Key Themes: fiction, mental health, relationships
`In Through The Outdoor’ is my only link with the real world. It is my way to both live and then eventually die. I did not set out or plan to write this book, it simply began. It began because I had to write down what it was I felt. And I felt scared. Very scared. Of nothing. Writing this book was the only way I could survive when nothing made any sense but to me the book also makes no sense. Writing it did not help me one bit. But reading it does and that’s what I hope you do because that will help me a lot, too. That is, I need the money! I hope you enjoy what is in these pages and I hope it doesn’t make too much sense. It’s not meant to – it’s life – it’s just meant to feel right. Right? If this book does make any sense to you then please remember what it is you felt when you read it. Because that is what mentally `unwell’ feel every day of their lives. They just want to make sense like you. And just like you they want to lead normal lives. Normal lives: without fear; without persecution. I hope you understand even if it doesn`t make sense. Because understanding is really all that matters.
The protagonist of ‘In Through The Outdoor’ is not me. That is, it’s not ME, Scott Stewart. I’m the author. But everything in those pages is me, or is or was, a part of me. I’m not the first person ‘I’ of the book’s narrative but then who is? As you read there appears to be another ‘I’, someone called “Steven”. Is he me? Am I him? Am ‘I’ him? We don’t know. I don’t know, and I’m the author. Does anyone really know, then? if even the instigator of the thing in question is uncertain of its meaning or origin? This is what ‘In Through the Outdoor’ is about. It’s about nothing. The nothing that always is that plagues every single one of us, every single day of our existence.
About the Author
I came to Australia in October 1973 when my family decided that the Australian climate was a better option to raise their youngest child who then suffered from asthma. I grew up in Brisbane – the capital of Queensland, one of the really big states in this country, Australia. But although I grew out of the respiratory condition I grew into another set of problems. At age 18 I was admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital psychiatric ward and would spend almost 3 months of my life there. It almost killed me. But it wasn’t the start of my problems and it certainly wasn’t the end. I had developed OCD at age 12 and-a-half and the obsessions almost drove me, and my family, insane. My condition just ‘morphed’ from there on – being diagnosed as major depressive then schizophrenic then bi-polar and almost every other description of mental unwellness you can think of. That was 28 years ago. Now, still living in Brisbane, I’m finally getting on with what I always knew I had (?) to do. And that was, or is, create. I’m a creative person: I’ve always been interested in writing and photography and drawing and painting and acting and making movies (but not watching them) but, most of all, I’ve always wanted to play music. Drums are my passion and almost always have been. I tried to give them up so many times when I felt that I was getting nowhere. But I persisted, as I did with anything I ever undertook or began with any real desire to finish. And that includes my life.
Like all of us, I travelled in through the out door to get here. That is, the way I came in is the way I’ll go out. But there’s no need to exit until you’re asked to leave – by whatever means – so now that I’ve arrived I plan to try to make my stay as comfortable as possible. But it’s a hard slog. Everyday is a battle. Knowing that the exit is just round the corner (or behind you, as the protagonists of my book discover) means you’re always on guard. And I’ve been on duty for 28 years now. Keeping watch over my fortress – a fortress built on sand and water. I’ve been sinking for a long time but I can swim, so I’m not scared. I just wish I could find the higher ground (?).
And that’s what is about to happen – or so I believe. If you’re reading this then it has begun. Because I’ve been published. And that’s a start. ‘In Through The Outdoor’ began almost 10 years ago as a short story of 6000 words. It has taken many forms since then and found its way into other stories I have written along the way. Now’s the time for change. Time is change. And I’m still alive so I still have time. Time. That’s what the drummer does – keep time – and I can do that well. I hope that one day you see me on stage playing drums for you. And I hope you like what you hear – because I’ve put everything into trying to make it sound good.
