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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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 20. The joy of creativity

Day 20: Do you consider yourself creative? How do you express that? What piece of work (or whatever is applicable) are you most proud of?

Hanging Rock 001

A depiction of Tir-nan-og, a fantasy realm from my urban fantasy series, that I drew on my bedroom wall in 2006

For the vast majority of my life I’ve considered myself creative. But I would like it known – on the record – that I do not consider myself creative solely because I’m bipolar. I know there are many people out there who consider bipolar to be the “creative illness”, and there are many wonderfully creative people who are bipolar, but like me, they would probably be creative in spite of their mental illness. The bipolar is not what has made us creative, we managed that all on our lonesome!

Writing

First and foremost, I consider myself a storyteller. When I was but a young wee bairn I was often making up random stories about all sorts of weird and wondrous things, regaling my family and friends with everything from what mystical creatures lived in the Moss (a large area of overgrown parkland in the town I grew up in) to how best to survive a monster apocalypse. After school I would rush home to write all manner of stories and fictional escapades. I continued the adventures of Indiana Jones in the stirring Indiana Jones and the Sword of Excalibur and created a movie based on perennial Australian soap, Neighbours.

When I was fourteen I wrote my first novel – Lifetime – an amalgamation of The Goonies, Doctor Who and your stereotypical coming-of-age tales, an adventure that saw a group of lackadaisical teenagers battle living waxwork monsters whilst combating their own hormonal urges. Suffice to say, it was a piece of shit, but I loved every single minute that I spent writing that epic of badly written fiction. And it was a period of my life that solidified my desire to become a writer.

Over the following several years I wrote whenever I had a spare minute. I dabbled in melodrama, tragedy, mystery and crime, but always found myself returning to the genre that is Urban Fantasy, wherein normal earthbound characters battled otherworldly creatures from the safety of their own hometown. And it was within this genre that I created my masterwork; The Inverness Chronicles, a series of novels, television series and motion pictures that spanned three generations of characters within the fictionalized city of Inverness. Only the first novel of this planned series has been written – The Ghosts That Haunt Me – but the remaining installments have been planned to perfection, I just need to find the time to write them!

Alas, I cannot share The Ghosts That Haunt Me with you. Over the years that I was homeless the copies I had in my possession were lost to floods, theft and personal mistakes, and the remaining copy (on a USB stick in my parents house) seems to have been lost when my parents moved in 2010. But rest assured it was the best piece of fiction that I’ve ever written and encapsulated my own beliefs, values and strengths in a story that saw several characters face an apocalyptic event against the backdrop of contemporary Scotland.

As depression has further gripped my soul, I have found my ability to tell stories dwindle. I used to write for pleasure, for the pure wonderousness of seeing a story come to life by the words and syllables I chose to use. But since the depression, since the bipolar, since my breakdown, I’ve been unable to find the energy to tell the stories that sing in my soul. I hope, one day, to be stable enough to write again, but until then I can just continue tinkering my Inverness Chronicles plan. Gently caressing the characters lives until they’re ready to ignite the page once again.

Examples of my writing:

Photography

My photography habit kicked off when I started backpacking in Scotland in 1999, and continued to grow and evolve when I studied the subject at college the following year. I can still remember how relaxing and inspiring I found the time I spent mixing chemicals in the darkroom, slowly easing the black and white images to life through patience and determination. For my birthday that year, my then girlfriend, Louise, organised with my parents to purchase me a brand spanking new SLR camera, and this became my most prized possession until it was stolen from me in late 2007. In fact, my love of photography was so strong, that after obtaining my first (and only) job since my breakdown, I rewarded my hard work with a new camera, that I took many wonderful and beautiful images on.

But in the same manner that depression has stolen my ability to write, it has also stolen my ability to take photographs.My abuser would regularly attack my photography, calling them boring, uninspiring, a waster of time, monotonous, and ever since those words stabbed my soul, I cannot see the images in the same way that I use to, I cannot find the creative spark I need to imagine my thoughts in photographic form. One day, I hope, I will rediscover my photographic urges. One day, I hope, I will be able to successfully deal with the PTSD to take photographs again.

Drawing

As for drawing, I’ve never considered myself a master-artist, it was always something that I enjoyed doing rather than doing it because I was good at it. I used to love drawing Doctor Who montages; Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans battling the trusty Time-Lord across the stars. I would compose artwork based on my favourite video games (Zelda, Sonic and Secret of Mana) or sketch haphazardly in my journal various Scottish vistas seen throughout my backpacker odyssey.

I loved creating artwork not because I was good at it, but because it relaxed me. It was something I did for the pure pleasure and enjoyment of doing it, nothing else. And unlike other aspects of my life (including my writing and photography) I didn’t care what other people thought of it because, deep down, I knew they were crap drawings.

And this, to me, is what being creative is all about. It isn’t just about the kudos and praise you receive from a stunning piece of art or breathtakingly beautiful photograph. It isn’t just about how other people feel when viewing or appraising your work. It is about how you feel whilst creating it. As long as you are capturing an essence of yourself, regardless of the medium, then you are succeeding at being creative.

