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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Ruminations on friendship from a lonely, forgotten soul

As per usual, my weekend has been subdued, quiet and uneventful. In fact, the only thing to happen of note was my date with Meadhbh on Saturday afternoon. After my Lego Batman fueled conversation with Audrey on Friday, Meadhbh opted to hunt fantastical creatures in Monster Hunter Tri, a Wii game that sees you play the part of a hunter tasked with ridding the environment of marauding creatures. We used to play it extensively back in 2013, and it is a game that marked a turning point in our relationship, as it symbolized the rebuilding of trust and friendship after Meadhbh’s abusive  phase. This came up in conversation on Saturday, with Meadhbh lamenting her years spent attacking me, though never once providing an explanation for why she had done it. She never has. It is just something I have to deal with, another complication in an already complicated relationship.

What my date with Meadhbh proved was twofold. Firstly, it proved to me that Meadhbh knows me better than anyone else. Audrey and Vanessa would disagree, of course, but Meadhbh can make my heart sing in ways they could only dream of. She has been part of my life for over twenty years, and as we talked on Saturday, we reminisced about various events and incidents that had defined our relationship. From the SNES gaming, self harming and school bullying teenage years, through to the supportive confident Meadhbh has become today. Secondly, my date with Meadhbh proved once and for all how lonely I have become. And although she says she understands, I don’t think even Meadhbh can grasp just how painful my isolation is.

For eight years now, save for a six month period in 2008, my only company has been my voices. I spend each and every day alone, isolated and ostracized from the world, and the people who populate it. Sure, there are people online who comment on my blog and extend friendship via the interwebs, and I love each and every one of them, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I am eternally alone. I miss having people text me. I miss having people phone me up just to see how I am. I miss meeting my friends at the pub for a lively trivia night. And I miss having someone to turn to when life gets me down. There is only so much my voices can do. Sure, they can offer a friendly ear and a supportive comment, but they cannot wrap their arms around my trembling body and hug the pain away. They cannot brush their hand over mine and whisper that everything will be alright. And they cannot slap me in the face and tell me to stop acting like a moron.

I miss my friends.

I miss Grace. I miss Samantha.

I miss Annie, Deborah and Rachel.

I even miss Kathy; before she became the emotionally abusive sociopathic narcissist she became.

Hostel Takeover (Impressionist Painting)

Myself, Grace, Kathy and others; proof that my friends did exist, once upon a time.

We had so many good times together. Times that, today, feel like distant long-ago dreams. Visions of serenity amidst a fog of chaos and pain. Annie and I spent so many wonderful days together in Canada; swimming in snake infested lakes, hiking mountainous regions and playing silly games whilst laying under a canvas roof. Deborah and I traveled Scotland together; exploring Stornoway, falling in love with Berneray and enacting movies amidst the Callanish Standing Stones. We used to stay up for hours, Deborah and I, just talking and smoking into oblivion. It was beautiful. And yet all these times; of Rachel slapping me in the face as we supped on whisky; of Grace and I performing an impromptu karaoke of Elephant Love Medley; of Samantha and I doing naughty (wonderful) things in a Glaswegian hotel, they are all but dreams now. Events that never happened. Events I have fabricated from the desolation of my own isolated imagination. The rampant fantasies of a lonely man lost to the world. Deep down I know they happened. Deep down I know I playfully spanked Samantha in an Adelaidian park, I know I used to sit in pubs and talk bollocks with Grace, I know Kathy and I would flirt our collective asses off with each other as we bent over a pool table. But those times, those moments and memories that make up my life, feel distant, deserted and wrong. They don’t feel like my memories. They feel like anything but.

It’s almost as if I need human contact to validate my life. To prove to myself that things actually happened. I need people around me to confirm that I do indeed exist. That things do happen to me. Because without that validation, without that confirmation, my life feels sterile, empty and hollow. I know the damage isolation has caused me. I know the devastation it has wrought on my life only too well. It has careened through everything, smashing its way through my existence with scant abandon, and now my isolation, my punishment, is slowly eating away at my memories. Turning them to dust. Turning them to dream. And I don’t know what to do about it. I know I need to make new friends. I know that would halt the chaos and be a profound turning point in my life. But how? How do I open myself up to other people? How do I trust again after the agony Kathy inflicted on me? After she turned our wonderful, unique friendship into her own manipulative, deceit filled lie?

The last time I opened myself up to someone was Diane, and she pissed it back in my face, flirting her way across Alice Springs, sleeping with random people on Christmas Day, embarking on dates whilst I sat alone in our unit. The time I opened myself up before that was Samantha, and although she didn’t turn it against me, although she loved me in her own unique way, she died, Samantha. She died. And I’ve never got over that betrayal. That loss. I don’t think I ever will. So how – how? – do I make new friends, how do I trust people again, after all the pain, heartache and betrayal I’ve experienced. How do I believe someone wants to be my friend. How do I know they’re not just pretending like Kathy was? Manipulating my emotions into believing I have someone who cares about me when all they want is for me to kill myself, as Kathy herself told me?

