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…


Not to memory, but to dream

Way back in the distant past, in 2001 to be precise, I was nonchalantly browsing the books of a Cancer Council charity shop in Inverness. Various titles jumped out at me, various authors who were familiar to me made their presence known, but none more so than Charles de Lint. For there, sitting on the shelf, was a dog-eared, moth-eaten book entitled ‘Memory and Dream’. I had never read any de Lint, but I knew of him, my friend Deborah, who I’d met whilst long-terming in a backpacker hostel throughout the winter of 1999/2000, had recommended him to me on many occasions. But I’d never had the chance to read his work. None of the bookshops in Inverness carried his art, and at this time in life, few people shopped online as the internet was only beginning to take hold in people’s lives. So, in memory of our friendship, I paid the 50p for ‘Memory and Dream’ and popped the book into my backpack.

“The stronger a woman gets, the more insecure the men in her life feel. It doesn’t work that way for a woman. We celebrate strength–in our partners as well as in ourselves.”

Later that night, as it was quiet at work, I pulled the book from my bag and began to read. To say I was instantaneously captivated was an understatement. From the very first sentence of the book it grabbed my attention and spoke to me in ways that few books ever had. Never before had I found an author so capable of blending the atrocity of contemporary life with the beauty of the magical that so few humans choose to believe in. Within fifty pages I had fallen in love with Isabelle Copley, the gifted artist, and her best friend Katherine Mully, the aspiring writer of fairy tales. Within a hundred pages I knew Deborah had been right; de Lint was the author I had been looking for my entire life. A writer capable of weaving the fantastical and the mundane. A writer blessed with the ability not to simply tell stories, but to make them take on mythic, legendary status.

Over the course of four nights I devoured the book and, by the time Isabelle’s adventure had come to an end, I had grown to love both her and her numena in ways I had never experienced from fiction before. These were not simply characters on a page; they were living, breathing, real life individuals. Human beings that existed not just within the confines of a book, but, if you believed hard enough, able to live in the real world. Leaning back on my chair at work, I announced to an empty reception area that ‘Memory and Dream’ was one of my favourite books of all time.

“But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.”

As time moved on I became somewhat obsessed with de Lint’s tale of magic, art and myth. The book traveled with me wherever I went. A weekend in the Outer Hebrides; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to soothe me. An overnight camping excursion to the shores of Loch Linnhe; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to comfort me. When the time came to leave Inverness and resume living arrangements with my parents, ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to ease the stress. And when I decided to leave the UK behind and begin anew in Australia, ‘Memory and Dream’ took pride of place in my backpack, making the long, stressful plane journey into something less overwhelming and frightening.

For eight years ‘Memory and Dream’ continued to accompany me wherever I went. A weekend break to Apollo Bay. A week-long vacation to Wilson’s Prom and Gippsland. Even a day trip to Melbourne town, ‘Memory and Dream’ came with me. It lived perpetually in my backpack; easing my troubled mind with just the knowledge it was there should I ever need the comforting, inspirational words contained within it. The book was one of the few items that I refused to sell following the tragedy of my breakdown. It remained in my possession as I drifted into mania in Adelaide, was there for me following the chaos of the aftermath of rape and offered solace during those first few months of homelessness.

“It’s a mistake to go poking about in your own past,” she’d told her. “It makes you shrink into yourself. Every time you return you get smaller and more transparent. Go back often enough and you might vanish altogether. We’re meant to put the past behind us and be the people we are now, Izzy, not who we were.”

By 2010 ‘Memory and Dream’ had been through everything I had; abuse, assault, homelessness, breakdown…and it had never let me down. I read it religiously at lease once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Sometimes I just dipped into my favourite passages and allowed their grace to wash over me. But then, in April of 2010, a book I had protected, loved and cared for for nearly ten years, was stolen from me. An arrogant, cruel man, who appeared to be one of those hipsters I despise so much, decided to steal a homeless man’s bag; and with it the book he cherished the most.

For months I mourned the loss. No longer was I able to take solace in the magic de Lint weaved. No longer was I able to comfort myself with the unrequited love of Isabelle Copley, or her best friend, Katherine Mully. I knew I had to replace the book. I knew I needed it in my life, for without it, life seemed more frightening, more unbearable. For years I looked in every bookstore, every op shop, seeking ‘Memory and Dream’, but I was always left wanting. No bookstore stocked it. No bookseller had even heard of it.

