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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2013: My year in blogging

Weekly Photo Challenge - Forward

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

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

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

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

~ in order of being published ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

03. February 21stCoping Skills

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

04. February 25thCoping Skills: The Negative Thought Challenge

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

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

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

05. April 10thMi Recovery: The Biopsychosocial Model

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

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

06. April 14th101 Things that make me happy

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

Which makes me happy! :D

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

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

08. October 6thPublically raising awareness of mental health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. December 22ndOne Day in Glasgow

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

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

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

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

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

-♥-

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

:-)


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Four favourite movies (or TV Shows) of 2013

Day of the Doctor-horz

~ in no particular order ~

~ 1 ~

The Day of the Doctor | Written by: Steven Moffat

How could this not be on my list? Over the last twelve months it’s been mentioned countless times on this blog and, as the date drew closer, my excitement levels continued to rise, eventually reaching fever point the evening before the worldwide simulcast event. Perpetually worried that it would be pants, my fears were appeased within minutes of the show beginning as Steven Moffat and the cast and crew had shaped one of the best episodes of Doctor Who in quite a number of years. This isn’t just one of my favourite television/movie moments of the year, but one of my highlights of 2013, period!

~ 2 ~

Star Trek: Into Darkness | Directed by: JJ Abrams

The first film in JJ Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek franchise was one of the last films I saw before becoming homeless again in 2009. As such, the memory of this extremely good sci-fi action film is closely intertwined with my memories of that brutal period of my life. Approaching it’s sequel, Into Darkness, I was aware that it may resurface some unpleasant memories, but I also hoped that it would become intertwined with the new direction my life was entering. Fortunately, the latter proved true. Although not quite as good as the first film, Into Darkness was an excellent blockbuster movie that had me entertained from the word go.

~ 3 ~

Once Upon a Time | Created by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz

I’ll be honest, I watch a lot of television. Not only is it one of my primary coping mechanisms but it’s a field of entertainment that I’ve always dreamed of working in. Amidst the random fare that I’ve watched over the last twelve months there were some obvious stand-outs: Game of Thrones (S3), Nikita (S3) and Parks and Recreation (S4), but the show that most captured my imagination this year was Once Upon a Time.

I initially began watching this show because of the presence of Robert Carlyle – one of my favourite actors – but was soon swept away by the strong female characters, intricate storylines and sheer sense of fun the show offers.

(PS…I still have to catch up with season 3, so no spoilers please!)

~ 4 ~

Iron Man 3 | Directed by: Shane Black

Although last on this list, this is probably my favourite film of the year, mainly because I had more fun watching this gleefully over-the-top comic book adaptation than I had with any other film or television product of the last twelve months. Filled with exceptionally well realised set-pieces – the attack on Stark’s home, the barrel of monkey’s sequence, the CGI overload of the finale – I dare anyone to sit through this film with a bored expression on their face!


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Thirteen goals for 2013…six months on!

Almost six months ago to the day, I wrote a post in which I set myself thirteen goals for the year ahead. Today, I thought it might prove fruitful to review how many I’ve succeeded in…and how many more I’ve yet to go!

ADDY’S

goals for 2013

~ in no particular order ~

1. Cross item one from the 101 things I want to do before I die list [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I’m not really off to a good start, am I? I will be honest that I did have the opportunity to cross this item off back in July, but a combination of my health issues and lack of finances rendered me unable to afford/make the trip to Melbourne.

It is still on the agenda, although it is now looking less likely, with only one possible opportunity left; namely a planned trip to Melbourne in November for the Hearing Voices World Congress (which happens to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and my birthday!)

Perhaps all this means that fate is conspiring on my side for a change!

2. Return to the Kings Domain so I can scream ‘Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!” [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I still miss it. I still want to go back. I still need to scream those seven words to find some form of closure from that nightmare time of my life…but as I just mentioned, I’ve so far been unable to afford a trip to Melbourne this year, so I’m desperately hoping that November will work in my favour.

