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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Celebrating Thirteen Years in Australia

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the worst decision I ever made in my life; emigrating to Australia. If I could have my time again I would never (in a million years) have come to this godforsaken, sociopathic country as it has done nothing but destroy my soul and leave me a hollow, empty, disenfranchised shell. But, alas, I cannot. So I can only try to focus on the good that my adopted ‘home’ has given me.

As such, in celebration of this auspicious day, I have decided to share thirteen of my favourite photos that were taken on Australian soil.

Hopefully you will enjoy gazing upon them.

~ Click each image to enlarge ~

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Thirteen things to do instead of smoking…

Yesterday, I had a major set-back in my quit smoking endeavor. After a brutal night of no sleep, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks (courtesy of my bedfellow, PTSD) I turned to my age-old coping mechanism and puffed my way through a pack of smokes. I was angry with myself. I was annoyed with myself. But there is little I can do about it now other than slap my own butt and start the day anew. So. Instead of smoking I’ve decided to Thursday Thirteen my way through the morning, with thirteen things you can do instead of smoking. Hopefully writing it will renew my determination and help others struggling with this crazy thing called quitting smoking.

So without further ado…

Thirteen things to do instead of smoking

quit-smoking-now-no-smoking-please

~ in no particular order ~

~1~
Exercise!

So you’re craving a cigarette? You need that sweet feeling nicotine gives you? Stop. Take a breath. And go for a walk instead. If you don’t feel like walking, go for an endorphin creating session at your local gym or a thigh burning bicycle ride. If you don’t feel like doing either of these things, press play on the video below and spend ten minutes working your cute little butt off. Exercise will take your mind off your cravings and help shape a better you in the process.
I promise.

~2~
Binge!

I’ve long been a fan of the binge-on-your-favourite-TV-show craze. It’s a pleasant way to pass the time, keeps you entertained and engaged, and can quickly take your mind off the unpleasantness of nicotine withdrawal. So instead of lighting up, slip a DVD in your player and treat yourself to several episodes of your favourite show. You’ll forget about smoking in no time!

game-of-thrones-daenerys-targaryen-dragon-20150624140946-558aba2a95724

Top five TV shows to binge on:

1. Game of Thrones; it’s a contemporary classic for a reason
2. 24; Jack Bauer can kick anyone’s butt, including cigarettes!
3. The Walking Dead; zombies, zombies, and more zombies!
4. Castle; if Molly C. Quinn can’t curb your craving, nothing will.
5. Doctor Who; the Daleks can exterminate anything, including nicotine cravings!

~3~
Om nom nom!

Instead of smoking your way through a pack of cancer causing chemicals, why not sate your cravings with some scrumptious food. Since quitting smoking I’ve been addicted to toasted cheese sandwiches, peppermints, licorice and maple pecan pastries. But you could try something more healthy, say fruit juice, carrots, celery or salad. Find something that works for you and go with it. You’d be amazed at how quickly yummy food can take your mind off those evil, vicious, cravings.

The+Perfect+Grilled+Cheese+Sandwich+800+1581

How to make the perfect toasted cheese sandwich

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 slices bread, day old
3 ounces cheese, grated/shredded, room temperature

Directions
1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Completely butter one side of each slice of bread.
3. Place one slice of bread in the pan, buttered side down, sprinkle on the cheese and top with the remaining slice of bread, buttered side up.
4. Turn the heat down a notch and cook until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.
5. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2-4 minutes.

~ from ClosetCooking ~

~4~
Video Games!

Video games can be a godsend during a quit smoking campaign. They keep your hands occupied. They keep your brain engaged. And they’re both an entertaining and enjoyable way to pass the time.

Last week, on my first day without cigarettes, I treated myself to a second-hand copy of Yoshi’s New Island for the 3DS. The idea was that the happy, bouncy green dinosaur would help take my mind off the cravings, and for the first few days, until I completed the game, he did. Since then I’ve moved on to other video games in an effort to take my mind off cigarettes. And they’ve helped, enormously.

Lego-batman-the-videogame-characters_(1)

Top five video games to take your mind off smoking:

1. Lego Batman; a glorious game of minion fighting and puzzle solving.
2. The Legend of Zelda; by the end of your first dungeon, cigarettes will be a thing of the past.
3. Yoshi’s New Island; you’ll enjoy the dinosaur so much you won’t think of smoking.
4. Mario Kart; challenge yourself with time trails, they’ll stop the cravings in their tracks.
5. Brain Training; keep your brain engaged with simple, fun trials and tribulations.

