Inspirations

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Inspiration can come from the strangest places and from the most unlikely people; be it an actor or a rock band. They help you get through a difficult time or set you on a new path. They can make you see yourself in new light or encourage you to think creatively.

Recently when I lost my job I at first thought I could get through this but the truth was I couldn’t. I fell into a different kind of depression. Usually my depressive episodes are short and very intense and I have some very upsetting and worrying thoughts, and then it’s over. This depression was so mild at first I didn’t see that it was depression.

Like many others I saw Prison Break and The Flash actor, Wentworth Miller’s reaction do someone making a hurtful and body shaming meme of him. We all know how it went: he revealed he had depression and seeing that meme really made him to want to end his life, but instead he came out and just explained how it made him felt and the situation he was in and was met with a lot of positivity from sufferers of depression or from people who have been body shamed or just all round decent folk.

Since then I always kept Wentworth in mind. I knew him from The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. When I saw him as Leonard Snart in Legends of Tomorrow I started to see him in another way. I saw his struggle, the pain in his face. Whether it was really there or not didn’t matter. I related to him. He was just like me, going through the same things and his job was something I wanted to be.

But I wasn’t inspired to be an actor. I’ll get to that soon.

After I lost my job I felt defeated. I couldn’t just continue the jobseeking. I really couldn’t continue much anymore except play videogames, read comic books and binge watch The Flash, Gotham and Arrow. At times I would think how would Wentworth get through this?

The next thing that happened was I lost my confidence as a band photographer and started to avoid going to shows that I could photograph without media access. I decided to look up Wentworth’s Facebook page. There I found that he was helping to raise awareness about depression and I got to learn his story. I followed his page and most days I would find posts about positivity and self-care. His personal posts were so gentle, non-judgmental and with an open mindedness I’ve not seen in a long time.

When I found out he was a screenwriter I wondered how could he write when he was so depressed, but then I decided to give it another go and even though I went with writing a novel before the screenplay, it made me feel better. Wentworth’s posts also helped me admit that I had depression at all, something that I would only admit to as a part of my cyclic moods. Then, after writing on his page that it wasn’t difficult to admit to people that I didn’t think I could do my band photography anymore, I started to tell people.

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I’m happy to say my confidence in my band photography has been restored since I photographed Anti-Flag, and because they share my political views I’ve been listening to them, following them online to keep me motivated. However, The Liberal National Party and One Nation have given me plenty of reasons to stay motivated; The Adani Coal Mine, cuts to welfare, lockout laws, climate change denying, etc. And because they’re an angry punk band they’ve also made me feel ok about not always being modest and inoffensive to people. In training myself to have adequate social skills I had to learn to see things from different perspectives, this turned me into the most polite and agonizing person to debate with, as I never said anything to get people angry and never reacted with anger. But as someone affiliated with socialist parties and fighting for change, this poker face persona I put up just doesn’t work. It’s ok to be angry, especially about the injustices happening in the world, insult people (as long as they’re from the LNP and voted Pauline Hanson) and use emotive phrasing.

I would not have these views if it wasn’t for a certain lead singer by the name of Dennis Lyxzén. First when he was in The (International) Conspiracy and then I went back to listen to his former band, Refused. Funny thing is Refused are now his current band and T.(I).N.C is his former band. Everything I believe in, the whole way I view the world, especially the blindness of society and the deception of the media, is because of him. I was inspired to read up about Marx, Guy Debord, and The Situationist International because of him.

It was guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Tom Morello that introduced me to Phil Ochs though and for that I am so very very grateful.

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It wouldn’t be right to not mention Phil Ochs on his birthday. Phil did not just sing folk songs that resonated with the far-left but the people he wrote about, he empathised with them deeply. It was almost like he was a storyteller and achieved what many authors try to accomplish: to go into the very psyche of the people you write about, that you become them. Some of his songs are real tear-jerkers for that reason, like The Spanish Civil War Song, There But For Fortune, What Are You Fighting For and Hands. Even his songs about J.F.K can make you feel something deeply for the slain President. It could be that folk music itself is very emotional with its soft guitar strumming and gentle-voiced singer, or it could be all the variables.

Phil’s story is a sad one and one I relate to. His most personal songs cannot be listened to by me when I’m going through depression without keeping a dry eye. There will never be another Phil Ochs in my opinion. He was one of a kind and too good for a world that doesn’t care.

Inspiration for storytelling can come from just about anywhere. Damien Walter is a writer I look up to and consider a teacher. My dad held the title of an Archarya (teacher) as a yogi. Would I go as far to call Damien, Archarya? He inspires me to keep writing my stories. I watch a lot of science fiction, read a lot of it and read comic books and watch its inspired shows, and this helps inspire some ideas or themes in my writing. I first was inspired to be a writer during the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who. First, I was inspired to find out every inch of Doctor Who lore I could find. Second, I found Russell’s stories so emotionally heart-jerking that I wanted to become a writer myself.

I’ll give you a bit of explanation here: as an autistic person I don’t express a lot of emotion, I feel them very strongly but it’s a jumbled mess of sensations rather consciously understanding what they are (alexithymia), or rather this is how it was before. When around other people I got the same mess of sensations from them. I finally get to see how people use and respond to emotions because of the contained environment I’m in and my 100% engagement in the show. This is basically how I learn social skills.

