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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Day 05: Six things I wish I’d never done

Day five of the 10 Day Blogging Challenge asks for six things you wish you’d never done.

Melbourne

1. Emigrated to Australia (2002)

1. Emigrated to Australia (2002)

For a long time I’ve realised that one of the biggest mistakes of my life was emigrating to Australia in 2002. Even though I do love this country, it has never really felt like home, and the way the country has treated me – from abusive relationships, various assaults, impossible to break into friendship cliques, cheating girlfriends, false accusations and homelessness – I have long believed that my life would have been a lot better had I not come to this so-called “lucky country”.

2. Declined to study in Canada (2001/2)

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve long regretted turning down the tertiary education offer I received for a photography college in Canada. At the time I believed I was doing the right thing in turning it down to come to Australia, but the simple fact is, I should have gone to Canada. No question.

3. Not been there for Grace (2008)

Until this moment occurred I’d always believed I was a good friend. I thought I was attentive to other people’s needs, I thought I was a reasonably decent person to be around and I thought I was always there for people when they needed me; regardless of what my abuser used to say to the contrary. However, I proved all of her words true when I failed to be there for my friend Grace when she needed me the most – leading to a lifetime of regret, remorse and guilt that I fear I’ll never be able to get over.

4. Trusted my abuser (2006/7)

Given that the repercussions of my abusive relationship have plagued my life for over seven years, I’ve long wished I hadn’t fallen into her trap. In hindsight, I can see the grooming behaviour in the lead up to the relationship. In hindsight, I can see the vicious lies and grandiose manipulations that ensnared me. Over the last several years I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wished I could travel back and change my actions of that year, but alas, changing our decisions is not something we have the luxury of doing. We can only learn from them.

5. Chosen the wrong A-levels (1995)

As with my decision not to study in Canada, my anxiety-laden decision to study Maths, Computing and Media Studies at A-level has been well documented throughout this blog. Everyone (including myself) knew almost instantaneously that I’d chosen the wrong subjects; that I should have studied English Lit and Theatre Studies, but once the decision was made there was no option to change subjects and one of my life’s biggest regrets was set in stone.

6. Lost a USB stick (2010)

In 2010, whilst living on the streets of Melbourne, I had a backpack stolen. A backpack that contained, amongst other things, my passport, clothes and a USB stick containing a copy of my completed novel The Ghosts that Haunt Me. Back then I had little to no idea what eBooks were, let alone that you could self-publish, for if I did I would have put my work out there for all to download and enjoy. Now that I am more knowledgeable in this area, the fact I no longer have a completed copy of my novel frustrates me more than words can say.


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Day 04: Seven things that cross my mind…a lot!

Four days in and I’m still blogging on a daily basis…woohoo!
Today’s prompt asks for seven things that cross my mind, a lot!

homelessness

4. Why don’t people do more to help the homeless?

1. Top of the list would have to be my abusive relationship. I know it’s not healthy reliving the events of that turbulent time, but the flashbacks come so frequently, so fervently, that I have little control over when and how this period crosses my mind.

When I’m not reliving the events in crystal clear HD, I’m ruminating on the whys and wherefores of the time; why did it happen? Why did she target me? Why did my friends not intervene? What did I do to deserve it?

I know I’ll never have the answers to these questions, and I know there is little other people can do to stop the constant flood of memories and emotions this trauma creates, but hopefully I will one day find a way to manage and control the damage the abuse caused. It has, after all, been seven years since the abuse was occurring…which is far too long a period to be lost to such a manipulative, sociopathic creature.

2. Given that it’s been nearly five years since I last saw them, my family cross my mind frequently. Granted, I try to catch up with them as often as possible (usually a phone call every few weeks) but as I’ve never met my niece and nephew, being able to catch up with them in person would be almost like a dream come true. Especially as my niece has recently begun taking her first tentative steps! :)

3. Without wanting to sound crass, women’s bottoms (and other parts) cross my mind a lot. After all, I am a man, and even though I don’t think of sex every six seconds, it has been over fiver years since I got the chance to caress, massage, squeeze, kiss or playfully spank a woman’s bottom. And I miss it! In fact, an end to my unchosen celibacy would probably do me (and my anxieties) the world of good!

