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…


30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 01

The first day of the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
How long have you been self harming? Discuss why you started.

The first time I self-harmed I was in my bedroom in the hours after a particularly difficult day at school. I was thirteen years old and at the time I was being bullied, made to feel humiliated for having a crush on a girl at school and struggling to manage my school work with the demands of my sister (and I’s) developing mental illness(es).

Unsure of how to cope with my internal pain, I decided to cut my leg with the pointy end of a protractor I was using to complete my maths homework. Although it drew a little blood, the damage was relatively insignificant, especially in relation to the emotional release I received from the action; which was insurmountable.

From then on my quest to physicalise my emotional pain became a regular fixture in my life. After bad days I would secrete myself in my bedroom and assault myself with an ever-increasing array of implements. I stayed with the protractor for a while before moving to small scissors, large scissors and then knives. I experimented with hitting myself, then burning myself with a cigarette lighter, but always returned to cutting as nothing else came close to giving me the emotional release I desired.

Even now – twenty-two years later (blimey, has it really been that long!) – cutting is the means of self-harm I return to most frequently, despite becoming more creative and experimental in the intervening years.

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Unsent Letter #2: Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Giggles. This one’s a little different!

2 September 2012.

Dear ———-,

Oh my God, I’m laughing so hard right now! In fact, because these letters are supposed to be no holds barred, non-censored Addy; I am laughing my fucking arse off! Oh, the sound of your nicotine scented breath gasping out of your oversized nostrils is music to my ears. There’s no need to skip back a couple of sentences to make sure you read it right.

I didn’t write ducking farce.

I didn’t write plucking aries.

I wrote fucking arse!

As in I am laughing my fucking arse off that I get to write you a letter, you rancorous, coiffured old sow!

Do you want to know how many ways you made my life hell? How many days I hated having to get out of bed to walk the three miles to school to be the object of your passive aggressiveness sadism? Seriously, what was it? What did I actually do to deserve all those detentions, lines and clip-round-the-ears?

Was it because I was an outsider? I may not have known it then, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Scotland since we last met and I know this can be quite a big issue in parts. If it was this, it’s called racism, ———-!

Was it because I was fat? Yeah, I know, I was young but I did my best. I walked to school, I played football, I exercised a hell of a lot more than some of the other kids in class. If it was this, it’s called fatism ———-!

Was it because I asked questions? Because, you know, you were my teacher. How is showing an interest in learning a reason for such scorn? If it was this, it’s not any ism I know of, it’s just bloody stupid!

From the moment you first met me you didn’t like me. In fact, that first day, you wouldn’t let me play with the other kids at playtime because I’d spilt some milk on a book. I was nervous, ———-, it’s called an accident. How is stopping the new kid at school from interacting with his new classmates going to assist in matriculation?

Do you remember how you reacted when you asked what I wanted to do when I grew up? It may have become an internet meme, but all memes lead back to truth somewhere!

How about when you made us have a ‘cowboy’ day? That even though you knew I hated them, you forced me to eat an entire can of cold baked beans as well as three hotdogs so I could understand how ‘cowboys’ lived. Do cowboys vomit uncontrollably into bushes on their way home from the ranch? I don’t think so.

What about the time I broke your lamp? I’m sure you remember that. There I am walking across the room to hand out some worksheets when the lamp just falls off the desk, and this, in some weird and twisted logic, becomes my fault – even though I was a good meter or so away from it! It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I don’t think you were allowed to clip me round the ear like you did that day. You certainly weren’t supposed to drag me to the corridor by the same ear and deposit me there until you decided what to do with me. Guide me there, certainly. Tell me firmly to walk there, absolutely. But drag me there?

In today’s era, ———-, that would be called child abuse. But then, given your desire to – and I quote – “thrash the living daylights out of me’ – you didn’t seem all that bothered about this sort of thing.

Fortunately for me you weren’t allowed to administer the cane, what with it having been rendered illegal and all! Do you know how thankful I am for that? Fucking thankful, that’s how much! For I have no doubt I wouldn’t have been sitting for months had you been allowed to administer it. Or do you not remember your comments about Boy?

You really were an absolute, total, one hundred per cent, fucking bitch, ———-!

But…and however painful it is to admit it…you were one of the best teachers I ever had.

Certainly, you made my life a living hell and the epic bollockings you gave me are still ringing in my ears, but unlike the majority of teachers I had in the intervening years, I still remember the vast majority of your lessons.

Even though it’s been over twenty years I still say to myself never eat cheese eat salad sandwiches and remain young every time I write the word necessary! The same can be said for; My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets, Bad Eggs Cause An Upset Stomach Easily and Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move.

Whenever I hear the word Roman, I think of the book you used and the somewhat dodgy pictures that illustrated it – right down to the colour of Nero’s hair and the cat lurking in the background.

To this day I can’t hear the song Home On The Range without feeling nauseous. And yes, this is a good thing!

Plus, how could I ever forget the fact that you helped me realize I wanted to be a writer. There was me thinking you were being a total pitchfork (What? I’m over my anger now!) by giving me detention after detention but you knew what you were doing all along. I still remember the two stories I wrote during those periods; the little boy setting off on a quest for treasure in the wilds of the Moss and the schoolboy who broke the teachers cane to win the respect of his classmates. Fairly obvious you were the inspiration behind the latter!

And then there was the bullying. You, ———-, were one of the only teachers who ever took me seriously. I remember when a couple of the boys started beating on me in the playground. You came storming right over and after disposing of them to the Headmistress, took me to the Nurse to get patched up. You even gave me a strawberry flavored lollipop to help cheer me up afterwards. I also remember the hug you gave me when I was all upset and teary by a cavalcade of nasty words that one of the girls was giving me about my sister.

Yeah, perhaps I was too hasty with how I started this letter. In those moments, ———-, you were magnificent; everything a teacher should be and more. Not only did you genuinely seem to care about your students, you actually went out of your way to make them feel better.

So, I would like to sincerely apologise for using such nasty and insulting language at the start of this letter. It was very wrong of me and I should never use such words in public or private.

And, to prove I do remember the things you taught me:

Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.

(x50 more times)

Though I have to say, I wish they’d had computers at school when you were teaching me. It’s so much easier cutting and pasting than sitting there for hours on end until my hand hurt!

Seriously, thank you.

Really. Honestly. Thank you.

Not just for all the things you taught me, but for being such a kind, caring woman – some of the time, at least. I could have done with having a teacher like you when the bullying stepped up a gear after moving schools, because the more I think about it, the more I realize you really were one of a kind.

So it’s rather an honor to have been your student, for a while at least.

Yours, with affection,

Addy xx

P.S…I never did get her – probably because I always went back for seconds ;)