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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I really hate change

One thing I don’t deal with very well is change. I think this is something that many people with mental health problems can probably relate to. I, like many, need some semblance of routine and order in my life. When something comes along that unsettles the carefully balanced apple cart of my life, my brain is sent scattering like the aforementioned apples bouncing away from the safety of their cart.

Yesterday, I discovered that change is afoot, and I am not coping with it at all. In fact – given how depressed, lost, confused and alone I’ve been feeling over the last several weeks – I’m a bit of an emotional wreck, truth be told.

Basically, the mental health organisation I’ve been utilising over the last eighteen months has had its funding pulled by the government; which means I will be losing my support worker in mid-late June. This may not sound like much, but it took me a long time to build a trusting relationship with this person and the thought of losing their support has totally freaked me out.

I have no idea how this is going to impact on my life. I’ve been told they will try to help find me a new support worker via a different organisation, but this is fraught with difficulties (given my lack of psychiatric support and anxiety issues) and may ultimately amount to nothing.

In fact, all I do know at the moment is that I’m not happy about the change and wish it wasn’t happening.

But it is… :(


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The behaviour and symptom identification scale (BASIS-32)

Over the years I’ve always had problems with self-image. Courtesy of body-image issues/body dysmorphia I don’t view my body in the way other people do, whilst courtesy of anxiety and a myriad of other MH issues, I don’t see how I act the way other people do. Since my teenage years, since my abusive relationship, I’ve created such a negative view of myself that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I see myself as the most repulsive piece of human excrement that has ever existed.

That no matter what I do, nothing is ever good enough.

That no matter how hard I’ve worked, nothing has changed since those dark days of breakdowns and homelessness.

Which makes this post so much harder to write, for there is now concrete proof that I have changed.

One of the first things I did upon joining GT House was to complete a BASIS-32 questionnaire. For those not in the know, this is the behaviour and symptom identification scale (BASIS); a self-reporting measure of the major symptoms and functioning difficulties experienced by people as a result of mental illness. It is a simple tool that identifies a range of symptoms that occur across the diagnostic spectrum.

The BASIS-32 is made up of a series of thirty-two questions that you rate on a 0-4 level; 0 = no difficulty, 1 = a little difficulty, 2 = moderate difficulty, 3 = quite a bit of difficulty, 4 = extreme difficulty.

BASIS-32

An example of some of the questions on the BASIS-32

These scores are then totalled across five different areas –  relation to self/others, daily living, depression/anxiety, impulsive/addiction and psychosis – to give an understanding of where you’re sitting in relation to your functioning/mental health.

This is where I was standing last November, when I completed my first BASIS-32 with GT House:

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My BASIS-32 results from November 2012

As you can see, when I first completed the questionnaire ten months ago there were lots of extreme difficulties, which sounds about right for someone who had been homeless and isolated for nearly five years, so nothing to argue with.

However, when I completed the questionnaire yesterday, things looked a little different.

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My BASIS-32 results from September 2013

When I completed this questionnaire I had no memory of what I’d written last November, so to see a substantial drop across the board has thrown my mind into a complete hissy fit; it’s so used to thinking negatively it just doesn’t seem to know what to do with this information.

Does it valiantly try to find reasons to dismiss the figures as bogus or does it perform some sort of spontaneous jig in celebration of my awesomeness?

Perhaps one day it will decide! :)

 


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is:

Change

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Inverness Sunrise © Addy

“Sunrise paints the sky with pinks and the sunset with peaches. Cool to warm. So is the progression from childhood to old age.”
~ Vera Nazarian~

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change (Day & Night)
(skpfoto.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
(thruthewonkylens.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
(theothercourtney.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
(ryanphotography.co.uk)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
(boogiepants.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
(ohmsweetohmdotme.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
(transplantednorth.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Change
(mamasonshine.wordpress.com)


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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.


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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.

 


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Is it just me?

Since the initial burst of euphoria over having my DSP approved on Thursday my mind has slipped into a quagmire of confusion, uncertainty and, though I’m hesitant to say it, depression.

For the first time my disability has been officially recognised. I have government certified proof that I am ‘different’; that my inability to function as a normal member of society is not because I’m a lazy, good for nothing, dole bludger but because I have a mental illness that affects my day-to-day functioning.

It’s a monumental shift in the way people will treat me, as well as how I see myself, and if I were being honest I still haven’t even begun to process it.

Since 2010 I have received my payment on a Saturday, every week (whether homeless or otherwise) has been organised around this day. From next week my payment will arrive on a Tuesday, throwing everything I’m used too out of whack and forcing me to reorganise my weekly events and routine. For some this isn’t a major issue, for me, it’s both stressful and confusing.

With the added social groups through GT House, the introduction of a disability employment service and the recent change to daylight savings, my daily routine has been completely usurped.

I haven’t been on Twitter for days as I’ve been too busy with doona purchasing and celebratory shopping sprees to dilute my life into 140 characters. Whenever I sit in front of the computer to write a blog post my brain conjures up images of women, raspberry gelato, purple underwear and women wearing purple underwear dribbling raspberry gelato onto various body parts. The housework – an activity that is as relaxing as it is therapeutic – has been thrown into disarray; this morning, during my usual Sunday morning cleaning ritual, I spent fifteen minutes staring at the kitchen tiles before leaving the dishes in the sink for another day. Even my daily website reading has fallen by the wayside, leaving me completely unaware of what is happening in the world or the weird and wonderful opinions I’ve grown to seek solace in over the years.

From past experience, I’m hoping this period of confusion and uncertainty will last only as long as it takes me to get used to my new routine, but it has left me wondering whether other people are as affected by change?

Is a shift in routine more upsetting for people who have a mental health problem?

Or is it only me?