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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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 26. Your future hasn’t been written yet…

Day 26: How do you see your future beyond the state you are in currently?

the-future

As with anyone’s future, nondescript decisions made today can have a lasting, and monumental, impact on one’s future. You might decide to walk a different route to the supermarket, slip on a discarded piece of fruit and find yourself with a shattered ankle leading to months, if not years of reconstructive surgery. Alternatively – and on a slightly more chirpier note – you might accidentally bump into someone in the supermarket, be spellbound by their exotic eyes and find yourself, in several years, marrying them on a beach somewhere in the Bahamas. No-one knows the direction one’s life is going to take. Every decision we make has an effect, every path our lives take has an impact. That’s the beauty of the future; the unknown.

So how does one write about the unknown? How do you decide, for better or worse, what your future is going to hold? Well, the answer is simple, you pontificate on three possible outcomes – the reality, the unlikely and the dream – each of which being a possible route your life could take.

The Reality

However much I am chagrined to write it, this is the most likely scenario in my future.

I will spend the next forty years of my life living in a town that I can’t stand, constantly waging a war with PTSD, social anxiety and the ups and downs of bipolar. Occasionally there will be periods of euthymia, periods where things work out, where things go my way, but for the most part I will feel depressed at the nothingness of my life and spend numerous months contemplating what might’ve been. Certainly there will be times when things get too much and I attempt to take my own life; but these attempts will fail and force me into the realization that I cannot achieve anything, that nothing I do is right and thus, it isn’t worth trying. This will cause me to give up and just live a routine based, monotonous existence where I make no effort whatsoever to change my lot in life.

Eventually I will give up on support services, leading me to live as a recluse, with little to no human interaction, causing my voices to become deafening to fill the gap. In time, my physical health will fail and my ability to walk and cycle will dissipate, this will render me housebound, causing my depression to increase ten-fold. Unable to leave the house, with no-one to love, I will slowly wither away and die a lonely, forgotten soul.

After several months the stench emanating from my apartment will cause someone to call the police and my decomposed body will finally be found. Autopsy reports will find that I died of a broken heart and I will be buried a pauper, in an unmarked grave, with no-one to mourn me.

The Unlikely

The likelihood of this outcome ever occurring is slim to none, but as they say, never say never!

One sunny, inconsequential day I will be walking down to the supermarket when I look down and notice a lottery ticket sitting on the pavement. Attached to this lottery ticket is a note indicating that it has been left to be found; a random act of kindness from an unknown soul. I pick up the lottery ticket and pocket it, thanking the person who has left it with a cheerful nod. Later that week, after randomly remembering the ticket, I check it against the numbers and discover – much to my surprise – that I have won $100 million! After performing what could only be called a merry jig of celebration I toast my good fortune with a glass of coca cola and head to bed knowing that my future can now be anything I dream it to be.

After collecting my winnings I go on a mini-spending spree, updating my wardrobe with stylish, eccentric clothes, donating several million to charities and treating myself to a first class round the world plane ticket. I visit India, Thailand, Canada, the US, take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express and spend several long months touring Europe before heading home to Scotland, via my parents house in South Wales. Whilst in South Wales I decide to visit the Doctor Who production office where I score a walk-on cameo in an episode, a walk-on cameo that leads me to meet Jenna Coleman, whom I dazzle with my debonair wit and eccentric attitude to life. Enamored, she dumps her boyfriend and we begin a torrid love affair that eventually leads to our marriage. Shortly after, I write a film-script and decide to direct the film myself, casting my wife in the lead role. The film is an outstanding success; the critics love it, the general public adore it, and it sweeps the award ceremonies like nothing before.

Deciding to settle down and start a family, Jenna and I purchase a small cottage in the Highlands of Scotland and get down to making babies. Nine months later we are the proud parents of twin girls! Eighteen months later a little boy joins our fold. In between all the baby making, I have knuckled down to write my Inverness Chronicles, and shortly after, the first is published. It immediately becomes a phenomenon of the book world, unlike anything seen since Fifty Shades of Grey or the Harry Potter books. Within ten years I have written the remaining novels in the series, each received with critical acclaim, and slap myself on the back for finally getting my act together and writing what I have always wanted to write.

