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…


Leave a comment

Creative Therapy: The Hero Dies in this One

stairway

Every Monday afternoon for the last eleven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.

In today’s group we undertook a writing prompt that is inspired by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; we imagined ourselves listening to a friend/relative deliver our eulogy (or eightieth birthday address, depending on how morbid we felt) and then shared with the group what we would like that person to say about us.

This was my eulogy (which was freewritten between 2:25pm and 2:55pm):

Many people seem to say that ‘all men are simple’, but in my experience, Andrew was anything but. Throughout the time he and I were friends, I saw him face many challenges and road-blocks, yet in spite of a few stumbles along the way, he dealt with each and every one of them with genuine courage and aplomb. He as a man who – despite all the odds – refused to bow down and give up; a quality that I have long admired.

Andrew summed it up best in his book ‘The (Occasionally) Manic Adventures of a Lonely Heart’ when he wrote:

No matter how I’ve approached my life, no-one has been able to better phrase my
philosophy than my dear friend Samantha. Little did she know when she typed those
words, that she’d be giving someone their mantra for life: “It you always worry about
what other people think, you will always be their prisoner,”

For as long as I’ve known him, he has lived true to these words. From the dark days of suicide and depression, from the even darker days of homelessness and hopelessness, Andrew fought against his oppressors to be his own, self-made man. He wouldn’t let anyone hold him back, label him or define him. His actions, not his words, revealed to the world who he was, and that man was an inspiration not just to me, but to many others.

In his passing, Andrew leaves behind a wife and four beautiful children, all of whom he loved beyond measure. He leaves behind a body or writing that has thrilled and inspired millions of readers. He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled.

His passion for life, for humanity, for giving those society deemed as ‘voiceless’ a chance to hold their held up and have their say is a testament to us all.

He is a man who I miss, for I don’t think there will ever again be anyone quite like Andrew.

The exercise is designed for us to look at our values, hopes and aspirations. It is about taking a moment away from negative self talk and being kind to past, present and future selves.

During the discussion after the activity, it was comprehensively concluded that being kind to ourselves felt “wrong”, “un-natural” and “very strange”. There was also much apprehension (from myself included) about not talking ourselves up, with our minds editing our writing so we didn’t come across as too “arrogant” or “full of ourselves”.

The line I picked from my eulogy as an example of this was ‘He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled‘; for however much I’d like to think my passing would leave a hole in someone’s world, to say it out loud to a group did make me feel like I was thinking too highly of myself.

But this is the whole point of the exercise; there is nothing wrong with thinking so highly of ourselves.

In fact, many of us would benefit from doing it much more often than we do.

Myself included.


Leave a comment

Creative Therapy: Freewriting

A Race with Mermaids and Tritons (Collier Smithers)

Every Monday afternoon for the last seven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.

Over the last six weeks we have looked at (amongst other things) the passion that books can bring to our lives, the benefits of writing a letter to younger/older selves and retuning our mind to look at the positive rather than negative aspects of our lives.

Today, we took a look at freewriting; a writing technique that can be beneficial in unblocking writer’s block and freeing our minds during journalling.

What is freewriting

Freewriting involves sitting down and writing for a predetermined period of time. During this time – usually five to twenty minutes, depending on the individual – you write whatever comes to mind without thinking of spelling, grammar, topic or structure. If you cannot think of anything to write, you write that you cannot think of anything to write – and keep writing about this until another topic springs to mind.

Rarely will freewriting produce useable material, but in analysing the end product of freewriting, it will often shine light on topics you would like to write about as you are writing without the usual self-criticism or apathy.

One major example of when I freewrite is in my journal writing. Rarely will I sit down and write about what I did during the day or how I felt at a certain time, I sit down and write freely for half an hour and just see what springs to mind.

An example of freewriting…

This is the unedited result of the freewriting exercise we undertook in today’s group, partly inspired by the painting A Race with Mermaids and Tritons by Collier Smithers. For the record, we freewrote for approximately twenty minutes.

