Where can you hide when you’re running from yourself?

It’s been a big week for me.

Today’s counselling session was enlightening, informative, but didn’t bring me much closer to closure than I was before I walked into that unmarked door, designed to ensure peoples’ privacy in a town where that concept doesn’t quite exist.

At this point, the struggle I find so hard to surmount is just how to drag myself up from the low points, or bring myself back down to earth from the high points without dragging everyone in my world along with me.

It’s the pressure of protecting others, whilst trying to hold onto yourself that makes depression and mental illness such an isolating experience.

Education is out there. Those with depression are encouraged to speak about it, and society is encouraged to try to understand it, but unless you’ve been there yourself, or are there right now, it’s impossible to understand the havoc it can wreak on a person’s life, relationships and psyche.

For me, the biggest problem I have is the feeling of being overwhelmed by confusion. Nothing specific has occurred to cause this incredibly black, soul-sucking emotion that stains every thought or feeling. It’s an instant-defeat of all plans, all ideas and all attempts at moving forward. Everything drips with that feeling of futility.

My loved ones’ mouths speak care, compassion and support, their eyes speak pain, and their voices speak exasperation because they’re not the ones trapped inside me and can never understand what it feels like to be lost inside your own mind.

Being told by your closest people that “there’s nothing wrong with you, you just think too much” is one of the hardest things you can hear because it makes me feel like I am just an annoying person who needs to somehow stop thinking.
If that is the case, if I am simply a person who feels too deeply or thinks too much, then what I need is to learn how to cope with that because the harsh reality is, if this is who I am, naturally, it is not a person I want to be for another 70 odd years. Not like this. The idea of that is exhausting and terrifying and I refuse to be this person anymore.

In just the same way that they’re not sure which Bri is going to turn up for dinner that evening, I have no idea which Bri is going to wake up that morning, or surface in the middle of washing dishes. It’s the inability to control my own emotions and the complete shutdown of normal thought processes that leaves me unpredictable even to myself.

That is why finding my way, alone, to the middle of the bottle, is the only place in which I find true peace. There is nobody else to either intrude on my solitude, or to hurt when the blackness pours out. It is most definitely not the way to medicate whatever is going on with me, but its certainly the most delicious, because halfway inside that bottle, the alcohol steps in and takes control of my decision and my personality.

The alcohol-brain doesn’t care who gets hurt. The alcohol-brain exists solely for me to be happy and have what I want in that moment. When I’m that girl, I am truly unrecognisable from the person most people know me to be.

In a world where my sober, clouded mind functions solely to please the people around me in order to gain acceptance from myself, tasting that selfishness that is locked inside a bottle is the most tantalising feeling I’ve ever had, and it’s one that I never want to end.

The poison inside me is that of worthlessness. Of not believing that I deserve the best in life. I think it is a lesson that was taught to me quite young, and one that I have since spent many years beating into myself.

For me to climb out of this permanently, I have to kill the person I am, and become someone who gives her own hopes, dreams and future just as much importance as the hopes, dreams or future of others. Who demands the best for herself, rather than for others, at the cost of herself.

I have to get selfish outside the bottle.

So how do you do that, and still hold onto your world? I’m getting a little tired of starting all over again and winding up back in the same old dark place, just with different furniture and extra wrinkles.

The title of this post is a question posed to me by a man who held my hand through my lonely Melbourne months and now is no longer here. Six years ago he asked me that question and two years ago, he ran too far for any of us to keep up.

I’m going to take my shoes off now and dig my toes into the ground.

Makes much more sense to live in the present tense

When I was a young little thing of eleven or twelve, there was a band that reached into my chest and calmed my angsty heart.

Yesterday, their debut album turned 21.

As the years went by, more of their words climbed into bed with me to stroke my hair and soothe me to sleep, imparting wisdom that I could identify with, but over the years forgot.

