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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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 22

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Where do you feel the most calm?

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~ calm ~
[adjective]
(of a person, action, or manner)
not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other emotions.

Courtesy of PTSD and social anxiety, I live in a constant state of hyper-vigilance. Every minute of the day my mind is constantly on edge, constantly observing, constantly ensuring there are no dangers nearby. It is exhausting. It is frustrating. It is my life. Over the years I have become used to living like this. It is just what I have to do to survive. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss living a ‘normal’, non-vigilant life. I miss feeling relaxed. I miss feeling calm. I miss feeling anything other than the constant stress that I feel. So to ask me where I feel most calm is a misnomer, because I never feel calm, ever, under any circumstances. I can’t. The moment I do feel calm is the moment some demon will walk up behind me, tap me on the shoulder and shriek ‘BOO’ at the top of her voice. In order to survive I can’t allow myself to feel calm. I must be vigilant. I must be aware. It is what I have to do.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 21

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Have you tried to stop in the past? What are you doing differently this time?

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In the past, I have tried to stop self harming many times. The first concerted effort was in late 1999, seven or so years after I had first self harmed. Tired of what I was doing, tired of my life, tired of the darkness that overwhelmed me, I embarked on a quest to see as much of Scotland as I could. The plan was to distract myself with the beauty of this majestic country. For a few weeks it worked, but after settling into a backpacker hostel and looking for work to fill the coffers, the urges of the past resurfaced. Rather than cut to self harm, I made the ill-fated decision to start smoking, thus replacing one self harm act with another. But I didn’t cut. I didn’t hit. I didn’t burn. For nearly twelve long months – taking in three months in Canada –  I didn’t injure myself in any way, shape or form.

Then I started college. Then Rachel killed herself. Then my depression returned with a vengeance. I started self-harming again in October 2000 and kept up a sustained routine of self harming behaviour for three long, painful months. But that New Year I met Louise, and soon after, fell in love. This simple act of human emotion was enough for me to reapply myself to becoming self harm free, and although difficult, with Louise’s help I succeeded in my attempt. For four long years I remained self harm free, in fact, for the duration of our relationship I only self harmed on three occasions. Once in 2004 and twice in 2006, not long before our relationship ended, which triggered a return to self harming.

By late 2006 I was self harming on an almost daily basis. My friends had no idea. My girlfriend, Kathy, had no idea. But it no longer held the appeal it once did. I wasn’t receiving the same release. When I self harmed it wasn’t easing my emotional distress, it was increasing it, so I made the conscious effort to once again rid myself of this practice. It was hard, and painful, to go cold turkey, but by the time of my birthday I was self harm free and remained self harm free for several months, until a mental breakdown struck my soul and rendered any chance of remaining self harm free impossible.

Throughout 2007 I self harmed frequently. Sometimes several times a day. I hit. I cut. I burnt myself. I did anything and everything I could to relinquish the emotional pain I had found myself in. It wasn’t until the latter months of that year, when Samantha rekindled our friendship on Facebook, when I was beginning my blogging journey, that I was ‘stable’ enough to once again return to a self harm free way of life.

This effort was short-lived. By mid 2008 I was self harming on a semi-regular basis, seeking emotional release through cutting and hitting. It was something that I hated doing, but it was something that I had worked into my routine, the only way I could live was to self harm. Throughout the year I self harmed in spite of hypomanic episodes, periods of anhedonia and a blossoming relationship. I continued self harming throughout the early months of 2009, and when homelessness hit, I knew my chances of remaining self harm free were next to none. For three long years I self harmed frequently. Occasionally I drew on myself in an effort to minimize the cutting, but I always returned to this blissful release to ease the trauma I was living through.

When my homeless ended in 2012, I made another attempt to quit my self harming behaviour. For a while it worked. But the stress of living way below the poverty line took its toll and I returned to self harming in order to cope with my meager life. 2013 rolled into 2014 and self harm had once again become the norm. In fact, by the middle of 2014, my self harm was worse than during my homeless years. It was a daily routine. A highlight of my day. But then, as I had attempted several times in the past, I decided I needed to quit this behaviour.

