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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Update: Imploding

Yesterday, I had a long, lengthy and languid conversation with Meadhbh. She’s worried about me. She says I’ve lost my faerie sparkle. And she’s right. There is currently no happiness in my life. There is no joy, no contentment, no relaxation and no motivation. There is nothing but stress, depression and a morose malaise that I cannot seem to break. Throughout the conversation she tried to spark my interest; we talked about Samantha, whom I miss more than life itself, we talked about movies and television, we talked about old friends and acquaintances, we talked about Zelda, kink and the importance of believing in the strange, obscure and magical, but none of the conversations even sparked a smile, they just made me feel even more inadequate, even more useless and even more pointless. She was trying to help me, she was trying to break through the depression and remind me of all the things I love in life, all the things that usually make my heart sing, but all her words did was remind me of the mess that I have made of my life. Which hardly helped the vicious, all consuming depression I have found myself in over the last couple of months.

Meadhbh thinks I've lost my faerie sparkle...

Meadhbh thinks I’ve lost my faerie sparkle…

The simple fact of the matter is, I’m imploding. Even simple tasks like getting out of bed or having a shower are becoming impossible for me to achieve, let alone more complicated tasks like housework or grocery shopping. I know this is the depression. I know this is the mental health. But knowing doesn’t make it any easier. You can have all the knowledge in the world but it’s still not going to make life any easier. And I use that word loosely, for what I have at the moment isn’t a ‘life’. It’s an existence. I just go through the motions day after day, watching movies, watching DVDs, doing anything to pass the time until I can crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling for another eight hours. There is no excitement in my life, there is no happiness, there is nothing but pain, stress, misery and death fantasies.

And Vanessa is loving it. For the last two months Vanessa has been in her element because this is exactly the state she loves seeing me in. For years she has been adamant that I deserve nothing but pain in life, so now that my life is only about pain, she is salivating with excitement. Her words – as cruel and cutting as they always are – have complete control over me. Her abuse has been as constant as my unhappiness, gleefully pointing out how what is happening to me is my fault, that I have brought it on myself, that my pain is nothing but my own deserved creation. Meadhbh has taken issue with her, as she always does, and some of their fights over the last couple of months have been deafeningly epic. But I’ve been too tired, too devoid of energy, to do anything about it. So I just let them slug it out. Neither wins, of course, they never do, they just relish bickering with each other over their precious Addy. In the end, it’s just more noise for me to deal with. Between them and my neighbour (who gets noisier with each passing day) it’s a wonder I haven’t gone completely insane yet!

And as my depression deepens, so too does my social anxiety and PTSD. Things have gotten so bad on the social anxiety front that I haven’t been able to go to the supermarket for nearly a week. I’ve barely eaten anything over the last seven days as it’s easier for me to starve myself than deal with the stress and complications of being out in public. In fact, I’ve only been out the house three times in the last seven days; once to see my support worker, once to see my GP and once to return items to the library. The rest of the time I’ve been trapped in my house; being driven to rage by my incessantly noisy neighbour. As for my PTSD? Flashbacks, reliving and nightmares galore! Mostly it’s been about my abusive relationship (no change there) but my neighbour is also triggering my boarding house experiences, which is making me want to return to the safety and seclusion of life on the street.

And there is the crux of the issue. Things are so bad for me at the moment that I am actively considering ditching my apartment and returning to living on the streets. At least if I were to do that I could move back to Melbourne and be somewhere that I wanted to be; somewhere that my faerie sparkle would have a chance to shine, even if it were under a blanket in the middle of a desolate park. And that is something Vanessa would really love; as she has always believed I deserve nothing more than a life on the streets.

But until then I will continue to do the ‘right’ thing; seeking an appointment with a psychiatrist, seeing my support worker, attending my GP appointments, none of whom can do anything to alter my situation, none of whom can do anything to stop my mind from imploding. For, as I pointed out to Meadhbh yesterday, the only thing that can do that is for me to stop existing and start living; something that will never happen in my poverty-ravaged, stress-laden, Wodonga-trapped world.

