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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The art of journal writing

Between the years 1992 and 2007 I was a prolific journalist. And by journalist I don’t mean I wrote for newspapers or reported on current events for dodgy current affairs shows, I mean I wrote millions of pages of journal entries chronicling every single moment of my life.

My journal (from 1997 – present)

Each night after finishing my homework I’d dedicate a couple of hours to sharing my innermost thoughts and secrets to a collection of A4 ruled notepads or A5 notepads. Some of those entries were pointless, some profound. There were really bad poems and pretty decent drawings. Never did I sit down and consider what I was writing; I would just lie on the bed in my pyjamas and write whatever was in my mind. There were times I unleashed all the pain I was feeling about my sister, others when I scribed fan letters to Toni Pearen. Following particularly bad days of bullying at school I would write about how much I hated it there, others, following a particularly memorable moment, I would wax lyrical over the beautiful Kathryn before chastising myself in black biro for being so weak and shy.

For over fifteen years I kept those journals. They chronicled my life as I navigated through secondary school, the confusion over my intimate fantasies and the endless isolation of having no real friends during that dark period of my life. When I ran away, every second of that trip was transcribed; every moment of bliss, each moment of pain. Throughout Scotland and Canada I recorded the events of my trip in two simultaneous journals and after arriving in Australia, my journals helped me navigate the intense agony and bewilderment of immigration.

During those long teenage years my journal was my only outlet. I had no-one to talk to about what I was going through, no-one to provide me with advice on what I had to do. My journal was my friend, my mentor and one of the few reasons I’m still here.

In 2007, after fifteen years, I stopped writing journals.

Throughout my abusive relationship they had come under constant fire. They were selfish, self-absorbed, a waste of time, pointless. I should be talking to people instead of relying on my journal. The drawings were laughably pathetic. It was a concrete example of my worthlessness in the world and a prime example of how I was never going to change. In the weeks after the breakdown I tried to write; I drew, I wrote, I bled onto the page – but whenever I did my abuser’s words rung in my ears and blocked the emotions from coming.

In the last five years I’ve never written a journal and I miss it. My blog is different because I censor myself too much. All the aspects of my life I’m scared of being judged over I bottle up out of fear. I allow them to fester inside; eating away at my innards like a vicious, out-of-control parasite. In addition, I can’t sit down with the blog and write random erotic fiction, sketch bizarre ‘artworks’ or take my ‘friend’ on a hike into the wilderness to write for hours in relative solitude about all I’ve seen.

All of that is in the past, lost somewhere in the psychological damage of abuse, leaving only random ghosts of a bygone era.

For todays voice of the past I am sharing some of the random ‘artwork’ that filled my journals through the years. I’m not the finest artist in the world, but however dodgy the drawings are, they are reminders of beautiful moments of my life. They are part of who I am.

Berneray Hostel (February 2000)

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye (September 1999)

Castle Urquhart, with Nessie (September 1999)

WTF? I have no idea. Seriously. None. (October 1999)

Callanish Standing Stones (February 2000)

And finally, I began drawing this map in my journal but became constricted by space. Instead, I purchased a couple of A3 pads and stuck the pages to my bedroom wall, spending days drawing, sketching, colouring and imagining the Faerie realm that lives inside me, a world that my fictional writing partially takes place in.

Tir Nan Og [aka the Otherworld] (October 2006)


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No home, no life, no love, no stranger singing in your name.

This post was originally written for my blog The Secret Diary of a Homeless Romantic  as my journal entry for 16 September 2010. At the time I was rough sleeping in Melbourne and trying to hold onto what little shred of sanity I had left in spite of discrimination and the ever-present loneliness.

I’ve chosen this post as my voice from the past this Monday for two reasons. One, because it’s an entry I’ve always been quite happy with (a rarity for my writing) and two, the Time to Change research mentioned in the post is a disturbing reminder of the stigma attached to those with mental health problems and deserves to be remembered.

Note: This post was imported from the now-deceased aforementioned blog so all images, links and comments remain as a record of that moment in time and place.

Blanket soldier

Not me. Just a look-a-like.

My day began at about 5am when I dragged myself from the concrete,  cleaned my blankets and secreted them away into their usual hiding place.

The bathroom called before my basic morning yoga routine (I stress basic) produced all sorts of odd looks. Seriously, a homeless man performing yoga in the park – I should charge!  I had my shower, argued with myself and then found a two dollar coin nestled on the grey asphalt.

