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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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!


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Blog for Mental Health 2013

Since falling into the depressive episode that sapped every last ounce of inspiration, energy and hope from my soul, I’ve had some catching up to do.

Although I have yet to break back into the world of Twitter (what? it’s scary!), get myself up to date with some of the blogs I follow (I’m working as hard as I can!) and my horrific record of email replying earned me a good talking to (and then some!) in my dreams last night, I’ve been fortunate to regain some focus in regards to my little blog.

Because of this, I can finally (and officially) take the pledge to Blog for Mental Health in 2013, an initiative of the brilliant Canvas of the Minds.

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1.) Take the pledge by copying and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2013″.

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 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.”

2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.

It was the inspirational Anthony on bipolarbeach who honored me with his pledge. If you’re not familiar with it, Anthony’s blog is a beautifully written account of living with bipolar disorder.

3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.

Given my propensity toward rambling I’ve never been good at writing short biographies, but I will give it a whirl:

Mental illness has been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. When my sister was twelve she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and OCD, shortly after, both my mother and I fell into depression. At the age of thirteen I began self-harming, hearing voices and showing symptoms of social anxiety disorder. By my late teens I had begun to show symptoms of bipolar affective disorder. However, these conditions went undiagnosed until the early 2000s when a doctor started me on a course of antidepressants to assist what he believed was a major depressive disorder.

Although I continued being symptomatic for several years, my life was relatively stable until I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship, a relationship that has since been described as “the final nail in your coffin” (by a psychologist in 2009) and seen by many to be the major contributing factor for the breakdown that decimated my life in 2007.

Later that year I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, a diagnosis that was re-confirmed in early 2008, and I began taking a combination of antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. Around the same time I was also told I was suffering from PTSD as a result of the abusive relationship and a serious sexual assault that had occurred in mid 2007.

Since then my life of (ex) homelessness and social isolation has been underscored by my daily war with bipolar, social anxiety and PTSD. A war that I am currently losing but continuing to fight as best I can.

After over a decade of keeping my mental illness as hidden from the world as possible, I decided to begin writing a blog revealing my battles to the world. For over five years I’ve shared my story as honestly as I can, hoping beyond hope that people who read it will realise they are not alone, that there is hope and that mental illness is not something to be afraid or ashamed of.

The only way to eliminate the stigma of mental illness is to speak out. To raise awareness of mental health and the discrimination that those living with it have to face on a daily basis. We are not our illnesses and our illnesses are not us. We are so very much more.


4.) Pledge five others, and be sure to let them know!

Given I am late in making this pledge, almost every mental health blog I follow has already taken it, so it seems silly for me to suggest they do so when they have already done so.

However, it would be remiss of me not to mention a few of my favourite mental health blogs:

Please don’t feel obligated to do anything other than give yourself a big hug for being on this list. I name you purely because you are all an inspiration to me. Thank you :)


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Very Inspiring Blogger Award? Me? Wow!

For some reason (that I’m still trying to work out) I’ve been awarded a ‘Very Inspiring Blogger‘ award! :-)

Although I consider my blog many things ‘inspiring’ is rarely one of them, so it feels rather wonderful, humbling (and very smile inducing) that Glorious Mettle considers me worthy of receiving such an auspicious award. Personally, I think she’s been smoking something naughty!

But thank you, truly :-)

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As with all blog awards, it comes with a few rules…

1. Display the award logo on your blog…and very beautiful it is too :-)

2. Link back to the person who nominated you: You can check out Glorious Mettle’s (now officially) very inspiring blog, here :-)

3. State 7 things about yourself:

In keeping with the theme I’ve decided to share seven moments when I felt truly inspired:

  1. July 1990: After visiting Loch Ness for the very first time with my family, I used this awesome day of Nessie exploration to write a short story about a family who travel to Loch Ness only to stumble through a gateway into a mythical realm where they must band together to save a family of Loch Ness Monsters from an evil hunter desperate to eradicate these creatures from existence.
  2. June 1993: After having my heart stolen by the school’s most beautiful girl, I wrote her into a really bad adventure novel that was part House of Wax, part Goonies, part Neighbours and part Indiana Jones. Fortunately, the object of my inspiration never read it!
  3. September 1997: Personally, I think it’s impossible for anyone to visit Glenfinnan and not be overwhelmed with the inspiring landscape on show. The first time I visited this most majestic of places is branded to my soul for the rest of eternity.
  4. August 1998: The best monologue I ever wrote came in a long-lost screenplay called One Wild Night, an obscure John Hughes/Quentin Tarantino hybrid set in a video store. The monologue in question was inspired by a fellow (female) co-worker who I was unable to talk to courtesy of my social anxiety.
  5. February 2000: The first time I ever visited Berneray; the most inspiring place I’ve ever been to in my life!
  6. November 2005: Whilst vacationing in Port Fairy I began work on a dramedy screenplay based in a backpacker hostel. It was inspired by: my actual job as a backpacker hostel manager, the hostel I worked at and the amazing assortmant of staff who were working there at the time. For over a year, it was my dream to make this screenplay into a film as I was always rather proud of it.
  7. April 2008: Lying next to Sammi one night in Glasgow filled me with the same intoxicating, inspiring bliss that I’d felt upon visiting Glenfinnan and Berneray all those years earlier. One of only a few people who have ever provided me with such inspiration.

    Should you wish to read 100 more things about me, you can do so here :-)

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.

In no particular order:

Thank you all for being such wonderful inspiration :-)

 


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Daily Prompt: Morton’s Fork

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is:

If you had to choose between being able to write a blog (but not read others’) and being able to read others’ blogs (but not write your own), which would you pick? Why?

To blog or not to blog

Given I’ve been thinking recently of ending the blog, this isn’t a difficult choice at all; I would read other blogs and not write my own.

Being someone who often questions why he continues to write a blog, I’d much rather throw myself into the worlds of others than continue sharing my own. This way, I could keep up to date with news, current affairs, opinions, the occasional naughty photograph and the lives of others without having to worry about creating interesting post ideas, the continual embarrassment of sharing my existence so publicly and whether or not anyone is enjoying what I’ve written.

Granted, for a long time this blog has been my only therapy. It has been there when no-one else was, helped me through difficult and painful experiences and provided solace when all felt lost. But if I didn’t write this blog I could still achieve this release through journals without having to bother anyone with my meandering, soul-searching ramblings.

There is also Twitter, which although far from a safe place, could offer the chance to micro-blog my pain and continue my quest to raise awareness of the things society prefers not to talk about.

So all up, this choice is simple, but the choice over whether I should end the blog in reality is a lot more complicated.

Until I’ve decided, I’ll just continue with the best of both worlds.

 


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Too Much Information!

Too Much Information

Given all my underwear is currently being washed, this is a true statement :p

Today’s Mental Health Month prompt – how do you decide what to share on your blog? – is an exceedingly easy one to answer:

I don’t. I just write whatever the hell I’m thinking. People’s reactions be damned!

One of my biggest frustrations with today’s world is the incessant game playing that everyone feels the need to undertake on an hourly basis. We share this side of our personality with one person, lie our asses off to the next person, pretend to be someone completely different to some random stranger and feel the need to hide vast quantities of personal information from our friends and family in fear of being judged and/or laughed at.

I know this because I used to be that guy. The person I was when around Louise was different to the person I was when around my friends, the person I was when around my friends was a completely different person to who I was around my colleagues. Whereas the person I was when around complete strangers or women I was attracted to was an absolute anxiety plagued, panic attack having arsehat!

I hid my mental health from everyone.

Although Louise knew I suffered from depression (as I was taking antidepressants for a time) and had freely admitted I’d once attempted suicide (even to the point of taking her to Glenfinnan to show her where I nearly died; the only person I’ve ever taken there) she wasn’t aware of my self-harm or hallucinations as I did everything I could to hide them from her in fear of being dumped for being an insane lunatic.

The same went for my parents. They knew I suffered from depression (as I was taking antidepressants for a time) they weren’t aware of the depth of my problems until I began writing the blog in late 2007. In fact, I’ve written previously of the phone call I made to let them know what I was doing so they weren’t going in cold.

