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…


Reflections on being homeless, Part 6

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

I have yet to come to terms with the last two and a half years and in spite of my current accommodation, still feel homeless to this day.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, I skim through a barely remembered period of breakdown and talk about something that heals me…

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

A New Life (Days 440 – 446)

In October 2010 I caught a train from Southern Cross Station to Sydney, via Albury. It was to be the start of my new life. A new beginning after four hundred and twenty-nine days of pain and misery on the streets (and boarding houses) of Melbourne. My months working to rebuild my confidence and self-belief via Twitter and social networking were paying off.

I can clearly remember getting off the train in the early hours of the morning and relishing in big gulps of Sydney air. After I’d finished choking on the pollution from the heavy rush hour traffic I slung my bag on my back and walked from Central Station to the only part of Sydney I love in order to commemorate my ‘new life’ with a photograph:

Seven days into my new life, I took another photo:

I was back in Melbourne, back in my park, back under my tree, sharing my nights with possums and my mornings with the daily keep-fit brigade. All I can remember from that period is sitting on a train as it drew into Melbourne thinking ‘what the fuck just happened’ with tears streaming my face and a renewed hatred of social networks.

As I lay trembling in the park – a physical reaction from the stress and pain I was feeling – it dawned on me that Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other online shenanigans are for people who already have social networks, they are for beautiful, talented, loved human beings.

They are not for socially phobic, mentally ill, lonely, ugly, grotesque people like myself.

It was time to end this part of my life, once and for all.

Breaking Down (Days 447 – 681)

On Friday 29th October 2010, I logged off of Facebook and Twitter for the last time. I erased my blogging presence and effectively went dark in both the online and real world; I’d had enough.

For the first time since my assault at the boarding house I returned to a homeless organisation I had visited several times and, for the first time, was offered emergency motel accommodation and, for the first time, given a $10 food voucher. It is highly likely that the only reason I received these two things was because I spent the entire time physically shaking and crying uncontrollably.

After leaving with directions I slowly made my way to the motel they had organised for me. I had never been to the suburb this motel was located in, besides fleetingly drifting through it whilst cycling with my ex-girlfriend, but as the following months were to play out, it would become a suburb I’d get to know well.

By the time I arrived at the Coburg Motor Inn I was exhausted, emotionally drained and in dire need of some tender loving care. But first, I needed food – and alcohol. The voucher I had been granted could only be used in Safeway/Woolworth’s stores and – after a conversation with the motel operator – was informed the closest supermarket was in Preston, some several kilometres away. With blisters on my feet and a desire to drink myself to death, I hiked the distance and purchased a few packets of noodles, some coca-cola, bread and processed cheese slices, before returning to the motel via Cash Converters, where I sold my camera, in order to buy as much alcohol as possible.

After a brief couple of months where things had looked like they were coming together, I had descended back into the mindset of mid 2010. Little made sense, cohesive thoughts were few and far between, hallucinations reigned supreme and I was drinking vodka as if my life depended on it. Which, I guess, it did,

I had no idea what to do, who to talk to or where to go. Conversations with Centrelink social workers went nowhere – the contacts they gave me for food weren’t valid, the accommodation options either unavailable or my mental health was not a serious enough risk for acceptance. As for more mental health specialised services, either contact was not returned, or because I had no-one to validate my words, my tear fuelled conversations fell on disbelieving and unhelpful ears (the story of my life); if I was mentally sound enough to make a phone call, I was mentally sound enough to manage all other areas of my life.

That weekend I spent the days sitting in the motel staring at the walls and the evenings sitting in a park nearby staring at the trees. When it rained, I didn’t care, I just sat near the creek gazing into the fast flowing waters hoping there would be a sudden flood and my pitiful life would be swallowed for good.

After leaving the motel, the organisation who had organised it, offered me accommodation in yet another strange suburb. For the first time I put my foot down – it was way too far from anything I knew, it would isolate me even more than I was, the rent was very nearly my entire benefit check, there was a forty-five minute walk to the nearest supermarket and the room had no windows or ventilation. I was NOT coping. I COULD NOT deal with this.

