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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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 11: The Forgiving

Day eleven of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
Choose one thing in your life that you have done and feel guilty for and write yourself a letter forgiving yourself for that thing.  (PS. You don’t need to name the thing you did unless you feel comfortable doing so.)

forgiveness

Dear Addy,

By now you should be used to getting these letters from me so I’m not even going to bother proving my credentials; you know who I am because I used to be you.

So, where are we now? Parks and blankets, isolation and soup vans? I did tell you homelessness would be soul-destroying, so perhaps now you’ve experienced it you’ll spend a little more time listening to my sage-like advice instead of filing it away in the ‘too hard to deal with’ basket.

I’m not writing today to get you through homelessness. Partly because there’s little I can say that will make you feel better and partly because this is something you have to deal with by yourself. The only person who can help you out of this situation is you, Andrew, so just get to it…and never give up!

The reason I’m writing to you today is far more complicated and important. I’m here to help you forgive yourself for the things you feel guilty for. Now, given that I’m you, I know full well that forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. You hold onto things. You dwell on every decision. You take responsibility for everything, even for things that you had no control over, and it’s not healthy. In fact, all that’s going to happen if you keep blaming yourself is an early – most likely slow, painful and lonely – death.

Now, I’m not going to focus on the little things you can’t forgive yourself for; things like stealing the milk and chocolate from the convenience store or not asking Natalie out when you were thirteen. By now you already know how futile feeling guilty over these trivial acts actually is. What I’m going to focus on are the big three. And, just so we’re clear, I’m not going to forgive you for them.  I’m going to tell you why you should forgive yourself for them in the hope that you will find forgiveness in yourself.

-●-

#1: Grace

Should you have been there for Grace? Absolutely.

Should you despise your very existence for the rest of time because you weren’t? Possibly.

To be honest, this one is hard for me to justify without resorting to the tried and true excuse of ‘mental illness’. You know as well as I do that if you had been ‘stable’ at that point in your life things would be different. But you weren’t stable, you were hypomanic, you were lost to the ravages of this insufferable mood disorder. Half the time you weren’t even able to look out for yourself, so why exactly do you think you could have been there for other people?

When it comes to this mistake I’m afraid I don’t have any easy answers. You know you did the wrong thing and you’re going to have to live with that. You know you should forgive yourself for it. And I know that there is nothing I can say that will make that happen.

So please, just try to move past it. After all, when it came to Kathy, she did.

#2: Samantha

No matter what you tell yourself, no matter what lies you deceive yourself with, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you could have saved her; Samantha’s death was not your fault! At the time of her death you were 10,000 miles away on the other side of the planet. At no point in those months did she tell you she was depressed, suffering through mental health problems or becoming suicidal. If she had, you know damn well that you would have done something. Sure, you can play the ‘what if’ game from now until doomsday, but even if you had entered into a relationship with her there’s no guarantee that you could have curbed her drug use, which means there’s every chance she would still have taken that ecstasy and still lost her life at a tragically early age.

You did everything you could for Samantha. Not only were you her friend, you helped her achieve a life-long dream, and you witnessed the bliss in her eyes as she achieved it. Even her sister would go on to tell you just how much you meant to Samantha. You were there for her when no-one else was, and that’s certainly something to hold onto.

But the reason you shouldn’t blame yourself for Samantha’s death is simple; you don’t even know if it was suicide. Sure, your mentally-ill ravaged mind has latched onto this explanation as it’s the easiest thing to focus on, but there’s every chance it was simply an accidental overdose; which means there is literally nothing you could have done.

Samantha’s death was a tragedy that will affect you for the rest of your days. But instead of mourning her loss and languishing in her demise, you should celebrate the fact that for a brief moment the two of you were friends. And that is more important than anything.  

#3: Kathy

I am going to say something that you have already heard countless times over. In fact, over the next several years you are going to hear these words so often you’re going to want to smack people for repeatedly saying them to you: the abuse was not your fault; you did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

Kathy was a sociopathic narcissist, a master manipulator, a woman so insecure in her own life that she would do anything to illicit control over everyone she came into contact with in order to prove to herself her delusional belief that she was the most perfect human being to have ever walked the earth.

And yes, you fell for your lies, get over it.

You will never know the reason why she chose you to destroy. (And if you’re still harboring any doubts…that is definitely what her goal was!) You loved her; she deliberately annihilated you. You had no idea what she was doing; she always knew what she was doing. So what exactly could you have done differently?

So I say again: the abuse was not your fault; you did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

And I need you to keep repeating that line, every single day, for the rest of your life, otherwise the guilt you feel over the abuse will cause a lot more damage than her vicious treatment of you ever did.