Woohoo!

It’s not often I find money that’s gold in colour. Usually it’s silver, and the smallest denomination at that, but this find meant I could purchase some foodstuffs for breakfast. Aware a restaurant chain is currently offering $2 bacon and egg sandwiches before 11am I strolled into town in the hope I would be settled in front of ABC News 24 (at Federation Square) without a growling belly this morning.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. As soon as I entered I was asked to leave, apparently this particular chain doesn’t serve the homeless.

When the library opened I was able to Tweet and Facebook my frustration:

This am was refused $2 brekky & told to leave shop. I’ll quote: “You know yr homeless. We don’t want troublemakers like you in here,” Nice!

and fortunately was not alone in being pissed off! The greatest response came from Facebook, where I was told that:

You seem too intelligent to be a bum. Things happen tho. Your thoughts and writing are cool & you take awesome photos. :)

I’m fully aware the person who wrote it didn’t mean anything other than being nice, so I’m not angry with them in any way – but it does come across as a little, umm, yeah. What does intelligence have to do with homelessness?

Also, I don’t mind the term hobo (reminds me of the show The Littlest Hobo, yay!) but I HATE the word bum.

Bums are for sitting on, kissing, squeezing and spanking.

Do you see anyone sitting on, kissing, squeezing or spanking me? Sadly, no. Thus, I am not a bum. When someone does start doing these things I will happily refer to myself as a bum ;p Until then you may refer to me as either homeless, hobo, awesome, spankable or all of the above.

Anyway, as it turned out today seemed to be the day for discrimination as I also discovered that most people would rather date someone they weren’t attracted to than someone with a mental illness!

More people in England would turn down a date with someone who had a mental illness (57%) if they were single and looking for love online than someone they found unattractive (44%) or someone without the same interests (43%), a new survey as part of the Time to Change campaign addressing mental health prejudice has found.

Also, people with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they reveal they have a mental illness (44%) than those who disclose they have been in prison (42%), have a physical health problem (19%) or are unemployed (18%).

So basically, I was refused food from a company whose sole purpose is to sell food to hungry people and then moments later found out it’s unlikely I’ll ever be in a relationship again. Cracking start to the day! As I continued reading the article I also discovered it’s unlikely I’ll ever get accommodation:

The survey also looked at flatsharing and revealed 60% of us would not want to rent a room to someone with a mental health problem, more than three times as many as who would say no to someone with a physical health problem (18%).

This is far more annoying than the comment posted to my Facebook account or being discriminated against by the restaurant chain.

I’m not trying to be arrogant when I say this, but I believe I’m a good guy. I’m caring, compassionate, generous and passionate. Granted I’m not a comedian (unless you appreciate extremely dry usually need carrots to see through it dark comedy) but I do have a very twisted, generous and imaginative mind. I’m also very much a downer than a downee, which should surely make up for some of the points lost on the mental illness, or am I clutching at straws there?

Yet purely because I suffer from mental health problems it’s unlikely anyone of the opposite sex would give me the time of day let alone prove this to them. In other words, in order to stand a chance of having an honest and loving relationship I would need to lie from the very start; bit of a contradiction, no?

Argh!

So I spent the rest of the day listening to the same Foo Fighters album on repeat. I’d never heard a Foo Fighters album before but a Twitter-Friend recommended them and I’ve become addicted.

Especially this track:

Which just makes me think of two words: road trip!

She’s driving, I’m in the passenger seat. She’s in jeans and a tee, I’m in board shorts. I’m feeding her gummi-bears (or grapes, depending on her taste preference), she’s telling me they’re all hers and I’m not allowed any. The music’s blaring, the sun’s blazing, the road’s endless and we don’t care. It’s all just too damn fun :D

Sure it’s a dream, but given I learned today I’ll never have a relationship and won’t be allowed to eat in one of my favourite restaurant chains until I get a home from one of the 40% who won’t discriminate against me, am I not allowed to dream from time to time?

Related Articles (as chosen on 16 September 2010):
Related Articles (as chosen today, 24 September 2012):


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I love the things I love about me

When I was younger (so much younger than today) I used to sit around writing my thoughts into a journal. Sometimes they were sad, sometimes extravagant. Other times they were poignant and/or personal. Often I would challenge my anxieties over my self-worth and lack of self-esteem by undertaking random exercises I would read about in books or on the internet.

