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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Twelve Goals for 2014

Goals

The first item on my list is something that has been at the forefront of every ‘Goals for the Year Ahead’ list I’ve written since I was a teenager, and 2014 is sadly no different:

1. Cross item 1 from my list of things to do before I die…

The only thing which prevented me from completing this item last year was the financial cost of doing so. This year I’m adamant I will succeed, regardless of cost, anxiety and trepidation!

Last year was the year I (finally) tackled my voice hearing experiences, and even though I still have some way to go in this area, I’ve decided that 2014 will be the year I try to tackle two areas of my mental health that have caused all manner of problems throughout my life:

2. Tackle my body image issues…

So far this summer there has been several days in the high thirties and low forties, yet I have consistently worn a heavy pair of jeans and (more often than not) a stiflingly hot shirt, because I’m unable to wear shorts or reveal my upper torso in fear of causing an outbreak of vomiting and/or inciting a lynch mob. This year, even though I’ve no idea how, I want to create a breakthrough in how I view my physical appearance so that next summer I can wear shorts and/or go swimming in relative comfort.

3. Tackle my social anxiety…

This aspect of my mental health has debilitated me for as long as I can remember, yet nothing I’ve ever done has made a dent. As with item (2) above, I’ve no idea how I’m going to attempt to deal with my social anxiety, but by the end of the year I hope to be far less anxious than I am right now.

2013 was the year I threw myself into a series of psychosocial rehabilitation groups courtesy of Gateway Community Health. Even though I will be continuing with these groups throughout the year ahead, I’ve decided I need a bigger challenge:

4. Return to education

Over the last few months there have been many conversations between my support worker and I about the possibility of returning to education in 2014. The current plan is to undertake a ‘pathways to education’ course at my local TAFE to get me used to being back in the education system, before undertaking a full-time course later in the year. Only time will tell if this comes to fruition, but I resolve to give it the best shot I can.

So far my goals for 2014 – item (1) aside – have revolved around tackling various areas of my mental health and current life situation, but as we all need balance in life I’ve decided it’s necessary to set a few light-hearted (and fun) goals for the upcoming twelve months.

5. See at least six films at the cinema…

Despite this item appearing on last year’s list of goals, I saw only two films at the cinema throughout 2013 (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The World’s End). As such, I’m more resolved than ever to complete this item as quickly as possible in the year ahead.

6. Go on a holiday to Tasmania

Last year I set myself the goal of going to Melbourne; this year I‘ve decided to be somewhat more adventurous, for my holiday destination of choice shall be Tasmania! :)

7. Organize a social event for my Hearing Voices Support Group

As 2013 continued I became more and more involved with the running of the Hearing Voices Support Group I frequent, culminating with joining the committee that organizes the group. During some of these meetings the possibility was raised that we should undertake some social events outside of the regular group. As I wish to tackle my social anxiety this year, I’ve decided that it would be good to be the driving force that organizes at least one of the social events for the group.

And as with all of my ‘Goals for the Year Ahead’ lists, there needs to be a couple of immensely difficult challenges in which to test my commitment and determination, so:

8. Go on a date

To say I miss the company of women would be an understatement. Given that it’s been nearly five years since I last kissed someone, nearly five years since I last made love and nearly five years since I was in a relationship, I’d very much like 2014 to be the year that breaks my intimacy drought.

9. Write and self-publish an eBook

I can still remember the  joy and feelings of accomplishment that overwhelmed me when I had a short-story published in 2009. Since then I’ve hoped that I would be published again, but the surge of eReaders and my mental health impacting on my ability to write fiction have both impacted on this dream. So in order to be published again I’ve decided to focus my efforts on something I can do; namely, tell my journey through mental illness, homelessness and beyond. By the end of 2014 I hope to have completed and published an eBook – partially inspired by this blog – that is part autobiography and part inspirational self-help book.

10. Cross (at least) six items from my things to do before I die list

If I’m (finally) able to complete item (1) of this list, I’d be left with only five items! But even if I don’t succeed in realising that life-long dream, aiming to cross six items from the list is only one item every two months which should be an achievable goal. I just have to decide which items to focus on!