As for my friends, there was no chance in hell I was ever going to share with them the mental health problems I was dealing with. Not only would it have been completely humiliating, embarrassing and shameful to admit my weaknesses and insanity, admitting to self-harm, multiple suicide attempts, hallucinations, mood swings and delusional psychosis to such amazing human beings would have been the equivalent of social suicide.

It didn’t occur to me until after I’d lost everything (and everyone) just how stupid this was. Louise worked within the mental health industry and could (had she not immediately dumped me) organised me to get some professional assistance. My family, too, had a lengthy history within the mental health community (courtesy of my sister’s illness and their establishment of a local charity for the carers of people with mental illness) so they would hardly have shunned me. Whilst my friends…well, that’s slightly different, because after my breakdown I was unable to keep my problems hidden from them.

The self-harm came out, leading to one person reacting with: “I can’t have anything to do with anyone who self-harms,”

The depression was out of control, leading to several people reacting with: “I can’t have anything to do with you until you’ve cheered up,”

The suicidal ideation became known, leading to me wondering why no-one offered to help me find professional support.

Whilst the hallucinations stayed hidden because (a) that’s the way they wanted it and (b) the whole social suicide issue!

Despite the reaction my friends had given, when I began writing the blog after several months of loneliness and isolation I made a conscious decision to write about  my mental health in as much detail as I could. A warts and all account of Addy’s life, so to speak.

Nothing was too much.

Nothing was too detailed.

Nothing was too personal.

Everything was fair game…aside from a deliberate series of exceptions that, until now, I’ve never shared on this blog:

Things you (probably) won’t see on All that I am, all that I ever was…

1. Detailed descriptions of my suicide attempts…
Whenever I have written of my suicide attempts I’ve done so by talking about how I remember feeling, the things that came up that either prevented or nearly prevented the attempt, how I felt afterwards and a miniscule amount of information about what I did. This information usually amounting to I tried to hang myself or I took a handful of pills with the occasional snippet more if the post deserved.

The reason I decided not to write detailed descriptions of how I attempted to take my own life is because I don’t want to encourage suicide. Although I vehemently disagree with the Australian media‘s silent credence of never talking about suicide and instead writing pathetically obvious idioms to disguise what actually happened (‘no suspicious circumstances’), I do agree that precisely described methods of suicide is a no-go area as it would give vulnerable people ideas as to how they could end their life.

2. Photographs of my self-harm and/or self-harm scars…
Firstly, although my scars remind me of time, place and emotion, I am on the whole not proud of them in any way, shape or form. I find them ugly and repulsive and cannot stand looking at them myself, let alone putting them out there for the whole world to see.

I also find the pro-self-harm movement disgusting and do not wish to encourage others to do to themselves what I have done. So although I have written of (some) of the things I’ve done to myself, I will never share the results with the world visually for similar reasons to the above.

3. Lies
This was the first thing I decided on. After years of hiding, lying and showing different people, different sides of my personality, I was tired. I had lost everything and everyone I had ever cared about, so all of that work to protect myself from possible harm and abuse had all been for nothing. Thus, my blog was to be a truthful account of my life; the happiness, the pain, the torment, the everything!

4. Certain sexual predilections
In 2007, however much I wanted to, I decided not to write about certain sexual predilections. I didn’t want people finding out about this side of my personality because of the trauma Louise and Kathy had instilled in me following the abuse they’d hurled. I was ashamed of myself, embarrassed and genuinely believed that I was/am disgusting, wrong, repulsive, grotesque and pure evil

Admitting to mental health is one thing; admitting to that is something else entirely!

However, in recent months, I’ve reneged on this. With the abuse I received still eating away at me I realised the only way I could combat it (suggested years ago by Sammi) was to write about it. To delve into all those hidden nooks and crannies of my mind as I had done with self-harm, suicide, hallucinations and all the other things I’m scared to have people know about me.

5. Abuse
I will freely talk about the abuse I received and the damage that it wreaked on my life. But I will not abuse anyone on this blog, because I am all too aware of the pain, trauma and damage that someone can suffer when they’re the recipient of abuse.