~5~
Music!

Music has the power to transport us to another time and place. It has the power to make us happy when we’re sad. It has the power to take hold of our soul and shower us with warm feelings of excitement and merriment. So instead of lighting up, log onto iTunes, stick a CD in your stereo, and blast your cravings away with your favourite tunes. But make sure it’s something you love, something that speaks to you, something that will get you singing and dancing along. Your cravings will evaporate in no time.

~6~
Blog!

If you’re a blogger, why not write your way through the cravings. Settle down in front of the computer and exorcise your demons through words and emotions. Write about your day. Write about your craving. Write about donuts. Just write anything. By the time you’ve shared your moment with the world your cravings will have disappeared and you’ll have gone another hour without the dreaded cigarettes.

It you’re not a blogger, then log onto the internet and check out other people’s blogs. Spend some time surfing the net and experiencing life through the thoughts and minds of others. By the time you’ve read your umpteenth blog post your cravings will have dissipated and you’ll have gone another hour without the demon cigarettes.

Blog-Image

Top five blogs to read your way through the cravings:

1. Panic Disordered
2. Many of Us
3. Strong Enough to Break
4. Blahpolar Diaries
5. Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess

~7~
Have a bath!

No-one smokes in the bath. No-one. Mainly because your cigarette would get all soggy. So instead of lighting up, strip yourself naked and soak yourself in a calming, relaxing, sweet-smelling tub of hot water. Not only will you be showing yourself some (much-needed) self-love, you’ll find the soothing water will evaporate any craving you’re experiencing.

bath

Top five secrets to the perfect bath:

1. If you use the right ingredients, bathing makes you look younger
It’s true – high quality, natural bath salts can take years off your appearance by helping your body defend against climate and UV exposure, genetics, and other elements that speed up the aging process. Not only that, but natural salts can help your skin repair and restore its youthful smoothness and vitality on a cellular level, addressing existing signs of aging such as fine lines and an uneven skin tone.

2. Atmosphere is key
Before you take your bath, make sure the lighting in your room is soft and low. Either dim the lights or place candles along the rim of your tub. Bring in a portable CD player and play your favourite, soothing music. Before you know it, your bathroom will be transformed into a quiet, tranquil oasis.

3. When it comes to bath salts, the more, the better!
Don’t be shy! Be generous with the bath salts – the more, the better. Grab a handful or, even better, two – and hold them under the running water as you draw your bath, allowing the salts to release their fragrance and oils into the steam as they fall into the water. The idea here is to replicate an oceanic environment – after all, there’s nothing more therapeutic than soaking in the sea.

4. Keep that curtain closed.
After you step into your bath, either partially or completely close the shower curtain or door. This not only seals in the heat (so water takes longer to cool), but it keeps in all that fabulous, fragrant steam. The steam will open and cleanse the pores in your skin, giving you a youthful, healthy glow.

5. Not so fast – keep soaking!
After 10 minutes of soaking, you may be tempted to hop out of your tub and go back to other activities. Instead, lie back and stay there for another 10 minutes. The bath salts will have time to work their magic on your skin while the warmth of the water improves your circulation and lowers your blood pressure. Not only will soaking longer help your body, but it will greatly benefit your mind. Believe it or not, it takes a while to get “used” to relaxing – those first few minutes are often spent thinking about appointments, projects, and deadlines. Once your mind is clear, close your eyes and relax!

~ from SFSalt ~

~8~
Go to the cinema!

You can’t smoke in the cinema. Well, you could, but it would be illegal, and you’d risk the wrath of both patrons and employees alike. So take your mind off the cravings by treating yourself to a movie and popcorn. Unfortunately, I can’t indulge in this activity as my social anxiety prevents me from being around so many people so, if you’re like me, why not recreate that cinema feel in the comfort of your own home? Just pop some popcorn into the microwave then curl up on the couch with your favourite comfort movie. Your cravings will just vanish, I promise.

~9~
Read!

There’s no pain or torment in the world that a good book can’t quell. So instead of reaching for your smokes, reach for a good book instead. You’ll be transported to another world, fall in love with enigmatic characters and lose yourself to the danger and excitement contained within. So much better than killing your body with harmful substances.

