All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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The mystery is solved

As I mentioned in my last post, my physical health has been somewhat of a problem since the beginning of this year. Abdominal pain led to pancreatitis which led to hospitalization and, since I was discharged from hospital, a mysterious abdominal pain that has zapped me of my strength, energy and motivation. In fact, it left me a doubled-over-in-pain, nauseous, vomiting wreck of a human being – and all I wanted to know was what was wrong with me. So last week, after numerous consultations with my GP, I was sent for a scan.

The scan took two hours. Two – tediously boring – hours! First of all I had to force myself to drink nearly a litre and a half of water. I don’t know why I had to consume so much liquid, this was never explained to me, it was just brought out to me and I was asked to drink it as quickly as possible. After making myself feel quite nauseous I was summoned into the scanning room where, after changing into a nifty hospital gown, I was laid on the CT scanner and was told I would need a canulla inserted in order to pump me full of the radioactive contrast medication that enables the scan to be viewed more clearly. This isn’t a problem if you have strong veins…but I don’t. After a gloriously failed (incredibly painful) attempt, the man summoned in his superior who would hopefully have better luck. They didn’t. So they decided (thankfully) to run the scan without the medication. Alas, this didn’t work, so they tried again to install a canulla into my quivering body. This time they wheeled in the ultrasound lady to try to locate my veins through technology. Two further (extremely painful) attempts later they finally managed to get the wee medical equipment into my vein and we were good to go. As the scanner man said “it took forty-five minutes to do something that should have been done in five”. At least the scan itself took only a couple of minutes.

The wait for the scan result, however, was seven days of anxiety inducing madness. As each day clicked over my mind flooded with all sorts of possibilities that could be causing this (at times) excruciating abdominal pain; could it be pancreatic cancer? Maybe it’s stomach cancer? Or an ulcer? Maybe it’s several ulcers all conjoining to create the world’s most grotesque stomach growth?

Yes.

I have hypochondriac tendencies.

It’s not fun!

But after seven days of waiting I finally got the results of the scan yesterday. Apparently what is causing the pain is a 4x7cm cyst that has nestled itself into my pancreas and is happily doing whatever cysts do, much to the chagrin of its host. The GP said this might require surgery (which I’m not too keen on) but because the pain has subsided slightly over the last few days, he hasn’t referred me to the surgeon’s knife just yet. He’s going to monitor me over the coming weeks and, in a couple of months time will send me for another scan (which I’m not too keen on given the canulla nightmare of my recent scan) to see what the cyst is getting up to.

Strangely enough I’m not too fussed about having a cyst. It’s a little disconcerting (especially given its size) but it’s wonderful to know that there is an actual cause of the pain and that it’s not just some depression/anxiety induced psychosomatic symptom. It’s also wonderful to have a doctor that seems to genuinely care about what I’m going through. He really has been fantastic over the last several weeks, putting up with all sorts of paranoia, hypochondria and anxiety from this most stressed out of individuals.

In fact, it’s safe to say that I have never in my life felt this ill (even when I had glandular fever, which is the closest comparison to my current woes). And when I feel ill, I don’t function well mentally. My mood turns sour, depression creeps in and life becomes bleak and unenjoyable. So hopefully, as time ticks on, and my physical health improves, I will find my mental health improving alongside it.

For I really am completely over hospitals, canullas and abdominal pain. Although I do quite like the gowns, as they show off my cute wee behind! :p


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Pancreatitis, pneumonia and abdominal pain, oh my!

It’s been nearly seven months since my last post and sometimes I don’t know where the time goes, for I certainly didn’t plan on being absent for so long. Last year (2014) was a nightmare for me from beginning to end; one elongated depressive episode that sapped my strength and rendered me incapable of performing even the most basic of tasks. I was lost from the first minute after New Year to the last tick of the clock twelve months later, and the only solace had been the hope that 2015 would prove to be “better”, for want of a better word.

Alas, this year has got off to just as bad a start, albeit for totally different reasons.

In early January I began to feel sick; abdominal pains, aching limbs, nausea, vomiting, the list of symptoms were as uncomfortable as they were endless. Then, a few weeks later, the abdominal pain became so severe I was forced to do something I have never in my life done before – I called an ambulance. At 3am, I crawled in agony from my bed and dialled 000 in order to find someone who was willing to help me with my physical torment. Fortunately, the ambulance was quick to arrive and even quicker to inject morphine. A short trip to the hospital later I found myself being connected with all manner of tubes, catheters and heart monitoring equipment. Another short trip to a different hospital later (my local hospital is on the small side) and I found myself in the critical care unit being diagnosed with acute pancreatitis; an illness I was told “could prove fatal”.

