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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Homelessness and My Mental Stability

A few months ago I coined a new phrase for myself. All of the shit that’s happened to me, all of the depression, self harm, loss, to me came about from shyness, which became social anxiety disorder, which – with the emotional abuse – become something a teensy bit different…

…but that’s to come (it’s called foreshadowing)…

…because no update of the blog would be complete without mention of where all of this has ended up. All of this work I’ve put in over the years – to become someone; to become me; to become who I dreamed to be; to constantly reinvent myself out of the ashes like some chubby phoenix – what all of this has rewarded me with.

All that work battling social anxiety, panic, self esteem.
All that work stabilising self harm, depression and bipolar.
All that work trying to live a normal life.
Friends
Lover
Family
Career
Home
Pet Wombat
Smiles
Happiness
Hope (always back to hope)
All that they are now are memories of long forgotten dreams because all it’s ended up with is me:

  • Sleeping in a park
  • Under a blanket
  • Being nibbled not by a beautiful woman but mosquitoes (and in all honesty, the two really don’t compare)
  • With a hole in my crotch so big I could fit a hand through it (and yes, if it weren’t mosquitoes doing the nibbling this would have a lot of possibilities, but alas…)

I spend my days valiantly trying to rebuild my life whilst piecing together the shattered remnants of my soul whilst trying not to instigate one of the six suicide plans I’ve worked out. Fun life, eh?

“When you are approaching poverty…you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty, the fact that it annihilates the future,”
George Orwell


Homelessness and My Mental Stability

“Homelessness is a tough, humiliating experience. Everyday, homeless people experience discrimination and the threat or reality of violence. They often wake up not knowing where they will sleep that night, whether they are going to get a meal and how they will stay safe,”

My days typically begin around 5am when I wake up stiff and sore from the concrete. My days typically end around 2am when I finally drift off into a fitful sleep full of nightmare. That equates to about 21 hours to fill each day. My only thought as I’m packing up and hiding my blankets is fuck, another goddamned day! So what to do? How do you fill so many empty hours when you have no money? When your focus is so shot to frack you can’t read or write? When you have no means to divulge your passions of photography, film, art? When you have no people to speak to, share stories, communicate with, engage fantasies with (or shag, kiss, massage, naughtily poke or tickle)?

You end up walking the streets aimlessly. Listlessly sitting in alleys to avoid contact and the inevitable about it will bring. You seek out what food you can – drop in centres, soup vans and bins.

I do what I can to survive each day. To keep those vicious bipolar bears, hallucinations, ghosts and miscellaneous crap at bay. To try and come up with anything to keep the knife sheathed.

I’ve attempted a walk to Sydney to revitalise the cracks of my soul and reignite sparks of life.

I’ve done things I’ve despised, which have made me vomit in taste and disgust, to get myself into a cinema for a couple of hours to escape the drudgery.

I’ve endlessly observed the streets looking for signs of those in need. People to help. Like I said to the psychiatrist…If I’d done more for people then, as she said, I wouldn’t have lost everything. I’m not important…I’ll give change when I can, advice, comfort and support. To the homeless, the disadvantaged, the vantaged and everyone in-between.

I’ve, when able, kept track of those on Facebook I love and admire. Happy that their lives are going well. Though, in all honesty, it fills me with an agony of what could have been, but seeing their smiles, laughter and glee brings it to me to.

I’ve done anything and everything I can think to do to get me through the next minute, hour, without harm or foul.

Of course through all this I seek help, but…”many support services are unable to cope with people who have mental health problems…as many services are quick to judge and slow to understand“…and like many it’s becoming…”easier to avoid these services rather than suffer the indignity of being treated like a ‘no hoper’“…For – like with the abuse – this perception feeds my conditions and increases the chance of breaks, relapses or episodes.

And it’s these episodes, like last week, which make things so hard for me to deal with. With no distractions, stabilisers or anti-stressors to help me control things, it’s just me, and more and more frequently it’s not enough.

Almost every night the emotions become harder to deal with, because the next day, when I wake up, it’s going to be, is gonna be, exactly the same.

no longer living; just existing; surviving.

1) In my times homeless I’ve been physically attacked seven time, mostly by people who have taken offense to either a) being homeless or b) my mental health
2) I have been mugged twice; once at knife point
3) I have received an un-ending barrage of verbal abuse from all sectors of society
4) I have been the victim of theft, including; passport, wallet, money, mobile phone, blankets and clothes
5) I’ve had support refused due to my non-admittance of imaginary substance abuse problems which don’t exist

All of this is magnified due to my mental health issues. With no on-going support either medically, socially or financially (family do what they can) I am constantly trying to survive each day whilst trying to secure a future fo myself – which is hard enough for someone with no mental health issues when homeless – let along trying to manage the ongoing complications my condition throws at me.

