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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Death is the only answer

As I’ve been having trouble writing lately, mainly because my stress levels have been so high, I’m experimenting with stream of consciousness writing as a way to overcome my current malaise. As such, this post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Tuesday 29 September 2015 between 10:09 – 10:33am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

death

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. The demons of my past forcing me to relive the emotional abuse I received from my sociopathic narcissistic cunt of an ex-girlfriend. Words like useless, worthless, repugnant, repulsive, selfish, waste of space, evil, pointless, unlovable reverberated around my mind making sleep an impossible dream. They were all the words my abuser used to use; all the words my abuser specifically chose to control my life, minimize my emotions and render me a quivering, isolated, self-hating freak. That was her intention. That was her goal. To make me hate myself; to render my emotions invalid; to destroy the very essence of my soul. And she succeeded. Last night wasn’t a one-off. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Every night and day for the last eight years, no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, her voice echoes in my mind, continuing her vicious quest to assault my soul and control my life past, present and future.

For the last six days it has been the same. Night after sleepless night of reliving the abuse I was the recipient of. Night after night of hating myself on a level few could ever conceive of. Night after night of the ghost of my abuser pushing me ever closer toward the precipice of suicide. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. I’m clinging on to the last minuscule threads of sanity. Even when I wake up, even when I try to distract myself from her cruel, taunting voice, she is still there; still forcing her abuse upon me, still pushing me to rid the world of the repulsiveness that is me. That’s what she wants, you see, it’s what she’s always wanted; my suicide. An act that she believes would save the world from the most evil, selfish, repugnant human being that has ever lived.

And she’s convincing. Last night, as the minutes dragged into hours, I started trying to work out how many pills I would need to take to successfully end my life. I started to plan how best I could slash my wrists to rid the world of the scourge of humanity. I started to concoct elaborate, complicated plans involving a combination of pills, cutting and trains; the end result always being my death, to rid the world of a voice so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone it talks to. And as the plans formulated in my mind, I started to feel at peace, I started to feel content, for it dawned on me that this is what I want. This is really the only way for me to find happiness.

They say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And I have always hated that saying. My problems are not temporary.

There is no cure for bipolar affective disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its mood swings, with its madness, with its intricacies, and it will always, in the end, win.

There is no cure for post traumatic stress disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its flashbacks, with its reliving of past trauma, with its heinous nightmares, and it will always, in the end, win.

There is no cure for social anxiety disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its panic, with its control, with its neurosis, and it will always, in the end, win.

Sure, there is medication that can help control the symptoms, but there is no medication that will eradicate them completely, they will always control me, always take everything from my life, as they’ve been doing for the last eight years. Eight years. I used to have a life. I used to be happy. I used to have hopes and dreams, passions and friends. But now? There is nothing. There is just me. Continually hated by the world and every human being who populates it. I am nothing, a nobody, a repugnant isolated freak that, as my abuser so relished in informing me, no human being could ever love and/or care about.

It’s no surprise to me that I’ve lost hope for a better, brighter future. Over the last eight years, despite homelessness, despite rape, despite physical assault, isolation, mental illness, trauma and abuse – all of which I have fought on my own – I have worked my cute little arse off to become the person I want so desperately to be. Over the last eight years I’ve helped people whenever and however I can; I’ve replied to thousands of emails from lost souls searching for meaning, and done whatever I could to provide them with the hope they’re looking for; I’ve shared my journey on this blog in the hope it would help people feel less alone; I’ve even helped people actualize their lifelong dreams. Over the last eight years I’ve continued to write even when the world did everything it could to stop me; I’ve sent manuscripts to publishers for consideration; I’ve written for websites on all manner of topics; I’ve even self-published my work online because writing has, since I was a child, been one of my primary passions. Over the last eight years I’ve been there for people when they’ve needed me; I’ve offered support and kindness when they had done little to earn it and I have always put other people’s emotions ahead of my own. Over the last eight years I have clung onto the hope that my life wouldn’t always be so isolated, so painful, so irrelevant. But eight years of hard work, eight years of fighting mental illness, trauma and loneliness, all on my lonesome, has seen that hope evaporate. My abuser was right; there is no hope for me, I will never amount to anything, no-one will ever love me.

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. Memories of abuse and trauma assaulted my mind and I came to the inevitable conclusion: I am an inconsequential member of the human race. It doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t matter how hard I work, it doesn’t matter what I sacrifice or how many people I help. No-one will love me. No-one will care about me. Nothing will ever change. It will just be me, living in abject poverty, devoid of happiness, killing time until the inevitable happens.

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. And as the hours drifted by I came to the inevitable conclusion: death is the only answer.


