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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There She Goes My Beautiful World

Hello everyone,

Andrew’s had a bad day today so I’m taking it upon myself to cheer him up. He feels guilty that he didn’t go to the gym this afternoon. He said he was going to go on a Monday, on a Wednesday and on a Friday, but he didn’t go today because he was feeling too sad. Vanessa was being really mean to him and it upset Andrew to the point he was unable to leave the house. He just argued with Vanessa and scared me with how much he raised his voice and all the shouting he was doing. I don’t like it when Andrew gets like that. He says it is PTSD. He says he is trying to control it and I know that he is but I don’t like it because he gets upset and sad and isn’t happy. I like Andrew when he’s happy and laughing. He has a cute laugh. You’d like his laugh. Maybe I’ll record it one day and play it to you. But I won’t record his arguments with Vanessa because they scare me and I don’t want to scare you. So here is a music video that I like. It makes me happy to hear this song and I know it makes Andrew happy to. Hopefully he won’t mind me writing this today and telling you he has had a bad day. I don’t think he’s a failure and I hope you don’t think he is either. He was just sad today, that is all. So here is the music video that I like. It is by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and is called There She Goes My Beautiful World. Big hugs to you all.

Love you all.
Meadhbh xxx


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The hope that tomorrow will be better

anxiety

So far today has been a day that could be best described as ‘not good’ but most aptly described as ‘effing awful’. It all started yesterday afternoon when I had an appointment with my support worker. Usually they’re fairly uneventful occasions that see us discuss how my life has been (crap) and what could be done to improve it (pretty much anything). But yesterday she decided to assault me with dozens of questions about my anxiety, how it makes me feel and what can be done about it. After two dozen rapidly fired questions I started to dissociate and, as such, was totally non-present throughout the rest of the appointment. In fact, after that twenty-fourth question, I have no memory of what was being discussed at all. All I can remember is sitting on a cloud watching an overweight person speak monosyllabic statements at someone who seemed to be completely unaware of the mental health crisis that was unfolding before them.

I gained nothing from the appointment. In fact, I left in a completely anxious daze that saw me suffer a panic attack in the supermarket within ten minutes, a panic attack that consumed my being and left me, quite literally, a dribbling creature on the floor. By the time it took me to gather myself together and leave the supermarket with a shred of decency, I knew my day was over. It usually is when I suffer a panic attack in the open. It took me nearly forty-five minutes to walk home (a journey that usually takes me twenty) and when I finally crashed in through the back door I ended up lying on my back staring at the ceiling for some two hours, desperately trying to calm myself down and enable me to function at least half as much as a normal person.

Suffice to say, I didn’t, function as a normal person that is. I spent the rest of the evening cowering on the couch with feelings of high anxiety, unable to watch DVDs, unable to listen to the radio, unable to do anything other than my level best not to have another panic attack. Eventually I grew tired of the couch and retired to bed, where I could at least curl up in the shelter of the doona, and slowly drifted off to a fitful, nightmare laden sleep.

Upon waking up this morning I was still overwhelmed with feelings of high anxiety. In fact, they have followed me throughout everything I’ve tried to do today. This morning I tried to watch a movie (Lethal Weapon) but found myself unable to concentrate for longer than five minutes, so switched it off and stared at the wall instead. This afternoon I tried to watch a different movie (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) but again found myself unable to concentrate for longer than five minutes, so switched it off and stared at the ceiling instead. Realizing that I needed to do something (anything) I switched onto my blog and tried to write something (anything), but found myself all but unable to focus on the words, and my fingers stumbled on the keyboard so greatly that I was mistyping letters every few seconds. Eventually – after some sixty minutes – I managed to complete a blog post that felt, for the most part, like I was pulling my own teeth.

Which brings us to now, and another blog post, another teeth pulling session, and another attempt to do something with my day so it isn’t a complete failure. Even if I could write one sentence without mistyping a letter it would be some small victory in a day devoid of them. All my usual coping mechanisms – from distraction to grounding exercises to mindfulness – have done nothing to quell the anxiety, have done nothing to quench the overwhelming feelings of depression, desolation and ineptitude that have consumed me today. Even my favourite musicians – Paul Mounsey, Serena Ryder, Runrig – have been unable to soothe my soul today.

All because I allowed myself to become overwhelmed during an appointment yesterday afternoon with someone I trust, someone I actually like. Why I became so overwhelmed is the reason I’ve been so anxious, because I have no true explanation for it, one minute I was present – the next I was dissociating like a fiend, my brain doing whatever it could to protect me from the onslaught of emotions that were attacking me, an onslaught that has continued and ruined yet another day of my so-called life.