Not the words. I’ll never forget the words to a Pearl Jam song, but somewhere in between the turbulent hormone-soaked days of teenagehood and the know-it-all years of adulthood, I lost the message or maybe just the ability to hear it.

Last night, during my personal Happy Birthday to them, the message came back, a big chest-punch of awareness that told me why I had gone into counselling in the first place:
Take the pieces out, look at them… and then let them go. The past is over, including the opportunities that you once left the door open to.

Today, my smile is genuine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G2WzH4AKpE

Pearl Jam – Present Tense
Do you see the way that tree bends?
Does it inspire?
Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays
A lesson to be applied

Are you getting something out of this all-encompassing trip?

You can spend your time alone, redigesting past regrets, oh
Or you can come to terms and realise you’re the only one who can’t forgive yourself, oh

Makes much more sense to live in the present tense.

Have you ideas on how this life ends?
Checked your hands and studied the lines
Have you the belief that the road ahead ascends off into the light?

Seems that needlessly it’s getting harder
To find an approach and a way to live

Are we getting something out of this all-encompassing trip?

You can spend your time alone, redigesting past regrets, oh
Or you can come to terms and realise you’re the only one who cannot forgive yourself, oh

Makes much more sense to live in the present tense

Reluctantly, the gloves come off

It’s a difficult place, the one I’m in right now.

Counselling allows you to unlock the door of the cage you’ve stashed all your hard times in.

Like an overstuffed cupboard, the moment you start pulling pieces out, the rest of them tumble all over you, smacking you in the face and piling up at your feet. No matter how hard you try, you can never put them back where they came from so you’re left holding things you didn’t want to touch in the first place.

They’re all sticky with feelings that come off on your hands and soak into your skin and worst of all, they come off on the people you touch, your special ones, the last people in the world you want to hurt.

Since beginning counselling, I’ve taken the dusty bottle off the shelf and emptied it dozens of times. For awhile there, it makes my ever-present depression float away. It seems the only place I understand myself is when half a bottle is sloshing around in my belly but that always comes at a price, one I’m all too familiar with.

We all know that what goes up must come down and the highs don’t have the longevity of the lows.

Mentally, I’m in a worse place than I’ve been in years and that’s without bringing alcohol into the equation. It lies to you, sidling up with its seductive, bad boy smile, promising painless moments of happiness, only to leave you half-naked on the bathroom floor crying into your vomit.

Now I remember where most of my bruises came from.

The danger I’m in is that even in my sober moments, I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to use all my energy putting on that smiling face to keep my sharp edges away from people who’ve done nothing to deserve them. These days, I want to light a match and watch all the bridges burn, one by one. And once again, I know that it’s just so I will be left alone with my clinking bottles and nobody to answer to.

The only difference between now and six years ago is that I know the cost of making the cold bathroom tiles my bedroom.

My fear is that it may well be a price I’m willing to pay.

Time to let the dust collect on the bottle again. We’re back to day one.

Burns Unit on Standby – Creamy Red Salmon Pasta

Welcome to the first episode of Burns Unit on Standby, my cooking/recipe segment named for the fact that I could probably find a way to burn myself making a bowl of cereal.

This evening we shall be preparing the simplest and most delicious pasta dish I know, besides “spaghetti with whatever is in the cupboard”.

Creamy Red Salmon Pasta 
Serves: 2 (or just me)
Cooking time: I dunno, not very long. Depends how many wines you have.
Burn Possibility: Low

nnnnnnnnnnnngh nomnomnom

The photo is not great because a) eat it quick and b) 3 wines down.

Ingredients

1 bottle of wine (for drinking purposes only)
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 large tin red salmon
3 spring onions/shallots (the long skinny ones, not the round jerks)
1 lemon
fresh dill (approx. a shitload)
Half a small carton of thickened cream. Whatever size that is.
Fresh fettuccine for four people.