DSCN0235

“Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!” (Photo of my ‘home’ circa 2010 © Addy)

3. Continue going to the Hearing Voices Support Group on a weekly basis

Okay, I’ll be honest here. I haven’t been every single week. Sometimes health, exhaustion and life have gotten in the way. But I am still attending the group sessions and I’ve begun attending the committee meetings so I’m fairly linked in with the group now…so, I think I’m allowed to cross this off the list at the half way point.

Hopefully you’ll agree…if not, there is a comments field below! ;)

4. Keep working toward obtaining ongoing mental health support

Yep, I’m gonna lop this off the list as well.

I may not have psychiatric support (given my previously acknowledged hatred of the system courtesy of a c**k of a psychiatrist in 2011) but I have kept up regular meetings with my support worker at GT House, as well as a pretty decent attendance record when it comes to the social and self-help groups.

I am also properly medicated (at a decent dosage) for the first time in years and feel that people finally give a damn about me. Which is a wholly strange and un-natural feeling given the complete lack of compassion and support since 2007.

5. Start writing my novel(s) again [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

Given the rollercoaster I’ve been riding over the last six months, I’ve yet to start writing fiction again. I’m still hoping that by the end of the year I will have begun doing so again…hopefully NaNoWriMo will help!

6. Smile more [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I still rarely smile. Sometimes I think I’ve absolutely forgotten how.

It’s not because I don’t like smiling (I really, really do!) It’s because I don’t really have all that much to smile about. Hopefully if I keep working my arse off, by the end of this year, smiling will seem as natural as frowning does to me now.

I am, however, becoming more aware of the things that make me smile – and always look forward to those moments.

lostyoursmile

7. Stop procrastinating about writing and sending emails [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I’m still an atrocious emailer. As I said in February, it’s all tied up with my confidence and anxiety, but I’m doing my best.

8. Expand my social networking presence [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I haven’t used Twitter since I wrote the original version of this post back in February. The whole thing kinda annoys the crap out of me now so it’s doubtful I will be returning unless I suddenly become hypomanic again!

9. Go on a holiday [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

There aren’t enough synonyms for ‘desperate’ to fully capture just how badly I want a holiday. My only real hope now is the aforementioned Melbourne trip this November…as money issues have rendered all my dream destinations unaffordable.

10. Make at least one new friend (in real-life) [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

Although I am trusting a few more people than I was in February – my support worker, a few cyber people (some of whom I’ve met up with in real-life) – I’m still isolated and incredibly lonely most of the time.

Perhaps (hopefully) come New Year’s Eve, I won’t be any more!

11. See at least 6 films in the cinema [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

So far this year I’ve seen The Hobbit and The World’s End…which means I now need to aim for one every month.

Jeepers!

moviesin2013

Films I’d like to see in 2013 (clockwise from left): City of Bones, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Kick Ass 2, Oz: The Great and the Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thor: The Dark Worlds, White House Down..to name but a few!

12. Write at least one blog post in every month of the year [IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPLETE! :( ]

Alas, courtesy of my most recent episode and relapse, I have failed to complete this item. Sorry.

13. To stop being so hard on myself all the time and begin believing how seriously freaking awesome I am! [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I’m probably harder on myself now than I was back in February. Whether this is a product of my recent relapse or just because I’m a little older, I don’t know…we’ll just have to see what happens over the next four months! :/

Which means that at the six month mark, I’m two down, ten to go (as one is now impossible to complete!). Blimey, I think I have my work cut out for me…but, with number 13 in mind, if anyone can do it…I can! :)

 


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Thirteen goals for 2013…

Courtesy of my depressive episode, I spent most of the first month of this year drinking, beating myself up and wishing I was dead. As such I wasn’t able to indulge in the customary ‘goals for the year ahead’ list I normally write. Until now…

ADDY’S

goals for 2013

~ in no particular order ~

1. Cross item one from the 101 things I want to do before I die list

I began writing my ‘goals for the year ahead lists’ when I was fifteen. This item has been on every single one of them! :p

2. Return to the Kings Domain so I can scream ‘Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!”

I haven’t been to the Kings Domain since the last night I slept there (21 June 2011).

Of all the ‘homes’ I had during my time on the street this was by far the longest (nearly two years on/off) and thus has become a place that will forever remind me of that brutal period of my life. I haven’t returned to Melbourne since leaving the city in mid-2011, making this my longest period away from Melbourne since arriving in Australia.

