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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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 20. The joy of creativity

Day 20: Do you consider yourself creative? How do you express that? What piece of work (or whatever is applicable) are you most proud of?

Hanging Rock 001

A depiction of Tir-nan-og, a fantasy realm from my urban fantasy series, that I drew on my bedroom wall in 2006

For the vast majority of my life I’ve considered myself creative. But I would like it known – on the record – that I do not consider myself creative solely because I’m bipolar. I know there are many people out there who consider bipolar to be the “creative illness”, and there are many wonderfully creative people who are bipolar, but like me, they would probably be creative in spite of their mental illness. The bipolar is not what has made us creative, we managed that all on our lonesome!

Writing

First and foremost, I consider myself a storyteller. When I was but a young wee bairn I was often making up random stories about all sorts of weird and wondrous things, regaling my family and friends with everything from what mystical creatures lived in the Moss (a large area of overgrown parkland in the town I grew up in) to how best to survive a monster apocalypse. After school I would rush home to write all manner of stories and fictional escapades. I continued the adventures of Indiana Jones in the stirring Indiana Jones and the Sword of Excalibur and created a movie based on perennial Australian soap, Neighbours.

When I was fourteen I wrote my first novel – Lifetime – an amalgamation of The Goonies, Doctor Who and your stereotypical coming-of-age tales, an adventure that saw a group of lackadaisical teenagers battle living waxwork monsters whilst combating their own hormonal urges. Suffice to say, it was a piece of shit, but I loved every single minute that I spent writing that epic of badly written fiction. And it was a period of my life that solidified my desire to become a writer.

Over the following several years I wrote whenever I had a spare minute. I dabbled in melodrama, tragedy, mystery and crime, but always found myself returning to the genre that is Urban Fantasy, wherein normal earthbound characters battled otherworldly creatures from the safety of their own hometown. And it was within this genre that I created my masterwork; The Inverness Chronicles, a series of novels, television series and motion pictures that spanned three generations of characters within the fictionalized city of Inverness. Only the first novel of this planned series has been written – The Ghosts That Haunt Me – but the remaining installments have been planned to perfection, I just need to find the time to write them!

Alas, I cannot share The Ghosts That Haunt Me with you. Over the years that I was homeless the copies I had in my possession were lost to floods, theft and personal mistakes, and the remaining copy (on a USB stick in my parents house) seems to have been lost when my parents moved in 2010. But rest assured it was the best piece of fiction that I’ve ever written and encapsulated my own beliefs, values and strengths in a story that saw several characters face an apocalyptic event against the backdrop of contemporary Scotland.

As depression has further gripped my soul, I have found my ability to tell stories dwindle. I used to write for pleasure, for the pure wonderousness of seeing a story come to life by the words and syllables I chose to use. But since the depression, since the bipolar, since my breakdown, I’ve been unable to find the energy to tell the stories that sing in my soul. I hope, one day, to be stable enough to write again, but until then I can just continue tinkering my Inverness Chronicles plan. Gently caressing the characters lives until they’re ready to ignite the page once again.

Examples of my writing:

Photography

My photography habit kicked off when I started backpacking in Scotland in 1999, and continued to grow and evolve when I studied the subject at college the following year. I can still remember how relaxing and inspiring I found the time I spent mixing chemicals in the darkroom, slowly easing the black and white images to life through patience and determination. For my birthday that year, my then girlfriend, Louise, organised with my parents to purchase me a brand spanking new SLR camera, and this became my most prized possession until it was stolen from me in late 2007. In fact, my love of photography was so strong, that after obtaining my first (and only) job since my breakdown, I rewarded my hard work with a new camera, that I took many wonderful and beautiful images on.

But in the same manner that depression has stolen my ability to write, it has also stolen my ability to take photographs.My abuser would regularly attack my photography, calling them boring, uninspiring, a waster of time, monotonous, and ever since those words stabbed my soul, I cannot see the images in the same way that I use to, I cannot find the creative spark I need to imagine my thoughts in photographic form. One day, I hope, I will rediscover my photographic urges. One day, I hope, I will be able to successfully deal with the PTSD to take photographs again.

Drawing

As for drawing, I’ve never considered myself a master-artist, it was always something that I enjoyed doing rather than doing it because I was good at it. I used to love drawing Doctor Who montages; Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans battling the trusty Time-Lord across the stars. I would compose artwork based on my favourite video games (Zelda, Sonic and Secret of Mana) or sketch haphazardly in my journal various Scottish vistas seen throughout my backpacker odyssey.

I loved creating artwork not because I was good at it, but because it relaxed me. It was something I did for the pure pleasure and enjoyment of doing it, nothing else. And unlike other aspects of my life (including my writing and photography) I didn’t care what other people thought of it because, deep down, I knew they were crap drawings.

And this, to me, is what being creative is all about. It isn’t just about the kudos and praise you receive from a stunning piece of art or breathtakingly beautiful photograph. It isn’t just about how other people feel when viewing or appraising your work. It is about how you feel whilst creating it. As long as you are capturing an essence of yourself, regardless of the medium, then you are succeeding at being creative.