 


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Melbourne 2015: Day 05. The hipsterfication of Melbourne

The fifth day of my adventure in Melbourne began like all the others; leaping out of bed at 8:00am, showering, throwing some clothes on and keenly leaving the motel by 9:00am to explore the various locales and laneways of old Melbourne town. On the agenda for Sunday was; a bracing walk down Lygon Street and a trip to the ocean-side suburb of St. Kilda.

Lygon Street is better known as Little Italy, not because it is overrun with Italians, but because it is overrun with Italian restaurants. No matter where you look, there is a restaurant offering everything from pizza and pasta to pasta and pizza. It is a street I used to know well, in my old pre-breakdown life, and like Brunswick Street, a street that is now a constant reminder of my abusive girlfriend. But, as with my efforts to walk Brunswick Street without a panic attack, I was determined to stroll down this street without anxiety and trauma overpowering my mind. The time I chose to do this was instrumental. Early morning on a Sunday is probably the quietest Lygon Street will ever be. It is, after all, an evening street. During the day there is little to do, as all the eateries are closed, opening only for lunch and dinner. So customers are few and far between. But like Brunswick Street, as I wandered the pathways of the street, I realised that once again the hipsters had taken over. Independent shops and eateries had been replaced with trendy chain stores and franchises. The soul of the street that I once loved had disappeared and been replaced with hipster-chic.

For example. On the corner of Lygon Street and Elgin Street once stood a second-hand bookstore called Book Affair. It was heralded as the largest second-hand bookstore in Victoria, and had two huge floors overflowing with books and tomes for your literary enjoyment. Book Affair, in a past life, was my favourite bookstore in Melbourne and I spent many – many – hours perusing the shelves and filling my bookshelf with their ware. But now it has gone. Replaced with an Insurance broker (as if the world needs any more of those) and a trendy stationary store selling overpriced merchandise. To say I mourned the loss of this once great bookstore was an understatement. I felt its loss deep within me and had to settle my emotions with a lengthy sit down on a conveniently placed bench. It truly felt like I had lost a significant chapter of my life, such was my love of this store.

Readings, Lygon Street

Readings, Lygon Street

Fortunately, the hipsterfication of Lygon Street had not claimed Readings. Readings is one of the oldest independent booksellers in Melbourne, and houses a vast collection of books, music and DVDs, many being hard to find items and those imported from overseas. Readings, in my pre-breakdown life, was the place I would go for Scottish folk music, it was the place I would go for interesting literature, and the place I would go for rare DVDs. It is a shop I have always loved with my whole heart and a shop I could always find something I wanted to purchase. And this visit was no different. A book that collected the short fiction of Alasdair Gray was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $50 (nearly three times my daily budget) and a DVD copy of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $30 (nearly twice my daily budget). So I left Readings without purchasing anything; even though my whole being was crying out to buy something! I don’t think I’ve ever shown such restraint in this majestic retailer.

After leaving Readings I decided to meander through my old neighbourhood to see what had changed. After Louise and I broke up I moved into a boarding house in Fitzroy, lodged neatly between Lygon Street and Brunswick Street. It was a pretty shocking place to live, and the landlord was featured in the newspaper as being the worst landlord in Melbourne, but I loved living so close to my favourite streets in Melbourne. As I walked the streets, the memories came flying back; memories of being attacked and abused by my abuser; memories of hanging out and chilling with friends, memories that, for better or worse, I don’t want to lose. The suburban streets hadn’t changed much. Sure, new apartment blocks had sprung up and shops gone the way of the dodo, but it was all pretty much as I remembered. Certainly, the hipsterfication had infiltrated this part of the world (my old launderette, which was once a hovel of a place containing only washers and dryers now featured a funky cafe and bright, breezy decoration) but it wasn’t as severe and noticeable as other parts of the city.

I ended up on Brunswick Street, and spent half an hour perusing some of the shops and revisiting the Grub Street Bookstore. My Readings restraint evaporated and I ended up buying a book (Stonemouth, by Iain Banks) as all books were 50% off due to the shop closing down and selling up. Another blow to the heart and another reason I hate Kindles so much. Sure, they’re valuable for people who have trouble reading small print and those who don’t want to carry a small library around with them, but they’re destroying all the wonderful, independent, second-hand book sellers who make the world such a beautiful, magical place.

