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…


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Saturday 9: Life is a lemon and I want my money back

Saturday 9 is a weekly blogging meme hosted by Crazy Sam Winters (she added the crazy, not me!).

Every Saturday there will be nine questions – sometimes they will be around a common theme, other times completely random – to be answered however we like. I’m a little later than usual today because of my fluctuating moods but at least it’s still Saturday :)

English: Kate Miller-Heidke at the Byron Bay B...

Kate Miller-Heidke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. When was the last time that you asked for your money back?

This is something that I rarely – if ever – do. The only thing that is coming to mind is that in May 2012 I saved up over a number of weeks to buy my dad the new Kate Miller-Heidke album for his birthday. Due to my lack of funds it took me longer to organise than I’d intended and I was unable to send the package until after his birthday. When I spoke to him that day I discovered he had brought the album as a present for himself so I took my copy back and exchanged it for something else. So, not technically getting my money back, but close.

2. What was the last thing that you did to help someone?

Approximately seven hours ago I was moseying down the road when I saw an elderly woman drop her bag and spilled her groceries down the street. I, and two other samaritans, helped her collect everything together. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours talking to a woman suffering from depression online. The day before that, I spent an hour talking to a homeless man who looked lonely, what can I say, I related to him.

Basically, I try to help at least one person a day, if I’m mentally able, in whatever way I can.

3. At what point of your life do you think you started to understand who you are?

Late 2006/early 2007, just before the breakdown, I thought I had a good understanding of who I was, why I was here and what my purpose was. After the last five years, I know exactly who I am, I just don’t like him.

4. Are there times when you thought you had taken a fall, only to discover more about yourself?

Although I always knew I had a tremendous amount of inner strength, the period I’ve been homeless, in combination with everything I’ve been through, has taught me a lot about what this strength is as well as help me understand far more about myself than I could have imagined.

The period I spent homeless I learned/re-learned several life lessons that most people spend their whole lives not fully understanding.

5. What was the last thing you did where you could not believe in what you were doing?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a comment for a website that I still cannot believe I posted. I’m rather proud that I did, and in no way am I ashamed of the information I relayed, but due to the intimate nature of this information I couldn’t believe I was even considering posting it – let alone hitting the post comment button!

6. Do you think that you must struggle to become strong?

Yes. Absolutely. We learn from our mistakes, from our failures, from the trials that life thrusts upon us unannounced. If we were to go through life feeling no pain, remaining unchallenged from birth to death, we would never discover what we’re capable of.

(Un)Fortunately, I have.

7. Do you feel that your dreams have meaning or are entirely random?

If by dreams you mean the phantasms that visit us in our sleep, then yes, I do believe they mean something. Several elements of the last dream I had had particular resonance to various parts of my life and I can see the connections and messages my subconscious was trying to impart.

If by dreams you mean our goals and aspirations, they always have meaning for nothing we do is ever random.

8. What was the last promise you broke?

I promised to be there for a friend. And I’ve never forgiven myself for letting them down. I never will.

9. Do you collect anything?

I used to collect several things; Charles de Lint novels, books about Scotland (particularly older books), badges, key rings and DVDs.

Now, I have neither the money nor housing security to collect anything. Any day I could end up on the streets, something that does not lend itself to keeping a collection. Although, I do have two small collections I manage to keep a hold of, both of which are personal.

 

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Behind the Lens #5: Inverness Sunset

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, a photograph I’ve adored for nearly thirteen years; Inverness Sunset

Inverness Sunset (Scotland, October 1999) © Addy

“How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”
~ George MacDonald ~

The time, October 1999.

The place, Inverness.

After nearly two months of exploring this beautiful country I had settled into the Inverness Student Hotel backpacker hostel. My ‘home’ was room number six, a four bedded dorm room with a view of Inverness from a paint peeling, rotting window. From the River Ness to Craig Phadrig and everything in between, I fell deeply in love with that view over the months I resided there, never more so than on one quiet Autumnal evening when I arrived home from work.