What you do ‘n’ that ay

  1. Pour a glass of wine, or something else (I recommend wine)
  2. Put on a playlist

    Pro Tip: During procrastination sessions, create/find cooking playlists so you don’t get distracted by this part of the recipe and finish the bottle of wine whilst revisiting your teenage music years.

  3. Open tin of salmon and drain brine into a bowl.
  4. Pull the vertebrae out of the salmon, divide it evenly into two dishes, crush it up with the back of a fork, pour half the brine into each dish and serve to the cats who are glaring at you from the floor.
  5. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
  6. Put the salmon meat into a serving dish. Break up slightly with a fork.
  7. When your mum calls you on her way home from work, to ask if you need anything while she’s at the shop, say yes, because you forgot the shallots.
  8. Pour (and drink) another glass of wine whilst waiting for the shallots.
  9. Chop up the 3 shallots and toss into serving dish.
  10. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the serving dish, be careful of your eyeholes and don’t let the seeds get in there (your eyes or the dish).
  11. Chop up a shitload of fresh dill (so like, 8-15 stalkbits. I didn’t count) and throw that into the serving dish.
  12. Stir half the little thing of cream through the salmon.
  13. Taste the mixygoodness. Add lemon/cream/dill to your liking.
  14. When water is boiling, throw in your pasta.
  15. Once fettuccine is al dente, drain it and add to the underwatermeat mix.
  16. Eat the shit out of its face while the pasta’s still hot.

It is important to note that when in the company of others, do not eat directly out of the serving dish over the counter in your bra and undies, whilst telling the cats to F%^k off.
It is more important to note that when eating alone, this is totally acceptable for all meals.

I don’t cope well with change

As I left work this evening, an hour shy of sunset, I was struck with that odd, premonition-feeling that something bad was going to happen.
Something feels wrong. Different.

As I walked along Dowling Street, heading towards the highway and the satisfaction of my four-hour-long McDonald’s craving, a warm, determined  breeze was whipping leaves from limbs, hissing through them like secrets being whispered frantically in the dark. Leaves were scuttling across the footpath, eddying along the road, buffeted by cars and trucks and farmer’s utes which left behind the stench of manure.

It mingled with the scent of woodsmoke, usually so prevalent at this time of the evening, but now just an echo from houses whose owners are expecting the usual biting cold that has been our constant companion these past few months.

The light was fading. Hazes of soft, blued-out clouds brushed against a large bank of purple attempting to dominate the sky in a demonstration of Winter’s last stand while artificial light spilled from the windows of shops, brazenly late-night trading although it’s only Wednesday.

The golden arches greeted me a block away and I navigated the car park against the highway traffic trying to beat me to the doors. A group of teenagers sprawled across the outdoor tables, caught up in the heady atmosphere of hormones, flirting and the promise of warm weather romance.

As I began to feel hot inside my thick, winter coat, I realised why everything felt so strange, so wrong.

The weather is changing. Today. Right now.

The bone-soaking cold has given way to a balmier breeze, inviting people out of their homes and their cars. Too many people for this routine-obsessed girl. Their presence unnerves me, their carefree eyes watch me as I walk up to the counter and order my two-person-meal-for-one.

They talk too loudly, comfortable amongst themselves. Their voices grate against my anxiety, forcing me into the corner next to the napkins, straws and squishy little sauce packets. I feel exposed and on edge.

My order is called and I rush out of there, past the teenagers and back onto Dowling Street.

As I reach the more familiar path towards the solitude and safety of my home, my nerves settle and I join the rest of the world, lifting my face to enjoy the sunset and the warm, inviting breath of wind that tickles my hair.

Damnit. I forgot the cat food.

Inside

It feels like being locked in a room with a thousand voices screaming around you.
Some of them are shouting, raising bloodied knuckles at their reflections in the mirror, others are quietly weeping though their eyes don’t much look like anybody’s inside there.

I can’t make out their motivations, why it is they’re emoting all over the carpet with their hatred and sadness and crazy and why that one girl just sits there grinning, tracing her fingers along a switchblade more familiar to her than her name.