The most inspirational of stories in TV and film are through science fiction. I’m often confused as to why Star Wars is so popular. I enjoy the movies, they are a fun sci-fi romp but they don’t inspire me to write. I get that from Star Trek, Stargate, Doctor Who, Ender’s Game and most science fiction stories that have more themes than just a fight against good and evil, and they need to have quite a lot of detailed scientific explanations in them. I call it nerd porn, ha. It’s more about the challenge of making these very complex ideas work in science fiction that excites me about them. Like time travel stories. I used to avoid writing about them because I got confused by them, but after playing Quantum Break and reading about how they explained it all it made so much more sense, so now it’s a challenge I take on.

However, while playing Star Wars: the Old Republic I did get somewhat inspired to create background lore.

Game developers Bungie also inspire my writing. Their lore for the video game Destiny comes from a lot of Greek mythology. The fact that they use this mythology and turn into a fantasy inspired science fiction world makes me want to create something like that on my own. The stories in video games are so cinematic these days many have inspired me to write stories.

There was actually a book that I was discouraged to read, the Book of Enoch and the Apocrypha in general. I was raised in a Christian home where Marxism, evolution and the Apocrypha was frowned upon. So naturally, the first chance I could find out about that stuff I did. And The Book of Enoch is especially inspiring to me because of its fantasy themes and it feels rebellious to make that the central focus for my first novel. It’s not your usual mythology used in science fiction so there’s an air of originality using it.

I could probably mention more people, books, films, issue #133 of Batman that inspired me but I won’t.

Videogames and Regression

I’ve categorized regression in autism into 3 severity types. Type 1 happens when an autistic person is under a lot of stress from a significant change in their environment that causes them a lot of distress which makes them regress into an earlier child-like state and they may preoccupy themselves with an activity that makes them feel safe and comfortable, and returns them to a state of order in an otherwise chaotic situation.

Type 2 is what I have dubbed ‘The Second Regression’ in the past which is a more serious and long term form of regression. It’s usually referred to as cognitive regression or a shutdown. Shutdowns in autism have their own terminology and have their own spectrum of severity and it’s something I won’t get into now because it will just deviate from the original point of me writing this post. This Type 2 regression usually happens when an autistic person pushes themselves beyond their own limitations and can result in a loss of developed skills. Since doctors don’t know much about this condition and even go as far to say it’s psychological hysteria they can’t do a lot in terms of treatment. Instead, the autistic person must re-learn all these skills over again. When their family members notice they’re a bit slower in communicating their thoughts, social understanding and basic skills they may have no choice but provide some accommodations for their struggling child, sibling or spouse.

Type 3 usually happens when a baby is 18 to 20 months of age and begins to show symptoms of autism for the first time. They may have already developed speech and hit their milestones on time or early but for reasons not clear to scientists their skills begin to regress.

I’ve gone through Type 2 regression around four times so I’m hesitant to push myself when I begin to feel anxious. I don’t ever want to feel helpless and dependent on others while trying to re-learn lost social and life skills which I’m all always trying to build more of. Recently though I experienced Type 1 regression for maybe only the second time. They may have been more but I feel so socially developed for an autistic person that this little set back really made a huge impact on my self-confidence.

It all started when I found out that my house’s lease was being terminated and my sister whom I was living with at the time had previously been looking for somewhere else to move, which I protested. But then we had no choice. We had to move. It probably took a week for my sister and housemate to agree to move to Katoomba but I resisted. I tried to find someone else to live with on Flatmates.com but after a few weeks of not really finding anything suitable for me and my small cat Lyra (not many places allowed pets) I started to lose confidence that I could move in with strangers at all. Eventually, I came around to the Katoomba idea but I was still anxious about it.

I was working in Western Sydney and I knew I had to stop working there days before moving to Katoomba. I’m also a gamer and around this time Quantum Break, a game I had been waiting years to come out finally did and I become wholly absorbed into the world of Jack Joyce, the main protagonist. I searched through every nook and cranny of that game world to uncover more of the story. It had become my new reality. Yes, time was breaking down and I had these cool time powers and Dominic Monaghan was my brother. There were these moments in the game called stutters and I guess I played the game for so long I started to see them outside of the game. There were TV episodes in between the levels or acts and I felt like I lived through every character in the show and game. When I was half-way through the game I started to take days off work just to play it, even after my flu symptoms started to dissipate. Then it was choosing playing that game instead of seeing Craig Nicholl’s from The Vines play a solo show at Newtown Social Club. I’m a live band photographer and go to quite a lot of gigs and consider myself part of the Australian live music scene so not going was even a shock to me. Craig also has Asperger’s syndrome so he’s probably the only person in the music scene I can relate to. My friend wasn’t impressed that I didn’t go to that gig. In truth I didn’t want to go out and risk getting sick again. I had already missed so many days of work it was impossible to catch up without risking a collapse. I’ve had chronic fatigue since I was 13 and last time I pushed myself I became close to passing out. It happened after I went to shoot a gig, spent two days editing the photos and went straight back to another gig. When things like that happen to me I become anxious about it ever happening again.

Another reason I was hesitant to go to gigs might have had something to do with feeling anxious and even suicidal at previous gigs I went to alone. The feelings lasted as long as I was alone and didn’t talk to the band members if I didn’t know them. Fortunately, at those gigs I did know some band members. These feelings were new and unusual and they may have also had something to do with my stress over moving.

