Five years ago today I was sitting on the carpet of a dingy flat pressing ‘publish’ on All that I am, all that I ever was…
After spending days writing an article called My War against Mental Illness I had decided this single document wasn’t enough to explain the various chaotic experiences I had been through in my life – and with nothing better to do – decided to begin a blog to share my experiences and life with the world.
At the time blogging was nowhere near at the level it is now. These days every woman, man, owlet, wild boar and aspiring journalist has a corner of the internet in which to rant, write, rave, witticise and promote their thoughts. But in the days of the forced “…is…” Facebook status update, the world was still coming to terms with allowing everyone an outlet to share their opinions.
If I had known that five years later I would be sitting on the carpet of a dingy flat writing the very same blog (only in a different location) I would have called you anything from brilliantly psychic to completely insane!
And in all honesty I really don’t know what to think about it.
Is it an achievement? I can hardly say I’ve been blogging for five years considering the long periods of non-writing. Nor can I say I’ve really advanced my life in any way, shape or form. In fact, in many aspects, I’m worse than I was way back then!
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been a tad emotional today, lost somewhere in that strange mix of celebration and nostalgia. Given the sheer number of blogs these days it’s rare for any to last longer than two or three years; so to hit the five-year mark (bugger the inactivity) is a wonderful feeling. As is the fact that my posts have gotten better over the years. But the fact my life is worse than it was back then is frustrating and upsetting – especially with the sheer, back-breaking hard work I’ve put in over the years!
However, for today anyway, I’m trying to forget all that. Today I am celebrating my blog and all I’ve done over the last five years. So, in this ludicrously self-absorbed back-slapping post, I share with you five of my top five lists for things achieved over the last five years.
And yes, I could have written ‘five’ more in that paragraph had I wanted to! :p
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
My five biggest accomplishments of the last five years
1. Having my short story published in 2009.
Over the last few months I have been making an effort to track a copy of this down so I can scan and prove to one and all that it happened. An email I received three days ago has got me one step closer, so hopefully within the next few weeks I will be able to entertain you all with my rather random but not too shabby short story skills!
2. Finding accommodation after nearly three years of homelessness
If you’ve never been homeless you will not understand how difficult it is to find housing from this lifestyle, nor why it is something to be proud of. So, I suggest you read my Reflections on being homeless series and then put yourself in my position. Would you have had the strength to keep going after experiencing all of that?
3. Completing a readable version of The Ghosts That Haunt Me
Given my memory is not too good these days I keep forgetting to ask my parents to check their loft for the USB stick I hope still contains a copy of this work. One day I’ll remember and be able to share it with one and all on these very pages! Until then, it still ranks as a great achievement of my life and the last five years.
As previously mentioned, it was a novel I began work on in 2000 and completed the initial draft through a combination of self-harm, alcohol and psychosis in 2007. Two years – and many, many hours of editing later – I had a readable draft. Stephanie enjoyed it, as did a couple of publishers, but alas they chose not to push ahead with publishing random urban fantasy. Knowing what sells books these days, I would have toned down the complicated relationships, unconventional story structure and subtext laden fantasising in favour of amping up the spanking quota and changing the title to The Ghosts That Spank Me.
If I’d done that, everyone could have been reading my work whilst getting all hot and bothered on the way to work :p
4. Beating back the anxiety, nervousness and confusion to help Sammi realise a dream
I am currently working on a sequel to my One Night in Adelaide post (cunningly titled One Night in Glasgow) that recounts the whole tale of this difficult, beautiful and most brilliant of evenings. Until then, given my issues at the time, I am continually proud of myself for beating past the demons to create one of the highlights of my life.
5. I’m still alive
Some may consider this a failing (as I do from time to time) but after half a decade of pain, misery and virtually non-existent happiness…the fact I’m still standing should be enough for a brief outpouring of pride :)
My five biggest failures of the last five years
1. I’m an atrocious friend
I have spoken on numerous occasions over the last few years of my failure to be there for Grace in 2008. Savvy readers will make the connection between this and my brain’s decision that I deserve to be punished for the rest of eternity. See: what I was thinking when I had the shit beaten out me when I intervened between an abusive boyfriend and his girlfriend in 2010; my amplified feelings of failure to be there for Stephanie in 2009; and my ongoing social isolation.
2. Being unable to save Stephanie
Although I’m aware my guilt over this suicide is misplaced, I can’t quite get past the thinking that I could have done more than I did.
According to the Australian public I deserve to be homeless. Given that I failed to be there for a friend and failed to save another’s life, my mind has chosen to agree with them. Like I said, punished for the rest of eternity. (And yes, latent trauma from the abuse has caused this mindset!)
4. My inability to stabilise myself and become the person I know I can be
Every day for the last five years I’ve thought about all the things I could be doing. If I hadn’t been investing so much energy into finding accommodation or stabilising mental illness or dealing with psychosis or combatting my anxiety; I could be housed, educated, part of a social network and the person I was working so hard to be by now.
Someone people could be proud of, someone who had all the things a mid thirtysomething male should have achieved by now.
As it is, society makes me feel like a failure, and in many ways they’re right. Just not in all of them.
