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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I’m so useless that…

I haven’t been feeling all that great over the last couple of weeks. So I thought I’d try freewrite something to see if getting it out will cleanse the soul a little. Apologies if it’s a little ‘woe is me’. It’s just how I’ve been feeling lately.

lake hume

Lake Hume (where I went for the camp)

Last year, I didn’t want to attend the camp that my mental health organisation organized. I was stressed. I was exhausted. And I wanted a few days to myself in order to recharge my internal batteries. But one of the staff members (unintentionally) manipulated my appeasement mode and I ended up going. As it turned out, I was ultimately happy that I’d gone because I ended up having a wonderful, relaxing time.

So this year, I was looking forward to it. In fact, for many weeks it was the bright spot that kept me going. I was anticipating a few days of relaxation; a few days of chilling with random people; a time to recharge my batteries away from the monotonous hell of Wodonga. So it stands to reason that I ended up having a miserable time; a time that left me emotionally raw, traumatized and desperately in need of a hug!

In fact, the camp was such a hideous time that nearly two weeks later I’m still feeling emotionally delicate, unable to function and filled with a lethargic flatness that is beyond annoying.

My reaction to the camp had nothing to do with how it was organized (which was with a military like precision) or how supportive the staff and other attendees were (which was immensely supportive) but because it served as a stark reminder as to how utterly useless I am at pretty much everything.

  • I’m so useless that I had to sleep in my tent because I’m unable to move past the trauma of my various boarding house experiences in order to sleep in the shared accommodation that everyone else was sleeping in.
  • I’m so useless that in the four days I was there I had three conversations with people who weren’t staff; two of those on the same day.
  • I’m so useless that whenever I was in the presence of a beautiful woman I froze up and became a gibbering, monosyllabic idiot.
  • I’m so useless that I attended only two of the activities because I couldn’t deal with getting on the various buses/boats that were necessary for the remaining activities.
  • I’m so useless that four people felt the need to point out how much weight I’ve put on recently, you know, just in case the guy with body image issues hadn’t already noticed!
  • I’m so useless that I ended up cooking lunch and dinner on all the days I was there, not because I enjoyed it, but because it made me feel a little more useful. And once I’d cooked the food, I was the first person in the kitchen to help with the clean up because – you guessed it – it made me feel that bit more useful.
  • I’m so useless that I have no idea how to relax anymore; hence my need to busy myself with kitchen duties to make me feel less superfluous.
  • I’m so useless that I couldn’t even organize a trivia night without it being filled with errors.
  • I’m so useless that by the third day I was spontaneously bursting into tears as my mind plagued me with suicidal fantasies as punishment for how useless I believe I am.
  • I’m so useless that, as a result of these suicidal fantasies, I had to leave the camp early and return to my home where I could curl up on the couch and weep away from prying eyes.
  • I’m so useless that I couldn’t even remember to pack my phone charger, which means I’ve been without a phone for the last two weeks and will be until I can obtain a replacement.

And as I write this list I realise that I could keep going with many more examples of how useless I am, but won’t because I’m so useless that I can’t risk typing any more in case I begin to start crying again.

*DEEP BREATH*

The other reason I don’t want to continue writing that list is because I know it’s not helpful. It’s just a chance to whinge about how pointless my life feels from time to time; a chance to unload weeks of negative emotion in the hope that it will allow me to find a way to move onwards and upwards.

But I know what’s been happening to me isn’t just ‘me feeling bad’. A large part of what’s been happening over the last few weeks is down to the medication change-over I’ve been going through. It was running rampant in the days leading up to the camp and continued plaguing me throughout. But it would be easy (and a little simplistic) to blame the woes of that week on medication alone.

The simple fact is I’ve been on my own seven years, doing nothing but surviving, that I have forgotten what it means to relax, I have forgotten how to communicate with people and I do feel useless most of the time.

I know that how I view myself lies at the core of all my mental health issues. And what this camp did was take all my fears, all my failings, all my inadequacies and throw them to the forefront of my existence.

It made me realise how little I’ve actually come since my breakdown in 2007 and how far I still have to go to become the person I so wish to be.


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One Day in Glasgow

Glasgow

For Samantha,
the world is a lesser place without you.
xox

Introduction

Ever since writing the post One Night in Adelaide I’ve wanted to write its sequel: One Day in Glasgow, yet every time I sit down to chronicle the events of (what is possibly) the best day of my life, words fail me. It’s not that I don’t know what to write, I do, it’s just that I cannot assemble the words to form coherent, emotional sentences. And this post is an emotional one, at least for me, as it deals with the last time I ever saw my friend Samantha face-to-face.