4. Why don’t people do more to help the homeless? This is a question that I’ve asked myself so many times over the last few years. On any given day, there are over 100,000 homeless people in Australia, and many millions more around the world. Yet governments persist in doing nothing to help these individuals. When the wait for public housing can be anything up to twelve years (as it is in some parts of Australia) a lot more needs to be done. And fast!

5. Alongside my family, I also spend a lot of time thinking of my old friends. Even though it’s (for the most part) my fault that I am no longer in contact with them, I often wile away the time wondering what became of them and whether or not they were able to build the happy, rewarding lives they (for the most part) deserved.

6. The death of punctuation and grammar is something that crosses my mind whenever I surf the internet. Your instead of you’re, apostrophes placed in random locations (if at all) and the shortening of words such as hate to h8 annoy me on a level that is too complicated to explain.

7. A month ago, an eleven year old boy was cruelly murdered by his father in an incident that shocked Australia. Almost instantaneously it was announced that the father was “suffering from mental health problems”, as if this alone explained (and excused) the senseless crime. However, a few weeks later it was announced that no history of mental illness had been discovered. So why it is that every time a violent crime is committed, mental health is wheeled out as the reason for the crime, even when there is no evidence of mental illness being involved?


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Day 03: Eight ways to win my heart

Day three of the 10 Day Blogging Challenge asks for eight ways to win my heart!

heart

1. Be accepting of my mental illness(es)

In all three of my relationships my mental health problems were seen as weaknesses, aspects of myself that were used to prove I was lazy, worthless, weak, pathetic or not working hard enough. Anyone who accepts me in spite of my illnesses stands an exceedingly good chance of winning my heart!

2. Take the initiative

My social anxiety will often prevent me from doing the things men are supposed to do – such as making the first move – so anyone woman who recognises my shyness and says to herself ‘to hell with it, I want him regardless’ stands a very good chance of winning my heart. But…

3. …don’t push too hard!

For if you come on too strong, I’ll probably end up scampering for the hills!

4. Dress up as Supergirl

I’ve long had a wee fetish over this classic DC comic strip character for quite a number of years, so anyone wishing to win my heart need only don the brightly covered blue and red outfit to succeed! Failing that, Squirrel Girl will work equally as well! :p

5. Use the word ‘undies’ instead of ‘panties’

As mentioned yesterday, the ‘p’ word is my most hated of words, so the use of it will turn me off faster than you can say it.

6. Understand that your needs will always be more important to me than my own needs.

I’m hardwired to put other people first. This has caused problems in the past, notably when I was verbally attacked for putting my girlfriend’s orgasms above my own, so if you’re really intent on winning my heart just remember that I will always be putting your heart (body and soul) above mine.

7. Know your Zygons from your Zarbi!

If you want to win my heart, get to know the good Doctor and his entourage of companions, for there is nothing sexier than a woman who is a Doctor Who fan!

8. Be yourself!

This is probably the most important of them all. I abhor people who pretend to be someone who they’re not in order to be accepted by others. If you’re really keen to win my heart, just be your beautiful, unique and wonderful selves!

zarbi

(7) Know your Zygons from your Zarbi!

Should you be so tempted, you can also find five further ways to win my heart here!

 


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Day 02: Nine things about myself

The second day of the 10 Day Blogging Challenge asks an old favourite: nine things about yourself!

Quantum Leap

Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell in Quantum Leap

1. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve held a secret wish that one day I would invent a time machine that would allow me to replicate the adventures of Sam Beckett; quantum leaping through space and time putting right what once went wrong. Only recently have I begun to realise that it’s unlikely I’ll ever achieve this dream!