My writing, although rooted in fantasy, mayhem and apocalyptic events, was always about the people and how they reacted to the chaos. My photography, regardless of what my abuser said, was meant to capture landscape and emotion of place, a memory of a moment that would never be seen again. Whilst my drawing, however bad, captured who I was in that moment of reflection.

So regardless of what other people think, I’m proud of my creativity, and I’m proud of the work I’ve created over the years.


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An Organic Owl

Being a massive fan of owls (I used to stroll down Inverness High Street on a Saturday morning just to see the owls at the owl sanctuary charity tent every week) I couldn’t resist reblogging this.
It is quite wonderful :)

lakelectric

An Organic Owl

This was made by a friend in the USA I just think it’s brilliant

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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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13 Songs I can’t stop listening to…

Now, you lovely people probably aren’t as excited as I am over this installment of the 20 Day Challenge. It’s difficult for some to understand in this smart phone age that some people just don’t have easy access to music. Every day I mourn the loss of my near 250,000 track music collection (sob). These days my homelessness means I must rely on YouTube for musical shenanigans.

Hence why I’m so excited, because today I have an excuse to kill an hour by listening to some of the songs I never – ever – get tired of. The songs I know back to front, top to bottom, note for note. The songs that I will always sing whenever they’re playing! So sit back, hook up your headphones and take a journey into the eclectic musical taste of Addy.

Note: Given my utter love of everything ever released by Serena Ryder, Runrig, Paul Mounsey and Scottish artists in general, I am hereby excluding them from appearing within this post otherwise they will, as always, take over!

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Nina Simone)

A song  I’ve loved ever since discovering the magnificence of Nina Simone courtesy of the oft-maligned movie Point of No Return (aka The Assassin) in the late 1990sIn a slightly hypomanic/delusional state I once spent ten hours listening to this song on repeat whilst I wrote a feature-length movie-musical (a la Moulin Rouge) based on an instalment of my Chronicles. Whilst one of my happiest homeless moments was stumbling on a DVD of Nina Simone: Live at Ronnie Scott’s at Coburg library which I spent a glorious night enjoying under the stars.

F**kin’ Perfect (P!nk)

What? P!nk f**ckin’ rocks, deal with it. I love her voice, her personality, her stage presence, her energy, her politics, her everything. Of all the mainstream acts out there she’s the person I’d commit a naughty act to see her live in concert. As for this song, it’s become an almost pseudo-anthem for my abuse-traumatised soul. Everybody now, sing like you mean it: “Pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel, like you’re less than fucking perfect…pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel, like you’re nothing, you’re fucking perfect to me!”

Unwell (Matchbox 20)

Just listen to the lyrics if you need to know why this is on the list!

Born to Make You Happy [Acoustic Version] (Britney Spears)

What? Britney F**kin’ rocks, deal with it. Okay, so maybe there was a moment when she was producing, well, crap (Crossroads anyone?) but Early-Britney and Circus-Britney are contiguously awesome. In fact, I’ve stripped to Britney’s music more than any other artist…ever! As for this song, one of the most important turning points of the Chronicles is the death of a central character, who is randomly mown down by a drunk driver whilst this song plays from a nearby house. Hence, why I once spent two days listening to it as I worked my feckin’ arse off to nail that scene to perfection!

Common People (Pulp)

A song that not only reminds me of my angst ridden teenage years (self-harming in my bedroom whilst this played in the background) but of a drunken afternoon in Glasgow as Sammi and I consumed copious amounts of hard liquor to summon the confidence to karaoke it. Which we did with astounding awfulness! Pray you never see my Jarvis Cocker impersonation :p

Holding Out For a Hero (Bonnie Tyler)

One of the greatest songs ever recorded! I’ve danced to it, karaoked to it, kissed to it, had wild naughty sex to it, cried to it and become ratarsed to it. Once upon a time (whilst insane) I wrote an epic eight minute single-take scene to it! I envisioned it to be the opening of a movie version of The Ghosts That Haunt Me; an action packed motorcycle chase across the city of Inverness, which just happened to be falling apart because of an apocalyptic event! Cue demons, mermaids, giant lizard-bat thingmejigs, a sword fighting Faerie, random Mario Kart references, earthquakes, collapsing buildings and copious one liners as a twentysomething couple race to save the world from total annihilation. I can no longer listen to this song without seeing the entire sequence playing out in my mind!

In My Sleep (Austin Hartley-Leonard & Kendall Jane Meade)

A song the marvellous show Chuck introduced me to; simply beautiful.

We’re All Going To Die (Malcolm Middleton)

Just listen to it. I even broke my self-imposed ‘no Scottish music in this post’ rule because it’s so bloody good!

I Wish I Was the Moon (Neko Case)

This song reminds me of Louise (a big Neko Case fan) and of that fleeting period where I had what people consider a ‘life’. Sipping wine on a lazy Sunday afternoon, cycling the river, hanging out with friends, being a productive member of society that – shock horror – for a moment there people actually cared about. She is a divine singer with a magnificent voice and another person I would be all naughty for to see live. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to embrace my mischievous genes again!

