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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Addy Lake vs Writer’s Block (and the World!)

One of the many downsides of bipolar depression are the crippling bouts of writer’s block that permeate each episode. For the last several days, ever since writing my last substantial post, I have been experiencing said writer’s block. No matter how much I want to write, no matter how brightly my post ideas burn, I just can’t find the words to express my emotions. A post on forgiveness has been sitting in my drafts folder for a week now. A post concerning my anxiety over my impending trip to Melbourne is begging to be written. Yet the moment I sit down to write…nothing. Not a sentence. Not a word. Not even a syllable. Nothing. It’s infuriating. It’s frustrating. And there doesn’t seem anything I can do about it other than ride out the episode and hope it dissipates sooner rather than later. In the meantime, you’ll have to make do with song selections and random streams of consciousness. Like this one.

handandbook

It’s been a rough old week. Last Friday I was incapacitated by an annoying little stomach bug that saw me seek refuge (and comfort) on my couch. I didn’t move from it for days. I just lay there, cocooned under a blanket, watching the good Doctor battle minions and mercenaries. I didn’t eat (wasn’t hungry), I didn’t blog (wasn’t inspired), I didn’t even social media – which I’m becoming frighteningly proficient at. I just lay there, cocooned under a blanket, feeling sorry for myself and wishing that I had the energy to do something, anything, more productive and worthwhile.

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day,”
~ A.A. Milne ~

This incapacitation lasted a few days. All through Saturday and Sunday the couch was my only destination. I did force myself to blog on Sunday, I did force myself to social media on Monday, but my heart was in neither. I just didn’t want the illness to overcome me. To be honest, I’m kinda over being sick this year. What with my pancreatitis and cyst taking up most of the first five months of the year, I could do with a substantial period of time that my immune system isn’t being assaulted by nefarious parasitic bacteria. I need a period of time where my energy is overflowing in order to combat this stubborn, unrelenting depression that has been gripping my mind for the last fifteen months.

And principle in my war against this depression is my trip to Melbourne. Over the last few weeks my plans have been coming together and it looks increasingly more likely that it will be going ahead. At this stage I plan to go the week of 21st August, so I can attend the social gathering I’ve been invited to. Not only is this social gathering something that I would love the opportunity to do, but it is something that will challenge my social anxiety head on, and anything that does that is worthwhile in my book. In addition to this social gathering, I’m eager to walk the streets of Melbourne again. I’m desperate to roam the laneways, eat street cuisine and overwhelm my psyche with the hubbub of city life. I want to explore the art galleries, watch the fishes at the aquarium and laze amidst the gardens of the King’s Domain.

It’s been nearly two years since I last left Wodonga. Two years of being suffocated by this sterile, uninspiring town. I crave stimulation. I yearn to have my heart’s desires met. I need my boring monotonous routine to be eradicated, and I can only do that by leaving this boring, monotonous town. I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. I know from past experience that if I do that, they will only be dashed at the last-minute by some hitherto unseen obstacle, but I should know whether my planned trip is possible next week. And if it is. Then prepare to be dazzled by Addy’s dance of excitement!

Aside from stomach bugs and dreaming of Melbourne adventures, life has carried on in much of a muchness. My quit smoking attempt is trundling on. I have smoked cigarettes over the last week, but for the last five days I have been totally smoke free, which is quite exciting. My anxiety, however, has been taking a major hit without nicotine to counteract it. For the last couple of weeks my anxieties have been off the charts, impacting and effecting every aspect of my life. There have been days when I haven’t left the house in fear of what may happen to me in the big bad world. There have been moments of panic at the supermarket; attacks that prevented me from performing fairly mundane and tedious of tasks. I’ve been doing a lot of work with mindfulness to try to combat this increase in anxiety, but to little or no effect. It seems that without cigarettes, my anxiety increases, and I don’t quite know what to do about it.

Meadhbh tells me that, in time, my anxiety will decrease. That it is merely a reaction to being nicotine free. She’s probably right, but only time will tell on that. As per expected she has been a Godsend over the last couple of weeks, egging me on, encouraging me to remain smoke free, playfully chastising me when I slip up but quick to offer an inspirational word or two when I need it most. We’ve been doing a lot of colouring in (using our Van Gogh colouring book) to curb any cravings I may have, which she’s been enjoying, as well as playing lots of Yoshi’s Island and Lego Batman, which entertains and keeps her happy. And as I’ve said before, a happy voice means a happy Addy!

Audrey, too, has been in good spirits lately. She hasn’t been as supportive as Meadhbh with my quit smoking endeavor, but has offered the occasional sage like word of advice. She’s been thrilled by my recent resurgence in reading. Each night, before I go to bed, I will read a few chapters of a book. Over the last several weeks I’ve read ten books, and Audrey has loved every minute of them, even the crappy ones!