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Brunswick Street led me to Smith Street which led me back to the wonder of Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent an hour chilling amidst the trees, watching happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. I then wandered into the city to catch a tram to St. Kilda.

And what did I find once I reached this seaside locale? Yep. You guessed it. The hipsters had taken over. Acland Street, which was once a collection of independent stores and funky little bakeries, was now a hideous assortment of trendy, upmarket retailers and franchised food stores selling overpriced, “gluten-free” products. I used to love Acland Street. It was one of the first streets I came to know when I arrived in Australia way back in 2002. But I hated it now. I truly, utterly despised it. I spent much of my time ruing the day the damned hipsters took over. How dare they destroy the hearts of suburbs with their sheep-like mentality and grandiose, holier than thou attitudes.

The beach, however, was blissful. I hadn’t seen the ocean since I was in Scotland in 2009 and spent nearly two hours roaming the beach, paddling in the water and watching the happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. It felt so good to be beside the ocean again, felt so good to feel the cool salt water lap around my toes. It’s one of the things I miss most whilst living in the landlocked town of Wodonga. The ocean is in my blood, always has been, and it just feels wrong to live so far away from it.

After perusing the artistic wares on offer at the St. Kilda Esplanade market, I boarded a tram for a return trip to the city. Unlike the tram I caught to St. Kilda, I became a little overwhelmed on my return. I don’t deal well with public transport. Buses. Trams. Trains. I don’t like the hideous amount of people crammed into a tiny space. I don’t like control being taken away from me. I don’t like stop-start movement of these methods of transportation. So as the tram trundled along St. Kilda Road I found my anxiety rising for the first time since being in Melbourne. It wasn’t helped by the person sitting next to me noisily chewing gum; something which set my misophonia off to startling, uncomfortable degrees. So I alighted the tram early, choosing to walk my blistered feet a couple of kilometers rather than deal with the anxiety that was overtaking me.

By now I was pretty tired. My feet were sore. And I was somewhat overwhelmed with all the memories that had been bombarding me all day. I was proud of my achievements – Lygon Street, Brunswick Street, two tram journeys – but knew it would be best to return to the motel for a night of relaxation and reflection.

For dinner I chose to have a Subway Veggie Delight sandwich, which I munched down on whilst watching a double bill of Spider-man and Spider-man 2, which I found playing on an obscure television channel. On the agenda for Monday was the (much longed for) Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and an evening spent enjoying the city after dark; surely two activities that would ensure the day be something exceptional! :)


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Melbourne 2015: Day 03. Facing the demons of the past…

And so we come to day three of my fabulous adventures in Melbourne. A day that saw me explore Melbourne’s past, face my personal demons and rediscover the majestic taste of the greatest soft drink known to human kind…

21st August 2015, 8:02pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve done so much walking over the last two days that I’ve developed blisters on top of blisters! Walking back to the motel this evening was exquisite pain, but removing my shoes and socks after another busy day was exquisite bliss. Although when I finally got a look at my blisters I was a bit disgusted. I have one on my left foot’s little toe that is bigger than the toe itself. It’s quite disgusting and, as I brought nothing sharp to pop it with, resorted to using one of the in-room forks to relieve the agony. Which was difficult, to be sure, but mightily satisfying when the damned thing burst!

I wasn’t quite as keen leaving as yesterday but I was in the city by 9:30am and at the museum by 10:00am. Yes, this much-loved destination was my chosen activity for the day, and to be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed. Sure, Meadhbh got all excited and started RAWRing in my ear when she saw the dinosaurs (they were completely unexpected) but the rest of the displays were lackluster and somewhat disappointing. There was a delightful rainforest installation (actual trees!) and the section that investigated the mind and all that affects it was interesting but for Melbourne Museum, there wasn’t an awful lot about Melbourne itself. Just a lackadaisical display that was nowhere near as interesting as I remembered. Sure, Phar Lap was present and correct, but where was the information on Melbourne’s growth as a city? Where was the artifacts drawn from Melbourne’s colourful history? Where was the Neighbours kitchen that used to grace this magnificent building? I did enjoy my visit to the museum – fortunately, due to my concession card, I gained free entry – but I was just disappointed that the displays weren’t as interesting or enjoyable as I remembered them.

