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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Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Happy Places

For the last several weeks Thursday has been Top Twenty day but from now own (shamefully stolen from Sare at Restless Vagabond) Thursday’s will be Thursday Thirteen day.

Why? Well…

THursday THirteen flows much easier from the tongue, primarily because of the TH in each word! (Something I didn’t consider when I came up with my short-lived THursday TWenty idea)
– I’m bored with writing top twenty lists.
– There’s only so many top twenty’s I can write. What next? My top twenty cheeses?
– Because it’s my blog and I can do want I want to :p

So today, carrying on from last week’s self-esteem posts, I present thirteen of my happy places.

Thirteen Happy Places

Okay, hands up who thought of Fight Club? However random the Ice Cave avec penguin is, there is a grain of truth to the happy place mentality. Once you’ve worked out what you’re happy places are they can be a source of great power when it comes to fighting off the confusing, painful and disturbing thoughts that often plague the minds of someone lacking in self-esteem and/or combatting mental illness.

Over the years I’ve used dozens of happy places to keep me centered in times of great stress. Here, in no particular order, are thirteen of the most powerful:

1. Warmth
I’m lying on a single bed in a hotel room in Glasgow. The walls are plain peach decorated with random artwork that looks like it’s been painted by a drunken raccoon. The carpet is a grubby cream with several items strewn across it; a black and red dress, a pair of stockings, a wooden hairbrush, black shoes, a few second-hand books, spiral printed underwear and an empty bottle of vodka from the minibar.

I’m spooning a brown-haired woman who has pressed herself close against me; one hand hugging her stomach, the other dipping into a tub of ice-cream that she gobbles up before it can reach my mouth. On a laptop screen resting on a chair beside us plays the Japanese anime My Neighbour Totoro. She reaches down to my hand and kisses it gently, whispering ‘thank you’, the first words she’s spoken in nearly half an hour.

2. You comfy?
I’m eight years old lying in bed on a nondescript evening on a nondescript day of a nondescript year. Out of nowhere a tiny ball of fur flies up onto the bed and pounces onto my stomach with a soft meow. The black and white kitten hops up my torso and licks my chin before diving under the duvet to start pounding my stomach with her paws. After several claw digging moments she curls herself into a ball and begins purring noisily as I tickle behind her ears with a smile.

3. Heaven on Earth
It’s a balmy four degrees with the sky a dark grey spitting rain. I’m sitting on a rocky hill. Behind me is the Glenfinnan Viaduct; in front of me the vast expanse of water that is Loch Shiel with the monument adorning its closest shore. I close my eyes and for a moment touch what can only be called bliss.

4. Morning Breaks
The sky in front of us is a tapestry of colour; hues of red, purple, orange and yellow blend together as the sun rises to erase the ink black sky. I’m smoking cherry menthol tobacco rolled in a licorice paper and two beautiful women are sitting beside me. We are deadly silent, lost in this moment of perfect serenity.

5. Kiss me
We are lying naked on a bed beneath a window overlooking the Sound of Harris.
HER: Kiss me.
ME: Okay.
I slide up her body and begin kissing her lips gently.
HER: Not there…
ME: No?
HER: Could you kiss me down there?
ME: Oh. Kay.
I slide down her body and began kissing her lips gently.

“I’m spooning a brown-haired woman who has pressed herself close…”

6. Common People
Beside me a brown-haired woman looks like she’s about to vomit and/or piss herself with laughter because I’m dancing like a lunatic in front of a crowd of drunken Glaswegians whilst attempting to sing Pulp’s Common People. If I’d been watching me I would have been having the same fight with my bodily functions as well!

7. Bald Eagle
There is a bald eagle flying through a pristine blue sky and a head moving gently on my stomach. I glance to my right and see her shifting her body into a more comfortable position, telling me not to move as my belly makes the perfect pillow. She, nor I, cares about the sharp stone sticking into my right buttock.

8. SLAP!
Her hand flies out of nowhere and cracks across my face so hard I fear it’ll leave her fingers imprinted there for months. “For fuck sake Addy,” She snapped. “Pull your head out of your arse and realize how fucking awesome you are. Now go buy me another whisky and tell me every goddamn thing about her,”

“I’ve been writing non-stop for nearly three hours… and loving every moment of it.”

9. You’ve got Marin
The 8-Bit music coming from my Gameboy disappears into the wind as I watch the cut-scene playing before me. Out of nowhere the familiar anthem chimes through the speaker as Link raises Marin into the air and proudly proclaims You’ve got Marin…!?

10. Show Message?
It’s a cold, windy night. Sprawling into the darkness in front of me is the ocean whilst around me is nothing but sand and emptiness for miles around. I’m holding a knife to my wrist, hands shaking, tears cascading down my cheeks, when out of nowhere my phone beeps to life: One New Message. Show Message?