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How forgotten victims of emotional abuse are building new support networks online

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Home comfort. (Shutterstock)

Written by Ria Poole, Research Associate, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Two women are murdered every week in the UK as a result of domestic violence. The issue affects one in four women and one in six men at some point in their lives. Domestic violence also has more repeat victims than any other crime and costs the public £23 billion every year. And of those victims who have received hospital treatment for domestic violence injuries, 400 will go on to commit suicide within the year.

Such statistics are shocking, but what they don’t tell us is how many additional victims suffer from emotional abuse, which is another form of domestic violence. Emotional abuse is not regarded as a criminal offence in adult relationships but it is just as destructive to victims’ mental health, as a review in The Lancet revealed. It affects their self-esteem, emotional well-being, relationships with others and personal freedom.

Emotional abuse features across the entire spectrum of domestic violence. It can take the form of destructive criticism, put-downs and name calling, but also isolation, harassment, monitoring behaviours, and lying to a victim and their friends and family. It may also go hand-in-hand with sexual abuse.

But because emotional abuse is not a “crime”, its victims find it especially difficult to receive protection or even to be taken seriously by others at all. Research suggests that this may also be because emotional abuse lacks the public and political profile of physical and sexual abuse.

Limited support

Unlike victims of these crimes, emotional abuse victims may not seek help because they are unprotected by the law. The government hopes to address this lack of support as it introduces a new domestic abuse law later this year. This will criminalise the emotional abuse which underlies many abusive relationships.

Emotional abuse is a common occurrence affecting a fifth of intimate partner relationships. Despite far-reaching effects, there is a surprising lack of research on emotional abuse in adult relationships. At present, emotional abuse does not receive the attention from researchers and health services that it needs to enable victims to be recognised and professionally supported.

So, where do people go to receive the support they so desperately need? If victims are not protected by the law, if they are misunderstood by family and friends, and support from health services is lacking, then to whom do they turn?

Call for help. (Shutterstock)

Online groups

In the digital age, one obvious place to look for support is online. Through numerous online forums, “victims” of domestic violence become “survivors” who seek the emotional support from others they lack elsewhere in their lives. As with forums for patients with long-term conditions, these websites offer common components of support. This comes in the form of sharing experiences, seeking and offering advice, comparing coping strategies, and signposting to professional resources, as well as simply letting users know they are not alone.

Another of the more interesting uses of these forums is discussion of the perceived personality disorders of abusers, such as antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. But rather than focusing on the perpetrator’s issues, forum advice commonly concerns the victim’s self-protection. This makes sense because these personality disorders are typically thought to be resistant to professional treatment.

Many of these forums have been created by “expert survivors”. These people have escaped and recovered from emotional abuse, and now aim to support others by sharing their experiences and creating a platform for others to discuss their own. Crucially, alongside nearly all of these forums is some form of psychological education in the form of blog posts or other websites with information about how survivors can be helped in the longer-term.

Empowering and advising

There are multiple ways these forums may help victims or survivors of emotional abuse, but further research is needed to explore these mechanisms more fully. It may be that support from an online group validates victims’ experiences and empowers them to safely confront or leave their abusers. They may feel protected by an anonymous online identity as they confide in sympathisers about the abuse, perhaps for the first time.

One way to describe these insightful and empathetic forum users is as “enlightened witnesses”, who help others understand and accept their experiences and regain their independence. And with online forums, this support is instantly available. Advice and coping strategies may help victims rebuild their confidence and increase their self-efficacy. Their self-worth may increase as they realise they are not to blame for the abuse. As well as reducing feelings of isolation, a shared perspective may also develop compassion, friendship and humour.

So how can these “survivor forums” contribute to the services provided by health professionals? As a starting point, they give victims a voice that could help highlight needs unmet by the health service. But they could also give health researchers another way to study the nature, prevalence, language and outcomes of emotional abuse, and the coping and exit strategies survivors find to be most effective.

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Melbourne 2015: Day 05. The hipsterfication of Melbourne

The fifth day of my adventure in Melbourne began like all the others; leaping out of bed at 8:00am, showering, throwing some clothes on and keenly leaving the motel by 9:00am to explore the various locales and laneways of old Melbourne town. On the agenda for Sunday was; a bracing walk down Lygon Street and a trip to the ocean-side suburb of St. Kilda.

Lygon Street is better known as Little Italy, not because it is overrun with Italians, but because it is overrun with Italian restaurants. No matter where you look, there is a restaurant offering everything from pizza and pasta to pasta and pizza. It is a street I used to know well, in my old pre-breakdown life, and like Brunswick Street, a street that is now a constant reminder of my abusive girlfriend. But, as with my efforts to walk Brunswick Street without a panic attack, I was determined to stroll down this street without anxiety and trauma overpowering my mind. The time I chose to do this was instrumental. Early morning on a Sunday is probably the quietest Lygon Street will ever be. It is, after all, an evening street. During the day there is little to do, as all the eateries are closed, opening only for lunch and dinner. So customers are few and far between. But like Brunswick Street, as I wandered the pathways of the street, I realised that once again the hipsters had taken over. Independent shops and eateries had been replaced with trendy chain stores and franchises. The soul of the street that I once loved had disappeared and been replaced with hipster-chic.

