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 #4: Because you never know if today will be your last

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. Let’s get going.

6 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Once upon a time, I wrote the following advice in a blog post: ‘Life is a gift! Grab it, tear the wrapping off and play til your heart’s content’. It’s the only line of my blog I’ve memorized, because as you know, I didn’t say it, you did.

Four days. How do I write a letter to someone who I knew for four days some twelve years ago? A woman who carved her name on my heart for all eternity? Your sassy savviness, ——-, was always an inspiration to me so any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

In the numerous emails I sent you did I ever tell you that you were the first woman to leave your handprint on my cheek? That I wore the stinging pain like a badge of honor until the imprint of your studded ring faded three days later? If I didn’t, then I am now. If I did, please feel free to chastise me for repetition. Or not…because the only reason I bring it up is to thank you for it.

Since that night, there was only one woman who understood me enough to do what you did. Only they were less sadistic, so did it metaphorically, not physically. You know that was an option, right?

Sitting here, thinking not only of you but the potential people reading this letter, I’m starting to realize how messed up this sounds. There we were, sitting in a pub, drinking whisky, chatting nonchalantly, when out of nowhere you slapped me so hard my cheek was pink for hours! All because I wasn’t telling you what you wanted to hear. They’ll be thinking ‘that’s effing abuse’ or ‘Jesus, she sounds like a right a-hole!’

They won’t understand that it was exactly what I needed. You knew I wanted to tell you about Annie, about my life, about all the things you’d been trying to draw out of me. You knew my anxiety was holding me back and you needed to shock me out of it.

That’s what I always think of when I think of you. Your innate ability to delve deep into someone’s soul and yank out the person that you knew was buried deep within, even when they couldn’t see it themselves.

To my shame, and eternal guilt, I didn’t possess that ability. If I did, perhaps you’d still be alive, slapping anxious men into baring their soul before dancing with them through the silent Nova Scotian streets.

Dammit, ——–! I would give anything to smack some sense into you right now! Why didn’t you talk to someone? Why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you get help? Why didn’t you see just how fucking awesome you were?

When Teri told me what happened I couldn’t speak. I tried to, so hard, but nothing came out. It was like being punched in the chest by a twenty-foot polar bear wearing brick laden boxing gloves. The thought that someone as vibrant, outspoken, intelligent, compassionate and downright sexy as hell  could see no way out other than…other than…dammit, ——–, what the FUCK?

Why? Why? Fucking WHY? Do you have any fucking idea how many times I’ve asked myself that question? Teri couldn’t say, she didn’t know, you didn’t tell anyone. No note. No letter. No email. You just walked into the fucking bedroom in the fucking I Heart Halifax T-Shirt that I fucking brought you and slashed your wrists! What? Huh? Fucking why? Was it my fault? Was it because of me? Do you know how many times I’ve asked that question? You were wearing the fucking shirt I gave you, ——–, you expect me to believe that when you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror I didn’t flash into your mind? I had a T-Shirt given to me once; an artsy-hipstery green thing with a print of a girl swinging from a tree branch, whilst on the opposite branch a man was hanging himself. Whenever I saw that T-Shirt for months I thought of her! I didn’t even have to be wearing it; just the sight of it in the drawer brought her back to me. So NO, I don’t believe I didn’t cross your mind as you lay on the bed and bled yourself dry over the one present I gave you. I’ve gone over those four days so many times ——–, every second we spent together, every word, every syllable, every dram, every touch, every hug, every near kiss and hip-bump and I can’t for the life of me think of anything I did to make you kill yourself! So please, I need to know what I did! It’s been eating at my heart for over twelve years. Maybe if I’d done this, or that, or whatever, you would still be here; dazzling the world with your killer smile and warped sense of humour. Why? Jesus Christ, WHY? I could have helped you, ——–. Teri could have helped you. Anyone could have helped you. We all loved you! So why didn’t you let us? Why didn’t you confide in us? Why couldn’t you share what was going on? FUCK-ING-WHY? God I want to scream! So many times have those words filled my head. Day after week after month after year. Replaying, repeating, analyzing, endlessly trying to answer the question even though I’ll never know for sure. Ever. Bound to live a life in limbo, hating myself for not sensing your sadness, for not seeing the black dog had taken hold and wasn’t letting you go.

Oh, ——–, I am so sorry for not helping you. For not seeing the pain you were in. For not being a better friend. A better man. Despite the hole you’ve left that will never be filled, I hope, I pray, that you found the peace you so desperately needed. I know…because I’ve been there. I know how you felt when you pressed the knife to your wrist, feeling the blade shake in your hand as you wrestled with the dilemma of a lifetime of pain against the blissful relief. I just wish you’d dropped the knife like I did. That you’d chosen to fight on, like I did.

We’re approaching the anniversary, by the way, not long now before I spend the day celebrating your life. I’ve done it every year for the last eleven years. Last year, I recited Henry V next to a stream in the park I was sleeping in (I couldn’t find a fountain). The year before, I toasted your life with a special treat of fish’n’chips. A few years ago, I even wrote you a story, a crazy adventure about a woman who goes in search of a man named Hope.

I don’t know what I’ll do this year, maybe purchase a studded ring and slap myself hard in the face for old time’s sake! You should know that I’ve never stopped trying to overcome my anxiety. There have been a few times I got close, but without a friend like you to catch me, I just kept falling back.

All I know is that I’ll spend the day locked in the endless torment of the ever-present why?

——–, you taught me life is about seizing every opportunity you can. Of grabbing the world with both hands and squeezing it dry. If you want it, go for it, because everything is possible.

“Life is a gift! Grab it, tear the wrapping off and play til your heart’s content.” Is what you told me once. “Because you never know if today will be your last,”

You were an amazing woman, ——–, we could all see it. I only wish that you could have too.

Wherever you may be, I hope we meet again someday, if only to get answers to the questions that have tormented my mind these last twelve years. If only so I can sit and share whisky with you again, laughing and smiling as if the world was our private ball pit.

Wherever you may be, ——–, I hope you’ve found the peace and happiness you craved.

With love, hugs and hip-bumps,

Addy xx


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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.