“One expected growth, change; without it, the world was less, the well of inspiration dried up, the muses fled.”

But then, five years after it had been stolen from me, on a quiet afternoon in Wodonga, the sleepiest, most uncultured town I’ve ever visited, magic returned to my life. For there, on the bookshelf of a Salvation Army op-shop, was a copy of my old friend; ‘Memory and Dream’. It was the same imprint that I had once owned, the same delicious, beautiful nymphs dancing on the cover against the orange backdrop of some long forgotten forest. I grabbed the book in a flash, flicking through the pages to make sure they were complete and undamaged, I rose the spine to my nose and inhaled the gorgeous scent that only a second-hand book can contain; part musk, part hope and part magic. And I took it to the counter and purchased it without hesitation. My five-year search had ended; ‘Memory and Dream’ was mine again.

To relish. To love. To protect.

Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

Me, with my new copy of ‘Memory and Dream’, my much loved, much admired friend (August 2015)

The reading woman sits by the window, lamplight falling over her shoulder onto the book. It is the book that glows a golden bath of lemon yellow faintly touched with orange, surrounded by violet shadows. The glow of the book casts a soft light onto the woman’s features, a soft light and softer shadows, and sets the tangle of her hennaed hair aflame.

It is possible to see diminutive figures in the shadows, crouching on the arms of the chair to peer at the words in the pages of the woman’s book, peeping out from in between the curls of her red hair. Tinier shapes still, not quite the size of mosquitoes, hover in the lamplight. Some are silhouetted against the curve of her throat and the shadow of her nose, other against the faint spray of freckles on brow and cheek.

Their heads are like those of fledgling birds: noses sharp and long, features pinched, brows high and smooth. Their figures – when in silhouette – are not unlike a tadpole’s. They have limbs like small crooked twigs, bird’s -nest hair that stands up in surprise and in ungovernably wild. Some have wings with the gossamer iridescence of a dragonfly’s.

The reading woman gives no indication that she is aware of their presence. The book captures her full attention. But surely she can feel the press of miniature bodies as they move against her arm, or the faintest movement as they slip in and about the curls of her hair? Surely she can see the tiny shapes flitting in the dusky air that lies between her grey-green eyes and the page?

Or perhaps they are only shadows, nothing more. And the summer’s night that lies outside her window belongs not to memory, but to dream.

La Liseuse, 1977, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Collection The Newford Children’s Foundation.

~ from ‘Memory and Dream’ by Charles de Lint.


25 Songs, 25 Days: Sirens

Day 07: A song that reminds you of the past summer

Sirens | My Friend the Chocolate Cake


With my pancreatitis. With feeling sick. With spending much of my past summer lying in a hospital bed. I didn’t listen to much music. What radio I listened to was of the talk variety; soothing voices to settle my troubled, pained soul. Truth be told, I can’t think of one song I listened to, be it an old classic or a contemporary number.

So, to answer today’s prompt, I’ve decided to share a song that reminds me of all summers.

Ever since arriving in Australia I have hated the months of December, January and February. I’ve hated the suffocating, humid heat, despised the endless, balmy nights and abhorred the vast quantities of sweat that pour from my body during this miserable time. And one song, above all others, captures the feel of an abhorrent Australian summer.

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25 Songs, 25 Days: Babe, I’m on Fire

Day 06: A song that reminds you of a best friend

Babe, I’m on Fire | Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


To understand Samantha you have to understand one thing; she was a spanking aficionado. She passionately loved everything and anything to do with spanking. She liked looking at spanking art, adored watching spanking movies and cherished being spanked herself. She wasn’t a pain slut. That’s not why she liked being spanked. She liked being spanked because she had a genetic urge to have someone smack her (as she called it) naughty little bottom.

So when we met in Adelaide, when I was lost to the nightmare of a manic phase, and obsessed with slapping as many female posteriors as I could, it was a match made in heaven. Within hours of us meeting she had manipulated herself over my knee for a playful spanking session in the middle of an Adelaidian park. But then she left to continue her travels and my manic self moved on to finding another play partner.