They’re all just there, doing it, tapping at my temples and raking their diseased fingernails through my chest.

Once the poison gets in, it’s a long time working it out again.

Cigarette butts pile up before me as I stare them all down, trying to decipher their separate stories. I don’t know why they’re in here or what they want. I don’t think I invited them in. Or maybe I did one day, quietly, absent-mindedly when something went a little awry.

They’re strange, but not strangers.

Sometimes, when I’m locked in that room, a familiar girl with strawberry blonde hair and green eyes stares up at me from a corner. She doesn’t speak with her mouth, only with her eyes, which ask me to remember what the grass smells like when you’re 7 years old and running down a winter hill. They ask me to remember the tightening on your skin when sun has dried saltwater and you’re helping your dad reel in a fish. Or the smell of birthday candles when you blow them out.

Piece by little piece, she recalls me to myself, giving me the key to get out and shut the others in. Wordlessly, I ask her to come with me, but she shakes her head and her green eyes tell me she can’t leave. Her place is there, to wait for me. For the next time I get locked in.

 

Australia: Where Big Brother hasn’t simply returned to television

With each day that passes, our freedoms are being stripped from us in silent back rooms by powerful and wealthy men (and possibly women with a smattering of glass in their hair).

Last month, the Attorney General set up a Parliamentary Inquiry into potential reforms of national security legislation. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has prepared a Discussion Paper which is available on their website.

The proposed reforms seek to force ISPs and phone companies to keep a record of every article you’ve read online, every item you’ve bought online and every email or text message you’ve sent for a period of two years, which is to be provided to the Government at its request.

The recurring argument of “if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t matter” is redundant.

If you knew that someone could use every bored or curious, late night internet browse, and every drunk, angry or joke text message that you’ve sent over the past two years to support any claims of terrorist activity, would it change the way in which you used these devices?

As someone who sometimes has difficulty sleeping and spends a lot of time watching serial killer/conspiracy/secret organisation documentaries, it certainly makes me pause. Used out of context, my entire internet and text message history would be damning.

When I read Orwell’s 1984 as a young teenager, the prospect of a world such as that horrified me. That sense of horror has never left me. The torture of being locked out of your mind lest you be reported for committing a thought-crime kept me awake many nights throughout that book, and in the days that have followed.

Personal phone and internet use has always been an extension of thought, whether it be blogging such as this, or seeking answers to the myriad questions we constantly have in our minds.

I don’t have anything to hide, I haven’t committed a crime and nor do I intend to, but the mere knowledge that the fact that I downloaded a book on the Order of Skull and Bones whilst watching a documentary on 9/11 conspiracies could possibly, one day be used against me to substantiate terrorism claims feels rather akin to being placed under surveillance by thinkpol, to me.

I don’t think I’m important enough to ever be in that situation but you never know what the future holds.

It is certainly true that laws need to be updated to reflect the gargantuan leaps technology has made, but that should not include mandatory data retention of internet/phone usage of every single Australian citizen on the off chance that one of them is a terrorist.

The risk of these powers being abused either by a Government (ours or otherwise) who wishes to silence someone, or by a criminal wishing to use the information for their own nefarious purposes are far too great to allow these legislative reforms to be passed.

On Monday 20th August (yes, this coming Monday), submissions regarding this inquiry close.

The Australian Greens have set up a submission form, pre-populated with a suggested letter which can be overwritten should you choose to do so.

Alternatively, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security website has information on how to prepare a submission as well as accepted formats.

I strongly urge you to enter a submission. Your very life and identity could be the casualty of complacency.

Drowning in hatred, one Facebook group at a time

Most of us have occasionally laughed at a politically incorrect joke in our time, even made some, but in the general sense of things, they’re relatively harmless observations on life that aren’t designed to hurt.

