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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25 Songs, 25 Days: Hallelujah

Day 08: A song that reminds you of your “first love”.

Hallelujah | Jeff Buckley


My first visit to Berneray, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, occurred in February 2000. After long-terming in a backpacker hostel, myself and two friends decided to do some traveling and opted for the Western Isles. After touring Lewis and Harris we boarded a ferry, crossed the Sound of Harris, and arrived on Berneray shortly after lunch. Almost immediately we were spellbound by the island’s scenery, location and atmosphere. The following morning we sat outside the hostel, on the shore of the island, watching the sun rise over the ocean. We were all speechless, completely hypnotized by the stunning spectacle before us.

Ten months later, after months of traveling Canada and beginning college, I decided I wanted to spend New Year somewhere special. And the only place that came to mind was Berneray. It had lived in my heart throughout the entire year, a memory of happiness, of solace and of contentment. After months of traveling around Canada, making and losing friends and navigating the intricacies of a college education, I needed the joy of Berneray, of that memory with my friends, to see me through into 2001.

So, early in the morning on the 29th December, I set off on the long journey. A train ride, a bus ride, a ferry ride and another bus ride later, I was standing on the shore of Berneray’s east coast, the same spot where I had sat ten months earlier watching a spectacular sunset. I was alone. But I was happy.

Later that night I was busying myself with journal writing when some fellow travelers arrived at the hostel. One was an elderly Englishman. The other, a twentysomething Australian. Almost instantly I was smitten with the Australian’s contagious smile, sparkling eyes and cheeky sense of humor. I didn’t say much, but I introduced myself, told her I was a student and listened intently to stories from her traveling adventure. I found out her name was Louise and that she was on the UK leg of a world-traveling adventure. She had been to Thailand, Europe, Ireland and had decided to come to Scotland to look for work. She had bumped into the Englishman in a hostel in Glasgow and, after being told of the oasis that was Berneray, had been invited to come along for the New Year.

We did little but talk and flirt that first night. Eventually succumbing to our tiredness and slinking off to our respective bedrooms, no doubt to dream about the other. The next morning we got talking again and, after being invited, I accompanied them on a tour around the local landscape, stopping off at a variety of food stores to stock up for the coming days. That night, after returning to the hostel, Louise and I got talking again. We ended up playing a drinking game that had been left at the hostel and, midway through, after excusing myself for a cigarette break, we stood out the front of the hostel. A blanket of stars above us. The gently rolling sound of the surf beside us. It was then when, out of the blue, Louise asked the question that would change my life: “Can I kiss you?”

If Louise hadn’t asked this question there is no way my anxiety riddled mind would have been able to make a move on her, no matter how much I wanted to. And if I hadn’t made a move, if that kiss hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would never have moved to Australia. I would never have managed a backpacker hostel. I would never have met Kathy or Grace or Mae. I would never have had a breakdown. That kiss, that singular moment, changed the course of my life. And, after all the chaos and pain, after everything that has happened to me, if I could go back and change it. To shake some sense into myself. To stop that kiss from ever occurring. There isn’t a part of me that would.

For that kiss led to my first relationship. Within days of meeting, Louise decided to accompany me back to Inverness. She moved into my bedsit and we began a relationship that would last five and a half years. A period of time that, for the most part, was full of happiness and joy. As we sat on the ferry at Lochmaddy, awaiting the crossing to Uig, Louise slipped a CD into her discman and popped an earbud into my ear. She wanted to play me a song, one of her favourites, to start our adventure off on the right note. I had never heard of the artist – Jeff Buckley – before. I had never heard of the song – Hallelujah – before. But I was enchanted from the moment his breath hit the headphones.

Hallelujah would go on to become the most important song in my life. It will forever be a reminder of my first relationship, of my first love, and of how quickly, and unexpectedly, life can change.


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Unsent Letter #3: My life would be empty had you never been in it

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. Not sure how this one is gonna go down. Hopefully not badly.

5 September 2012

Dear ——–.

Did I ever tell you what I was thinking when I pulled your purple pyjamas off the line? How when the wind began to pick up and the rain threaten to fall, I dashed outside and plucked them from certain drowning in the Hebridean Sea, all because I wanted to see how cute your perfect posterior looked within them.

Yep. You probably thought I was being a modern-day, slightly scruffy Mr Darcy when I saved the pyjamas of a relative stranger from being lost at sea. But nope, I was just thinking of your cute backside and how much I had already begun to fall for its owner.

I’m hoping you know me well enough to know I didn’t fall for you simply because of your quality arse, but in case you don’t, and for the benefit of the blogging audience, I didn’t.

I fell for you the first night we met, the moment you staggered out of the Professor’s car wearing every item of clothing you owned. I fell for you the moment our eyes met and you smiled that contagious smile of yours. By the time we huddled around the fire entertaining ourselves with a dodgy fashion advice book you’d already stolen my heart, so your deliberate sexual pronunciation of breasts and buttocks and bosom and stockings was just torture. But you know that, don’t you?

Did you know I lay in bed that night fantasising about you? How I craved to be the one to slowly peel each layer of clothing from your body? Did I tell you how much we laughed in that fantasy as I removed over a dozen pairs of underwear before finally getting to the good stuff!

Just like with that book, and the drinking game, and the oh-so-take-me-now ”yes please” you whispered under your breath that first night, you knew you had me caught in your splendiferousness.