For example. On the corner of Lygon Street and Elgin Street once stood a second-hand bookstore called Book Affair. It was heralded as the largest second-hand bookstore in Victoria, and had two huge floors overflowing with books and tomes for your literary enjoyment. Book Affair, in a past life, was my favourite bookstore in Melbourne and I spent many – many – hours perusing the shelves and filling my bookshelf with their ware. But now it has gone. Replaced with an Insurance broker (as if the world needs any more of those) and a trendy stationary store selling overpriced merchandise. To say I mourned the loss of this once great bookstore was an understatement. I felt its loss deep within me and had to settle my emotions with a lengthy sit down on a conveniently placed bench. It truly felt like I had lost a significant chapter of my life, such was my love of this store.

Readings, Lygon Street

Readings, Lygon Street

Fortunately, the hipsterfication of Lygon Street had not claimed Readings. Readings is one of the oldest independent booksellers in Melbourne, and houses a vast collection of books, music and DVDs, many being hard to find items and those imported from overseas. Readings, in my pre-breakdown life, was the place I would go for Scottish folk music, it was the place I would go for interesting literature, and the place I would go for rare DVDs. It is a shop I have always loved with my whole heart and a shop I could always find something I wanted to purchase. And this visit was no different. A book that collected the short fiction of Alasdair Gray was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $50 (nearly three times my daily budget) and a DVD copy of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $30 (nearly twice my daily budget). So I left Readings without purchasing anything; even though my whole being was crying out to buy something! I don’t think I’ve ever shown such restraint in this majestic retailer.

After leaving Readings I decided to meander through my old neighbourhood to see what had changed. After Louise and I broke up I moved into a boarding house in Fitzroy, lodged neatly between Lygon Street and Brunswick Street. It was a pretty shocking place to live, and the landlord was featured in the newspaper as being the worst landlord in Melbourne, but I loved living so close to my favourite streets in Melbourne. As I walked the streets, the memories came flying back; memories of being attacked and abused by my abuser; memories of hanging out and chilling with friends, memories that, for better or worse, I don’t want to lose. The suburban streets hadn’t changed much. Sure, new apartment blocks had sprung up and shops gone the way of the dodo, but it was all pretty much as I remembered. Certainly, the hipsterfication had infiltrated this part of the world (my old launderette, which was once a hovel of a place containing only washers and dryers now featured a funky cafe and bright, breezy decoration) but it wasn’t as severe and noticeable as other parts of the city.

I ended up on Brunswick Street, and spent half an hour perusing some of the shops and revisiting the Grub Street Bookstore. My Readings restraint evaporated and I ended up buying a book (Stonemouth, by Iain Banks) as all books were 50% off due to the shop closing down and selling up. Another blow to the heart and another reason I hate Kindles so much. Sure, they’re valuable for people who have trouble reading small print and those who don’t want to carry a small library around with them, but they’re destroying all the wonderful, independent, second-hand book sellers who make the world such a beautiful, magical place.

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Brunswick Street led me to Smith Street which led me back to the wonder of Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent an hour chilling amidst the trees, watching happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. I then wandered into the city to catch a tram to St. Kilda.

And what did I find once I reached this seaside locale? Yep. You guessed it. The hipsters had taken over. Acland Street, which was once a collection of independent stores and funky little bakeries, was now a hideous assortment of trendy, upmarket retailers and franchised food stores selling overpriced, “gluten-free” products. I used to love Acland Street. It was one of the first streets I came to know when I arrived in Australia way back in 2002. But I hated it now. I truly, utterly despised it. I spent much of my time ruing the day the damned hipsters took over. How dare they destroy the hearts of suburbs with their sheep-like mentality and grandiose, holier than thou attitudes.

The beach, however, was blissful. I hadn’t seen the ocean since I was in Scotland in 2009 and spent nearly two hours roaming the beach, paddling in the water and watching the happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. It felt so good to be beside the ocean again, felt so good to feel the cool salt water lap around my toes. It’s one of the things I miss most whilst living in the landlocked town of Wodonga. The ocean is in my blood, always has been, and it just feels wrong to live so far away from it.

