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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Nauseousness, camping and paranoia…oh my!

I have been feeling absolutely shocking this weekend. Constantly nauseous, hot/cold flushes, aching limbs and smelling strange odours that I cannot place. I’ve also been feeling obscenely paranoid, from firmly believing that I was being followed/about to be arrested by police officers, to thinking my house is on the verge of being invaded by a swarm of marauding maggots. I can’t relax. I can’t settle. I can’t concentrate and no matter how much I want to, can’t sleep.

Normally I would be grotesquely – verging on mental breakdown – worried over such an array of physical and mental symptoms, but as it stands my worry has been displaced by the weekly sessions I’ve had with my GP over the last few weeks; who informs me that all of the above is to be expected, given the recent change I’ve undergone in my medication.

In the first major change of my medication since my initial diagnoses in 2007/08, I have dropped from taking 12.5mg of olanzapine to only 2.5mg daily, replacing this most hated of drugs with 200mg solian daily. I have also changed antidepressants, from citalopram to fluoxetine. I’m told that this change will have a positive effect on my mental state, once the drugs start to have an effect in 3-4 weeks time, but until then have to ‘ride out’ the side-effects of stopping the drugs I’m used to and moving onto the new ones.

Normally, in the face of such crippling side-effects, I would stock up on DVDs from the library and hide away from the world until I start to feel vaguely normal. But alas, I cannot, for tomorrow I embark on a five-day long camping excursion that’s been organised by the mental health organisation I frequent. So instead of a week of chilling at home trying to convince myself I’m not dying (I suffer occasional bouts of hypochondria) I will be indulging in a week of badminton, boating, drawing, more boating, trivia nights and yet more boating. All whilst sleeping in a tent. All whilst feeling like I’m about to throw up.

If I wasn’t feeling so horribly unwell, I would be looking forward to the camp. I enjoy being outdoors. I enjoy some of the activities we’ll be doing. I enjoy being in a tent. But not when I feel sick. And not when my meds are going through such a period of upheaval.

All I can hope is that the symptoms I’ve been feeling this weekend will mysteriously vanish by the time I get up tomorrow morning, because I’m seriously starting to think that it’s not side effects from meds at all. I’m starting to think that I’m coming down with a virus. And who likes camping when they’re full on, properly unwell?

However the week goes I will be sure to update you all upon my return (no internet access in the bush, I’m afraid).

Hope everyone is having a better (more healthy) weekend than I! And that everyone has a wonderful week ahead of them! :)


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It’s OK to say no to something you don’t want to do (I’m just not very good at it!)

boathaven2

The swimming pool at the campground I’m going to. However, I WILL NOT be doing any swimming courtesy of my extreme body image issues. I’ll just be watching…but not in a ‘creepy’ way! :p

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the organisation I use for social groups and inclusion have organised a group camp to mark the end of term. Today, a dozen or so people are headed to a nearby caravan park to spend three days ‘chilling out’, ‘having fun’ and ‘enjoying themselves’. Given my current extreme state of exhaustion I spent the weekend mulling over whether or not I should attend.

On the one hand, attending the camp would be a big challenge to my anxiety and allow me to have a (brief) respite from the cabin fever I’ve been experiencing for several months given that I’ve been trapped in this quiet, uninspiring, monotonous town for nearly two years now!

On the other hand, attending the camp is sure to resurface memories of my time homeless (as I will be living in the same tent that was my ‘home’ for a while) and have a serious impact on my current morose suicidal exhaustion. It could also have a massive detrimental effect on my anxiety, as I would be away from all of my distraction and safety nets (such as my home, the internet, DVD, Wii etc.) and spending three days in the constant company of other people. Then there is the omnipresent, undeniable, proven by many incidents of my life fact that when I take on too much I tend to crash and burn. And when I crash and burn…I really crash and burn!

Whereas, on the original hand, also attending the camp is a rather cute support worker who I could surreptitiously admire from afar! What? I didn’t say perve, I said ‘admire‘, there’s a difference! :p

Last night, after days of constantly thinking about it, I decided it would be best for me to remain at home – chilling out, having fun and enjoying myself with blogging, radio quizzes and Conversation articles – rather than risk the (currently very real) outcome of complete mind and body shutdown if I were to attend.