Whenever mermaids arise as a topic, a work of art or characters within a motion picture, Meadhbh goes into total overdrive. For some inexplicable reason she adores these nymphets of the sea second only to dragons in the mythological ouvre. If there was such a thing as mermaids riding dragons, or mermaid-dragons or dragon-mermaids, she would probably achieve some heavenly level of bliss. At this second, with a painting of a mermaid a mere few inches from her, she is squeeing and squirling like a kid over hundred&thousand covered ice-cream. I am not. I am trying to concentrate on this exercise throught the rabble and din she is making. And not very easily considering I had intended writing fiction but instead find myself writing about her – again – although it could be worse, I could be writing about me. And what would I say then? Not much. So. Alrighty. Well. Let’s try tell a wee story.

Once upon a time there was a mermaid whose name was Kira. Kira lived in the North Sea – not so far off the coast of Scotland – and had spent most of her life completely pissed off about the shoddy and entirely stereotyped portrayal of her kind. Hans Christian Bloody Anderson! Bollocks. The Little Effing Mermaid; horse shit. She wasn’t some doe-eyed, naive little moron who swanned around with fishes and forever dreamt of being human. Who the crap would want to be human? Meandering around dry land without even a squid for company? Bor-ring! She relished being under the sea. She loved her scaly posterior. She adored the fact she couldn’t sing cheesy love ballads. Damn human stereotyping. Kira was a lean, mean fighting machine. Hell, she once took on a fucking Killer What and came out on top.

And yes. No freaking idea where that story is going. A Hit-Mermaid? How exactly is that gonna work? God knows. But hey, it’s the most creative I’ve been for several millenia. Damn homelessness. Damn abuse. Sucking me dry. Or is that just an excuse? Mere procrastination because I can’t be arsed finding the focus I once had? Probably. When I look at the image I see a love story about a couple with two sides of the painting. I see a historical piece about its creation. I see a piece of erotica about sex-craved mer-folk. I see an urban fantasy about the individuals depicted. Yet despite seeing all this, I can’t even begin to write the tales. Yup. It’s either procrastination or trauma-induced blockage or just that I don’t have the skill. Bollocks. I have the skill. I just don’t…again…procrastination.

Meadhbh hates me for that. She misses the creative side of me. Misses the explosion of joy when I get an idea. I dunno. Running out of steam now. Metaphor for my life. Perhaps I just need to write a story about mer-dragons and keep everybody happy. Hmmm?

…and what it tells me!

After reading the piece back, I decided to analyse what it actually revealed and whether there were any themes or ideas I could expand upon in more detail in the future:

1) It reveals that I am physically tired and that I am having issues with procrastination and finding the focus.

2) It contains several possible ideas for fictional stories (including the slightly random Hit-Mermaid idea!)

3) It also reveals information about my primary voice, Meadhbh and her various likes and dislikes; as well as something that Meadhbh doesn’t like about me.

4) It also tells me that I am still adversely affected by both homelessness and the abuse I experienced, as well as proving my negative self-view is firmly embedded in my thought processes.

Thus, the stand-out themes for me to write on would be homelessness, abuse and self-criticism (which I have been writing on for some time), my procrastinating nature/lack of energy (something I have not touched on in any great detail) and dragons who are also mermaids; which, I have to admit, sound kinda cool! :p

So why not give freewriting a try yourself and see what happens? You may be surprised at what you come up with.


1 Comment

I love the things I love about me

When I was younger (so much younger than today) I used to sit around writing my thoughts into a journal. Sometimes they were sad, sometimes extravagant. Other times they were poignant and/or personal. Often I would challenge my anxieties over my self-worth and lack of self-esteem by undertaking random exercises I would read about in books or on the internet.

This, completed in 2006, was one such exercise.

The premise was simple:

1) Sit yourself somewhere comfortable and relaxing
2) Take a fresh sheet of paper
3) Write “The Things I Love About Me” at the top of it, and then
4) For fifteen minutes write down as many things you love about yourself as you can.