This, completed in 2006, was one such exercise.

The premise was simple:

1) Sit yourself somewhere comfortable and relaxing
2) Take a fresh sheet of paper
3) Write “The Things I Love About Me” at the top of it, and then
4) For fifteen minutes write down as many things you love about yourself as you can.

It didn’t matter what these things were, it didn’t matter how stupid, pointless or irrelevant, it didn’t matter if anyone else agreed with you. This was your list of things you love about yourself; the rest of the world be damned!

Normally I’m not very good at such things (I have a lot of self-hate festering away inside me) so when I sat myself down I wasn’t sure how things would turn out, especially as I’d just come out of a long-term relationship so wasn’t exactly feeling the love.

After fifteen minutes, I’d surprised myself:

♥ I love my small patch of back hair ♥ I love how I care so much about the people that populate this crazy planet ♥ I love my laugh ♥  I love how my tongue always gets bitten when I’m concentrating ♥ I love my bum ♥ I love how I get all goosebumpy sometimes, say when I’m watching a film or listening to music or having a really good idea ♥ I love the sparkle in my eye when I’m happy ♥ I love that even though I was shit scared I still got on a plane and came to Australia ♥ I love my eyes ♥ I love how I feel when I’m around someone I care about ♥ I love my unending array of giggles ♥ I love the cute sheep I draw ♥ I love that I love going down on women soooo much. The smell. The taste. The way it feels. Bliss! ♥ I love my mind in all its warped wacky kinky bizarre exotic erotic insane madness ♥ I do love that I give good hugs ♥ I love that I cry when I need to ♥ I love my eclectic musical taste ♥ I love I can sing and dance in the street without caring ♥ I love my giving nature ♥ I love my characters, because they came from me. I give birth to them and then allow them the freedom to evolve as individuals ♥ I love I cry when I write my stories from time to time ♥ I love how peaceful and serene I feel when looking at the stars ♥ I love that no matter how low, depressed and suicidal I get I always manage to find a reason to not kill myself ♥ I love my kimnyk ♥ I love my ability to remain quiet and listen when I need to ♥ I love my penis ♥ I love my eclectic taste of movies ♥ I love that when I travel I try to get a feel/taste/smell of the place rather than merely explore the well-worn tourist tracks ♥ I love I can sit for hours on end in a single spot and allow my thoughts to roam free ♥ I love my cuddly toys ♥ I love they all have names ♥ I love that they all have their own personality ♥ I love that I’m a proud self-confessed Doctor Who fan, even before the new series came along ♥ I love my bendy little toe ♥ I love that I have a thing for dungarees ♥ I love my odd decisions – such as hiking the A82 to Drumnadrochit with a fracking heavy backpack on ♥ I love my bum (said it before, will say it again) ♥ I love that by nature I am kind and genuine ♥ I love that my favourite sport is snooker ♥ I love my soap opera dreams ♥ I love I truly believe in all the mythical creatures; from dragons and demons to faeries and pixies, and of course, Nessie ♥ I love how my backside feels after being given a playful slap ♥ I love my stories, no matter how crap they are ♥ I love being a sooky romantic ♥ I love continually challenging myself ♥ I love being brave enough to write journals ♥ I love how they’ve grown and evolved and become a part of me rather than just being a book of actions and moments ♥ I love looking after people ♥ I love my sentimentality ♥ I love my memories ♥ I love that even though I lose sight of it at times I do have a solid understanding of (a) who I am at heart and (b) who I am continually working to be ♥ I love that I have such wonderful, kind, inspiring and down-right fantastic friends ♥ I love pulling fluff from my belly button ♥ I love my flaws – all of them ♥ I love that my favourite character from The Wizard of Oz is the lion ’cause he’s awesome ♥ I love the two freckles on my left hand ♥ I love that I love female bottoms – ’cause they are absolutely gorgeous ♥ I love how yummy it makes me feel when I caress a woman’s butt ♥ I love my asides and babbles and incoherent (often public) rambles ♥ I love my cuddly figure ♥ I love my nipples ♥ I love my massages (they ain’t professional but at least they’re caring) ♥ I love how giving massages makes me feel ♥ I love my hair and the style I’ve settled on ♥ I love my ability to try and see the goodness in people ♥ I love how I try to hug stuff in my sleep ♥ I love that I just love cuddles ♥ I love how I try to write massive streams of consciousness in my journals that capture that moment’s emotions for all their strange, upsetting, happy, sad, excited, elated insanity ♥ I love my hobbit feet ♥ I love dancing naked to cheesy 80s music even if people are watching ♥ I love my accepting nature ♥ I love how I can , at times, feel very passionate about even the most minor and irrelevant of things ♥ I love my beard after I’ve conditioned it ♥ I love my intense passion for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland ♥ I love how my favourite book is an obscure Scottish Children’s book about facing up to your fears ♥ I love that it’s been my favourite book since I was 7 ♥ I love my kindness ♥ I love how I want to change the world – even though I feel it’s pointless sometimes ♥ I love being who I am ♥