After perusing the artistic wares on offer at the St. Kilda Esplanade market, I boarded a tram for a return trip to the city. Unlike the tram I caught to St. Kilda, I became a little overwhelmed on my return. I don’t deal well with public transport. Buses. Trams. Trains. I don’t like the hideous amount of people crammed into a tiny space. I don’t like control being taken away from me. I don’t like stop-start movement of these methods of transportation. So as the tram trundled along St. Kilda Road I found my anxiety rising for the first time since being in Melbourne. It wasn’t helped by the person sitting next to me noisily chewing gum; something which set my misophonia off to startling, uncomfortable degrees. So I alighted the tram early, choosing to walk my blistered feet a couple of kilometers rather than deal with the anxiety that was overtaking me.

By now I was pretty tired. My feet were sore. And I was somewhat overwhelmed with all the memories that had been bombarding me all day. I was proud of my achievements – Lygon Street, Brunswick Street, two tram journeys – but knew it would be best to return to the motel for a night of relaxation and reflection.

For dinner I chose to have a Subway Veggie Delight sandwich, which I munched down on whilst watching a double bill of Spider-man and Spider-man 2, which I found playing on an obscure television channel. On the agenda for Monday was the (much longed for) Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and an evening spent enjoying the city after dark; surely two activities that would ensure the day be something exceptional! :)


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Melbourne 2015: Day 03. Facing the demons of the past…

And so we come to day three of my fabulous adventures in Melbourne. A day that saw me explore Melbourne’s past, face my personal demons and rediscover the majestic taste of the greatest soft drink known to human kind…

21st August 2015, 8:02pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve done so much walking over the last two days that I’ve developed blisters on top of blisters! Walking back to the motel this evening was exquisite pain, but removing my shoes and socks after another busy day was exquisite bliss. Although when I finally got a look at my blisters I was a bit disgusted. I have one on my left foot’s little toe that is bigger than the toe itself. It’s quite disgusting and, as I brought nothing sharp to pop it with, resorted to using one of the in-room forks to relieve the agony. Which was difficult, to be sure, but mightily satisfying when the damned thing burst!

I wasn’t quite as keen leaving as yesterday but I was in the city by 9:30am and at the museum by 10:00am. Yes, this much-loved destination was my chosen activity for the day, and to be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed. Sure, Meadhbh got all excited and started RAWRing in my ear when she saw the dinosaurs (they were completely unexpected) but the rest of the displays were lackluster and somewhat disappointing. There was a delightful rainforest installation (actual trees!) and the section that investigated the mind and all that affects it was interesting but for Melbourne Museum, there wasn’t an awful lot about Melbourne itself. Just a lackadaisical display that was nowhere near as interesting as I remembered. Sure, Phar Lap was present and correct, but where was the information on Melbourne’s growth as a city? Where was the artifacts drawn from Melbourne’s colourful history? Where was the Neighbours kitchen that used to grace this magnificent building? I did enjoy my visit to the museum – fortunately, due to my concession card, I gained free entry – but I was just disappointed that the displays weren’t as interesting or enjoyable as I remembered them.

After departing the museum I decided to challenge myself and headed down Nicholson Street toward the (dreaded) Brunswick Street. Ever since my emotionally abusive relationship this street has been massively triggering for me. It stirs all sorts of bad memories of that painful, debilitating time. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into an abusive tirade about how kissing me made her want to vomit. It was on Brunswick Street that she threw a glass of water over my head, and then laughed maniacally at my humiliation, all because I had stated a preference of actor. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into a (different) abusive tirade about how I was the most selfish human being that had ever lived, and that the only person I ever thought of was myself. It used to be my favourite street in Melbourne. But today, it is just a painful reminder of the agony my abuser caused me, and thus, for eight years I’ve avoided it like the plague. So I was quite chuffed with myself when I was able to meander the street with only heightened anxiety. No panic attacks. No grueling PTSD flashbacks. Just me on my once favourite street in Melbourne. I say once favourite because, like the rest of Melbourne the hipsters have taken over. Where once Brunswick Street was an assortment of independent shops and funky retailers, it is now a collection of trendy, up market clothes shops and even trendier, up market eateries. It has, alas, become hipster central. And I hated it. The Grub Street Bookstore (my second favourite second-hand book retailer in Melbourne) was still there, as was Dixons Recycled, but this was not enough to ease the pain of what Brunswick Street has become. Damned hipsters and there annoying, arrogant, hipster ways. How dare you destroy large swathes of the city for your own, petulant needs!

From Brunswick Street I went for a constitutional down Smith Street before aiming for Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent a good hour relaxing in this tranquil, tree filled oasis before returning to the city for some light (but essential) shopping.

By 3:00pm I was in Federation Square, enjoying a can of Cherry Coke and trying to decide what to do next. I didn’t feel like browsing the shops, nor did I feel like just sitting still, so I opted for a visit to the Immigration Museum. And glad I was that I made such a choice. Beautifully laid out, dynamic displays, a wealth of information and all housed inside a glorious building that was, at one point in Melbourne’s history, Customs House. I was far more impressed with the Immigration Museum than I was Melbourne Museum, and would urge anyone who visits Melbourne to place this attraction on their itinerary.