11. Writer’s Cramp
I’m lying face down on my bed wearing nothing but an oversized Superman T-Shirt and a pair of black boxer shorts. In a neat stack to my left are seven sheets of A4 ruled paper, each line filled with pristine hand-written blue ink. I lift my hand and shake out the cramp before putting biro to paper and continuing to write as quickly and neatly as possible. I’ve been writing non-stop for nearly three hours… and loving every moment of it.

12. Anything
Her hand squeezes around mine and she stares directly, deeply, into my soul. She can sense it, the pain I try to keep hidden from the world, the pain I’m too scared to tell anyone about. “You can talk to me, you know. About anything.” She squeezes my hand again and smiles.

13. A Part of Something
Words are firing around the table faster than anyone can keep up with. Two people are talking to a woman three seats away, the person on one side of me is talking to the woman on the other side of me and she’s talking to someone on another table. Each person frantically searching for the answer to the latest brain teaser that could – possibly – see us win a jug of beer, and with it, the honor of being the greatest trivia team of the night, if not the world. For a moment the person opposite me catches me eye and smiles, asking if I’m okay because I haven’t said much so far tonight. I’ve never been happier, I say.


Exercises to Build Self Esteem: #1. Pleasure and Happiness

“Pleasure is the only thing one should live for, nothing ages like happiness.”
~ Oscar Wilde ~

Accentuate the positives

The first exercise toward building better self-esteem is to focus on the positives. Now, I’m not a convert into the positive thinking movement, in fact I find books that proclaim all we need to do is think positively and everything we want will magically appear out of thin air complete crap. I don’t believe someone can ‘pretend away depression’ nor do I believe thinking positively will cure you of cancer or the myriad of other illnesses that people suffer from.

However, thinking positive thoughts about ourselves can bring about an attitude change toward better self-perception.

Once upon a time I was in a counselling session. I had seen this counsellor for several sessions and in each one he noted how stressed and tense I was; how I sat in a defensive position, how I guarded my words, how my entire being was rigid in a state of alert tension. To combat this he began asking me about times in my life when I was at my happiest, I began talking to him about Grace, about pub trivia teams and then about Louise, about camping in the wilderness, about Kathy and Deborah. Within fifteen minutes I’d launched into a monologue that lasted nearly thirty minutes, merrily skipping through my travels in Canada, of hikes with Annie, accidental beaver spotting and a rambling diatribe about how I missed the confidence I’d exuded during that period. After my talking tailed off he pointed out how my demeanour had changed; I was now sitting upright, arms by my side inside of crossed in front of me, there was a spark in my eye and the tension had melted away with each second I’d allowed myself to bathe in these memories.

The simple act of returning to pleasurable times had caused a noticeable physical and mental change within me.

People suffering from low self-esteem often dwell in the unhappiness, the pain and the negative aspects of their life. They do so to ‘prove’ their thinking is real and that they deserve to think so harshly of themselves; rarely, if ever, do they focus on positivity and pleasure.

Thus, today’s activity (from Self-Esteem Experts) is to create a pleasure list; a comprehensive directory of all the people, places, things and activities that bring you pleasure whenever you think about or partake in them.

Once you have completed the list, pin it on your fridge, carry it in your wallet, keep it somewhere close so that whenever you are feeling unhappy, or judging yourself harshly, or experiencing a bad self-esteem moment, you can turn to it and allow yourself the memories of happiness that will see, like in my counselling session, a noticeable change in attitude.

Writing your Pleasure List

1. Take a clean sheet of paper and head somewhere you feel safe and relaxed.

2. Divide the paper into four sections:

– Section 01: People and Pets (who bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 02: Places (that bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 03: Things (that bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 04: Things I like to do (that bring me pleasure)

3. Then write as many examples as you can under each section.
4. Remember to allow yourself to feel happy!

No matter how negatively you think of yourself, no matter how hard you convince yourself you do not deserve happiness – you do! You deserve all the happiness in the world, so always remember to focus on the things you adore, the places you cherish and the people you love. In time, you will see a positive change not only in how you think but how you see your beautiful self.

My Pleasure List

Given my life is an open blog I will now share with you my pleasure list:

B&B Threesome; alas, not that kind of threesome! (February 2000)

There are snakes in that lake! (Canada, 2000)

The green skirt of my dreams (February 2007)

Hostel Takeover; my one and only pub trivia team (March 2006)

(All images painted by renowned impressionist painter Mr. Pho Toscape and © Addy)

Tomorrow…Ways to Build Self-Esteem #2: Talents and Skills