2. I’ve recently been given permission from my landlord to own a cat. Even though I have yet to acquire one, I have already decided her name shall be Midna, in homage to the great Legend of Zelda video game character! :)

3. In two weeks I will realise a life-long dream; when, during a week-long camp for participants of the mental health organisation I frequent, I will deliver a brain-busting trivia quiz to all assembled.

4. My least favourite word of all time is ‘panties’. Ick. It makes my skin crawl just typing it!

5. My second favourite word of all time is ‘discombobulated’, because saying it makes me smile! :)

6. I’ve recently had my medication changed, as such my support worker and GP are on high alert in case I begin to suffer from any paranoia, delusions or psychosis in the interim period. So far, I’ve experienced only paranoia.

7. Sometimes I miss sleeping in the tent I slept in during the last months of my homelessness. So much so that I’m looking forward to sleeping in it again when I embark on the aforementioned MH camp in a couple of weeks.

8. To this day, I regret not attending the free Runrig concert that was held on 31st December 1999 in Inverness, for I fear it will be the only opportunity in my life to hear this band perform live.

9. My favourite painting of all time is Frederick McCubbin’s The Pioneer (1904).

Frederick_McCubbin__The_pioneer

The Pioneer | Frederick McCubbin

Including this post, over the course of this blog I have managed to come up with 137 facts about me…surely that has to be some sort of record? If you missed any of the other facts, you can catch up on them here:


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Day 01: Ten things I want to say to ten different people

Well, the stitches are out of my thumb and it appears to be healing well, albeit with some slightly disturbing yellowy discharge that I’m told is nothing to worry about. It’s still too tender to actually type with but as each day passes I become more accustomed to using my left hand sans thumb, so much so that I no longer feel it’s a good enough reason not to blog. And as I’m tired of my mood dictating my blogging schedule, I’ve decided to grasp the elk by the horns and dive into a blogging challenge to help inspire my mood and get me blogging on a more full-time basis again.

The challenge I’ve selected is a ten day blogging challenge I came across on The Colourful Eyes and it kicks off with a prompt that asks for ten things you want to say to ten different people right now!

ella-hooper

Ella Hooper; star of Australian music quiz show ‘Spicks and Specks’

01. Shaun Micallef: You, sir, are a genius!

02. To My (Ex) Abuser: What did I ever do to you to make you want to destroy my entire effing life?

03. Ella Hooper: You are magnificent on Spicks and Specks and watching you each week makes me realise how delectable you really are. So if you ever find yourself short of company and/or have a thing for drop-dead cute socially anxious (ex) homeless men with ravishing beards and a (slightly) kinky outlook on life, feel free to drop me a line! :)

04. Meadhbh: If you play Katy Perry‘s Roar one more time today I’m likely to do something random (and violent), such as destroy my computer to stop you from playing it. So please give it a rest for a little while…okay? :)

05. To Relatives Who Shall Remain Nameless: I’m sorry I haven’t got around to responding to your Facebook message yet. I’m completely useless when it comes to things like email and social networks. I promise I;ll reply by the end of the week! :)

06. To my GP: Were you lying when you said the slightly disturbing yellowy discharge was nothing to worry about? Because my mind keeps telling me there is nothing normal about slightly disturbing yellowy discharge!

07. Shay: Yes, that random women in the street today did indeed have a delicious backside. You don’t have to keep going on…and on…and on…and on…and on about it!

08. To People Who Make Psychiatric Medication: Are you all completely insane? You do realise that people who suffer from mental health problems often have incredibly low self-esteem, don’t you? So why keep making medication that has weight gain as a major side-effect? Or are you all just sadistic bastards that don’t care about other human beings’ lives?  

09. To Someone Who Shall Remain Anonymous: Would it be ok if I were to randomly email you to see how you were? I only ask because me support worker has been trying to convince me to do it for over a year and I keep telling her it would be a bad idea.