After leaving the museum City Basement Books, DVD Collection and The Little Library followed before I happened upon a shop that sells Irn Bru. Yes. Irn Bru! That magnificent Scottish soft drink. That beverage from the Gods. Oh boy, have I missed this particular sparking liquid! Cue Irn Bru selfies and a couple of rather random abstracts!

Tonight I was supposed to go to my gathering, which was pretty much the reason I came to Melbourne this week, but I’ve made the executive decision not to go. I’m tired. I’m a tad overwhelmed after Brunswick Street and I’m just not in the mood to be around hundreds of extroverted (and introverted) individuals. Some might see me as weak, as pathetic, as unexciting, as many negative (and horrible) things. But sometimes I need to look after myself because – surprise, surprise – there’s no-one else around to do it. With the mood I’m in I know that were I to go tonight I would be anxious, I would suffer a panic attack and I would ruin the upcoming weekend in Melbourne. So I don’t feel bad for not going. I’m just taking care of myself and prioritizing my needs above my need for sociable activity. So it’s just another evening in front of the TV and – if yesterday is anything to go by – another fitful, restless sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is the book market at Federation Square (yay, books!) and a chilled out arvo in the motel. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Just another blissful day doing nothing and loving doing it!


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Bunch of Flowers: On rape and its aftermath…

Prologue: The day to end all days…

On July 7th 2007 I was drugged, physically assaulted and anally raped.

Normally on the anniversary of my rape I hide from it. I lose myself to a bottle of whisky and ‘punish’ myself with self harm. This year, I am trying not to fall back into these unhealthy coping mechanisms. This year, I wanted to talk about my rape, to bring it to the forefront of discussion. It is not a pleasant post, it is not an easy, happy, whimsical post. It is confronting. It is painful. It is everything most people chose not to read. But it is a post I believe needs to be written.

If the subject of rape is a little confronting to you, I don’t apologise. Like mental health, like homelessness, like suicide, self harm and poverty, we need to talk more about rape. For only by confronting the evil that is committed by man can we hope to end the scourge of violence that stalks our streets.

Bunch of Flowers…

zentangleflower“I could tell you ‘bout my weekend. That’s all it was. It’s a party, it’s some downtime, it’s a breather. That blew me apart like a supernova and left me on the bathroom floor. Feeling dirty, trying to scrape myself clean,”

July 2007, Adelaide

Whilst lost to the headiness of a manic episode, I found that the best way to get a woman’s attention was to slap her excellent bottom and await the reaction. Now guys, that is not advice you should follow because the only reaction any self-respecting woman will give to this action is:

a) SLAP!

b) Drink over the head…then SLAP!

c) PUNCH! Drink over the head…then SLAP!…as you try to get up!

But Immortal God Addy didn’t care because the world and everyone in it was his. However, immortality doesn’t exist outside of fiction or the delusions of a psychotic mind. No matter how powerful you feel it’s a short step to leave someone on that bathroom floor, feeling dirty and trying to scrape yourself clean.

Whilst out on the piss one night in pursuit of the feisty fillies who populate that strange South Australian city, I began to feel very strange myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now, that I had been drugged. I don’t know what drug had been slipped into my gin and tonic, maybe Rohypnol, maybe something else. All I know is that it made me feel weird. Confused. Tired. Where before I had been talking and playfully slapping excellent bottoms to my heart’s content, after imbibing the drug, I could barely stand. Staggering about that bar, I recall a man taking me under his wing and leading me out of the bar into the Adelaidian night. His face is forever shrouded by the drug addled haze but he was big, not exactly rippling muscles/at-the-gym-every-day big, but big as in could-do-with-losing-a-few-pounds big.

And for some reason that I have never figured out, he took me from that bar, to a motel, and gave me a bunch of flowers.

When I came to the following morning I was groggy, badly bruised and in a fair amount of pain. I’m used to bruises, I’ve inflicted enough on myself over the years, but these were different. I didn’t inflict these on myself so they were more painful, more invasive. I felt dirty, repulsive, degraded, insulted, weak, angry, shameful, guilty, confused, hollow, guilty, and in pain…I knew men could give other men bunches of flowers, but I had never, not even for a moment, thought that someone would give me a bunch of blood-red, sickly smelling flowers.

