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…

2013: My year in blogging

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Weekly Photo Challenge - Forward

My favourite of the “Weekly Photo Challenge” photographs (23 February 2013)

Over the course of the last twelve months I’ve published in excess of 265 blog posts. By some bloggers’ standards that’s nothing, but for me, blogging as I do about such niche topics as mental health, homelessness and the (occasionally kinky) life of a socially isolated outcast, it’s an achievement to be proud of. Although a large proportion of those 265 odd posts have been forgettable, time-killing garbage, some have shone my soul to the world for all to see.

As we approach the end of the year, I’ve found myself in quite a reflective (and uncharacteristically positive) mood.  To mark the end of twelve months of blogging, I’ve decided to share with you my favourite blog posts of the last twelve months.

So if you missed them on first publication – or have simply forgotten their unqualified brilliance – now’s the chance to (re)discover the blog posts that I’m especially proud of.

~ in order of being published ~

01. February 14thBeating Addiction Out of You…literally!

Courtesy of a lengthy depressive episode over the Christmas/New Year period I didn’t write all that many posts during the first month of this year, and what I did write was self-loathing, borderline suicidal ramblings. But that all changed on the 14th February when – after being inspired by an article in the Siberian Times – I wrote a piece that explored a rather radical form of psychological treatment; corporal punishment. Of course, being the somewhat random and obscure human being that I am, I concluded that I would be willing to give it a go. What about you?

If I were being completely honest – as I always strive to be on this blog – I would definitely be willing to give this course of therapy a chance. Over the years I have taken many different medications, undergone countless different therapies and tried every last thing I can think of that could help me get my life back on track. So far, very little of this has worked.

With my episode worsening and the recent collapse back into alcoholism, I’ve reached a point where I’m willing to give anything a shot – even if it means sacrificing my ability to sit comfortably! Although thinking about it, I’d much prefer this to some of the more severe side effects I’ve received from medication over the years!

02. February 14thHearing Voices: Introducing the People I Hear

This post was a turning point not only in the history of my blog, but also my life. Aside from a brief post back in 2007 and the occasional non-specific mention, I had never written about my voices before. But in this post I blew the secret wide open and introduced the primary five people who communicate with me on daily basis. So if you’re confused by the frequent references to Meadhbh (pronounced as Marie), Audrey, Vanessa and Shay, you can find out who they are here!

03. February 21stCoping Skills

In which I posted my responses to Indigo Daya’s superb ‘Coping Skills’ resource. To my surprise, over the last twelve months this post has become the second most read post on my blog!

04. February 25thCoping Skills: The Negative Thought Challenge

During the aforementioned ‘Coping Skills’ post, one of the coping skills featured was to make a list of all the negative thoughts that plague your mind and then write about how (and why) they are not true. Although I found it easy to list all the negative thoughts that my mind throws at me, convincing myself they weren’t true was a little more difficult, especially when it came to how I would react if a friend treated themselves in the manner that I treat myself.

If any of my friends thought like this I’d put them over my knee and spank some sense into them!

But once I’d been released from prison on assault charges (unless the spanking had been consensual, that is :p) I would sit them down and tell them how unhealthy it was to think like that, how brilliant, beautiful and awesome they are and how these thoughts were the product of low self-esteem, low self-confidence and (possible) mental health and abuse trauma related issues.

05. April 10thMi Recovery: The Biopsychosocial Model

Between April and June I underwent a psychosocial rehabilitation group called Mi Recovery. It was a peer led group that allowed sufferers of mental health issues to share their life’s experiences and create new coping mechanisms to help them deal with this crazy little thing called life.

One of the first things we looked at was the biopsychosocial model; specifically applying the causes, symptoms and treatment of our mental illness to this model. In this post I shared my own personal biopsychosocial model and encouraged others to create their own, based purely on how helpful the exercise had been for me.

06. April 14th101 Things that make me happy

As I’ve been writing this blog for over six years, I’m always looking for new challenges to undertake. In April of this year I decided to challenge myself to come up with a list of 101 things that make me happy. Some of them were poignant, some a little kinky, others completely random…but I did succeed.