Note: The above list was written in August 2006, shortly after the end of a long-term relationship and before the abuse, breakdown, isolation and homelessness rendered me non-functioning. It is an exact word-for-word transcription of the things I wrote in my journal and was originally published on November 22 as the second post on the original version of this blog.

Remember, the relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Love yourself; because you are awesome, no matter what anyone tells you.


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World Suicide Prevention Day: Stephanie; her grace, my guilt

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today I am thinking of Stephanie and Rachel. Of Gareth and Malcolm. Of all the people I’ve known whose lives ended before their time. Today I am doing what little I can to break the silence and shatter the stigma over suicide.

~ Stephanie: Her grace, my guilt ~

For Stephanie

Would you mind if I pretended we were somewhere else, doing something we wanted to…

…cause all this living makes me wanna do, is die cause I can’t live with you…

Stephanie was 23 years old. A gifted photographer, raconteur and writer with a knack for seeking out the beautiful in the forgotten, bizarre, banal and sad. Physically, in an ironic twist of fate, she was very much a cross between Kathy and (later) Sa5m, only with flaming red hair and porcelain skin. She made me laugh, a lot, with her jet black temperament and an ability to play with words that I could only dream of. If we’d had the chance to meet face-to-face, I like to think a friendship would have blossomed. But the life that shone brightness into the lives of others was taken by the darkness that suffocated her from within. And it was my fault. I was responsible.

…and you don’t even care…

Steph first contacted me because she didn’t know where else to turn. Her email just said Hey and found your blog and a few other niceties that I hear from time to time; all of which bolster my confidence and make me feel that sharing my life isn’t such a bad thing after all. Then it said I think about death all the time too, that must make me as loony as you, hey? and then signed off with a single thanks only with an x in place of the k and s.

I didn’t write back after reading it. I didn’t spend much time online back then other than the necessary job hunting. My blogging had ended months earlier, overtaken by a cacophony of problems  following the events of Alice, moving back home, trying to rebuild my life and stabilising an unsupported mental health problem. All I did that was leave the Internet cafe after signing off and headed into town.

I spent the night walking through the islands, my favourite spot in Inverness, thinking a pantheon of thoughts. Of my stupidity with Grace, my guilt, of that line, of wombats and shinglebacks and CVs and Vegemite and feather dusters and pizza and Jack Bauer and Kathy and Mae and Diane and pyjamas and promises both kept and broken and jam, who doesn’t think about jam? But always my mind kept coming back to Grace, my guilt and that line. When I eventually returned home in the early hours I curled into bed and when I woke up in a sweat after a particularly disturbing dream knew what I had to do.

…Would you mind if I pretended I was someone else…

There was a reason for putting that word there. The amount of things she could have written are endless: cheese, jam, butts, the Doctor, pancakes, whipped cream, wombats, Battlestar Galactica, voles, badgers, the whole army of small mammals that had invaded my blog posts, sex, undies and a plethora of random things that popped up from time to time. Why death? Why emphasise that word?

I’d known from the fist time I’d read it, I just hadn’t wanted to admit it. I convinced myself I was being paranoid, that I was seeing it everywhere I went. I’d wanted to forget about it. I didn’t need more proof that Kathy had been right all along. I should move on and forget about it. But I couldn’t, not with all the guilt in my heart. Whether I wanted to admit it or not that flashing neon sign had been blinking away for a day – nope, not “LIVE NUDES” but “CLASSIC INDICATOR”. Could I take the chance that I was just reading something into her words that weren’t there?