Woman reading a book

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
~ Jane Austen ~

~10~
Massage

Last night I dreamt (the divine) Karen Gillan was giving me a full body massage. It made me realise that (a) my life is devoid of human-to-human contact, (b) that dreams are so much more exciting than reality and (c) massages rock!

So instead of lighting up, pester your significant other until they tear your clothes off, lie you down, and massage the living hell out of your aching, cigarette craving body. By the end of the massage you’ll be relaxed, invigorated and ready to face the next challenge.

If your partner is ignorant to the ways of massage, why not get them to watch this video:

~11~
Colouring In!

Colouring in is no longer just for children. In recent years it has become quite the adult entertainment device. Not only is it an incredibly mindful activity, it can work wonders in taking your mind off whatever problem you’re having, including nicotine craving. So instead of cracking out the smokes, open up a pack of delicious coloured pencils and get creative!

Here are some colouring in pages to print out:

~ Click each image to enlarge ~

~12~
Spanking!

Okay, so I’m running out of ideas. But bear with me. It may sound random, it may sound bizarre, it may even sound a little kinky, but a good spanking will take your mind off whatever problem you’re having. So cosy on up to your significant other and quietly request they smack your cute little bottom until it’s rosy red and flooding you with warmth and excitement! Your nicotine cravings will be gone in an instant, I assure you. :p

OTKspanking

Six of the best spanking tips:

1. Massage is a nice way to prime his (or her) butt pre-spank. Start by gently caressing his cheeks, and after a few minutes, begin kneading them as though you were making dough. Every so often, give him a firm pinch to prep him for more intense action later on.

2. When you’re ready for the big shebang, keep a few pointers in mind (and share these with him, too): (1) Mix things up – try a series of quick little slaps, followed by one big whack. (2) Alternate between smacking with an open palm and a cupped hand; each feels and sounds different. (3) Stick to the fatter lower part of his butt or his cheeks, and avoid his tailbone.

3. Try this game: Collect a bunch of household objects that would make fun DIY floggers – a wooden spoon, spatula, paperback book, etc. Spank him with one of the items and have hum guess what it is.

4. A cute way to send the message that you’re in the mood for a spanking. Use permanent marker to write something sexy on the backside of your undies, like Spank Me or I’ve Been Naughty.

5. Dirty talk makes spanking even hotter. Tell him, “Honey, every time I spank you I want you to say ‘Again, please,’ like a good boy.” It might spark some sexy role play.

6. Make sure you decide on a safe word first – something totally disconnected from sex like “popcorn” or “sunshine”.

~ from Cosmopolitan ~

and

~13~
Plan for the future!

Think of how much money you’re saving from not smoking. Pretty soon you’re gonna be rolling in the stuff. So instead of smoking, get your mind working and figure out how you’re gonna spend all that money. Are you going to treat yourself to a new book? A new video game? A day at your local spa? Or have you decided to save up for something more magnificent, like a holiday, car or house?

holiday

Now that you’re no longer a smoker, the entire world is your oyster!


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Thirteen questions I think about…a lot

1. Why are people so eager to forget that men can also be victims of abuse?

Statistically more women are abused than men. That much is beyond question. But does that mean we should just forget about all the men who are living in violent relationships? All the men who are living in fear of their partner’s violent outbursts, be they physical or psychological? If you were to believe the mainstream media, we should absolutely be forgetting these people, these human beings, because I have never in my life read an article, opinion piece or commentary in the mainstream media about female on male domestic violence. I am not a MRE, but I believe this is wrong. Just wrong.

2. What happened to the Beaumont Children?

On the 26 January 1966, three children disappeared whilst visiting Glenelg Beach in South Australia. They were never seen or heard from again. Forty-nine years later no-one has any idea (beyond random theory and hypothetical) what happened to these children…and it is something that has bugged me for a very long time. In fact, inventing a time machine in order to travel back to that day has been on my bucket list for ten years!

3. Why is cheese so deliciously addictive?

Seriously, it’s like crack cocaine for dairy lovers!

cheese

Why is cheese so deliciously addictive?

4. Why do shops insist on using price stickers that refuse to come off?

Oh lordy, does this annoy me! There’s a shop in my town that sells second-hand DVDs and their price stickers seem to be welded onto the case as it’s impossible to remove them. I want to look at the beautiful cover art, not a massive piece of white paper with a garish bar code on it!