After departing the museum I decided to challenge myself and headed down Nicholson Street toward the (dreaded) Brunswick Street. Ever since my emotionally abusive relationship this street has been massively triggering for me. It stirs all sorts of bad memories of that painful, debilitating time. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into an abusive tirade about how kissing me made her want to vomit. It was on Brunswick Street that she threw a glass of water over my head, and then laughed maniacally at my humiliation, all because I had stated a preference of actor. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into a (different) abusive tirade about how I was the most selfish human being that had ever lived, and that the only person I ever thought of was myself. It used to be my favourite street in Melbourne. But today, it is just a painful reminder of the agony my abuser caused me, and thus, for eight years I’ve avoided it like the plague. So I was quite chuffed with myself when I was able to meander the street with only heightened anxiety. No panic attacks. No grueling PTSD flashbacks. Just me on my once favourite street in Melbourne. I say once favourite because, like the rest of Melbourne the hipsters have taken over. Where once Brunswick Street was an assortment of independent shops and funky retailers, it is now a collection of trendy, up market clothes shops and even trendier, up market eateries. It has, alas, become hipster central. And I hated it. The Grub Street Bookstore (my second favourite second-hand book retailer in Melbourne) was still there, as was Dixons Recycled, but this was not enough to ease the pain of what Brunswick Street has become. Damned hipsters and there annoying, arrogant, hipster ways. How dare you destroy large swathes of the city for your own, petulant needs!

From Brunswick Street I went for a constitutional down Smith Street before aiming for Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent a good hour relaxing in this tranquil, tree filled oasis before returning to the city for some light (but essential) shopping.

By 3:00pm I was in Federation Square, enjoying a can of Cherry Coke and trying to decide what to do next. I didn’t feel like browsing the shops, nor did I feel like just sitting still, so I opted for a visit to the Immigration Museum. And glad I was that I made such a choice. Beautifully laid out, dynamic displays, a wealth of information and all housed inside a glorious building that was, at one point in Melbourne’s history, Customs House. I was far more impressed with the Immigration Museum than I was Melbourne Museum, and would urge anyone who visits Melbourne to place this attraction on their itinerary.

After leaving the museum City Basement Books, DVD Collection and The Little Library followed before I happened upon a shop that sells Irn Bru. Yes. Irn Bru! That magnificent Scottish soft drink. That beverage from the Gods. Oh boy, have I missed this particular sparking liquid! Cue Irn Bru selfies and a couple of rather random abstracts!

Tonight I was supposed to go to my gathering, which was pretty much the reason I came to Melbourne this week, but I’ve made the executive decision not to go. I’m tired. I’m a tad overwhelmed after Brunswick Street and I’m just not in the mood to be around hundreds of extroverted (and introverted) individuals. Some might see me as weak, as pathetic, as unexciting, as many negative (and horrible) things. But sometimes I need to look after myself because – surprise, surprise – there’s no-one else around to do it. With the mood I’m in I know that were I to go tonight I would be anxious, I would suffer a panic attack and I would ruin the upcoming weekend in Melbourne. So I don’t feel bad for not going. I’m just taking care of myself and prioritizing my needs above my need for sociable activity. So it’s just another evening in front of the TV and – if yesterday is anything to go by – another fitful, restless sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is the book market at Federation Square (yay, books!) and a chilled out arvo in the motel. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Just another blissful day doing nothing and loving doing it!