So after cleaning off from the dream, I headed back into town to use the Internet for the second day straight. It was a response that I kept controlled; thanking her for the kind words, telling her a light-hearted anecdote about getting lost a few weeks earlier and then, without being confrontational, asked if she was okay.

…with courage in love and war…

When her response came a couple of days later it was – excuse the crude metaphor – as if she had vomited her life onto the screen. Far longer than the first, far more emotional, and from the first read through I could sense two things:

1) Like me, she kept everything bottled in.

and

2) How similar she and I, and our experiences, were.

She told me of abuse both emotional and sexual, of being dumped by text message with no explanation, of self harm and depression and trouble getting an official diagnosis. She lamented her lack of friends as most had sided with her ex and the rest had fled out of fear of her “unhappy” mood. Her family didn’t understand why she couldn’t just “cheer up”. She’d lost her uni course because of the illness. She was lost, alone and scared. She told me she’d been researching ways to kill herself when she’d come across my blog.

She’d read every post and page (one of the few who has) and wishes she had the courage and strength I did. She’d written to me out of desperation, fear and that she felt she knew me somehow.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t me any more. That events had changed me. I wasn’t strong or courageous. I was weak, selfish and guilt ridden. I was then, as I am now, as far from the “Addy” who’d written those words as I’d ever been. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the person she believed in was gone.

…I used to think that’s what I was…

Instead I told her how she was brave for admitting her feelings and seeking help. She was courageous; as any abuse and mental health survivor is. I asked her to seek help; urging her to go see a Doctor, a professional, talk to her family and make them understand things were not all okay. Failing that, to call Lifeline and seek assistance there.

I also asked her questions; who she was, what she loved, where she was, talk to me. I wanted to know about her life, about the things that warmed her heart and ignited her soul; to focus on her passions instead of the darkness within her, all the while encouraging her to seek professional help.

This is how I found out that she resembled a red-haired Kathy/Sa5m with a delightfully naughty grin.

This is how I found out about her love of photography and art, and her obvious skill in both areas.

This is how I got to know who she was and what made her tick and smile and laugh and cry and feel all gooey.

…but now this lying hurts too much…

All this from just emails, a few MSNs and the need of two lonely people to feel as if someone cared about us. Two people who seemed so alike, whose experiences had been so similar, who had known agony and loss and the exquisite incomprehensible link between pleasure/pain and life/death. There was a reason we’d found each other, there had to be.

…And I don’t know what for…

So why, I’m sure you’re asking, if you got on so well did you not meet? Well, there’s the rub, the further irony, for she lived in Australia – Sydney to be exact. Whereas at the time I was 15000 miles away in the Highlands of Scotland.

So why, I’m sure you’re asking, if you got on so well, and were so concerned, did you not get help for her? Well, I tried. I only had an email address – she wouldn’t give me her phone or snail mail. Plus, I’m not Willow; blogs, HTML, websites and porn – sure, we can all do that – but hacking? Sorry, my skills and ethical code prevent me from doing this.

I did what little  I could; all I could think to do. I talked, communicated, offered support, all those things that had eaten away over of the guilt of Grace and Rachel. Here, now, with Stephanie, I had a chance to make up for the mistakes of my past. Slowly, I thought I was getting through to her.

And then…nothing.

And then…still nothing.

And then…even more nothing.

I began checking my emails less, threw myself deeper into job hunting and self-harm and Wire in the Blood and had to stop watching during the last scene of “Hole in the Heart” because the silence from Steph was deafening my mind.

I’d hoped she was on holiday.

I’d hoped she was in hospital.

I’d hoped she was happy.

Getting laid.

Getting hugs.

Getting kisses and bum squeezes and tickles.

But she wasn’t.

I found out after nearly three weeks of silence that I’d failed (yet) again; that Stephanie had hung herself.

…How could I be such a fool to think that there was anything that your love could bring to my life to my eyes what I wanna see that I wanted your love to belong to me…

It was my fault. I was responsible. I should have saved her. Through writing a blog she had chanced upon me, me, who she had asked for help, me, who had failed to stop her, me, the failure. Maybe if I’d never written this bloody blog in the first place she would still be alive; snapping photos, cracking smiles and relishing her love in the forgotten, bizarre, banal and sad?