Samantha was an incredible woman; intelligent, charming and ravishingly beautiful. She had a mature, almost philosophical outlook on this crazy thing called life, yet despite this maturity there was a delicious immature streak running throughout her soul; equally at ease playing with crayons as she was debating the age-old question of why we’re here.

It was almost impossible to meet Samantha without falling in love with her on some level. She never judged, never held grudges and had an almost super-human ability to draw the best out of people.

But none of this means she was perfect, far from it. Samantha worked too hard; filling almost every moment of her life with a project, scheme or double-shift at work, all of which leaving little time for play or relaxing. And when she did relax, she ventured far too easily into the world of illegal narcotics, with ecstasy and speed being her drugs of choice; a choice that would ultimately spell her untimely end.

But this post is not about her death, nor my reaction to it, that will follow in good time. This post is about my memories of her. It is about the day Samantha took time off from her life to hang out with a slightly overweight, mentally ill man who, according to her journal, made her feel happiness like no-one she’d ever met.

Because it has taken so much to get this post out of my system, I’ve decided on three things:

1) That instead of retelling the events of the day in intimate detail, I will instead focus on extrapolating the principal memories of that day; for in these memories lives the essence of who Samantha was; and it is she that I want you all to meet.

2) I have decided to write each memory in the style that Samantha preferred (and encouraged me) to write in, namely, freewriting. Rather than focus endlessly on each sentence, each punctuation mark and the meaning behind chosen words, I have just allowed each memory to flow from my mind before moving onto the next. Hopefully, by doing this, I will be creating a post that Samantha would be proud of.

3) With Samantha’s preferences still firmly in mind, I have also chosen to tell the tale of our twenty-four hours in Glasgow in a non-linear format. Each of the illustrations below depict one of the memories of my time in that great city. They have not been arranged in any particular order and you are encouraged to dip in and out of the memories in any way you see fit. For as Samantha used to say, rarely in life do things return to us in the exact order that they happened.

Hopefully by choosing to write this post to the above specifications, I will be creating a post that Samantha would not only have enjoyed reading, but one she would be proud to be the inspiration behind.

   
Please note, the items marked with a padlock are password protected.
Should you wish to read these memories, please contact me via email.


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And so it begins…

*Trigger Warning*
~ Please note that this post may be triggering to some ~

Christmas

Every year it’s the same. The shops will begin filling with sparkly tinsel, oversized boxes of chocolate and all manner of snowmen, Santa Claus and reindeer covered merchandise. Turkeys will take over the frozen food department and ridiculously large legs of ham will fill the deli. The in-store music will begin playing carols, Slade and Cliff Richard, whilst everyone in them will run around like headless chickens preparing for a season of festivities with their friends, family and loved ones.

Every year it’s the same. A few weeks before Christmas I will begin isolating myself; I will begin contemplating self-harm; and I will begin questioning whether this holiday season will be my last. For whilst everyone else is relishing the opportunity of celebrating another year gone with those they hold most dear, I am dreading another holiday season with no-one to care for but myself.

This weekend marked the beginning of this year’s pain.

On Saturday I rose from a fitful slumber at 4pm, staggering to my couch for a good cry before self-harming with a kitchen knife to help me through the evening. My mind was swamped with daymares of snow covered scenes, scary Santas and another holiday season with no-one to hold. I remained on the couch until 10pm before retreating to the safety of my bedroom for another crying session and another night’s fitful sleep.

Sunday was much the same. Even though I rose earlier, at 12pm, the invasive thoughts of self-harm and suicide were with me from the moment I woke. I cleaned the apartment, sat in sadness on the couch and convinced myself that I needed to venture into the outside world. A trip that filled me with sorrow as people maniacally rushed around the shopping center stocking up for C-Day, a mere three weeks away. By the time I returned home I was back in full-on isolation mode. I couldn’t have the radio on because of the wall-to-wall Christmas music. I couldn’t surf the net without being inundated with pop-up Christmas ads and festive season themed news reports. All I could do was spend another evening staring at the television whilst self-harming with creams and the occasional blissful knife.

All I could do was dread another season of pain, another season of isolation and another season wishing that people would understand that, for some, the holiday season is not about love, happiness and togetherness. It is about pain, despair and loneliness.

With three weeks to go I realise I need to concoct a safety plan, I realise I need ways to counteract the oncoming storm and I realise that no matter how hard I’ve worked this year, the triggering effect of Christmas is still as strong, overwhelming and powerful as ever.

Note: this post was freewritten between 11:10am and 11:30am on Monday, 8th December 2013. Please excuse any spelling and/or grammatical errors that may appear within as they are all part and parcel of this style of writing.