However, this morning, in a moment of masterful emotional manipulation that I will forever hold against her, one of the camp’s organisers got me to agree to attend. Mainly because, as many people know, it is impossible for me to assert myself and say ‘no’ to something I really don’t want to do. Hence why I’ve spent the majority of my life doing things for everyone else whilst neglecting my own needs, desires and safety.

So, with extreme apologies, my HVSG update, the Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge and responding to my backlog of comments/emails etc. will have to wait until I return from three days of ‘heightened anxiety’, ‘homeless fuelled PTSD flashbacks’ and ‘why can’t I just say no’ frustration.

But who knows, maybe this is all just anxiety fuelled by my belief that I don’t deserve to be happy and if I permit myself to, I’ll find myself having a wonderful time!

We’ll find out in a few days! :p

Until then, stay safe, happy and well…and remember, you are allowed to say no to something! :p

boathaven1

There appears to be lots of palm trees where I’m going. Or perhaps they’re the same palm trees, just taken from a different angle than in the pool photo! :p


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July 2000: Garabaldi, British Columbia

For those of you who missed out on my stream of consciousness last night, I shall recap. The last few weeks have not been the easiest in recent memory. A lot of painful memories have been triggered that threaten to send me back into a depressive episode, and with the encroaching anniversary of a day I refer to as ‘the day I should have died’ (October 11) I’ve been left a bit nervous about this week.

It brings to mind an old saying:

I’ve never liked how my mind throws me back into the events of five years ago during this time of year and I’ve always pushed hard to not allow those events to destroy me, which leaves only strength. And the only way to strengthen myself against the memories that are flooding me is to try trick my mind into thinking about other things instead.

Given I’ve never been one who likes to ‘force happiness’ (I much prefer people being honest about their emotions) I’m not sure how my decision to write about things that make me smile will work. But if it helps dissipate the approaching dark cloud, I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, the only things better than pain are pleasure and walking the tightrope between the two.

When I look back on my life one of the happiest periods was my time backpacking in Canada. For three glorious months in 2000 I travelled the breadth of this great land and experienced many things I’d never tried before; I ate strawberries for the first time, allowed a tarantula to crawl over my hand, purchased my first book of naughty fiction from an amused woman in a Halifax adult store and, in a slightly odd moment of my life when I bent down to cuddle a rabbit in a petting zoo, a goat mistook my muscular back for a rocky outcrop and leapt on top of it – much to the hilarity of a friend who was with me.

Another of the ‘first time’ things I did in Canada was sleep in a tent with a beautiful woman beside me. In fact this happened on three separate occasions in Canada, which may not sound like much, but for the socially-anxious panic strewn man I was at the time (wow, how things have changed!) this was a major happy-dance worthy breakthrough.

The third of these occasions was with Annie during the final weekend I spent with her. Eager to show me some of the more breathtaking parts of British Columbia she took me on a weekend to Whistler where we camped for two nights.

The first night there we had dinner at a restaurant in town, where I sampled Beaver Tails for the first (and only) time whilst bitching about the grotesque cigar smoke an American was suffocating us with. Upon returning to the tent I was ordered to avert my eyes whilst she stripped down into her pyjamas and however much I would like to admit to a naughty glance, I was a dutiful gentleman and didn’t peek until she informed me it was safe to do so.

The next morning we woke early, packed up the equipment we’d need (cameras, energy food, day packs, pants that made our asses look spectacular) and headed off for the Garibaldi Lake Trail.

Arriving mid-morning we parked the car and thanked the heavens for providing us with such a perfect day. The sun beat down on us from a bright blue sky devoid of even a single wispy cloud. Birds frolicked and sang in the forest around us and, although I didn’t spot any, I’m sure the odd bear was loping around in blissful ignorance of the two (frankly) hot people about to stroll up the mountain.

Black Tusk © Addy

My overriding memories of the day are four-fold:

1) How stunning the scenery was. It would not be an understatement to describe the vistas I saw during this hike as the most beautiful I have ever seen. In fact, I would recommend you add this hike to your list of things to do before you tumble off the mortal coil.

2) The fear that overcame us when we noticed a trail of red leading through the snow. It seriously looked like a vicious animal – possibly a bear, possibly an abominable snowman – had attacked some unsuspecting hiker and then dragged their prey through the snow for a late afternoon snack. Of course, we found out later that it was in fact a fungal growth and not blood at all, but believe me, it seriously looked like blood!