…but I’ll stand if you want me to…

In June, I returned to Australia. The UK wasn’t my home any more, I knew that, I’d always known that. For the first time I flew into Sydney and wondered what it would have been like had Stephanie still been alive; would she have wanted to meet me? I took time to visit her favourite pieces in the National Gallery, moseyed the gardens and saw her reflection everywhere I walked. I took time to sit on a bench she’d loved and anecdoted about. I took time to walk over the bridge at night, stare into the icy depths, and question why I hadn’t succeeded in taking my own life yet.

When I visited her grave I sat for hours, thinking of her, of Rachel and the many souls lost to this despicable scourge.

I hated neither Rachel or Steph for what they’d done; I hate myself for not helping them. I didn’t blame them for being selfish; I blamed myself for not being there for them. They were in pain and I’d let them down.

The world had let them down.

A world where helplines must be paid for, where GPs charge over $60 and medicine and psychologists enter into the realm of extortion.

A world where there’s a blanket ban on ever talking about the dreaded ‘S’ word; where empathy is a swear word, it’s meaning forgotten.

A world where work, status, money, expensive jeans, over priced restaurants, fat cat politicians, alcohol and self – the increasingly omnipresent “me” – take precedence over the raw emotion we all as humans feel.

A world that needs to change, with immediate effect.

…my legs are strong and I’ll move on but honey I’m weak in the knees for you…

~ Coda ~

This year marked the third anniversary of Stephanie’s death. As I do every year to commemorate the day I cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted her life. I thought of the MSN chats we used to have; discussing everything from how shit she thought Sydney was to Conan Doyle to Samboy vs Smiths to her dreams. All the desires that burned away inside her that had become so hard for her to believe in.

As I drank in her honor I asked myself whether all the guilt I’d carried for those three years was warranted?

Shortly after first posting this back in 2009 I had a conversation with my dad. I hadn’t told him of Stephanie or what had happened for, over the years, I’ve learned to bottle up the pain and deal with alone. During that conversation he told me that it wasn’t my fault, that I shouldn’t blame myself for what had happened. If anything, I should be proud of myself for at least trying to do something when her friends had pushed her aside out of fear of her depression.

He told me something I’ve never forgotten; that talking to me during the last weeks of her life may have brought her some of the happiness that she’d been missing. That even though she took her own life, at least there had been some joy in her final weeks on this Earth.

When I sipped on that wine back in May, I was thinking not only of this but of the happiness she’d brought my life during those weeks. It is shallow comfort, to be certain. There is nothing more I would like than to know she is out there somewhere, dazzling Flickr and Facebook with her photographic take on the world, smiling her naughty grin and living the life she deserved.

I will always blame myself for her death. Just as I will always punish myself for not being there for Rachel, or Grace or any of the other people I’ve let down over the years. Whether this is good or bad it’s part of who I am, part of my highly sensitive soul, and there’s nothing anyone can do to alleviate this eternal grief.

Every year thousands of people die needless deaths because of the silence that hangs over suicide. A silence we should all be ashamed of. A silence I refused to be a part of.

For a brief few weeks I brought laughter and warmth to Stephanie’s life. A life that would never have ended had she not been shamed into silence by society’s obsession with cowering away from this issue. I tried to do something, however small.

And every year, when I crack open that bottle of wine, I will drink to this.

And to a unique woman who will never be forgotten.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today I am thinking of Stephanie and Rachel. Of Gareth and Malcolm. Of all the people I’ve known whose lives ended before their time. Today I am doing what little I can to break the silence and shatter the stigma over suicide.

What are you doing today?

If you are feeling suicidal please contact your local help line (in Australia, Lifeline 13 11 14) or emergency health services. There is always someone who cares and you never have to deal with this alone.

Stay strong, there is always hope in the world.


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On Being Male: Men and Mental Health

There are many things in life that annoy me; society’s inherent desire to label someone based on one aspect of their personality, chocolate bars gradually shrinking in size whilst increasing in price, badly written novels that become worldwide sensations, the Australian media, the continual discrimination of the mentally ill, scratched library DVDs and Alan Jones.

But the biggest annoyance in my life is the continual repetition of the ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ trope.

Personally, and until someone proves otherwise, men are from Earth, Women are from Earth and instead of endlessly stereotyping perhaps we should just accept people for who they are, what they think and just be done with it.

As the Australian media continues its fetishistic obsession with these contradictory stereotypes I’m reminded of a post I wrote in November 2007. Although I was not at my coherent best at the time – curse you mood swings – this post has always been a particular favourite of mine. If only for the first italicised paragraph.