My dalliance with physical illness helped. The pancreatitis and resultant cyst caused me so much physical pain that I didn’t need to inflict any more upon my person. But what helped more was my fervent desire to succeed. I was more determined than ever to remain self harm free. I restocked my self harm safety box. I armed myself with a myriad of coping mechanisms. Whenever the urge arose to self harm I would turn to my box and play with the contents until the urge had passed. I still do to this day. Over eight months self harm free and I remain as determined as ever to never self harm again.

I’m not really doing anything different. The safety box is a new coping skill that I haven’t used in the past, but the rest, the distraction, the determination, the self belief, the smoking, are all things that I have tried during every period I had tried to give up my addiction in the past. Perhaps not having any new mechanisms will mean that I will once again fail to remain self harm free. But I’ve never had this much determination, this much self belief that I can succeed, so hopefully these emotions will guide me to success.

Only time will tell.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 20

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What is the most vivid memory you have of self harm.

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The year, 2004.
The month, December.

It had been a rough month. The person with whom I was co-managing a backpacker hostel was on extended medical leave, placing me solely in charge of the hostel in her absence. Although stressful, I grasped the opportunity with both hands to prove to all and sundry that I was magnificent in my fated profession. Day-in, day-out, I cycled the ten kilometers to work the 12 hour shifts that I was rostered to work. Day-in, day-out, I threw myself into my job. Serving customers. Making reservations. Marketing the hostel. Ensuring everything was running smoothly. The odd bit of maintenance. Room checks. My job was part manager, part receptionist and part general dogsbody, but at the time I loved it. I relished the challenge and loved spending time in the hostel that, over twelve months, I had slowly made my own.

But working 12 hour shifts day-in, day-out started to take their toll. Being on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week was exhausting. When I wasn’t in the building, I was on the phone to people who were, extinguishing spot fires and making sure everything was ticking over nicely. Although I didn’t let on to the staff how stressed I was becoming, it wouldn’t have taken a genius to work it out. I hadn’t had a day off in nearly a month, every day was spent at the hostel, or on the phone for hours on end to the staff on duty, or attending meetings at head office with management. And it was after one of these meetings that I snapped.

Four and a half weeks of working every single day, sometimes as much as eighty hours a week, had frazzled my synapses. All I wanted was a day off. All I wanted was a little time to myself. No hostel. No guests. No staff. Just me and my thoughts. But it wasn’t to be. For on the one day off I had organised for myself, I was called in to head office for an ‘urgent’ meeting with the marketing department. So instead of relaxing in my unit, I was cycling the ten kilometers to head office to have a meeting with a staff member I despised, a staff member who never took my comments or opinion seriously. For nearly an hour we bickered about the best strategy for advertising the hostel, all of my suggestions falling on deaf ears, all of her suggestions being treated as if they had been spoken by the second coming of the messiah. After ten minutes I knew it was pointless being at the meeting, but being manager in my co-manager’s absence, I wanted to prove I could handle whatever was thrown at me.

At this point in my life it had been nearly four years since I’d last self-harmed. I was in a happy, fulfilling relationship. I had people to talk to, people to spend time with. Aside from overwork, everything in my life was rosy, everything in my life was as I wanted it to be. But something triggered in me during that meeting, that fateful meeting of conflicted minds. After four and a half weeks with no day off the emotional turmoil was at its peak. Something had to give. Something had to ease the tension. And with no other option, I fell back into old habits. As I left that meeting, stressed, tense, emotionally unstable, I realised I not only wanted to self harm, I needed to self harm. Not later. Not hours after the event. But right then.

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I walked from head office to a 7-11 convenience store. I purchased a pack of smokes (at the time I was a non-smoker), a box of matches, and left the store knowing full well what I was going to do. I was going to take a cigarette from the pack, place it in my mouth, light a match, light the cigarette, and then place the lit match back into the box. So I did. And as soon as the match was back in the box I closed it, gripped my hand around it, and waited for the inevitable. Within seconds the lit match ignited the other matches in the box, and in that split second, the entire box exploded in my hand. The pain was instant. The fire burning into my flesh. I immediately dropped the flaming box and stamped it out with my foot, ignoring my fellow pedestrians who had witnessed the incident during their busy lunch hour. I stood in the street, the city moving quickly around me, and stared at my hand. A large blister had erupted on the palm of my hand, smaller blisters popping up on my fingers and thumb. It burned. It hurt. But the pain wasn’t intolerable; it was beautiful. In that moment, as I stood amidst the hustle-bustle of city life, I felt completely and totally at peace. All of the stress. All of the frustration. All of the emotional distress. All of it ceased to be. In that moment I was lost to the magnificent pain that throbbed on my flesh. It was just me and my pain; me and myself.