My writing, although rooted in fantasy, mayhem and apocalyptic events, was always about the people and how they reacted to the chaos. My photography, regardless of what my abuser said, was meant to capture landscape and emotion of place, a memory of a moment that would never be seen again. Whilst my drawing, however bad, captured who I was in that moment of reflection.

So regardless of what other people think, I’m proud of my creativity, and I’m proud of the work I’ve created over the years.


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Friday Finds (March 28)

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list. Whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

 

~ Clicking each book will reveal why I’ve added it to my to be read list ~

What books have you added to your TBR list this week?


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Friday Finds (December 06)

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list. Whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

~ Clicking each book will reveal why I’ve added it to my to be read list ~

What books have you added to your TBR list this week?


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(Some) Clothing that made me super-confident

Ack! “Network upgrades” have been causing all manner of problems for me over the last few days. No matter how much I wish it, I’ve been unable to connect to the internet, so apologies for being so backed up with the 15 Day Blog Challenge.

Today the challenge continues with day three: tell about an article of clothing you’re deeply attached to.

Super-shirt

Who hasn’t hidden a Super-shirt under their work clothes and ripped their shirt open to reveal that familiar logo? I know I have…many times! :)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few days, secretly glad I haven’t been able to connect to the internet because I’m not sure exactly how to answer this prompt.

When you’re homeless, the last thing on your mind is fashion. You live in a constant state of survival, so when it comes down to clothes you’ll take anything that will keep you warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Unlike when someone is housed, it is exceedingly rare for a homeless person to have access to their own wardrobe or chest of drawers, so clothing is something you shed willy-nilly in order to save space and/or weight in your backpack, rendering emotional attachments to clothing obsolete.

So these days clothes are, on the whole, a means to cover my naked self and nothing more.

However, this wasn’t always the case.

When I was a teenager I purchased a Superman T-Shirt. It was a dark blue colour with the red and yellow Superman symbol emblazoned across the chest. I loved this T-Shirt! For some reason it endowed me with an inner-power whenever I wore it. I felt more confident, more self-assured and actually liked how I looked whilst wearing it (which is very rare for me and clothing!) This T-shirt traveled with me around Scotland, across Canada, to Brussels and made the long flight to Australia with me.

Because I was such a ginormous teenager (think Hurley in Lost) it dwarfed everyone else who wore it, making it the perfect night-time attire for my first two girlfriends. By the time it disintegrated past the point of no return in 2007, it had been in my company for nearly fifteen years, making it the longest (and most worn) item of clothing I’ve ever owned.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I’ve looked, I’ve never been able to find a replacement Superman shirt that I like; they’re all odd colours or uninspired designs that neither me or my people connect with.

Another item of clothing that I recall cherishing beyond measure was only in my possession for a few months before it was “borrowed” by my girlfriend at the end of our relationship. They were a pair of bright red flannel pyjamas decorated with Stewie from the Family Guy. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of this television show, I was a huge fan of the ‘spank me’ text that was interspersed between the images of the little tyke. And, like the Superman shirt above, whenever I wore these pyjamas I actually felt more confident with both my physical appearance and emotional well-being.

Alas, for the last five years I’ve searched online and in the real-world for a replacement for these most-awesome of pyjamas but have never seen them for sale anywhere.

Only time will tell as to whether there will be any more items of clothing I bond with in the future. But now that I am housed again, I’m hoping something will come along that fills me with the same confidence and self-esteem as my much-loved (and missed) spank-me pyjamas and Superman Shirt.

Previous installments in the Challenge:
Day One | Day Two


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Six-word memoirs: You have a choice. Chose life!

The second day of the 15 Day Blog Challenge asks:
Write [a few] six-word memoirs

memoirs

What is a six-word memoir? Well, I wasn’t quite sure either, so I headed over to Life of Love’s response to this prompt to find out. There, courtesy of Colette at Caffeinated Convos, I discovered a simple explanation:

“Six word memoirs are exactly how it sounds: your life in six words. The history behind it is that Ernest Hemingway was asked to write a complete short story in as few words as possible. His response was, ‘For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.’ This then erupted into a way to tell sad, sweet, honest tales.”

For my six-word memoirs I’ve decided to write one for each of the different lives I’ve lived:

Childhood (1978-1990): Not a care in the world!

Teenage (1990-1999): Overweight and shy means consistently misjudged.

Backpacking (1999-2000): Bunks, Booze and Booty – oh my!

Twenty-something (2000-2007): Yay! Surreptitious bum squeezes reign supreme!  

Breakdown (2007): There is no love. Only loss.

Homelessness (2007-2012): Soul destroying yet occasionally – surprisingly – inspirational.

Present Day (2012-Present): Lost: hope. Please contact if found.

And one that encompasses my entire life:

cats


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Friday Finds (October 4: The Op-Shop Edition)

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list. Whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

~ One of my local Op-Shops currently has a ‘Buy One Book Get One Book Free’ offer running, so I paid a total of $4 for the above six books during a visit there this afternoon. Once I get around to reading them, I’ll let you know if they’re any good! :) ~

What books have you added to your TBR list this week?