When I was close to finishing Quantum Break a free Destiny update came out so I gave the game another chance and I enjoyed it a lot more. I was one of those year 1 players who got sick of it and vowed never to play again, but the loot and upgrading points were very rewarding so I stayed. I entered into a new reality, a futuristic dystopian world in which I and other players were the last hope of humanity’s survival.  I became my Titan subclass throwing fiery hammers, ground pounding groups of enemies into oblivion or helping my team mates out by erecting a void shield. I dominated the Crucible (multiplayer) for a short while employing underhanded tactics to defeat my enemies. I played for full days to slowly upgrade my light level so I could play the final challenge. But it was all cut short when Starfox Zero came out and packed up my Xbox One and set up my Wii U. Three days later I wanted to throw that game and Wii U into the Sun. I also played a bit of Alan Wake: American Nightmare on my Xbox One in between Quantum Break and Destiny or whenever I couldn’t connect to Xbox Live.

Next was Ratchet and Clank I think so I set up my PS4 and packed up my Xbox One. Around this time I was beginning to suspect that I had grown some sort of a psychological dependence on playing videogames. I would never buy so many games in a matter of weeks. Usually, I would play a videogame to distract myself from depressed and suicidal thoughts. So, it was a form of therapy for me. I discovered this when I was anxious about going to a gig and I found playing Batman: Arkham City calmed me down. Since then, playing videogames works better than any psychiatrist’s advice ever has.

Not only did I have a psychological dependence to play videogames I also stopped hanging out with groups of people. People would come over to the house all the time and there was even a birthday party but I just didn’t care about socialising. It may have just been another way for me to cope with my stress. But in my head I came to the decision that I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I did want to go to Good Game Live though but I felt nervous about meeting fans of Good Game Pocket show, the ‘Pocketeers.’ I’m not really good at meeting people and becoming friends. I’ve been bullied and trolled by people who were meant to be my friends so I was hesitant to go. When I sort of told one of my friends she made it sound like I wasn’t making an effort. We had a big row, a big big one. She told me I was making excuses even for my PTSD and this is from someone who has a mental illness themselves. Emotionally I couldn’t deal with it and I didn’t know how to handle the situation so I did what I always do when I hit a social brick wall – I tried to get her out of my life but she kept trying. Through my sister I realized she missed me and it was something that never occurred to me. I don’t often miss people. I can spend 6 months without seeing people and as long as I’m preoccupied with an interest it’s enough for me. I did try to make an effort to hang out though. I was going to go to a gig in her town and asked to stay the night but I was never really given an answer. I deliberately didn’t go to two gigs I knew she’d be at. Although, I had no real motivation to go. This was You Am I and Davey Lane – they were usually unmissable gigs but I just kept playing Ratchet and Clank and Modern Combat 5.

It took about a week but things are good between me and my friend again. I think. I’m not very good at keeping friends.

Then Uncharted 4 was released and yep I bought it day one. Now I was Nathan Drake, a thief/ adventurer in search of pirate treasure. Once again I was completely absorbed into the story and became so accustomed to the combat it began to feel like muscle memory. I would shoot one bad guy, take his gun, grapple to a rope, swing on that rope to another ledge, shoot another bad guy while still swinging in the air, land on him and take his gun and continue the process until the area was cleared of enemies. I felt so athletic while playing it even though I had barely gotten up and gone for a walk. I never wanted to stop playing it. I wanted to stay in that world forever.

I might have spent between 6-10 hours playing it daily and completed it in four days. I’m not the best player but I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing as Nathan Drake. I enjoyed the cinematic driven story so much that when I played DOOM on my Xbox One it felt boring but I eventually got comfortable with it. It was hard to feel like I was in the DOOM world so I tried to read up as much of the lore as I could but the days til I moved were getting shorter and I had to stop playing DOOM and pack my Xbox One into a moving box. I also really wanted to see Dallas Crane and I felt I had to completely put away my game console so I could be sure I could go to that show. I put N.O.V.A 3 on my phone and played it before the show. The A.I that was supposed to help me was buggy AF though so I eventually gave up on it. But I am glad I went to the Dallas Crane gig. I got to hang out with the guys, talk mostly about videogames with the drummer Steve and take some good photos despite having no confidence of my skills after months off photographing bands. I even forgot the differences between fast and slow shutter speeds.

Then I was going to go see Olympia two or three days later, so I hastily edited the Dallas Crane photos, ignored the support act photos and was off to another gig. Then some more symptoms showed up. I completely lost my appetite yet still felt hungry; I just didn’t want to eat. The kitchen was a mess because of the move so that may have been one reason why I couldn’t eat.  I ended up surviving on Shapes and crackers. My sister was convinced that Olympia went to our church when we were kids. I didn’t really believe her.

The night of the Olympia gig I had some anxiety about getting in at all because my sister had my ticket but it passed and I met up with my sister (not the one I lived with) and we got together to excitedly talk about a house that we were approved to rent. I ate a meal for the first time in days and I was looking forward to seeing my friend Pat at the gig who plays bass in Olympia.

I was distracted and unfocused at the gig. Maybe it was because I kept talking to my sister when I’d usually be alone and hyperfocused on what was happening on stage. I yet again had zero confidence in my ability to take photos but I eventually remembered what a slow shutter speed does to photos taken in low light, so I corrected that. It was a good night. I got to talk to Pat and meet Olympia and my sister asked her if she was the same person that went to our church as kids, and she was and it was kind of strange but nice. I was an extremely quiet and weird child and I’m so different now that it felt good that someone knew me back then. It’s like that child actually did exist. I didn’t really have much to talk about because I had been playing videogames obsessively for the past month and being around a 35 to 40 something year old crowd I didn’t want to make myself seem any younger by mentioning that.