Four months later I was sitting in front of a computer. My manic phase had long since ended and I was consumed with a nightmarish depression. I was homeless. I was destitute. I was lost. Waiting for me when I logged onto Facebook was a message and a friend request. Both were from someone named Samantha Campbell. I had no idea who she was or how she found me, so when I read the message, a beautifully written question as to whether I was the same Andrew Lake who spent the evening with her in Adelaide, I was taken aback. I had little to no memory of Adelaide, especially the time I spent when I was manic. I didn’t accept the friend request, but I did respond to her message, asking for more information. Within days she had responded with an equally beautifully written tale of bottom slapping, endless conversation, spank bets and spanking. She even included photos; photos of me, with a ravishingly beautiful woman she identified as herself. After reading her latest missive, I accepted her friend request.

For months we communicated with each other online, exchanging emails, Facebook posts, comments and endless MSN chats. She filled in my missing memories of Adelaide, we discussed my mental health and dissected what I had been writing on my blog. But we also did other things. We chatted about our mutual love of spanking, we indulged our fantasies with cyber-spanking sessions and shared personal, intimate fantasies we had both been harboring for years. Through these online sessions we became firm friends. She was often the first person I thought of when waking up in my park, and the last person I thought of as I bedded down with my blanket for the night. Unlike every other friend I’d ever had, Samantha knew me, intimately, because I hid nothing from her. Not my mental health. Not my fantasies. Not my kink.

Upon returning to the UK in early 2008 I knew what I wanted to do. Samantha was back in Stirling, studying fashion and design, so I wanted to see her. I wanted us to be face to face, sharing ourselves in person, instead of through fibre-optic cabling. It took months to organise. Months that we spent continuing to chat online, email each other almost daily and getting to know each other on deeper, murkier levels. Nothing she learned about me seemed to phase her. She just accepted it. Accepted me. In April of that year we finally matched our calendars and I jetted off to Glasgow for a reunion with someone I had gotten to know so well. It was awkward at first, but within hours we were comfortable around each other, gleefully playing off each others words, happily teasing and playing in the cultural capital of Scotland.

And no reunion with Samantha would have been complete without spanking playing a pivotal role. She had written to me before we met, asking if I would be willing to help her fulfill a lifelong dream. It took me a while to come around, to be confident enough within myself to perform her desire, but I agreed. And in a hotel, late one evening, I took Samantha over my knee and gave her a jolly good spanking. It wasn’t abuse. It wasn’t assault. It was two consenting adults sharing in a mutual passion. And she (and I) loved every second of it.

In order to mask the noise of our indulgence we hooked up an iPod to play music throughout our session. It was Samantha, always with a heavy sense of irony, who chose the song. And it is a song that – no matter when or where I hear it – reminds me of the time I spanked Samantha Campbell.

It is the anthem of our friendship. A song that fills me with warmth, happiness, joy and contentment. A song that reminds me that, no matter what, it is the people we meet who have the greatest influence on our life. Samantha accepted me for who I was. She didn’t try to change me. She didn’t want me to pretend to be someone different. She wanted me to be Andrew; mental health, kink and all.

That’s why she will always be one of my best friends. If not my bestest friend.

You can read more about my friendship with Samantha in these posts:

~ One Night in Adelaide ~
~ One Day in Glasgow ~
~ Dearest Samantha ~
~ [NSFW] If you care about what other people think, you will always be their prisoner [NSFW] ~
~ [NSFW] I don’t have a dirty mind, I have a sexy imagination [NSFW] ~


30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 17

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Do you know anyone else who injures themselves?


I’ve known many people in my life. You wouldn’t know that now, of course, given the socially isolated state I find myself living in, but once upon a time I had several good friends, a dozen or so acquaintances and a plethora of random people who didn’t fit neatly into either category. I’ve known people who are mentally sound and those who battle mental illness on a daily basis. People who deal with depression, with BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia and ADHD. But amidst all those people, amidst all those wonderful, beautiful souls, I’ve only known three people who self-harm.

One, is my mother. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you knowing that, given how fervently she believes mental illness should be talked about. Even though I know my mother has dealt with self harm, I’ve never had all that many conversations about her history with self harm. I don’t know when she started. I don’t know how long she self harmed. And I don’t have any idea what triggers her. I do know however that she has worked hard to get her self harming under control. I know how hard she’s worked to not given in to her urges. And I know how much she wants to remain self harm free. I’ve always admired my mother for her battles with self harm. She is one of the most inspiring people I know and is a source of tremendous strength in my own battles to remain self harm free.