And to complete my list, I thought it would be nice to add a couple of blog related goals:

11. Write at least one blog post in every month of the year

This was an item that appeared on last year’s list, but courtesy of a relapse into a depressive episode, I unfortunately failed to complete it. This year, I hope to be able to manage my mental health enough to complete this seemingly simple of tasks.

12. Manage my comments and responses more successfully

This, as with other goals this year, ties in with my hope to tackle my social anxiety. Quite often I fail to respond to comments, emails and queries in a timely fashion because my anxiety intervenes and prevents me from doing so. Hopefully, in the coming months, I will be able to place myself in such a position that I can respond quickly, compassionately and entertainingly to any comments or emails I receive, and in turn, be able to increase my readership and online friendships.

All in all, I feel that I am being fairly realistic with the goals I’m setting for myself this year. Sure, there are a few complicated goals in the above list, but what would life be without a challenge?

Only time will tell how I go, and I promise to keep you all informed of my progress as the year continues.

~◊~

And this marks the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge. I hope your Christmas holidays have been  as happy, safe and enjoyable as can be. For those of you who haven’t done it yet, your decorations need to be taken down by the end of today otherwise bad luck will befall you, so get to it! :p

If you missed any of the previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge you can catch up on them via the links below…and you can always play along next year when the challenge shall return! :)

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight | Day Nine |
| Day Ten | Day Eleven|

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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Eleven memories of Christmastide throughout my life

Christmastide

The Christmas Festivities (from Christmastide by W. Sandys)

1. There was definitely a reindeer in the house! (Christmas Day, 1985)

My earliest Christmas memory occurred in 1985 when, after running downstairs to tear open our presents, my siblings and I discovered a reindeer hoof-print on the living-room carpet. We were adamant that this proved Santa was not only real, but had ridden his sleigh through our front room.

Of course, the reality was our parents had decided to draw this hoof-print on the carpet in order to keep the magic of Christmas alive in their little darlings for another year. Or did they?

2. The punishment cushion (Somewhere between Christmas and New Year, 1986[?])

I’ll admit that as memories go, this one is rather random. I’ll also admit that I’m not entirely sure of the date, but am adamant that it occurred sometime in the days between Christmas and New Year.

It was one during one of those post-Christmas Day lunches that was made up of a metric ton of cold meat, boiled potatoes, salad and (the ubiquitous) Brussel Sprouts. Feeling somewhat frustrated and annoyed I was acting up; flicking food over the table, stomping my feet and generally being an annoying little devil. Although I had been told to behave on several occasions, nothing had worked, so, after a potato had splatted against a wall my parents had had enough. Informing me that I’d get a smacked bottom if my behavior continued in this manner I did what any child would have done – pushed them even further!

This caused my mother to rise sternly and move around the table. I found my feet and made a bolt for the living room door, only to have her grab the back of my trackie-dacks and pull me face down onto the floor. Expecting her to soundly smack my rather vulnerable backside I panicked; only to become immensely relieved when she pulled a cushion over my butt before smacking that.

As punishments go, it could have been worse!

3. Starter for Ten (Boxing Day, 1992)

Back when I was but a cherub-faced teenager, various members of the Lake family used to gather in the one location on Boxing Day. At its peak, these annual days of celebration would draw nearly twenty people vying for attention, gastronomic delights and entertainment. In order to oblige the latter, we would often dip into the board game collection, cramming around the table for epic games of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit or Sorry.

After a couple of these family based funfests, I decided to up-the-anti and began concocting elaborate quizzes (usually film and television based) in order to test the knowledge of my respective family members and prove how utterly awesome I was when it came to the field of film and television.

The questions generally ranged from quite difficult to utterly impossible and very few people ever scored more than half a dozen from the fifty odd questions posed to them. But it was always a joy to create and chair those quizzes.

In fact, in these days of lonely, isolated Christmases, it is those quizzes that I miss the most.

4. Sausage, Egg and Chips (2 January 1991[?])

This is one of those stories that will no doubt be passed down from generation to generation within the Lake family.