I was told that if I didn’t take this accommodation I would be on the streets as there was nothing else available.

There was no choice; the streets would definitely have killed me. Despite my desire for death, my gut instinct to survive reigned supreme…so I took the accommodation.

By now, with everything that had happened, boarding houses were not safe havens for me. After a few days of heightened tension following weeks and months of escalating chaos, I shut down.

I remained in my room for over four weeks; the lack of windows making it feel like a prison cell. I used bottles, boxes and black bags for a toilet. I ate raw oats mixed with raspberry cordial for food. I cried on a daily basis for no reason whatsoever. I self-harmed with a pair of scissors for tender loving care.

A marathon of Young Indiana Jones reminded me of my youth, a marathon of Veronica Mars reminded me of better days and then…with nothing left to watch…I inserted the first DVD of the first season of One Tree Hill and, as I wrote in a previous post:

“In a single week I watched the first four seasons back to back. I fell in love with Brooke (one of the best female characters in the history of television), Peyton (one of the other best female characters in the history of television) and developed an on-again/off-again bro-mance with Lucas’ hair.

More importantly this show reminded me of who I once was and wanted to become. As the episodes ticked away, I was reminded of my love of music, of television production, of story arcs and obsession with mind-blowing writing.” [from Hope, the greatest weapon of all]

The desire to see season’s five and six of this show is what drew me from that room, blinking back into the sun. Although still deeply disturbed I attempted to right what was happening. Over the coming weeks, leading up to Christmas, I tried to write again. My early attempts resembled the oft-disjointed posts that are published on this blog, but, over time, I began re-immersing myself in a world that had always healed me; the world of my Chronicles.

The Ghosts that Haunt Me

In February 2000 I visited the Outer Hebrides with two friends. On my second evening there I went for a walk around the town of Stornoway whilst these two beautiful women rested in our B&B room. As I walked the darkened, chilly streets, I came up with the idea of combining two-story ideas;

1) My autobiographical re-telling of my time backpacking in Scotland.


2) An urban romantic-fantasy based in and around a backpacker hostel in Inverness.

On that night, on that distant isle, Dust in the Wind was born. For several years it gestated, grew and strengthened in my mind. The characters became more real, their backstories fleshing out with finer and more intimate detail. The romantic elements dissipated to greater reflect the tale of loss and redemption I had envisioned.

As 2006 drew to a close I was finally content with both life and mind to write the book that had lived within me for nearly seven years. Glandular fever, my college course and a novella I was writing for my then girlfriend as a personalised birthday present, pushed this novel onto the back-burner until post breakdown, when I would force myself to write with lengthy periods of self-harm and alcohol.

The combination of breakdown, self-harm and alcoholism meant the first (renamed) draft of The Ghosts that Haunt Me failed on several levels. However, as my mind returned, I returned to it many times over my life in Alice Springs and Inverness (circa 2009) until I finally had an umpteenth draft I was happy with.

One of the stronger memories of this period of job hunting and isolation is me sitting for a day on a bench near the River Ness reading my novel from cover to cover. Although far from Pulitzer or Whitbread material I thought it was rather good, as did most of the people I sent copies for ‘opinion’ to. In spite of several rejections from publishers, I’ve always been proud of myself for completing that novel, especially in regard to all that was happening during that period.

Today, after my copies were lost in the early months of my homelessness, the sole surviving copy lives on a USB stick in my parent’s attic.

Spurred on by One Tree Hill and a desire to do something other than self-harm myself to death, I threw myself back into the healing qualities of writing and creating. Knowing I was not focussed enough to write actual prose, for weeks I wrote plot outlines, character histories and family trees. I fine tuned both story and character arcs and, for the first time ever, wrote a lengthy document that consisted of a comprehensive chronology of the entire Chronicles as they existed in my mind; a series of interconnected novels, films, TV series and websites that detail the lives, loves and losses of several dozen characters over three generations.

