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…


Tears before Christmas

Every year for the last few years I’ve had a little weep on Christmas Day. For people like myself who don’t have someone to have Christmas cuddles with, who have no-one to give presents to and who’ll be eating their dinner alone, Christmas is not a day of celebration, but survival.

It’s the one day of the year that you’re expected to spend with your friends and family. So much so that when you tell people you’ll be spending the big day alone they look at you in complete, dumfounded bewilderment. Their minds unable to process that there are people on the planet who have no-one. People who are living in poverty; people who are homeless; people struggling with mental health issues; people who society have deemed to be irrelevant, inconsequential or so badly broken that it’s dangerous to become their friend.

Tomorrow there will come a time when my inconsequentialness strikes home and I collapse on the sofa for a half-hour crying session, wishing for the one thing many people take for granted; loving companionship. It’s become such a holiday tradition that nothing I do will stop it. The tears will come…but I’ll be ready for them.

What I wasn’t ready for were the tears that started to fall this afternoon, tears that quickly descended into a full on bawling session, complete with ghost-like wails, breathing difficulties and the occasional hiccup. And the reason behind such an unmanly response? Personally I think it was a combination of the anniversary of Samantha’s death, a release of the emotional stress that Christmas brings and because the triggering greetings card had cut through my heart and challenged everything I believe about myself.

And yes, you read that right, the trigger behind such an over-the-top reaction was a simple greetings card. A home-made card that members of the Hearing Voices Support Group I attend had made and signed with a variety of challenging words of affection:

Andrew, you are so very wise and motivated ♥ 
I admire your wisdom and the joy you bring to the group
You are a very valued member of the group, wise, creative and independent
You have been so brave this year

Hours later I still can’t quite comprehend what people have written in the card. I’ve spent the better part of the last twelve months believing that my presence in the group was irrelevant, and as a result, that I am irrelevant. I’ve believed that my contributions were inconsequential, that no-one had noticed I was there and if they did notice my presence, they’d quickly come to wish I wasn’t.

But I was wrong. And I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m not used to hearing nice things about myself, I’m not used to other people giving me compliments, I’m not used to believing there are people in this world who actually notice my existence and who, for some inexplicable reason, occasionally enjoy being in my company.

It’s all a little too much for me to deal with at such an emotional and mentally challenging time of year, but it’s yet another event from the last twelve months that has me questioning how I view myself in comparison to how other people see me.

It’s yet another event that has me quietly commenting that maybe I’m not such a bad guy after all; that even though I’m spending Christmas alone, I may not be as badly broken as society would have you believe.

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First of all, I apologise for not posting for several days. I think I can now safely say my 365 Day Blog Challenge has well and truly failed (no surprise there) but my 21 Challenge hasn’t (sort of) as I am still determined to do twenty-one things, I’ve just had to be put them on hold for a wee while in order to save my mental health.

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015. Five songs that have made me cry

Many years and lives ago I used to cry at the drop of a hat. I always put it down to the perils of being a highly sensitive person. Weddings, births, deaths, Guy Fawkes nights, Christmas, New Year…yep, my ducts would spring a leak on each and every one of them.

Goodbyes were something that always had me welling up, as does the ending of The Amber Spyglass and Torchwood: Series 2. Whilst Doctor Who: Doomsday, well, when I first watched that I nearly cured the drought in Australia.

As for the times I kill an innocent jacket potato by leaving it in the oven for too long…let’s not go there.

These days I don’t cry. Period. I well up from time to time but never allow myself to let the tears fall. I can’t actually remember the last time that I did. I’ve put this down to a defense mechanism rather than a HTFU approach to life. I generally believe men need to soften rather than harden up, whilst women need to start understanding that there’s nothing wrong if a man needs to cry, especially over emotionally painful things.

I wish I could cry more. I miss the emotional release that a good weep would give me and believe that things would be a lot better for me in terms of coping and isolation if I could receive a release every now and then.

Therefore, for my 365 Day Challenge, writing about a song that makes me cry is impossible.

I can however write about songs that have made me cry.

1. Goodbye to You (Michelle Branch)

I first heard this song in the Buffy episode Tabula Rasa. Tara and Willow break up, Giles leaves for England…it’s all too emotional! After discovering what the song was I tracked the album down in a music store in Cardiff and listened to it one night as I moseyed back to the train station.

Whether it was residual Buffy memories or the fact my girlfriend had recently flown back to Melbourne leaving me all alone, I don’t know. All I do know is that I walked through the streets of Cardiff crying like a baby as this played on my old Discman.

2. Unexpected Song (Bernadette Peters)

This song is a key track on the soundtrack album of my second relationship and whenever I hear it I think of her. The fact this relationship became abusive means I cannot listen to this song. Ever.

I guarantee you it will make me cry if I were to listen to it…however, as the traumatic memories would probably also trigger me to kill myself, I don’t think I’ll be trying anytime soon.

3. The Story (Brandi Carlile)

The Story was an album I used to listen to a lot when I was writing the original incarnation of this blog in 2007.

Whenever I hear any song on the album I think of those confused, distorted, homeless days and all the pain I was recording for the world to read.

4.Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)

We were sitting on a ferry still in dock at Lochmaddy harbour. I had arrived on the island alone to celebrate the New Year in a place that I held dear to my heart; I was returning beside a beautiful woman.

As I tried to comprehend the massive change my life had taken she pulled out a CD player and slipped a disc inside. Popping on ear bud into my left ear, the other into her right ear, she took hold of my leg and told me she wanted to play me her favourite song.

Five and a half years later I am standing in a flat I had called home for three years. All that remains is memory as our once wonderful relationship lay in unrepairable tatters on the floor.

Slipping a CD into the player I listened to one last song to remind me of the good times before leaving. It had me in tears the moment his breath hit the speakers.

5. I Try (Macy Gray)

Oh. My. God.

This song is one of two songs that immediately takes me back to one of the greatest times of my life. For several months in late 1999, early 2000, I long-termed at an Inverness backpacker hostel with a group of some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

That winter, this song was a huge hit and played many, many times via the stereo during the period. However, it did not make me cry until late February.

As with all travelling eventually the time comes to go home and as I was home it was everyone else who was leaving. In the space of six days I said a farewell to three of the greatest people I’d ever met and as I walked, alone for the first time in months, through the streets of London I walked into a music store off Piccadilly. As I browsed the CDs this song began to play and, even though I tried to stop it, the tears just came as I realised a chapter of my life was closing and things would never be the same again.

Yep, still no tears, but I came close with Hallelujah and I Try. And no, I didn’t dare try Bernadette Peters!

When the day comes that I cry again, I’ll be sure to let you know :)

Until then, what songs move you to tears?