10. To Someone Else Who Shall Remain Anonymous: Would you like to have a coffee with me sometime?


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Reflections on being homeless, Part 7

In early 2012 I began a series that looked back on my homeless experience. This series began from when I found myself sleeping rough in August 2009, continued through my boarding house nightmares and ended with me still living on the streets of Melbourne in 2011.

There were several reasons why I stopped the story there, primarily because I discovered that writing about this period of my life was immensely difficult; the traumas too recent, the pain too raw for me to adequately deal with. But there was also a more simple reason; I had no idea how to tackle what happened next in the story of my life.

And I still don’t.

For what happened next is something I’ve never told anyone. Not psychiatrists, support workers, counselors or family…no matter how trusted they are. And the reason I never told anyone is simple; I have no idea what was happening, why it was happening or how people would react if they found out.

For this is the story of Marcus Kelman*.

-●-

I need a hug! (Day 682)

On the 21st June 2011 I sat in a small alley near Southern Cross station. It was drizzling with rain. I was tired, exhausted, confused and in desperate need of a hug.

It had been a long and emotional weekend, partly because of the far-too-obvious ending to A Good Man Goes To War, mostly because reminders of my past life were everywhere I turned; my Sunday ritual had prompted a smile followed by a panic attack; a walk down a random street had flustered me with un-needed memories and I discovered something that forced me off of a website I had grown to love.

As I sat in that damp, cold alley, I talked to my father on the phone and he decided enough was enough and, after leaving me and my bag to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night (my old park, for the first time in many months), he sent some emails.

Huh?

When I woke the next morning I was lying on rain-soaked grass staring up at a cavalcade of fluffy white clouds. I could make out the sounds of distant traffic, the morning chorus of bird-song and the incessant screeching of a never-discovered species of insect. My whole body ached as if it had just run a dozen marathons and my two bags were carefully hidden beneath the single brown blanket I was using as cover.

I knew from the geography of the park that I had woken up somewhere other than where I’d fallen asleep…I just had no idea where or how I’d come to be there.

By now I was well and truly set in a morning ritual. I rose from the grass, neatly folded up my blanket and stuffed it into one of my bags. After tidying up the rest of my possessions I walked around the park I didn’t recognise, found a spot in which to stash my blanket-bag and then rolled a cigarette from the collection of butts I found in my pocket. As the nicotine burned my throat I realised that I didn’t recognise anything. Not a tree, bush or blade of grass was familiar. So, in order to find out where I was, I followed the sounds of traffic to the nearest road and meandered the streets until I found a railway station; Fairfield.

But that didn’t make any sense. I had lived in Fairfield with Louise for over three years. I knew every street, every alley and every park; especially those within walking distance of the train station.

It wasn’t for several more minutes that it dawned on me; I wasn’t in Victoria, I was in New South Wales.

This revelation completely floored me. But not as much as the next piece of information that shouted its way into my mind courtesy of a discarded newspaper; it was October.

So not only was I in a suburb of a city that I detested, some several hundred miles from Melbourne, I had no recollection of the previous three and a half months.

Desperately in need of answers – and with no-one I could ask to get them – I turned to the only thing I could think of; my backpack. It was the same bag I’d had when I was in Melbourne so if anything was going to contain answers, this would be it.

Unfortunately, it seemed that the writers of Lost had taken hold of my possessions, for the only things I discovered in my backpack (besides dirty clothing, a stench that would knock you on your ass and a fly swatter) were several A4 sized note-books; all of them displaying the name Marcus Kelman.

All of them in my handwriting.

So having nothing better to do, I read them all.

The life (and times) of Marcus Kelman

Marcus Kelman was born on the 28th November 1978 in the Scottish city of Inverness. He grew up not far from this city, in the town of Nairn with his mother, step-father and step-sister. His childhood was a relatively tame and uneventful affair, marked with mischievous behavior and a close friendship with his best friend, Natalie. In his teenage years this friendship became something more and, for several years the two of them built a rewarding relationship. However, the relationship would not last and, after it ended abruptly, he left his hometown and began working in Inverness. After saving every spare penny he could he decided to travel, gallivanting around Scotland, the UK and Europe before heading to Northern America for a jaunt across Canada, where he would meet the love of his life, Joanne.