The Staunton Lick (Lemon Jelly)

If you’re wondering what television show you’ve heard this in, it’s Spaced. It may have been used in others but Spaced is all that matters. I was so tempted to put my other favourite Lemon Jelly tracks in here (Ramblin’ Man and the much teased Nice Weather for Ducks) but there is something magical about this piece of music. Enjoy.

Fuel (Ani DiFranco)

A song that reminds me of Annie; of Canada; of singing my own version during a college radio production (!) A song that contains one of my favourite song lyrics ever! The brilliant: “People used to make records, as in a record of an event, the event of people playing music in a room, now everything is cross-marketing, it’s about sunglasses, and shoes, or guns, and drugs, you choose,”

Whisper (Evanescence)

Another track I listened to on repeat for days on end as I wrote a major sequence for my Chronicles. A pinnacle moment that saw the death of Megan, the beginning of the end for Beth, the fire that results in The Smiling Turtle, the nadir of Finn and the commencement of the hardest sequence I’ve ever had to write; the collapse of Shay and the subsequent hell he unleashes on those he loves. And of course, none of this will mean anything to anyone bar those two ‘lucky’ people who received my novel in 2009 (apologies to Steph and Grace for inflicting it on them) so forget everything I just said and listen to – Britney excepted – the darkest, most hardcore track in this post!

Northwest Passage (Stan Rogers)

If I was Prime Minister of Canada I would immediately issue a decree that this is the new National Anthem. No offense to Oh, Canada, but this song is utterly magnificent in every way, shape and form. Recently, an article was published on The Conversation about the Northwest Passage and I swore off the website for days for not seizing the opportunity to insert this video into the article. My counsellor told me I should have posted the link as a comment but he knew I wouldn’t, given my lack of comment-confidence. So here, for those who have never heard it, is the song Rachel and I sung whilst ratarsed in Halifax. The song that should be the anthem of that great and wonderful land!

Tomorrow: 12 Facts About Me


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Why do people WANT to be bipolar?

I found an article on the BBC yesterday which had me firing small spittles of foam as I attempted to digest the words without throwing up. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when you have that vomity taste in your throat.

Why would anyone want to be bipolar?

There is now a group of people who are actively seeking out a diagnosis of a mental disorder and want to be known as bipolar.

What – the – f**k?

A new diagnosis of bipolar disorder might reflect a person’s aspiration for higher social status and a feeling that by having the condition they too are creative.

What – the – f**k!

Do these people understand how serious this condition can be? Higher social status my butt! Try experience the discrimination against mental illness and then tell me what sort of social status you’ll receive through your life!

But the article also, thankfully, pointed out:

It is a serious condition that may significantly impair relationships, work and social functioning.

Indeed it is Mr/Ms BBC article; it is also worth remembering that:

  • The average suicide rate for those with bipolar is 10 – 20 times more than the general population!
  • In fact, it’s estimated that 20% of those with bipolar will kill themselves (that’s one in five people!)
  • And, 50% of those with bipolar will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime (that’s one in two people!)
  • That those with bipolar have a standardized mortality rate of 18-25!
  • It is the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age bracket!
  • It is the sixth leading cause of disability of people in the 15-44 age bracket in the world!
  • Women with bipolar lose, on average, 9 years in life expectancy, 14 years of lost productivity and 12 years of normal health.
  • It is also worth remembering that in Australia one third of people suffering from bipolar are not receiving the treatment that they need; that’s over 33,000 people!

Why on earth would anyone want to be bipolar?

Last Sunday I awoke after a rather weird encounter in the park feeling pretty good. I moseyed into town, did my Sunday AM litter collection and then wrote. The blog post I wrote wasn’t too bad and I was in a good mood come mid afternoon; smiling, happy, even cracking jokes to myself and those pesky eavesdroppers.

Five minutes later I was crying as I fled down Swanston Street in order to escape and hide in my park. I spent most of the afternoon crying. I’d get it under control, scold myself for being weak (men aren’t allowed to cry remember) and then a few minutes later I’d burst into tears again. In public. In a street. With people looking at me as if I were a crazed terrorist paedophile!

It was one of the most sudden mood swings I’ve ever had and has led to one of the worst weeks I can remember since 2007. The depression I’ve been feeling this week has consumed everything I’ve felt and done, shrouding me in darkness and despair. It’s made even simple tasks (walking into the city, reading tweets) almost impossible. Death hasn’t been far from my thoughts; especially when a man walked through Federation Square with a scythe. Seriously freaky!

I just don’t get why anyone would want to be bipolar?

Sure, there’s creativity, but what’s the point when you’re either too manic or too depressed to actually do anything with all those rampaging thoughts?

Sure, there’s the excuse to do stupid things when pissed…but the discrimination you’ll experience on a daily basis, rejection from friends and relationships, family rifts, lost employment opportunities, the dodgy health system to navigate, the life-long dependence on zombiefying medication…means that the chances are you won’t have the money/friends/opportunities to go and get pissed in the first place!

Me? I’d do anything to not be bipolar – so, if you want it so badly, wanna swap?

You might not want it so much if you knew what came with this alleged social status tag.

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