The man was nowhere to be seen. There was little evidence in the motel room I was in to indicate anyone had been staying there long-term. No clothes. No toiletries. Nothing. It was just me and the grimness of a seedy hotel. Gathering myself together I left the room and painfully walked back to where I had been staying. As soon as I got there I stripped myself naked, examined my scrapes, cuts and bruises in the mirror and staggered into the shower. I stood – nay, lay on the floor of the shower – for hours, slowly scrubbing my flesh raw, slowly trying to eradicate any evidence of the flowers that had been thrust upon me. It didn’t occur to me at the time to go to the police. It didn’t occur to me that cleaning myself would erase any trace of the man. All I wanted to do at the time was cleanse myself. I was dirty. I was disgusting. I was weak. And with my flesh still raw and dripping wet I took a knife and cut myself to ease the pain (the irony of self harm). But it wasn’t just to ease the pain. It was to punish myself for being weak. For allowing someone to force their bunch of flowers on me without even putting up a fight.

How could I? Whatever drug had been given to me eradicated any fight left in me. And this is something subsequent meetings with psychiatrists, counselors and other health-related professionals have failed to grasp. Why didn’t you fight back? They asked. Why didn’t you do something to stop him?

One quote I’ve always remembered from the great Methos is “Just because I choose not to fight doesn’t mean I don’t know how.” I may look like someone who, if he slapped an excellent bottom, would produce only the feelings of a feather landing on her flesh – but if I want to, I could leave a lovely hand print or two. I can, only if necessary and/or provoked, defend myself and/or others with a violent Spike-like relish. It’s very un-Addy of me not to. That night however, because of the drug, I was unable to.

Once the bruises and cuts were tended to I sat on the floor for what felt like hours. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do. I cried, certainly, huge, blubbering, caterwauling, cries that filled the room and left my eyes red raw and cheeks sodden wet. At some point I stopped crying (probably when I had nothing left to release) and decided the only option was to take my mind off things. I slowly walked (because it was still painful to walk) to the nearest internet cafe to take my mind off things. I perused the kimnyk sites, soothing my soul with the passion that burned brightly within it. I looked up self-help sites. I looked up sites about being given bunches of flowers. I checked my email – and almost immediately wished I hadn’t. For Kathy (my ever abusive ex-girlfriend) had decided to launch a fresh attack on me. I was selfish. I was rotten. I was responsible for her stress. I was useless, worthless, nothing. The very last thing I needed at that moment was more attack and abuse. So I severed contact. I deleted my email account so she couldn’t contact me again, changed my phone number, walked to the nearest park and, with everything bubbling to the surface, threw myself into a tree.

When I came to, I decided I should probably go to the hospital. After all, it’s not everyday you knock yourself unconscious after being given a bunch of flowers. I said nothing of the flowers I’d been given. The cuts which accompanied the bruises and welts made it easy: I was just another naughty self harmer. What was the cute nurse gonna do, spank me? She gave me a stern scolding, the contact number of the crisis mental health team and sent me on my way.

On my way home from the hospital I thought about telling people what had happened, but who? Mae was too closely entwined with Kathy’s life, and the last person I wanted to know of this latest event was Kathy. She already thought me weak and repulsive, selfish and rotten. To her, I was nothing. A non entity no human being could ever care about. The simple truth of the matter is, she would have adored the bunch of flowers that had been bestowed on me. She would have seen them as the beautiful payback she believed I deserved for not helping or caring about people enough. Maybe that’s what they were for anyway. A punishment. A life lesson from Him up There. Grace, also, was too close to Kathy. Plus, they were both female. I felt degraded and emasculated enough as it was. My family, nope, not going there. Psychologists, too expensive. Mensline, I tried, but couldn’t. It was like Kathy had said, I was weak and worthless and I was like a cancer, I deserved it and so much more – she had already taught me what to do anyway:

You must always hide your problems and pain from the world. It’s what we must do, always make people happy and never share our problems. Ever.

So I spoke to no-one about what happened. As per usual, I bottled it up, refusing to let anyone in on the pain I was feeling. I returned to my motel, turned on the television (the Rugrats Go Wild movie) and cried myself to sleep. Over the coming days my mania waned. I’ve always cited the bunch of flowers I was given as causing this. My time at my hotel came to an end. I began sleeping in a park in the suburb of North Adelaide. My bruised, beaten body barely finding any comfort on the rough, hard earth. As the days progressed I self harmed as a matter of ritual. I cut. I hit. I burnt. I did whatever I could to stop the emotional pain from overwhelming me. I had never, in my entire life, felt as isolated as I did during those days. From those dark, lonely, pain riddled days, three memories stand out:

1. A night in Ararat that I spent in tears, desperately trying to make sense of the previous few weeks. I needed a hug. I needed a friend. I needed Grace.

