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…


I’m so useless that…

I haven’t been feeling all that great over the last couple of weeks. So I thought I’d try freewrite something to see if getting it out will cleanse the soul a little. Apologies if it’s a little ‘woe is me’. It’s just how I’ve been feeling lately.

lake hume

Lake Hume (where I went for the camp)

Last year, I didn’t want to attend the camp that my mental health organisation organized. I was stressed. I was exhausted. And I wanted a few days to myself in order to recharge my internal batteries. But one of the staff members (unintentionally) manipulated my appeasement mode and I ended up going. As it turned out, I was ultimately happy that I’d gone because I ended up having a wonderful, relaxing time.

So this year, I was looking forward to it. In fact, for many weeks it was the bright spot that kept me going. I was anticipating a few days of relaxation; a few days of chilling with random people; a time to recharge my batteries away from the monotonous hell of Wodonga. So it stands to reason that I ended up having a miserable time; a time that left me emotionally raw, traumatized and desperately in need of a hug!

In fact, the camp was such a hideous time that nearly two weeks later I’m still feeling emotionally delicate, unable to function and filled with a lethargic flatness that is beyond annoying.

My reaction to the camp had nothing to do with how it was organized (which was with a military like precision) or how supportive the staff and other attendees were (which was immensely supportive) but because it served as a stark reminder as to how utterly useless I am at pretty much everything.

  • I’m so useless that I had to sleep in my tent because I’m unable to move past the trauma of my various boarding house experiences in order to sleep in the shared accommodation that everyone else was sleeping in.
  • I’m so useless that in the four days I was there I had three conversations with people who weren’t staff; two of those on the same day.
  • I’m so useless that whenever I was in the presence of a beautiful woman I froze up and became a gibbering, monosyllabic idiot.
  • I’m so useless that I attended only two of the activities because I couldn’t deal with getting on the various buses/boats that were necessary for the remaining activities.
  • I’m so useless that four people felt the need to point out how much weight I’ve put on recently, you know, just in case the guy with body image issues hadn’t already noticed!
  • I’m so useless that I ended up cooking lunch and dinner on all the days I was there, not because I enjoyed it, but because it made me feel a little more useful. And once I’d cooked the food, I was the first person in the kitchen to help with the clean up because – you guessed it – it made me feel that bit more useful.
  • I’m so useless that I have no idea how to relax anymore; hence my need to busy myself with kitchen duties to make me feel less superfluous.
  • I’m so useless that I couldn’t even organize a trivia night without it being filled with errors.
  • I’m so useless that by the third day I was spontaneously bursting into tears as my mind plagued me with suicidal fantasies as punishment for how useless I believe I am.
  • I’m so useless that, as a result of these suicidal fantasies, I had to leave the camp early and return to my home where I could curl up on the couch and weep away from prying eyes.
  • I’m so useless that I couldn’t even remember to pack my phone charger, which means I’ve been without a phone for the last two weeks and will be until I can obtain a replacement.

And as I write this list I realise that I could keep going with many more examples of how useless I am, but won’t because I’m so useless that I can’t risk typing any more in case I begin to start crying again.


The other reason I don’t want to continue writing that list is because I know it’s not helpful. It’s just a chance to whinge about how pointless my life feels from time to time; a chance to unload weeks of negative emotion in the hope that it will allow me to find a way to move onwards and upwards.

But I know what’s been happening to me isn’t just ‘me feeling bad’. A large part of what’s been happening over the last few weeks is down to the medication change-over I’ve been going through. It was running rampant in the days leading up to the camp and continued plaguing me throughout. But it would be easy (and a little simplistic) to blame the woes of that week on medication alone.

The simple fact is I’ve been on my own seven years, doing nothing but surviving, that I have forgotten what it means to relax, I have forgotten how to communicate with people and I do feel useless most of the time.

I know that how I view myself lies at the core of all my mental health issues. And what this camp did was take all my fears, all my failings, all my inadequacies and throw them to the forefront of my existence.