After eighteen months living in domestic bliss, he and Joanne returned to the UK and began living in his home-city of Inverness. They became engaged, moved into their dream house and, shortly after, discovered she was pregnant. However, several months into the pregnancy tragedy fell when Joanne lost her battle with depression and committed suicide, killing both herself and their baby.

Marcus inevitably spiraled into a deep depression. For months he isolated himself, refusing contact with everyone, until his cousin stepped in and set him off on the long road to recovery.

After realising there was no future for him in Scotland, Marcus decided to emigrate to Australia to start afresh, where he worked a series of hospitality and retail jobs until he suffered a relapse in his mental health and ended up homeless.

Putting the pieces together (Day 828)

In spite of some obvious differences, anyone who has had even a cursory glance around this blog will realise the similarities between my life and Marcus’s are plentiful: his birth day, the Scottish connection, the relationship with a girl named ‘Natalie’ (his school-hood crush), the travelling, the time he spent in Canada (where he fell in love), the tragedies of mental health, suicide and homelessness.

Also eminently noticeable is the high level of wish-fulfillment between my life and Marcus’s; such as the teenage friendships, domestic bliss, marriage, the dream house and becoming a father.

Even though I was confused, exhausted and distressed, I was determined to discover as much about Marcus Kelman as I could, for it was the only way I could think of that may reveal my actions of the previous few months. So I headed to an internet café and began logging into his blogs and email, the addresses for which I had found squirreled away in his notebooks:

  • For the previous few months he had been writing three blogs about his life and observations.
  • He had been in regular email contact with several people.
  • He was the owner (and user) of a Twitter account.
  • He had been in contact with people from my past.
    and
  • For nearly three months he had been in almost daily phone contact with someone in Sydney.

Even though it could have been a revelatory experience, one that could have helped put all the missing pieces together; I decided not to phone this person. Instead, I read every single blog post, every single email and every single tweet, finally coming to a number of conclusions:

  • People seemed to like Marcus Kelman.
  • People seemed to lust after Marcus Kelman.
  • He was a better, and more varied writer, than I.
  • He had more followers on Twitter than I’ve ever had.
    and
  • He genuinely felt like a ‘real’ person.

By the time I left the internet café I was exhausted. Whatever ‘Marcus’ had been doing for three months had left me physically spent, whilst the revelations of the day had eroded what little mental energy I had left.

It was one of those situations where there were more questions than answers: where had Marcus come from? Why had I become Marcus? What other things had he been doing that I didn’t know about? Was I finally completely losing my mind? How could I tell anyone about what had been happening? What the hell was happening?

These questions – and many more besides – plagued me through a sleepless night, and the only conclusion I came to was a simple one; I had to get as far away from Fairfield as was possible.

As far away from Fairfield as was possible (Day 831)

After a distressed (and ultimately futile) phone-call to Lifeline, I hiked into the middle of the Australian bush and spent several hours having a meltdown. Once I was fresh out of tears, I pulled my belt from my jeans, wound it round my neck and attempted to hang myself.

Alas, because this belt had been with me for the entire duration of my homelessness, I had failed to realise how threadbare it had become and, after a few seconds, it snapped in two and sent me cascading back to the hard, thirsty earth.

Dazed and Confused (Day 832 – 898)

For the next two months I was lost; physically, mentally and emotionally. As the Marcus Kelman months hung over my head, demanding explanation, I roamed the Australian bush. Eventless days were spent in small towns, big towns and nation’s capitols. Parks and alleys were slept in, soup-van produce and discarded scraps consumed. What little energy I had left was spent trying to solve the conundrum of Marcus.

