I’LL SHARE WITH YOU SOME OF THE MOMENTS – BE THEY HAPPY, DEPRESSING, EXCITING OR SCARY – THAT I HAVE SHARED WITH IT.

DISCLAIMER
THE ENTRIES MAY BE EDITED TO REMOVE REFERENCE TO THIRD PARTIES. OTHERWISE THEY WILL BE “AS-IS”.

Extract #1: March 2007

[To set the scene, in early March of 2007 I suffered a nervous breakdown – my journal writing became bleak, desperate and violent. After the following entry I lost the passion I had once had for my journal, and since, have written only 5 entries: two in late April, one in May, and two in June. This entry seemed to seal the fate of my journal writing.]
Wednesday 28th March 2007
My Place
9:04am
I was having a panic attack when I woke up this morning. How? It hasn’t stopped. I can hardly breathe. I’m collapsing. Imploding.
10:17am
I just cut myself. Drew blood. I want to do it again and again. [This was one of the few entries where I ever mentioned actually committing self-harm, if I was able to scan the page you would see my blood, which I let pour onto the page for prosperity.] I’m thinking about hitting myself to cause some bruising. I want to feel someting. Anything! I want to kill myself. I sat in the park last night with a bottle of water in my hand. [Yep, that’s exactly what I wrote – wow, I sat in the park and…I had a bottle of water in my hand – WTF? What I believe I intended to write was that I had been sitting in the park with my pills and the water was there to, if I had gone through with it, wash them down. It just didn’t come out that way]
1:17pm
My mood keeps slipping again. I keep having these angry violent outbursts. I keep wanting to hurt things. I keep wanting to hurt myself. I want the world to feel the pain I am feeling. The anger I’m feeling. The rejection I’m feeling. That’s one of the reasons I want to hurt myself. If I direct it at me, then I’m not directing it at the people I care about. That’s the main thing. My cravings to harm myself are becoming more and more difficult to control. It’s all happening again and I can’t cope any more. Every where I go all I see are the shattered remnants of my life… – [snipped a few bits here I’m afraid] – …let it all slip away and now can’t stop the avalanche. Can’t seem to put the pieces back together. I’m distancing myself from all and everyone I love because I don’t want to drag them down with me. My brain couldn’t take that.
2:22pm
In a short while I am going to go to the stupermarket to buy a sharper knife, the one I’m using just doesn’t seem to do it for me any more. I seem to be in a perpetual state of panic, anxiety and dispair.
[SNIP! Had to cut it there I’m afraid.]

Extract #2: May 2000

[To set the scene, in September 1999 I set off on a backpacking adventure. For several months I lived, worked, breathed, drank and passed out around Scotland. In May 2000 I headed off to explore and scare an entirely new country: Canada! I arrived in Vancouver, where I remained for a few weeks, before beginning a cross-country train odyssey. My first port of call was Jasper.]
Tuesday 30th May 2000
HI Maligne Canyon Hostel
4:27pm
I arrived in Jasper at about 11am (MT) on Saturday morning – weary, stiff, and I have to say a mite constipated after 13 odd-hours on the train. I relieved myself as best I could and then treated myself to a packet of Cameo smokes.
My destination was Whistlers campground, 3km from downtown Jasper, and a nice hike through scenery which has to be said reminds me heavily of parts of Scotland. Rapid rivers, acres of woodland vegetation, snow capped peaks, the odd water-vole, general woodsy stuff.
Eager to meet new people I informed the lady at the desk that yes indeed I was willing to share the camp spot with someone else.
Now this was the first time I’d been camping by myself; it took about an hour, and as I sat back to admire my handiwork with a second cameo I realised the tent was actually beginning to fall down. Another half hour…awesome! During my second admiring moment an Australian stepped up and said,
“Are you the Welsh guy?”
Already he knew too much about about me. “I am,” I responded apprehensively. “Hi, Andrew, how ya doing?”
“[snip – from here on in he will be known as ‘Bob’]” Is all he said his name was at this stage.
He was here to share my site, reducing the cost (groovy) and providing me with peace of mind from rampant bear attacks (at least I’d have someone to fight alongside me). So of course, as I’d erected the tent in the middle of the sight (why?) it had to be moved, and then re-erected, and I watched in astonishment as this Aussie wonder zipped up his tent in a matter of seconds. Stunning. We chatted for a while, regaling this rather amateur traveler with stories of Vietnam, Norway, Africa and his early days in Canada.
Anyway, after this lengthy conversation Bob went to make some phone calls and check out the hostel (which was a few Ks down the road) whilst I meander the forest for a whiles [presumably hunting water-voles, who knows, maybe I just fancied communing].
The campsite itself stood in the mighty shadow of Whistler mountain, with the upper station of the cable car in view within the deeply snow capped peak. It was within this shadow Bob and I sat into the somewhat nippily sunset hours (about 11pm) cooking up a mostly tasteless meal of pasta, tomato, onion and the worst sweetcorn imaginable whilst comparing knives [we are men, we compare our knives, ‘kay!] and partaking in conversation about:

So, what exactly could my mini-hook actually be used for?
Fishing for really small fish? Grabbing and dragging a bear by the jaw, perhaps? Or maybe just pulling out tent pegs.