I want to make friends.

I want to part of something again.

I’ve just forgotten how.

And I don’t know what to do about it.

Meadhbh tells me I just need to put myself out there. That I need to embark on a series of random adventures that will see me come face to face with new people who will love me for who I am. I want to believe. But I don’t. I don’t see how anyone could like someone as broken, fucked up and worthless as me. Meadhbh tells me I’m not worthless, that I have a point, that I have a meaning, but I just don’t see it. The trauma of the abuse has crippled my ability to see myself as anything other than what Kathy informed me I was; useless, pathetic, selfish and worthless. The most unnecessary and repulsive human being to have ever lived. Meadhbh tells me I need to believe in myself, that no-one will ever love me until I love myself, and deep down I know she’s right. I’ve said the same things in the past. But how do I learn to love myself again when I cannot stand spending time with myself? When my day is a boring, monotonous routine of repetition? I try to shake it up. I try to do things differently. But it all feels wrong. It all feels pointless. I dunno. Maybe I’m just having a bad day. Maybe I’ve just been having one of those weekends where my brain runs away with itself; filling itself with all sorts of confusing, insecure flotsam and jetsam. Maybe spending time with Meadhbh made me miss my old friends so completely, so truly, that I’ve been unable to think of anything but their brilliant smiles, delightful wit and bizarre mentalities.

And now this post has descended into woe-is-me territory my mind is trying to convince me not to post it. People don’t want to read such navel gazing hyperbole, it says, people want to read inspiring motifs of wonderment and awesomeness! And it’s probably right, my mind, but I think it’s important to post this post all the same. It may not get much feedback. It may have no-one read it. But it would stand as testament to my current malaise. As proof that there was a time that I was loved; that I had friends; that I was someone people admired.

Like Audrey on Friday, I have agreed to date Meadhbh on a monthly basis. The third Saturday of every month, from 2pm-4pm, will be our time. We will do what she desires and talk about what she wants to talk about. I will spend time with my imaginary friend because I have no-one in reality to spend time with. For I am, as I will probably always be, a lonely, forgotten soul.

And on that note I will end for today, else I risk this post becoming even more bleak than it already is. Wishing you all a happy, friend-filled day! :)


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The pleasures and perils of writing about family and friends on a mental health blog

For those thinking I’ve bailed on my Mental Health Month Challenge, you’re wrong. At the very top of the PDF outlining the daily prompts for this challenge is a wonderful line that states: ‘you get two “Get Out Of Post Free” Days. Use Wisely!’

Whether I’ve used them wisely over the last two days is yet to be seen as I now have none left. But let’s not worry about this just yet, let us instead focus on today’s prompt…write about how you choose to write about others in your blog (friends, family etc.).

Writing about my family and friends

My family...

My Family…

The lost blog post…

Although I began writing this blog in 2007, I stopped writing it in mid-2008 when I threw my attention toward rebuilding my life in Alice Springs. Being employed after eighteen months of isolation was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and in order to better my chances of success in a ‘normal’ life I had to let my blog go, which became one of the biggest regrets of my life as I would not return to it until late 2009.

After months of living a homeless non-existence I returned to my blog for a series of posts celebrating its two-year anniversary. I wrote posts detailing the continued effect that the abuse I received was having on me, I wrote about my homelessness for the first time and of psychiatric appointments I’d had months earlier.

Although I’ve never really mentioned this before (as it makes me sound completely insane), I have no memory of writing and publishing any of these posts!

When I returned to the blog earlier this year I read through all I’d written and stared in complete disbelief at the atrocious writing I’d committed in my name.

Certainly, the post about Stephanie was wonderful, but the vast majority of these posts are atrocious crimes against writing, even though the information contained within them is true. None more so than a post called Fourteen Beautiful Souls, which is one of the single greatest examples of hypomanic writing that has ever been published on this blog! Thirty-five rambling pages of A4 that chronicle some (but not all) of the most important people in my life.

When I read this despicable post back for the first time I wanted to vomit. Without doubt it is one of the negative highlights of my shameful life and one of my biggest regrets. Although, given I can’t remember writing it, is it right to regret doing it?

Of all the major posts I’ve written over the last five years this is the only post I refuse to re-publish. I still have it, nestled somewhere as a draft in my posts menu, but what I did in that post broke all the rules concerning ‘other people’ that I’d established for myself when beginning this blog in 2007.

The five rules…

1. I will not write about the lives of other people unless they have given me permission to do so.
2. I will only write about other people if it is vital to the topic at hand.
3. I will at all times use a pseudonym when writing about other people.
4. I will be respectful, compassionate and non-abusive when writing about other people.
5. No identifiable photographs. Period!