I stood in the street for nearly five minutes, smoking my first cigarette in over a year, flexing my left hand, enjoying the pain that burned on my skin. After finishing the cigarette I walked to a bin, disposed of the butt, and casually began walking to a nearby public convenience. I could have run. I could have walked briskly. But I wanted the journey to be as slow as possible. I wanted to feel the pain for as long as possible. Eventually I reached the toilet and began drenching the blisters with cold water. It still hurt. It was still beautiful. But it helped ease the pain a little. After several minutes I left the toilet and visited a chemist, purchasing some plasters that are intended to cover burnt skin. I had self-harmed enough to know you should take care of yourself after an incident. After all, the moment had passed, I had relieved the emotional distress, and was focused on self-care.

That night I told my girlfriend that I had burnt myself on a stove. She didn’t know about my self harm, no-one did back then. It was something I had kept to myself, my own little secret, my own little coping mechanism. She didn’t suspect my lie. She had no reason to. She merely scolded me for being an idiot and carried on with her day. A week later, on Christmas day, the blister was still prominent so I showed it to my girlfriend’s mother, a GP, and she passed on some self-care tips and once again chastised me for being so stupid. For placing my hand on a lit stove top. She didn’t suspect my actions either. Why would she? I had never given her, or anyone, reason to suspect my secret methods of relaxation and psychological coping.

Even though other events have been more painful (the infamous self-flagellation incident of 2000, the even-more-infamous knocking myself unconscious on a tree incident of 2007), that moment, that blissful, beautiful explosion in my hand has remained my most vivid memory of self-harm.

I have never repeated the action, I have never even considered it. That moment was the only time I have ever ignited a box of matches in my hand. At the time it was exactly what I needed. It was exactly what I deserved. And I have never – ever – regretted doing it. If I hadn’t done it my emotional distress would have overtaken me, I would have been flooded with suicidal thoughts and rendered unable to do my job, the job I was so desperately trying to prove I could succeed in. It is a moment in my life that I will never apologise for. However much I dislike self harm, however much I hate who it turns me into, I will never apologise for doing something that, at the time, felt so right, so perfect. But I will, until my dying days, urge others not to repeat my actions.

So if you’re thinking about it. If you’re sitting there thinking now there’s an idea I could implement. Don’t. It really isn’t worth it. You deserve better.


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There She Goes My Beautiful World

Hello everyone,

Andrew’s had a bad day today so I’m taking it upon myself to cheer him up. He feels guilty that he didn’t go to the gym this afternoon. He said he was going to go on a Monday, on a Wednesday and on a Friday, but he didn’t go today because he was feeling too sad. Vanessa was being really mean to him and it upset Andrew to the point he was unable to leave the house. He just argued with Vanessa and scared me with how much he raised his voice and all the shouting he was doing. I don’t like it when Andrew gets like that. He says it is PTSD. He says he is trying to control it and I know that he is but I don’t like it because he gets upset and sad and isn’t happy. I like Andrew when he’s happy and laughing. He has a cute laugh. You’d like his laugh. Maybe I’ll record it one day and play it to you. But I won’t record his arguments with Vanessa because they scare me and I don’t want to scare you. So here is a music video that I like. It makes me happy to hear this song and I know it makes Andrew happy to. Hopefully he won’t mind me writing this today and telling you he has had a bad day. I don’t think he’s a failure and I hope you don’t think he is either. He was just sad today, that is all. So here is the music video that I like. It is by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and is called There She Goes My Beautiful World. Big hugs to you all.

Love you all.
Meadhbh xxx


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 18

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Write a letter to the future (recovered) you.

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Dear Older Addy,

I’ve never been very good at writing to you. I can write to you from the past, as you’ll only be too aware from the time bending letters you’ve received throughout your life, but I’ve never been very good at writing to you from the future, mainly because I don’t know who I’ll be writing to. Will I be writing to you who found a beautiful, kinky woman to settle down in a happy, loving relationship with? Or will I be writing to you who was consumed by his mental illnesses and lives in self-imposed hermitage? For the sake of this letter I’ve decided to opt for the former. I’m choosing to believe that you were able to overcome your mental illnesses. I’m choosing to believe that you met a wonderful woman who loves you for you are, kinks and all. I’m choosing to believe that you are the father to Amelia and Alexander, two mischievous children who keep both you and your beautiful wife on your toes. I’m choosing to believe that you are happy. That you succeeded in your recovery and have been self harm free for [insert appropriate number of years here].