Garabaldi Lake Trail © Addy

3) Upon reaching Garibaldi Lake I had decided to hurl myself into the waters to continue my rather odd campaign of swimming in every body of water I visited in Canada. In fact, for the week prior to this, I had stripped down for oceans, lakes, rivers and bathtubs whenever the opportunity had arisen.

However, upon inspection of the lake it was concluded if I did take a dip it would most likely had led to pneumonia and/or immediate death considering it was sub-zero in temperature, so I didn’t. Though I still protest it wasn’t as cold as Loch Sheil or Loch Ness!

4) How comfortable I was in Annie’s company. Again, this may sound a bit pathetic to most, but through my life I have always felt heightened anxiety around women – especially those I fancy. In fact the only thing worse than my anxiety around women is my anxiety around men!

The moment I met Annie I was enamored with her; but for the first time in my life I felt virtually no anxiety around her. And the more time I spent with her, the more comfortable I became. Even when massaging sun-tan lotion onto her bikini clad body or cuddling under a blanket listening to the Vancouver Folk Festival (too situations that always lead to anxiety and panic because of the intimacy involved) I felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of awesomeness.

So to on that day; from waking up to her sleeping face centimeters from my own, through the playful slaps she’d give me in the car if I told a terrible joke, to the ongoing conversation through the hike, being around her – for the first time in my life – felt like the most natural thing in the world. A feeling I have only felt twice since.

By the time we returned to the campsite we were both exhausted. Struggling to ignite the fire I decided to use the socks I’d been wearing all day; an action that made me realize rancid socks are quite possibly the most flammable substance known to humankind! And after chilling in front of the fire for a short while we retired to the tent where, after being a gentleman once again, we began a random – somewhat flirtatious – game of I went to Women’s Ware (an adult store near where she lived) and bought… (i.e. you said this sentence and then added an item, then the next person said the same sentence, the item said, and then added another, and then you continued until the list is so long someone forgets and the other person wins!) So I went to sleep dreaming of strawberry scented lube, vibrators, lingerie, ribbed condoms, handcuffs, paddles and the beautiful woman sleeping beside me.

I still dream of that weekend to this day. Three days jam-packed with laughter, smiles, happiness, intelligent, playful conversation and a sense of bliss I’ve barely been able to replicate since :)

Annie and I, July 2000 © Addy (edited to protect identities)

Movies that make me smile #1: Strange Brew

“This movie was shot in 3B – three beers – and it looks good, eh?”

When I arrived in Vancouver to spend the week with Annie she was having a particularly tough day. Her friend had gone into labor the evening before, her boyfriend was leaving for a few days and she was busy preparing for a move to Seattle. As such, the first day I was at her house she was elsewhere, leaving me to entertain myself with a video she owned and recommended; an odd little Canadian comedy I had never in my life heard of. A movie that I absolutely laughed my ass off over!

It’s been a while since I saw this movie (not the easiest title to find in Australia) but just thinking about it breaks me into a random giggling fit.

Books that make me smile #1: The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)

“Human beings are remarkable – at what we can learn to live with. If we couldn’t get strong from what we lose, and what we miss, and what we want and can’t have, then we couldn’t ever get strong enough, could we?”

Throughout my blog, I have written at length of my deep affection for this book. From the moment I read it I adored it and every subsequent read since has only strengthened my love for this majestic novel. Annie, the week I first met her, was the person who brought it to my attention and I picked it up in a second-hand bookshop in Edmonton to read on the long train journey across the prairies to Toronto. It’s a book that’s locked in a time and place; whenever I think about it, I remember Annie, and Canada, and how happy I was during that time of my life.

Songs that make me smile #1: Little Plastic Castle (Ani DiFranco)

“They say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine, and the little plastic castle is a surprise every time. And it’s hard to say if they’re happy but they don’t seem much to mind,”

I’d never heard of Ani DiFranco until Annie played one of her CDs whilst we were driving around the back roads of Alberta. Since then I have listened to every one of her albums, memorized half a dozen songs and introduced this fantastic musician to dozens of Di Franco virgins. If you have yet to encounter her, you really should listen to this; if you’re already a fan, just kick back and enjoy a song that always puts a smile on my face.

“Keep passing the open windows,”


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Saturday 9: Do you want to dance?

