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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Anti-Poverty Week: Poverty in Australia, a national disgrace

We set ourselves this first goal: by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.
~ Bob Hawke (launching the ALP’s election policy, 23 June 1987) ~

575,000 children or 17.3% are living below the poverty line
~ ACOSS report into poverty in Australia, 14 October 2012 ~

Earlier today I spent four hours writing a post about what it is like to live in poverty. I deleted it following a disagreement with a hallucination over the validity of two sentences. And yes, I’m more than aware of how that sounds! Why do you think I live in poverty?

Yesterday, the Australian Council of Social Services released a report that revealed 2,265,000 Australians are living in poverty. For every eight people there is one who is struggling to make ends meet and survive in a country that doesn’t care about them.

And if you think that is being over-the top:

Last week the Australian government changed their policy regarding single-parenting payments. This change will force an estimated 100,000 people onto the (already impossible to survive on) Newstart Allowance. This will reduce their overall benefit by at least $65 a week and increase the criteria they need to meet in order to receive payments; apply for so many jobs per week, attend regular personal contact interviews with Centrelink, attend regular appointments with Job Service Providers, perform numerous somersaults through flaming hoops as and when required by the Australian Government with no thought to the cost and availability of childcare in Australia.

For years, the Australian Government has steadfastly refused to increase the Newstart Allowance (which has not seen an increase in real terms since 1994) despite overwhelming support from social services, charities and homeless providers. It is currently undergoing a parliamentary enquiry.

Last year, the Australian Government implemented new Impairment guidelines in an effort to reduce the number of Disability Pension recipients. The new guidelines meant that “four out of every 10 people who qualified for the Disability Support Pension earlier this year [2011] would not qualify under the new regime”. Thus, forcing mentally and physically ill individuals to fund their treatment on the (already impossible to survive on) Newstart Allowance.

Why is all of this happening? From the point of view of someone living in poverty;

a) To ensure a budget surplus to please the voters (who matter) ahead of the 2013 election.

b) Because poverty is something that the voters (who matter) don’t understand.

c) Because poverty is a problem that requires a university-level education to fix and the current crop of Australian politicians dropped out of the education system after graduating kindergarten.

My journey into the world of poverty began in 2007 following a breakdown, serious physical health problems and multiple forms of abuse. In an eighteen month period I received no income (including benefits) and had to sell my worldly possessions in order to survive. For the three years between March 2007 – March 2010, I received seven months of income.

Since 2010 I have been existing on the Newstart allowance, with nothing to my name bar a few clothes and assorted oddments. The sole value of my assets is approximately $50 (a figure Centrelink deemed “too low” so rounded it up to $500 on their system)

In these two years I have had to balance serious mental illness (Bipolar, PTSD and severe social anxiety), physical illness and homelessness. I have had to regularly choose between accommodation, food and medication. On one occasion I had to choose between accommodation and eyewear (I chose to repair my glasses as without them, I’m blind). I am able to purchase clothes once a year; repairing the three T-shirts, two shirts and one pair of jeans I own as best I can. I have become so adept at fixing shoes with cardboard and glue I firmly believe I’m descended from Elves.

Yet through all this I’ve had to endure ill-informed abuse from Australian society, large swathes of which believe I am a lazy, good for nothing, dole bludger who deliberately chooses not to work so as to sustain my rich lifestyle courtesy of the hard-done by taxpayers. All of whom believe raising the Newstart Allowance will discourage people from looking for work as the current low payment acts as an incentive to find gainful employment.

Yet never has anyone been able to explain to me why someone willingly chooses to live $130 below the poverty line (at the current rate of the Newstart Allowance)

I have written in the past of the inadequacy of this benefit. Asking obvious questions that have yet to be sufficiently answered, such as: how does someone find a job when they can’t afford to keep a roof over their head, get a haircut or buy essential clothing, shoes, hygiene products or medication? The reality is the current rate of Newstart is acting as a disincentive to find work as it is impossible for a person to improve their own circumstances whilst entrenched in a ‘life’ of housing stress, financial insecurity and social isolation.