So, despite all the stress and weird regressive symptoms and anxiety about everything and near starvation I still had a good time and took some great photos and just got to do what I had been missing out on for months. It was enough for me to want to do it again. A couple of weeks ago I had feelings of giving up on my photography because I just couldn’t get out to the shows, and also those suicidal feelings. Every now and then I think about giving up on my band photography anyway.

I hastily edited my photos of Olympia too because I planned on seeing The Matches that night. The Matches were amazing and energetic as usual but I didn’t feel like I belonged in that scene anymore. And that was once my scene. There was a time when everyone knew about my photography and at least two people at that gig knew me. I met the guitarist of The Matches but it didn’t go as great as it did at Olympia.

I’m in my new house now and I haven’t played a video game for about two weeks, maybe more. I’ve been watching a whole lot of Good Game Pocket and following gaming news. I’m waiting for a gaming monitor to be delivered and DOOM is sitting on a desk of dresser drawers in the lounge room waiting to be finished. I don’t think I’ll become dependent on videogames again, not to the extent I was. I think it all had to do with the stress I was feeling over moving. Sure, I’m going to be picking up a controller when I feel deeply depressed or even anxious but I don’t think I’ll choose it over going to a gig. I’ve been trying to work on my social skills – AGAIN! Sorry, but this is like the fifth time. I pretty much know what to say to people but don’t say it. It’s going to take time and practice but it will happen. The nervous impulsive speaker will return.

I still enjoyed my time playing videogames. I felt like a gamer for the first time. I’m not saying they’re as broken as I was. No, they seem to be able to balance playing games with work and socialising in a way that I never could. I’ll still continue to play games but I won’t have much money to buy them day one or pre-order collector editions ever again. They’re still the best therapy I can ever get and the only way I can make friends, outside of the music scene of course.

Feeling Defeated

I've got the sads like my dog Bear does here

I’ve got the sads like my dog Bear does here

Recently I had missed out on taking photos of two bands that I really love, and I think I’m about to miss out on a third this weekend. It hurts a whole lot more because I choose to take photos of the bands I don’t just like or love but obsess over. That’s not a bad thing. You know, I’m just like a teenager who sticks up posters of all their favourite bands and relates some lyrics to their own situation. The music I listen to is more than background music or tunes to just enjoy; they provide themes to my own moods, energy levels and even identity.

From time to time I do miss out on photographing my favourite bands, either from a lack of media access to their shows or being unable to make it to the gig for some reason. The first band I missed out on photographing was The Living End, who I have loved since I was 10. If you think teenage obsessions with bands were big when I was 10 The Living End was my whole life. They were my young autistic special interest who I not just listened to but soaked up any information about. It was really heartbreaking to not get a photo pass to one of their gigs. I even wished I could have loved another band as a child over them; one that wasn’t so hard to get media access to.

The second band was The Ape. My new favourite band and introduction to the music of Tex Perkins. I was also going to travel to Melbourne for the first time if only the tickets to the gig weren’t so expensive because the flight was also going to cost a lot. It was kind of the next big step for me because when my sister was talking about going to the airport I had so much anxiety and felt so overwhelmed by all the information being told to me my head plummeted to the table, and I was shaking until I contacted one of the band members to see if I was allowed to get in to take photos, and get a plus one for my sister because the tickets were really expensive. I’m still not sure if I was allowed to take photos or not, but as the tickets came with meals and drinks and it seemed unlikely I could get on the guest list and eventually I started to become anxious about going, I decided to mope at home and play video games instead.

The next gig I applied for media access to is Rock the Gate, a concert standing against coal seam gas mining. One of the acts playing is Tex Perkins and the Dark Horses. The headliner is Pete Murray and that would probably really help expose my photography to a wider audience, but I haven’t heard back from anyone regarding my application to photograph the gig yet and so I have little hope I’ll hear back before this weekend.

Last night I noticed I didn’t take my missed opportunity to see and photograph The Ape well and by the time I was in bed full blown depression hit with the occasional suicidal ideation. Now I thought my next depressed episode will be over Centrelink post the two interviews I just had, which I planned to post about in ‘My Second Most Recent Breakdown’ but the interview didn’t turn out to be so bad. I sat down for another capacity assessment to see if I was still eligible for the disability support pension and surprisingly the assessor made me feel like I was. One thing I didn’t mention to them however was the fact that I get so down and depressed when things don’t work out for my photography.

That’s how I feel now: I feel like I will never get another opportunity to photograph another show that I need media access to and I even feel like I don’t have the skills to do it should that opportunity arise again. Although, I seem to be doing all right when taking photos of my cats and dog. There was a little black and white photo challenge on Facebook where you had to post one black and white photo a day, and so I decided to take about 200 black and white photos of my pets and now I’m posting one or two each day to my wall.

The skills are still there but my confidence isn’t and since missing out on photographing The Ape for a fourth time I’ve lost interest in going out to gigs. I’ve basically just been playing my Xbox One and getting most of my self-confidence back through playing video games, and I’m pretty good so will stick at it. It’s become my new special interest. It is all I think about, read about, desire and of course, play.

So yes, the next step is learning to take defeat and still staying with my photography. There are so many bands to photograph but like I said I choose to photograph my upmost favourite. The bands I always think about, listen to and buy camera lenses worth +$1000 for just to take photos of individual band members alone. I actually did that, after the last The Ape gig I was at I decided that I needed a wider angle lens, which I did have but left at home. I bought it after I kept cutting off the heads of guitarists with my usual lens.