Saturday 9 is a weekly blogging meme hosted by Crazy Sam Winters (she added the crazy, not me!).

Every Saturday there will be nine questions – sometimes they will be around a common theme, other times completely random – to be answered however we like. Last week, my answers were a little on the sad side of the emotional spectrum, so to reflect my bipolar, this week I am aiming for the ‘happy’ side of the spectrum.

1. When was the last time that you danced in public?

The last time I remember dancing in public was during the oft-mentioned insanity of winter 2007. Throughout my time in Adelaide, due to my somewhat elated nature, I developed a tendency of breaking into spontaneous dance routines in obscure locations. It was almost as if I were a flash loner, or to sound a little less creepy, a member of a flash mob who’d lost the rest of his performing troupe.

Highlights included:

– A song and dance routine of Song for Ten that saw me ejected from a high-profile venue as I was disturbing the clientele.
– A spontaneous tango on the banks of the Torrens with a slightly bewildered but game-for-it university student.
– A somewhat odd moment when I channelled Mr Bean; only I  lack Rowan Atkinson’s gift for physical comedy.

All of this gives the impression that I’m a terrible dancer, which I’m not. I actually used to cane several of the ballroom dance routines (waltz, tango, salsa) and took lessons in two of these during the two years between breakdown and homelessness. For some inexplicable reason I thought it would be a great way to meet a few new friends, but despite my well refined hip gyrations, I forgot to consider the anxiety; which is kinda triggered by holding a stranger in such close quarters!

My all-time great public dance routine was when I was sixteen and ended up dancing with a woman to the Grease Mega-Miix at a family wedding. It went beyond the realms of overtly sexual into soft-core territory, which given the woman I was dancing with was touching 80, scarred my family for life!

2. Tell us about one of your closest friends.

Curse you Saturday 9, here’s me trying to be all perky and you throw this one at me. Unfortunately I have no friends, close or otherwise…but it wasn’t always like this. I’ve been writing a series of unsent letters this week and at least three have been about close friends. So to save repetition, you’re welcome to read unsent letter #1, unsent letter #3 and unsent letter #4, all of which were written to and about important friends in my life.

3. What is the most that you have ever lost?

Double curse you Saturday 9! Once upon a time I lost everything, and I’m still trying to claw things back.

4. What was the last thing that you have done to help a neighbor?

If they count as a neighbour, I once donated my blanket and the last of my money to a fellow homeless person who was new to the streets and had nothing. I’d been living this way for over year and knew what it was like to be so lost and alone with no-one to turn to. Fortunately, they weren’t on the streets long, as the following day I showed them to some organisations who were able to help him find accommodation.

5. It’s election season. What do you think the priorities of the United States really should be?

Given I am outside of the United States and all I’ve really heard of this issue is Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, I will politely decline to answer. Although I will just throw poverty and homelessness out there, as I believe all governments across all countries need to prioritize this issue more.

6. What was the last severe weather situation that you and your neighbors endured?

I can’t recall any really severe weather situations I’ve been in. Whilst living in a tent at the end of last year it, and most of my belongings were destroyed in a vicious thunder-storm. In fact, several times I’ve been camping I’ve encountered nasty weather conditions; I was flooded out on the Isle of Mull,Wilson’s Prom and, ummm, Lochaber, Glen Affric, Berneray and Wilson’s Prom (again!)

In fact if you can’t swim, don’t ever go camping with me!

7. Have you been or are you a vegetarian? Thoughts?

I used to be a vegetarian. But a combination of a sausage-in-batter cravings upon returning to the UK in 2008 and homelessness rendered me an occasional meat-eater. It’s tough being a vegie when you’re on the streets and the vast majority of all food available from soup-vans and the like contain some form of meat.

8. If you had a wish for your future, what would it be?

To not be alone anymore (see question 2 above). May be sad for some, others may find it amusing I’m so isolated, but of all my wishes this is the one I’m working hard to make come true.

9. Who just doesn’t get it?

Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister…although come to think of it…every politician in Canberra.

And me, because I haven’t got it for far too bloody long to be healthy ;)

Saturday 9: Always the last to know… (September 1)
Saturday 9: Self-Esteem (May 26)

Other great Saturday 9 posts:

My Online World: The Never Ending Search for Answers
Not Suzy Homemaker
Sweet Memes
Nerdbliss
Harriet and Friends