The second person I’ve known who self harmed is Samantha. She didn’t do it all that frequently, but she did dabble (her word) with cutting, hitting and burning. It’s something that drew us together, something that cemented our friendship, and is one of the primary reasons she remains one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met. Her own dealings with self harm meant she never judged other people. About anything. Samantha just accepted people for who they were, warts and all. I don’t believe her self harm was solely responsible for this, I think it was just who she was as a person, but her desire not to be judged for her actions certainly inspired her own belief that you should never define a person by just one aspect of their personality.

Lastly, Grace admitted to me during an emotional phone conversation that she self harmed. Out of the blue one overcast weekday she called me in a panic; she was close to self harming and wanted someone to talk to, someone to distract her from her internal pain. Knowing that I myself had been in similar situations in the past I talked to her. I talked to her about the weather. About university. About her favourite Aussie Rules Football team. I talked to her about anything that popped into my head in order to stop her from retreating into hers. What I didn’t do was tell her about my history of self harm. At that juncture in my life I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I wasn’t ready to tell other people about my secret, painful activities. I’ve always had tremendous respect for the strength Grace displayed during that telephone call. To ask for help is difficult. To ask for help in a time of mental distress is nigh on impossible. Yet she fought her demons and made the call; she asked for help, and I like to believe I answered her call in the best way I could.

After the call I talked to Grace about self harm on several occasions, eventually finding the strength to tell her that I did it myself. Like Samantha, she never judged me. She knew what it was like to feel the cold steel of a knife against your flesh. She knew only too well how quickly darkness can descend over your mind.

I’ve always believed self harm should be talked about; that it should be discussed. And I’ve had conversations with all three people I’ve known through my life who self harm, about self harm. I’ve also had conversations with several other of the old friends and acquaintances I used to have about self harm. It is a subject that shouldn’t be shied away from. It is a subject of such seriousness that it deserves to be spoken about, at length.

So if you know anyone who self harms. Or even if you don’t. Never be ashamed to raise it in conversation. The more people who do, the better.


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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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 14. Ruminations on friendship

Day 14: What would you say to your younger self if you could?


Dear Younger Addy,

So where are we? If this letter has been delivered to you at the exact time and date I specified the postal service, you’re currently sitting in a backpacker hostel on the Isle of Skye. You’ve just had an encounter with the SLWCB – don’t worry about screwing up, only Meadhbh will hold it against you – and you’re about to embark on a bicycling adventure to the castle that is known as Eilean Donan. At this precise moment in time you’re just being your shy, elusive self. You’re sitting in your dorm room, nonchalantly writing adult fiction, wishing you weren’t so introverted and anxious so you’d be able to talk to some of the people you’re sharing your space with. And that’s why I’m writing to you; to impart some words of wisdom when it comes to friendship and relationships.

Given that I’m you, I know how much having friends means to you. I also know how mind-shatteringly difficult it is for you to communicate with people. Most of the time you’d rather gouge out your own eyeball with a wooden spoon than settle down to have a conversation with a complete stranger. I know how much your anxiety controls your actions. Preventing you from opening up in case people laugh at you, in case they criticize your words, your actions, your everything. You hate being the center of attention and spend much of your life believing people are going to do their utmost to humiliate you in public for just being you. So you do whatever it takes to protect yourself from such humiliation, even if that means never talking to people, even if that means spending your life alone.

And we need to do something about it now, otherwise you are going to experience a loneliness that you couldn’t possibly comprehend at this point of your life. To give you a glimpse into the future, I am currently running on eight years of being alone, I don’t have any friends, I don’t have any acquaintances, I have no-one and will probably have no-one for the remainder of my life. Sometimes I accept that. Sometimes I believe I don’t deserve to have anyone in my life. Sometimes I think I’ve got what I deserve. That this is my punishment for past indiscretions. But then there are the times I think the opposite; that no-one deserves to not have friends in the life. After all, if serial killers and rapists can have friends – which they do – why can’t I? Because I’ve never done anything in my life even bordering on the nastiness of such crimes. You know that, Andrew, because you are me; only younger, more naive and open to change.