Various members of the Lake family had gathered at a five-star restaurant to celebrate the birthday of my Aunt. The food, as you would expect from such an esteemed establishment, was all top of the range ingredients and intricately prepared dishes. But I didn’t like the sound of any of them. I’ve never been one for veal, I’ve never been a big fan of lamb and the descriptions of the items – which came with more adjectives than any menu should have – did nothing to entice me into eating any of it.

Getting a bit grouchy, my father asked me what I wanted, so I answered with what was at the time my favourite dish; sausage, egg and chips. Hearing my request, the birthday woman summoned one of the service staff, who scooted off to the kitchen to inform the chef. Shortly after, as everyone else was being brought extravagant gastronomic creations, I was brought a plate of sausage, egg and chips; with the eggs being served fresh to my plate via silver-service.

This was the only time I ever made a personal request at a restaurant and, I fear, my anxiety will prevent me from making any further random requests in the future. But, believe me, did I feel special that night!

sausageeggchips

“I was brought a plate of sausage, egg and chips; with the eggs served fresh to my plate via silver-service.”

5. Meadhbh has her way (Christmas Day, 1995)

For as long as I can remember, Meadhbh has encouraged me to wear women’s clothing. In her opinion it’s more exciting, more colourful and more adventurous than the stale, boring and uninspiring options available for men. In fact, if Meadhbh had her way, women’s clothing would be the only thing I’d wear.

Generally, I’m strong enough to withstand her constant badgering, but there have been occasions through my life when, weakened by depression, I’m unable to. One such occasion occurred when I was a teenager, when Meadhbh decided that I should be wearing a purple polka-dot skirt, white blouse and make-up to celebrate Christmas with my family.

She thought I looked stunningly good, my family (and I) however, didn’t.

6. Silent Night (New Year’s Eve, 2000)

To say I’ve never really celebrated New Year would be an understatement. It’s one of those contemporary traditions that I’ve never quite understood. We don’t celebrate the end of a month, or the end of a day, so why do we feel the need to crack open the champagne and cheer on the change of a calendar’s digit at the end of a year? As such, my New Years are generally quiet and laid back affairs, often spent chilling in front of the television or conversing with (when I had them) friends and girlfriends.

Of all the New Years I’ve celebrated, the one that is most memorable is steeped in silence. When it came to mark the 1999/2000 New Year I was living in a backpacker hostel in Inverness. Although alcohol was a large component of that period, there was little of it drunk that night, instead four of us sat on a wall in the back garden of the hostel, silently watching the fireworks ignite the Scottish sky above.

One of the most peaceful (and memorable) moments of my life.

7. Losing my virginity (1 January 2001)

Some people I’ve spoken to would rather not remember the time they lost their virginity. But for me it’s one of the happiest moments of my life, for I lost my virginity at the beginning of the new millennium, on my favourite Scottish island, to someone I had genuine feelings for.

An unequivocally blissful moment of my life.

8. Happy Feet (Christmas Day, 2006)

This was, in retrospect, my last ‘happy’ Christmas. For the first time in eight years – courtesy of traveling and emigration – I was able to spend the day with my family. Although my parents wanted to spend Christmas on the beach – as many travellers from the UK want to do – the truly appalling weather that battered Melbourne that year meant we were forced to alter our plans. Instead of the beach, we spent the day meandering around Crown casino; opening presents, playing the pokies and eating dirt-cheap fish ‘n’ chips.

Once the limited appeal of poker machines had faded we decided to head upstairs to catch a movie and, after much deliberation, decided upon the newly released animated classic ‘Happy Feet’. Although I fell asleep half way through the film – courtesy of soon-to-be-diagnosed Glandular Fever – the positive memories of the movie, and the entire day, have never faded from my mind. For, unlike all other Christmases that I’ve spent in Australia, this one actually saw me happy for the majority of the day.

happyfeet

“For, unlike all other Christmases that I’ve spent in Australia, this one actually saw me happy for the majority of the day.”

9. Who wants a relaxing Christmas (Christmas Day, 2006)

Unfortunately, the happiness that overwhelmed me on Christmas Day 2006 (see item [8] above) could not last. Within an hour of leaving the cinema and bidding farewell to my parents, I had a conversation with my then girlfriend; the girlfriend who would soon become known as ‘the abusive one’.