5. Why do so many people still believe mental illness doesn’t exist? 

This isn’t rocket science, people! We can have illnesses of every single body part you can think of. Heart disease, pancreatitis, lung cancer, stubbed toe…to name but a few. So why is it so hard to understand there can also be an illness within the brain? Morons.

6. Why is chocolate eaten at Easter?

Well, why do we? Why not donuts or celery or chicken or mangoes or jam? Who decided it should be chocolate? Other than the chocolate manufacturers, that is.

chocolate

Why is chocolate eaten at Easter?

7. Is Grosse Pointe Blank the greatest film in John Cusack‘s body of work?

Of course it’s not. That honour belongs to Say Anything…

8. Why do people refuse to take responsibility for their actions?

This one bugs me more than anything else. Even though many of my actions over the last ten years can be blamed squarely on the ups and downs of my bipolar cycle (including the loss of friends, bad life decisions, homelessness and randomly spanking unsuspecting women on the backside) I still take full responsibility for my (occasionally misogynistic) actions. And if I have to take responsibility for things, why don’t other people? Criminals exclusively blaming their crimes on the drug ice, random strangers blaming other random strangers for bad car driving skills…no…take effing responsibility for your actions, decisions and emotions, you’re grown adults for crying out loud, not petulant children!

9. When did motorised bicycles become such a thing?

If you want a motorbike, buy a bloody motorbike…because riding around on a bicycle with a lawnmower engine attached to it makes you look like a twat. Period.

motorized-bicycle-4

When did motorised bicycles become such a thing?

10. Is reliance on technology making our children stupid?

Oh, they can type like some random typing demon, but can they write with their hands? Oh, they can play with an iPad like some master tech guru, but can they use their imagination for play? Oh, they can speed type a text message on their swanky iPhones, but can they have an actual face-to-face conversation? All pertinent questions that demand to be answered for the sake of all human kind.

11. Who is the best Doctor?

Personally, it’s David Tennant all the way. Why? Because he balanced the light/dark sides of the character more perfectly than anyone else who has undertaken the role. But I’m always keen on debating this with people, I am a fan after all!

12. Why do I keep writing this blog?

Eight years of writing the same blog is a bloody long time, so much so that I often question whether or not I have anything left to say, or more importantly, whether I have anything left that people will be interested in. Ho hum, I guess time will tell on this one!

david tennant

Who is the best Doctor?

13. How many people will understand the MRE acronym I used in question one?

Well…did you?


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Thirteen tips to help you survive Christmas

If you’re anything like me, Christmas is not the all-out happy family and friends fun fest that the media would have you believe. Instead, it’s a time of loneliness, emotional triggers and wishing to whoever will listen that the whole ‘holiday period’ would just bugger off and leave you alone.

Well, help is at hand. For today’s Thursday Thirteen I’m going to share some of my plan for getting through this insidious time of year relatively unscathed. Who knows, perhaps you will pick up a few ideas to help you survive this year’s silly season.

Christmas

~ in no particular order ~

1. Take steps to minimize self-harm

Because of the sheer number of emotional triggers that occur for me during this time of year (e.g. Samantha’s death, my girlfriend cheating on me on Christmas Day, not very pleasant memories of my abusive relationship) there is always the very real chance that I will resort to self-harm in order to get me through the days. However, as this is something I am trying not to do this year, I’ve taken steps to minimize the possibility.

Firstly, my random assortment of cutting implements have been given to my support worker to keep locked up in an impenetrable building during the holiday period. Secondly, I have placed on the fridge and bathroom mirror a list of distractions that I can utilize instead of self-harm. And thirdly, I have given myself permission to forgive myself should I take a misstep and actually self-harm.

Should this be a problem for you, other possible things you can do are: have a help-line number on hand in-case things become too difficult to control, make sure you have a trusted friend (or friends) that you can turn to if needs be, organize a ‘tool box’ of coping and distraction implements that you can use instead of your usual self-harm implements.

2. Seek out other people…

Most major towns and cities will have a charitable organisation that organizes a Christmas event for people in need. In my town there is a community lunch being offered, where people who don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with can enjoy a cooked meal in the company of other, like-minded souls.

Although I didn’t attend last year’s event – for reasons I shall divulge in a moment – I did head down in 2011, so this is an option that’s on the table if I can handle being around other people this Christmas.

So if you don’t fancy being alone for Christmas, why not do a little bit of local research and see what community events are planned for your towns or cities this year. Even if you do have people to spend Christmas with, you can always volunteer your time to help make Christmas a special time for those who are most in need.