It didn’t matter what these things were, it didn’t matter how stupid, pointless or irrelevant, it didn’t matter if anyone else agreed with you. This was your list of things you love about yourself; the rest of the world be damned!

Normally I’m not very good at such things (I have a lot of self-hate festering away inside me) so when I sat myself down I wasn’t sure how things would turn out, especially as I’d just come out of a long-term relationship so wasn’t exactly feeling the love.

After fifteen minutes, I’d surprised myself:

♥ I love my small patch of back hair ♥ I love how I care so much about the people that populate this crazy planet ♥ I love my laugh ♥  I love how my tongue always gets bitten when I’m concentrating ♥ I love my bum ♥ I love how I get all goosebumpy sometimes, say when I’m watching a film or listening to music or having a really good idea ♥ I love the sparkle in my eye when I’m happy ♥ I love that even though I was shit scared I still got on a plane and came to Australia ♥ I love my eyes ♥ I love how I feel when I’m around someone I care about ♥ I love my unending array of giggles ♥ I love the cute sheep I draw ♥ I love that I love going down on women soooo much. The smell. The taste. The way it feels. Bliss! ♥ I love my mind in all its warped wacky kinky bizarre exotic erotic insane madness ♥ I do love that I give good hugs ♥ I love that I cry when I need to ♥ I love my eclectic musical taste ♥ I love I can sing and dance in the street without caring ♥ I love my giving nature ♥ I love my characters, because they came from me. I give birth to them and then allow them the freedom to evolve as individuals ♥ I love I cry when I write my stories from time to time ♥ I love how peaceful and serene I feel when looking at the stars ♥ I love that no matter how low, depressed and suicidal I get I always manage to find a reason to not kill myself ♥ I love my kimnyk ♥ I love my ability to remain quiet and listen when I need to ♥ I love my penis ♥ I love my eclectic taste of movies ♥ I love that when I travel I try to get a feel/taste/smell of the place rather than merely explore the well-worn tourist tracks ♥ I love I can sit for hours on end in a single spot and allow my thoughts to roam free ♥ I love my cuddly toys ♥ I love they all have names ♥ I love that they all have their own personality ♥ I love that I’m a proud self-confessed Doctor Who fan, even before the new series came along ♥ I love my bendy little toe ♥ I love that I have a thing for dungarees ♥ I love my odd decisions – such as hiking the A82 to Drumnadrochit with a fracking heavy backpack on ♥ I love my bum (said it before, will say it again) ♥ I love that by nature I am kind and genuine ♥ I love that my favourite sport is snooker ♥ I love my soap opera dreams ♥ I love I truly believe in all the mythical creatures; from dragons and demons to faeries and pixies, and of course, Nessie ♥ I love how my backside feels after being given a playful slap ♥ I love my stories, no matter how crap they are ♥ I love being a sooky romantic ♥ I love continually challenging myself ♥ I love being brave enough to write journals ♥ I love how they’ve grown and evolved and become a part of me rather than just being a book of actions and moments ♥ I love looking after people ♥ I love my sentimentality ♥ I love my memories ♥ I love that even though I lose sight of it at times I do have a solid understanding of (a) who I am at heart and (b) who I am continually working to be ♥ I love that I have such wonderful, kind, inspiring and down-right fantastic friends ♥ I love pulling fluff from my belly button ♥ I love my flaws – all of them ♥ I love that my favourite character from The Wizard of Oz is the lion ’cause he’s awesome ♥ I love the two freckles on my left hand ♥ I love that I love female bottoms – ’cause they are absolutely gorgeous ♥ I love how yummy it makes me feel when I caress a woman’s butt ♥ I love my asides and babbles and incoherent (often public) rambles ♥ I love my cuddly figure ♥ I love my nipples ♥ I love my massages (they ain’t professional but at least they’re caring) ♥ I love how giving massages makes me feel ♥ I love my hair and the style I’ve settled on ♥ I love my ability to try and see the goodness in people ♥ I love how I try to hug stuff in my sleep ♥ I love that I just love cuddles ♥ I love how I try to write massive streams of consciousness in my journals that capture that moment’s emotions for all their strange, upsetting, happy, sad, excited, elated insanity ♥ I love my hobbit feet ♥ I love dancing naked to cheesy 80s music even if people are watching ♥ I love my accepting nature ♥ I love how I can , at times, feel very passionate about even the most minor and irrelevant of things ♥ I love my beard after I’ve conditioned it ♥ I love my intense passion for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland ♥ I love how my favourite book is an obscure Scottish Children’s book about facing up to your fears ♥ I love that it’s been my favourite book since I was 7 ♥ I love my kindness ♥ I love how I want to change the world – even though I feel it’s pointless sometimes ♥ I love being who I am ♥