On the bright side I will still be able to photograph my favourite bands that don’t require media access. I have two opportunities to see River of Snakes next week. The next couple of gigs I need media access to would Gyroscope at Oxford Art Factory and the big one for me will be Datsuns at The Metro. Both gigs are coming up in the next couple of weeks.

I still feel defeated. I’m still depressed of course. It will run its course and I’ll recover soon. I find the best way to deal with it is let the emotions and thoughts come and do their damage and by the end I’ll forget about ever feeling this way. When I first got the idea to go to Melbourne and take photos of The Ape I had that super inhuman level of over confidence which almost led to me spending $170 on tickets alone and thinking it was a sacrifice worth taking. But then I came back down to Earth and thought it would be better to wait for them to come back to Sydney so I can see them for $20-$30 again.

I should probably mention that I may have missed out on photographing two of my favourite bands but I did get to take photos of my mate Davey Lane and after I put the photos online got a post reach just five views short of 4000. That was massive. That’s the highest it’s ever been, and I didn’t even need to pay Facebook money to show my posts to more people.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t get many opportunities to photograph bands this late in the year. It’s heading into the Christmas season and I like to spoil my nephews and nieces.

So, I’ll keep doing my band photography. The harsh reality is you can be doing this for 20 years and sometimes you’ll miss out on gigs that you just assume will be easy to get into, and sometimes you’ll get into huge arena shows…or The Metro in Sydney.

For now I’m just going to continue to feel sorry for myself, because depression.

My Latest Breakdown

Trigger warning: Brief mention of suicidal thoughts. 

A few months ago I got a large letter in the post from Centrelink. For those not in Australia Centrelink is an unemployment service that provides payments to those who are struggling financially to make ends meet. In these last couple of years my psychiatrist had recommended I go on the disability support pension to take the stress off me from applying for jobs. And it was stressful. I would apply for ten jobs a fortnight, hear back from few employers for an interview and then be left waiting in nervous nail-biting anticipation to find out whether I got the job or not. I’d get a call but it was more for being told they went with someone else and that maybe I should try to be less nervous during interviews.

Being on the disability support pension did take the edge off. Unfortunately, I suffered worse mental health issues in that time and now I think I really depend on the pension to be able to live away from home. It’s a pity though because there was a point in my mid-twenties when everything seemed to be working out for me. I was so driven to succeed in any way I could. I was able to learn anything I put my mind to. I was medicated to focus, be motivated to do any dull task without giving it a second thought and I was hell bent on becoming a famous author, or a physicist, or even the first female combat pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. But then the truth was finally revealed, which I’ve been writing about for a long time – it was just mania and I had developed bipolar disorder.

I’ve been thinking about that for a long time because I’ve still not received proper medical treatment for it which just seems dangerous and counterproductive to my future plans. I also at times struggle to see mania as a bad thing. Why did the great authors, artists and a few composers find success despite their bipolar when all it does to me is destroy my relationships, empty out my bank account and make it impossible for me to commit to an artistic project or anything else I’ve wanted to accomplish. Another obstacle in seeking treatment as it’s made me a much more sociable person. I used to be quiet, withdrawn and low on energy. Now I’m usually sociable, a chatter box really, and have bursts of intense energy for a few hours, sometimes a few days.

But all this combined with severe ADHD and severe anxiety and the eventual depression that always follows mania, has shown me that I’m more unfit for work than ever before. I may feel like I have more energy but I’m too impulsive and distracted to stick with any task. The only work I’ve been successful doing is volunteering for a music website called The Dwarf as a live band photographer. October has been my busiest month and I’ve been shooting bands non-stop and when I haven’t been shooting them I’m editing photos for days on end, to the detriment of my own physical health.

That letter from Centrelink was a review form for my disability pension support payments, and according to my psychiatrist this meant that the Prime Minister just wanted to kick people off the pension and send them to work. My much nicer translation is they were going through the list of people on the pension, under 35, with a fine-tooth comb, seeing who belonged on the pension and who didn’t. I was a red flag for them because I’m only down as has Asperger’s syndrome, and I’ve been getting letters saying that I could still participate in work, even if it’s just volunteering and I could even be trained up. Actually, there are going to be more services to train autistic people to get them into jobs. And all this time I thought the government didn’t care about us? That was sarcasm.

There were a few hiccoughs getting this form filled out. For starters the second part of the form had to be filled out my doctor and at this time I didn’t want to see my psychiatrist. He’s ignored my plea to be assessed for a mood disorder so many times, even when my mood journal was plastered with suicidal thoughts. At this time I was desperate for a diagnosis and medication. I had stopped taking Ritalin full time late last year and my depression and anxiety was very hard to deal with, to not alter my own personality. What I mean by that is I listened to the thoughts and believed them and my mind and lifestyle was changed to accommodate for those thoughts. Since I went on anti-depressant medication it’s been easier to see those thoughts as merely symptoms and they don’t become a part of me. At first the medication completely dulled my mood or rather equalized them which felt like losing my personality, and then I adjusted. Then the mood issues came back.

