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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Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m not trying to flirt with you!

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, this is going to be a little interesting. And difficult. Apologies in advance if I lose my way on this one!

9 September 2012

Dear ——–,

I know you’re not one for taking orders, you’re stubborn like that, but for the first time in your life you will do exactly what I tell you to do, understand? Trust me, you’re gonna want to.

Okay, I want you to grab a couple of bars of chocolate, a mirror and a bottle of water (it’s very important that it’s water) and then you’re going to walk to the Castle. Yes, there! See, told you I knew you! Not every day you receive a letter from someone who knows exactly what you’re thinking, is it?

You are not to read any further until you are safely nested away in your Fortress of Solitude, got me?

I’ll see you in about twenty minutes.

Okay. Settled in?

Good. You may proceed.

——–…I’m Addy, aka, you in twenty years.

I’m writing to you because in September 2012 you come up with a crazy idea to write a series of unsent letters on your blog (you’ll understand in time) to important people in your life. You don’t decide who will receive these letters yourself, but instead write down a hundred names and then draw the lucky recipient at random. You’re supposed to keep them anonymous, but given I’m writing to little-me, I’m bending that rule from now on!

Today, Andrew, your name came out of the hat. And yes, you are important to me, even if neither of us believes it.

So, before I go any further, I want you to pick up the mirror I asked you to bring. I want you to spend the next five minutes just looking at yourself. Look at your hair, your nose, your lips and the funny little scar above your eyebrow. Look at your eyes, I mean really look at them. Now stand up and take your top off, look at your chest and nipples, look at your back, your freckles and muscles. Unbuckle your belt and take a gander at your penis. No need to strip fully, just look at it. Run your hands over your body, feel your skin, your hair, your earlobes. Squeeze your buttocks. Wiggle your toes. And before you think it – no I’m not trying to flirt with you!

I know you Andrew. I know how much you hate yourself. All those hours you spend sitting in your room carving patterns into your leg with those scissors isn’t just because of the emotional pain. I know you’re telling yourself that, because I did.

You’re self-harming because you hate yourself on every level.

You despise the way you think; the way you can’t talk to people, the way you can’t talk to girls (especially Kathryn, but we’ll get to her in a minute), the way you think you’re useless at everything you do.

You hate how you look; your thin lips, your unmanageable hair, your weight, your chubby backside.

You abhor yourself so much you just want to end it all. No need to fake denial, Andrew, I’m you remember!

Well, I need you to understand that it’s all wrong. You’re suffering from an illness that’s all. It’s not an illness that affects the body – like mum’s diabetes or dad’s asthma – it’s an illness that affects the mind – like Kathryn’s anorexia or mum’s depression. I know you don’t know this yet, but you will, and I really, really, need you to start changing the way you think.

You are a beautiful boy, Andrew, really, truly, honestly. In a few years you’re gonna have girls wanting to strip those clothes off right where you stand but if you continue thinking the way you do you’ll bottle out and miss out on seeing their cute backsides!

You are not useless. You are not worthless. You are not stupid. You are not ugly. You are not grotesque. You are not evil.

You are the exact opposite.

Think of you’re writing, how creative you are, how you spend hour upon hour drawing portraits of Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. They’re good, Andrew, really good! Think of how imaginative you are, how your fantasies run so wild you spend weeks writing story after story. Think of how much you care. How you’re always trying to help people – mum and dad, Kathryn, your classmates. Think of when you helped that man cross the road even though those prats ripped the shit out of you for days afterwards. Think of when you helped the old woman on your paper round when she slipped on her front steps. Not everyone would do that, Andrew, but you do.

You spend so much time worrying about everyone else’s happiness you don’t leave any time to think of your own.

And you need to!

You need to be nicer to yourself. You need to stop berating and beating on yourself. You need to be kind to the only person you will spend your whole life with you. It’s not fat, it’s a challenge. Your hair isn’t unmanageable, it’s rugged. That butt of yours isn’t chubby, it’s spankalicious. Your nipples aren’t pathetic, they’re Super-Nipples (you’ll laugh when she says that, but it will make you so happy!)

Before we go any further Andrew you need to promise me that whenever you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself you’ll stop, take a breath, and twist them around just like I did above.

Because if you don’t do that you’re going to start self-harming more and more to get the same hit. You’ll move on from scissors to knives. You’ll start pondering matches, and then entire boxes, and you don’t want to go there Andrew, believe me, I speak from bitter experience.

OK? We got a deal?

Good.