-●-

Although you won’t be able to comprehend this right now, not from the park that you currently call ‘home’, in a few years you will begin something called your ‘recovery journey’. You will spend many days, weeks and months looking back over every decision and action in your life so you can find closure and more toward a healthy, happy future. A large part of this recovery journey will be forgiving yourself for these three, and other, events.

Hopefully, by sending you this letter, the seeds of that forgiveness will have been planted.

So once you’ve read this letter, re-read it if you must, but then tear it up, throw it away, have it for your dinner, do anything to it other than dwell on it. You do far too much of that as it is.

Be kind to yourself, Andrew, life will get better than it is now.

And if you can learn how to forgive yourself, it will get even better, or so people say.

Love and hugs always,

Addy xox

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |
| Day 09 | Day 10 |


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 10: The Time Machine

Day ten of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
If you could go back and watch one day of your life,
what day would it be, why and what do you expect to see?

Glasgow

Glasgow | Image from Wikipedia

I have been alive for 12,795 days; so how am I supposed to pick just one to re-live?

Do I pick one of the days that I was manic, so I can have a greater understanding of how much of an arsehat I was during that time, or do I choose one of the days lost to depression, so I can show my younger self some of the compassion he greatly deserved?

Do I select a long forgotten day of childhood innocence, a random date from my better-forgotten teenage years or a serious moment of adulthood? Do I go down the obvious route and choose a day of intense pleasure, or the not-so-obvious route of one of my hazy dissociated days?

Will the day I pick be chock-full of friends and familiar faces, or a day in which I was isolated and alone? Will it be an important date; a pivotal turning point in my life, or just ‘one of those days’ that come and go eventless?

With so many days to choose from I fear that there is only one way I can answer this question. And that is to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and see what my mind propels onto the page.

[Closes Eyes]

Oh, to spend the day with Samantha again!

[Opens Eyes]

[Smirks]

With the anniversary of her death steadily approaching, it’s not much of a surprise that that day was the first that came to mind. A twenty-four hour period I spent in the Scottish city of Glasgow with a woman who, in another life, could easily have been my soul-mate.

We had met briefly in the Australian city of Adelaide before rekindling our friendship online later that year. For months we communicated by email, chat-room and the occasional snail-mail before finally synching our calendars so we could meet up again in real-life.

I had arrived the day before, a Wednesday, and spent a nervy night wandering the city and having the occasional panic attack in preparation for seeing her again. Given her obvious beauty and outlook on life, I couldn’t understand why she’d be interested in hanging out with a person as unattractive – and broken – as me. Part of me believed it was all part of a grandiose practical joke; that she would arrive with a gaggle of her friends for a traumatizing moment of public humiliation. Whilst another part of me believed that, like my abusive ex-girlfriend, she was merely treating me as a project; someone to “fix”.

Sammi

An avatar version of Samantha, circa the day we spent in Glasgow

I needn’t have worried, for the moment we met up in a bar not far from Queen Street it became blissfully obvious she wanted to hang out with me because she liked me; not like liked me, but liked me in the sense that I made her laugh, I made her think and communicating with her was a delight, not a chore. For in the near twenty-four hours we spent together there was no uncomfortable silence, no what do we talk about now pauses and no moment where we questioned what we were doing.

Looking back on the five and half years since that blissful day, I realise that it was the last time I felt anything even remotely close to “true” happiness. Aside from the to-be-expected moments of anxiety caused by being in the company of someone so ravishingly beautiful, there was barely a single moment in those twenty-four hours where I felt anything other than relaxed, joyous, content and, dare I say it, ecstatic. In fact, when I retreat to my “happy memories”, many of them are moments that occurred in that singular day:

  • Seeing her for the first time since Adelaide; sauntering into the bar in delightfully bohemian attire; a forest green knee-length skirt, black and purple tights, a crumpled light-green sweater and a multi-coloured woolen scarf with matching handbag.
  • Being playfully slapped on the arm for ‘excessive ogling of her posterior’ before she knowingly exaggerated her wiggle to attract my eyes even further.
  • Having her calm me down during moments of anxiety with no judgment, annoyance or frustration from her.
  • Talking about some of the more memorable moments of our childhoods as we chain-smoked cigarettes during the hour-long walk to a second-hand bookstore from her childhood.
  • Laughing insanely every single time she said the word “tangerine”
  • Browsing the second-hand bookstore whilst discussing our favourite and memorable books.
  • Chilling in the park, with her head resting on my lap, as we read each other extracts from the books we’d brought in the bookstore; moments before I agreed to fulfill her lifelong dream.
  • Getting a wee bit tipsy and doing an impromptu karaoke of Pulp’s Common People to alleviate our nerves about the encroaching fulfillment of her lifelong dream.
  • Her ladybug covered underwear (some of the cutest I’ve ever seen!)
  • The ninety-odd minutes I spent meandering the streets before fulfilling her lifelong dream.
  • The actual event of fulfilling her lifelong dream.
  • Cuddling each other on the bed, eating ice-cream, whilst watching My Neighbour Totoro and the pilot episode of Chuck.
  • Waking up in each other’s arms.
  • The moment when she sat down in McDonalds without thinking about the ramifications.
  • Retreating to a park to eat our un-healthy breakfast; and realising that no-one else I’ve ever met could eat a McMuffin more entertainingly.
  • The kiss we shared – that tasted of the aforementioned breakfast – on the dew soaked grass.
  • The elongated hug we shared at the train station as we parted ways.

Even as I write these words there is a goofy, almost painful smile, stretching from ear-to-ear. In fact, given I have such crystal clear recollections of this day I’m starting to question whether this would be the best day to relive. Wouldn’t it be better to relive a day that I don’t remember as clearly, that is a little foggy and uncertain in my mind?

But that day was one of – if not the – best day of my life, and, given the chaos and pain in the last five years, I would give anything for the chance to see Samantha relishing every happy, laugh-filled, painful moment again.

To see all these memories again would not just be downright entertaining, occasionally saddening (but mostly heart-warming); they would also challenge everything I have come to think of myself.

To observe that, however improbable it may sound, people do enjoy being in my company.

To be reminded that, however improbable it may sound, it is possible for me to be blissfully happy.

To witness that, however improbable it may sound, dreams can come true in the least likely of places.

Yes, of the 12,795 days I’ve been alive I can’t think of a better day to relive than this one.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |
| Day 09 |


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 09: Questions for Heaven

Day nine of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
what questions relating to your mental health would you ask God and why?

Monty Python God

Religion is a topic I tend to shy away from talking about, not because I’m scared of broaching the subject, but because I am not a religious man. If I had to define myself, I would lean toward agnosticism, for I neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a deity.

The other reason I tend to shy away from talking about religion is because I find it a triggering issue. Throughout my homeless existence I had daily contact with religious organisations, as it was these organisations that operated the drop-ins, food services and soup vans that I would frequent. In order to access the services or receive the food, we would often be forced to pray or attend religious services, with refusal to do so leading to the denial of the help we most needed. This was something that I had a serious issue with, as I felt that the organisations were forcing (or manipulating) people who were most in need to ‘convert’ to a particular religion in order to receive the help that they desperately needed.

I’ve never held anything against those who choose to believe in a particular religion, but I have had (and continued to have) issues with people who forced their faith on others, especially those who are lost, without voice and most in need of help.

With these issues in mind, I am choosing not to answer today’s prompt.

Sorry.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 08: The Close Friend

As the year quickly speeds toward its timely end, I’ve decided to polish off the outstanding challenges that I’ve commenced over the last twelve months so I can begin 2014 anew. One of these is the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge (devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass).

When I left the challenge I had reached day seven, which means today I pick up with day eight: If you had a friend who spoke to you or treated you the way you speak to and treat yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend and why?

theclosefriend

This is actually a tough prompt for me to write about, not because the answer eludes me, but because the answer is so painfully obvious it’s almost unbearable to admit to.

Most readers of my blog will know that I was once the victim of an abusive relationship; a relationship that cost me everything in my life, a relationship that continues to haunt my life seven years later.

So to admit to being in a second abusive relationship is extremely hard for me to do, especially as the abuser in this relationship is myself. But no matter how hard I try to deny the obvious, the evidence is staring me in the face every single day.

On any given day I put myself down, make myself feel bad about myself, call myself names, play mind games, humiliate myself, make myself feel guilty whenever possible and deny the abuse is happening; often blaming external sources for the grief I am bringing to myself. My abusive side forces me to control what I do, who I see, what I read and where I go, thus limiting my outside involvement and preventing me from forging new relationships. The abuse is so bad that I am frequently afraid of myself, especially when threats of self-harm and/or suicide come in to play. In fact, the abuse is so extreme that I frequently feel like a prisoner in my own mind; a servant to the whims of a controlling overlord.

All of which are signifiers of an abusive relationship.

So how long would I allow a friend to speak to me/treat me in this way?