It made me realise how little I’ve actually come since my breakdown in 2007 and how far I still have to go to become the person I so wish to be.

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Coping Skills: Fifty Things of Self-Love

Earlier this year I wrote a post called Coping Skills, which shared a coping skills worksheet that came to me via Indigo Daya’s website. One of the categories on this work-sheet was ‘self-love’, which are all the things you can do to love (or care) for yourself in times of distress.

In this section of the work-sheet I wrote:

Me? Love myself? You gotta be kidding, right? This never happens…but I know it ’should’ be happening, so I seriously need to sit down and try to work out some ways that will allow me to love myself. I just don’t know how anymore. :(

Now, six months on – and to celebrate my 550th post! – I’ve decided to take up the challenge and come up with fifty things of self-love; for how can I ever hope to experience positive emotions again (e.g. happiness, joy, contentment, relaxation, nurture etc.) if I don’t know what will bring them on?

My Self-Love List

A few notes on the above list:

(i) For the sake of clarification, I decided that ‘my’ definition of self-love is: ‘anything I can do to feel something other than shit’. Your definition may be different (and involve less/more swear words!)

(ii) In terms of the final count, instead of merely stating movies, books etc. I decided to expand these sections by listing the five most awesome candidates. It is these five things that are included in the final count of fifty, not the movies, books etc. genres themselves.

(iii) And for all of you rolling your eyes at ‘masturbation’ and ‘kissing/sex/oral sex’…What? I’m just being honest! :p

Now, over to you…what things do you do to love yourself in times of distress?
Are you willing to take the fifty things of self-love challenge?

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Ruminations on confronting an emotional trigger

To say I’m still lost to the negative emotions that have been circling me of late would be an understatement. Living in a perpetual state of heightened anxiety is an exhausting place to be. It has already cost me hope and is draining me of what little energy, focus and concentration remains. However, this blog has always been a place of solace and therapy, so where better to try to make sense of a monumental moment of my life (and dent my current writer’s block) than here?

This post was written as a stream of consciousness on Sunday 5 May 2013, between 15:32-16:04. Apologies for any spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and confused rambling that may occur; they’re all part and parcel of streams of consciousness.



For the better part of twenty-five years, when confronted with a trigger, my gut reaction has always been to run. Whether it be out of the room, out of my place of employment or even, on some occasions, out of the county. I will do whatever it takes to remove any possible chance of encountering that trigger again. I will avoid songs, movies, streets, shops, suburbs, people and cities – regardless of the detrimental effect this will have on my life. After all, half a decade of isolation has fine-tuned my survival instinct into a brutal, instinctual beast.

However, a few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I confronted a trigger head-on.

I sat in a room with the person who has been triggering me and told them that they were triggering me.

Everyone – from support workers to family to Meadhbh – have been telling me it was a massive achievement; something that I should be proud of, something that I should see as a turning point in the way I approach the trauma and anxiety that has ruled my life for so long.

But I felt nothing but shame, shit and utter abject humiliation. So much so that last weekend I submitted to that brutal beast and left my home with the intent to return to a homeless life far from the town that has been my home for the last eighteen months-ish. So much so that I have taken to spontaneously bursting into tears purely to release the tension within me. So much so that in the last three weeks I’ve had only half a dozen conversations as I resume a state of protective hibernation.

Everywhere I’ve been, everywhere I’ve cycled, every occasion I’ve found myself in has seen me staring rigidly at the ground, never once looking at the world around me for fear people will see me for the wretched creature I believe I am. My cheeks have burned red with blushing embarrassment, my silence – even more than usual – has been deafening and my mind lost to the demons of self-hate, negativity and near constant (irrational) criticism.

But every time I’ve been asked why I’ve felt so humiliated – I’ve not been able to rationally explain it. Not once.

Perhaps because I was admitting a weakness to someone I look up to admire. Perhaps because it proved my inferiority in comparison to the rest of the world. Perhaps because I’m just a worthless piece of shit destined to feel nothing but negative emotions.