2. Sitting on the balcony of the flat which was home for a while in Melbourne, Grace’s number lit up on the screen of my phone. She would be angry that I had gone dark. Angry that I had cancelled my email and changed my phone number. I convinced myself she wouldn’t understand, that she was, after all, on Kathy’s side. Anyway, I couldn’t connect the call. She was about to leave for a six month student-exchange in Mexico and I didn’t want to upset her trip. Like Kathy had drilled into me; you have to make everyone happy, always, and never share your problems under any circumstances.

3. The opening and closing scenes of the Doctor Who episode Gridlock, which reminded me even my hero can feel pain:


Over the coming months, the bruising healed and all that was left to indicate a bunch of flowers had been bestowed upon me was the scars cut deep into my brain. But even that was doing it’s utmost to protect me. For reasons unknown to me it blocked out the event and I found myself lost to a deep depression, unable to work out how or why I had fallen into it. Then, as things do when you suffer from mental illness, everything got too much.

October 2007, The Dandenong rainforest.

That wacky day of fun!

By the time I made it to the hospital after my suicide attempt, my brain had finished it’s subconscious act of protection. In order to protect me from the bunch of flowers, my brain had liberally doused my mind with fertilizers and all that was left were the fallen petals around my sweat ravaged bed sheets every morning.

August 2009, Alice Springs.

It was a full year before everything that had happened came flooding back. For some reason – which I believe was triggered by the abuse a friend received – my brain unleashed that bunch of flowers back into full bloom. I’ve never been able to figure out why my brain was so evil. Why it stopped protecting me. The colours, smells and feelings the flowers had provided me came rushing back, affecting everything I had cultivated in my ‘new life’. My job suffered. My relationship with Diane suffered. My friendship with Grace suffered. My mental health, unsurprisingly, suffered. The impact was immense. As I ran from the stream of petals my mind was unleashing, my life collapsed. My medication was tripled. I lost friends. I nearly lost my job. I made stupid decisions that I could never come back from. I tried to tell Diane what was happening, what had happened, but I couldn’t muster the words to describe the pain, so as per usual, I suffered in silence. After all, how could I talk about what had happened to me? Who would believe me? Who, on this earth, would believe that a man can be the recipient of a bunch of flowers? It is, according to the mainstream media, the domain of women. Only they can be given bunches of flowers. Men; we’re meant to be strong, defiant, unrelenting in our masculinity. Silence was the only option – even though it increased my pain and made everything ten times worse, the reality, admitting to what had happened, would have been far worse.

November 2009, Melbourne.

A year after everything came flooding back. A year of wallowing in memory, in pain and in torment, and the bunch of flowers was just another event I had to deal with. Another event that I should never speak of. Until I became lost to homelessness, to delusion and psychosis. Until my mental health collapsed to the point that the only thing I could do was come clean and let people know what had happened to me, which I did, on my trusty blog.

“I’ve got a tattoo, of a bleeding heart and a moon inside a sun. I wear it everywhere, it’s a part of me and how I see everyone,”

Epilogue: Long-standing scars…

Like all traumas, being raped has left long-standing scars. It’s doubtful I’ll ever return to Adelaide, for example. Smells (BO), tastes (gin and tonic), sounds (someone chewing gum) and vision (the river Torrens) all remind me of the trauma that befell me. My trust and intimacy issues have been badly damaged. I can’t have sex. I can’t kiss people. I even struggle to hug them. In fact, any physical contact, especially from men, reminds me of what happened. I can’t deal with people being behind me; so much so that I will stop if someone is approaching and wait for them to pass before continuing. I have recurrent nightmares about what happened that prevent me from sleeping soundly. And I have become a misandrist; a card-carrying hater of all things man and masculine.

To say that being raped is a defining moment of my life would be an understatement. It has defined me as a man (weak, worthless, a walkover) and rendered me unable to love myself in any way, shape or form. Being raped made me hate myself on a level I never thought possible. I have always blamed myself for being raped, even though deep down I know it wasn’t my fault. It was a random moment. Something I had no control over. A man – a sick, twisted, weak man – took it upon himself to drug me, assault me and forcibly rape me. And in the process, destroy me.

Over the years I have tried to talk to people about what happened but few have believed me. They believe I am making it up, that it is the product of my mentally ill mind. But I know it happened. I know what befell me. Psychiatrists laughed at me, counselors downplayed the incident. It was only my first support worker, whom I trusted, that believed me and understood the pain it had caused me. I have never spoken to friends or family about what happened to me. They know, as they read my blog, but I don’t think they fully understand just how much impact the event had on my life. I don’t think anyone can understand that, no matter how concisely I write about it on the blog.

The 7th July 2007 will always be forefront in my memory. It is a day of pain. A day of unimaginable torment. It is the day I ceased being Andrew.

~ The quotes from this post were taken from the song “Fortune’s Wheel”, by the always incredible Serena Ryder ~

Note: ‘Bunch of Flowers‘ was written in Nov. 2009. The version that appears in this post is a heavily edited, updated version.