3. …or spend the day on your own

The reason I didn’t attend last year’s community Christmas lunch was because my anxiety was so extreme that I couldn’t handle being around other people last year. There is also the trigger of being reminded just what I’m missing the most in my life; the company of others. However bizarre it may sound, being around others will often amplify my feelings of isolation and loneliness, thus making it more difficult when I return home alone.

As such, there is the very real possibility that, like last year, I will be spending Christmas Day alone. Although this sounds rather sad and pathetic, it really isn’t.

One of the best Christmases I ever had was spent completely on my own. I didn’t see friends, I didn’t see family, I didn’t see anyone. Instead, I chilled out watching movies, reading books, going for casual strolls in the snow and treating myself to a blissfully tasty home-cooked Christmas dinner.

Given the media make it abundantly clear that you should be spending Christmas Day with family and friends it’s all too easy to forget that there is nothing wrong with being on your own.

So if this is how you are choosing to spend Christmas, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for it. Not even yourself!

4. Limit your alcohol consumption

Last year, I found myself turning to alcohol as a means of surviving the Christmas period. Normally I will drink alcohol on only four days of the year – my primary triggering anniversaries – so after last year I am acutely aware that this could become a problem again this year.

The plan I have in place to prevent this from happening is very similar to that of the self-harm issue above. I have resolved not to keep any alcohol in the house, I have my list of distractions to turn to in times of distress and, once again, I’ve given myself permission to forgive myself should a misstep occur.

So if the holiday period is a depressive one for you, and you feel you may be turning to alcohol to ease your pain, remember that alcohol is a depressive, so all you’re doing is making it harder for yourself!

5. Distractions I: Watch an uplifting movie

One of my primary methods of distraction is film and television. In preparation of the Christmas period I have made a list of films and television series that I want to watch; all of them being titles I can utilize to help me survive; all of them being ‘uplifting’ or ‘comic’ in nature.

So this year, in times of distress, I will (hopefully) be entertained by Monsters University, Due South, The To Do List, 30 Rock (S7) and The Lone Ranger.

Perhaps you too could benefit from preparing an emergency movie list! :)

6. Distractions II: Play an engrossing video game

Last year, I saved Hyrule twice and prevented Lego Middle Earth from total annihilation. This year, I plan to save Hyrule again (courtesy of a replay of Skyward Sword) and will no doubt play in Lego heaven once more courtesy of Audrey’s favourite game, Lego Batman. All the while reminding myself that there is nothing wrong with having a bit of playful fun over this time of year.

So if video games are your thing, perhaps you could plan to play through a particular title, or have a few old favourites up your sleeve in case of distressing times.

7. Distractions III: Write…Write…Write

As everyone is rushing around cooking Turkeys, tripping over presents and trying not to look silly in flimsy paper hats, blogs the world over will be desolate wastelands. But if you’re on your own, there’s nothing to stop you posting whatever meaningful thought that comes to mind. Writing is, after all, one of the most therapeutic practices there is and there will always be people like me waiting to read your words.

So if things are getting too much, remember that not everyone is with their family and friends, some will be sitting in front of their computer looking for things to read and people to spend Christmas with.

So get writing!

PS…if you’re stuck for things to write about, I will be undertaking a blog challenge of my own creation during the twelve days of Christmas, so you’re more than welcome to play along with me! :)

8. Treat yourself I: Gift for you

Christmas is a time for giving…so why not give something to yourself?

As I know Christmas is going to be a vicious period for me, I always try to buy myself a wee present to reward myself for all the good work I’ve done throughout the year. In the past these presents have ranged from a cherished music CD, items of clothing, a much wanted book or watchalicious DVD box set.

As yet I haven’t decided what my present will be this year, so if you’re not sure either, get your thinking caps on as Christmas is only six days away!

9. Treat yourself II: Food for you

As with item 8 above, one of my other personal traditions for Christmas, especially since my homelessness ended, is to treat myself to a particular foodstuff that I wouldn’t normally buy throughout the year. This foodstuff is something that always makes me happy, that I think is the most delicious thing in the world and something that I actually look forward to eating; namely, Yorkshire Puddings! :p

So why not reward all your hard work this year with a delicacy you wouldn’t normally buy, a foodstuff that will put a smile on your most worthy of faces.