Back on the Streets

As I wrote this document, the ‘life’ within a boarding house continued to frustrate me. In the weeks since I’d moved in the room beside me had been occupied by three different people. The first, trashed his room upon leaving; smashing a television, damaging the walls and throwing urine over the floor. The second, remained for only a couple of weeks, whilst the third formed the habit of continually knocking on my door at all hours of the day and night. On one occasion, she knocked on my door thirteen times in half an hour to make sure I was ‘okay’ whilst on another, at three in the morning, she woke me up to ask if she could eat my eggs.

In spite of the pride I was taking in my writing work, the ‘life’ I was living was continuing to destroy my mental health. I missed conversations with friends, trivia quizzes and pub nights. I missed walking the streets lost in conversation and being needed and wanted by people who cared about my life.

All I had were the power games, endless bitching, stolen food, sudden explosions of violence, constant verbal abuse and continual drug and alcohol problems that plague all boarding houses. After the events and assaults of 2010, I kept completely to myself but, as I expected, as things within the house worsened I began to once again lose control. My hallucinations returned in force and my screaming fits in the night started up again (as pointed out by fellow housemates.)

I am (to this day) continually stunned that these boarding houses are basically the only option for homeless people in Melbourne; environments that are totally unsuitable for anyone, let alone for unmedicated, unsupported people with a lengthy history of abuse and mental illness.

Eventually, these issues overpowered me, and I was once again sent hurtling into the abyss of inaction and unstable mental ill-health. As my moods cycled rapidly, and with no support from anyone, I began blacking out again. Entire days and weeks lost to the darkness of my mind until, one day, I found myself back on the streets.

Unable to deal with the city I lived for a time in a park close to the boarding house, before tiring of this area and returning to the park that had served me well during my nights in the motel.

For weeks I lived up and down the corridor between Coburg and the city, visiting the city only rarely (once a week mainly) to stock up on food van sandwiches and bread to feed me throughout the week. My days were spent reading newspapers, scribbling artwork (around this time I took to using my skin as a canvas with a red pen to try to curtail the increasing self harm) and talking to rogue possums and the occasional pigeon.

With the amount of rejection I had received from mental health and homeless services over the years I was adamant I would never return to them. I was tired of rejection. I was tired of being spoken down to. I was tired of being treated as a statistic; a meaningless non-entity who didn’t deserve to be alive.

I need a hug! (Day 682)

On the 21st June 2011 I sat in a small alley near Southern Cross station. It was drizzling with rain. I was tired, exhausted, confused and in desperate need of a hug (which, as of today, I have yet to receive.)

It had been a long and emotional weekend, partly because of the far-too-obvious ending to A Good Man Goes To War, mostly because reminders of my past life were everywhere I turned; my Sunday ritual had prompted a smile followed by a panic attack; a walk down a random street in East Melbourne had flustered me with un-needed memories of years gone; and I discovered something that forced me off of a website I had grown to love.

As I sat in that damp, cold alley, I talked to my father on the phone and he decided enough was enough and, after leaving me to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night (my old park, for the first time in many months), he sent some emails.

Note I: This post was written over eleven hours and fifty-two minutes because of my current mental state.

Note II: I’m considering posting the chronological timeline of the Chronicles mentioned above. Let me know if you’d like to see it :)

Note III: All photographs used in this post are my own (including cover photograph), and cannot be reused without my express written permission. I have pixellated the photos because I look better this way :p



Reflections on being homeless, Part 5

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

I have yet to come to terms with the last two and a half years and in spite of my current accommodation, still feel homeless to this day.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, I try to shine a light on some of the darker months of 2010…

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4

Every life is a pile of good things and bad things (Days 274 – 365)

King’s Domain, Melbourne

In late May 2010, three weeks after my memory triggered weekend of alcohol and sadness, I was rained out.

At the time I was sleeping under a small bridge in the King’s Domain. This bridge was under a pedestrian walkway between two ponds so when it rained heavily it had a propensity to fill with water as one pond overflowed into the other. On one particular night in late May such a thing happened and I awoke to find my blanket, clothes and possessions saturated with water.