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How to cope with PTSD flashbacks?

I feel it pertinent to point out that this isn’t a ‘how to’ post. You may feel slightly jipped to discover this, especially since the first two words of the post title are “how” and “to”, but I did place a wee question mark at the end of the title, meaning I need your help. And with your help, perhaps we can write the ‘how to’ post that you were probably expecting.

My PTSD is a complicated beast. It doesn’t just come from one traumatic incident, but several, the memories of which have combined to form an almost impenetrable wall of trauma that I have no idea how to deal with. Firstly (and foremost) there is the emotional abuse that I was the victim of. Without question this causes the most damaging of my PTSD symptoms. Secondly, there is the assault and rape I experienced when I was in Adelaide in 2007. Thirdly, there is the recurrent memories of being homeless; of being ostracised by society and forced to exist in a sub-human state on the streets of Melbourne and beyond. Fourthly, comes the various physical assaults that I received during this homeless existence. On a daily basis I am hounded by flashbacks of these four incidents; flashbacks that occur without warning, leaving me a quivering, delusional wreck.

Over the last few months, ever since becoming unwell, the memories of the emotional abuse I received have been impossible to contend with. I have been regularly conversing with a hallucination of my abuser to the point I devolve into a fuming, shouty monster. Lord knows what my neighbours think of me, for the walls between us are thin, and my voice is raging. I will scream, yell, holler, bellow, bawl and shriek as I replay specific abusive events and attempt to discover why she saw fit to abuse me. I am desperate for answers, desperate for closure, but I know I can never receive it so my voice rages ever louder. I want to know why she decided to destroy my sense of self, why she was so cruel and callous in her criticism and insults, why she worked so hard to drive a wedge between my friends and I, why she decided I didn’t deserve to be in tertiary education and why she decided I should die because “my voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to“. I need to know why I deserved the abuse she gave me. But like I said, I know I will never discover these answers, I will never have the closure I need, so how do I cope with it? How do I live with the trauma rather than let it control me?

At least fourteen hours a day are lost to these fuming, shouting sessions. They occur when I’m home, they occur when I’m walking down the street and they occur when I’m surrounded by people in the high street. And I have no idea how to stop it. I have no idea how to cope with these intolerable flashbacks.

My GP believes a new anti-psychotic will help – a week into taking it, it hasn’t. I’ve tried mindfulness techniques. I’ve tried my usual coping mechanisms. I’ve tried CBT and DBT techniques. I’ve tried flooding myself with distraction. But nothing has worked. I always devolve into the shouting, always devolve into the trauma and always allow it to control my thinking, my actions and everything in between.

Hence the question – how to cope with PTSD flashbacks? How do you cope with your PTSD flashbacks? How do you stop it controlling your life?


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Day 10: One confession

The final day of the 10 Day Blogging Challenge asks for one confession.

bike

Many years ago, when I but a wee young thing cycling around the city of Melbourne, my (allegedly) slow cycling speed earned the ire of another cyclist. In my opinion, I didn’t think I was cycling abnormally slowly, I was just merrily trundling along the city street on my way to do a spot of shopping in the CBD. But he was adamant that I wasn’t cycling fast enough, so began yelling at me to “speed up” whilst incessantly ringing his bell and hurling expletives in my general direction. In order to cessate his anger I, on numerous occasions, rode closer to the curb in order to give him ample room to overtake, which he never did.

This flow of abuse carried on until we were both stopped by a red light. This incensed him even more, as he demanded to know why I’d forced him to slam on his brakes and risk running into the back of my ‘crappy little bike’. I pointed out that it was customary to stop at red lights, to which he responded with yet more expletives and rode on through the red light, weaving precariously through the (abruptly stopping) oncoming traffic.

Shaking my head at his idiocy (and insolence) I carried on cycling when the light turned green and tried to put the whole unpleasant event out of my mind. However, the abuse he’d been hurling had triggered my social anxiety and no matter how hard I tried to relax, found it impossible to do so. After a couple of stressful hours perusing the shops I was returning to my bicycle, still frustrated by this man’s actions, when I noticed his bike was chained up a few yards away from me.

What possessed me to do what I did next still escapes me. Normally I’m not the sort of man to allow his anger to overwhelm his actions, nor am I the sort of person to seek revenge for crimes committed against me, but I couldn’t get past the simple fact that this man’s actions had ruined my day. So I glanced around, wandered over to the man’s bike and nonchalantly let down both of his tyres before continuing on my merry way with a mischievous grin on my face.

Now, I’d like it to be known in the telling of this story that I’m not advocating people allow their anger to control their actions. What I did that day was wrong. It was irresponsible, immature, downright childish and just a wee bit naughty.

But boy, was it satisfying! :p