Note: The above list was written in August 2006, shortly after the end of a long-term relationship and before the abuse, breakdown, isolation and homelessness rendered me non-functioning. It is an exact word-for-word transcription of the things I wrote in my journal and was originally published on November 22 as the second post on the original version of this blog.

Remember, the relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Love yourself; because you are awesome, no matter what anyone tells you.


11 Comments

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.


2 Comments

Unsent Letter #1: The First Real Friend I Ever Had

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 being:

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 us begin.

1 September 2012.

Dear ———-,

If I were being honest, there are three names I considered not including within the beanie. My reasoning being that if any of these names were pulled out it would raise questions over the whole ‘chance’ aspect of this challenge.

Which, less than a paragraph in, is a lie.

The reason I didn’t want to include these three names is because I was scared of being forced to write a letter to them. Partly because I can’t forgive myself, partly because it’s too painful and partly because I really don’t know how to say all that I want to say. You, my dear ———-, are one of these three.

Even though you’ll never read these words I am lying here shaking with fear (literally), at the prospect of writing to you – which is utterly ludicrous because I used to write to you all the time! You were my oh-god-is-the-post-here-yet letter writing buddy. Inverness, Caldicot, Mull, Melbourne…you wrote to them all, and every time you did, this bloody great smile crept over my face and all I wanted to do was tear the letter open and devour it.

I miss that smile. I do. In a way I’m glad you’ll never read this because I’m ashamed of who I’ve become. The boy you knew had so much promise, so much hope and passion. He was convinced, even though he was crap at it, that he’d become a writer, a film-maker, a photographer. That if he just pushed himself hard enough he’d be able to get past all the shit he kept hidden and become someone people would have been proud to be friends with.

The shit I kept hidden. Fuck. Where do I begin with that?

You sent me an email once whilst I was sitting in the adjoining room. A simple little email that spoke volumes about how utterly useless I was. You asked me to tell you something that you didn’t know about me, that no-one knew about me.

I wanted to tell you I was a virgin, but was scared of the embarrassment over being a twenty one year old sexually clueless male. I thought about telling you about my depression and anxiety, but was scared you’d look at me differently. I considered telling you about my sister but didn’t know how to word it.

Every part of me wanted to respond to that email with something – anything – that would challenge me to open up in the ways I so desperately wanted to. But I never did. I just let it slide, like I always did when people tried to get to know me. Perpetually scared of anyone getting to know the real me in case they realised I was a fraud.

That all my talk of strength, courage and determination were just the ramblings of a sad pathetic loser who couldn’t accept his fate in life. So determined to prove his self-fulfilling prophecy of deserving to live his life alone that he pushed everyone who seemed to care about him away.

However much I want to I don’t think I can answer your email now. I’ve shared so much of my life over the last five years, disclosed so many of my secrets to the entire world, that I can’t think of anything that no-one knows about me. Even my most with-held secret was shared on a public forum yesterday! Maybe it’s a good thing that everything’s out there, maybe not. All I know for certain is that I wish I’d been able to share these things twelve years ago. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this now, perhaps we’d have moved on from letter writing to emails, tweets and blog comments?