Within twenty minutes of talking to her she had criticized what I had done throughout the day (which wasn’t as adventurous as she wanted me to be), pointed out how I wasn’t making enough effort to wish my friends happy Christmas (even though I’d wished as many as I was able a happy Christmas) and attacked me for how I’d worded a Christmas e-card greeting I’d sent her earlier that day (she took offense to my use of the word ‘relaxing’).

By the end of the conversation, all sense of happiness and Christmas joy had dissipated, replaced with an overwhelming frustration and deep sense of worthlessness.

10. The worst Christmas present I ever received (Christmas Day, 2008)

It is only in recent years that I have become a staunch anti-Christmas Grinch. Many moons ago, I was the first person to hang tinsel from the walls, throw a tree into the corner of the room and annoy everyone and their dog by loudly singing Christmas tunes at all hours of the day and night. But all that changed when my girlfriend gave me the worst Christmas present I’ve ever received; a present that, no matter what I do, haunts my Christmas Days from beginning to end.

In 2008 I was living in Alice Springs. I had a job, I had a girlfriend and I was – aside from the depressive episode I’d slipped into – coping relatively well. In the lead up to Christmas we’d decorated my unit with a tree, hung sparkly decorations and planned for the best Christmas we could possibly muster.

The only problem was I hadn’t realised that my girlfriend’s idea of ‘best Christmas’ entailed sleeping with one of our friends. Now, for those of you who’ve never had someone cheat on you, be very, very thankful – for it hurts like an absolute bitch! There I was, cooking the roast for the two of us to chow down on that night, and there she was, rollicking and rolling around in bed with our friend.

But to be honest, that wasn’t the worst of it. What hurt even more was that when she finally returned home she decided that it was my job to fix her broken heart because she felt like she’d been “used” by our friend. Given the practice I’d put in during my prior abusive relationship, I dutifully slipped into appeasement mode, doing everything I could to cheer her up and ensure her day ended on a high. All the while feeling like my very heart had been torn from my body, thrown into a gutter and carried off by a rabid pack of dingoes!

I’ve hated Christmas ever since.

11. A Homeless Christmas (Christmas Day, 2011)

There are few things in life as depressing and lonely as a homeless Christmas. Not only do you not have anyone to spend the day with, you don’t even have a home to hide away in. Instead, you roam the streets like an unloved hobo wishing upon whatever you believe in that the day would just disappear.

My last homeless Christmas was spent enjoying a Christmas dinner cooked by a local charitable organisation before relishing in the quiet desolation offered by the local cemetery.

However much I hate Christmas now, I am eternally grateful that I have a home in which to seek solace throughout the big day, for this, and the other Christmases I spent homeless, showed me what real loneliness feels like. And trust me; you don’t want to experience it. Ever!

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight | Day Nine |
| Day Ten |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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Ten books I’d like to read in 2014

Not being one who keeps an eye on the list of upcoming books, trying to come up with ten I’d like to read throughout the year ahead has been surprisingly difficult. Initially I began browsing the release lists on sites like Amazon, GoodReads and Barnes & Nobel but the sheer volume of romance and dodgy fantasy fiction eventually overwhelmed me into approaching my list a little differently.

Last year, I wrote a post that showcased the BBC’s ‘100 Books you must read before you die list‘. After studying the list it transpired that I only had twenty books to read before I’d read every single one of them, so I decided this year was as good as any to start polishing off those missing twenty books. Rather than just fill my list with these titles, I figured the best option would be to choose three of them to kick-start my literary adventures for 2014:

I then decided to give Meadhbh the option to choose a few books for us to read. After much deliberation, babbling and a seemingly endless series of questions, she decided upon:

And then, given her love of all things literary, Audrey requested that she choose a couple of books to read in 2014:

Following the (most welcome) input from my various people, I was left with only three books for me to decide upon. Obviously, there needed to be at least one Charles de Lint, which left only two. Eventually, after much deliberation, I remembered seeing the new JJ Abrams novel in a bookshop during my trip to Melbourne. Being a fan of his film work I realised that this needed to go on the list and, to prevent any further frustrations, realised I could add not one, but two de Lint books to the list:

Whether or not I read any of these books is something only time will tell, but it is rather wonderful to have the beginnings of a list for me to work through over the next twelve months! :)

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight | Day Nine |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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Nine places I’d like to go in 2014

One of the hardest things about living in poverty is how hard it is to actually go anywhere. Most of the time I’m thinking exclusively about food and survival, not where my annual vacation is going to be. But after last year’s Melbourne trip, I realise the power that having something to look forward to can provide. As such, I haven’t simply chosen destinations that I know I’ll never get to, but rather a mix of the highly unlikely and absolutely doable.