Wearing only my boxer shorts, I grabbed my camera and threw myself out the window. With my body dangling precariously in the air and both hands steadying the camera, the only thing preventing me from falling seventeen feet to the concrete below was one leg clinging desperately against the ledge. For three minutes I hung in that ridiculous position, snapping several images in the hope to capture the awe-inspiring sight before me.

The result, a photograph that has attached itself firmly to my heart and shall remain there until the day I draw my last breath.

Containing no manipulation, no filters, no editing, no photoshopping, nothing; this was exactly how the sky looked that quiet Autumn night in Inverness.

Hence why I threw myself out the window in my boxer shorts!

 


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The Vagina Conundrum (and other oddities)

Triggering, is one word to describe this week.

Random would be another.

With World Suicide Prevention Day occurring on Monday and R U OK?Day happening yesterday, I found myself overwhelmed with memories from the past that didn’t exactly have a positive effect on my mental functioning.

Fortunately, Roald Dahl Day assisted in bringing a smile to my face, as well as some rather random articles, including: Fifty Shades of Wrong, Mothers I’d Like to Slap (MILS) and Today Ridiculed Over Choice. The remainder of the news seemed to focus on the continuing internet ‘trolling’ debate, the unfortunate death of an AFL player in Las Vegas, the redefinition of homelessness and suicide.

Lots and lots of suicide. Yay!

So, in an effort to stop yet more painful and disturbing memories and think more positive and happy thoughts, my issue for the week is the vagina.

Issue of the Week

The Great Wall of Vagina (yes, I’m aware of the inaccuracy) | Jamie McCartney

Yes. I wrote the word vagina. Oops, I wrote vagina again. And again. And three more times…

And now I’ve duly annoyed Net Nanny, made several people uncomfortable and reduced my meager blog hits dramatically, may I enquire as to just why so many people have an issue with this word? Why there is such an obsession with euphemisms whenever this part of the female body is raised?

As a man, I just don’t get it. I really don’t. I’m genuinely asking.

Women have a vagina, men have a penis, women have a clitoris, men have trouble with directions. What is the problem? Why, with all the pain and misery in the world, do people have such trouble talking about this perfectly normal part of the body?

This week Apple censored the word vagina with v****a on the Apple iStore listing of Naomi’s Wolf’s new book Vagina: A New Biography. In recent months, there was a nationwide furor when a television advert for tampons dared to mention the word vagina. Yet despite the fact we’re raising generations of men (and women) who don’t know the difference between the vagina and the vulva, it remains a word that is spoken in hushed tones or gestured in spontaneous charade games whenever it’s discussed in conversation.

Maybe it’s just me that’s so annoyed with this. Maybe I’m supposed to have a problem with the word vagina. Maybe the fact I don’t has contributed to my mental ill-health and homelessness. Maybe all my problems stem from my inability to take offense at this word.

I’m genuinely confused by this.

My final word on the matter:

The word vagina is not offensive, it is not explicit, it is not disgusting.

It is normal. It is beautiful. And if you don’t believe me say the word aloud…vagina…see? Gorgeous :)

So can we quit with the censoring and the euphemisms and the deafening outcry whenever it’s used and just accept there’s nothing wrong with the word vagina.

Scrotum, on the other hand…that’s a whole other blog post!

Further reading on this topic

Vagina by Naomi Wolf covered up by iTunes (The Guardian)
iTunes Censors ‘Vagina’: Feminist Author’s Book Title Allegedly Considered Explicit (Huffington Post)
Naomi Wolf Gagged by Apple (The Age)

Five things I learned this week

1. Twenty-one people found my blog by searching for “socks fetish confessions”
2. ‘Mad Men’ is apparently the best television show of the last twenty five years. Sigh.
3. How One Tree Hill ended. But I won’t tell you, in case you plan on watching it.
4. I am actually a woman, at least when it comes to how I fantasize.
5. One person found my blog by searching for “is there a mental illness of sitting on the toilet all day”.