The mood swings, self harm, suicidal desires, panic and anxiety – all factors in the seeking help conundrum. Factor in my non-existent self-esteem, lack of self worth and other issues of trust and self-belief amplified by the abuse and relationship issues.

It becomes nigh on impossible.

“Homeless people with mental health problems had to deal with the anxiety of having nowhere safe or permanent to stay. Feelings of alienation and isolation were compounded by the fact that there was little predictability or permanence in their lives…people who enter the homeless population with mental health problems have the longest and most isolated experience of homelessness. On average, mean duration of 73 months,”

There’s a lovely inclusion of some key words there. On the 28 November 2007 I wrote a post detailing my triggers. Top of the list was loneliness – isolation. Both of these have catapulted into the stratosphere this year, and have been a major cause in the massive decline of my mental stability since I became homeless three months ago.

No matter how hard it is to be homeless. The sleeping rough, lack of food, clothes, showers, the whole shebang…this is what has caused me the most anger and frustration. What has set me back so immensely, that consciously/sub-consciously I always seem to bring about for myself.

How do I deal with it? How could anyone?

If you were to look at face to face contact – factoring out family, who are usually there – this is a list of social interaction I’ve had since February 4 2009. (Social interaction being on a social level, i.e. not doctors, medical staff, potential employers etc)…

…what would your list be like? How many times have you seen friends since February 4 2009. It’s actually quite a difficult list to write if you think about it, well, not if you’re me. This is mine:

  • June 6th – Three hours in Sydney….

That’s it.

Sure there was a day in June, eons ago now, where I attempted to make new friends I had met through a group online but as I spoke to no-one and bolted after half an hour it can hardly be counted as social interaction as no interaction actually took place.

Sure there have also been phone conversations, the last in mid August, primarily with Diane through February-May (when she needed me) and again in June with someone else.

Sure there were the ill-fated email exchanges with Steph, but they serve more to back-up the conscious/sub-conscious reality and cancer statement I have previously mentioned.

But in terms of face to face contact, that really is it.

Since February 4 2009 I have had one occasion where I was in someones company, that’s about three hours out of (approx) 6574 hours.

Could you deal with that?

Honestly?

That’s isolation – and trust me – it’s not as if I haven’t tried. Being homeless is hard enough with the sleeping rough, lack of food, clothes, showers, the whole shebang…let alone with spending every waking minute of your day alone, isolated, with no home comforts, compliments, touch, laughter.

Could you deal with that? Only three hours of social contact in the length of time it takes to create a life?

But like Kathy said, like I told my psychiatrist…I didn’t do enough to care about her, or anyone back then, and that I deserved to lose everything because of it…and that’s the problem, because the social anxiety, the loss, the self esteem, the abuse…it’s made me believe – truly and utterly believe – that I deserve this, and no amount of self-help books, platitudes or inspirational quotes are going to affect this.

It’s not easy changing your mind when you spend every day by yourself, haunted by ghosts, abuse and hallucinations…hence the triggering power of isolation, and the effect it can have on the mind of someone who has a mental illness – who is also homeless.

A vicious circle.

“People with mental health issues have to deal with the unpredictable nature of their health problems, making it difficult to comply with the rules that structure social practice…people cannot simply leave mental health problems behind them and this means setbacks are common and overcoming homelessness can take a long time.”

I don’t care so much about not have much food, sure I miss salads and potatoes and flapjacks and tofu and cake and apples and so so much more…I don’t care so much about sleeping rough, sure it hurts like hell and I haven’t had a decent sleep for months…but…

All that work battling social anxiety, panic, self esteem.
All that work stabilising self harm, depression and bipolar.
All that work trying to live a normal life.

…undone through homelessness and the effects it has had on my mental stability. Years of work. A collapse which has created so many fragments I can’t see how to piece them together again.

“And as Paul said these things to himself, a wave of sadness washed over…He was understanding now that no man could live without roots – roots in a patch of dirt, a red clay, field, a mountain slope, a rocky coast, a city street. In black loam, in mud or sand or rock or asphalt or carpet, every man had his roots down deep – in home,”
Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Which is why I’m having so much trouble now.
Why my brain doesn’t function as it once did.
Why everything, everything that happens in our lives is a culmination of every decision we’ve made, and every decision everyone we love has made.
Why this blog was the second worst decision of my life.