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Days 27 & 28: Take the good with the bad

Because I’ve been a little behind with the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge, I have decided not to think about the answers to days 27 and 28 all that much. Instead, I’ve decided to freewrite my answers in one combined post.

The prompts ask: explain a good day and explain a bad day, so I shall begin with the bad…

Bad Day

Bad day

The first thought that comes to mind when thinking about a ‘bad day’ is a complicated one. A bad day for me is a mess of complex emotions, crippling pain and (more often than not) tears.

I’ve become all too familiar with these days over the last five years. Hours upon days upon weeks of my life lost to the torment of negative emotion, obsessive self-hate and punishing self-harm.

On a bad day I struggle to get out of bed. Words lose their meaning and appear in random patterns on the page. I can’t think or speak. I can’t dream or believe. I become lost to the demon that lurks within me and obey her every whim, desire and torturous demand.

On a bad day I become someone I don’t recognise. My soul is stripped of the passions and pleasures that usually resonate from within. I lose interest in everything that normally brings me joy and spend my hours staring into space, wondering about the sweet release of death.

On a bad day I’m not Addy. I’m no-one. Just a shapeless object taking up space.

Yes. A bad day is a day that sees me disappear.

Good Day

Good day

The first thought that comes to mind when thinking about a ‘good day’ is a simple one. A good day for me is a day that sees me smile, even if it is just one momentary smirk of the lips.

Smiling is something I know I don’t do enough of. It’s not that I don’t like smiling; it’s just that after the half decade I’ve had there is very little left to smile about.

People tell me I should just “fake it ‘til I make it”, but in my opinion faking a smile is tantamount to faking an orgasm. Why pretend to feel something that you’re not? It just lessens the pleasure of when it happens naturally.

So when it does happen naturally, it’s something I became acutely aware of. I know why I’m smiling; it reverberates through my body from the tips of my hair to the nails of my toes, I celebrate it, relish it, bathe in it. I cherish every moment of those smiles and whatever has prompted my lips to curl and soul to sing in the first place.

Yes. A good day is a day that sees me smile.

 


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Creative Therapy: The Hero Dies in this One

stairway

Every Monday afternoon for the last eleven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.

In today’s group we undertook a writing prompt that is inspired by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; we imagined ourselves listening to a friend/relative deliver our eulogy (or eightieth birthday address, depending on how morbid we felt) and then shared with the group what we would like that person to say about us.

This was my eulogy (which was freewritten between 2:25pm and 2:55pm):

Many people seem to say that ‘all men are simple’, but in my experience, Andrew was anything but. Throughout the time he and I were friends, I saw him face many challenges and road-blocks, yet in spite of a few stumbles along the way, he dealt with each and every one of them with genuine courage and aplomb. He as a man who – despite all the odds – refused to bow down and give up; a quality that I have long admired.

Andrew summed it up best in his book ‘The (Occasionally) Manic Adventures of a Lonely Heart’ when he wrote:

No matter how I’ve approached my life, no-one has been able to better phrase my
philosophy than my dear friend Samantha. Little did she know when she typed those
words, that she’d be giving someone their mantra for life: “It you always worry about
what other people think, you will always be their prisoner,”

For as long as I’ve known him, he has lived true to these words. From the dark days of suicide and depression, from the even darker days of homelessness and hopelessness, Andrew fought against his oppressors to be his own, self-made man. He wouldn’t let anyone hold him back, label him or define him. His actions, not his words, revealed to the world who he was, and that man was an inspiration not just to me, but to many others.

In his passing, Andrew leaves behind a wife and four beautiful children, all of whom he loved beyond measure. He leaves behind a body or writing that has thrilled and inspired millions of readers. He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled.

His passion for life, for humanity, for giving those society deemed as ‘voiceless’ a chance to hold their held up and have their say is a testament to us all.

He is a man who I miss, for I don’t think there will ever again be anyone quite like Andrew.

The exercise is designed for us to look at our values, hopes and aspirations. It is about taking a moment away from negative self talk and being kind to past, present and future selves.

During the discussion after the activity, it was comprehensively concluded that being kind to ourselves felt “wrong”, “un-natural” and “very strange”. There was also much apprehension (from myself included) about not talking ourselves up, with our minds editing our writing so we didn’t come across as too “arrogant” or “full of ourselves”.

The line I picked from my eulogy as an example of this was ‘He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled‘; for however much I’d like to think my passing would leave a hole in someone’s world, to say it out loud to a group did make me feel like I was thinking too highly of myself.

But this is the whole point of the exercise; there is nothing wrong with thinking so highly of ourselves.

In fact, many of us would benefit from doing it much more often than we do.

Myself included.