Thus, beginning my quest to clean up and repost a selection of my original posts, I present On Being Male: Men and Mental Health.

On Being Male: Men and Mental Health

I have a confession to make.

I do.

I’ve been lying to you all.

I’ve been lying to everyone for the last 28 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and lord knows how many seconds! Now, a week or so before my 29th birthday I have decided to come clean, stand up and confess. If it leads to a spanking for flagrant fibbing then so be it! It has to be done, no question about it, can’t keep up these lies any more.

OK.

Here goes…

[deep breath]

I
am
NOT
a
MAN!

[blimey that feels good!]

It’s like this fifty-eight thousand tonne weight has been lifted off my somewhat hairy back. It’s true though – I’m not a man. It’s perfectly understandable why you’d all think so, what with the presence of a beard, chest hair, rippling muscles, an Adam’s apple, a penchant to get a hard-on at the mere passing thought of a naked woman, and the ability to turn into a raving ape at the actual sight of a naked woman…and oh yeah, I’ve got a penis.

But alas, I am not a man.

Why?

Well…

I don’t feel the desire to – when ratarsed – piss in shop doorways; I don’t wolf whistle at woman as they walk down the street; I don’t chug pints of beer as a hobby; nor do I watch sports [breath] I don’t shag other women when I’m in a relationship; I remember birthdays and anniversaries and all sorts of grossly inappropriate important events; I never leave the toilet seat up nor do I feel the need to play the “I can get less urine in the bowl than you” game [breath] I think beer tastes like luke-warm yak’s vomit; I don’t feel the need to lie to a woman constantly in order to (a) impress her (b) cheat on her or (c) bang her; I don’t play football nor receive ridiculously pseudo-erotic pleasure from watching guys running around a field in tight shorts but I do however receive ridiculously pseudo-erotic pleasure from watching a man in a waistcoat screw a ball the length of the table [breathe] I see woman as more than just t-a-c; don’t keep a tally of how many lays I’ve had; I drink alcopops…in public…have never vomited into a pint glass; stolen a witch’s hat; got into a fight; screwed my girlfriend’s best friend nor would I no matter how tempted I may be [breathe] I’d never slap a woman in the face; nor on the ass as a means of coming on to her [smaller breath] I would never give a woman a job based solely on the quality of her posterior; nor get into a discussion about rating my friends’ tits on a 1-10 scale; I wouldn’t scribble 100 words for a woman’s sacred garden above the urinals in the pub…sacred garden? You need more proof? Fine…my mood changes frequently; I talk about my emotions; am not afraid to cry if I want to; nor even when I don’t [breath] I want babies; I want commitment; I like living somewhere where I can see the carpet; I’ve never measured my cock when I’m alone; when I’m talking to a woman I look at her eyes; I really don’t see the appeal of a g-string; think cricket is bloody stupid; and would much rather be sitting on a beach talking to a woman about the pros and cons of John Howard than sitting on a beach staring at her arse [breath] I really don’t see why women need to shave their legs; or their armpits; or their moustache and to be blunt would much rather sleep with someone with a bush hairier than a badger’s back than a bald bush smoother than that of a prepubescent schoolgirl; oh, and I care more about women’s orgasms than I do my own, colour me selfish that way [breath] I have no problem ballroom dancing with another man; I have no problem hugging another man; I have no problem talking emotionally with another man; I have no problem crying in front of another man; I have no problem going to see a Doctor if I’m sick; nor do I have a problem with eating an egg and broccoli quiche whilst asking for directions from a man chowing down on a steak sandwich; and oh yes, I admit to making mistakes.

[breathe]

[before I pass out]

Bloody hell I could go on all day, but hey, the easiest way to prove my twenty-nine year-long deception – I have no problem with standing up before the whole world and announcing: I suffer from mental illness!

[oh]

[hang on]

Little embarrassing, I seem to have made a mistake.

Sorry.

I am a man.

A hell of a man!

Because to be a man is to be one thing: courageous.