In the last two and a half years, although my housing situation has improved, my mental stability is now lower than it has ever been in my entire life, and yet because of rent, bills and food I cannot afford to run the heater when it’s cold or a fan if it’s too hot. I have to endlessly watch my electricity use, remembering to switch everything off before I go to bed in fear of exploding bills. I can’t go anywhere social. I can’t use public transport. I can’t even afford to fill the three urgent prescriptions I’ve had stuck to my fridge for the last two weeks. If I did, I would have to starve myself for the week and/or render myself at-risk of homelessness through non-payment of rent.

This is the life of someone living in poverty. These are the choices people in poverty have to make every day.

I’m not writing this post for pity or sympathy. In all honesty I actually have it better than most.

I (currently) have a roof over my head and although I haven’t had three meals a day since early 2007, I normally have enough food to eat a basic meal each day, even if it is just a tin of baked bins, bowl of rice or pasta, two-minute noodles or the occasional treat (once a month) of meat and fresh fruit/vegetables courtesy of the food bank.

Although it’s tough, with careful budgeting I’m able to save a dollar or two a week for a ‘treat’ every three/four months (such as a cinema outing, second-hand DVD or presents for family) and I continue to donate small amounts to charitable causes because you have to help people who are worse off than you.

In late 2009 I was sitting in a park in Melbourne with a choice to make. I could either kill myself or accept that my life was never going to get any better than this. For if I allowed myself to dream of a better future, just for a second, the pain would have torn me apart. With the intervention of a homeless man, I chose the latter.

But that ‘decision’ is something I should never have had to make. No-one should be forced to choose between suicide and a life of continuous pain and misery, but people are having to make that choice every single day.

In a country as rich and prosperous as Australia, it is a national disgrace that 12.8% of the population is ‘living’ in poverty. But this anti-poverty week Australians shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves, nor should they be engaging in a ‘debate’ over this issue.

They should be committing themselves to rectify this disgrace once and for all.

 


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1 in 8 people in Australia are living in poverty

It has been revealed today that 2, 265, 000 people are living in poverty in Australia. That is:

♦ 1 in 8 people.

♦ 12.8% of the population.

♦ 575,000 children.

♦ 63% of unemployed households.

♦ 25% of people in lone parent households.

[Source: ACOSS Poverty Report 2012]

And this days after confirmation that the Australian government has made a policy change that will move approximately 100,000 single parents from the Parenting Payment to the much lower (and impossible to live on) Newstart allowance.

Not for the first time, I’m starting to question what Australia’s priorities are!

~ Disclaimer: I am one of the 2,265,000 living below the poverty line ~


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World Homeless Day: The day Australia forgot

Earlier on today I wrote a small post about World Mental Health Day. A day set up to raise awareness of mental illness and the problems those suffering from it face on a day-to-day basis. I also questioned the merit of yet another day to raise awareness of mental health problems when there are already so many events on the calendar for this cause.

What many forgot – or simply don’t realise – is that today is also World Homeless Day, a day that does need more awareness.

On the last census night (August 2011) there were 89,728 human beings classified as being homeless in Australia. Some were sleeping in boarding houses, some refuges, some motel hopping or staying with friends. Others, like myself, were huddled under blankets or sleeping bags trying to endure the harsh winter’s night. Every one of them had been forgotten; cast aside by a society that doesn’t care.

Since first logging onto Twitter this morning I have watched the #WorldMentalHealthDay hashtags filling my stream from every corner of this country. Dozens of organisations, politicians, celebrities, journalists and regular folk have been tweeting to raise awareness of this important health issue.

They haven’t for World Homeless Day.

Since first logging on this morning I’ve seen a mere three tweets mentioning this day of action and awareness, not a single one from politicians, celebrities, journalists or regular folk. (Perhaps they were there, I just didn’t see them, and I follow almost all the homeless organisations and advocates in Australia!)