Five things I plan to do next week

This week has been one of mixed success. Unlike last week, where I completed each of my goals for the week, I didn’t fully complete any of my tasks this week. As is often the case with mental illness the rollercoaster I found myself on this week prevented me from focusing as clearly as I would have liked, leaving me feeling somewhat frustrated that I failed.

I did begin The Comfort of Our Kind, but failed to finish it. One Tree Hill was watched, somewhat bitter-sweetly, but I’ve yet to channel my feelings into a blog post. In terms of the social network, my anxiety has prevented me from going near, the same issue affecting my ability to leave comments, no matter how wonderful I found the blog post.

Perhaps next week, if my moods settle, I will be more productive, with:

1. Watch Homeland and write a blog post about it.
2. Finish The Comfort of Our Kind.
3. Find the confidence to write the weekly series I want to write.

and lingering from last week:

4. Post at least one constructive comment a day, anywhere on the internet.
5. Make at least two new friends on the social networking site (i.e. message people…gulp!)

Linky Love

My five favourite posts I published this week, in case you missed them, are:

1. Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World
2. The only time I can be myself is in my dreams
3. Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m no trying to flirt with you
4. Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far
5. Unsent Letter #6: In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took

and five posts that other people wrote that rocked my world, are:

1. Crikey: The worst thing you can imagine
2. justb.: Trolls, Fame and Blame
3. Far from Paradise: Healing the Heart
4. Mamamia: I’d never felt alone like that before
5. The Punch: I’ve lost two loves to suicide. Ask someone if they’re OK

And finally…

My three favourite photographs of the week:

Early Morning Swim [EXPLORED]

hypnotised

001

Disclaimer
I do not claim ownership of these photographs.
Copyright remains with the individual artist.
Please click each image to view their Flickr gallery.


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Behind the Lens #4: Abandoned Boat, Berneray

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, one of the first photographs I developed from in a darkroom; Abandoned Boat, Berneray

Abandoned Boat, Berneray (Outer Hebrides, October 2000) © Addy

“Ciamar a smaoinichinn gun glacainn
an rionnag leugach òir,
gum beirinn oirre ’s gun cuirinn i
gu ciallach ’na mo phòc?”
~ Sorley MacLean ~

In October 2000, a few months after beginning college, I returned to the Island of Berneray for a weekend of roaming, reading and relaxation. My first visit to the island had been in February of the same year whilst travelling the Outer Hebrides with two friends and I developed an immediate love of this most beautiful of Hebridean Islands.

One of my projects for the weekend was to take a series of photographs that I could use as part of my college coursework. Shots of the hostel in which I stayed were taken, images of the machair and expansive western beach were photographed and whilst wandering between the two, random landscapes and monuments were captured for posterity.

This abandoned boat was such an image. Resting on a patch of grass away from the Sound its wooden frame was disintegrating due to the occasionally bleak Hebridean weather. Although far from being the greatest photograph ever taken, it stands out in my collection as being one of the first images I ever developed myself. From processing the negative through to burning the sky in the darkroom.

For years, this photo hung on my wall as a monument of time and place. A memorial of that inspiring, blissful weekend and the months of creativity and excitement that my college course allowed. Over time I would develop better images, but from the moment I watched the boat take shape within the chemical bath, I was smitten with the joy of the darkroom.

This process remains one of the most relaxing activities I’ve ever done, a process that the digital evolution has all but wiped off the map, a process that, no matter what anyone tells you, is infinitely more beautiful than sitting in front of a monitor.

 


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Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World

There are only three authors I can think of who’ve always had a consistent positive effect on my mental health. Three writers, across three genres, who fill my heart with warmth and joy whenever I crack open one of their books.

Today, in the first of a three part series, I look at an author who defined my childhood. Whose books introduced me to the magical world of writing, provided me with endless memories and taught me vital life lessons we should all live by.