Over the years we travel with our family unit, exploring every mile of Scotland and Canada, happily wiling away our lives in marital and familial bliss. As old age begins to take hold we curb our traveling urges and settle back into our cottage, allowing our children to dote on us until, eventually, we die within hours of each other. Our funeral is held in the small Highland village in which we live and it is attended by hundreds of mourners, all come to celebrate our lives with song, frivolity and numerous jigs of remembrance. We are buried, side by side, in a cemetery overlooking a loch.

The Dream

Although ‘the unlikely’ scenario would be a rather brilliant future, my dream future would be markedly different.

After years – if not decades – of hard work, determination and sheer-bloody minded stubbornness, I eventually reach a place in my life where I am no longer governed by anxiety or PTSD. Free from the crippling aftereffects of abuse, and with my new-found ability talk to other human beings, I celebrate my return to “life” by sparking up a conversation with a beautiful librarian. Charming her with my self-deprecating humor and dry, unadulterated wit, we agree to go to dinner where the courtship continues. After several months of dates, of varying activity, we fall deeply in love and, out of the blue, I propose to her as the sun sets on a beautiful beach. She accepts, and, unable to wait, we marry within months.

Our relationship – born out of a shared love of books, arts and culture, film and writing – continues to go from strength to strength. She accepts my bipolar, assists me with relapses into anxiety and helps me manage my occasional flare-ups of PTSD. To reciprocate, I shower her with affection, encourage her to pursue her dreams and assist her however and whenever I can. After a year or two, we discover she is pregnant and nine months later are the proud parents of a beautiful girl, whom we name Amelia, in honor of our favourite Doctor Who companion. We settle down to raise our baby, my wife returning to work whilst I stay at home to look after the child whilst writing in my spare time. This writing eventually pays off when my book – The Ghosts that Haunt Me – is accepted for publication. To celebrate we fall beneath the sheets and, nine months later, are the proud parents of a beautiful, bouncing boy, whom we name Alexander, in honor of our shared love of the Buffy character.

As my writing career continues – with successive books being published to middling critical acclaim – I decide to write an autobiographical account of my journey with mental illness. Using my blog as inspiration, All that I am, All that I ever was is published and soon becomes a minor phenomenon. Its publication leads to a new career as an inspirational speaker; recounting my journey to audiences of troubled teens, providing them with hope that their future can be something wonderful, and needn’t be governed by labels or psychiatric conditions.

When our children are a little older we decide to move from Australia to Scotland, where we buy a house in Inverness. In between school and work commitments – my wife taking a job at the local library, myself taking on public speaking engagements – we travel the length and breadth of Scotland, allowing our children to soak in and explore the rich countryside. We go Nessie hunting on Loch Ness. Ramble through the history of Glencoe. And spend weekends otter hunting in the wilds of the Outer Hebridean winter. We are not rich, we don’t live in a big house or stay in five-star hotels, but we are happy; blissfully so.

As time winds on my physical health starts to deteriorate and eventually I succumb to the ravages of cancer, a byproduct of my years spent as a smoker. My funeral is held in Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Sheil, and my ashes scattered in the waters of my favourite loch. Although not jam-packed, there are a number of close friends and family members at the funeral, celebrating my life’s good, bad and ugly moments.

In time, my wife and children overcome their grief and go on to lead happy, productive lives. She finds a new man to spend her elder years with, they pursue their dreams with relish and conviction; their hopes and goals being met time and again, out of the determination and self-belief their father taught them.

It means your future hasn’t been written yet.
No one’s has.
Your future is whatever you make it.
So make it a good one, both of you.
~Back to the Future~


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Nine places I’d like to go in 2014

One of the hardest things about living in poverty is how hard it is to actually go anywhere. Most of the time I’m thinking exclusively about food and survival, not where my annual vacation is going to be. But after last year’s Melbourne trip, I realise the power that having something to look forward to can provide. As such, I haven’t simply chosen destinations that I know I’ll never get to, but rather a mix of the highly unlikely and absolutely doable.