Earlier this evening I tweeted a simple little tweet that, so far, has been retweeted once.

Another tweet I wrote, in response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard‘s tweet about World Mental Health Day has been retweeted five times.

For many years now I’ve been aware of the non-issue that homelessness is in Australia. Certainly, I will acknowledge that every now and then an article is written or a political promise made (the infamous halving of homelessness by 2020 comes immediately to mind), but compared to movements overseas there is nothing even comparable in this country.

My UK Tweeps have been doing me proud today. World Homeless Day has been mentioned almost as equally as World Mental Health Day, with many making the comparison I made in my second tweet about the two issues being connected. Specific hashtags – in addition to the general one – have also been created and pushed to promote the issue (#whatsyourstep, being one such example).

Given the time difference I know when I log onto Twitter tomorrow my US Tweeps will also be going World Homeless Day crazy, for unlike Australia, it is a real issue in both of these countries. An issue that people understand needs to be discussed and promoted at length if we stand any chance of ending homelessness for good.

Given Australia relishes in promoting it’s world-beating economy and the richness of its land, it is despicable that 90,000 people (rounded up to take into account those homeless – myself included – that were not counted as part of the census) do not have a place to call home. That they are living a cold, lonely existence on the streets of every town and city in this country with very few caring about their plight.

Not even the Prime Minister cared enough today to tweet a simple 140 character message in support of Australia’s homeless; an honor, as mentioned above, she did bestow on those with mental health problems. Perhaps because, unlike mental health, homelessness is still seen as the individual’s fault. Whereas in reality, it is a situation that could befall anyone; regardless of colour, creed or class.

As I wrote once before: all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head.

The tagline for World Homeless Day is ‘thinking outside the cardboard box’.

Perhaps Australia could start with simply thinking about the homeless. Only then will we be able to put our heads together and come up with innovative ways to solve it.

Posts I have written about my homelessness:

Reflections on being homeless
(a six part series looking back on my 2009-2012 homeless period)
Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless
No home, no life, no love, no stranger singing in your name
(a journal entry from my time on the street)
Five ways you could help the homeless
(written in 2010, whilst homeless)
Hope; the greatest weapon of all
(the things that gave me hope through my homelessness)
Addy’s (slightly tongue in cheek) guide to dealing with having a home after being homeless
(written in 2010, whilst homeless)

 Related articles:

 


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Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless

Some are poignant, some are personal. Some are important, some are silly. For today’s Top Twenty Thursday I share some of the life lessons I learnt during my years living on the street.

Twenty Life Lessons I Learnt Whilst Homeless

20. Discrimination is still prevalent in today’s society.
However accepting our society has become in certain areas, discrimination against the homeless is still rife and we need to do everything we can to stop it. After all, homeless people are just like you; human.

19. No matter how waterproof you think your backpack/jacket/shoes etc. are. They’re not!
Something I learnt the hard way after losing important paperwork, notepads of writing and clothing.

18. When ‘showering’ in a public toilet – always remember to lock the door!
Otherwise you may find yourself inadvertently flashing an unsuspecting jogger at five in the morning.

17. Ducks may look cute – but they’re naughty little tykes.
As proven when one duckling ‘distracted’ me with its cuteness whilst its mother stole my sandwich.

16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.
You’ll know what I mean when you try to remove the pair you’ve been wearing for three months straight and they’ve become attached to your skin. Ouchie!

Lesson 16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.

15. Libraries are the earth-bound equivalent of heaven.
Proof, for those who don’t believe me: Power points for recharging; comfy chairs for snoozing; books for personal growth; newspapers for education; free internet for socializing (see lesson 6); hot librarians for fantasizing; warmth for health. Libraries must continue to be supported and funded under all circumstances.

14. Never go to sleep using a backpack containing a Vegemite and cheese sandwich as a pillow.
A slightly odd life lesson, I’ll grant you, but one you should heed unless you want to wake up with a possum sleeping on your head! Note: this is not as fun as it sounds for they can be a bit cranky if woken.