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Creative Therapy: Freewriting

A Race with Mermaids and Tritons (Collier Smithers)

Every Monday afternoon for the last seven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.

Over the last six weeks we have looked at (amongst other things) the passion that books can bring to our lives, the benefits of writing a letter to younger/older selves and retuning our mind to look at the positive rather than negative aspects of our lives.

Today, we took a look at freewriting; a writing technique that can be beneficial in unblocking writer’s block and freeing our minds during journalling.

What is freewriting

Freewriting involves sitting down and writing for a predetermined period of time. During this time – usually five to twenty minutes, depending on the individual – you write whatever comes to mind without thinking of spelling, grammar, topic or structure. If you cannot think of anything to write, you write that you cannot think of anything to write – and keep writing about this until another topic springs to mind.

Rarely will freewriting produce useable material, but in analysing the end product of freewriting, it will often shine light on topics you would like to write about as you are writing without the usual self-criticism or apathy.

One major example of when I freewrite is in my journal writing. Rarely will I sit down and write about what I did during the day or how I felt at a certain time, I sit down and write freely for half an hour and just see what springs to mind.

An example of freewriting…

This is the unedited result of the freewriting exercise we undertook in today’s group, partly inspired by the painting A Race with Mermaids and Tritons by Collier Smithers. For the record, we freewrote for approximately twenty minutes.

Whenever mermaids arise as a topic, a work of art or characters within a motion picture, Meadhbh goes into total overdrive. For some inexplicable reason she adores these nymphets of the sea second only to dragons in the mythological ouvre. If there was such a thing as mermaids riding dragons, or mermaid-dragons or dragon-mermaids, she would probably achieve some heavenly level of bliss. At this second, with a painting of a mermaid a mere few inches from her, she is squeeing and squirling like a kid over hundred&thousand covered ice-cream. I am not. I am trying to concentrate on this exercise throught the rabble and din she is making. And not very easily considering I had intended writing fiction but instead find myself writing about her – again – although it could be worse, I could be writing about me. And what would I say then? Not much. So. Alrighty. Well. Let’s try tell a wee story.

Once upon a time there was a mermaid whose name was Kira. Kira lived in the North Sea – not so far off the coast of Scotland – and had spent most of her life completely pissed off about the shoddy and entirely stereotyped portrayal of her kind. Hans Christian Bloody Anderson! Bollocks. The Little Effing Mermaid; horse shit. She wasn’t some doe-eyed, naive little moron who swanned around with fishes and forever dreamt of being human. Who the crap would want to be human? Meandering around dry land without even a squid for company? Bor-ring! She relished being under the sea. She loved her scaly posterior. She adored the fact she couldn’t sing cheesy love ballads. Damn human stereotyping. Kira was a lean, mean fighting machine. Hell, she once took on a fucking Killer What and came out on top.

And yes. No freaking idea where that story is going. A Hit-Mermaid? How exactly is that gonna work? God knows. But hey, it’s the most creative I’ve been for several millenia. Damn homelessness. Damn abuse. Sucking me dry. Or is that just an excuse? Mere procrastination because I can’t be arsed finding the focus I once had? Probably. When I look at the image I see a love story about a couple with two sides of the painting. I see a historical piece about its creation. I see a piece of erotica about sex-craved mer-folk. I see an urban fantasy about the individuals depicted. Yet despite seeing all this, I can’t even begin to write the tales. Yup. It’s either procrastination or trauma-induced blockage or just that I don’t have the skill. Bollocks. I have the skill. I just don’t…again…procrastination.

Meadhbh hates me for that. She misses the creative side of me. Misses the explosion of joy when I get an idea. I dunno. Running out of steam now. Metaphor for my life. Perhaps I just need to write a story about mer-dragons and keep everybody happy. Hmmm?

…and what it tells me!

After reading the piece back, I decided to analyse what it actually revealed and whether there were any themes or ideas I could expand upon in more detail in the future:

1) It reveals that I am physically tired and that I am having issues with procrastination and finding the focus.

2) It contains several possible ideas for fictional stories (including the slightly random Hit-Mermaid idea!)

3) It also reveals information about my primary voice, Meadhbh and her various likes and dislikes; as well as something that Meadhbh doesn’t like about me.

4) It also tells me that I am still adversely affected by both homelessness and the abuse I experienced, as well as proving my negative self-view is firmly embedded in my thought processes.

Thus, the stand-out themes for me to write on would be homelessness, abuse and self-criticism (which I have been writing on for some time), my procrastinating nature/lack of energy (something I have not touched on in any great detail) and dragons who are also mermaids; which, I have to admit, sound kinda cool! :p

So why not give freewriting a try yourself and see what happens? You may be surprised at what you come up with.