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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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 29

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Do you follow any self-harm blogs?

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I have to be honest, I don’t follow any blogs that are specifically about self harm. The reason for this is simple: I find discussion of self harm triggering, and were I to read blogs about self harm, my personal safety may be put in jeopardy. In the past I have visited numerous blogs and websites about self harm, but continuously found myself up against highly triggering images of other peoples self harm. I have never liked looking at pictures of self harm, because it makes me want to replicate the damage on my own flesh, so such content put me off visiting these sites on a repeated basis.

Indeed, I have reached a point in my ‘recovery’ where things are unlikely to improve unless I make steps towards positive change.  I need to make adjustments.  I need to have the courage to try new things.  I need to let things happen.  That is why I have decided there is no point hanging around until February, when I will most likely just remain embroiled in this current cycle of SH and over-medication.
~ from Is There Ever A Right Time, by Imillnotcrazy

However, I do read blogs that deal with the subject of self harm. I can handle these blogs far better than I can those that are specifically about self harm. Blogs such as Marci, Mental Health and More, Imillnotcrazy and My Battle With Mental Illness all deal with self harm in a respectful way. They issue trigger warnings in case the content could prove upsetting, they discuss their battles with self harm openly and honestly, and care deeply about how the subject affects not only them, but their audience. In fact, I couldn’t recommend these blogs enough. They are all exquisitely beautiful.


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Mental Health Blog Award

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The Mental Health Blog Award aims to recognise those who promote Mental Health Awareness in the blogosphere. So I am greatly honored to have received this award from not one but two fellow bloggers in the last few weeks. So a huge thank you to Charlotte at Panic Disordered and Aimee at Borderline Functional for nominating me for this award. It means that not only do people read my inane ramblings about mental health but may actually take something positive away from my scribblings! This makes me more than happy! :)

The rules are simple. Nominate five bloggers who promote Mental Health awareness to receive this award and give reasons for your choices.

My Nominees are:

1. Bipolar Maniac
2. Many of Us
3. Blahpolar Diaries
4. Imillnotcrazy
5. The Elephant in the Room

And my reasons for choosing these blogs is simple. Each of the authors care passionately about mental health issues, and write about the topic with verve, panache and passion. Their stories are unique, but they are all equally inspirational and their honesty contagious. They are blogs that should be read and enjoyed by all. So a huge thank you to each of these marvelous bloggers for shining light onto this difficult, most important, of topics.

 


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 23. Why do you blog about bipolar?

Day 23: Why do you blog about bipolar?

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Hopefully enabling other people who are battling depression to realise they are not alone.
Hopefully enabling people who are prejudiced against mental illness to gain a better understanding of what it is, and the damage it can do.
Hopefully enabling me to have a better understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of.

I wrote the above words on the 21 October 2007, the day I began my blogging journey. Back then I was naive to the world of blogging and trod wearily through the maelstrom of syllables, words and sentences that joined together to form the blogosphere. It was the start of a new endeavor; a new chapter in my life that saw me journal for the world to see, rather than hiding it away in the A5 notebooks I’d written in previously. I was opening myself up, sharing things that I had never before shared, and it was difficult, painful at first, but endowed me with a sense of freedom that I never thought possible. I was writing about depression. About self-harm, suicide and, later, bipolar. I was talking about my innermost demons, all the chaos that I had lived with for nearly fifteen years was being shared for the world to read, and comment on, should they so desire. It was an enlightening experience and soon it became my world. The blogging bug had well and truly infected me with its venom.

My reasons for starting to blog were outlined in a short introduction post, and eight years later those reasons haven’t changed. I continue to blog so that other people who are suffering from mental illness realise they’re not alone. I continue to blog so that people who are prejudiced against mental illness gain a better understanding of what it is, and the damage it can do. And I continue to blog so that I can gain a better understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of.

I blog because it enables me to do things that I love (write, help other people, share my story) from the safety and security of my own living room.

I blog because if I didn’t, my life would be hollow, empty of point, purpose or direction.

I blog because someone has to.

I blog because I love it. And that’s the only reason I need.


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Blog for Mental Health 2014

bfmh14“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

When I began writing this blog in 2007 I had no idea that I’d still be writing it seven years later. Truth be told, with everything that was happening to me at the time, I genuinely thought I’d be dead by now! But I’m not. I’m still here, still wandering the seemingly endless road to recovery and still rambling on about all things mental health related.

Sometimes I do question why I continue to write this blog. Back in those early days there were very few mental health blogs, and hardly any of them were written by people living with mental illness. Today there are hundreds upon thousands upon millions of people making their voices heard; all of whom with far more clarity and panache than I’m able to muster.

But whenever I begin questioning my little corner of the internet, I remind myself of the reasons why I began blogging in the first place; so that other people experiencing mental health problems would not feel alone, so that those prejudiced against mental illness could learn about what people have to live with and so that I could explore myself through the therapeutic act of writing. All causes I am still committed to.

This is a blog about mental illness, but it’s also a blog about me; a valiant (if futile) attempt to tell the world that no one thing defines who a person is, that they are so much more than their mental illness, homelessness, sexual predilection or social standing.

So as a new year dawns, I once again commit to write about all the topics that the mainstream media have labelled ‘taboo’; self-harm, suicide, poverty, homelessness, discrimination, abuse, sexual predilections and mental health in general. I once again vow to be as honest and open as it’s possible to be. And I once again pledge to give stigma the spanking it so richly deserves.

~ You can learn more about (and take) the Blog for Mental Health pledge here ~


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2013: My year in blogging

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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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The Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge

We all know the song, especially the undeniably contagious “Five gold rings!” line, but how many people know that the Twelve Days of Christmas are also known as Christmastide (or Twelvetide) and begin on Christmas Day, not (as the commercial calendar would have you believe) on the 14th December?