Unlike the bipolar, unlike the PTSD, unlike even the social anxiety, I had no explanation for what had happened during the months I’d been Marcus Kelman. I was in entirely new (and entirely terrifying) territory. So, despite several appointments with mental health services, psychologists and psychiatrists, I told no-one about my alter-ego. Not because I feared they would lock me up and throw away the key, but because I feared they would think I had manifested this character intentionally; which I did not.

So, like my homelessness, like my everything, I decided the only safe thing to do was deal with this problem on my own.

By now I had become incredibly tired of sleeping in parks so acquired a tent and retired beneath the canvas to contemplate my past, my present and my future. For on that 22nd December – the anniversary of Samantha’s death – my life felt utterly (and completely) out of control.

Little did I know then that the end of my homelessness was only a few months away.

-●-

This post has been one of the hardest to write since the early days of my blog back in 2007. Admitting that, for a period of months I became someone else; someone completely fictitious yet close enough to me to be noticeable, someone who maintained relationships with real (unsuspecting) individuals is tantamount to admitting I am completely (and utterly) insane.

I know people will immediately think that I’m making this up; that I created Marcus Kelman intentionally. But I did not. The only explanation I’ve come up with is that I became Marcus as a way to dissociate from what was happening to me. That – following the weekend of triggers in June 2011 – my brain decided it needed to become someone else in order to feel safe.

Hopefully by writing this post I am taking the first step toward piecing together the confusing events of the most baffling chapter of my life.

* Please note that I have changed the name of the person I became to protect myself and the innocent.

 


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Unsent Letter #8: You won’t remember me

In late 2012 I decided to write a series of unsent letters to people from my past. Rather than choose the person myself, I wrote 100 names onto 100 scraps of paper and placed them in a hat. Each day, I drew a name from the hat and then freewrote that person a letter. In order to break my current melancholic mood – and a particularly nasty bout of writer’s block – I’ve decided to revisit this idea and pluck a few more names from the hat, beginning today with a letter to someone who crossed my path only once, for a mere twenty seconds.

13 March 2014

Dear FLWTCB

If I know anything, I know one thing; you won’t remember me. But I will always remember you.

I will always remember your shoulder length brunette hair dancing in the wind. I will always remember your deep blue eyes piercing the darkness of an autumnal Scottish evening. I will always remember the smile that lit up your face as our eyes met that blustery, blissful evening. And I will always remember the wiggle of your cute bottom as you walked down the platform to vanish from my life forever.

Ours was the briefest of moments, no more than twenty seconds out of the millions of minutes of our lives, yet a moment that I will remember always; for you were the first woman – the first stranger – that I had ever had the courage to look in the eye and smile at.

It was September 1997 when our paths crossed. You wouldn’t have known that I was a runaway, that I had fled my familial home in search of myself. You wouldn’t have known that I’d spent the day roaming the wilds around Loch Shiel, soaking in the atmosphere of the most beautiful location I’d ever visited. You wouldn’t have known that social anxiety was wreaking havoc on my life, rendering me unable to look people in the eye. And you certainly wouldn’t have known the momentous nature of the smile I gave you.

All you would have known is that an overweight man, flushed with bliss, overflowing with ecstasy, caught your eye on a desolate train platform and smiled at you. And you graced him the gift of smiling back; a smile that has remained with him through all the passing years.

A smile that proved to him that he could make eye contact with strangers; that he could smile at people without suffering an anxiety attack; that he may not be quite as ugly and repulsive as he believed himself to be.

Whenever I have doubted myself in the intervening seventeen years, whenever I have questioned whether or not I could (or should) smile at strangers, I have thought of you. A woman who didn’t fling abuse because I deigned to look in her direction, a woman who didn’t recoil in horror at my presence, a woman who graced me the gift of happiness, even  though you knew not who or why I was.

So, my dear FLWTCB, even though I don’t know your name, even though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to decipher the cryptic moniker I have given you, should you ever read these words and recognise yourself, I just wish to thank you for making that mere boy feel a joy unlike anything he’d experienced before.

For giving me a moment that, however brief, will remain with me until the day I die.

With love and thanks,
Addy xxx

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