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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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)