I may as well kick off this list with the places that, if money were no obstacle, I wouldn’t hesitate to visit over the next twelve months, beginning with Canada. Ever since visiting this wide, luscious land in 2000 I’ve wanted to return. I’ve wanted to hike the great lakes and forests of Jasper, meander the endless streets of Toronto and visit, for the first time, the provinces of the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland. But as such a trip would be a mammoth (and expensive) undertaking, I can’t see it happening unless I happen to win the lottery. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dreaming! :)

Up there with Canada as dream destinations would be a return to my home away from home, Inverness, and a couple of weeks in the European city of Greece, not because I want to help them fiscally but because in October they are hosting the World Hearing Voices Congress, which I would rather like to attend.

But like I said, in order to succeed in some of these destinations, I’ve had to think a little closer to home, with the obvious starting points being Woolshed Falls and Tasmania, the latter of which I’ve wanted to visit since before I arrived in this sunburnt land.

Two more places I’d like to visit over the next twelve months are rather non-specific, as many destinations all over the world would suit my purposes. Following last year’s regret of not visiting the ocean when I was in Melbourne, I am more resolved than ever to paddle in the cool sea this year. I’d also very much like to attend a pub trivia night so will need to manufacture a trivia team to compete at any of the plentiful local venues who offer such entertaining evenings! :)

And lastly, I have chosen a place that is far more spiritual than geographical, for I would very much like to pay a visit to the state of complete relaxation; where none of life’s stressors, worries and frustrations are invited.

Complete Relaxation

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


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Twenty (more) things I’d like to do before I die

The latest prompt in the 15 day blog challenge asks:
write about something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t.

bucketlist1

Just before Christmas 2005 I wrote my one (and only) things to do before I die list. Given seven long years has passed since writing that expansive list, I’ve decided it’s about time I updated it…and today’s prompt in the challenge is a wonderful excuse to do just that.

So here are twenty brand spanking new things I’d like to do before I die!

1. Visit the Table Mountains of Southern America

2. Publish an e-book about the journey I’ve taken through mental illness and homelessness

3. Participate in a nudie run

4. Be someone’s ‘best man’

5. Spend two weeks in Iceland

6. Achieve a better relationship with each of my voices (primarily Vanessa and Shay)

7. Have a beer with Serena Ryder

8. …and give the divine songstress a hug! :p

9. Read every book on the BBC’s list of ‘100 book to read before you die

10. Participate in a Russ Harris led Acceptance and Commitment Therapy training session

11. Perform in a stage-version of any Shakespeare play

12. Obtain a Wii U so I can play (and complete) the only Zelda game I’ve never played: The Wind Waker.
Note: Completed in June 2014 after my brother lent me his Wii U and a copy of the aforementioned game. Not the greatest Zelda game (that remains Link’s Awakening) but certainly not the worst (that remains The Adventure of Link).

13. Learn how to play the piano

14. Visit every state of America

15. Visit Prince Edward Island; home to Anne of Green Gables

16. Live to see a film adaptation of every novel in the Chronicles of Narnia series.

17. Cycle from Melbourne to Sydney

18. Live to see the 100th Anniversary of Doctor Who

19. Create my range of “Spank the Stigma” merchandise…
Note: this is a range of T-Shirts, underwear, bikinis, other miscellaneous clothing, temporary tattoos, key rings, badges, car stickers and other miscellaneous giftware that I’ve imagined. Each item is emblazoned with a logo related to giving mental health stigma and discrimination the spanking it rightly deserves.

20. …and establish a website to sell said merchandise to raise money for mental health related causes.

Only time (and my own personal hard work) will tell if I’m ever able to cross any of the items from the list. But rest assured, should I ever do so, you wonderful people will be amongst the first to know! :)

Previous installments in the Challenge:
Day One | Day Two | Day Three
Day Four | Day Five


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Days 29 & 30: The Long and Winding Road to Recovery

The final two prompts in the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge ask:
~ Day 29: what are a few of your goals regarding your mental health? ~
~ Day 30: what does ‘recovery’ mean to you? ~

road_to_recovery

A little over a year ago, on the 22 October 2012, I wrote a post about recovery that just happens to be the namesake of the final prompt of this challenge. I began the post in my usual random style:

As one half of my psyche lurks in the dangerous yet intoxicating world of nostalgia; recanting the painful, pleasurable and painfully-pleasurable events of the last five years, the other half of my psyche continues on its journey down the road to recovery.