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Life is hard, sometimes…

One of the strangest things that has come from my quit smoking attempt is an addiction to cheese. Ever since going smoke free on Wednesday I haven’t been able to get enough of the stuff. I’ve devoured toasted cheese sandwich after toasted cheese sandwich. I’ve feasted on jacket potatoes slathered with lashings of cheddary awesomeness and snacked on savory biscuits adorned with cubes of tasty cheese. Part of me feels I should be worried about this new obsession. That I am merely substituting one addiction with another. But the other part of me laughs in the face of such thinking. Cheese, after all, is not known to cause cancer. It is known to increase your waist size, but as I’m already a big fat person (okay, not that big or that fat) I’m not too worried about this. I’m just thankful for the fact I’d gone three days without cigarettes…

…and yes, you read that sentence correctly. I had gone three days without cigarettes. For this afternoon, after a brutal night of PTSD nightmares and little to no sleep, after a morning of confusion and melancholy, I turned to the sweet drug nicotine to ease my troubled mind. I know what triggered it. I know what caused the onslaught of memory and flashback. And there is nothing I could have done about it. I’m trying not to see this as a setback. I’m trying to look at it with positive eyes. Yes, I smoked a cigarette. But I only smoked one cigarette. I could easily have smoked two, three or four. I could easily have said to hell with my quit smoking attempt, give me more of that nicotine drenched goodness! But I didn’t. I smoked one, blissful, cigarette and then placed the pack in the trash before returning to my quit smoking endeavor.

You might want to give me a bollocking. You might want to turn me over your knee and give me a sound spanking. But before you take such extreme, flirtatious measures, remember that at least I’m being honest about smoking today. I could easily lie about it. I could easily ignore the fact I smoked today and go on making everyone believe I was still smoke free. But that isn’t me. I’m an honest soul. Sometimes too honest. Every quit smoking attempt is littered with setbacks and relapses. Nicotine is, after all, one of the hardest drugs to give up. It’s grip is vicious, strong and vice like. I do feel bad about smoking today, but I’d like everyone to remember how difficult my life is before scolding me.

I’m not saying that for sympathy or special treatment. I’m saying it because it’s true. My life is difficult. I live alone, I have few friends in close proximity and I battle bipolar affective disorder, complex PTSD and severe social anxiety disorder with little to no help. Just being alone all the time is enough to drive most people to despair, let alone having to deal with complicated mental illnesses at the same time. The smallest, most inconsequential thing can trigger me. I could be watching a movie that features a rape scene and bam I’m back in Adelaide being anally penetrated by a grotesque stranger. I could be walking down the road and smell a scent that sends me hurtling back into my abusive relationship. Or I could read an online article and be sent spiraling into the depths of poverty and homelessness.

Over the years I’ve come to realise just how precarious my life is. So many triggers. So many things to avoid. It amazes me sometimes how I have lived as long as I have. Chewing gum, gin and tonic, Buffy, Fitzroy, cigars, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight; all are things that I have to avoid. All have the power to pull me away from the present and send me tumbling into the abyss of panic, terror and nightmare. Just think, for a moment, how difficult that can be. How many times is Harry Potter mentioned in the media, on blogs? People who read Harry Potter don’t just like it, they obsess over it. Hundreds upon thousands of online hours have been dedicated to writing about this fictional wizard. He regularly appears in the mainstream media, on Buzzfeed, on blogs; and every time he does, my mind is triggered and I stop functioning.

Just the other day I was in the supermarket when a father asked his daughter “Would you like that?” and I was rendered almost non-functioning. For this was the exact assortment of words that my rapist said to me. And that’s not the first time that’s happened. Once, many years ago, I was in a similar situation, heard those exact words, and an ambulance had to be called to assist me as I ended up lying in the fetal position, unable to move. Can you imagine how difficult life can be when a simple four word sentence holds such power over someone’s functioning? It’s exhausting. It’s debilitating. It’s painful. It’s so many bloody synonyms I could be here til Doomsday typing them all out.