13. Plastic shopping bags are not the pure evil they’re made out to be.
See lesson 19 and make the all too obvious connection.

12. Homeless people really are invisible. They shouldn’t be, but they are.
A lesson I learnt in a rather uncomfortable fashion when, on three separate occasions, three individual couple decided to copulate only meters from where I was all-too-obviously sleeping.

11. Drunken [insert sporting team of choice] fans should be avoided at all costs.
A lesson I learnt the hard way following a physical assault after their team lost a match. So be careful.

Lesson 11. Drunken {insert sporting team of choice} fans should be avoided at all costs.

10. Always listen to your gut (aka. You’re allowed to say ‘no’)
There were times I went to organisations for help with crisis accommodation and/or housing where they gave me the choice of “it’s either this boarding house in the middle of nowhere populated with drug addicted ex-cons or the streets”. In spite of my gut I felt guilt tripped into taking the boarding house. Another lesson I learnt the hard way.

9. Never eat the soup van sausage rolls. There is a reason why no-else does!
This was learnt after a six-hour vomiting session. Given no-one wanted to eat them, I fear I wasn’t alone.

8. Even though it should be, homelessness isn’t a priority for politicians.
During the 2010 Australian Federal Election there was no mention of homelessness. Why? Because for the only voters who counted, homelessness is something that will never affect them. They obviously haven’t learnt lesson 5 yet.

7. Never be afraid to ask for help.
It’s hard to fight your way out of homelessness by yourself but the humiliation of asking for help can be just as bad. The latter option, however difficult, is always the best avenue to take. You may not believe it, but there are always people out there who care, who will help you find ways you can get back onto your feet.

6. Social networks are vital.
Isolation can be devastating. Few can understand the psychological impact of spending every minute of your life by yourself, nor would I ever recommend it. For a homeless person, social opportunities are few and far between, which leaves social networking sites their only option. If you can forge past the occasional abuse you will find a supportive community that will welcome you with their arms wide open. For any homeless people reading this, may I suggest We Are Visible as a starting point.

Lesson 6. Social networks are vital.

5. Never take your life for granted. Ever!
I never expected to become homeless. And I’m willing to bet that you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you either. But let me tell you – all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head. Unless you learnt from lesson 14, that is.

4. Homeless people are decent, kind and compassionate human beings.
Not the violent, drug abusing, alcoholic psychopaths middle-class liberal commentators would have you believe. From my time on the street the homeless individuals I came across were always helpful, generous people who would go out of their way to assist you. Hell, one even saved my life once!

3. There is always someone worse off than you.
Have you had your daily moan about the cost of your coffee or the fact your train was seven minutes late? Have you taken to Twitter to have a wee vent about how your local bookstore has sold out of Fifty Shade of Grey or your partner farting under the covers again? Let me assure you, your life could be so much worse!

2. Don’t stop believing!
The one thing you never want to lose is hope. So find something – anything – to keep you warm during those long cold winter’s nights. Even if that means gathering together a posse of homeless people to perform your very own Glee style rendition of this classic song!

1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.
If you take the time out of your life to have a chat and a smile with a homeless person, you’ll not only be making their day a little better, but your own as well.

Lesson 1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.


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Abusing the homeless should never be accepted

Whilst perusing this weekend’s edition of The Saturday Age this letter caught my eye, primarily because of the disturbing reaction of the “off-duty cop”. Given my history of homelessness any incident of homeless abuse upsets me, we should be working toward a better understanding of homelessness, not treating those unfortunate enough to be in this position with such condemnation and contempt.

Shameful silence

THERE was a homeless man on the Eltham-bound train on Thursday night. He was begging and moving on quietly (with blessings) if given or refused money. While it was unsettling for passengers, the reaction of the man identifying himself as an ”off-duty cop” was far more disturbing.