The actual merit of the duck-n-cover-bear-escape
tactic; I mean how exactly is dropping into a foetal position and crapping yourself going to scare off a Grizzly?[snip – the conversation just got embarrassingly weird after this.]

As the evening progressed this bizarro talk reached even greater depths, so our thoughts turned to alcohol and a quick call to the local liquor delivery service saw us receive 12 cans of luke-warm beer and a startling Starburst addiction.

Perhaps fuelled by the beer, or maybe even the Starbursts, I suddenly found myself becoming my fictional character Andy Richards [why? to this day I have no idea] I had a relationship with Natalie and was studying Photography at college. It should be made perfectly clear that this pretense was then kept up the entire time I was with Bob – five days of pretending to be someone that exists only in my mind, trying to remember all the details so as not to be caught out of the lie. It was however quite fun, because even though I do like myself, sometimes it is really nice not being Addy the virgin.)

So we’re into Sunday now. I crawl out my tent after a rather surprisingly good sleep (which included a [oh frack me SNIP SNIP SNIP SNIP SNIP that dream stays exactly where it is!] which was admittedly rather pleasant) and the first thing I saw was a squirrel standing not 2 feet from my tent’s awning just staring at me, almost smiling. it was a nice start to the day. Bob and I decided to hike to the Valley of the 5 lakes today.

After fifteen minutes of walking a coyote was spotted, scared away by a cyclist, so we ate cheese rolls and observed what I only presume to be chipmunks play (really small bastards, very fast and cute) before carrying on through steeper terrain to the said lakes. All of which were water of crystal blue, so clear you’d think that the water in Scotland was actually oil, which it mostly is I guess) female elk were spotted [how did I know they were female?] and then in a wonderfully bizarre scenario I was meandering along the path, look up, and a 5 feet away BAM a rather large antlered angry-looking elk right in our way!

Having read the warning information (stay back, don’t go near, move slowly) we did the only thing we knew we should: whip out our cameras and like true little tourists, snap away!

[SNIP – blimey, this entry is long! – several pages later]

…I sit by the river now, lost in a haze of memory from the last few days and feeling completely serene. After Van, it’s sooo good to be back in a rural area.
[SNIP – and just because it’s proof I am absolutely insane and should be avoided at all costs – the following entry is on the next page]
Friday 2nd June 2000
11:33pm [I really think this was meant to be ‘am’, but it was written as ‘pm’]
Jasper Municipal Library, Jasper
Scene #1
Int. Jasper Tourist Office. (Wed 31st May 2000)
In walks this dishevelled traveller, hair and beard all akimbo, jacket tied round his waist and jumper slung over his weighted day-pack. (Maybe) he had been smoking something, other than a cameo. He approaches the desk and a lady, a young looking thirty-something, smiles appropriately, trying to ignore his odour filled clothing and sweat dripping brow
TRAV – Excuse me, a friend of mine worked in town once. Is there an establishment with lobster in the name around?
GIRL – Lobster?
TRAV – Yes. Lobster.
GIRL – Well…(thinks)…there is the Loggers Lounge.
TRAV – That’s the one.
GIRL – But you said lobster.
TRAV – Indeed I did. (There is a pause, a rather uncomfortable one.) Is that? (He points over her shoulder)
GIRL – (annoyed) What?
TRAV – It is.
GIRL – Are you okay sir?
TRAV – It’s Kittyfantasticobeaver! Kittyfantasticobeaver we love you!
(The girl looks around giving the traveller enough time to bid a hasty exit, never to be seen again within those four walls)
[SNIP – I really have to end it there, not only was my Canadian journey one of the best times of my life, but my time in Jasper was simply magic on a level I have only experienced a few times in my life. There was ISH, Canada, the proper end of the millennium & it’s following months…times where I felt whole, complete and utterly in control (for the most part) and they are the times I like to remember when feeling somewhat shitty – they remind me of how awesome I can be!]
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