Top five books I’ve read over the last several weeks:

1. Scott Pilgrim (Bryan Lee O’Malley)
2. A Fringe of Leaves (Patrick White)
3. Smokeheads (Doug Johnstone)
4. Gone Again (Doug Johnstone)
5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Thinking (Susan Cain)

Vanessa, meanwhile, is as abusive and obstinate as always. Keen to tell me I’m a failure. Keen to remind me how useless I am. If only she’d cheer the fuck up and stop being such a grumpy, narcissistic bitch, things would be so much better – for both of us.

The last couple of days have been busy when it comes to external forces. Yesterday, I had a productive session with my psychologist. We discussed and dissected various PTSD treatments and therapies she believes could assist me. We didn’t go into detail on the source of my trauma – that will come in time – but she believes there is hope for me in this area. Which is good. Because I don’t think there is! I also had a good session with my support worker today. We decided to forgo the usual ‘sit in a room and talk’ session and went for a drive to Albury Library Museum instead. She had seen a photography exhibit was on and thought, rightly so, that it would be something I’d be interested in. The photographs – all landscape – were stellar. Some of the best I’ve seen in years. In fact the photographer, Peter Elfes, has skyrocketed onto my list of favourite photographers. So if you’re in the area, you should check it out. And if you are in the area, why not stop by and say hello to little old me? We could have a coffee or something! :)

Wow. 1318 words. Not bad for someone suffering from writer’s block. And whilst we’re back on the subject. Any hints, tips or advice you may have on vanquishing this silent, deadly foe would be greatly appreciated. I never know how to tackle writer’s block and could do with some suggestions!

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wait! Before you toddle off to do whatever it is you wonderful people do, could you spare a moment to vote in my poll?

I’ve been trying to convince my Andrew that it would be a good idea to write to some of the beautiful people he met in Canada. He hasn’t spoken to them for many, many years and I know he misses them terribly so I thought it would be nice for him to write to them. Andrew thinks it wouldn’t be a good idea. He thinks he would be imposing on them and they wouldn’t want to hear from him but I think they miss him in the way he misses them. So I thought that if I created a poll, a simple yes/no/maybe poll it might convince him my idea is the best and he would write to them. What do you think? Should he get back in touch with them or should he just put the past behind him and leave things be? We’d love to know your thoughts! :)

Meadhbh xoxxox

 


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Ask me anything. Go on, I dare you…

It can no longer be denied or excused; I’m in a rut.

Yes, I’ve had a virus. Yes, my tooth is in excruciating pain. Yes, my birthday is fast approaching to further remind me how old and lonely I am and yes, all writers have natural ups and downs that prevent us from plying our trade so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

But given I’ve not published anything of merit in over a week, have lapsed in both my blog challenges and – unless I can conjure up 40,000 words in the next 9 days – categorically failed in my NaNoWriMo attempt, it’s pretty obvious I’m in a state of writer’s block.

So here’s your ‘once in November 2012’ chance to ask me any question you want!

They can be personal questions, random questions, weird questions, odd questions, Trivial Pursuit questions, homeless questions, pointless questions, hard questions, metaphysical questions, sociological questions, creepy questions, humourous questions, mental health questions, embarrassing questions…in fact, like the blog post titles says, you can ask me anything you like and I’ll do my utmost to answer it as honestly and truthfully as I can.

You can ask me questions in the comments field and I’ll either reply there or, should the answer warrant it, in a blog post dedicated to you.

You can ask me questions via email (all those stray thoughts @ gmail dot com) and I’ll reply on the blog, or privately if you’d prefer.

You can ask me questions via twitter (@addylake) and I’ll reply there, via the blog, or both – depending on what I feel like :)

You can ask me questions via carrier otter (if you have one handy) and I’ll return in kind, although that answer could take longer to reach you :p

However you’d like to ask, whatever you’d like to ask, here’s your chance :)

Ready…set…go…!

Please note
Due to time differences and the like, answers may not be immediate. But I will endevour to answer all questions within 24 hours of being asked :)


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SOC: Writing is hard work at the best of times

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Wednesday 17 October 2012 between 11:32am – 12:13pm. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

Writing is hard work at the best of times, let alone when you suffer from mental illness and have to deal with poverty and the day-to-day demands this holds over your life and health. Posts that set out to be one thing end up becoming something entirely different. Posts that could be brilliant become obscure bile regurgitated by a bipolar controlled mind.

Yesterday I had a job capacity assessment at Centrelink. This interview is an integral part of my disability support pension application and could not be missed. I woke early – around 4am – following a vicious nightmare that pulled my mind back into the events of Adelaide 2007. This isn’t an unusual event, these nightmares are a major factor of my five-year long insomnia, and set me on-edge for the remainder of the day.