A nurse began speaking to me: “Well, look who’s here. How are you then?” I was unfocused, yet strangely alert, somehow aware of the room, somehow here and now, but I did not answer the nurse – there were too many answers, and too many questions without meaning, and now was not the time to speak. Words, however, rushed through my mind only to bottleneck there on their way out, but the idea of communicating seemed to hold less and less attraction to me. I was existing in a state of conscious limbo. Nothing here was new though, and the scene was running through my mind with ease. Something compelled me to sit, upright and lean on my left arm – there was something wrong with my right and for the first time I realised that I was basically immobile, restricted to the bed. The bed was comfortable, but not soft; it was as if I was meant to feel relaxed but not at home, like the times I had spent staying with friends as a child. My right arm was strapped across my chest and the shoulder seemed to speak a dull ache – the first physical sensation I had become aware of, but not to be the last.
The nurse did not relent: “Feeling any better?” Then: “Would you like a drink?” I felt neither to any great degree but to let the nurse know this would mean communicating and I was not even sure I was still in the room at this stage. The room was wide and seemed to stretch out of reach to my right, into darkness and away from me. The lights above my bed were bright and illuminated my broken legs, both in plaster and, besides my shoulder, I had no other bodily sensations other than their weight. My legs hung in a space that was filled with nothing and seemed to be waiting for the weight to disappear and let them float away from here, I cannot tell where too. Only one thing was for certain: that I was still alive. For surely death must come in another form? Recognisable even if only by absence and complete as a sensation. But was I still alive? Was this the world I had been a part of only moments earlier, outside, in a barrage of contesting thoughts and emotions and had escaped from momentarily into the unconscious? Or was that too an illusion and I have been dead for centuries, a forgotten person of some forgotten age? Perhaps the nurse could tell me? Perhaps this was the reason to speak that suddenly I realised I had been looking for all along. Nothing came out of my mouth and my eyes revealed nothing to the attending nurse but I was nevertheless beginning to have confidence in her – she was committed to care and I sensed she knew she was having a positive influence, however slight. Then she walked away.
I reeled into a confusion borne of delusion and searched for somewhere to anchor myself in this ever increasing space around me. The bed, however, was beginning to consume me and I felt the casts on my legs were beginning to swell, as if they would crush my legs to pulp and pulverise the already broken bones within. There was nothing to sink my fingers into and locate me in this hole of my own making – the walls were distant and smooth and the ceiling too was expanding away from my now contorted body and I began to realise that I had fully expected the nurse to return. Something in my right shoulder cried out and pain began to assume dominance, no longer metaphysical, a physical pain, and it raced through my entire body. Was this what I had expected such pain to be? The pain of the body in flight? My thoughts turned to surviving but somewhere the sensation of thought persisted and added to the whole. The sensations burned into me and struck me down further into the bed which soon would have engulfed me entirely, swallowed me into its structure and forced me through into another dimension. There seemed to be no escape from this but somehow words finally leapt from me and into the surrounding room. I’m not sure if I spoke or screamed but the same nurse and Doctor Madsen returned to my bedside. The doctor seemed familiar and I realised I had been referring to her by name. She appeared tall from my encasement in the bed and efficient as well. The nurse did not wear a nurse’s uniform but her role too was clear in my mind; she had an identification photo pinned to her clothing and injected something into the I.V. on my left.
The pain soon subsided and my thoughts were able to resume their dominance and return from where they hadn’t disappeared, reasserting themselves in the front of my mind. Slowly the bed also released me and even allowed me to rise up and away from its wrappings, allowed me back into the room where I could once again feel the confines of its walls and the security they brought with them. The doctor examined my eyes and looked once more at the information I assumed was contained at the end of my bed, spoke with the nurse and spoke to me directly. To leave me now would be a death sentence in this room full of people. I began to speak to those about me but could not hear what I was saying or really cared anymore and soon the bed once more felt comfortable and reassuring. Inside my head there was a gap forming and I was aware of its progress as it developed and grew. No way out and no chance of returning to the garden. Outside I could hear nothing and I began to doubt whether the garden still existed (if only I could get to the window) but someone else in the room was telling me unequivocably that it did. That someone else was Steven.