Now, Kathryn. Not your sister, the other one. The one you’ve been dreaming about every day for the last eleven months. The one with the magical eyes, heart stopping smile and excellent bottom. You’ll learn for certain as you get older that women are scary, and enchanting, and terrifying, and amazing, and frightening, and the greatest thing on Earth. Seriously, Andrew, women have it all worked out. They are smarter than boys, funnier than boys, better looking than boys and you get on with them far better than you do the males of the species – even if that’s hard to understand right now.

What you’ll also learn over time is that, no matter what the media tells you, women and men are basically the same. We all want the same things; love, affection, care, compassion, orgasms and ice-cream. Not necessarily in that order.

They’re not going to bite your head off and feed it to their offspring. They’re not going to stab you in the eye with an ice-pick if you say something stupid. And they’re not going to chain you to a wall and whip you to within an inch of your life unless you ask them to and/or pay for the privilege.

What I’m getting at Andrew, is your anxieties over talking to Kathryn are powered by the same issues that’s clouded your opinion of yourself. You’ve convinced yourself you’re a terrible person so you can’t imagine how she could ever be interested in you, whereas you’re an awesome person (change your thinking, remember) and she’d be lucky to have someone as amazing as you in her life.

So stop umming and ahhing and convincing yourself it’s all too hard, just walk up to her and say ‘hello’!

That’s all you need to do. After that, it’ll be second nature.

As for the other Kathryn, there’s nothing you can do about her right now other than what you’re doing. Although, in a few years, when the family goes to Great Ormond Street – do whatever you can to convince mum and dad that she should be in there! She won’t get the treatment she needs where she is, regardless of what anyone tells you. So if you want to help her, make it happen! Okay?

POP QUIZ HOTSHOT (you’ll understand that in a few years) Fill in the blank….your feet are                                 .

The reason I’m saying all this Andrew is that you think you won’t always be like this, but the way you’re thinking at the moment is only going to get worse if you don’t take care of it now. In a few years you’ll be thinking of killing yourself, a few years after that you’ll be running away from home, and a few years later you’ll be so caught up in the cycle of negativity and self-harm you won’t know how else to live. You’ll end up homeless, isolated and alone.

And you deserve more than that!

You are an amazing kid, Andrew, looking back now I can see that – and I wish I had someone telling me all this when I was your age. Hence, why I’m breaking the laws of space and time to try change things! Although I can’t give too much away – partly because of the time-continuum, partly because I don’t want to spoil too much – here’s a few things to keep in mind:

– In 1995, when it comes to choosing your A-Levels, listen to your HEART not your anxiety!

– In 1997, phone home first.

– In 1999, don’t question the woman with the left-hand side obsession.

– In 1999, remember the word Walkabout.

– In 1999, listen to what Alice tells you instead of thinking it’s a joke.

– In 1999, tell the person who paints your face what you’re too afraid to tell Kathryn right now.

– In 2000, the woman who slaps you in the face needs your help. Do everything and anything you can!

– In 2000, don’t listen to your ethical code; you will regret it for the rest of your existence!

– In 2001, remember the initials V.S.P

– In 2002, listen to your heart and punch you’ll know you in the face.

– In 2004, suggest you wear a wedding dress as a form of protest.

– In 2004, don’t worry, she’ll be back.

– In 2006, trust the taller one.

– In 2006, remember to say what you’re thinking when you’re eating soup.

– In 2007, if you’ve forgotten all of the above and things play out exactly as they have, remember:

– In 2007, do not drink the Gin and Tonic. If you do, and it happens (believe me, you’ll know what), tell someone.

– In 2007, triple bind the scarf to stop it stretching.

– In 2008, someone will offer to repay you in kind, accept it.

– In 2008, call her! Just fucking call her. Do not let anything, anyone or any anxiety stop you!

– In 2009, the person who shares the name of someone in your past needs your help. Do everything and anything you can!

– In 2009, remember a synonym for rocky pinnacle; not a flightless bird.

– In 2009, do not click ‘publish’ when mentally unstable.

– In 2010, they are not offering Salvation!

– In 2011, if you’ve forgotten all of the above and things play out exactly as they have, buy a new belt, yours is getting weak!

Hopefully you’ll only need to remember the first item to give you the life you want; I’m just trying to cover all the bases!

Now, with all that in mind, and without trying to embarrass you, I need to talk briefly about you know what. If I remember rightly you’ve already started thinking about it and you’ve already started convincing yourself that it’s wrong, bizarre and downright disgusting. But remember what I told you? CHANGE YOUR THINKING!

POP QUIZ HOTSHOT: Fill in the blank…your thoughts about this are                                                                 .