I may as well kick off this list with the places that, if money were no obstacle, I wouldn’t hesitate to visit over the next twelve months, beginning with Canada. Ever since visiting this wide, luscious land in 2000 I’ve wanted to return. I’ve wanted to hike the great lakes and forests of Jasper, meander the endless streets of Toronto and visit, for the first time, the provinces of the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland. But as such a trip would be a mammoth (and expensive) undertaking, I can’t see it happening unless I happen to win the lottery. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dreaming! :)

Up there with Canada as dream destinations would be a return to my home away from home, Inverness, and a couple of weeks in the European city of Greece, not because I want to help them fiscally but because in October they are hosting the World Hearing Voices Congress, which I would rather like to attend.

But like I said, in order to succeed in some of these destinations, I’ve had to think a little closer to home, with the obvious starting points being Woolshed Falls and Tasmania, the latter of which I’ve wanted to visit since before I arrived in this sunburnt land.

Two more places I’d like to visit over the next twelve months are rather non-specific, as many destinations all over the world would suit my purposes. Following last year’s regret of not visiting the ocean when I was in Melbourne, I am more resolved than ever to paddle in the cool sea this year. I’d also very much like to attend a pub trivia night so will need to manufacture a trivia team to compete at any of the plentiful local venues who offer such entertaining evenings! :)

And lastly, I have chosen a place that is far more spiritual than geographical, for I would very much like to pay a visit to the state of complete relaxation; where none of life’s stressors, worries and frustrations are invited.

Complete Relaxation

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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Eight minutes to share my opinion on New Year’s Resolutions

happy-new-year

~ This post was freewritten between 12:13am and 12:21am on the 1 January 2014 ~

For as many New Year’s as I can remember, I’ve never made a resolution. Not one. Ever. The way I see it, New Year’s resolutions are a token gesture, a promise we make ourselves that we have no real intention of keeping.

Sure, people start off meaning well. If they’ve resolved to quit cigarettes they may make it to the 4th or 5th of January, others may last until March or April, but the moment a particularly enjoyable night on the turps occurs the resolution is forgotten and the smokes come out. Similarly, you can bet your beautiful bottoms that gyms the world over will be heaving over the next few weeks as everyone who’ve resolved to spend more time at the gym hit the treadmills and pump the weights until their hectic lives take over and all good intentions are forgotten.

The problem with resolutions is that they are an absolute. There is no room for error in a resolution. If you resolve to stop eating cake, even eating one crumb of delicious chocolate gateaux means you’ve failed. And as a smarter man than me once said, there are no absolutes in life, so why do people persist in imposing them on themselves? Surely that’s just setting yourself up for failure?

A better option is to make plans; specific, accountable, trackable, achievable hopes for the year ahead. Goals are not absolute; they are organic, easily interchangeable with the fluctuations and constancy of life. Instead of resolving to go to the gym, why not make a goal to lose weight, this way if things come up in your life (which I guarantee they will) you can alter your plans to replace the gym with nightly walks and/or eating healthier food?

But with all that said – and with the statistics weighted against me (they say that 80% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first two weeks of January) – I have decided that 2014 is the year that I make my first resolution. The first time I’ve decided to set myself an absolute. Where there is only success of failure.

This year, I vow to stop drinking all forms of soft drink!
(Note, this does not include non-sugar cordial with soda water)

And the reason behind this decision? The reason why I’m setting myself this resolution now, after thirty-five years on the planet without making one? Simple. I want 2014 to be different. I want it to be epic. I want it to be the sort of year people will one day tell their great-grandchildren about. And what better way to state this intention than to do something so grotesquely out of character?