“In a country as rich as Australia, it is a disgrace that anyone should be homeless, let alone the tens of thousands of people who, on a nightly basis, are forced to endure the most demeaning and brutal circumstances,”

Note:
All quotes, unless otherwise stated, are from
‘On the Outside’
by Guy Johnson, Hellene Gronda, Sally Coutts


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BPD – WTF IGO IMM?

Ok. We’ll need to talk more about that but we’re out of time for today.
Ok
Before you go, I’d like you to have a look at this. It was something that came to me yesterday…and I wanted your thoughts.
Ok

She went over to a file and produced a piece of paper, which I had – for a brief moment – hoped contained some mystical spell/incantation which would magically cure my ailing mind – but alas – it was just something that made things even more complicated!

Cool, just what I need right about now! :)

I looked down at the piece of paper and read the words, I wasn’t really taking it all in as I read it on that first occasion. Just processing the information enough for it to register, the actual processing to the point of confusion would come a little while later.

The piece of paper had a list of nine symptoms listed, and these symptoms are as follows. Now, I would like you to see if any match yourself:

Symptom List 1:

  1. frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
  2. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
  5. recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
  6. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
  7. chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms

How many do you have?
They are by the way straight from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. They quote:

“A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self image, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”

How many do you have?

Now, have a look at these, which are also from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association:

Symptom List 2:

  1. Characteristic symptoms: Two or more of the following, each present for much of the time during a one-month period (or less, if symptoms remitted with treatment).
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Disorganized speech, which is a manifestation of formal thought disorder
    • Grossly disorganized behavior (e.g. dressing inappropriately, crying frequently) or catatonic behavior
    • Negative symptoms—affective flattening (lack or decline in emotional response), alogia (lack or decline in speech), or avolition (lack or decline in motivation)
    If the delusions are judged to be bizarre, or hallucinations consist of hearing one voice participating in a running commentary of the patient’s actions or of hearing two or more voices conversing with each other, only that symptom is required above. The speech disorganization criterion is only met if it is severe enough to substantially impair communication.
  2. Social/occupational dysfunction: For a significant portion of the time since the onset of the disturbance, one or more major areas of functioning such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care, are markedly below the level achieved prior to the onset.
  3. Duration: Continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least six months. This six-month period must include at least one month of symptoms (or less, if symptoms remitted with treatment).

Okay, I included that second set, which were listed on the paper for a reason I will get to in a moment. Let us return to the first set.

How many did you have?

One?

Two?

Three?

Four?

All?

Well, if I was being honest I have seven of them. Technically, if you have more than five, then you may be suffering from something called Borderline Personality Disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

“Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual’s sense of self-identity. Originally thought to be at the “borderline” of psychosis, people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation. While less well known than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), BPD is more common, affecting 2 percent of adults, mostly young women. There is a high rate of self-injury without suicide intent, as well as a significant rate of suicide attempts and completed suicide in severe cases. Patients often need extensive mental health services, and account for 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations.”
(from the National Institute of Mental Health)

Now, the reason I included a quote there instead of writing about BPD in my own inimitable fashion is because I haven’t got a clue what it is. In fact some GPs and MH workers I’ve spoken to have been unable to fully explain to me what BPD is. There are even some health professionals who don’t believe in the validity of the condition because of the wide variety of and frequent overlap of symptoms with other disorders.

Which is why I included the second set of symptoms…

…and of those three, I have demonstated over the years to have all of them, including the “at least six months” part.

Those symptoms are for schizophrenia.

So, following this, I have an official diganosis of bipolar type 1 – but according to the criterias above, I’m also suffering from borderline personality disorder as well as schizophrenia.

Which is where things get complicated!

What the fuck is wrong with me??

Borderline Personality Disorder – What The Frack Is Going On In My Mind?

After months of pondering, thinking, researching and trying to work it out – I have come to the conclusion I will never know.

You see diagnosing mental illness is not an exact science, there are many factors which must be taken into consideration and with the frequent and intense overlap of symptoms – especially with the personality disorders of BPD, bipolar and schizophrenia – of course I am going to exhibit symptoms of all three illnesses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I suffer from all three illnesses. Even the medication which is used to treat these illnesses are very similar, in some cases, exact.

It’s obvious I do have traits of all illnesses, but regardless of the label (which is all the diagnosis really is) I just suffer from a mental illness.

It doesn’t matter if it’s called borderline personality disorder, bipolar, schizphrenia, narcissitic personality disorder, Bob or Fanny Craddock’s Apple Pie Disorder (who wouldn’t want to have that!)