Before continuing with my personal definition of ‘recovery’:

Recovery means living; not existing or surviving.

Recovery means allowing myself to be better version of myself. To not be controlled by the demons, anger and confusion of the past. To accept that these events happened and that I was strong enough to not let them drag me into the undertow. To understand that mistakes were made and to learn self-forgiveness. To give myself permission to move on from these mistakes and not let them define me.

Recovery means learning how to love myself. To accept that I do not deserve to be alone for the rest of my life because I am a caring, loving, talented and passionate human being with much to offer the world. To not allow the abuse I received to continue defining my personality. To understand that I am a wonderful person who deserves everything his heart desires.

Recovery means believing in myself. To set realistic goals that I can work toward; goals that I know I deserve to achieve. To stop endlessly belittling and playing down my achievements and realize that I am a man of many talents and skills. To give myself permission to be the man I know I am in my heart.

~ from “What does recovery mean to you?

Compared to where I was when I wrote this definition, I have moved further toward the mythical (yet achievable) realm of recovery; I’m partaking in more meaningful activity, I’m (very) slowly forming new friendships, I am (slightly) more contented with my life and although I don’t have hope for a better future, I do have dreams that I would like to achieve.

When it comes to my mental health, some of these dreams/goals that come to mind are:

1. Social Anxiety
  • Reduce my anxiety in social situations, such as: shopping, walking down the street etc.
  • Broaden my social options, such as: (re)continue going to munches, find new avenues to make friends etc.
  • Be able to contribute more, such as during support/social groups or online (comments, emails etc.)
2. Hearing Voices
  • Build a better relationship with Vanessa and Shay.
  • Continue building a better relationship with Audrey.
  • Maintain the relationship I’ve built with Meadhbh.
  • Co-facilitate a session of the Hearing Voices Support Group I attend,
  • Find a way to contribute more with Hearing Voices Networks across the world.
3. PTSD
  • Reduce the amount of nightmares/flashbacks I experience.
  • Re-empower some of the more prominent triggers I experience.
  • Reduce the amount of time I spend in a ‘heightened state’.
4. Bipolar
  • Stabilize my mood swings/episodes
    I’ve crossed this from the list as now I am back on a medication regime, I am close to achieving this! :)
5. Body Image Issues
6. Related Issues
  • Manage my finances more proficiently; such as reducing comfort spending etc.
  • Continue eating a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Continue going to the gym three times a week (at least!)
  • Continue blogging in order to share my experiences and (hopefully) inspire others.
  • Find a way to tackle my crippling car/bus anxiety so I can take more trips outside of Wodonga.
  • Co-facilitate another social/support group for people with mental health issues.
  • Undertake more public speaking, with the hope to inspire others by sharing my story.
  • Continue working with GT House so I can continue having help with all of the above! :)

With all of that said, I promise to keep you updated as to if/when I am able to cross items from this list! :)

And this marks the end of the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge! If you missed any of the installments, you can catch up on them by checking out the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge category. :)

Society does need to talk more about mental illness, and even though this challenge has been completed, I vow to continue talking about it (in my own random way!) until the stigma against it has been spanked into submission once and for all.

I’d like to thank everyone for their wonderfully kind and supportive comments over the last thirty days and a huge thank you to Marci, who created this challenge and made all my posts this Mental Health Month possible! :)


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We all need something to hold onto

Whether it be a hug from your loved one after a period apart, your favourite meal after days of starvation or a well deserved holiday after months of work, we all need something (or someone) to brighten our souls, excite our minds and have us salivating to keep going that extra day.

What’s keeping me going at the moment is that it will soon be the 23 November 2013; the Day of the Doctor! :D

What are you looking forward to at the moment?


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Thirteen goals for 2013…six months on!

Almost six months ago to the day, I wrote a post in which I set myself thirteen goals for the year ahead. Today, I thought it might prove fruitful to review how many I’ve succeeded in…and how many more I’ve yet to go!

ADDY’S

goals for 2013

~ in no particular order ~

1. Cross item one from the 101 things I want to do before I die list [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I’m not really off to a good start, am I? I will be honest that I did have the opportunity to cross this item off back in July, but a combination of my health issues and lack of finances rendered me unable to afford/make the trip to Melbourne.