Previously to finding this form in my mailbox I had successfully been able to keep my suicidal thoughts at bay. But because of the fact that if this form was not handed in I could have lost my pension this played on the most severest of my anxieties – financial instability. It goes like this: if I don’t have enough money to buy food then suddenly I see myself living on the streets and eventually dying. My poor sister has witnessed my many panic attacks over paying rent when I didn’t feel secure enough with the amount of money in my account. This anxiety turns to blaming everyone for causing the anxiety (sorry sis) and feeling like rampaging through the streets because anxiety and anger mixed together gives one a lot of manic energy. You just have to smash, throw, yell it out of you. But all I smash is my possessions, sometimes expensive and rare sci-fi paraphernalia. I throw my possessions too. And I yell at the air.

But then the suicidal thoughts came back, and not just feeling worthless but planning how and when to commit suicide. Then I found another way to want to stay alive. It has to do with not wanting to make a friend hurt over the suicide over a friend all over again. But I still have to deal with very intense suicidal thoughts even if I don’t plan on killing myself, and it’s a horrible thing to go through every couple of days.

So, me and my sister went searching for a new psychiatrist but time was running out to hand these forms in so I had to wait hours in Centrelink waiting to just see someone, because on calling their hotline made me extremely anxious because I didn’t know how to follow the prompts given to me by a robotic voice. In the waiting area at Centrelink I every half hour discretely ate a snack so I didn’t have a hypoglycemic attack. I still did and felt really weak, dizzy and had blurred vision where I’d just stare around like most autistic people do when they’re under stress. My anxiety was intense too and I started to get in my angry ranty mood where my thoughts turned to violence. I was kind of seeing the worst case scenario in my head. I think it ended with me being institutionalized.

I got the extension on the time to hand in the form but it was recommended I see a doctor who knew me well. That meant going back to mood disorder-denying ‘you just have to work and socialse more to overcome your anxiety/depression/mania’ biased as f**k psychiatrist. Fine. So, I called him up. The next appointment fell on the day my form had to be handed in. Now I don’t know why I didn’t ask for another extension after that, even just one more day, but I didn’t. I’m starting to think I make myself paranoid on purpose. Just so I worry about everything falling apart constantly so everything turns out fine in the end. And now I need to find some wood to knock on.

Basically, if one thing went wrong then the end of the world would come. I even started to refer to October 20, the day of the deadline, as the day the world ends. I think this is why I overcommitted to my band photography. On one hand I was glad that I finally could get to shoot the kind of shows I wanted to, on the other I could lose all this if I was to be cut from the pension, have my payments sliced in half and most of my time taken up by applying for jobs or working in a field I was not even remotely passionate about. I even have myself a bit of a fan following. People have told me it’s a waste of my talent to not do band photography. Even my ex was happy to hear I was still doing it. Nah. It’s not like that. We still mates.

For a few weeks I was able to ignore the looming deadline but in that last week my anxiety skyrocketed and I was still shooting shows and editing photos up to the day of my appointment with my psychiatrist and the end of the extension. And then it rained.

The appointment went fine actually. In the waiting room my writer’s block that triggered every time I thought about filling in my part of the form had miraculously disappeared and I scribbled down a bunch of answers. During the appointment I talked non-stop in nervous-manic energy as my psychiatrist filled out his part of the form, replying with the odd ‘mmhmm,’ to show he was listening to my ramble. I kept talking about my mood disorder symptoms of course, including my impulsive spending which he played down by saying I was buying things I needed – sure, I was just spending thousands instead of waiting until I could really afford to spend that much.

Afterwards, I was briskly walking to Wollongong Centrelink in the rain. I had scoped out two Centrelink buildings before my appointment – as I had arrived more than 1 hour early – to put my mind more at ease. The people inside this Centrelink were nice and friendly, compared to the rush-shove too serious service I get from my local one in Leichardt. I was told that I could leave my form there and that everything will be alright.

Finally satisfied that I was given some clarification about my payments continuing I celebrated my buying underwear, socks and a checkered jacket for only $12.50.  I had one of the most scrumptious Mexican lunches at one restaurant too. And as soon as I arrived at the train station there was a train going to the city waiting for me. I even got to catch the bus home, which was free instead of me forking out some $20 for a taxi home. So, things just seemed to fall in place for me that day.

I thought this meant the breakdown was over but I was wrong. That night I was exhausted and being used to this after dealing with stressful situations I just went with it. But the following day’s things didn’t get better. It was hard to adjust to my normal daily life and I fell into a comfort zone where I didn’t try to push myself more. I thought maybe I needed it after going through months of extreme anxiety, but it was hard to break out of. I didn’t even want to go to another show to photograph a band or edit the remaining band photos. I procrastinated writing this blog post for a very long time. I began to watch a lot of TV or spend most of my time on Facebook.

I’m not even sure if things are better now. I’ve decided to plan my days thoroughly so I won’t have large chunks of the day where I’ve got nothing to do so spend them watching TV or saying stupid things on Facebook. I think my afternoon vodka drinking session which of course made me more manic yesterday taught me that I needed to get more control over my life and especially my emotions, which meant fighting against those impulsive desires. I never been good at avoiding impulses because they’re impulses – you act on them before you even know you are – but if I commit to something that needs more focus and thus requires me to take more focus aides (fish oil) then there may be less opportunity for these impulses to surface at all. And I have decided to put all leisurely activities as lesser priorities, which means TV and internet leisure time happens at the end of the day.

So, I’m looking forward to getting more organised and focusing more on my art, which now means Christmas cards or perhaps a nice canvas painting as a gift. I’m not sure. I haven’t done it in ages. It’s my natural talent but I still need to practice it to create some real masterpieces.