Over the past twelve months, and in particular the most recent few, my Facebook has been inundated with pages of hate groups that aren’t harmless observations on life, but cesspools of abhorrence aimed at the most vulnerable people in our society – the physically, mentally, terminally ill and the groups of people who don’t fit the mould in a society that demands conformity above the freedom of individuality.

These are groups created by and for keyboard warriors who are nothing more than vessels of hatred; useless members of society who undermine any good they may do in their real life, off-the-internet world by the atrocities they commit behind the relative anonymity of their computers.

Families set up memorial Facebook pages for their lost loved ones as a place to share their memories, or to communicate funeral details, to raise support or awareness of the bullying, disease or depression that claimed the life of their loved one(s). Even these pages, dripping with heartbreak, are a playground for the aforementioned useless members of society whose lives are so lacking that they get their kicks by torturing the vulnerable.

Many people rise up against these groups on the group pages, inadvertently feeding the trolls who have been sitting at home masturbating over their own hatespews, just waiting for someone else to come along, disturbed and outraged by the contents of the page; fresh meat for them to tear into.

Facebook has the means to shut these groups down.

If these groups clog my news feed, thanks to the many ways in which Facebook likes to inform me of every single piece of activity my friendslist indulges in, then the great Facebook Powers That Be are certainly also aware of these groups. The fact that they get reported for violation of the TOS would certainly bring them to their attention, right?

I’m not saying that you can stop every one of these pages being created, but Facebook certainly has the money to spend on a department whose sole purpose is to attend to pages and groups reported to them for violation of the TOS. They state that they have the right to remove these pages so that is exactly what they should be doing.

As the largest social networking site in the world, this needs to be a bigger priority than it is.

This group, 1,000,000 Normal People Against Sick Hate Pages has been created not as a platform to discuss moral or ethical issues, but as a place for people to unite against the proliferation of all hate pages collectively, rather than individual hate groups. Its main goal is to reach Facebook admins and force them to shut these groups down. This group will not tolerate any hatred or negativity. Comments along that vein will be deleted, as will the users who post them. Zero tolerance.

This group is fully aware that you’ll never stop people from creating these sick pages, but constant vigilance is required to protect Facebook’s users – the people who willingly give out the goldmine of information that Facebook sells to the people who give them their money. Without the users, Facebook has nothing and this is the internet – the new Facebook will arise to offer users a better experience someday, when people are too tired of wading through shit just so they can keep up with the lives of their friends.

For my part, I won’t go onto those hate pages and feed the trolls, but if any of my Facebook friends participate in any of the hatred that is spewed onto them, I will hold them accountable for it on their own personal page.

This might be the internet, the biggest argument-hall the world has ever known, but its lack of consequences also allows people to be someone they would never be in the face-to-face real world.

Words are the most powerful tool we have as a species. The written language is what has allowed civilization to excel, expand and to conquer the constraints laid down by nature.

Don’t waste them on hatred. Think about the things you are saying. Ask yourself, would you ever say this to someone in the real world? The answer is probably no, and while this message will be laughed at by those people whose only form of entertainment is hate-mongering, like all bullies, when they no longer have an audience to cheer them on, they’ll soon grow tired of it.

Use your voice to support a good cause instead of playing the sycophantic little sidekick. The internet is no longer this ethereal playground, separate to our day-to-day lives. The internet IS our day-to-day lives, and it’s our key to salvation. Treat it and the rest of its users with respect.

Freedom of speech regardless, It isn’t difficult to use manners.

Edit: 18/08/2012

I would just like to clarify that I am all for free speech – including opinions that I don’t agree with as that is the basic fundamental principle of having free speech.

My issue with these groups is that Facebook, The Great and Powerful, who are making infinity dollars out of the information gleaned from user habits, specifies in its Terms of Use at this address https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards that:

Hate Speech
Facebook does not permit hate speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, it is a serious violation to attack a person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.