Ordering the man off and dragging him to the door while screaming at passengers for help was an overreaction in the extreme. After dispensing with the hapless man, he then castigated those who had not helped.

To my shame, I remained silent because this man – the policeman, not the homeless man – scared me. He had abused those who objected to his behaviour and made everyone (including a child) very uneasy. It was a very sad and disturbing occurrence.

J.C. Heidelberg

Published in The Age on 1 September 2012


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Reflections on being homeless, Part 6

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

I have yet to come to terms with the last two and a half years and in spite of my current accommodation, still feel homeless to this day.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, I skim through a barely remembered period of breakdown and talk about something that heals me…

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

A New Life (Days 440 – 446)

In October 2010 I caught a train from Southern Cross Station to Sydney, via Albury. It was to be the start of my new life. A new beginning after four hundred and twenty-nine days of pain and misery on the streets (and boarding houses) of Melbourne. My months working to rebuild my confidence and self-belief via Twitter and social networking were paying off.

I can clearly remember getting off the train in the early hours of the morning and relishing in big gulps of Sydney air. After I’d finished choking on the pollution from the heavy rush hour traffic I slung my bag on my back and walked from Central Station to the only part of Sydney I love in order to commemorate my ‘new life’ with a photograph:

Seven days into my new life, I took another photo:

I was back in Melbourne, back in my park, back under my tree, sharing my nights with possums and my mornings with the daily keep-fit brigade. All I can remember from that period is sitting on a train as it drew into Melbourne thinking ‘what the fuck just happened’ with tears streaming my face and a renewed hatred of social networks.

As I lay trembling in the park – a physical reaction from the stress and pain I was feeling – it dawned on me that Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other online shenanigans are for people who already have social networks, they are for beautiful, talented, loved human beings.

They are not for socially phobic, mentally ill, lonely, ugly, grotesque people like myself.

It was time to end this part of my life, once and for all.

Breaking Down (Days 447 – 681)

On Friday 29th October 2010, I logged off of Facebook and Twitter for the last time. I erased my blogging presence and effectively went dark in both the online and real world; I’d had enough.

For the first time since my assault at the boarding house I returned to a homeless organisation I had visited several times and, for the first time, was offered emergency motel accommodation and, for the first time, given a $10 food voucher. It is highly likely that the only reason I received these two things was because I spent the entire time physically shaking and crying uncontrollably.

After leaving with directions I slowly made my way to the motel they had organised for me. I had never been to the suburb this motel was located in, besides fleetingly drifting through it whilst cycling with my ex-girlfriend, but as the following months were to play out, it would become a suburb I’d get to know well.

By the time I arrived at the Coburg Motor Inn I was exhausted, emotionally drained and in dire need of some tender loving care. But first, I needed food – and alcohol. The voucher I had been granted could only be used in Safeway/Woolworth’s stores and – after a conversation with the motel operator – was informed the closest supermarket was in Preston, some several kilometres away. With blisters on my feet and a desire to drink myself to death, I hiked the distance and purchased a few packets of noodles, some coca-cola, bread and processed cheese slices, before returning to the motel via Cash Converters, where I sold my camera, in order to buy as much alcohol as possible.

After a brief couple of months where things had looked like they were coming together, I had descended back into the mindset of mid 2010. Little made sense, cohesive thoughts were few and far between, hallucinations reigned supreme and I was drinking vodka as if my life depended on it. Which, I guess, it did,

I had no idea what to do, who to talk to or where to go. Conversations with Centrelink social workers went nowhere – the contacts they gave me for food weren’t valid, the accommodation options either unavailable or my mental health was not a serious enough risk for acceptance. As for more mental health specialised services, either contact was not returned, or because I had no-one to validate my words, my tear fuelled conversations fell on disbelieving and unhelpful ears (the story of my life); if I was mentally sound enough to make a phone call, I was mentally sound enough to manage all other areas of my life.