They’re just my condition, not who I am.

They just complicated things because I like knowing what it is I am fighting, it gives me a focus and something to hold onto. It took me long enough to come to terms with bipolar, let alone a possible new addition to the wealth of frackedupness in my mind. All this incident did was create further confusion and complication in an already confused and complicated mind.

It wasn’t what I needed.

Not after everything that had been happening.


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Hope in Retrospect

So, here we are again. Right back to where it all started. The original layout, the old photos, those wacky animated gifs…though come to think of it with all the current wooden spoon outrage maybe I should remove the spanking one for fear of promoting abuse! And frack me look at all those words! Blimey, what was I thinking?? Hundreds upon thousands of tiney weeny pizellated letters chronicling over ten years of my life. Nay! My whole life! A life jam packed full of inner pain, exhaustion, stigma, endless fighting, endless judgements, confusion, lies, joy, smiles, laughter and hope.

Ahhh, hope :)

That’s what it all comes down to in the end. All of our lives being endlessly guided by the hope we’ll be liked, loved, accepted, happy. The hope that before we die we’ll be someone to someone. Hope is life, without it, we’re pointless. For hope breeds passion – and without passion, we’re truly dead.

(Well, that’s not bad, only a few paragraphs in and already the old pop culture references hit the screen!)

I decided to write these updates on the 11 October 2009, the two year anniversary of the day I should have died. A day I will never forget. How can you forget a day which saw you nearly take your last breath? What’s made it all so difficult though is trying to work out where to start. How do you look back on two years which you’d hoped would have seen the start of your new life – but in actual fact has found you in an even worse place?

Easy.

You read…

It’s been sometime since I read a lot of these posts, maybe I need to pick out my favourites. A man who has no future always runs to his past (reference number two, different show, just as beautifully written) so where else to start? So newbies, oldies and those who dipped in from time to time let’s review the main piece I wrote all those years ago. So pour yourself a whisky (no “e’s” people!) and learn a wee bit about my life…and there’s no better place to start than where it all started for me. The foundation stone of this whole journey.

My War with Mental Illness
I wrote this before I even considered writing a blog. I’m still proud of it now, just as I was back then. Without it this blog would never have been born…so in hindsight I should probably left it unsaid. There’s also the video version, if you can’t be bothered reading the actual post, or even if you felt like watching it as a companion piece.

The idea for the blog came a few days later in Carlton Gardens. I’d taken one step toward beginning my fight – why not get it all out there? Every sordid detail which I had tried to hide in the hope I would be accepted. For some reason I followed through, so as days became weeks became months, these followed:

(Some) True Confessions of Self-Harmer
Until 2007 no-one knew I had self harmed since my teens. In fact I would be tempted to say no-one had even suspected it I had become so good as hiding it. Self harm is something few people get, and this was a tough one to write. How do you explain to people why you deliberately hurt yourself? I do like this, but it could have been so much better (a sentence which sums up my whole life really)

Social Anxiety Disorder
Unless you suffer from SAD/social phobia it is VERY HARD to understand how debilitating and destructive it is. More than depression, more than self-harm, more than bipolar – this is what destroyed me. I got so close to thrashing it in ’07 (pre breakdown) that I’ve never been able to recover from how close I came.

Desideratum
I remember this for one reasons…probably the most random post title of the whole blog :)

Men and Mental Health
Everyone who has a mental illness will experience a vast amount of stigma at some point in their life – but try being a man and having to deal with the inherent sexism of suffering from a mental illness at the same time. I wrote this post in bed and even though it’s not all that well written, is still a personal favourite of mine.

The “Let’s Talk About Suicide” Series
There were a lot of recurring themes on the blog but only a couple of multi-part posts. This was the first.
Part I…I STILL stand by to this day. Sure it received the finest ever single word comment any post received in the history of the blog (“Pathetic”) but I STILL stand by it.
Part II…VERY hard for me to write, like the self harm posts, few knew in detail of my suicide attempts until now.
Part III…All I remember from writing this are tears. The first time I’d told anyone of Rachel.
Part IV…will be coming this week :)

Let’s Talk About my Nervous Breakdown
This event is why my life will never be what I hoped for. A seismic event from which the ripples ar estill reverberating to this day. It didn’t have to happen, that’s what kicks me in the gut every morning. For ultimately, the breakdown is what led to…

Coming to Terms with Bipolar
…the revelation that I was bipolar. Which made a lot of sense to me but still confuses the hell out of me. (unfortunatel my post detailing my manic phase in Adelaide was lost along with my domain earlier this year)