But I do the best I can. I get out of bed when it would be all too easy to remain there all day. I walk to the supermarket when all I want to do is remain in the comfort and safety of my own world. And I push myself to perform tasks that, although difficult, aid and assist my life. Just the other day I discovered that there is an event being held in Melbourne on the 21st August. A gathering of like-minded souls, congregating to celebrate their passion in a club like environment. There is going to be hundreds of people there. Hundreds of strangers that have the power to render me panic-stricken and comatose. But I put my hand up to attend. I, Addy Lake, social anxiety extraordinaire, volunteered to attend a function with hundreds of people who could render me unable to function. All because I want to go. All because I yearn to break through the hold my anxiety and PTSD hold over my life.

That’s why I’m not beating myself up for smoking one cigarette. My life is hard, it’s painful and it’s every day. There is very little joy in my life and very little relaxation. I exist in a constant state of hyper-vigilance; endlessly on the lookout for the next thing that could send me cascading into the past. But I keep fighting. I keep pushing myself. And I keep seeking out new and hitherto untried strategies that could break the hold mental illness has on me. And that is something to be proud of. Regardless of the occasional slip-up or setback.


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Six of the Best: My self-harm triggers…

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What are some of your main triggers? Why?

emotionaltriggers

I’ve written extensively of my triggers on this blog, including one post in which I challenged myself to find an emotional trigger for every letter of the alphabet. I personally believe that knowing your triggers is one of the most important tasks you can undertake in your recovery journey. For only by knowing what sets you off, what stimulates those urges and beckons the darkness, can we hope to find ways to appease them.

1. Loneliness

My primary trigger for many of my mental distresses is loneliness. Even thinking about being alone is enough to trigger bouts of depression, mood shifts of bipolar and all manner of self harm activity. Ever since I was a teenager I had a fear of being alone. It was something I never wanted to be. I thrive on people. Being around others fills me with confidence, motivates me, thrills me and generally fills me with all sorts of happy fuzzy bunny feelings. But when I’m alone. When I have no-one in my life. I am filled with a darkness that only self-harm can enlighten. The last eight months of being self-harm free have been a nightmare. I am perpetually alone. No-one to distract me, no-one to enliven me, no-one to stimulate me. As such, I find myself being constantly triggered, but unable to self harm to relieve myself as I wish to remain self harm free.

2. Emotional Abuse/Domestic Violence

Ever since I found myself the victim of an emotionally abusive relationship, anything to do with abuse/domestic violence has triggered me. Overhearing it being talked about in public. Reading about it in a newspaper article. Seeing the hashtag #DV in tweets. Everything and anything to do with abuse has the power to render me completely useless, as it resurfaces all the memories, all the pain and chaos that I went through during those long, abusive months. Many times over the last eight years I’ve found myself self harming to relieve the pain I feel as a result of domestic violence.

3. Rape

My rape occurred on the 7th July 2007; eight years ago tomorrow. Sitting here, today, I have already begun thinking the only way I will get through the day is by self harming. I don’t want to. But the memories that will resurface, the pain that I will be assaulted with, will only be soothed by self harm. It is, without question, the first major challenge of my self harm free period this year. But it isn’t just memories of my rape that trigger me. Like abuse/domestic violence, it is everything to do with the subject. Articles. Personal accounts. Tweets. Facebook posts. TV shows. Anything that features rape has the power to trigger me. It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s everyday. But there is little I can do about it.

4. Crowds of people/People in general

This is to do with my social anxiety. I don’t like massive crowds of people. I don’t like being around people in general. I don’t trust them. I don’t function well around them. They have the power to reduce me to a quivering, unintelligible wreck. Many times over the years that I’ve been self harming I have been triggered to cut after spending prolonged periods of time around others. Even at school, being surrounded by dozens of other people, my peers, was enough to trigger me into self harming when I got home. It was a way to deal with the anxiety. It still is, all these years later.

5. Vanessa

Vanessa; the bane of my existence. Of my four primary voices she is the most abusive, the most vicious, the most damaging. Everything she says is an insult, every comment designed to inflict pain on my person. She encourages me to self harm often. I don’t always succumb to her wishes, but there have been times, many times, when I have. I wish she would stop. I wish she would stop telling me to do it. But she won’t. Like all the other triggers, I just have to install mechanisms to deal with her.