Or, as Meadhbh put it, “perhaps it’s easier to wallow in humiliation rather than bathe in the stunningly kick ass awesomeness of Addy!” (She’s a smart one, that Meadhbh!)


Throughout my abusive relationship whenever I showed a glimmer of strength it wasn’t long before my abuser upped-the-metaphorical-stick to beat me back down. She had to, as it’s much easier to control someone who is vulnerable than someone who is showing signs of kick ass awesomeness!

I was conditioned to appease; to say only the things she wanted to hear, to do the things she wanted to do, to share the opinions that she wanted to hear. Any sign of weakness, any sign of individuality, any moment of awesomeness, would lead to abusive tantrums, vicious insults and public humiliation; all to keep me vulnerable and her in control.

As I sat in that room with my trigger only a few feet away, I wasn’t appeasing the situation, I wasn’t doing what (my abuser) would have wanted me to do, I was being the kick ass awesome Addy that only Meadhbh seems to be able to see. I stood up to emotions that – only a couple of weeks earlier – had left me vomiting and bawling on the floor of a public toilet.

Yet, rather than applaud this show of strength, my mind reverted to the mindset of how my abuser would have made me feel. In essence I (in conjunction with Vanessa, the voice of my abuser) ensured I was punished for this (in her words) “outrageous display”.


So, as Vanessa yelled, screamed, tormented and abused, I succumbed to a flagellating state. Not physically, but mentally lashing my soul with a cat o’ nine tails. How dare I believe I could be so strong! How dare I possess such strength! How dare I demonstrate such a determination to be someone other than a repulsive piece of shit!

Cue the focus on shame. On humiliation. On the tears, cycle of self-hate and irrational decisions to appease she who must always be in control.

Cue the depersonalization. The dissociation. The removal of my self from mind, body and soul as a means of protection against such powerful pain.

Cue the self harm. The self-medication. The repetitious acts I’ve become so accustomed to perform in a valiant effort to reconnect the shattered remnants of my mind.

Cue never once realising that the only reason my abuser, my voices and my traumatized self act like this is because we are scared.

Morbidly terrified of losing control over someone they can see is growing in strength, stature and confidence.


A few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I confronted a trigger head-on.

I sat in a room with the person who has been triggering me and told them that they were triggering me.

Everyone – from support workers to family to Meadhbh – have been telling me it was a massive achievement; something that I should be proud of, something that I should see as a turning point in the way I approach the trauma and anxiety that has ruled my life for so long.

And they’re right. I know that. I don’t believe it yet, but I know that they are.

Everyone has triggers, not just people who deal daily with mental ill-health and trauma, but everyone.

Confronting a trigger in the manner that I did three weeks ago is something not everyone could do. To put yourself in such a dangerous position, such a vulnerable and humiliating position, is something most people (myself included) would run from. But I didn’t. I may have blushed, I may have looked everywhere in the room but eyes, I may have felt nauseous from fear and humiliated beyond belief. I may have forgotten every goddamn thing that was said after admitting what was happening!

But I still did it.

I still took the first step on the path toward finding more productive ways of dealing with triggers than doing Monty Python and the Holy Grail impressions.

Later this week I will be meeting my support worker to review some of the ideas that were discussed that day (I am being completely honest when I say I can’t remember any of it! Hence, dissociation!) and perhaps from that – and my Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan ideas – something can be implemented to re-empower myself against this particular trigger.

In time, I’m sure I will begin to believe the kick ass awesomeness of Addy.

Until then, I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel; regardless whether those emotions are positive, negative or somewhere in between.



Coping Skills

We all have good days and bad days. For some of us, especially if mental health issues are involved, the bad days can be all-consuming, so when they hit we need to have the coping skills to deal with the emotional distress we find ourselves in.