Given today is Roald Dahl Day, it shouldn’t take much to work out which author I am focussing on today. So, here are my twenty favourite books from his magnificent body of work:


 ~ 12 ~
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More

I hated this book when I first read it. At eight years old I wanted odd Chocolate Factory owners, gigantic stone fruits and wily foxes; not farmers finding Roman Treasure, hitch-hikers and captured sea turtles. However, when I returned to this collection later in life, I found my younger self to have been somewhat hasty, as it is a beautiful collection of inspirational writing.

~ 11 ~
George’s Marvellous Medicine

One of my strongest memories of non-Enid Blyton bedtime stories is my mother reading this book to me. At six years old it was always so wonderful being cuddled up in her arms as she read this masterpiece to me night after night.

~ 10 ~
Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

Between ‘Matilda’ and ‘Esio Trot’ I was suffering from Dahl withdrawal. After re-reading several of his books I came across this in the local library and checked it out – duly scaring the crap out of my young self and causing several sleepless nights! Monumental in that it these were the first ghost stories I ever read.

~ 9 ~
My Year

This is a little known gem that should be much wider read. A charming collection based on the diary entries from the final year of Dahl’s life. Inspiring, beautifully illustrated by long-time collaborator Quentin Blake and essential reading for all Dahl aficionados. When I think of this book I think of Scotland, in particularly the Isle of Skye, where I read this whilst sitting overlooking Portree Harbor.

~ 8 ~
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Yes, I love the Gene Wilder starring movie. Yes, I hate the Johnny Depp starring movie. Yes, I adore this book as it was the first Dahl I can remember reading on my own, followed swiftly by its underrated sequel.

~ 7 ~
Going Solo

Although not holding the same appeal as ‘Boy’ – most likely because at the young age I read it I couldn’t relate to it as much as the former – this is a wonderful book for all Dahl fans, as well as anyone with an interest in the lives of inspiring, great individuals.

~ 6 ~
James and the Giant Peach

This book used to scare the bejesus out of me. When I was five we had a giant spider living in our house, an arachnid easily as big as a Yorkshire terrier. On one occasion it trapped me on the toilet, on another in the bath, in fact it seemed to have a disturbing fetish for attacking me when I was most vulnerable! The giant insects in this book brought back many memories of this traumatizing period of my life, but fortunately not enough to make me dislike the book which, in all honesty, is impossible.

~ 5 ~
Danny the Champion of the World

One of several celebrities I’ve met in my life is Jeremy Irons, who played the father of the titular character in the 1989 film adaptation of this book. When I met him it I mumbled something about loving this film as I served him coffee. As film adaptations go it’s one of the better ones – but nowhere near as good as the source material.

~ 4 ~
Switch Bitch

If you’re not familiar with this book, I recommend not reading it to your little ‘uns, as it’s a collection of short stories originally written for Playboy magazine in the 1960s. When I first read this book I wasn’t aware of this – not that my thirteen year old self complained all that much!

~ 3 ~
The BFG

Another memory of bedtime stories are my parents reading this in tag-team fashion over the course of a week. One night, mum would whip off a couple of chapters; the next night would be dad’s turn. I also have very fond memories of the animated film that was made of this book, but again, it was nowhere near as good as the source material, which is easily one of the best children’s books of all time.

~ 2 ~
Boy

This was the first biography I ever read and at eleven years old, one of the most compelling and frightening books I’d ever read. Although I’ve read it many times since, the chapters which stand out in my memory are those detailing the corporal punishment Dahl received as a child. Being of similar age to when Dahl first received the cane, I was left quite glad I lived in an era when corporal punishment was no longer used in schools for I would surely have been on the receiving end of it more than once!