I’d like to think that I wouldn’t put up with being treated this way for any period of time, for having been in one abusive relationship there’s no way in hell I want to be in another.

But the fact I believe I deserve to be treated this way makes me think I would put up with it.

And I don’t know what to do about that.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 |

 


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 07: The Day Out

The seventh day in the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge (devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass) asks: If you could be taken any place fairly local for a day, where would you choose, who would you choose to go with, what would you like to do and why those choices?

Woolshed Falls

woolshed falls

Woolshed Falls, Australia (allegedly!)

These waterfalls have taken on mythological status over the last eighteen months. Almost every week someone speaks of these waterfalls in a voice usually reserved for revealing the location of the Holy Grail (or at the least, Castle Anthrax), so much so, that I have begun to question whether or not they actually exist.

Sure, I’ve seen photographs of them – or rather, photographs that purport to depict Woolshed Falls – but have yet to lay eyes on them myself. Thus, if I were to go on a day out, I wouldn’t hesitate in choosing these falls as my destination; partly to prove (or disprove) their existence, partly because my people and I adore waterfalls of all shapes and sizes and partly because I would much rather a day out in the open air, than a day out in some stuffy shopping center or amusement arcade, which are the only other options in my locale.

Obviously, there are many people I can think of taking to Woolshed Falls; Karen Gillan or Jenna Coleman, for example. And if I were to take either of these people, I can think of a few things I’d like to do whilst there; kissing or sexy underwater cuddling, for example. But as it’s highly unlikely I will have the opportunity to underwater cuddle either of these actresses I shall have to be more realistic in my choice of companion.

Thus, my companion of choice would be my support worker, for a variety of reasons.

Given that the falls are (allegedly) 40km-ish from where I live, I would need someone to drive me. Also, their approach to life is both intelligent (for interesting conversation) and fun-loving (a pre-requisite for a day out). In addition to this, my people are comfortable in their company so there wouldn’t be any problems if I suddenly began conversing with thin air and, for safety reasons, their mental health training would come in handy if I had a random panic attack or felt the sudden urge to hurl myself from the top of the falls.

They also have a love of photography, which segues nicely into my answer to the ‘what would you do’ portion of the prompt. For I can think of nothing more relaxing, therapeutic and enjoyable than wiling away a few hours hiking in and around the Australian Bush taking random photographs of waterfalls, eucalypt trees and insomniac wombats.

Should I ever get the chance to take these photographs – and in the process, prove the existence of this mythological place – I shall let you know. Until then, it will be added to my list of things to do before I die; for any place as highly spoken of as Woolshed Falls is definitely worth a visit.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 |


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 06: The Support Group

This is the sixth day in my sporadic interpretation of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass.

Today, the prompt asks us “If you could start a support group specific to your mental illness what would it do, what activities, what purpose etc and what would you call it?”

So, my response was to create a fictional newsletter (and I stress the word fictional) for a support group aimed at people who suffer from social anxiety disorder.

Who are we-page-001 Who are we-page-002(1)

– Click either image to enlarge –

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 |


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Through My Eyes: A letter to my younger self

Way back in May of this year, before my untimely relapse, I began working through a blog challenge devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass. His Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge is one of the only ones I know that focuses on mental health and each prompt is thought-provoking, challenging and fun.

Thus, now that I am blogging again, I’d like to pick up where I left off with the fifth day of the challenge: Write a letter to your younger self telling them the things you think they will need to know about when they are diagnosed with your condition.

~ A(nother) letter to my younger self ~

letterwriting

Note: whenever I write unsent letters on my blog I do so as a stream of consciousness because, c’mon, who edits letters that they send to people!? Thus, this post was written between 16:28 and 16:52 on the 22 August 2013. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors contained within, for they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

22 August 2013

Dear Addy,

If the delivery-company I’ve decided to employ does their job correctly, you’ve just had this letter hand delivered to you by a rain-soaked courier. I’m sure you get the reference. What you probably didn’t understand was why the courier was rain-soaked considering it’s a rather fine and balmy evening where you are…well, in a valiant effort to kick-start this letter with a smile I instructed the company to pour a bucket of cold water over the individual moments prior to approaching you. The way I see it, if you’re gonna go with a pop-culture reference, you may as well do it properly.

Anyway, now we’ve got that wee explanation out the way, let’s get down to business shall we. In order to prove my credentials (that I am in fact you from the future…again!) I shall now tell you exactly what you’re doing: you are currently sitting on the East Beach in Port Fairy, a small knife in your trembling right hand, a mobile phone in your left. You’ve just read a text message about insects and are beginning to question your decision to end your life tonight. Am I right?