6. Boredom

I like being stimulated. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve never liked sitting around doing nothing. I need to be doing something. Whether that’s writing, reading, playing video games, watching TV, chatting to other people, masturbating (what, I’m an adult, and a passionate socially isolated one at that!), preparing dinner, listening to music, whatever. I need to be doing something. For when I’m not doing something the dark thoughts that populate my mind rise to the fore and I’m forced to self harm in order to appease them. This is a major problem given my current boring, monotonous routine. As essentially I do nothing every day, and in doing nothing, I have found my self harm urges growing with every passing day; threatening the self harm free eight months that I’ve successfully navigated.

Even though I know of my triggers, I still have tremendous difficulty with them. I am working hard to alleviate them, to find coping mechanisms and skills to stop them triggering self harm or summoning my deepest depression. It’s a learning curve, I guess, that I’m still working through. One day I hope I will get there. One day I hope I will be able to manage each of these six things. It’s just today, is not that day.

What about you? Do you have triggers you find hard to manage? Do you have any tips or tricks to overcome them?


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Hearing Voices: What triggers Meadhbh (in her own words)

Back in 2013 I did a lot of work to understand my voices on a number of fronts, including: the hearing voices support group (which I haven’t attended for over a year)  answering the Maastricht Interview with a support worker, writing blog posts about them and working through a Voices Work Book provided by the aforementioned group. In all four scenarios the subject of ‘triggers’ arose, and although I’m acutely aware of the vast majority of my anxiety/mood/PTSD triggers, I’ve long had little idea over my voices’ triggers. So when it came to tackling this subject I had little idea where to start. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t come up with anything other than ‘exhaustion’, ‘stress’ and ‘weakness’.

Now, more desperate than ever to understand my voice triggers, I’ve decided the only option is to ask them directly, commencing with my primary (and most helpful) voice, Meadhbh. So here – in her own words – are what Meadhbh considers to be the triggers that bring her forth.

Meadhbh

Moon

~ Triggers marked with a ‘‘ are shared with my other voices ~
~ All text written in purple font are direct quotes from Meadhbh ~

  • Camping
    Meadhbh took great pains to remind me how angry she was when I signed the lease of my unit in March 2012, as it meant we would have to move out of the tent we’d been staying in. For as long as I can remember Meadhbh has loved camping and will always come a calling when a tent is involved.
  • Exhaustion ♥
    With a guilty look on her face, Meadhbh told me: “When you’re exhausted, you’re weak. When you’re weak, you have to listen to me. Why wouldn’t I babble?”
  • Anything involving fantasy
    “When you were being bullied at school, I knew I had to find ways to take your mind off things. So I tried to focus on the things you liked, the things that made you laugh and smile and feel all wonderfully gooey. You know? Like Natalie, your desires, Doctor Who. But more than any of them, I loved it when you read me fantasy novels, as I could imagine myself as one of those sexyashell faeries! I guess that’s why I chose the Dragon Slayer [Note: Monster Hunter Tri] game for us to play. I like dragons, you like dragons, we can slay dragons together and be happy. You know, unless you kill the rhinocuties, in which case it’s the woodshed for you!”
  • When I’m stressed/anxious/upset/nervous etc.
    “When you’re stressed, I can either down-stress you or up-stress you, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re anxious, I can either wind you up or wind you down, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re upset, I can either make you smile or make you cut, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re nervous, I can either make you worse or make you better, depending on how naughty I feel.
    You have no idea how powerful that much control over someone’s life can make you feel!
    It’s impossible to resist!”