This is one of the most wonderful books ever written and an essential read for any literature lover. it would easily have scored my number one slot if it weren’t for the fact that he also wrote one of the greatest books of all time…

~ 1 ~
Matilda

For those who know me, and for a large number of those who don’t, this will come as no surprise. To this day I can still remember the utter excitement that coursed through my body as I tentatively held the heavy hardback version of this book on the day of its release, my parents only too aware of my love for Dahl’s work and how much I would enjoy it. When they gifted me that book all those years ago did they know it would become one of my favourite books of all time? That I would fall in love with Matilda and make birthday wishes that one day I would have a teacher as lovely as Miss Honey?

I guarded my first edition copy of Matilda for many, many years until the great sell-off of my possessions following my breakdown. Listing it on Ebay was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, but I have no memory of what happened to it. For my soul, I hope it found its way to a home that will love it as much as I do.

Upcoming Posts in this Series
George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic (Thursday, 20 September 2012)
Charles De Lint, Writer of my Heart (Thursday, 27 September 2012)

 

To honor Roald Dahl Day, do you have any personal favourites or memories of his books? I’d love to know :)


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R U OK? Day

Today is R U OK?Day, a national day of action designed to inspire all people of all backgrounds to regularly ask ‘Are you okay?’

Since first becoming aware of this day a few years ago I’ve been torn over whether it’s a good or bad idea more than any other day of action. In the plus column, anything that raises awareness of mental health issues and the importance of taking a proactive rather than apathetic approach is fine by me. But in the negative column, does it actually achieve anything?

If someone were to ask me R U OK today (they won’t) I would answer ‘yes’.

I would answer ‘yes’ because I have been conditioned over the years to not ‘bring other people down’ or ‘burden them with my problems’. Particularly by the abuse I received, the inherent stigma of mental health and the community’s nonchalant attitude toward the homeless; all of which are often misunderstood and unjustly stereotyped.

After answering ‘yes’ the person who asked me would be filled with happiness that they’d done a good dead whereas I would mosey home to batter myself with a wooden spoon in order to dull the unending emotional torment my soul is enslaved in.

But what if I were to say no? If upon being asked R U OK? I just said ‘well, actually, I’m not,’

Would they stick around to let me unload?

And how would they react if they did hear all of that? Most people aren’t trained in the area of mental health, even fewer know of where to go to seek help. Plus, from my experience, when things get ‘real’ (i.e. emotional, difficult or mental health related) most people just don’t want to know; they don’t want to be brought down or become enmeshed in someone elses problems.

My other issue about this day is that it assumes everyone has someone to look out for them. For people like me – the socially isolated, anxious, forgotten and alone – the ones who are most likely to not be okay, a day such as this just serves to highlight how lonely and pointless we are. Only a few hours in I’ve already been triggered several times on Twitter, and with my week being as volatile as its been, I’m nervous as to what more triggering is going to do.

However much I want to love this day I don’t think I can. Too many times my attempts to talk about my problems have fallen on deaf and/or uncaring ears. Whilst my isolation has gone on too long for me to believe anyone genuinely cares.

But, despite my misgivings, anything that raises awareness of mental health issues is valuable and important.

So if you are going to ask someone today if they R U OK? Only ask them if you want an honest, genuine answer and would be willing to listen if they say they’re not; it may just save someone’s life.

And if you are lucky enough to have someone ask you if you R U OK?

Tell them the truth; even if that means saying ‘no’.


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Okay, so over the rollercoaster…please let me off now!

What I was doing ten moments ago:  writing a blog post, reading online articles, brainstorming plot ideas, tweeting inspiring 140 character messages, composing emails, singing ‘Common People’.*

What I want to do at the moment: pound the walls until my fists are bloody stumps, scream until my throat is coarse, take a knife and slice ‘fuck you’ into my arm; yank chunks of hair from my head, beat myself to death with a freezer door.

What I will be doing in ten moments time: all that I was doing ten moments ago plus, listening to the radio, editing images in Photoscape, fantasizing naughty things, re-tweeting messages, dancing, loving being alive.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a bad day! Cue rant…

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