I miss it. I want to go back. I need to scream those seven words to find some form of closure from that nightmare time of my life.

DSCN0235

“Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!” (Photo of my ‘home’ circa 2010 © Addy)

3. Continue going to the Hearing Voices Support Group on a weekly basis

However difficult I’ve found the groups so far – as readers of my Hearing Voices Support Group series will be aware – I’m determined to keep pushing myself to attend. I need to understand my voices. I need to create better relationships with them. And in all honesty, however anxiety inducing the groups have been, I really do enjoy going to them.

So I’m hoping over the next ten months I will continue to do so…and that sooner rather than later I’ll begin feeling more comfortable being there.

4. Keep working toward obtaining ongoing mental health support

As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I have very little support when it comes to my mental health. In fact, for the last six years I’ve had to deal with severe, complicated and ongoing illnesses all on my lonesome – which is probably why they’ve been devolving on a month-by-month basis.

So, as I’ve been doing, I will continue working toward gaining MH support throughout the remainder of this year.

Hopefully this is one goal I will succeed in.

5. Start writing my novel(s) again

I’ve spoken a lot of my desire to write fiction again. I have the characters, I have the plots, I have the skills…I just don’t have the confidence nor the ability to overcome my MH caused fiction writer’s block. So – somehow – I need to find both of these things and just get my ass writing again.

Or rather my hands writing again, as it would be a little difficult to write using that other body part :p

6. Smile more

I rarely smile. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten how.

It’s not because I don’t like smiling (I really, really do!) It’s because I don’t really have all that much to smile about. Hopefully if I keep working my arse off, by the end of this year, smiling will seem as natural as frowning does to me now.

lostyoursmile

7. Stop procrastinating about writing and sending emails

I am an atrocious emailer. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s that I keep convincing myself I will be bothering people if I send them an email – when it’s more likely I’m bothering them more by not sending them! Again, it’s all tied up with my confidence and anxiety; like so many of the issues behind the goals I have for this year are.

8. Expand my social networking presence

I don’t use many social networks…Twitter, one that shall remain nameless…but my presence on them is weak at best. I need to communicate on them more. For if I can build my confidence in this area, perhaps I can build it to communicate in real-life as well! :)

9. Go on a holiday

The last ‘holiday’ I went on was in 2008…but that was more ‘therapy’ than holiday as it saw me fighting anxiety and suicidal ideation, kicked out of a B&B and visit a hospital.

I’d love to be able to go somewhere and just chill! Take a hike through the wilderness, climb mountains, spend days photographing all sorts of weird and beautiful images, relax on the beach reading (occasionally) naughty books. You know, the sorts of things that normal people do when they go on holiday!

Dream Destinations: Tasmania, Canada, Scotland, Thailand, New Zealand, Siberia (:p) and/or the Antarctic.

10. Make at least one new friend (in real-life)

However much I love the wonderful friends I’ve made online (you all know who you are!) it would be quite an achievement if I could make a friend in real-life. Someone whom I could hang out with, share drinks and random conversations with, play Strip Mario Kart with (okay, that would have to be a very close friendship :p)

But although my heart continues to believe that everyone deserves a friend…my brain has convinced me I deserve to spend my life alone.

And that’s a hard belief to break free of after six odd years of isolation.

11. See at least 6 films in the cinema

This amounts to one every two months – which should be completely and utterly achievable…until you remember I only saw two films in the cinema last year! :/

But I’ve already seen one this year (The Hobbit) so there’s only five to go!

moviesin2013

Films I’d like to see in 2013 (clockwise from left): City of Bones, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Kick Ass 2, Oz: The Great and the Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thor: The Dark Worlds, White House Down..to name but a few!

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

Now I’ve pretty much decided to continue onwards with my blog (detractors and haters be damned!) I would very much like for this year to be the first that has blog posts written in every month. As I nearly failed before I began – with only a few posts in January – we’ll just have to see how I go :)

13. To stop being so hard on myself all the time and begin believing how seriously freaking awesome I am!

Pretty self-explanatory really…now, I just have to start doing it! :)