Of course I am.

I’m you, remember.

Now, put that fucking knife down you imbecilic moron and pay attention to me for a moment. What you do afterwards has no bearing on me whatsoever, just so long as you listen to what I have to say.

A little over eighteen months from now you are going to be diagnosed with an illness called Bipolar Affective Disorder. This diagnosis is going to turn your life upside down and I’m here to prepare you so the transition is as painless as humanly possible.

Now, I know you’re familiar with the term bipolar, but I’m going to start with the basics…okay? Good. From here-on-in I shall be referring to bipolar as manic depression. Why? Well, contrary to the PC do-gooders, you will come to realize that you much prefer the phrase Manic Depression to describe what you suffer from. Unlike Bipolar, it is far more descriptive of the illness and will one-day resonate with you far more than Bipolar ever will.

The reason for this is that many people (namely arsehole psychiatrists) will stick permanent labels on you with their trusty DSM approved label makers, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. It will take you many – many – years after that first psychiatrist to realize that you and only you can decide what label (if any) applies to you…so you may as well learn that lesson now.

Got it?

Good.

Now, Bipolar Affective Disorder is a mental illness in the ‘mood disorder’ classification of illnesses; which means that your moods are – for want of a better term – fucked. This deep suicidal depression you’ve just slipped into courtesy of Louise’s betrayal, your ludicrous workaholic mentality and years of untreated mental health problems is part of the bipolar cycle. Soon enough (I won’t tell you when as it will take all the fun out of it) you’re gonna experience something called mania. You’ve been there before, without realizing it, but when you experience it next it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. To whet your appetite, imagine yourself as an immortal God where nothing you do, say, think or feel is wrong; where you are the most perfect individual to have ever existed and everyone (regardless of how cute and untouchable their posterior) thinks you are the bees-knees.

(Note to self – when you come to write this letter, please find a better phrase than ‘the bees-knees’!)

Of course, this is all bollocks. You are not an immortal God and regardless of how you perceive yourself during these periods, you are actually acting like a major twat. You just don’t realize it. Of course, nothing I do or so will stop you during these periods so…what the hey…go with it! Just enjoy it, because soon enough these depressive thoughts will creep back in and life will turn to hell in a hand basket once more.

That’s the nature of Manic Depression. This endless cycle between mania, depression and (what everyone forgets about) all the shit in between!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but there are gonna be days where you go from walking on rainbows one minute to frying in the depths of hell the next. There are going to be weeks where you believe that you can save the universe by hanging yourself. There will be days that erase themselves from your memory and months that you will never again be able to remember.

It’s a bastard, Manic Depression, and you’re gonna hate the crap out of it for destroying your life.

But what I need you to understand – what I need you to remember – is that it isn’t all shit.

Sure; there’s gonna be a crap-load of medication that will leave you zombified, more self-harm than you can possibly imagine, people (friends!) fleeing your life faster than you think possible and an entire society turning against you because you dared suffer from an illness that you have no control over.

But…your creativity will (as it always has) blossom. You will take some of the most beautiful photographs in the world, paint some of the most random (and obscure) images ever known to humankind and write like some possessed demon on steroids, churning out page after page of the most detailed, random, gut-wrenchingly honest collection of letters known to blogging kind.

Because of your illness you will meet some of the most beautiful souls that you will ever know. People who will put a smile on your face with one word in an email, people who (for the first time in your life) understand you completely and – even if you find this hard to believe right now – never judge you, not even for that!

You will blossom, Andrew, because of your diagnosis – but only if you let it.

So let it.

Once you get through all the confusion, pain, agony, torment, loneliness and social hate.

Once you get through all the labels, meds, misdiagnoses, re-diagnoses and psychiatric bullshit.

Once you stop getting hung up on a word and start getting hung up on yourself, you’ll not give two shits about being diagnosed bipolar because – even when the entire world disagrees, which it will at times – it’s just another small stitch in the multi-coloured tapestry that is you.

And everyone who doesn’t see that isn’t worth knowing.

So, stand the fuck up, throw the knife in the trash and phone Ms. I’m-sending-you-a-text-message-about-ants because she can help you a helluva lot more than I can right now.

Just remember one thing: one day you are going to be fine, Andrew, one day you will be happy again.

I’m just not going to tell you when, because…spoilers!

Love and hugs always,
Addy xox

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |

Also, you can find previous letters I have written to myself here:

| A letter to my younger self | A postcard to my younger self | A letter to my future self |