So all that is left is to finish typing this post, publish it to the world-wide web, and then somehow scrape myself together some dinner before once again retiring for the night with the hope that tomorrow will be better. That’s all I have left these days, the hope that tomorrow will be better, which it usually isn’t, especially as this vicious depressive episode continues, especially as anxiety continues its relentless quest to consume my soul.


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There has to be more to life than this…

As January trundles toward its inevitable conclusion, I continue to slip further into the abyss. My days have taken on a heart-crushing routine of monotonous tedium (wake up-housework-kill time-cry-go to bed) whilst my nights have – once again – become feeding grounds for heart-stopping nightmares and the ghosts of lives long past.

In fact, more and more over the last few days my mind has become drawn to a piece of research that was conducted by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre last year. Their national survey found that almost 20 percent of young men thought that life was not worth living; which, even though I’m no longer the youthful Adonis I once was, is something I can completely relate to.

For nearly seven years, ever since I became homeless, my life has been about one thing; survival, and even though I’ve been housed for nearly two years, this continues to be the only thing that defines my existence. I survived Christmas. I survived my various anniversaries. I survived a particularly difficult weekend. I survived the trip to the overcrowded supermarket. In fact, my life seems to have become a series of ordeals for me to struggle through, rather than a cascade of experiences for me to relish.

Despite my best laid plans, the only thing I can foresee in my future is more of the same; more survival, more monotony, more misery.  

Perhaps I’m just in a dark place at the moment. Perhaps it’s all just a byproduct of my current bipolar induced malaise. Perhaps in a few weeks I’ll have lifted myself from the darkness and once again see something about ‘life’ that makes it worth living. But right now, I see nothing but sadness and melancholy in my future.

For weeks now I’ve been acutely aware of my continued isolation. I miss having people to talk to, to bounce ideas off, to seek inspiration and joy from. I miss larking around in parks on warm summer’s days and curling up in front of a movie with a shared bowl of popcorn.

Even though its therapeutic effects are often downplayed, especially when it comes to mental health, I miss the intimacy of being with someone. I miss caressing my hands over backs, breasts and buttocks. I miss long, tender kisses and even longer, sometimes athletic, intercourse.

Life is nothing but bitter emptiness when you are by yourself. Humans are, by nature, social creatures. We don’t just crave the company and closeness of others; we need it to sustain ourselves.

I’ve also noticed a growing sense of homesickness creeping into my ‘life’ over the last several weeks. At first I thought it was merely a side-effect of the Christmas period; the annual yearning for cold winter days, fresh snowfalls and that glorious, endless night. But it’s more than that. I’m not just craving the winter, but the cultural, geographical and social aspects of my once home-country.

I miss meandering around London, losing myself to the many backstreets and galleries of the city before catching a West End play to while away the evening. I miss chilling with my family; challenging ourselves with a television quiz show as we sip on cups of tea and nibble on Digestive biscuits. I miss the British Press, television stations and music industry. Hell, I’m even missing Bill Oddie and Paul Schofield!

Although I love this sun-burnt country, I can’t shake the fact that it feels like something is missing. Not a place or a person but a part of me that I can’t define. This is home, but at the same time, it’s not home.

I don’t know.

With everything that’s going on at the moment. With all the flashbacks, internet chaos, homesickness, nightmares and the always present, always destructive loneliness, it’s no wonder I’m feeling crap at the moment. But like I said before, perhaps it is something that will correct itself in time, perhaps it is just a product of the endless mood cycles that bipolar throws at me.  

Either way, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much and I’m sorry this is yet another self-obsessed whinge.

Hopefully normal service will resume shortly…for I really don’t like feeling the way I do at the moment.   


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Well, I was doing okay…

In the lead up to Christmas I  had several conversations with my support worker over how I could keep myself safe during this insidious time of year, there was the thirteen heart-felt tips I prepared for myself (and readers of my blog) and all manner of coping mechanisms in play in case things became bad. Sure, there were missteps, but all in all I was immensely proud of how I’d handled myself over the Christmas period…until three days ago, when everything completely fell apart and I resorted to my alcohol bingeing, self-harming ways.

I’m not sure what caused it exactly. Perhaps it was the disappointment I felt over the Doctor Who Christmas special (Jenna Coleman, a few great scenes and that surprise appearance aside), perhaps it was the fact I completely exhausted myself over the Christmas/Boxing Day double-header, perhaps it was a layover from the emotionally charged weekend before Christmas, perhaps it’s because today is the anniversary of a major event in my life, or perhaps it’s just something that’s going to happen every year at this time and I’m just going to have to get used to it.

Today, I went outside for the first time since Friday and all I saw as I meandered as quickly as possible around the supermarket were families, groups of friends, couples, mothers and children. In fact in the forty-five minutes I was outside the house I was the only single person around. It was beyond depressing. After days of being reminded left, right and center about how wonderful it is to spend this time of year with people you care about, having my isolation thrust in my face was all too much for me today. I ended up ditching my shopping basket and high-tailing it home with my tail between my legs before the panic attack fully took hold.