Anyway, even though we haven’t spoken in years, I still think of you frequently.

I think of sitting in the hostel smoking room until the early hours, keeping you company with wine, cigarettes and Jenga tournaments. Do you remember the mini-cruise we took to Mull? I found a photo of you from that day last week; playing on the swings in your bright yellow raincoat with a fantastic smile on your face. In fact, playgrounds feature quite frequently in my memories of you. I seem to recall there was one in Fredericton with incredibly bouncy animal things and, of course, a brief sojourn on the swings in the grounds of Caldicot Castle.

Then there were the midnight wake up calls. When I nearly tipped you out of the bunk-bed in Fort William followed by, more amusingly, the fire I built at four in the morning when we were camping in the hostel on South Uist. Why didn’t I tell you to fuck off? That I’d only got up for a piss and if you wanted a fire you should have bloody well made one yourself? But, I’ve always been too much of a gentleman for that sort of thing, haven’t I?

But truth be told there are two memories I have of you that burn brighter than all.

The first was Canada. Not a specific incident, but all of it. After months of looking forward to seeing you, there you were, standing on my hostel doorstep looking as beautiful as you always did. It felt so good to be around you again, to have long conversations about nothing in particular and everything that was important all at the same time. This followed by our Canada Day camping weekend, which I still think of every July 1, where I was attacked by a vicious blood sucking leech and shared some of my writing with you for the first time. Finally, those fleeting moments at the tail end of my trip.

One of my biggest regrets in life is not getting on that train. I often wish I’d turned around and spent a few more days with you. Even if it meant earning the scorn of my parents by phoning them to tell them I was a bit stuck. I am sorry I left so abruptly, it’s something I’ve never forgiven myself for.

The second memory was in Caldicot. Not exactly the most thrilling town in the world, I’ll grant you, but for the last twelve years I’ve been trying to work out whether or not you saw what was on my monitor when you appeared in my room that night? One minute I’m being all male and checking out, shall we say adult entertainment, and the next you’re standing right behind me. I came this close to opening up to you that night. This close to telling you about all the things I’d withheld. By then I believed you wouldn’t have cared, that you would have accepted me regardless. It doesn’t matter now, but know that even though I didn’t tell you things, it’s not because I didn’t trust you or consider you a friend.

I did, I really did. It’s just, as with everyone, I could never find the words to explain anything. They would get caught in my throat or muddled in my brain and rather than cough them out or unscramble them, I just remained silent.

I’m skipping around it, I know, because even now, all these years later I’m still too anxious to say it, even though I’m sure you always suspected. My GOD! How can I be so nervous? I’m on the other side of the world. I haven’t seen you for over a decade. I haven’t heard from you in four years. And yet I still can’t speak the words I always wanted to say.

———-, I… [Addy’s note: I’ve been stuck here for nearly twelve minutes staring at a flashing cursor unable to type the words. My heart is pounding. My limbs are shaking. My mouth is dry. This is what my anxiety does to me. I need a smoke, stat!] … ———-, the reason I was so scared to reply to your email was because I’d already started to fall for you. That’s why I built you the fire at four in the morning, why I was so nervous sleeping in the same tent as you on Canada Day, why I disappeared to the cinema when we were in Oban. Partly because of my fear of losing you, partly because of my naivety, anxiety and weakness, I could just never find the words to tell you.

You taught me so much; how we should never stop expanding our horizons, the deliciousness of cameo menthols, that you can be on a fairground attraction too long, how we should embrace our inner-child from time to time, both the importance and beauty of silence.

Although we were not friends for long, your friendship meant the world to me; you meant the world to me. I’ve lived in hope for a long time that I’ll get the chance to see you again, to be given the opportunity to tell you in person just what your friendship meant to me. You were the first real friend I ever had, and I’ll never forget you for that.

Wherever you are, whomever you’re with, whatever you’re doing, I truly hope you’ve found happiness.

You sincerely deserve it.

All my love and hugs,

Addy xx