My support worker recently gave me a worksheet – created by Indigo Daya (a Melbourne based mental health trainer, consultant and change agent) – that gives advice on how we can help ourselves cope during such difficult times, across six different aspects of our lives:

Coping Skills

Worksheet Layout and Text © Indigo Daya

On the reverse of the worksheet there is space for you to write about the various coping skills that work best for you. You’re also encouraged to print out a copy so you can refer to it in times of need. Whilst I’ve stuck my hard-copy on the fridge, I’ve also decided to include a version of it here on the off-chance it will inspire someone in ways they may not have thought of.

In working through the worksheet it became apparent to me how reliant I am on the distraction set of coping skills. In fact, aside from the occasional moment of emotional release, virtually all of my coping mechanisms fall into this category.

This realisation has encouraged me to look at some other coping skills (such as grounding and self-love) to see if I can create some new skills to better assist with distressing periods, especially when lack of concentration makes it difficult to focus on any distractions.

My Coping Skills

Worksheet Layout © Indigo Daya

If you would like to view Indigo Daya’s Coping Skills worksheet and print a copy to complete yourself, you can do so here.

Whilst I work on the areas I’m lacking skills in, I’m interested in how other people cope with life’s distresses. Do you tend to rely on distraction? Or are you more a self-love or emotional release person?

Feel free to leave any coping skills advice in the comments below, who knows, you may find yourself accessing your higher self and helping someone else. :)

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Unsent Letter #3: My life would be empty had you never been in it

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Not sure how this one is gonna go down. Hopefully not badly.

5 September 2012

Dear ——–.

Did I ever tell you what I was thinking when I pulled your purple pyjamas off the line? How when the wind began to pick up and the rain threaten to fall, I dashed outside and plucked them from certain drowning in the Hebridean Sea, all because I wanted to see how cute your perfect posterior looked within them.

Yep. You probably thought I was being a modern-day, slightly scruffy Mr Darcy when I saved the pyjamas of a relative stranger from being lost at sea. But nope, I was just thinking of your cute backside and how much I had already begun to fall for its owner.

I’m hoping you know me well enough to know I didn’t fall for you simply because of your quality arse, but in case you don’t, and for the benefit of the blogging audience, I didn’t.

I fell for you the first night we met, the moment you staggered out of the Professor’s car wearing every item of clothing you owned. I fell for you the moment our eyes met and you smiled that contagious smile of yours. By the time we huddled around the fire entertaining ourselves with a dodgy fashion advice book you’d already stolen my heart, so your deliberate sexual pronunciation of breasts and buttocks and bosom and stockings was just torture. But you know that, don’t you?

Did you know I lay in bed that night fantasising about you? How I craved to be the one to slowly peel each layer of clothing from your body? Did I tell you how much we laughed in that fantasy as I removed over a dozen pairs of underwear before finally getting to the good stuff!

Just like with that book, and the drinking game, and the oh-so-take-me-now ”yes please” you whispered under your breath that first night, you knew you had me caught in your splendiferousness.

So much has happened since we last met, since we shared a tea and you quoted Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. So much heartbreak and loss, confusion and darkness, that sometimes I thought nothing would make me smile again. But no matter how wrong it sounds, how weird or pathetic, when things get too much I just allow myself to drift back to the hostel and those first few blissful days.

Even though it’s a sure-fire way to make me cry – happy tears, just like now – it’s also a sure-fire way to make me smile. As they say, you always remember your first time, and I am so grateful that my first time was with someone so understanding, so beautiful, so kind-hearted and whose posterior looked so utterly magnificent in purple pyjamas!

Blimey, so many memories are flooding back right now I think I need to take a moment. I was always a bit soft, you know that, but in recent years tears have become few and far between; I should have known memories of you would bring them back in a heartbeat.

For the last few years my mind has oscillated between anger, frustration, guilt and joy whenever I think of you. Anger because of what you did; frustration because of all I sacrificed; guilt because of the things I never said and joy because, well, you’re you. How could I not feel joy with all we shared?

