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…


30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 02

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What part of your body is most affected by it?

When I look back on the twenty-two years that I’ve been self-harming, I realise that the body parts most affected have changed as I’ve grown older. As a young teenager I would focus my self-harm almost exclusively on my legs (mainly upper thighs) as I could easily hide the cuts with my school trousers and jeans.

But as I grew older – into my late teens and early twenties – I tended to focus my self-harm on my arms, back and buttocks (the latter two being achieved through self-flagellation with a belt). As it had been when I was young teenager, this was primarily so I could hide the marks from the prying eyes of other people but also because I had become concerned over the scars on my legs and felt I needed to assault a different part of my body in order to give them a ‘chance to heal’.

After my breakdown in 2007 – one of the wildest periods of self-harm in my life – no part of my body was immune to being self-harmed; legs (both upper and lower), feet, arms, chest, stomach, back, buttocks…everything had some degree of injury upon it. Even eternally visible parts of my body (such as my hands and head) were adorned with the clear cuts of self-harm meaning that, for the first time in my life, other people could clearly see what I was doing to myself. But at this point in time I no longer cared. My mind had disintegrated and other people knowing I self-harmed was the last thing I had to worry about.

When I was homeless it was my arms and hands that bore the full brunt of my self-harming, mainly because they were the easiest parts of my body to access whilst living in the various parks and alleys that were my ‘home’ during this period.

But now I am more secure in my living arrangements, I have come full circle and tend to focus my self-harm exclusively on my legs as it is easier to hide the marks from other people (given I never wear shorts) and taps into the memories of my early days of self-harm and the emotional release I used to receive way back when.

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The turning point of my life

Yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt is:
Go back in time to an event you think could have played out differently for you. Let alternate history have its moment: tell us what could, would or should have happened?
(Yeah, I’m running late again. Sorry, a virus ate my brain…ok, just kinda messed it up a bit :p)

Over the years I have spoken to many psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and therapists. Some have been decent human beings who have been able to emphasise and help me piece together the shattered remnants of my mind. Others have been arrogant, obnoxious, sociopathic fuckwits whose God Complex rendered them completely unable to even understand what the word empathy meant, let alone show it toward another human being.

But what all the decent ones have had in common is simple, their shared belief that my life would not have taken the direction it took had one incident not happened in early 2007. In fact, I have said many times over the years I’ve been writing this blog, that I consider this moment the turning point of my life.

What actually happened…

Whilst suffering from Glandular Fever, three days after being diagnosed with another serious illness, less than two weeks after I had returned to full-time tertiary education for the first time in five years, five days after she’d asked if she could move in with me because ‘she loved me more than anyone she’d met’ my girlfriend sent me a text message – that came without any conversation, warning or explanation – informing me: ‘not to contact her for 14 days under any circumstances.’

She then listed several ‘demands’ that I would need to make if I wanted her to ‘speak to me again’. These demands amounted to: overcoming Glandular Fever, changing my entire personality, eradicating mental illness, never talk to my friends (or her) about my problems again and understand that her life, stress, issues and problems were the only thing that mattered.

The snowball…

The suddenness of this message, coupled with the stress and pain of my illness(es), meant that: three days later I lost my college course, and with it my chance of university and a career. The isolation had a negative impact on my Glandular Fever recovery and increased my physical pain and suffering. Three weeks later I suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown, I began self-harming on a daily basis, I lost my entire social network (bar one person), all forms of income and every possession I owned. Three months later I was rendered homeless after leaving Melbourne to escape her continual abuse and harassment.

Why she sent the message…

“I didn’t want an emotional situation the day I went back to university,” (Feb 2007)
“I had to teach you that what you did to your [ex-girlfriend] was wrong,” (March 2007);
“I don’t know. I didn’t want to. Why are you shouting at me?” (April 2007);
“People are telling me it was a stupid thing to do. I agree with them. I don’t know why I [sent that message].” (April 2007);
“I still love you,” (May 2007).

What if…

If the text message had never been sent, it is highly likely that: I would never have lost my college course, within weeks I would have made new friends through college, a part-time photography course I had enrolled in would have commenced, I would have recovered from Glandular Fever much, much quicker and the breakdown would never have happened as I wouldn’t have lost everything in my life (the root cause of the breakdown.)

The new connections I had been making online would have happened in reality, in fact I had arranged to meet someone the day she re-appeared fifteen days after sending the message. I would never have lost my income, student finances would have been approved and I would never have had to sell everything I owned. My social network would have been unaffected, I would never have been forced out of my home (thus, even though I don’t like drawing the connection) I would never have been assaulted and raped.

By now, I would have graduated from both college and uni – with many people, including myself, believing I could have excelled at both – and be working in a career of my choice, choosing and passion. I would have a home, a social network, a relationship and (possibly) a family. My mental and physical health would never have reached the nadir that they became and I would be happy.

I’m sure of it.

But hey, like she and my friends told me, I deserved it.