I’m also hoping I get to photograph my favourite band from my childhood, The Living End, this Friday and again on the 6th of November. Then after that I’ve got a few more gigs to shoot and also a visit from my mum. I do like to keep busy. I’ve been walking a lot more too to help with mood and focus. And I have another appointment with Centrelink next month to keep me on my toes, somewhat literally. I’m just going to keep on doing my photography, playing my therapeutic video games, and having Christmas with my family. Next year is about taking my photography professional. I need to learn more about taking promotional band photos though. I think I’d do better with getting a professional photographer friend acting as my mentor rather than studying in a classroom. My untreated moods, ADHD and my more anti-social symptoms would make it an impossible task to accomplish.

revealed, which I’ve been writing about for a long time – it was just mania and I had developed bipolar disorder.

It’s Time to Focus on the Important Things In Life

Sorry guys, I kind of left you hanging after I wrote the last blog post, with its whole ‘I don’t know what to do with my life’, ‘anxiety rules me’ and ‘maybe it’s just better if I -‘

The good news is I finally went to a doctor and got on some medication. How did that happen so quickly? It took me two years to muster up enough courage to nag someone to drive me to the doctor’s office and in about 10-15 minutes of seeing my new GP I get the medication I wanted and desperately needed for all those years.

The medication is Aropax/ Paxil/ Paroxetine, an SSRI anti-depressant, also used to treat anxiety. I was so anxious when talking to my doctor I couldn’t explain everything, but I said far more than I have ever said to a doctor when I had to see them alone. I had my iPad resting on my lap as I was skimming through a rather detailed list of mental health problems I had written down. It was all written down so formally it still makes me chuckle.

I didn’t really want to write another post until I was two weeks into this medication regime – it’s only been five days. But I have been struggling to know what to focus my mind on now. I still have am very much into my special interests but I’m also feeling rather skint, though to others I’m not. For the non-Australians/ British, skint just means being low on money. Everyone in Sydney seems to be saying it. I picked it up from my Funeral For a Friend forum buddies and obsessively watching Doctor Who and Torchwood. Usually, I read a couple of MARVEL and Star Trek fact files but I’ve had to cut back and just make do with the comic books I have now, which is a lot. Maybe when I feel better I’ll do more reading. I want to read all the movie tie-in books the the original Stargate motion picture, and possibly a few books from the TV series.

When I started taking Aropax I felt like it was only half working. I’m still taking a very low dose, but it feels like I still get some anxiety, depression and even the higher moods. I’m still a bit hyper today but not ridiculously though. A few days on I started to get the lethargic and apathetic feeling (to be honest, I felt like I didn’t want to be around people at all – which makes me worried because SSRI’s are known to make people feel homicidal – or I should really stop taking what I read on the internet seriously) but then I countered this by taking a 2000mg fish oil supplement, which since taking Ritalin has given me an awake stimulant feeling. I’ve been taking it for a few years to help me be more motivated and focused in place of taking stimulant medication. It works just as well, albeit with a shorter half-life but it doesn’t make me manic or rapid cycling.

That brings up another point. I no longer think I have bipolar disorder. My reasoning is that anti-depressants seem to be doing their job without throwing me into mania. Yes, I have had a few symptoms that make me think of mania, at least hypomania, but I’m still on just half a pill so a few of the old mood symptoms could be bleeding through. My theory is all along I have been dealing with a hormone imbalance caused by my time on the birth control pill that led to the development of PMDD (severe pms, dyphoria, suicidal feelings etc) and when I went on Ritalin a few years after going off the pill, it just completely upset my neurochemical balance, which produced manic symptoms everytime I took the pill. See, I thought because I had motivation, could focus, remember things better, and gave me this sudden desire to talk to people and I did it so well I was like a new person, that it was treating the ADHD and this is how most people with ADHD responded to the medication. I was wrong. I had incredible delusions and over confidence, on a single 10mg dose. Even on a 5mg dose.

Then came experiencing a trauma which completely messed with my brain producing all too common symptoms of PTSD. Once I was asked ‘how do you know it was PTSD?’ Well, the flashbacks of the trauma was a dead giveaway. I started to hallucinate when I walked in public. I remember thinking I was covered in blood. I remember seeing the faces of my attackers on the faces of strangers. I remember feeling threatened by any stranger on the street. And then the whole Aurora shooting thing happened which made the media make some very terrible accusations against autistic people and I got so paranoid toward people I thought they could tell I was autistic and were basically going to attack me because of this fact. So, I tried my best to suppress my autistic symptoms. Then I started to get obsessed about the autistic community fighting back against these accusations and during the obsessive-thought spiral I got trolled by a friend and their friends, and this begun the first of many friendship ties being cut to save me going off on some strange manic rant at them. It probably had to do with my PMDD too but since I developed PTSD I could no longer suppress the rage I felt about so many things and toward so many people. There are some people I miss that I know will never forgive me, and there are others I feel better about no longer having in my life. Both parties actually never gave me a chance to explain myself and then when I tried to said I was making excuses or just labeling myself.

PTSD also made it impossible to stay on Ritalin. Within an hour of taking the pill I would be thrown into impulsive behaviour and was now becoming depressed after the ‘mania’ crashed. I used to take more Ritalin to counter this and my depression never got that bad while Ritalin was in my system, but after I went off that’s when the occasional brief but very intense suicidal feelings started. But I started to just accept it and go through it because the worse the depression the higher a ‘mania’ was going to be.