I hope you won’t mind if I skip the anger and go straight to the guilt. We spent too much time in the anger that year that there is little left to say on the matter. I made mistakes. You made mistakes. We were both human. All I will say is that I’m sorry I didn’t handle the situation better. I’ve returned to those months many times over the last few years and no matter when I do all I see is a man struggling to figure out what was happening. I tried so hard to explain but I could never find the words to get across to you how scared I was. Not because of what happened but because of myself.

That sharp drop into depression obliterated me that year. I didn’t understand it like I do now. I never had. Which is where the guilt comes in – and I need to talk about that, because it’s been eating away at me for years.

It would be a lie to say I’d never wondered if you’d read any of this blog. Back in those early days I thought of it often, worried about how you would take some of the things I wrote. You knew I suffered from depression, and you knew of my early suicidal thoughts, but the self-harm…I’m sorry.

There were so many times during our relationship that I wanted to talk to you about that. To tell you of the things I had done to myself. The day I self-harmed just before Christmas, when I lied to you about burning my hand on the stove, all I wanted you to know was that I had done it to myself; that I wasn’t coping and didn’t know what to do anymore. Perhaps if I’d told you, you could have helped me find help, but I guess that’s what karma is for. It sure did come back to bite me on the ass, I assure you.

For years I convinced myself I hadn’t told you of my self-harm past because I was protecting myself. When I met you I hadn’t self-harmed for over a month, and then there was kissing and sex and experimentation with handcuffs and long walks along the Ness and the urge was gone. I was scared that telling you would trigger me to doing it – and as time went on – it was no longer an issue. Until that day before Christmas. Until 2006.

There’s nothing I can say to alleviate that guilt, of keeping something so intimate from you, but know that I am deeply sorry for the things I never told you of my life. Like I said, if I had maybe I would have got help sooner, but like I said, karma.

Just like October 2007, for which there is no excuse. When I left that suicide letter I was out of my mind. I wasn’t thinking rationally. I wasn’t thinking at all. I barely remember leaving it and, when the psychiatrist at the hospital gave it back to me, I couldn’t even remember writing it.

There was no malice there, ——–, I promise. My mind was broken and I had no idea what I was doing; or the rational irrationality of the suicidal mind, as I have said to myself over the years.

So I’m sorry, truly. The thought that this is your last memory of me is punishment enough.

Then there’s frustration, but I think I’ll skip that as well. You know what I sacrificed for you. I emigrated for you! Through all these years of nothing I keep wondering where my life would be if you’d just told me you didn’t want to be with me anymore.

But then, if I hadn’t come to Australia, we would have missed out on so much happiness. Or, at least I hope they were happy years for you, because I’ve never regretted the time we spent together. All those walks along the beach, the long bike rides around Albert Park, lazy days in the flat and excursions to beautiful places. They fill my heart with such warmth and happiness all the pain of what happened between us dissipates.

And I just find myself remembering that same contagious smile I fell in love with on that distant island almost twelve years ago. And the perfect posterior that looked so edible in whatever you wore!

Okay, starting to sound like Karl Stefanovic, sorry.

The problem with streams of consciousness is that I am bound by the mythical rule of zero editing. If this weren’t such a post I would happily snip all I wrote between the symbols so you would only remember the happy times we shared.

Family aside, dearest ——–, you were the most important person in my life. In many ways, you still are, and given the likelihood I’ll be spending my remaining years alone, you always will be.

You taught me about life, art, literature and – to be crass, but equally true – the female body; both inside and out. You introduced me to a world of music beyond dodgy pop and random Scottish folk. You showed me what it was like to trust someone, to give yourself over to someone so completely that they become the guardian of your soul. You introduced me to the pain of a broken heart, a lesson as equally important as the introduction of love, which you were also responsible for.

My life would be so different had you never emerged in all those layers of clothes from the Professor’s car. Had you not seized control and asked if you could kiss me, nothing would be the same.

Perhaps for the better.

Perhaps not.

Either way, I know my life would be empty had you never been in it.

For all the years of wonder, beauty, love and bliss you gave me, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I loved you more than I ever dared to admit and I will continue doing so until my dying day.