The reason I have chosen to believe your future is a happy one is because I need something to cling onto. I need to believe there is hope. As you’ll only be too aware my life has been a calamity of catastrophes from the word go. All the chaos that I’ve had to deal with; bipolar, social anxiety, depressive episodes, suicidal ideation, self harm, have left me devoid of hope. Once upon a time I did believe that things would be better for me. That I wouldn’t be as alone, as isolated, as consumed as I currently am. But that was before the great depression of 2014-2015. That was before the darkness gripped my soul and rendered me unable to glimpse any light that may be out there.

I’m sure you’ll remember the great depression I’m currently locked into. The depression that took control of your mind and forced you to endure the most boring, monotonous daily routine that you’ve ever experienced. Days upon weeks upon months of doing nothing but the same, constantly fighting the urge to self harm by lighting up another cigarette, another cancer stick, that will surely come back to bite you in the future. Does it? No, don’t answer that. I know it will. I’m not an idiot. I know my actions will have some bearing on my future, but if I know, if I’m told what will happen, I will further lose the ability to hold onto hope.

And that’s what I need at the moment. Hope. I’ve written about it lately. How I’ve lost my hope. How I don’t believe there is a better future for me. How everything has become too much that even the victories seem pointless. Eight months of being self harm free and I feel nothing but nonchalant. I don’t see it as a positive. I don’t see it as anything other than an empty gesture. I’m resigned to the fact that at some point in the future I will cave, and I will return to my self-harming ways. That’s what I need from you, my fatherly friend, I need you to tell me how you managed to overcome your demons. How you managed to navigate the great depression and become the happy, fun-loving, recovered human being I’ve chosen to believe you’ve become. I need you to give me hope. I need you to give me strength. Because I’m fast running out of it. With every day that passes I lose a little more of it. With every day that passes I become weaker. More inclined to ‘give up’ and stop fighting what I believe to be inevitable.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking too much. Maybe I’m being too demanding. You have kids to look after. A wife to keep happy. A life to live. You don’t have time to help out a hopeless soul who has forsaken the belief his life will ever be better than this. But maybe if I ask kindly enough, if I appeal to your empathetic nature, you will find it within your heart to take pity on me. To gift me with the knowledge that I need to rekindle hope in my soul.

Perhaps you could tell me the story of how you met your wife. I’m sure there will be a story. Knowing you it’s not likely to be a simple ‘we bumped into each other in the supermarket’ tale. I’m sure there will be drama and destiny and odd little moments of cherished beauty. Perhaps you could tell me what it felt like to hold Amelia for the first time. I’m sure that was quite something. Knowing you, as you stared into the beautiful eyes of your first-born daughter, you cried. And happily so. Perhaps you could tell me how you succeeded in overcoming your self harm urges. I’m sure that was a lot of work. Knowing you, it required a great deal of determination, inner strength and help from kind, caring souls. Perhaps you could just regale me with tales of your life; your exploits, experiences and endeavors. What do you do now? Are you an inspirational speaker? An author? A filmmaker? Or are you still disabled, struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck, strengthened only by the love you hold for your gorgeous family?

Just knowing some of these stories, just having something to hold onto, would help my current malaise. It’s not enough to choose to believe you are a husband, a father, a friend. I need to know that you are all of these things. I need to know that my future holds something beyond the dark abyss that you are currently lost to.

So please. If you can. Take a moment to send me a letter. Take a moment to regale me with stories of your life. Take a moment to show a hopeless person that there is hope, that there is something to believe in. You’d be doing yourself a huge favour, trust me.

Thank you for listening to my rambling. I know this is incoherent. I know this isn’t the greatest thing you’ve ever written. But the depression has been all-consuming today. Even summoning the strength to write to you is a victory I should be celebrating. So now this letter is done, go and give your scrumptious wife a surreptitious bum squeeze from an insanely jealous younger you.

I’m glad you’re happy, Addy. At least, I hope you are.