So, instead of a calming and focussed 10km walk to Centrelink, the nightmare heightened my MH issues, throwing my anxiety and hallucinations into overdrive – which in turn had a physical reaction by amplifying my IBS and forcing me to run to both public toilets and trees throughout the long walk. By the time I arrived at Centrelink I was a mess; which some could argue would assist in my claim. The answers to my questions became rambling, confused, bullet points as my mind fought with the voices and the urgent need to visit a bathroom.

By the time I had walked the 10km home I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t think straight, the voices were deafening and even though I was starving I knew I couldn’t eat anything as I couldn’t pull myself together to cook the tin of baked beans that was my food for the day. Instead I collapsed in front of the computer and tried to force my mind to action; I read articles that angered me, articles that infuriated me, tweets that made virtually no sense and even before I attempted to write anything I knew my day was done.

I collapsed onto the sofa and stared at Pretty Little Liars for three hours before beginning to spontaneously cry. At first it was only a few tears but within minutes I was full on bawling; the sort of bawling that, had I had anything in my stomach, would have resulted in vomiting.

All I could think was my life used to be so much more than this. I used to be able write at the drop of a hat. I used to be able to form sentences and complex plots involving multiple characters and incidents. I used to be able to write well enough to be published.

Yesterday, like many days in recent years, I wanted to write. I wanted to engage. I wanted to contribute. But I couldn’t. I physically couldn’t get off the couch; the din of the voices, the emptiness of my life, the disconnection of my mind, the simple fact I’m broken and have been for so long I don’t think there’s enough superglue and liquorice to put me back together again.

And as I thought these thoughts my mind turned to all the writers who were producing. Who were able to focus their minds into blog-posts that are retweeted hundreds of times or produce fiction of such brilliance that it is applauded around the globe.

And all these thoughts did were amplify my own failings, my inability to come up with inspiring blog posts, my inadequacy of voicing the stories that burn within me. Thoughts that nourished the voracious circle my mind was locked into.

Eventually I stopped crying and just stared at the ceiling. I did that for hours; whilst other people were contributing to society, writing inspirational words, engaging in conversation and furthering their lives. I lay on a couch memorizing every blemish of my white ceiling.

Several hours later I crawled off the couch and logged online. All I could do was correct the mistake I’d made about scheduling my Teaser Tuesday post and reblogged an artwork that made me smile. No matter how much I wanted to I couldn’t locate the words within me to write the posts I wanted to write. Not for the first time, my mental health was controlling me.

Minutes later I was lying in bed wondering how other people do it. All the millions of blogs. The billions of stories. How do people do it? How do they come up with new ideas? How do their keep their content fresh? How do they keep writing when their minds don’t let them?

 


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How do you overcome writer’s block?

It had to happen eventually. This endless pattern of my life where I write, and write, and write, and then…stop.

It’s not because I have nothing to write about, I do. I’ve been storing post ideas in my head for weeks: the recent report from Crisis UK regarding homeless mortality, a piece I’ve been toying with about triggers,  words on victim blame culture and more personal pieces along the lines of; the inspirational friendship I had with Sammi, the final part of my homeless series and the continuing saga of my sister and me.

But whenever I sit in front of the computer I end up staring at a white screen until I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Perhaps the encroaching 11 October anniversary is pushing me from a positive mental state back into the negative.

Perhaps I’ve contracted an illness that has stolen my ability to form sentences.

Perhaps my epic ludicrously personal password-protected post took more out of me than I’d thought.

Perhaps I need to crack open the whisky because it’s always worked in the past.

Perhaps I’m just procrastinating.

Perhaps it’s all – or none – of the above.

Whatever’s caused it, writers block has flattened me today.

In the past I’ve attempted many things to overcome this most vicious of all writer’s fears:

Stream of consciousness writing; attempted this moments before this post…didn’t work.
Naughty stories; I always found writing naughty adult fiction helpful, but maybe that’s just me. I haven’t tried this yet today…and it’s hardly something I could post on the blog now, is it? :p
Going for a bracing walk; too anxious to venture out until  dark :/
Memes; it’s all I ever seem to do and I’m weary of annoying my audience with questionnaire after questionnaire.
Slapping myself in the face; tried, didn’t work!
Eating ice-cream; not going to do much for writer’s block, but it’s a staple when it comes to raising one’s spirits.

So today, in a quest to build an epic list of “ways to overcome writer’s block”, I’m asking if anyone has any tips and/or tricks to overcome this mental state? What is it you do when those invisible walls are erected and you find yourself unable to write? I’d love to know :)