My name is Brett Kiellerop and I’m a middle-aged curmudgeon. I’m also a human being, embracing all the joys and challenges which life throws my way.
As a writer, I have a lot of emotional baggage to draw on for inspiration. Most of my work, however, comes from a general sense of existential despair.
Let me tell you a little about myself…
The first thing I like people to know? I’m married to David Alan Morris. We’ve been together since 1996 after meeting in Brisbane on the internet, back when it was purely text based. He brings much joy to my life.
David and I crave adventure and tend to move around. We’ve lived all over Australia, spent two years in Montreal, Canada, and three years in Vancouver. Then we relocated to Manchester UK, hated it, and went to Luxembourg for two years. My health issues eventually drove us back to Brisbane, Australia, to be around our loved ones. Now we live in Wellington, New Zealand.
Before then? Let’s not dwell on ancient history. Suffice to say I was born in Ballarat, Australia, in 1969 as Brett James Parker. I had a childhood, finished school, and became a computer nerd. In those days, computers were pedal-powered.
My late teens and early 20s passed according to societal norms at the time; I worked full-time, became engaged to a great girl, and suffered in (almost complete) silence with mental health issues. Then I broke… the repair work is still ongoing.
Early on the road to repair, I admitted to myself and others that I’m gay. I also quit working with computers and studied psychology. For several years I helped others who were struggling with their gender and/or sexual identity as I battled my own demons.
My first psychologist diagnosed me with Schizoaffective Disorder (SZA), which meant I was borderline schizophrenic and borderline bipolar. A slight nudge could send me spiralling in any random direction. I tried medication and counselling but the best treatment for me was to identify my triggers and avoid them.
Many of my close relationships ruptured in those early days. Some of those people are now lost to the mists of time, unfortunate casualties of my internal war. Others can’t look past my bad behaviours of the time and their view of me is distorted. They question every decision, every statement, every move I make. My relationships with them are still frosty… it’s hard to have a close relationship with someone after decades of mistrust, disbelief, and poor communication.
The most important advance in my battle for mental health came from meeting new people who loved and accepted me as I was. Sadly, some have now passed away. Others, however, still live large as critically important elements of my life. Unconditional love and acceptance is the best balm you can apply to any tortured soul.
I never did fit neatly into the textbook definition of SZA, and it turned out there was an underlying physical reason why.
My struggles with mental health were complicated by weird physical symptoms. Some doctors only treated the symptoms, while others assumed they were just attention-seeking behaviours. Eventually, a few years after my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, one neurologist took an interest in my case. He investigated me for a terrifying array of conditions, including things such as multiple sclerosis and cardiomyopathy to eliminate them as possibilities. His final diagnosis? Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
IIH is a condition where the pressure of the fluid surrounding the brain is too high, constantly squeezing the brain and causing a vast array of neurological problems. I won’t bore you with too much detail, but for twenty years my IIH was managed with regular lumbar punctures to drain the excess fluid.
Did IIH cause my schizoaffective disorder? Did I even have SZA? I will never know, as the symptoms of SZA could also be symptoms of IIH. I do know, however, that my schizoaffective symptoms eased dramatically after each lumbar puncture.
Over the years IIH has caused a variety of issues, including:
- six small strokes (TIAs)
- brain fog and fugue states
- visual impairment (which lasted nearly four years from Sept 2012)
- depression and schizophrenia
- memory loss
- mood swings / crankiness
- inability to regulate hormones and body temperature
- difficulty swallowing
- headaches / migraines / seizures
- tremors and vibrations
- slow, stiff movements
The Situation Now
In 2016 I underwent two procedures – one to restore my eyesight and the other to regulate my intracranial pressure – and am now quite stable. I still have some legacy issues hanging around, but they’re manageable.
The biggest issue I have these days is the inability to regulate my body temperature. Humidity melts my brain, which is why we moved away from Brisbane. A complete recovery was always out of the question. Having IIH is like suffering from a constant concussion.
I haven’t needed a lumbar puncture since January 2013 🙂 Strictly following the ketogenic diet helps control my intracranial pressure and keeps me sane (ish).
Now, on to lighter subjects.
- My husband, David
- Spending time in Brisbane with my godchildren and their awe-inspiring parents
- World building
- Creating interesting characters and killing them off in gory ways
- Long walks
- People watching
- Fiery debates on the correct use of commas (which I mostly lose)
- Did I mention coffee?
- Donald Trump
- Apple iBookstore
- Inconsiderate people
- Witnessing the world self destruct
- Narcissistic horse/human hybrids
My passion in life is fighting the stigma surrounding mental health disease. Although the public stigma is slowly disappearing – thanks to the hard work of many dedicated organisations around the globe – the personal stigma remains. But would you shun someone because they had diabetes or appendicitis? Of course you wouldn’t. So don’t be too quick to judge people who have a mental health disease… it could happen to you.
Aside from David and writing, the other love of my life is travel. Travel broadens your horizons. Exposure to different cultures and languages is the best way to expand a narrow mind. Broad horizons lead to a broad mind, free from judgment and arrogance.
But if you can’t travel, you should read. Reading also broadens your horizons. When you read a good book, you don’t just read a story: you absorb the unwritten message. Reading allows you to step outside your physical sphere of influence.
The first impactful book I remember reading is Weaveworld by Clive Barker. His tale tore a hole through my complacency and conformism, unlocking my imagination. Escapism took root in my soul and my boring, socially acceptable life was no longer enough for me.
From that moment on, I read voraciously. The good, the bad, the poorly edited. Inclinations became dreams. Dreams woke into desires. Desires morphed into goals. Finally, two decades after Clive Barker removed the haze of societal norms from eyes, I was living the life of an unapologetic, creative individual.
Sure, I can still be traditional and conservative at times; however, I strive to be non-judgmental and open-minded. Whenever I encounter something outside my experience, I take it as an opportunity to learn something new, not a chance to condemn something different.
My mind is a sponge, but what happens when I wring it out? Free-flowing fiction.
My first attempt at writing was a gay comedy drama, a web series, which I eventually self-published as a trashy, amateurish novel. As I pumped out that series, however, my mind overflowed with ideas for epic fantasies and gritty human dramas.
These days I will try my hand at writing anything, but my preferred genres are:
- Speculative fiction: space operas, epic fantasies, chilling horrors… There’s nothing I won’t try.
- YA (young adult) fantasy: I love exploring the the loss of innocence.
- Psychological drama: these books allow me to wallow in the darker side of humanity. These gritty human dramas will make you squirm.
A Final Word
My work is available as ebooks at Amazon, for all Kindle devices and apps. If you’d like further insights into my mind you’re welcome to follow my Twitter account. I’m vocal, opinionated, and hilarious… or at least I think so.
For me, the process of writing is cathartic and liberating. It’s exhilarating, yet crushing. Writing is the most important tool in my toolbox for managing my mental health issues. I have to write. I need to write.
I am a writer.