The frustrating thing is I knew that this was going to happen. That’s why I spent so long preparing for it. That’s why I borrowed a bag full of animated classics from my support worker, that’s why I checked out some distracting TV shows from the library, that’s why I stocked up on comfort food and endeavoured to save Skyloft from catastrophe. I threw so much into surviving this Christmas period without resorting to self-harm and alcohol that now I’ve indulged in both, I’m beyond angry and disappointed with myself.

For three days now I’ve been in a hyper-vigilent state. I’ve been unable to eat, unable to relax, unable to focus for extended periods, unable to concentrate, unable to think on anything other than my loneliness and the fact I let myself (and everyone else) down. And that, whether it’s true or nor, I feel that I’m (more or less) in exactly the same position I was this time last year.

I know I need to do something different tomorrow. I know I need to break the cycle of self-blame and depression I’ve slipped into. I know I need to eat something. I know I need to do something other than wallow in my own loneliness. I just don’t know what. So I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what the new dawn brings.

I’ve listened to this song many times over the last few days.
A powerful song from a superb musical talent.


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And so it begins…

*Trigger Warning*
~ Please note that this post may be triggering to some ~

Christmas

Every year it’s the same. The shops will begin filling with sparkly tinsel, oversized boxes of chocolate and all manner of snowmen, Santa Claus and reindeer covered merchandise. Turkeys will take over the frozen food department and ridiculously large legs of ham will fill the deli. The in-store music will begin playing carols, Slade and Cliff Richard, whilst everyone in them will run around like headless chickens preparing for a season of festivities with their friends, family and loved ones.

Every year it’s the same. A few weeks before Christmas I will begin isolating myself; I will begin contemplating self-harm; and I will begin questioning whether this holiday season will be my last. For whilst everyone else is relishing the opportunity of celebrating another year gone with those they hold most dear, I am dreading another holiday season with no-one to care for but myself.

This weekend marked the beginning of this year’s pain.

On Saturday I rose from a fitful slumber at 4pm, staggering to my couch for a good cry before self-harming with a kitchen knife to help me through the evening. My mind was swamped with daymares of snow covered scenes, scary Santas and another holiday season with no-one to hold. I remained on the couch until 10pm before retreating to the safety of my bedroom for another crying session and another night’s fitful sleep.

Sunday was much the same. Even though I rose earlier, at 12pm, the invasive thoughts of self-harm and suicide were with me from the moment I woke. I cleaned the apartment, sat in sadness on the couch and convinced myself that I needed to venture into the outside world. A trip that filled me with sorrow as people maniacally rushed around the shopping center stocking up for C-Day, a mere three weeks away. By the time I returned home I was back in full-on isolation mode. I couldn’t have the radio on because of the wall-to-wall Christmas music. I couldn’t surf the net without being inundated with pop-up Christmas ads and festive season themed news reports. All I could do was spend another evening staring at the television whilst self-harming with creams and the occasional blissful knife.

All I could do was dread another season of pain, another season of isolation and another season wishing that people would understand that, for some, the holiday season is not about love, happiness and togetherness. It is about pain, despair and loneliness.

With three weeks to go I realise I need to concoct a safety plan, I realise I need ways to counteract the oncoming storm and I realise that no matter how hard I’ve worked this year, the triggering effect of Christmas is still as strong, overwhelming and powerful as ever.

Note: this post was freewritten between 11:10am and 11:30am on Monday, 8th December 2013. Please excuse any spelling and/or grammatical errors that may appear within as they are all part and parcel of this style of writing.


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Days 27 & 28: Take the good with the bad

Because I’ve been a little behind with the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge, I have decided not to think about the answers to days 27 and 28 all that much. Instead, I’ve decided to freewrite my answers in one combined post.

The prompts ask: explain a good day and explain a bad day, so I shall begin with the bad…

Bad Day

Bad day

The first thought that comes to mind when thinking about a ‘bad day’ is a complicated one. A bad day for me is a mess of complex emotions, crippling pain and (more often than not) tears.

I’ve become all too familiar with these days over the last five years. Hours upon days upon weeks of my life lost to the torment of negative emotion, obsessive self-hate and punishing self-harm.

On a bad day I struggle to get out of bed. Words lose their meaning and appear in random patterns on the page. I can’t think or speak. I can’t dream or believe. I become lost to the demon that lurks within me and obey her every whim, desire and torturous demand.

On a bad day I become someone I don’t recognise. My soul is stripped of the passions and pleasures that usually resonate from within. I lose interest in everything that normally brings me joy and spend my hours staring into space, wondering about the sweet release of death.