I told you to think positive! Now, given I know you won’t want this written down anywhere – prying eyes and all – I want to let you in on a few things. Firstly, you are not alone! There are many people who think the same way you do – millions upon millions of them! Secondly, in about five years you’ll discover something called the Internet and when you do you’ll berate yourself for wanting to type something in. Don’t! Because you’ll finally learn that I was speaking the truth when I said you weren’t alone. Thirdly, there is nothing wrong with it! Fourthly, never, ever, ever, let anyone stop you from experiencing it.

Life is meant to be lived, Andrew, never forget that! You don’t want to get to my age and still have this as a fantasy! It will invest you like a parasite and devour you from the inside out! Just embrace it!

You see Andrew, like all those body issues and mind fucks you give yourself, this is just another part of the anxiety; another reason to hate yourself, another reason to convince yourself you’re the world’s most grotesque human being.

Whereas in reality, it’s just another reason to love yourself even more!

Like your writing, your art, your imagination, your compassion, your creativity, your passion…this is just another small stitch in the multi-coloured tapestry that is you!

No-one will ever define who you are Andrew, trust me on that. People will try. Oh, believe me they’ll try! But no matter what gets thrown at you, you don’t let them. You channel your strength and keep trying to be the best version of yourself you can be. This is what you need to start doing now.

Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Don’t let anyone control your destiny. Not those cunts at school, not your sister, not your teachers, naysayers or abusers. You – and you alone – are in charge of your life.

So as long as you believe in me like I believe in you, we’ll be just fine.

Take care my friend, be nice to yourself, always.

With love and hugs,

Addy xx

PS…In 1996 you will become disheartened and question your faith…just remember 2005!

PPS…POP QUIZ HOTSHOT: Fill in the blank…The freckles on your hand are                                                  .

PPPS…Yes, I still write dozens of PSs!

PPPPS…Please stop hating yourself so much, no matter what you or anyone tells you, you really are a good person.


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Stream of Consciousness: Good Days, Bad Days and Everything In Between

Quiet Days

(Note: other than my yearning for a quiet day, this bares little resemblance to the post. I do miss this group by the way, Time and Tide being a particularly good Scottish folk album)

Sometimes I think writing a blog does more harm than good.

Last night I didn’t sleep.

Period.

Since reading the influx of ‘abuse’ articles that have appeared in the Australian media since Sunday my stress has been off the charts…and when I get stressed, I hallucinate.

I don’t imagine acrobatic aardvarks or lecherous lizards, I hear voices. Endlessly critical and harming voices that pick apart the atrocity of my life and encourage me to self-harm and self-hate. They bombard me with negative comment and vicious insult that derive (and feed into) the abuse that I suffered all those years ago. Some of the voices are people I used to know, others are figments of my imagination, all derogatory, never supportive.

Sometimes the noise in my head is so bad I feel like screaming. Others so distressing I want to smash my head against the wall to make them stop. Over and over. Day after day. It’s all I hear.

And as they fill the emptiness of my mind, I read endless articles with unsubstantiated statistics derived to ensure Australia believes 100% that men are the perpetrators and never the victim of abuse. Countless column inches and comments fields informing me; that male victims are unimportant as they make up a meagre few percent of the statistics, that men are at fault for the abuse they suffered, that males who have been abused are not as important as their lives are never destroyed, that any man who speaks out to address this imbalance is instantly labelled a misogynist or MRE and derided in a monumnetal act of disgraceful hypocrisy.

All actions that prevent me from either writing of the abuse I suffered or trying to fight for better awareness of the issue as I will instantly be shot down for not supporting the abuse against women.Which I do, frequently, hell I even took a beating because I abhor this behaviour so much.

And as my voices continue their assault, my Twitter timeline fills with discussions I cannot involve myself with; of discussion of movies and television shows I am unable to watch, of news stories I cannot comprehend because of the din in my mind, of quick witted comebacks that I cannot compete with, of debates that I care about but know little of merit because of the isolated life I live and any attempt to engage in these debates is shot down because of my situation.

That my circumstances do not allow me to have an opinion because I am homeless, un-tertiary educated, a recipient of benefits and therefore a non-tax payer and a lazy, worthless dole bludger. All of which apparently mean I am non-human and my voice meaningless.

Yet despite all this I am told by psychiatrists that there is nothing wrong with me. Forcing the only conclusion that it is normal to exist in a state of perpetual pain; to hear voices twenty-four hours a day and be unable to stop or control them.

Sometimes I think writing a blog does more harm than good.

I never know what to write. And I hate what I do.

Period.