Since returning to the blogosphere earlier this year I have been careful not to break these rules again when writing about other people, something I will only do when necessary in order to avoid the unintended pain my Fourteen Beautiful Souls post caused.

Kathryn

I had wanted to write about my sister for as long as this blog has been alive. But back in the early days my sister was a regular reader and contributor to this blog and I didn’t want her to read about the effect her illness had on my life. So, not wishing to cause her any pain, I avoided writing about her in detail, choosing only to drop the occasional sliver of information as and when necessary to fill in my back story.

However, earlier this year I realized through conversations with a psychologist that it was important to deal with this hitherto untouched part of my life. So not wishing to break rule (1) I phoned my parents to ask their permission to write about my sister and her illness.

I couldn’t ask Kathryn personally as we haven’t spoken for many years and probably never will again, but if I was going to write about this part of my life, I wanted to be sure to do it right.

Fortunately, my parents understood and with their help filling in forgotten facts, the (as yet unfinished) trilogy of posts dealing with my sister was finally written.

My Sister and Me (1): Childhood
My Sister and Me (2): Anorexia Nervosa

My Family

As for other members of my family, aside from the occasional reference, I have barely written about them in detail. Certainly I have mentioned that some members of my family also suffer from mental health issues but I am cautious not to be too precise or revealing. Not only do I not want to offend people, but it would be unfair for me to discuss their lives on this blog, healthwise or otherwise.

The only other occasion I can recall writing about a member of my family was during the Unsent Letter’s series back in August. Although it was clear that the letter was being written to my nephew, there were no names or personal information given so his identity should only have been recognizable to my family.

Unsent Letter: In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took

But as always when writing about other people, the nervousness was omnipresent throughout the writing, editing and publishing process, never more so than when I’m writing about my (old) friends.

Samantha

Long-time readers of my blog will be asking one question…why did Sammi not begin to be mentioned until earlier this year?

The answer is two-fold:

1) She was mentioned in past posts, albeit in an indirect manner, as far back as 2007. (She even had a couple of her own posts published on my one-time sister blog Eliminate the Stigma of Mental Illness and wrote many comments across all the blogs I’ve had over the years)

2) Because of the nature of our friendship (which was more complicated than most) she requested that she not be written about until she was comfortable with me sharing our friendship with the wider world.

Due to her untimely passing, Sammi was never able to give me that permission directly. So the decision to write about her (and our complicated friendship) was not taken lightly. I had long wanted to tell the tale of our friendship and ultimately decided that the time was finally right to do so.

As long as I followed rule (4) to the letter!

One Night in Adelaide (Mature Content)
I will never forget her
What would you change about yourself?

My Friends

Time, my own failings, mental health and the fact I’m a worthless arsehole rendered me isolated many years ago. But even though I no longer have the friends I once did doesn’t mean that I ever stopped caring about the people who once meant the world to me, and in a way still do.

The primary reason I nearly vomited when reading back Fourteen Beautiful Souls was due to the sheer amount of personal information I shared in that post. Not just about who these people were but my own feelings toward them. It was disrespectful, unfair, a massive breakage of trust and something I will deeply regret until the day I die.

It’s true that from time to time these people are mentioned on the blog, some more than most, but I do so only because I need to. Not to hurt them, embarrass them or humiliate them, but because for a long period of time these people were the reason I would get out of bed in the morning.

These people made me into who I was, who I am and who I will be in the future, so in writing about my life’s journey it is important I share how they touched my life.

I would love to write more posts about these people. Posts that celebrate their awesomeness in the manner I have written about Sammi. Tales of backpacking adventures, drunken escapades, heartfelt conversations and moments of pure bliss, pain and regret – but I can’t as I don’t want these people to be (any more than they already are) associated with this weird, confused loner who is but a shadow of the person they once knew.

Unlike Samantha, who will never read what I write about her, there is a chance (albeit minimal) that these other people will.

And I just don’t want to cause them any further pain and embarrassment.

The future…

Talking about mental illness is one of the most personal things you can do. As I said recently, it is not something that should be considered brave and courageous (merely normal), but it is something that should be an individual’s choice.

Stigma and discrimination is just as alive as it’s always been when it comes to mental health, so in addition to not wanting to upset anyone, this factor has always been high in my mind when writing about other people on this blog.

Not just in terms of their own health, but in terms of being associated with my own.

So whenever I write about my friends, my family and other people who have touched my life on this blog, I will continue abiding by the five rules I laid out all those years ago. Rules that I have occasionally broken, but never once out of malice or with intent to cause harm.

...and friends

…and friends

If anyone does remember the Fourteen Beautiful Souls post (hopefully not) and were hurt by its content, I humbly and sincerely apologise.

I am not saying I don’t remember writing it to give myself a convenient excuse or avoid taking responsibility, but because I genuinely have no memory of writing it. It was a mistake, and like all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, one I’ve been (and will continue to be) living with for the remainder of my life.