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…

Collaborate, Connect and Celebrate: Social Inclusion Week 2012

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Social Inclusion Week is about encouraging communities to reconnect and be inclusive of all cultures, age groups, nationalities and the disadvantaged.

Social Inclusion Week aims to help Australians feel valued and to give people the opportunity to participate fully in society.  It’s about connecting with local communities, work mates, family and friends to build relationships and networks, addressing isolation and exclusion by supporting people who may be unable [to] help themselves.

However much it pains me to admit it, I know what it’s like to be socially excluded.

I can still remember the burning tears of loneliness that streaked my face in 2007 as I was consistently rejected from social events in favour of my abuser. The years I spent living in a park without so much as a kindly smile let alone warm conversation will never be forgotten. Whilst all the abuse, mental health crises and suicide attempts I’ve endured alone will haunt me to my dying days.

In fact, it’s been so long since I was an included member of society that I have (quite literally) forgotten what it feels like to be wanted, needed, loved or considered important.

My social isolation, to many mental health professionals I’ve spoken to, is the primary cause of what has happened to me over the last five years. The problems I’ve faced, the situations I’ve found myself in, the terror that I’ve been through, are all things that most people would consider impossible to get through if not for the love of their friends. So although I commend myself for the strength and determination I’ve shown, I am still aware of the damage that this isolation has wreaked on my life.

• I no longer know how to communicate with others. Writing text messages, emails, tweets, blog posts and comments are exceedingly difficult and can, at times, take several hours and/or days to complete. The same can be said for phone calls, which I will do whatever I can to avoid. As for face-to-face contact, aside from the occasional visit to a counsellor or food bank, I have only recently begun attending social events following over four years of constant isolation (and by isolation I mean complete isolation, not, ‘I have friends but I don’t see them as often as I like’ isolation.)

When I have a problem, I veer toward unhealthy vices in order to get through it. Whilst other people turn to friends or family to talk through and/or distract them from their problems, when things get really bad, I turn to smoking, (severe) binge drinking, a flutter on the pokies or self-harm in order to bury the problem and hope it goes away…which it never does; it just makes everything worse!

The likelihood I will be employed/in a relationship again is (at this point in time) slim to none. Given it’s been so long since I’ve had a face-to-face conversation, given I’ve forgotten what it feels like to engage in society, I wouldn’t survive the interview process let alone the first day of work. As for a relationship; I am an overweight, mentally ill, socially isolated, (ex) homeless man living on the DSP. Whatever positives I possess (and they are many and numerous) are not enough to overpower the discrimination these deal-breakers produce.

My mental health has deteriorated to the point I no longer believe I can stabilise it. Leaving aside the obvious difficulty of dealing with suicidal ideation on your own (it’s not always possible to call a help-line), my self-harm, hallucinations and mood swings have become increasingly more difficult to control without distraction or support.

As for the damage the various forms of abuse have caused? I’ve written recently how the trauma has embedded itself deep within me, effecting every aspect of my self-view, personality and ability to engage in society.

So with all this in mind, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I completely support this week, for I know only too well the pain of social isolation and the long-term damage it can do to someone’s life; pain that no human being should ever have to experience.

At the end of the day, no matter our age, financial status, educational qualifications, housing situation or health, we are all human beings who need social interaction in order to survive.

For without it, we just shrivel up and die.

For more information – and to see the events occurring throughout Australia – please visit the Social Inclusion Week website.

Further Reading:

“The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia will bring the plight of Newstart recipients to the fore this Social Inclusion Week, which coincides with the handing down of a Senate Inquiry’s findings into the adequacy of the payment on Thursday.

Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said that forcing people to live on $35 a day was one of the most powerful means of achieving social exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of support programmes to help people find work.”

“Activities at the expo include traditional Indigenous games and storytelling, cubbyhouse building and you can even learn how to cook tasty, healthy and affordable meals and much more.

We will also have representatives from community groups such as Family Relationships Centre, Carer’s Queensland, Red Cross Australia, Meals on Wheels, Men’s Shed, Carebus among others.”

“This week just happens to be Social Inclusion Week, so remember, a smile or a hello at the shops might make all the difference.”

One thought on “Collaborate, Connect and Celebrate: Social Inclusion Week 2012

  1. Pingback: Big Society or Social Inclusion? « Art Lobby

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