5. My multiple suicide attempts
Since writing My Suicide Attempts in late 2007 I am embarrassed to admit there have been others since. In fact, at least one a year over the last five years. No matter how much I understand the irrationality and selfishness of these attempts, I still feel deeply ashamed of them. Of my failings as a person and in life; all of which will be discussed in a post later in this birthday week.
The five blog posts that you should read to gain an understanding of what I deal with
1. My War against Mental Illness (2007)
The post that started me on this journey of self-discovery and recovery. Written pre-bipolar diagnosis, a few weeks after a suicide attempt, it recants the life I had lived with depression, self-harm and suicide attempts. Five years later, I am still immensely proud of this article.
2. (Some) True Confessions of a Self-Harmer (2007)
Although written at a time of wild mood swings and a complete inability to focus, this captured (as best I could at the time) some of the trials I had been through in regards to self-harming. It should go without saying that this post may be triggering to some.
3. Reflections on being homeless (2012)
Okay, I’m cheating slightly, but this series of posts are essential to understanding what I’ve been through over the last five years. Many people in today’s world still see homelessness as an ‘adventure’, as a wonderful and enjoyable experience that people have chosen to live.
I dare you to read these posts and then tell me why I (or anyone) would choose to live like this!
More than anything, social anxiety has had a destructive and debilitating effect on my life. This post deals with the perils this condition has had on my ability to build and retain friendships and relationships.
This stream of consciousness post was written in the middle of the night at the tail end of weeks of triggers and recurring nightmares. Tackling everything from triggering to victim-blame mentality to the ongoing trauma of abuse it is difficult reading, but one of the pieces I am most proud of over the last five years as it captures the pain, anger, confusion, frustration and humiliation I’ve been through far better than most of the posts I’ve written.
The five blog posts that I had the most fun writing
1. Men and Mental Health (2007)
I can still remember writing the middle section of this post with a wide grin on my face and a song in my heart. One of the rare posts from the early days of my blog that I still love to this day; humourous, ironic, personal and with a serious sting in the tail.
2. Addy’s (slightly tongue in cheek) guide to dealing with having a home after being homeless (2010)
Although it could (and possibly should) be re-written with a more serious and earnest tone, this post from a period of my life I have little memory of, is still tremendous fun and captures my spirit and personality whilst dealing with a serious and difficult issue.
3. Fifty reasons why I blog (2012)
To mark my fiftieth post on the revamped version of All that I am, all that I ever was I set myself the challenge to write fifty reasons why I blogged. It turned out to be a lot harder than I’d originally thought but I did succeed in listing fifty reasons :)
4. My life in books (2012)
After writing a post called My Life in Movies that had been inspired from a blog post I’d found, I decided to do the same with books. Cue an immensely enjoyable romp through the literature of my life and all the books that mean the world to me.
However much I would like to remove the password from this (and other posts) my anxiety over this aspect of my personality – brought on by destructive reactions from the people I trusted over the years – means it must remain for the time being. However, should you wish to read this journey through an aspect of my sexuality (doesn’t take a genius to work out what!) you’re more than welcome to do so. Of course, family need not apply; you guys know far too much about me as it is!
My five happiest memories of the last five years
1. Spooning with Sammi whilst watching My Neighbour Totoro
I’ve written of this before; and, as I mentioned above, I will be writing of it again in more detail soon.
2. Seeing my old friends achieve happiness
Although I haven’t had any contact with them for years, from my brief time on Facebook in 2009/10 I remember seeing all they’d achieved and feeling overjoyed for each and every one of them. As I’ve said in the past, all I ever wanted for the people I care about was to see them be happy, so to know that they are is wonderful.
3. My brother’s wedding
Even if you take out the fact I looked utterly magnificent in the full dress kilt I was wearing (in the traditional sense!) this was a wonderful day of joy, happiness, celebration and love :)
4. July 2008
After eighteen months of isolation, fighting through both physical and mental illness, losing everything I’d ever had, I was able to fight my way into a job and meet a wonderful woman. Although this job was, in retrospect, a huge mistake (given my complete lack of stability at the time) the first month I was there and getting to know my girlfriend was a beautiful period of my life.
In true bipolar style, by August everything had already begun turning to shit, and by September my medication was tripled in an effort to calm my mind down – an act that caused dozens of problems!
So whenever I think of that period I keep my mind in that lone little month of exploration, sleepy lizard cuddling, underwear eating and motel hopping.
5. January 26th, 2009
The last time I can remember being truly happy; a day of fun, frolics, swimming, dining, massaging and sex.
My biggest wish in this world is to experience a moment of happiness again. Four years is just far too long to be without happiness and joy.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
With all I’ve been through it’s hard to say whether I will be blogging in five years time. But given I never thought I’d be writing this blog five years after commencing it, who knows what the future will bring.
Perhaps in five years time I will have graduated from university and be spending my days working a marvellous job and my evenings cooking a beautiful meal for my wife and family to enjoy. Perhaps I will be sitting in the same spot as I am now wondering what more I need to do to be accepted in this world as anything more than a mentally ill, (ex) homeless man. Perhaps I will be dead.
For now, I’m going with the first of those three options :)
Until then, thank you all for supporting me over the last five years. Your friendship and kindness is what keeps me traveling on this bumpy road toward recovery.
And before I sign off…no, I didn’t cry today – I was just riffing on a rather famous song :p