To have the courage to…

cry whilst watching Bambi; actually ask for help from the female shop assistant when buying lingerie for your girlfriend; talk about vaginas, tampons and hormones with your girlfriend without passing out; order quiche in the restaurant; actually buy lingerie your girlfriend would like and feel sexy in rather than something you want to see the female shop assistant wear for you; tell your girlfriend if you’ve had a fight with your best mate; cry whilst eating the best piece of tofu you’ve ever tasted; nervously shake when you kiss a woman for the first time; say no to your girlfriend’s best friend when she’s seducing you in the nuddy; realize sport is a complete waste of your life; that pissing in doorways just makes you look like a twat; take your girlfriend’s tampon out of her bag and give it to her without treating it like a live hand grenade; nervously shake when you kiss a woman for the first time badly; ask where her clit is & if there’s anything you’re doing wrong; cry if you’re feeling upset; not hit the first thing you see if you’re drunk, angry or stupid; say ‘I love you’ in circumstances that don’t involve blow jobs; nervously shake when you kiss a woman for the first time badly and then joke about it afterwards; not always follow your penis’ every request; admitting to how you’re feeling; follow your beliefs no matter what they may be or how derisive your friends are being; not always cum first and then fall asleep; put the toilet seat down; go to the Doctor; tell your girlfriend you have a problem; hell, tell any of your friends that you have a problem.

Being a man is having the courage to stand up and admit that you have a mental illness and not care what anyone thinks.

[And I’m not just saying that because I’m a man who is doing this same exact thing]

That one simple word is what being a man is. It’s what being a woman is. Because ultimately, when stripped down, genitals aside, we’re all equal. Believing in yourself so much that you don’t care what other men or women think of you. If other men can’t handle it, then, they don’t deserve that beer they pretend to like so much. If women can’t handle it, then, remember that the most important thing is the emotional connection you have, not how many or how often you’ve shagged.

Quality, not quantity.

This insipid culture we now live in where a man is considered to be weak, worthless and spineless because he admits to having a mental illness is what is costing lives. More men die from suicide every year than women. More men go through life in mental pain than women. Why? Because they’re too afraid to admit they have a problem. Why? Because they don’t have the courage to stand up to the fear, derision and masculine stripping vilification they will receive from all corners if they do. Why? Well, that’s just because everyone’s decided what a man should be instead of realizing they are – like women – human. Men don’t come from Mars any more than women don’t come from Venus (and just for the record, you don’t have to like visiting Uranus to be man).

One of the purest forms of the stigma against mental health is also one of the vilest forms of stigma out there; sexism. And however controversial this may sound, it’s being propagated by women just as much, if not more so, than by men.

Women desire men to be men and this means not having flaws or problems or weaknesses.

In order for a man to be accepted they must act in this way regardless of how they’re feeling.

For we wouldn’t want to be weak now would we!

In a discussion on mental illness I was once told by someone that they could believe and accept in the existence of a woman suffering from depression, but could not believe that a man would have “any reason to be unhappy”. In other words, women are allowed to suffer from a mental health problem, but in men it’s seen as a weakness, a trait to be avoided, ignored, derided and laughed at.

Is it any wonder why so many men are blowing their heads off or chucking themselves off bridges?

Tell me, what’s more courageous?

1. Bottling up all of your emotions so that a woman can respect you – only to have your brains redecorate your office courtesy of the gun in your mouth?

or
2. Admitting to a woman that you have a problem, and talking about it. Even if it means there’s a chance you’ll never visit her sacred garden again?

Yep, you’re right.

If it’s true that a woman can’t be attracted to a man who cries, then there is something seriously wrong with the world we live in. Men have feelings, men feel pain, men hurt – and they should be allowed to show all this without recrimination.

Women need to realize this.

Men need to realize this.

We all need to realize this.

— — —

This post was originally written in November 2007. Even though it’s been five years and I was somewhat unstable at the time I’ve always enjoyed this post tremendously and still believe it’s relevant today.

However, I’m happy to point out that in the last five years progress has been made in the area of men and mental health.

First and foremost is a fantastic website call Soften the Fck Up (a play on the old stereotype that men should just harden the f**k up) which is chock full of articles, personal stories and information regarding help and assistance.

Secondly, there has been an increase in awareness of the Mensline help line. Although not specifically aimed at mental health, it’s one of the only help lines that specifically targets men and encourages them to seek help instead of bottling up their problems.

Thirdly, the Movember movement has steadily grown over the last few years to become more known and widespread.

Each of these – as well as other initiatives that encourage men to speak out – are all welcome and needed. Sooner or later it will finally be accepted that men have just as much right to feel emotions as a woman does, and rather than punishing men who do, it should be encouraged.