10. Treat yourself III: Shower yourself with self-love

This is hard for me to do at the best of times, let alone during the most insidious and unpleasant times of the year! But this year I am going to do my level best to love myself as much as humanly possible.

Whether this is allowing myself an extra-long shower with sweet-smelling body lotion, indulging in half a dozen candles that are just as odorlicious as the body lotion or other, somewhat naughtier delights, this year I am going to try to make Christmas all about loving Addy.

So why don’t you do to? Love yourself, I mean, not me! Single out a few things you love to do but rarely get the chance – candlelit baths, massages, other, somewhat naughtier delights – and relish in the act of showering yourself with the love you rightly deserve.

11. Sleep!

With all the stressors and triggers ravaging your body, you may not be getting as much sleep as your body needs to function properly, so do your level best to get at least a few hours sleep each night.

Your body (and mind) will thank you for it if you do! :)

12. Remember that you’re not alone!

When the demons of isolation and loneliness consume you, remember that you are never alone. Even if you don’t have family or friends to turn to, most help-lines are operational throughout the Christmas and New Year period so don’t feel embarrassed to call them if you need to talk to someone.

But if you’re anything like me, when things become too overwhelming you completely forget your own name, let alone mental health help-lines. So one way you can remind yourself of this option is to create a helpful list of numbers – such as, Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Helplines, the Salvation Army, your local hospital or mental health service – that you can call if things get too overwhelming. Once you’ve created your list place it on the fridge, next to the TV, on a prominent mirror, so that you always know where it is should you need it.

13. Be prepared

If, like me, you know that the Christmas period is going to be a challenging, stressful and unpleasant time, channel your inner-boy scout and be prepared.

Hopefully this list will have given you a few ideas you can put in place to ease the stress over the holiday period, but if not, perhaps sit down and try to come up with a few ideas that could ease the loneliness, anxiety and depressive thoughts; and once done, perhaps consider sharing your ideas in the comments field below.

With all the media hubbub and consumerist shenanigans that occur over this time of year, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hurricane and swept away. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Remember, we don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan; and this year I am planning for a healthy, safe and relatively stress-free Christmas. How about you?


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Thirteen things that have saved my life…

Skins

Whilst working through the Skins DVD box-set I received for my birthday last week something strange happened. Something I wasn’t expecting but, in hindsight, should have.

In April 2009 I was living in a dodgy boarding house in Inverness. The boarding house was a converted kindergarten school, complete with child-size toilets and Playschool-esque wall decorations. With sixteen other people living in the house personal space was limited, and I spent most of my time huddled in my room, twiddling my thumbs and trying to find something to fill the void.

At the time I was suffering through a particularly nasty depressive episode, veering in and out of suicidal ideation and desperately trying to procure some professional help from the local mental health services.

On one night, in an effort to provide some relief from the self-harm I had been engaging in, I walked the two kilometers to the local Tesco supermarket at around eleven in the evening. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I ended up purchasing a copy of Skins Series 3 from their entertainment section and returned home to watch it.

As I had done countless times in the past, I ended up staying up the entire night to watch the ten episode series in a televisual marathon. By the end of it all urge to self-harm had evaporated and for the next several days no suicidal thought crept into my mind. Courtesy of a simple television show, for several days I was calm, at ease and able to focus on what I needed to do.

Whilst watching the same season over the weekend, I was taken back to those dark days and reminded that were it not for Skins there is a reasonable chance that I wouldn’t be here to write these words today.

All of which got me thinking about other entertainment products that have saved my life over the years.

Zelda

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1993)

This is the video-game that began my life-long love affair with the world of Hyrule and a game that, more than any other, defines my child-hood. At a time when my depression was first starting to bite and the urge to self-harm was becoming increasingly difficult to overcome, having a world to escape to was a tremendous solace to me. So much so that when the game was re-released for the Gameboy Advance in the early naughties, I was one of the first in line to add it to my collection purely so I could relive some of the happier memories of my teenage years.

2. Doctor Who: The Classic Era (1993)

There is a reason why I was so excited by the recent fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who. It wasn’t just because I have been a fan for over twenty-five years of my life, but because during the mid-nineties, when I was first becoming lost to depression, self-harm and suicidal urges, it provided me with an escape like no other. Although heavily criticized for its effects, the classic-era of Doctor Who will long be held in my heart, and not just because one of my strongest memories is of Sarah Sutton stripping down to her underwear in the story Terminus!