Cursing my inability to act fast I discarded my sodden blankets and spent several hours drying my clothing courtesy of the hand dryer in the nearby toilets. My agenda for the day was confirmed – I had to find a new blanket, thus I needed to visit a homeless charity.

After queuing for nearly and hour and a half I sat in the small room and asked them for a blanket. They seemed a little surprised I wasn’t asking for anything more and duly located a blue blanket that I could use before referring me to another part of their organisation who offered to find me some accommodation.

With the events of Frankston still heavy in my mind I was weary about the sort of accommodation they would find me and explained in detail my history of mental health and PTSD resulting from abuse and assault. I was told it wasn’t a boarding house, but a stable environment to live; a quiet location, only two other people, free of drugs and alcohol and impeccably maintained.

Upon arrival the room hadn’t been vacuumed in at least three decades, the window was broken with nothing protecting me from the outdoor elements, there was six people in the house and every single one of them was a user. Aside from a mattress on the floor the only furniture was a bookshelf in the corner. Feeling overwhelmed by the presence of such an item I gently caressed the upper shelf whilst imagining filling it with beautiful tomes. The moment my hand touched the wood the entire contraption collapsed painfully onto my foot and I was limping for five days.

Not an auspicious start.

A day after arriving I realised moving into this house was a monumental mistake. Walking into the kitchen to make myself some two-minute noodles I flicked on the light and “TURN THE FUCKING LIGHT OFF!”

Unknown to me a fellow housemate was in the kitchen, standing motionless in the corner. A little bewildered I didn’t respond immediately and once again, more aggressively “TURN THE MOTHER FUCKING LIGHT OFF!”

This time I flicked the light switch and plunged the kitchen into darkness. Never having used it before I stumbled to the kettle and felt totally uneasy about boiling the water with a John Bunting lookalike watching my every move from the corner. Not even waiting for it to boil properly I hurriedly filled the cup of noodles and walked at speed out of the room.

For the next two days I remained in my room.

On the third day I decided I needed some air and took myself outside for a walk. As I returned home I stood outside my ‘house’ whilst finishing my cigarette when I became aware of a shadow moving across the lawn towards me. As I began to turn the shadow stopped, and I realised it was him from the kitchen; standing in the middle of the garden with a metal pipe being knocked menacingly against his left palm.

For the two minutes I smoked he just stood there and watched over me. My heart raced, my anxiety trebled and I felt light-headed. Stubbing the cigarette out I walked slowly across the lawn without making eye contact and into my room, staying awake for the remainder of the night with my unlockable door blocked with the remnants of the bookcase.

I remained like this for a week. The presence of this man, from overheard conversations through wafer thin walls, a heavy drug user who had several convictions of rape and abuse, unsettled me to the point of psychological shutdown. I refused to leave the room to cook food (I ate uncooked pasta) or use the toilet (I used bottles) in fear of encountering this man in the hallway.

Whilst housed in Preston five months earlier I’d visited GPs, mental health organisations, wrote countless stories and articles, improved my concentration and mental functioning.

Here, I sat in a room pissing into a bottle, staring at four blank walls and talking to the mice and cockroaches that resided in my room. I think it’s a safe bet to say I wasn’t operating with the full deck.

For weeks I existed in this stationary state, occasionally walking to nearby Northland to gather cigarette butts to smoke or visit the library to catch up on Doctor Who courtesy of iView and streaming websites. My housemate’s history of violence and sexual assault had triggered memories of Adelaide which, in addition to the heavy drug use and dealing that occurred from the house, was heightening my anxiety to terrifying levels. Every night I barely slept, and when I did, they were full of lucid nightmares that had me waking in fits of screaming and sweating.

I know I should have left the house immediately, but I had been stunned into a state of inaction.

Everything came to a head in early June when, returning from a walk one evening, the John Bunting lookalike attacked me in the corridor; punching, kicking and throwing me against a wall (I honestly don’t know why) before taking what little money I had and ransacking my room. Bruised, bloodied and hurting I gathered what little possessions I could and immediately left the house, never to return.