So much has happened since we last met, since we shared a tea and you quoted Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. So much heartbreak and loss, confusion and darkness, that sometimes I thought nothing would make me smile again. But no matter how wrong it sounds, how weird or pathetic, when things get too much I just allow myself to drift back to the hostel and those first few blissful days.

Even though it’s a sure-fire way to make me cry – happy tears, just like now – it’s also a sure-fire way to make me smile. As they say, you always remember your first time, and I am so grateful that my first time was with someone so understanding, so beautiful, so kind-hearted and whose posterior looked so utterly magnificent in purple pyjamas!

Blimey, so many memories are flooding back right now I think I need to take a moment. I was always a bit soft, you know that, but in recent years tears have become few and far between; I should have known memories of you would bring them back in a heartbeat.

For the last few years my mind has oscillated between anger, frustration, guilt and joy whenever I think of you. Anger because of what you did; frustration because of all I sacrificed; guilt because of the things I never said and joy because, well, you’re you. How could I not feel joy with all we shared?

I hope you won’t mind if I skip the anger and go straight to the guilt. We spent too much time in the anger that year that there is little left to say on the matter. I made mistakes. You made mistakes. We were both human. All I will say is that I’m sorry I didn’t handle the situation better. I’ve returned to those months many times over the last few years and no matter when I do all I see is a man struggling to figure out what was happening. I tried so hard to explain but I could never find the words to get across to you how scared I was. Not because of what happened but because of myself.

That sharp drop into depression obliterated me that year. I didn’t understand it like I do now. I never had. Which is where the guilt comes in – and I need to talk about that, because it’s been eating away at me for years.

It would be a lie to say I’d never wondered if you’d read any of this blog. Back in those early days I thought of it often, worried about how you would take some of the things I wrote. You knew I suffered from depression, and you knew of my early suicidal thoughts, but the self-harm…I’m sorry.

There were so many times during our relationship that I wanted to talk to you about that. To tell you of the things I had done to myself. The day I self-harmed just before Christmas, when I lied to you about burning my hand on the stove, all I wanted you to know was that I had done it to myself; that I wasn’t coping and didn’t know what to do anymore. Perhaps if I’d told you, you could have helped me find help, but I guess that’s what karma is for. It sure did come back to bite me on the ass, I assure you.

For years I convinced myself I hadn’t told you of my self-harm past because I was protecting myself. When I met you I hadn’t self-harmed for over a month, and then there was kissing and sex and experimentation with handcuffs and long walks along the Ness and the urge was gone. I was scared that telling you would trigger me to doing it – and as time went on – it was no longer an issue. Until that day before Christmas. Until 2006.

There’s nothing I can say to alleviate that guilt, of keeping something so intimate from you, but know that I am deeply sorry for the things I never told you of my life. Like I said, if I had maybe I would have got help sooner, but like I said, karma.

Just like October 2007, for which there is no excuse. When I left that suicide letter I was out of my mind. I wasn’t thinking rationally. I wasn’t thinking at all. I barely remember leaving it and, when the psychiatrist at the hospital gave it back to me, I couldn’t even remember writing it.

There was no malice there, ——–, I promise. My mind was broken and I had no idea what I was doing; or the rational irrationality of the suicidal mind, as I have said to myself over the years.

So I’m sorry, truly. The thought that this is your last memory of me is punishment enough.

Then there’s frustration, but I think I’ll skip that as well. You know what I sacrificed for you. I emigrated for you! Through all these years of nothing I keep wondering where my life would be if you’d just told me you didn’t want to be with me anymore.

But then, if I hadn’t come to Australia, we would have missed out on so much happiness. Or, at least I hope they were happy years for you, because I’ve never regretted the time we spent together. All those walks along the beach, the long bike rides around Albert Park, lazy days in the flat and excursions to beautiful places. They fill my heart with such warmth and happiness all the pain of what happened between us dissipates.

And I just find myself remembering that same contagious smile I fell in love with on that distant island almost twelve years ago. And the perfect posterior that looked so edible in whatever you wore!

Okay, starting to sound like Karl Stefanovic, sorry.

The problem with streams of consciousness is that I am bound by the mythical rule of zero editing. If this weren’t such a post I would happily snip all I wrote between the symbols so you would only remember the happy times we shared.

Family aside, dearest ——–, you were the most important person in my life. In many ways, you still are, and given the likelihood I’ll be spending my remaining years alone, you always will be.

You taught me about life, art, literature and – to be crass, but equally true – the female body; both inside and out. You introduced me to a world of music beyond dodgy pop and random Scottish folk. You showed me what it was like to trust someone, to give yourself over to someone so completely that they become the guardian of your soul. You introduced me to the pain of a broken heart, a lesson as equally important as the introduction of love, which you were also responsible for.

My life would be so different had you never emerged in all those layers of clothes from the Professor’s car. Had you not seized control and asked if you could kiss me, nothing would be the same.

Perhaps for the better.

Perhaps not.

Either way, I know my life would be empty had you never been in it.

For all the years of wonder, beauty, love and bliss you gave me, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I loved you more than I ever dared to admit and I will continue doing so until my dying day.

I hope you found happiness, my dearest ——–, for my heart would break if you didn’t.

All My Love Always,

Addy xx