That weekend I spent the days sitting in the motel staring at the walls and the evenings sitting in a park nearby staring at the trees. When it rained, I didn’t care, I just sat near the creek gazing into the fast flowing waters hoping there would be a sudden flood and my pitiful life would be swallowed for good.

After leaving the motel, the organisation who had organised it, offered me accommodation in yet another strange suburb. For the first time I put my foot down – it was way too far from anything I knew, it would isolate me even more than I was, the rent was very nearly my entire benefit check, there was a forty-five minute walk to the nearest supermarket and the room had no windows or ventilation. I was NOT coping. I COULD NOT deal with this.

I was told that if I didn’t take this accommodation I would be on the streets as there was nothing else available.

There was no choice; the streets would definitely have killed me. Despite my desire for death, my gut instinct to survive reigned supreme…so I took the accommodation.

By now, with everything that had happened, boarding houses were not safe havens for me. After a few days of heightened tension following weeks and months of escalating chaos, I shut down.

I remained in my room for over four weeks; the lack of windows making it feel like a prison cell. I used bottles, boxes and black bags for a toilet. I ate raw oats mixed with raspberry cordial for food. I cried on a daily basis for no reason whatsoever. I self-harmed with a pair of scissors for tender loving care.

A marathon of Young Indiana Jones reminded me of my youth, a marathon of Veronica Mars reminded me of better days and then…with nothing left to watch…I inserted the first DVD of the first season of One Tree Hill and, as I wrote in a previous post:

“In a single week I watched the first four seasons back to back. I fell in love with Brooke (one of the best female characters in the history of television), Peyton (one of the other best female characters in the history of television) and developed an on-again/off-again bro-mance with Lucas’ hair.

More importantly this show reminded me of who I once was and wanted to become. As the episodes ticked away, I was reminded of my love of music, of television production, of story arcs and obsession with mind-blowing writing.” [from Hope, the greatest weapon of all]

The desire to see season’s five and six of this show is what drew me from that room, blinking back into the sun. Although still deeply disturbed I attempted to right what was happening. Over the coming weeks, leading up to Christmas, I tried to write again. My early attempts resembled the oft-disjointed posts that are published on this blog, but, over time, I began re-immersing myself in a world that had always healed me; the world of my Chronicles.

The Ghosts that Haunt Me

In February 2000 I visited the Outer Hebrides with two friends. On my second evening there I went for a walk around the town of Stornoway whilst these two beautiful women rested in our B&B room. As I walked the darkened, chilly streets, I came up with the idea of combining two-story ideas;

1) My autobiographical re-telling of my time backpacking in Scotland.

and

2) An urban romantic-fantasy based in and around a backpacker hostel in Inverness.

On that night, on that distant isle, Dust in the Wind was born. For several years it gestated, grew and strengthened in my mind. The characters became more real, their backstories fleshing out with finer and more intimate detail. The romantic elements dissipated to greater reflect the tale of loss and redemption I had envisioned.

As 2006 drew to a close I was finally content with both life and mind to write the book that had lived within me for nearly seven years. Glandular fever, my college course and a novella I was writing for my then girlfriend as a personalised birthday present, pushed this novel onto the back-burner until post breakdown, when I would force myself to write with lengthy periods of self-harm and alcohol.

The combination of breakdown, self-harm and alcoholism meant the first (renamed) draft of The Ghosts that Haunt Me failed on several levels. However, as my mind returned, I returned to it many times over my life in Alice Springs and Inverness (circa 2009) until I finally had an umpteenth draft I was happy with.

One of the stronger memories of this period of job hunting and isolation is me sitting for a day on a bench near the River Ness reading my novel from cover to cover. Although far from Pulitzer or Whitbread material I thought it was rather good, as did most of the people I sent copies for ‘opinion’ to. In spite of several rejections from publishers, I’ve always been proud of myself for completing that novel, especially in regard to all that was happening during that period.

Today, after my copies were lost in the early months of my homelessness, the sole surviving copy lives on a USB stick in my parent’s attic.