What Do I mean by Stigma?
Still a great question and is unfortunately something that I have come to realise will never go away :(

“Emotional Abuse” Series
Of all of the posts I wrote throughout this journey these posts – without question – received the biggest reponse, still do. To this day I still receive emails on an almost weekly basis from people writing to thank me for writing it, from people who find themselves in the same painful situation, who don’t know what to do. it is still unfortunately something which doesn’t receive enough attention, and the perceptions that it is not as destructive as other forms of abuse are bullshit! The abuse I suffered is in my mind everyday, my social anxiety feeds of it, and in my mind has destroyed any chance of me having close relationships in the future for the simple reason that I trust no-one. Blimey, I sound like Mulder, but alas, it’s the truth.

They’re the main ones. They’re the core. But it wasn’t what the blog was all about. Sure I suffer from mental illness – bu tthe point of what I was doing was getting across it wasn’t who I was. I was Andrew! All of my loves, passions, desires, kinks and dreams were scattered through the blog for all to digest and discover. From my crushes (Oh Carey, Maggie, how did you become so beautiful? And if you’ve never seen Blink watch it NOW! I mean NOW! Just make sure you come back to finish reading :) to my dungaree fetish (ahh the memories of the CDC, why can’t Aussie’s wear them as much, sure they ain’t fashionable but they’re sure sexy :) to all manner of other things which were oh so obvious if never spoken of directly. Check out the I love list and write your own, or have a gander all over the place to learn more of then non-mental side of me. If you’re brave enough! :)

So as this blog post rattle on in it’s own pointless banality I’m thinking a lot about who I was and how I felt back then. It’s funny the memories which come back somtimes. More than anything remembering how much hope I had back then. How much strength still surged through me. How much I was determined to prove I was worth something more than what I had.

Hope

Always back to hope.

Sitting here in Southern Cross waiting room preparing to head back to the park in which I now sleep I know that hope has gone. Eaten away by mental illness, abuse, loneliness and the utter futility of pursuing your dreams. I would have lved to be writing now how I had succeeded in overcoming or at the least controlling the illnesses and pain which plague me. It would have meant she was wrong, that one of the reasons I pulled myself down from that noose had been correct. Alas, my “life” now is worser than it was then, so much so you can’t even call it a life. This is the curse of mental illness.

All I can therefore do is write these updates and conclude my journey as best I can – and hope that at some point the hope I once had will find a way back into my soul :)

So as I prepare to click ‘publish post’ and send even more memories flooding back here are some of the stops we’ll be taking on the journey this week:

– Let’s Talk About Suicide: Part IV…It never gets any easier
– Thirteen Reasons Why
– Bipolar Bear
– BPD WTF?
– Emotional Abuse: Just Frack OFF!
– Social Paralysis Disorder
– Starter for Ten: The Grand Final (email any questions you would like answered by Friday)

The next post: :”My Life, post blog…” will be published later today :)

Plus a few more along the way :)

[oh, and a side note, some of the links are broken as I haven’t had the chance to update and check them all…so sorry if something takes you somewhere it shouldn’t. I don’t mean viruses, I just mean some random dead page or changed page :)]


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My Journey with Depression continues…for one week only…

Yep, to celebrate the two year anniversary of this blog going live I am returning to the blogging world for one week only…

…with a retrospective look back on why this blog was the second worst decision I have ever made in my life. What? It’s true :)

Don’t get me wrong, I had a ball writing it (and the wordpress & myjourneywithdepression.com blogs which followed, which alas have disappeared into the ether) but in retrospect it was a terrible decision which I have regretted for some time.

I often get questions from people who still stumble across this blog about whether my journey ended or not – well it hasn’t, not quite yet – so hopefully this week will answer all those previously unanswered questions.

Over the coming days there will be posts updating the various threads which were discussed over those long lonely months and threads picking up what has happened to me since my journey started.

Posts updating on the continued depression, the ongoing effects of social anxiety, hallucinations, self harm and the suicide attempts since. How I’ve dealt since my bipolar diagnosis, how I’ve struggled with the possibility of borderline personality disorder, and general obsessive (no doubt slightly) kinky chit-chat a la those old blog writing days.

I should warn you though, I’m not the wordsmith I used to be…so don’t expect great things.

I just figured two years later I may as well conclude the blog journey :)

Things which have happened in two years…
…two years ago I raved about the talent of the wonderful actress Carey Mulligan (see ‘utterly gorgeous celebrities on the left!) Back then she was pretty much an unknown, now she is finally getting the recognition she deserves with rave reviews and possible award hints for her role in “An Education”. Good on her :)