Love n hugs,
Younger Addy


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Sunday Stealing: Unusual Things

It’s Sunday. Which means it’s once again time for Sunday Stealing.
This week’s magnificent meme was lifted from My Random Randomness. Enjoy!

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(1) And yes, it’s been a very lonely six and a half years since then!

1. Who was the last person of the opposite sex you laid in a bed with?

I find this question a little odd. Why must it be a person of the opposite sex that I laid in bed with? What if I’m gay, what if I enjoy laying in bed with members of my own sex? On the weekend that the USA legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide I find this a very #lovedoesntwin question. But to answer your somewhat homophobic question, the last person of the opposite sex I laid in bed with would have been Diane, my girlfriend circa July 2008-February 2009. And yes, it’s been a very lonely six and a half years since then!

2. Where was the last place you went out to eat?

I don’t go out to eat all that often as being socially isolated, suffering from social anxiety and misophonia, it is a very depressing and lonely thing to do. The last time I did go out to eat was over eighteen months ago, when members of the Hearing Voices Support Group descended on the Hog’s Breath Cafe in Albury for a lunchtime bite to eat. I had a Chicken Caesar Wrap, and it was quite delicious!

3. What was the last alcoholic beverage you consumed?

Given my addictive nature, I’ve had trouble with alcohol in the past. In fact, I work damn hard to remain sober, as turning to the demon drink would be an easy thing to do, and offer much comfort from the pain filled lonely life that I find myself living. The last drink I had was some rosé wine during the summer of 2013, when I relapsed into binge drinking in order to cope with the depression that had descended during the Christmas/New Year period. I’m not proud of turning to the demon drink during this period, but it felt like the only option I had at the time.

4. Which do you prefer – eyes or lips?

Eyes. They’re the window to the soul and full to brimming with magic, beauty and gorgeousness.

5. Medicine, fine arts, or law?

Fine arts. I have little to no interest in medicine and lawyers are no better than serial killers, in my humble opinion.

6. Best kind of pizza?

Potato and rosemary. Delicious! I’m not a fan of store-cooked or frozen pizza, I prefer cooking my own from scratch, dough and all. It tastes so much nicer and you can relish in the awesomeness of your cooking ability whilst you’re chowing down on your majestic creation!

7. Is your bedroom window open?

Yes. My bedroom window is always open. I like the breeze, even on freezing cold nights! :)

8. What is in store for your future?

More of the same boring, monotonous crap that is in my present. A continuation of the socially isolated, lonely life that I’m currently living. No friends. No love. No life. Nothing but pain, agony and the torment imposed on me by my mental illnesses. Wow. I’m in an optimistic mood today! ;)

9. Who was the last band you saw live?

10. Do you take care of your friends while they are sick?

I don’t have any friends. But if I had some, yes, I would take care of them while they were sick. As I always did when I had friends all those years ago.

11. Any historical figures that you envy?

Not that I can think of. Aside from Audrey Hepburn’s husband. I’m envious of him, the lucky git! ;)

12. How many songs are on your iTunes?

13,249 songs. Most of which came from CDs borrowed from the library and CDs gifted to me by my father.

13. What brand of digital camera do you own?

Olympus. It was a gift from my Aunt. And a wonderful gift at that! :)

14. When was the last time you got a good workout?

Last Wednesday, when I went to the gym for the first time in two years. I’ve recently acquired a free three-month gym membership courtesy of a program the YMCA run for people with mental health issues. I fully intend to go three times a week, commencing tomorrow! :)

respect1a

(15) Spanking naughty bottoms! :p

15. Are you experienced?

Yes. I am experienced at many things. Living with bipolar affective disorder. PTSD. Social anxiety. Homelessness. How to operate a DVD player. Cooking jacket potatoes. Rolling cigarettes. Hugging. Massaging. Slicing broccoli. Kissing in the rain. Spanking naughty bottoms. Many things.

16. If you need a new pair of jeans, what store do you go to first?

The local charity shop. I refuse to spend extortionate amounts of money on clothes.

17. Are you a quitter?

Nope. I see things through until the bitter end.

18. What are two bands or singers that you will always love?

19. What of the seven deadly sins are you guilty of?

Probably envy. Possibly sloth. But I’m getting better at both of them.

20. Did you just have to Google the seven deadly sins to see what they were?

Nope. I’m a big David Fincher fan and count Seven as his third greatest film.

 

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