The truth of the matter is, Facebook does permit hate speech, as all of the reports against the hate pages that I have made have been answered by Facebook admins stating that “After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

Just the beginning of one more unfinished story

She can hear the Town Bell’s dull, mournful cry from the back room of the house.

The curtains are closed, but the silvery moonlight echoing through the edges tells her it is just past one am. She doesn’t know what has brought her to this room. She can’t recall the last thing she remembers, there is a fogginess that obscures memories before she can place them.

She is standing in the doorway, darkness pooling across her body like breath. It is always present, surrounding you, unnoticed, then suddenly a sound or a flash and you realise it is there and has been for a very long time.

Fear rushed through her body with a pleasurable sting as the hair on her skin tightened. It was just like lowering yourself into a hot bath; it hurt, in such a sweet, private way. A memory jolted her back to another place. To a cold room in an old house with a fire that never took. She was naked, her bruised knees cold and red on the stone floor. Her torso was draped across the knees of a man, twice her age and girth. Her arms were stretched before her, each hand tightly grasped by another older gentleman; one slim in a suit and glasses, the other wearing a dark denim jacket and a lingering aroma of sweat and engine oil.

Her head was rolling about to the accompaniment of a sharp crack which pierced the silence and tore through the room like thunder. Tears rolled down her cheeks and blood stained her chin and teeth, pooling in the cracks between them. She didn’t hear the cracking sounds anymore. All she heard were the heavy breaths and repulsive grunts of the men in the tiered chamber surrounding her. She could feel their eyes on her even if she couldn’t see them – the stage lights blind her but the gentleman customers are provided the luxury of anonymity.

The fat man who was slapping her arse knew the show must go on and Genna’s blood was now dripping on the floor. Her body was so unresponsive she was biting her lip with every slap. The boss wouldn’t be happy with this. She’d be off the stage for a week or more. There isn’t a gentleman customer in the world who would come to this establishment to see a woman with broken lips and the fat man knew he would be in special trouble for damaging this one, she was the diamond in the crown, the boss’ daughter.

Genna wasn’t sure how long the memory lasted. When it sloughed off her, the moonlight echo around the windows had moved a little further and was now casting sharp, biting beams across the floor. As awareness of her body returned, pain shot from her feet to her thighs, pulling her legs from beneath her. She had been standing still for at least an hour.

Crumpled on the floor, she began to weep. When the salt of her tears reached her lips, she screamed, for the memory was a recent one.

Guilty of being me

Well, it was inevitable.

The highs always hand you over to the lows and the lows are full of little papercut lies that scratch at your surface and worm their way inside. The more often you let them in, the more they become a part of you.

Last night was fun and as far as comedowns go, this is more of a gentle tumble down a grassy slope than my usual plummets into hell but the familiar heartsickness is humming away in the background, reminding me of the many days I once spent staring blankly at walls in lonely apartments, telling myself what a bad person I was.

It’s a self-inflicted suffocation that clutches at your airways, closing them off for a few moments as the panic rises and drags you under the maelstrom of chemicals you’ve imbalanced in your search for the answers to yourself.

The fact that you have nobody else to blame just makes it worse. You deserve this, you know?

There’s been a long line of people who have told me what a failing and flawed person I am, but none have told me as often or as brutally as I have told myself. Tonight, I’m ignoring that wine-soaked voice and reminding myself that nobody got hurt.

Not even me.

I can’t be anyone except myself, even those ugly parts of me that nobody likes. I can’t keep making myself small to avoid inconveniencing other people, particularly when they’re probably not even asking me to. I don’t just walk on eggshells, I’m the one who places them there.

The drinking has never been the problem, merely a symptom of this disease of worthlessness that I’ve carried untreated for decades. The problem with the drinking was always the self-destruction it was powered by, and nowadays, I’m not really out to destroy myself, just to understand myself, and learn how to cope with the brain I’ve been dealt.

I have to admit, for all its flaws and idiosyncracies, it does occasionally have some great ideas.