On a bad day I’m not Addy. I’m no-one. Just a shapeless object taking up space.

Yes. A bad day is a day that sees me disappear.

Good Day

Good day

The first thought that comes to mind when thinking about a ‘good day’ is a simple one. A good day for me is a day that sees me smile, even if it is just one momentary smirk of the lips.

Smiling is something I know I don’t do enough of. It’s not that I don’t like smiling; it’s just that after the half decade I’ve had there is very little left to smile about.

People tell me I should just “fake it ‘til I make it”, but in my opinion faking a smile is tantamount to faking an orgasm. Why pretend to feel something that you’re not? It just lessens the pleasure of when it happens naturally.

So when it does happen naturally, it’s something I became acutely aware of. I know why I’m smiling; it reverberates through my body from the tips of my hair to the nails of my toes, I celebrate it, relish it, bathe in it. I cherish every moment of those smiles and whatever has prompted my lips to curl and soul to sing in the first place.

Yes. A good day is a day that sees me smile.

 


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Days 12 & 13: Diagnostic criteria (and all that jazz!)

bipolar

Bipolar | Unknown Artist (found on Google Images)

For the last few days – ever since Friday’s anniversary of 2007’s major suicide attempt – I have been feeling very flat and out of sorts. Focusing has been incredibly difficult and feeling anything other than ‘over it’ has been just as difficult to attain.

In fact, meh seems to have been my mood of choice today, with barely a millisecond spent outside of this most horrible and despicable of emotions. However, I’m fighting the urge to curl up in a ball and cry so as to answer a couple of the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge, which has been getting away from me of late.

The prompts I’m answering in this post are days 12 and 13, which ask:

  • Day 12: What do you think about your diagnosis in general? 
  • Day 13: If you know the criteria of your illness(es) which ones do you think you meet?

The Diagnostic Criteria for Bipolar (Type I)

Diagnostic criteria for Bipolar I Disorder, Most Recent Episode Unspecified

A. Criteria, except for duration, are currently (or most recently) met for a Manic, a Hypomanic, a Mixed, or a Major Depressive Episode.

B. There has previously been at least one Manic Episode or Mixed Episode.

C. The mood symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. The mood episodes in Criteria A and B are not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder and are not superimposed on Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, or Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

E. The mood symptoms in Criteria A and B are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

There are several different variations of the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar Affective Disorder, which depend on whether the most recent mood has been manic, hypomanic, depressed, etc, but I have chosen to reproduce the criteria for ‘most recent episode unspecified’ as it was ultimately the one that was used to diagnose me.

My original diagnosis occurred in late 2007, several months after a manic episode, shortly after a depressive episode and in the midst of a hypomanic episode – this meant that A and B were covered. Given I was homeless and socially isolated at the time, criteria C was covered, especially considering I was barely functioning on a day-to-day basis whilst E –given my relative dislike of prohibited substances and alcohol – was easily checked.

The only item that was really debated at the time (and for years afterwards) was D, as I also showed signs and symptoms for a variety of other illnesses, including Schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Today, my most common symptoms are depressive and hypomanic periods. In fact, to my knowledge (and I’m pretty sure I’d be aware after if not during the fact) I haven’t experienced full on mania since 2008, although given the months of lost time in 2010, there is a debate amongst my support workers that I was manic during this time.

How do I feel about my diagnosis?

My major issue has been the constant ‘tweaking’ of my diagnosis, and with it, the support I received. Over the years I have been un-diagnosed, mis-diagnosed and re-diagnosed so many times that I’m surprised I’m still alive.

From the immediate cessation of my medication (lithium, which I’d been taking for a few months), being told I wasn’t bipolar but unspecified personality disorder (after just seven minutes in the psychiatrists company) to being told that there was nothing wrong with me mere hours after a suicide attempt.

All treatment like this did was further alienate me not only from society but the mental health system and myself. It made it impossible for me to trust psychiatrists and receive the treatment I knew I needed to manage my condition. In fact, it has been nearly two years since I allowed myself to be part of the mental health system, purely as a result of the shocking treatment I’ve received from psychiatrists over the years.

Since excluding myself in this manner, I have found peace with the Bipolar diagnosis. I am properly medicated (despite my dislike of medication) and have numerous coping strategies in place for the occasional violent mood swing that occurs.

Whether as a result of removing myself from the psychiatric profession or just something that has happened organically, I realise now that I’m more than my label. I know that it makes me unique, because no-one’s mental illness presents in exactly the same fashion, and that this label will never be all that I am.

I am so much more.

Wow, dragging that post out of me was hard work! Hopefully this mood will not last much longer…but until then, I’m gonna go curl up in that ball I mentioned! Have a wonderful day/night everyone! :)