So, now I’m on anti-depressants I’ve not had serious suicidal feelings or a panic attack, though some anxiety and depression remains. When I first started Aropax and felt the milder anxiety and depression I kept waiting to lose control of myself but it never happened, and it made me feel uncomfortable. I had to really talk myself through the process. “Look, you either get a little anxiety/depression or you get it so bad you either feel like your heart will explode or feel a desperate need to end your life.”

Now comes the testing phase. Time to test myself and put myself in situations that would usually trigger those symptoms of anxiety and depression. The big one is testing how I deal with change. I remember being on Aropax back in 2009 and no longer being that bothered by change. So far I think it’s too early to tell. But my one obstacle to overcome is getting to The Basement in Sydney in mid July. Normally, having to go to that venue would give me agonizing panic attacks and visions of my death happening over again in many ways, that I would just decide not to go. Basically, what happened last time. So, if I can finally go to music venues I’ve not been to before with only the slightest bit of nervousness then this medication would have been worth it.

The next test is overcoming intrusive and obsessional thoughts. This is when I start to become vague because the nature of these thoughts are disturbing. I know I’m not alone in experiencing them but I don’t want people who know me to think I think like this at all. They are thought intrusions anyway. I have no choice in the matter. They have at times completely taken over my life so I’ve forgotten what is most important, hence the blog post title. I have put them before friends and family and even getting help for my mental health issues. If anti-depressants don’t shut them out completely I’m going to have to take steps of my own to overcome them. Problem is they have helped me deal with anxious and depressed thoughts. But once I realise I no longer need to have this sanctuary of sorts to go to every time I become anxious or begin to doubt myself, then I will no longer see the need to revisit these thoughts.

Lastly, there’s my financial instability which is just a supreme amount of anxiety over not seeing a figure in my bank account that makes me feel secure. Say I was in a really good mood and you asked me for $300. That would make me panic, resist, avoid and if I ended up being convinced to pay you I would feel like I was manipulated, and that doesn’t help my ego. I would then storm through the streets wanting to tear them up and envisioning myself attacking people. That’s how bad my anxiety got. I’d also spend a few hours later feeling extremely suicidal. I could never do it though, even when I was sure I had to do it I could never do it. I had a plan too.

By the way, the anti-social thoughts are intrusive. I would rather go through the agony of seeing them in my head to save me from putting them into practice. I’d even inflict pain on myself before I touch another person. I’ve never really lost that much control of myself to think I could be a danger to other people. I have some very strong willpower or whatever the scientific definition is.

Currently, that figure in my account is the lowest it’s been in a long time so I’ve cut back on food, I’ve stopped buying my comic book fact files and have to put all plans to buy comic books and video games on hold. I’ve not had a panic attack though, except late at night when my little 10mg dose wears off. I just really need to learn that the figure in my account is not going to get lower and lower until nothing is left, that I just need to work out ways to manage my money better, and if I do run into problems I’m probably not going to be thrown out onto street. It’s actually making me nervous about going overseas. I want to go for the experience and to know that I can, but I don’t want to spend my money on all the usual stuff people do when they go overseas. It’s easy for me to be non-materialistic especially when I stop being impulsive. So, let’s hope these meds just keep on working.

What’s most important is my mental health begins to heal and I slowly let myself out in the world again. The world is more a danger to me than I am to it though. At times I feel like I’m not going to get better and I don’t have a future. There’s just so much to fix. There are physical health problems as well as mental. I’ve never really had a job too so I have to gain some experience when I am mentally well enough to do that. Then I’ve got to become more independent. It all just seems like too much. But this is going to be a slow process. I have to break everything up into steps. It’s a good thing I have excellent organisation skills.

All the things that have mattered the most to me I’ve got to put behind me, except for the band photography. I was able to do my photography without getting medical help but there was always the social issue. I may have made it worse by going on anti-depressants but at least no more band members I respect and look up to can’t see me in that manic speedy talker state again. But I will always do my band photography. It might have taken a grandiose delusion to make me commit to it again but now it’s taking realistic thinking to keep me doing it. It was a manic delusion that took me away from it in the first place. It really is where my future is heading. I’ve dedicated too many years to just pursue some other career. Even if I have just recently decided to focus on building my artistic skills again. That was also a given. I’ve been drawing since I was two, it was my semi-savant skill in primary school and I’m pretty good at it. I’m the type of art student who will finish my work early and go straight ahead with the few next lessons and refuse to listen to the teacher’s suggestion about how to fix up my work. It makes me sound like I’m the hardest person to work with. I’d take photography advice, maybe, just not when it comes to painting. Although I sound incredibly arrogant now I can at least admit to not being as good as many artistic people I know. I have this friend who sketches anyone from band members to sci-fi actors to anyone else she likes, and her drawings just blow me away. I don’t think I would ever have the patience to produce something that brilliant.

Is this blog post long enough yet? All you have to know about me is I’m doing much better on my anti-depressants and fish oil and I’m looking for ways to keep myself busy, while working on those areas in my life that usually had me paralyzed with fear or bedridden with depression. The next step might require going back on ADHD medication, something more slow release than what I was last on, that made me, for a want of a better word, manic. The psychiatrist I contacted has very expensive fees though so I may have to go back to my old psychiatrist, who basically refused to get me on anti-depression/anxiety medication or look into what my mood issues were about. But I’m taking that medication now and I really need is simple prescription of the many ADHD medications out there that I can try. For now though fish oil is doing a pretty bang up job.