For three hours last night, between 11pm and 1am, I was debating my last reflections post. An unfocussed mess of hazy memory and frustrated diction. I wanted to delete it, to erase it from existence, but I couldn’t even focus enough to do that.

Each day I sit to write something that people will like. That will make them smile, or think, or question how we are living our lives. But each day I struggle to string cohesive sentences together, frustrating myself at the lagging pace in which my computer runs at, hurling cookies across the room as the sentence I type takes as long as sixty seconds to appear on-screen.

Each post I write becomes an example of the chaos my mind dwells in. Posts flit between depressing homelessness, rambling rants (such as this) and obscure lists attempting to raise a smile and lift me from this nothingness.

Yesterday I wrote of trying to find myself through writing, but as the voices reach symphonic levels, all I am left with is the cycle of self-criticism that my blog is just a waste of precious internet real estate.

Others do what I do far better, far more succinctly and with a far greater level of humour and intelligence so why do I bother? So say the cacophonicous voices. And I, when they rise to levels I have no option but to believe them.

Sometimes I think writing a blog does more harm than good.

For it is all I have.

Period.

I rise in the morning and switch on the radio. I listen to people who have lives and hope and passion. I eat toast and sip on tea. I turn my mind toward all the ideas that circle in my mind and try to release them onto the page. I argue bitterly with ghosts from the past in an eternal struggle to come to terms with all I have been through. Sometimes I question my experience just as others disbelieve my words. But why would I lie? I despise sympathy, I refuse to give it to myself and hate people feeling sorry for me. I fight hard through the hours to fill my time. Occasionally walking down the road to post what I’ve written, to explore the library and find books I yearn to read. In the evenings I sit alone in my flat unable to participate in Norman the Quiz through lack of phone before retreating to bed after being once more defeated.

Nothing accomplished. Nothing achieved. Just another day of fighting the trauma as the dreams of a better future dissolve further to dust.

Friends, relationships, family? How can I hope to have any of these when I cannot speak in morbid fear of a repeat of all that happened five years ago? It is better to protect myself than to be used, manipulated and abused as I was all those years ago.

Photography, writing, filmmaking? How can I hope to indulge these desires when I cannot afford a camera, or focus my creativity away from the endless warbling and chorus of voices that disparage and destroy? It is better to admit I will never amount to anything in these fields and focus on areas that hold little joy for at least there, failure would mean nothing.

Stability, sanity, happiness? How can I hope to become this way when I have grown so weary of fighting these issues and illnesses alone I have nothing left to fight with. It is better to embrace my lunacy than allow myself to believe I will be anything more than a nutcase.

Cinema, cycling, activities? How can I hope to enjoy these or any passions again when I cannot afford or deal with the socialising required to partake in them? It is better to discover new activities that bring pleasure than set myself up for failure.

Employment, education, future? How can I hope to believe I will be able to do any of this when I cannot even get through a single hour without arguing angrily with thin air. It is better to accept my poverty than to dream of a brighter future.

Sometimes I think writing a blog does more harm than good.

For I’m not presenting who I am.

Period.

I’m not always as depressed, anxious or down as my posts seem. Yet each day I post increasingly more depressing pieces that further the belief that I cannot be anything other than my illness.

Writing happy pieces feels wrong. Forced. When I read them back it feels like I am pretending to keep others happy as a result of not allowing myself to admit to how screwed up I really am. Perhaps this is yet another hang-over from the abuse; when trying to raise my problems was met with criticism and insult rather than even an iota of love and support. Even glandular fever was something I was not allowed to suffer, instead forced into the pretence of I’m fine that only elongated my recovery by pushing me to focus my energy in every direction but recovery.

In my heart I feel how creative and passionate I am. Deep in my soul I know I can achieve more than what I am currently doing. Yet each day, I criticise myself that little bit more for not being to show this side of me to the world. Worlds of passion, desire, humour and strength lying forgotten within me, pushed into the rankest corners by the voices that dominant and control every action and reaction of my life.

It’s not who I want to be. I do have a counsellor. Yet I cannot allow myself to feel that anything will ever be better than this. Sometimes it just feels that my life ended when I was twenty-seven and will never be anything again.

Deep down I know it’s the result of abuse (contrary to the social commentators) feeding into my mental ill health (contrary to the psychiatrists) and feasting on the isolation I created for myself.

But fighting these is hard and I’m sorry I’m not strong enough to do it sometimes.

Sometimes I think writing a blog does more harm than good.

I wish it wasn’t the case, but right now it is.

Period.

Note: written as a stream of consciousness, so apologies for any grammatical, spelling or depression fuelled woe-is-me.