So you could say that in 2014 I’m setting myself two resolutions:

This year, I vow to stop drinking all forms of soft drink!
(Note, this does not include non-sugar cordial with soda water)

And, I vow to make 2014 the best year in my life. Bar none.

Who wants to start a poll as to which one I’ll fail in first?

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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Seven wonderful things that happened to me in 2013

Koala Bear

Koala Bear at Melbourne Zoo; my personal favourite photograph taken in 2013 | © Addy

If 2007 was the year of breakdowns and abuse; 2008 the year of false-hope; 2010 the year of forgotten memories and 2012 the year of found-hope, then 2013 was the year of achievement. Even my negative obsessed mind has had a hard time dissing the monumental leaps I’ve taken in both mental-health and personal development over the last twelve months.

So as 2013 draws to a speedy close, what better way to celebrate than bask in my glorious achievements and relay several of the most wonderful things that have happened to me over the last twelve months! :)

7. Building stronger (and healthier) relationships with my people…

This time last year I was at odds with all of my voices. When they spoke to me it was always abusive, derogatory content that made me despise myself on a level almost impossible to relate via words alone.

Twelve months on, courtesy of some ruddy hard work, we’ve managed to change this. Although Vanessa and Shay are as abusive and misogynistic as ever, Audrey has become a guiding voice of intelligence and reason; sporadically dressing up as Harley Quinn to entertain me and keeping me grounded with lengthy conversations about all things literary and artistic. Meanwhile, Meadhbh has returned to the playful, protective spirit that kept me safe during my angst-laden teenage years; eager to play with me whenever possible and never too shy to throw in her two-cents about what I should be doing with my life.

Of all the things that have happened throughout the last twelve months, creating this change in my voices is something I am eternally proud of, and proof that if you work hard enough, anything is possible!

6. Creating and co-facilitating my own peer-led social group…

In mid-2013, after weeks of solo-preparation, I began co-facilitating my own group through the psychosocial rehabilitation service I participate in. Creative Therapy was essentially my blog in the real-world, with each week focusing on a particular creative prompt designed to get people thinking about their life, strengths and values. Although I was immensely hard on myself for delivering a lackluster program, when the feedback came in it was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that it was difficult to believe.

5. Obtaining a Nintendo Wii…

To help me survive one of my bad-day anniversaries (26th February) I spontaneously purchased a second-hand Nintendo Wii that came with half a dozen games. Usually such a spontaneous purchase would turn out to be detrimental to my life, but over the last ten months my Wii has become one of my primary coping mechanisms. In fact, of my few big purchases this year, this is the one I am most thankful for, as there is nothing like using Lego Batman, Mario Kart or Zelda to beat the demons back to bay.

4. Performing my first ever public speech…

However much I’m amazed to admit it, in retrospect I thoroughly enjoyed performing my first ever public talk, so much so that I hope I have the opportunity to repeat the experience in the year ahead.

3. Re-empowering an emotional trigger…

Alongside creating better relationships with my voices, the other defining mental health related achievement of 2013 was the re-empowerment of a powerful trigger. When I realised one of the workers at the mental health organisation I use was triggering me I was tempted to quit the organisation and return to my homeless existence. However, my support worker encouraged me to face the trigger head on and, after a distressing conversation in which I admitted to the person that they triggered me, I set about the long road to re-empowerment. I attended groups that they facilitated, I had the occasional coffee with them, I learnt more about them as a person and…nine months on…they no longer trigger me. Victory!

2. Attending the World Hearing Voices Congress…

Although it was three days punctuated with severe anxiety, I am both proud of myself and ecstatic that I was able to attend this year’s World Hearing Voices Congress. Being around so many people who have had similar experiences to me was an eye-opening and revelatory experience; even though it feels impossible sometimes, recovery is not only possible but absolutely achievable!

1. Returning to Melbourne

It took nearly twelve months of planning, twelve months of psyching myself up and twelve months of wondering if it was actually going to happen, but in November I finally returned to the city that I once lived on the streets of; and had an absolute blast! Midnight Zelda openings, art gallery meanderings, Sexpo shenanigans and Melbourne Zoo explorations defined a kick-ass week of chillaxing in the State’s capitol and helped create the most wonderful thing that happened to me in 2013.

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)