It is still on the agenda, although it is now looking less likely, with only one possible opportunity left; namely a planned trip to Melbourne in November for the Hearing Voices World Congress (which happens to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and my birthday!)

Perhaps all this means that fate is conspiring on my side for a change!

2. Return to the Kings Domain so I can scream ‘Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!” [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I still miss it. I still want to go back. I still need to scream those seven words to find some form of closure from that nightmare time of my life…but as I just mentioned, I’ve so far been unable to afford a trip to Melbourne this year, so I’m desperately hoping that November will work in my favour.

DSCN0235

“Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!” (Photo of my ‘home’ circa 2010 © Addy)

3. Continue going to the Hearing Voices Support Group on a weekly basis

Okay, I’ll be honest here. I haven’t been every single week. Sometimes health, exhaustion and life have gotten in the way. But I am still attending the group sessions and I’ve begun attending the committee meetings so I’m fairly linked in with the group now…so, I think I’m allowed to cross this off the list at the half way point.

Hopefully you’ll agree…if not, there is a comments field below! ;)

4. Keep working toward obtaining ongoing mental health support

Yep, I’m gonna lop this off the list as well.

I may not have psychiatric support (given my previously acknowledged hatred of the system courtesy of a c**k of a psychiatrist in 2011) but I have kept up regular meetings with my support worker at GT House, as well as a pretty decent attendance record when it comes to the social and self-help groups.

I am also properly medicated (at a decent dosage) for the first time in years and feel that people finally give a damn about me. Which is a wholly strange and un-natural feeling given the complete lack of compassion and support since 2007.

5. Start writing my novel(s) again [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

Given the rollercoaster I’ve been riding over the last six months, I’ve yet to start writing fiction again. I’m still hoping that by the end of the year I will have begun doing so again…hopefully NaNoWriMo will help!

6. Smile more [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I still rarely smile. Sometimes I think I’ve absolutely forgotten how.

It’s not because I don’t like smiling (I really, really do!) It’s because I don’t really have all that much to smile about. Hopefully if I keep working my arse off, by the end of this year, smiling will seem as natural as frowning does to me now.

I am, however, becoming more aware of the things that make me smile – and always look forward to those moments.

lostyoursmile

7. Stop procrastinating about writing and sending emails [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I’m still an atrocious emailer. As I said in February, it’s all tied up with my confidence and anxiety, but I’m doing my best.

8. Expand my social networking presence [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I haven’t used Twitter since I wrote the original version of this post back in February. The whole thing kinda annoys the crap out of me now so it’s doubtful I will be returning unless I suddenly become hypomanic again!

9. Go on a holiday [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

There aren’t enough synonyms for ‘desperate’ to fully capture just how badly I want a holiday. My only real hope now is the aforementioned Melbourne trip this November…as money issues have rendered all my dream destinations unaffordable.

10. Make at least one new friend (in real-life) [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

Although I am trusting a few more people than I was in February – my support worker, a few cyber people (some of whom I’ve met up with in real-life) – I’m still isolated and incredibly lonely most of the time.

Perhaps (hopefully) come New Year’s Eve, I won’t be any more!

11. See at least 6 films in the cinema [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

So far this year I’ve seen The Hobbit and The World’s End…which means I now need to aim for one every month.

Jeepers!

moviesin2013

Films I’d like to see in 2013 (clockwise from left): City of Bones, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Kick Ass 2, Oz: The Great and the Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thor: The Dark Worlds, White House Down..to name but a few!

12. Write at least one blog post in every month of the year [IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPLETE! :( ]

Alas, courtesy of my most recent episode and relapse, I have failed to complete this item. Sorry.

13. To stop being so hard on myself all the time and begin believing how seriously freaking awesome I am! [CURRENTLY INCOMPLETE!]

I’m probably harder on myself now than I was back in February. Whether this is a product of my recent relapse or just because I’m a little older, I don’t know…we’ll just have to see what happens over the next four months! :/

Which means that at the six month mark, I’m two down, ten to go (as one is now impossible to complete!). Blimey, I think I have my work cut out for me…but, with number 13 in mind, if anyone can do it…I can! :)