Spurred on by One Tree Hill and a desire to do something other than self-harm myself to death, I threw myself back into the healing qualities of writing and creating. Knowing I was not focussed enough to write actual prose, for weeks I wrote plot outlines, character histories and family trees. I fine tuned both story and character arcs and, for the first time ever, wrote a lengthy document that consisted of a comprehensive chronology of the entire Chronicles as they existed in my mind; a series of interconnected novels, films, TV series and websites that detail the lives, loves and losses of several dozen characters over three generations.

Back on the Streets

As I wrote this document, the ‘life’ within a boarding house continued to frustrate me. In the weeks since I’d moved in the room beside me had been occupied by three different people. The first, trashed his room upon leaving; smashing a television, damaging the walls and throwing urine over the floor. The second, remained for only a couple of weeks, whilst the third formed the habit of continually knocking on my door at all hours of the day and night. On one occasion, she knocked on my door thirteen times in half an hour to make sure I was ‘okay’ whilst on another, at three in the morning, she woke me up to ask if she could eat my eggs.

In spite of the pride I was taking in my writing work, the ‘life’ I was living was continuing to destroy my mental health. I missed conversations with friends, trivia quizzes and pub nights. I missed walking the streets lost in conversation and being needed and wanted by people who cared about my life.

All I had were the power games, endless bitching, stolen food, sudden explosions of violence, constant verbal abuse and continual drug and alcohol problems that plague all boarding houses. After the events and assaults of 2010, I kept completely to myself but, as I expected, as things within the house worsened I began to once again lose control. My hallucinations returned in force and my screaming fits in the night started up again (as pointed out by fellow housemates.)

I am (to this day) continually stunned that these boarding houses are basically the only option for homeless people in Melbourne; environments that are totally unsuitable for anyone, let alone for unmedicated, unsupported people with a lengthy history of abuse and mental illness.

Eventually, these issues overpowered me, and I was once again sent hurtling into the abyss of inaction and unstable mental ill-health. As my moods cycled rapidly, and with no support from anyone, I began blacking out again. Entire days and weeks lost to the darkness of my mind until, one day, I found myself back on the streets.

Unable to deal with the city I lived for a time in a park close to the boarding house, before tiring of this area and returning to the park that had served me well during my nights in the motel.

For weeks I lived up and down the corridor between Coburg and the city, visiting the city only rarely (once a week mainly) to stock up on food van sandwiches and bread to feed me throughout the week. My days were spent reading newspapers, scribbling artwork (around this time I took to using my skin as a canvas with a red pen to try to curtail the increasing self harm) and talking to rogue possums and the occasional pigeon.

With the amount of rejection I had received from mental health and homeless services over the years I was adamant I would never return to them. I was tired of rejection. I was tired of being spoken down to. I was tired of being treated as a statistic; a meaningless non-entity who didn’t deserve to be alive.

I need a hug! (Day 682)

On the 21st June 2011 I sat in a small alley near Southern Cross station. It was drizzling with rain. I was tired, exhausted, confused and in desperate need of a hug (which, as of today, I have yet to receive.)

It had been a long and emotional weekend, partly because of the far-too-obvious ending to A Good Man Goes To War, mostly because reminders of my past life were everywhere I turned; my Sunday ritual had prompted a smile followed by a panic attack; a walk down a random street in East Melbourne had flustered me with un-needed memories of years gone; and I discovered something that forced me off of a website I had grown to love.

As I sat in that damp, cold alley, I talked to my father on the phone and he decided enough was enough and, after leaving me to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night (my old park, for the first time in many months), he sent some emails.

Note I: This post was written over eleven hours and fifty-two minutes because of my current mental state.

Note II: I’m considering posting the chronological timeline of the Chronicles mentioned above. Let me know if you’d like to see it :)

Note III: All photographs used in this post are my own (including cover photograph), and cannot be reused without my express written permission. I have pixellated the photos because I look better this way :p