All in all I was in hospital for a little over two and a half weeks and every second of it tested every coping mechanism I have. The pancreatitis, I was told, had been caused by the mood stabilisers I was taking, so they were immediately stopped, causing for a little over a week all manner of paranoia and delusional thinking. At one point I believed the operators of the CT scanning equipment planned to murder me. At another point, I believed the hospital was under attack by a cursed Egyptian Princess and only I could save it. Fun times.

Because of my experiences in boarding houses when I was homeless I can’t deal with sharing my space, so being in a ward with three other gentlemen and only a thin curtain between me and them proved highly anxiety inducing; cue anxiety attacks, panic attacks and long sleepless nights listening to what can only be described as a symphony of snoring.

Eventually – after a brief bout of pneumonia which I picked up in hospital – I was fortunately discharged with a bag of pain meds and sent on my merry way. You would have thought this would have been the end of it. That my weeks in hospital would have fixed any physical ailments plaguing my body, but alas, over four weeks later I continue to suffer through an assortment of symptoms that no-one can explain.

The abdominal pain has continued but, rather than being related to the pancreatitis (which I’m assured has healed), is focussed on my stomach. Thus, I have spent much of the last month doubled over in pain whilst simultaneously vomiting and being unable to stomach virtually all foodstuffs. To say I am “over it” would be an understatement. I miss having energy. I miss being motivated. I miss my appetite. I miss feeling ‘healthy’.

Tomorrow, I am going in for another scan (which I’m told will take an hour and a half) in the hope that it will shed some light on whatever is causing my body to rebel in such a painful, uncomfortable and yucky way. For, nearly three months into the year that I hoped would be “better” than 2014, I’m still unable to enjoy a single minute of it.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 12

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Where do you keep your ‘tools’? (Your room, in a box, disposed of them?)

Over the years, the tools I’ve used to self-harm have been many and varied, all of which ended up being disposed of during whatever ‘no more self-harm’ period I was going through. But after each successive failure, new tools were acquired which were always – to this day – kept in a small box close to my bed.

In addition to the tools of my self-harm, I also keep a variety of medicinal supplies in this box in order to treat myself after each incident of self-harm. This way, I know the whereabouts of everything I may need at all times.

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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 11

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Strangest place (school, park, etc) you’ve ever injured yourself?

I know the prompt only asks for one place, but I’ve decided to share six of the strangest places that I’ve ever injured myself. Why? Just because… :)

1. Once, when I was at school, I stabbed myself in the hand with a sharpened pencil. Fun times!

2. Once, after a prolonged period of public abuse from my abuser, I retired to the bar’s public toilet and used the metallic toilet paper holder to self-harm before returning to the group for more abuse.

3. During my initial foray into homelessness in the winter of 2007, I threw myself so hard into a tree in the middle of a public park that I knocked myself unconscious.

4. When my homelessness was in full-swing I lost count of the number of parks and alleyways that I self-harmed in.

5. When it was too dark for me to self-harm in parks and alleyways, I would often use whatever lighted public space I could find, including Melbourne’s Federation Square.

6. During a particularly stressful appointment with a psychiatrist, I self-harmed in the clinic’s public bathroom, less than ten metres from the room where the psychiatrist was sitting.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 10

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
How do you feel about your scars?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I feel fairly ambivalent toward my scars. I neither like them nor dislike them. They are just part of who I am. Some are more visible than others whilst others are probably only visible to me because I know where to look. Given that I also suffer from body image issues, some might think that my scars should be things that I dislike about my body, but there are far more things to despise about myself than a few scars (a bit of shoulder hair, belly and lack of defined muscles immediately spring to mind!)

In fact, when I view my scars I see them as some would see their tattoos; they are reminders of a time/place in my life when I was feeling something specific and had only one option to treat the emotional pain I was feeling. They are markers of significant moments in my life that serve as a reminder of who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going.


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Robin Williams gave us a lifelong masterclass in comedy

Today, the world lost one of its most outstanding human beings. A consummate professional, a brilliant actor and a comedian whose talent was unmatched by any other. Even sadder, it appears that the world lost him through suicide.

In celebration of his life I am republishing an article written by Stayci Taylor that first appeared on The Conversation.