I spent that night sitting in a small park off Plenty Road, Preston. I’d sat in the park to write many times during the period I’d been accommodated over Christmas and I couldn’t understand how things could have gone so bad, so quickly, given the efforts I’d made. The next day, after patching myself up, I walked the short distance to Merri Creek, where I camped out for the night and discovered I had a nephew, before slowly working my way back to my ‘home’ in the King’s Domain.

After having been promised a “quiet”, “safe”, “drug free” boarding house, the events of the last few weeks had eradicated my trust in homeless organisations and for the next five months I refused to visit them, regardless of how bad things became. The only thing I used was the Vinnie’s soup van, and only when I had no other option.

My Home, mid-2010 | © Addy

In the weeks after this event I descended into a nightmare realm of pain and exhaustion. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep; I hoped a tram or lorry would collide with my shattered body to end my sorry existence, my mind veered wildly and I wrote dozens of increasingly more incoherent blog posts to fill the emptiness of my “life”; I walked aimlessly around the streets blocking out all around me in the hope I would physically disappear from existence in the way I’d been erased mentally and emotionally from the minds of all.

One night in July, with tears streaming my face, I tried to cut my wrists open. Having no knives and no ability to buy one I used sticks I found in my park ‘home’. Unable to penetrate the skin I stabbed and scratched in a vain attempt to draw enough blood from my body to delete myself from the world; all it did was give me several splinters that I left unattended in the hope they would turn septic.

I had been beaten – physically and mentally – spat out and forgotten by society. I no longer had the energy or strength to keep fighting.

On the anniversary of my homelessness I wrote a blog post called There’s No Place Like Home that looked back on my first year homeless. Reading it back now, I realise how hard I was working to hide the extent of the pain I was experiencing.

The above assault was described with a mere “It was a rooming house. It fed into my mental instability. It caused a mini-breakdown. It forced me back onto the streets, where I have been since.”

My ‘stick based suicide attempt’ and subsequent mental break was shaken off with a simple “I have no mental stability” and my time in Frankston batted away with a succinct “I hated the majority of Frankston with a passion and wish to linger on it not a jot, I will however say it’s reputation is deserved.”

Reading it back now I realise how I have no memory of writing it. This period of my life has become lost in a haze of deep depression, suicidal ideation, trauma from the abuse and self-hate. I remember sitting in Fed Square laughing at the incomprehensible decision of the Australian public to vote in a hung parliament. I remember the night I awoke to find a possum sleeping on my head. I can recall with intimate clarity sitting in a motel in July drinking countless litres of whatever alcoholic substance I could find to alleviate the pain of the memories from 2007.

I remember hating myself and my existence completely and wished I was no longer here.

I Am Visible (Day 366 – 429)

Given my lack of memory surrounding vast portions of 2010 it’s impossible for me to recount with accuracy the turning point. I’ve long put it down to a combination of things:

1. My erratic mood swings.

2: Season three of Chuck; like I said here this show gave me hope through my homelessness – and this sequence is one of my favourite moments of television ever (especially 7:06 and the last twenty-five seconds)


3. Twitter.

The latter being something I had rarely used but threw myself into around this time, mostly because I had nothing else to do but create ever increasingly bizarre ways to kill myself (such as ‘how many soup van sausage rolls would I have to ingest to end my life?’)

What Twitter did was remind me of what it felt to be connected with the outside world again. Seeing movements such as @WeAreVisible and the work of @SydneyHomeless gave me hope that there were people out there fighting for the rights of the invisible population that I had become a part of.

Through Twitter I began talking to people again, slowly at first, but with ever-increasing regularity as time went on. Over the months I began to care about the people I tweeted with and slowly formed the belief that I could have a better future; that it wasn’t always going to be pain, assault, boarding houses and misery.

Using my experiences of writing All That I Am, All That I Ever Was as a template, I created a new blog that would see me – for the first time – venture into the world of homeless blogging. To this day it remains my personal favourite of all my blog titles; The Secret Diary of a Homeless Romantic.