Which makes me happy! :D

07. September 19thIf you care about what other people think, you will always be their prisoner

Of all the password protected posts I’ve written this year, this was my favourite. Not only because it was immensely personal, sharing as it did a rather private and embarrassing pastime, but because it revolved around memories of my friend Samantha and the life lessons the simple act of self-love had taught us.

08. October 6thPublically raising awareness of mental health

On the 7th October millions of things happened all over the world. In a tiny little hamlet in Australia, one of those things was me performing my first ever public talk. What I shared was intensely personal, (most likely) triggering and – as many people told me afterwards – made the audience sit up in their seats and take notice. In this post I shared with the blogging community the exact words that I would go on to share with the public; a letter to my younger self.

My name is Andrew, I’m 34 years old, I exist in Wodonga and I’ve been fighting on the front line against mental illness since I was thirteen years old.

I’ve cut myself to sleep more times than I can remember; I’ve exploded boxes of matches in my hand; tried to hang myself; suffocate myself and drown myself. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be touched, hugged or kissed. I’ve been a sufferer, a carer, a survivor and a nobody. I’ve had more conversations with people only I can hear than I’ve had conversations with people who actually exist and I’ve believed for as long as I can remember that the mythical realm of Death is the only place where I will be accepted for just being me.  I’ve had to deal with more crap than I’d wish on my worst enemy; neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, social isolation, homelessness and – rather obviously – PTSD from…well…all of the above!

09. October 9thAll of life’s most important events

One of the exercises I completed as part of the Mi Recovery program I undertook this year (see item 05) was to draw a timeline of the major events of my life. It was in this post that I shared my intricate (and somewhat elaborate) drawings with the world.

10. October 10thWorld Mental Health Day: An older person’s perspective

The focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day was ‘older people and mental health’. In order to commemorate the day I decided to conduct an interview with two people who have worked closely on both sides of the mental health community for over twenty years; my parents.

DAD: To be a parent of someone with mental illness is horrendous. A parent always wants to make things better but we can’t. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible in most cases to completely make someone with a mental illness completely “better”. It’s a matter of coming to terms with the condition your child has and accepting their new persona and capabilities, but this is extremely hard.

11. October 22ndMy (not very high) opinion of psychiatric medication

As the title suggests, I’m not a big supporter of psychiatric medication. In fact, I’m not a strong supporter of the psychiatric model, period. In this post I elaborated upon six of the reasons why I don’t like meds of any description, even though I take them on a daily basis!

12. December 22ndOne Day in Glasgow

Yep, it’s the post that’s so random hardly anyone read it. But it’s one I’m immensely proud of, not only because it’s gloriously personal (and rather self-indulgent) but because it’s one of the rare occasions on this blog where I focused purely on happy memories. In fact, I think I smiled more times whilst writing this post than all of the other posts combined!

Samantha was an incredible woman; intelligent, charming and ravishingly beautiful. She had a mature, almost philosophical outlook on this crazy thing called life, yet despite this maturity there was a delicious immature streak running throughout her soul; equally at ease playing with crayons as she was debating the age-old question of why we’re here.

It was almost impossible to meet Samantha without falling in love with her on some level. She never judged, never held grudges and had an almost super-human ability to draw the best out of people.

But none of this means she was perfect, far from it. Samantha worked too hard; filling almost every moment of her life with a project, scheme or double-shift at work, all of which leaving little time for play or relaxing. And when she did relax, she ventured far too easily into the world of illegal narcotics, with ecstasy and speed being her drugs of choice; a choice that would ultimately spell her untimely end.

But this post is not about her death, nor my reaction to it, that will follow in good time. This post is about my memories of her. It is about the day Samantha took time off from her life to hang out with a slightly overweight, mentally ill man who, according to her journal, made her feel happiness like no-one she’d ever met.

-♥-

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your support, readership and affection over the last twelve months. I hope that the New Year begins in a suitably awesome fashion for each and every one of you and I look forward to entertaining, enlightening and (hopefully) inspiring you throughout 2014.

:-)

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