6. My physical health…
Back in the day I decided not to write about my physical health because I wanted the focus to be on mental health and the stigma that exists around it, so I deliberately never went into detail surrounding the myriad of physical health problems I’ve had throughout my life (some rather serious!). Thus, aside from a few references and name-dropping, I’ve never written posts about how these issues affected and/or continue to effect my life.

But as physical health is so closely linked to mental health, I realise now that this was a mistake, and one I hope to rectify in the future.

7. Real names…
Now, I’ve always been honest about this from the very beginning. Aside from my name (which is real) every name, bar two, that appears on this blog is a pseudonym. The reason for this is simple. It’s all well and good me taking to the internet to embarrass myself and destroy any chance of ever being employed, educated or in friendships and relationships again (damn discrimination!) but to publicly name the people I love and connect them to my insane life would be grotesquely unfair on them and all the wonderful things they deserve.

The simple truth is, lying to my partners, friends and family destroyed my life. If I’d been honest about the problems I was having there is a good chance someone could have helped me access the care, support and treatment I needed to stabilise long before homelessness and insanity claimed my soul. However, there is also a very good chance my fears of social suicide would have eventuated and I would have ended up in the exact same place I am now.

But, I have never regretted the too much information critique I often receive from readers of my blog. I would much rather try to draw people into the chaos and mess of mental health and homelessness than sugarcoat these illnesses so people can continue pretending they’re not as serious as they are.

This is just how I want to write; to challenge people, to confront people, to (possibly) change people in some small, positive way.

 


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Be the change you wish to see in the world

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is:
What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

When I started writing this blog, my goal was simple:

I am not my mental illness(es); I am so much more than that.

For years, anyone who was aware of my mental health problems saw only the illnesses. Whether it was the “unhappy, negative depressed man”, the “self-hating self-harmer”, the “selfish suicidal idiot” or the “freak with bipolar”, my illnesses were all I was judged on.

I was lazy, selfish, self-absorbed, uncaring, uncompassionate and a waste of space. I was useless, worthless, weak and someone who would never amount to anything. I was suffering from ‘a figment of my imagination’. I was a terrible friend. I was a cancer that sucked the life out of everyone I met. I was better off dead.

I was someone who didn’t understand what hard work was and I would never – ever – amount to anything as a result.

Since then I’ve endured more pain than any human being should in their lifetime. And yet through all the pain, all the sadness, trauma, tragedy and unhappiness I am still standing, I am still breathing, I am still laughing and I am still doing all I can to further my life, inspire others and become the change I want to see in the world…

…and yet I am still judged only on the labels that people have attached to me. Labels that are no longer based solely on mental health, but the added stigmas of homelessness, social isolation, disability, physical health, lack of education and unemployment.

More than anything else in the world I abhor discrimination. I hate (with an intense and fiery passion) anyone who judges someone they do not know based on their health, appearance, colour, creed, religion, nationality, sexual proclivity or any aspect of their personality.

None of this affects who are we and no person on this planet is better than anyone else. No-one has the right to judge others, let alone discriminate against them based on things that most have no real-world experience of.

That’s what I want to change in this world.

I want to shatter the perceptions people have of homelessness, mental health, social isolation and poverty. I want to spank the stigma and start making society understand that people living with these issues are not mere statistics, but unique, beautiful human beings with unique, beautiful hopes and dreams.

And the only way I can do this is to share myself completely the only way I know how.

My writing is raw. I don’t pull any punches, I don’t sugar coat my experiences nor use airy-fairy language.

My writing is challenging. I want people to think after reading my posts. I want them to ask questions over how they see the world.

My writing is personal. It would never win accolades from professional writers, but it’s true to who I am.

My writing is brutally honest, more so than many I’ve come across. Why? Because I’m tired of the lies and masks we’re forced to wear to be accepted.

Writing the way I do is exhausting, emotional, upsetting and at times traumatic. And if I feel the way I do after writing some posts, I can only imagine how it affects other people.

But if I can challenge just one person’s view of the world they live in; if I can alter just one person’s perception that people are more than their illness(es) and circumstances; if I can stop just one person discriminating against another; then I have succeeded in what I wanted to do.

Even if that one person is myself.