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Robin Williams gave us a lifelong masterclass in comedy

By Stayci Taylor, RMIT University

American actor and stand-up comedian Robin Williams has died today, aged 63. Today, Barack Obama posted a statement about his death and noted, in a rather odd turn of phrase, that “he arrived in our lives as an alien”. Williams’ break-out role was as the alien Mork who arrived on earth to observe human behaviour.

Though his long and successful career comprised sold-out tours and feature film leads, including Oscar nominated and winning turns in dramatic roles, I am still not surprised that it is Mork-from-Ork related tributes crowding my Facebook and Twitter feeds today, posted by my shocked and saddened Gen-X peers. I have now lost count of those making some reverse variation on “Mork calling Orson”.

These could be misconstrued as flippant responses to the tragic and untimely end of a complex and creative life. But for many of us, Robin William’s performance in the spin-off Mork and Mindy (1978-82) was our first exposure to this free form style of improvised physical and verbal comedy.

Fonzie’s water ski jump in the fifth season of Happy Days (1974-84) was famously deemed so ludicrous that the term “jump the shark” became television parlance. Specifically, shorthand for those moments when TV shows pushed the content past what their once loyal viewers considered believable.

Undeterred, Happy Days ran for another seven years and, in episode 22 of that same apparently questionable season, introduced an extra-terrestrial craft piloted by a character named Mork. That legend has a shark, not an alien from Ork, derailing the credibility of this popular 70s sit-com is a testament to the performance of then relatively unknown stand-up comedian Robin Williams.

Mork’s attempt to free an egg in the pilot episode (above) might just have been the funniest thing this 9-year-old had ever watched on the small screen.

As with all good fish-out-of-water stories, through Mork’s eyes we were encouraged to develop our own curiosity around human behaviour; which recalls a much earlier carnivalesque tradition whereby, as comedy scholar Frank Krutnik has observed:

the comedian figure’s alienation from or resistance to everyday social codes […] also displays the comedian’s creative dexterity as a performer.

If one function of comedy is to question the status quo, then watching Mork drink through his finger or sit upside down on a chair was an early masterclass in what was possible.

Williams of course went on to carry comedy feature films, many of which we might call “comedian comedies” – what film academic Geoff King defines as those films where:

The name of the comic performer, and the promise of the routine, is usually the main box office draw.

In other words, as engaged as we might be by Adrian Cronauer (Good Morning Vietnam, 1987) or Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), we remain aware we are watching the comic skills and techniques of Williams whom, fittingly in the case of these two examples and others, is often playing a character who is required to “perform” himself.

Good Morning Vietnam. BagoGames

English comedian David Walliams notes in his 2012 memoir Camp David that:

no one wants to be laughed at, and certainly not the comedian. He or she creates comedy to control the laughter at them, and turns it into being laughed with.

As a Mork and Mindy-watching, laugh-seeking child, I recall the same discomfort with unsolicited laughter, and was not comforted by (probably insincere) assurances that adults were laughing with me, not at me. Thus John Keating’s quip (Dead Poets Society, 1989) “we’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing near you” some ten years later was both funny and validating.

Whether it came from the pen of screenwriter Tom Schulman or not, it felt to me like Robin Williams telling the truth.

I can only speculate as to what level of responsibility must be felt when the promise of one’s routine is, as aforementioned, “the main box office draw”. But though Mork’s “constant displays of humour [were] not welcome here on Ork” (according to Orson in the pilot episode), those of Williams were most welcome here on Earth.

And will be missed.

If you have depression or feel very low, please seek support immediately. For support in a crisis, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For information about depression and suicide prevention, visit beyondblue, Sane or The Samaritans.

Stayci Taylor does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 09

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Have you ever taken pictures of your wounds? Discuss.

I personally find photographs of self-harm to be triggering, which is a major reason as to why I’ve never photographed my own self-harm nor posted any images on this blog of other people’s self-harm.

When I began self-harming taking photographs of my wounds was  a big no-go area. Mostly because back in those pre-digital days any photographs taken had to go through a third-party developer and I didn’t want anyone (including strangers) to see what I was doing to myself.

Once digital took over in the naughties, I could easily have taken photographs of what I was doing to myself, but by this point my self-harm routine was pretty much set-in-stone. And it was a routine that didn’t involve photographs because, well, I knew that looking at them would trigger me into wanting to self-harm all over again.

In fact, the only times I’ve been tempted to take photographs of my wounds have been when I’ve carved an intricate pattern or shape into my flesh, not because I wanted to show them to anyone but because I wanted to keep an archival photo of my ‘artwork’. But I never did for the reasons already outlined above.

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