The Twelve Days of Christmas are celebrated in different fashions the world over. In Eastern Christianity, the Great Feast of Theophany (Epiphany) on 6 January is considered a higher-ranked feast than the Nativity (Christmas), and commemorates the Baptism of Jesus rather than the arrival of the Magi. Whereas in Western Christianity, each day following Christmas Day is a feast in memory of a Saint or event associated with the Christmas season.

In contemporary times, many in the UK still celebrate aspects of the Twelve Days of Christmas, whereas in the US, the traditions have been largely forgotten, replaced by more secular traditions and the ever-popular New Years Eve celebrations.

To celebrate this auspicious time, I’ve decided to begin something which I hope will become an annual tradition; the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge! A challenge that will see reflections on the year just gone and anticipations of the (no doubt) glorious year ahead!

This year marks the inaugural appearance of this challenge and it will commence on the 25th December. As with all blog challenges, it would be magnificent if other people played along (unless you’re all too busy munching on mince pies) so feel free to do so at your leisure! :)

The prompts, should you wish to play along, are outlined below and can be interpreted however you wish:

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The Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge

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Day 01 – 25th December – 1 Thing you got for Christmas
It might be something you got this year, last year or perhaps a favourite present from Christmases past!

Day 02 – 26th December – 2 Foods you can’t get through Christmas without
Are you a stickler for a traditional roast or do you favour a more eclectic array of food?

Day 03 – 27th December – 3 Favourite songs of 2013
I don’t know the actual figures but surely there have been tens of thousands of songs released over the last twelve months…so picking a mere three of them should be pretty simple. Or at least you’d think it would be!

Day 04 – 28th December – 4 Favourite movies (or TV Shows) of 2013
Are you a Game of Thrones fiend or an Iron Man aficionado? Now’s the time to share your pick of the entertainment industry’s output of the last twelve months.

Day 05 – 29th December – 5 Life lessons you learnt in 2013
Whether we realise it or not, we all learn something new every single day of our lives. So what have you learned in the year just gone?

Day 06 – 30th December – 6 Regrets from 2013
Today’s prompt is not about looking back with negativity, it is about identifying where we went wrong so we can take a more positive route in the future.

Day 07 – 31st December – 7 Wonderful things that happened in 2013
How many awesome things happened to you during the last twelve months? Surely picking just seven should be a piece of cake! :)

Day 08 – 1st January – 8 Minutes to share your opinion on New Year’s Resolutions
Some people swear by New Year’s Resolutions, others think they’re somewhat pointless…you have eight minutes of writing to outline what your thoughts on this annual tradition may be. And if you do make resolutions, why not share them?

Day 09 – 2nd January – 9 Places you’d like to visit in 2014
Take a moment in this hectic period to forget about your credit card statement and financial situation. If money were no object – where would you like to visit during the oncoming year?

Day 10 – 3rd January – 10 Books you’d like to read in 2014
Maybe you’re itching to read an upcoming release or catch up on some literary classics, whatever books you’re looking forward to reading, why not share them so others can add them to their list of books to read next year?

Day 11 – 4th January – 11 Memories from Christmastide throughout your life
This time of year is often seen as one of reflection, so why not spend a few moments reflecting on your life so far and share eleven memories that occurred at some point during the various twelve days of Christmas you’ve lived through so far.

Day 12 – 5th January – 12 Goals for 2014
And for the finale, the biggie: what do you want to achieve throughout the year ahead?

-♦-

So there we have it, twelve (relatively) simple prompts to keep yourself (and others) entertained throughout the Christmas and New Year period. If you do decide to play along, please remember to link up via the comments field so I can keep people abreast of all the magnificent answers that are floating around in cyber-space.

I for one am looking forward to embarking on this challenge…probably more so than the big day itself!


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Imaginary Menagerie: A New Blog

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Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that my voices have taken over this blog. Almost every other post has, in some way, related to my journey with hearing voices. Although I am not apologizing for this – as understanding and building a better relationship with my voices is an integral feature on my road to recovery – it’s become apparent that I (and they) have a lot to share on this topic.

As such, Audrey suggested beginning a sister blog that focuses purely on my people and my relationships with them. A place where I can talk about them without worrying whether or not I’m boring, upsetting, annoying or generally pissing off my regular audience. After I mulled over the idea for a while I realised it was actually rather a good one and set about setting it up.

One of the biggest problems since beginning the HVSG and blogging about my people is the uneasiness with which they’ve approached the whole venture. Although Meadhbh has come around and Audrey is well on the way to doing so, Vanessa and Shay are staunchly opposed to anything to do with sharing their existence with the world. However, in the process of discussing the new blog, Vanessa did ease her opposition a little when she asked if she could write the occasional blog post. This, in turn, set both Meadhbh and Audrey asking the same thing.

So, in addition to my new blog being about my journey with my voices, it will also be a place where my voices can speak freely if/when they choose to.

After many hours of heated debate over themes and blog titles (Vanessa threw a fit when Audrey and Meadhbh vetoed her suggestion of calling it “The Misses of Addylon”) we finally reached an agreement on everything and the blog is now live. At present it contains only reposts of posts that have already been featured on this blog (such as my HVSG posts and the Victim to Victor series) but over the coming weeks all hearing voices related posts will be posted on Imaginary Menagerie instead of on this blog.

So, feel free to pay Imaginary Menagerie: My Journey with Hearing Voices a visit, you’re most welcome! :)

Note: The three avatars depicted in the Imaginary Menagerie header (above) are visual representations of (from left to right) Vanessa, Audrey and Meadhbh. They were designed, with my help, by the women themselves. Hence why Meadhbh has a whip, for she feels she might need one to keep any unruly readers in line!