Yesterday I wrote about the importance of celebrating small victories. Whether you’re battling with depression, anxiety, homelessness, all of the above or a whole lot more it’s always the small victories that give us hope to keep fighting on.
Today marks the 100th post of this incarnation of All that I am, all that I ever was and I’m not calling it a small victory – I’m calling it a bloody big one! When I began this blog all the way back in 2007 I thought I’d be huddled in the corner of a padded room in some distant, long forgotten mental institute by now. Or dead; still surprised I’m not dead.
Never would I have anticipated that, five years on, I’d still be scaring the world with my unique take on mental health, homelessness and the journey of life.
Sure there have been long periods of inactivity, a few misguided attempts at differentand several occasions where I wanted to delete my internet footprint so the world would never have to think of me again…but no matter what’s been thrown at me (abuse, homelessness, depressive episodes, black outs, physical illness) I keep finding myself drawn back into the safety of my little world.
So, to celebrate my 100th post, I’ve decided to take a nostalgic look at this world and try to explain why I keep returning.
The Past: The ten posts I’m most proud of…
Reflection on being homeless is, without question, the hardest series of posts I’ve written since the early days of my blog. Back then I was sharing my mental health problems for the first time in my life. Although some people were aware of a few of the things I’d been through, no-one was fully aware of the true impact mental illness had had on my life. The same can be said about my homelessness.
From August 2009 until March 2012 I was homeless, and for the majority of this time I was sleeping rough. Every homeless person’s experiences are different but all are equally horrifying as it’s a lifestyle that no-one should ever have to experience. At times my homelessness was brutal but littered throughout those soul-destroying years were moments of beauty that reminded me just how wonderful life can be.
My intention whilst writing this series was the same as when I was writing about my mental health; to reflect on my experiences in a warts-and-all way. At times difficult to write, I am immensely proud of this series and reminds me why I started blogging in the first place. There is no therapy quite like writing therapy.
Although it goes against most blogging advice, I’ve always prided myself on balancing the dark with the light. My Life in Books is a post that feels like it belongs on a different blog. Gone is the gritty text that describes a mentally ill man trying to survive on the streets, in is a breezy look back on the books that made me the man I am today. From The Folk of the Faraway Tree to Thirteen Reasons Why through Matilda and Fermata; the memories that flooded as I was writing this retrospective were immense.
Over the years, I’ve received a lot of criticism for the lackadaisical approach I’ve taken to my blog. Why do you not write specifically on mental health? Why do you not dedicate your posts purely to raising awareness of homelessness? Why not focus your writing on dissecting the abusive culture that is being fostered? Why do you jump from street sleeping to spanakopita to sociopathic abusers to self-harm to southern hairy nosed wombats?
And every time I receive this criticism I doubt myself. If I focussed on one aspect of life perhaps I would get more readers. If I stopped throwing in random references and kinky obscurity perhaps I would encourage more people to comment. But if I did this, if I did that, if I did any of it, I would not be being true to my core, fundamental belief.
Throughout my whole life I’ve been pigeon-holed in one way or another. Whether it be mental illness, homelessness, abuse victim, rape survivor, sexual predilection, all anyone sees is one aspect of my personality and I’m judged accordingly.
I am not just one of these things, I am all of them, and a whole lot more besides.
My illnesses, life events and sexual desires do not define who I am. They are merely multi-coloured stitches in the vast tapestry that is Addy. That is why I jump from topic to topic, style to style, light to dark…because it’s all that I am.
The Present: Constancy in motion…
My reasons for writing this blog are the same now that they always were: awareness, fun and therapy.
I’m not – nor have ever been – interested in monetizing my blog or using it to forge my fifteen minutes of fame. This blog is my depository for random thoughts; an account of my journey through life, mental health and other catastrophes.
Like me, it is constantly evolving, maturing and changing. Appearance wise it is unrecognisable from the original Blogspot incarnation or the various WordPress and owned domains that its lived in since. In a way, I find it quite apt that it’s lived a nomadic, homeless life. Like it’s owner, forever seeking a place where it feels secure and loved enough to call home.
Over the last few weeks, following my depression fuelled absence, astute readers will have noticed a few cosmetic changes occurring. The theme’s changed, I’ve reinstalled the sunset header (which readers of the original version will recognise), I’ve trimmed the sidebars and cleaned up the pages.
As time progresses the wider changes I’m making will become apparent. Some will have noticed the addition of weekly themes – last week I looked at anxiety, this week, Unsent Letters – and the slow introduction of daily memes – such as Teaser Tuesday and Top Twenty Thursday.
The plan is two fold:
(1) To focus the blog whilst retaining the eclecticism of posts I’ve grown to love so much.
(2) To create a routine that will, hopefully, begin to lift the shroud of darkness that’s clouded me over the last five years.
Ever since the breakdown, my life has been in a state of stagnation. For the last five years there’s been nothing; no friends, no happiness, no hope, nothing to give my life meaning or substance. Sure, I’ve fought through several dark places and come out standing, but I want more than that. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and feel excited to be alive, not cursing the Reaper for failing to take me while I slept.
For me to break this stagnation I need to evolve, and as I’m connected to the blog, I’m hoping as it does, I will to.
The Future: Who knows what it will bring…
No-one knows what the future will bring.
Six years ago I thought it held college and university, friends and social networks, photography and publishing. I never expected the abuse, the breakdown, the isolation and destruction that followed. The homelessness crept out of nowhere. The pain I feel each day was unimaginable.
But not knowing doesn’t stop us from dreaming.
First, there will hopefully be more personal posts covering topics dear to my heart I’ve never written about. Then, the realisation of my daily/weekly posts ideas. After that, well, I don’t want to give everything away! Spoilers.
However, I am setting myself a challenge. As well as the goals I set myself in the first post of my 365 Day Challenge, I hope that come 31 December 2012 the following buttons will link to entertaining posts of the same name. For they, more than any other, are the ones I yearn to write and will do everything I can to make them happen:
I try not to think ahead too much. With the mood swings I go through it can be difficult focusing an hour in advance, let alone a day, week or month. And I’ve learned from past experience that hoping and dreaming can often lead to feelings of failure and depression. All I can do is take each day at a time and hope, sometime in the future, I’ll be writing a 200th post.
Until then, I would like to thank each and every one of my readers, followers, subscribers and commentators for putting up with the erratic posting, occasionally depressing content and, let’s be honest, completely insane blog owner.
You are the inspiration that keeps me writing :)