My, shall we say, eccentric writing style saw the usual mix of ‘serious’ articles (Homelessness still a statistical issue for Australia; 3/10/10 ) sharing space alongside more ‘Addy’ articles (Addy’s (Slightly Tongue In Cheek) Guide to Dealing With Having A Home After Being Homeless; written 9/10/10) and as a result few people read my work, but as with the initial incarnation of this blog, it served as a means to resurrect my defeated soul.

Two days after posting my chirpy guide to having a home after being homeless I treated myself to a motel room. As mentioned in my previous post there are days that I need to take care of myself, then it was a suicide attempt/anniversary of a friend’s death, now it was the anniversary of the day I should have died; a day that saw me hike to the Dandenong rainforest for the sole purpose of hanging myself (I wrote about it here, back in 2007.)

After the year I’d had, the day wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I knew I had to treat myself kindly as I was still in a too-fragile state of mind. After a year of assault, mental instability, suicidal desire, lack of support, distrust and black/block outs things had started to look up – all courtesy of a social network that had re-connected a disenfranchised, destroyed, forgotten soul with the world.

And with friendships blossoming and the possibility of professional support in Sydney, I had decided to head east for a fresh start in a new city.

For the first time in ten months things were taking a positive turn.

Mother and baby possum, 2010 | © Addy

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Reflections on being homeless, Part 4

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

I have yet to come to terms with the last two and a half years and in spite of my current accommodation, still feel homeless to this day.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, we are in early 2010, the beginning of the second worst year of my life.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

The Beasts Below (Days 157 – 273)

Yesterday I wrote of triggers. The things that send my mind reeling back into past trauma and pain. Sometimes these are physical things that can be avoided, other times they come out of the blue in the form of newspaper articles or blog posts. But from time to time they are dates, mere digits on a calendar, that remind me endlessly of the pains that I have experienced.

In 2007, my life was in disarray. After a year of battling through severe depression I had clawed my way out the tunnel and refocused my life. I had returned to college, formulated a five-year plan for the future, approached each and every one of my passions and foibles and devised ways to embrace and/or dissolve them. My social network was increasing, not just in terms of strengthening the friends I had, but extending it on two different fronts. In spite of glandular fever and other physical illnesses I had continued to work, as much as I was able given the illnesses, and push onwards with these changes.

Then, in the space of nine days, everything fell apart. I lost my girlfriend, college course, social network, income streams and suffered a breakdown. Over the subsequent three months I lost everything else: my possessions, my passions, my ability to think, my future.

And throughout all of this the emotional abuse was raging, forcing me to believe I was the most useless, worthless, selfish, despicable, grotesque piece of human excrement that had ever existed.

In May of that year, a few short months after I had felt so spectacular about my life and future, I downed every pill I could find and collapsed onto my bed praying for death. I wanted the abuse to be over. I wanted the pain to stop.

I wanted to die.

Obviously, the attempt failed; I lived.

In 2009, my life was once again in disarray. After two years of fighting to rebuild my life, I had failed. The words of my abuser had been proved correct. Living in a boarding house in Inverness I spent my days job hunting, scrimping and self-harming. Whilst online one day I received an email from a woman in Australia who had read my blog and needed help.

I have written of her in the past, and thinking of her now is still painful. The short version is I failed to help her and she took her own life; she died. And to this day I have blamed myself for her death and carried the guilt ever since.

These events, separated by two years of time, occurred on the same day. An anniversary that was marked by day two hundred and seventy-three of my homelessness.

It had been one hundred and sixteen days since I had left the accommodation I’d called home. A period of time that had been marked with some of the deepest periods of depression and isolation I had experienced in my life on the streets thus far.

My ability to function had become so bad I barely existed in the real world. My mind endlessly cycled in and out of fantasy, delusion and hallucination. I was now talking to myself almost constantly. Whether it be when I was on my own in the park or surrounded by others as I walked the streets in a cloud of illusion, the two and a half years I had spent isolated, with little to no human contact was taking it’s toll.