And it is this openness to change that we need to tap into. There is little I can do now to change my life. My anxiety is too entrenched. My PTSD too controlling. It is doubtful I can foster the change that I need to make in order to open up to people and allow them into my life. But you? We can change you. So listen well, my dear friend, and take heed of my words otherwise you will end up as lonely and isolated as I am.

Firstly, in a few weeks time, you are going to decide to long-term at a backpacker hostel in Inverness. This decision will change your life, because it will see several important people enter it. People who will come to mean the world to you; not just in Inverness, but for the remainder of your life. But you will allow your anxiety to control you; you won’t open up to them, you won’t trust them with your inner-most personal intricacies, and you will share almost nothing about your life with them. By doing this you are ruining a major opportunity to make friends. They won’t care that you’re a virgin. They won’t care that you battle anxiety and depression. They won’t care that you’re shy and introverted. These people are good people, they will accept you no matter what, so you need to trust in that and allow yourself to open up to them. It’s going to be hard, I know that, but these people have the potential to be life-long friends, so the more you trust in them, the easier things will be.

This is the fundamental lesson you need to learn. It is your anxiety that is stopping you from opening up. But opening up to people is the only way to make friends, so you need to find ways to overcome your anxiety and allow yourself the opportunity to trust people with who you are. I can’t help you with that. I can only impart advice and tell you what you need to do. But from someone who has been there, someone who has felt the pain you have, I can tell you that it isn’t going to kill you. Quite the opposite. You will feel more alive than ever before when you finally open up to people.

There are going to be opportunities. One person in particular is going to give you opportunities to open up. They are going to ask you questions. They are going to give you moments. They are going to take an interest. So show it back. Answer their questions. Seize every moment. And take an interest in her. It will be worth you while, trust me.

Although it is just a glimmer of a possibility for you right now, in six months time you are going to venture to Canada to continue your backpacking journey. Much like in Inverness, you are going to stay in hostels, and you are going to meet people you like, and who like you in return. The same advice I advised above needs to be heeded; don’t be afraid to open up to these people, don’t be afraid to share your life with them, they are worth it.

It is not going to kill you to share more of your life with these people. And remember, if they have issues with your anxiety, if they can’t deal with your depression, if they hold these things against you, then they are not worth knowing. The people you are to meet are trustworthy. I can speak with the ease of hindsight. These people will not hold your conditions against you. I assure you.

But once you’ve opened up to these people, once you have allowed them entry into your life, you are going to need to do some work. All friendship, no matter how serious or intimate, requires work. No friendships exist without it, for like everything in life, there will be ebbs and flows, and the people you meet whilst traveling are not always going to be around. They will be overseas. They will be away from you. So write to them. Email them. Find the time and energy to phone them. Work on keeping the friendship alive. And don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t worth it; don’t let anyone get in the way of the importance of these friendships.

And they will. I assure you. You’re going to meet people who want you to stop talking to your friends. Who give you ultimatums on who you’re allowed to communicate with. These are the people who you need to jettison from your life, as they are being selfish, they are not caring about you, only themselves. They don’t care that your friendships are important to you. They don’t care what they mean to you. So ignore them and stay in contact!

You’re also going to meet people who you think are friends, but are not. They are lying to you, manipulating your goodwill, and you need to be wary of this. These people don’t deserve to be let in, these people don’t deserve to see the real you lying beneath the shell of anxiety and introversion. They will do their best to convince you they are worthy, but you need to see through the lies for what they are. I could give you names, I could tell you who these people are, but I won’t, for you need to work this out for yourself. I’m just saying it because you need to be cautious about who you let in.

But in much the same respect as keeping in contact with your traveling friends, you need to understand that once you have let someone in, you’re going to need to work on the friendship. You will need to stay in touch; don’t let them always call you, seize the initiative and contact them. Make sure you are there for them when they need someone; for remember, a friendship is not defined by the happy times you share, but by the times you share when things are shit. And don’t allow your mental illness to convince you that the friendship isn’t deserved; no-one deserves to be alone.

For if you don’t heed these words, then you are going to end up like me; alone, forgotten and unloved. And I know you don’t want that.

Hopefully these words will have given you something to think about. Hopefully these words have not scared you further into your shell. Together, Andrew, we can work on your anxiety and create the social network of caring, wonderful individuals you deserve to have in your life. Together, we can achieve the impossible; you just have to want it enough.

Love and hugs,
Older Addy xox