I hope you found happiness, my dearest ——–, for my heart would break if you didn’t.

All My Love Always,

Addy xx

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015. Five songs that have made me cry

Many years and lives ago I used to cry at the drop of a hat. I always put it down to the perils of being a highly sensitive person. Weddings, births, deaths, Guy Fawkes nights, Christmas, New Year…yep, my ducts would spring a leak on each and every one of them.

Goodbyes were something that always had me welling up, as does the ending of The Amber Spyglass and Torchwood: Series 2. Whilst Doctor Who: Doomsday, well, when I first watched that I nearly cured the drought in Australia.

As for the times I kill an innocent jacket potato by leaving it in the oven for too long…let’s not go there.

These days I don’t cry. Period. I well up from time to time but never allow myself to let the tears fall. I can’t actually remember the last time that I did. I’ve put this down to a defense mechanism rather than a HTFU approach to life. I generally believe men need to soften rather than harden up, whilst women need to start understanding that there’s nothing wrong if a man needs to cry, especially over emotionally painful things.

I wish I could cry more. I miss the emotional release that a good weep would give me and believe that things would be a lot better for me in terms of coping and isolation if I could receive a release every now and then.

Therefore, for my 365 Day Challenge, writing about a song that makes me cry is impossible.

I can however write about songs that have made me cry.

1. Goodbye to You (Michelle Branch)

I first heard this song in the Buffy episode Tabula Rasa. Tara and Willow break up, Giles leaves for England…it’s all too emotional! After discovering what the song was I tracked the album down in a music store in Cardiff and listened to it one night as I moseyed back to the train station.

Whether it was residual Buffy memories or the fact my girlfriend had recently flown back to Melbourne leaving me all alone, I don’t know. All I do know is that I walked through the streets of Cardiff crying like a baby as this played on my old Discman.

2. Unexpected Song (Bernadette Peters)

This song is a key track on the soundtrack album of my second relationship and whenever I hear it I think of her. The fact this relationship became abusive means I cannot listen to this song. Ever.

I guarantee you it will make me cry if I were to listen to it…however, as the traumatic memories would probably also trigger me to kill myself, I don’t think I’ll be trying anytime soon.

3. The Story (Brandi Carlile)

The Story was an album I used to listen to a lot when I was writing the original incarnation of this blog in 2007.

Whenever I hear any song on the album I think of those confused, distorted, homeless days and all the pain I was recording for the world to read.

4.Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)

We were sitting on a ferry still in dock at Lochmaddy harbour. I had arrived on the island alone to celebrate the New Year in a place that I held dear to my heart; I was returning beside a beautiful woman.

As I tried to comprehend the massive change my life had taken she pulled out a CD player and slipped a disc inside. Popping on ear bud into my left ear, the other into her right ear, she took hold of my leg and told me she wanted to play me her favourite song.

Five and a half years later I am standing in a flat I had called home for three years. All that remains is memory as our once wonderful relationship lay in unrepairable tatters on the floor.

Slipping a CD into the player I listened to one last song to remind me of the good times before leaving. It had me in tears the moment his breath hit the speakers.

5. I Try (Macy Gray)

Oh. My. God.

This song is one of two songs that immediately takes me back to one of the greatest times of my life. For several months in late 1999, early 2000, I long-termed at an Inverness backpacker hostel with a group of some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

That winter, this song was a huge hit and played many, many times via the stereo during the period. However, it did not make me cry until late February.

As with all travelling eventually the time comes to go home and as I was home it was everyone else who was leaving. In the space of six days I said a farewell to three of the greatest people I’d ever met and as I walked, alone for the first time in months, through the streets of London I walked into a music store off Piccadilly. As I browsed the CDs this song began to play and, even though I tried to stop it, the tears just came as I realised a chapter of my life was closing and things would never be the same again.

Yep, still no tears, but I came close with Hallelujah and I Try. And no, I didn’t dare try Bernadette Peters!

When the day comes that I cry again, I’ll be sure to let you know :)

Until then, what songs move you to tears?