This period marked several events that became defining moments in my homelessness:

  • After obtaining a new mobile phone through a JSP (Note: Job Service Provider, not Janet Street Porter) I was attacked on the street a few short hours after I had collected it. My two attackers had decided I was photographing a woman without her knowledge for nefarious purposes. It didn’t matter to them that I did not have a camera on my phone!
  • For the first time since 2007 I blacked out. For a period of five days I have no memory of where, what, how, who or where I was.
  • This boarding house was a nightmare, but not the worst I ever stayed in. It had only one toilet and bathroom for the twelve people living there. On weekends, when various friends, partners and family members came to stay, this number could increase to anywhere from 14 to 19.
    The house itself was invested with mice that would regularly eat through walls, food and possessions. It did not have a proper bed (merely a rodent faeces invested mattress propped on the floor with bricks) and several dogs lived in the backyard whose droppings were never cleaned up by their respective owners.
    My reasons for leaving this boarding house were several fold:

    • The money I was paying for rent made it impossible to afford adequate medication and food, let alone anything else.
    • My hallucinations and PTSD fuelled nightmares were causing issues for other members of the house.
    • The night before I left my door was kicked in by a fellow housemate and I was thrown against the wall by this person, demanding I give him money as he’d run out of alcohol and I’d just been paid. Only I hadn’t just been paid and had even less money than he did; a fact proven when he went through my wallet and found nothing but lint and moths. The black eye he gave me, I was told, was a warning.
  • One evening, whilst sleeping rough in a park in Melbourne, I witnessed a couple having an argument. Normally I would turn the other cheek for all couples argue from time to time, but when he began physically assaulting her I decided to intervene. As far as I’m concerned no-one has the right to abuse anyone; physically, sexually or emotionally. As he was beating the shit out of me all I could think was ‘at least he’s not hitting her’
  • For the first time I was awakened by police whilst sleeping rough. They were actually quite decent about it and, after checking my ID and running me through their computer, advised me of certain areas to stay away from and let me be.
  • This incident however sunk into my paranoia and I began sleeping in other locations to avoid any further police contact. Sometimes drifting miles away from the park that had kept me safe for so many months into areas that were even more unsettling and dangerous.
  • Also during this time my recently renewed passport was stolen along with other items whilst I slept. For the first time since being homeless I had no photographic identification.

All of this, combining with the ongoing verbal abuse I was receiving from non-homeless people and the damage that had been caused by having to leave my accommodation, mixed with the upcoming anniversary of Stephanie’s suicide and my own attempt in 2007, I knew I needed to be accommodated on this day.

With my distrust of homeless services elevating and my ongoing lack of support from mental health organisations I saved enough for me to book a hotel room for this weekend. I needed to be indoors. I needed peace and security. I knew if I didn’t all hell could break loose as the trauma triggered a napalm explosion in my mind.

So, as dawn broke on day two hundred and seventy-three, I cracked open my first bottle of wine since becoming homeless. I knew I would be criticised for being ‘just another homeless alchy’ but as nothing else was working, and with no-one to turn to, self-medicating with alcohol was my last and only option.

For months there had been triggers everywhere I’d been – the assault in the boarding house, the attack on the street, the ongoing verbal abuse, the (albeit my own stupid fault) assault in the park – and my mind was now firmly in non-functioning territory. And as I repeat these reasons I wonder why I’m defending my consumption of alcohol that weekend.

Every week people self-medicate with alcohol for far fewer reasons than I had. Perhaps because it made me realise I was now just another stereotype or that I had finally conformed to the abuse that my ex had levelled at me: I was a worthless, useless, unloved human being who deserved nothing but a life on the streets with alcohol his only source of comfort.

Whatever the reason it was the only thing that prevented me from doing something stupid that weekend so I have no qualms about what I did. Lost to a stupor of wine and beer (unfortunately, I couldn’t afford whisky) I drank to the memory of Stephanie, subdued the pain I was feeling and momentarily forgot the pain of my fallen life.

The simple fact was I was no longer coping with being homeless, being alone or with any of the crap going on in my mind. I didn’t know what to do or where to go and, after seeking help, I lost all trust in homeless services.

For where I ended up was the worst place possible.