3. The Famous Five (1995)

One of my strongest memories of childhood is of my parents reading me the Famous Five books each and every night. They owned the complete collection in – what I remember being – first edition hardbacks. Although I may have seemed a little too old for these stories at the time, during the harshness of those teenage years I would often delve back into the world of 1950s innocence as a way to escape the pain that I was feeling.

Famous Five

4. Highlander (1997)

During the late nineties there were only a handful of television series that I was passionate about. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one, Due South another, but the biggest of the three was the Vancouver based series Highlander, inspired by the Christopher Lambert starring motion pictures. This series was a huge source of escapism for me at the time and inspired countless aspects of my own writing (from the historical aspect of the storytelling to the presence of immortals). It was also a series that made me want to visit Glenfinnan, which would go on to become one of my favourite places in this world.

5. Doctor Who: Utopia, The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords (2007)

In late 2007, courtesy of losing everything after my breakdown, I owned just one DVD; the final three episodes of Doctor Who’s third series. As a result, over the course of six traumatic months, this became my go-to option in times of distress. As such, they are my three favourite episodes of new Doctor Who, and probably always will be.

6. Brandi Carlile, The Story (2007)

Along with Chasing Cars, this album provided me with the inspiration to begin writing this blog. When I hear songs such as The Story, Turpentine or Again Today I am taken back to the early days of my blogging career, and the hope that this venture provided me with at the time.

7. Supernatural (2007)

After attempting suicide in October 2007 I was a total, complete and utter mess. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t formulate ideas and I was unable to express how I was feeling to anyone. In fact, for weeks after the event – before becoming homeless – all I could do was sit on the sofa and watch random DVDs. It was during this period that I discovered Supernatural; a dark and humorous urban fantasy that enabled me to stay connected to the real-world and prevent the actualization of any further suicidal urges.

8. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2008)

Returning to Scotland in 2008 was a bittersweet experience for me. Although I relished being back amidst the mountains, glens and lochs of the world’s most beautiful country, I was overrun with memories of times past throughout my entire trip. Fortunately, this gleefully enjoyable video-game was at hand to beat back the demons and keep myself from doing anything stupid. I’ve been a fan of the Lego games ever since, and still turn to them in times of distress to this day.

9. Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars and The End of Time (2009)

As David Tennant was starring in the RSC’s production of Hamlet, there was no complete series of Doctor Who in 2009. Instead, we were treated to four ‘specials’ throughout the year; Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars and the two-part tenth Doctor’s finale, The End of Time. It was the latter two, which arrived during my initial months of homelessness, that helped ease the distress I was in and provided me with hope and inspiration for a better future.

10. One Tree Hill (2010)

Possibly the most important entry in this list is Mark Schwan’s stunning television series, One Tree Hill. Whilst living in a violent boarding house in late 2010 I essentially became agoraphobic, unable to leave my measly room for any reason for over four weeks. It was only the desire to watch more seasons of One Tree Hill that lifted me from my despair and enabled me to find the strength to rejoin the world. Without the magnificence of One Tree Hill I would definitely not be here, period.

Chuck

11. Chuck (2011)

Although I had been a fan of Chuck since watching the pilot episode with Samantha in Glasgow, 2008, it was only when I was re-watching the series in internet cafes whilst homelessness did I realise the positive effect it was having on my ideals of hope and determination. Ever since that realization, this show has lived in the forefront of my heart. One of the greatest television series of recent years.

12. Fringe (2012)

After procuring my new home in early 2012 I was a mess. Years of homelessness, despair, depression and hopelessness had taken their toll. Regardless of my new-found privacy and security I couldn’t shake the person I had become in the preceding years. I still believed I deserved nothing but pain, misery and a painful death. Fortunately, the decision to watch Fringe Season 3 changed all that. Within twenty-four hours I had polished off the 22 episode season and began working my way through seasons one and two before watching season three for a second time. As such, I have long credited this exquisite science-fiction show for giving me a renewed hope in the world and the strength to keep going when all felt lost.

13. The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (2012)

Last Christmas was a particularly brutal period for me. For nearly two months I was overwhelmed by the demons of depression, who pushed me against my will into the realms of alcoholism, self-harm and suicidal ideation. Luckily, courtesy of a birthday present from my parents, I had the world of Zelda to retreat into and, much like it did when I was but a fresh-faced teenager, it helped me quell the demons who were threatening me with extinction.