  • Scotland (especially anything involving Skye, the country’s folklore and the SLWTCB)
    Meadhbh becomes aggravated whenever the SLWTCB comes up in conversation. For those who aren’t aware, the SLWTCB was a woman I met in the second week of my Scottish backpacking adventure. After chatting for a while in a hostel in Portree (Skye), we took ourselves to a local pub for a few alcoholic beverages before returning to the hostel where – in her doorway – I had a bit of a panic attack and wished her goodnight. The following morning, I left ludicrously early so as not to risk bumping into her. Meadhbh has long believed (since about 15 seconds after I closed my bedroom door that night) that I was a complete moronic wanker to have turned down such an obvious ‘sure thing’ and has never stopped reminding me of my anxiety-led stupidity. The other aspect of this incident that frustrates her is it that it happened on her home island and thus she believes my meeting the SLWTCB was ‘fate’.
    Thus, in addition to this cute bottomed lassie, Meadhbh is frequently rumbled by talk and/or memories of her homeland as she absolutely loves reminiscing of her time there.
  • Hearing Voices Support Group
    Ever since coming to the group for the first time – in order to see for herself what it was all about – Meadhbh has become a staunch supporter of the HVSG and will accompany me to the group. “It pisses me off we haven’t played with the ball for months!” she complained.
  • Not being believed (including victim blame mentality)
  • Boredom
    “Someone has to give you something to do. Better me than Vanessa!”
  • Going to bed
    “Firstly, you look cute in pyjamas. Secondly, beds are cool. Thirdly, who wants to go to bed alone? Fourthly, who really needs sleep? Fifthly, you’re a captive audience. Sixthly…” Audrey cut her off here, but Meadhbh stubbornly finished her sentence. “..I look cute in pyjamas!”
  • Sex (including actual sexual relations, fantasies and advances/situations)
  • Suicidal ideation and/or planning and/or actual attempts
    “Sometimes I feel guilty as shit for pushing you toward it. Other times I just want you to kill yourself because you’re a wothless cunt. Does that make me a bad person?”
  • BIG groups of people (i.e. anything over 6)
  • Music
    The following are some of the songs that invite Meadhbh:
    There She Goes My Beautiful World (Nick Cave)
    – Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Bonnie Tyler)
    – Defying Gravity (from the musical ‘Wicked’)
    – Girl & The Ghost (KT Tunstall)
    – The Love ‘A the Isles (Jenna Reid)
  • (Certain) beautiful women
    There are two reasons why Meadhbh explained (certain) beautiful women are an invitation for her:
    1) Her declaration that she is going to “find me a girlfriend” means she needs to assess each and every woman I encounter, even strangers on the street.
    2) Her love of clothing, which she becomes quite obsessive over.
  • Cute animals (especially possums, wombats and squeeorthy baby animals)
    At this point in the conversation all Meadhbh did was squeal incredibly loudly. Hence ‘squeeorthy’! :p
  • Anniversaries
    Although her presence on certain days isn’t as bad as some of my other people (notably Vanessa, who sees the 26th February as “her day”) Meadhbh will generally make her presence known on my ‘bad days’ and other occasions throughout the year; especially 7 May and 22 December.
  • When she’s being talked about
    “No way I’m letting you talk about me behind my back. You think I’m nits?” [sic]
  • Loneliness
    As she would go on to point out a few hours after our conversation, Meadhbh has become greatly saddened by my continual loneliness and isolation. She is aware (and thus I believe an element of guilt is involved) of the part she has played in this; as since her return in 2007, until 2013, her communications with me was exceedingly abusive and negative – fuelling my insecurities and perpetuating my self-hate. In order to redeem herself, Meadhbh has decided that when I get lonely, she needs to ‘keep me company‘.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 09

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Have you ever taken pictures of your wounds? Discuss.

I personally find photographs of self-harm to be triggering, which is a major reason as to why I’ve never photographed my own self-harm nor posted any images on this blog of other people’s self-harm.

When I began self-harming taking photographs of my wounds was  a big no-go area. Mostly because back in those pre-digital days any photographs taken had to go through a third-party developer and I didn’t want anyone (including strangers) to see what I was doing to myself.

Once digital took over in the naughties, I could easily have taken photographs of what I was doing to myself, but by this point my self-harm routine was pretty much set-in-stone. And it was a routine that didn’t involve photographs because, well, I knew that looking at them would trigger me into wanting to self-harm all over again.

In fact, the only times I’ve been tempted to take photographs of my wounds have been when I’ve carved an intricate pattern or shape into my flesh, not because I wanted to show them to anyone but because I wanted to keep an archival photo of my ‘artwork’. But I never did for the reasons already outlined above.