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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Challenge yourself. You might be surprised!

My normal, boring, monotonous routine was well and truly shaken up today, and my anxiety, which is already super-high, was well and truly challenged as a result.

After waking from a fitful sleep my morning began like any other; talk radio, internet and smoking. Rather than endlessly scour the news websites as I usually do, I decided to be a little more productive by writing a blog post. It wasn’t a great blog post, but was one I’d been considering writing for a week, and although it was tough to get my brain into gear, it felt good to be writing instead of mindlessly reading entertainment articles.

The reason it was hard to get my brain into gear was because I was contemplating this afternoon’s activity. Normally I would walk down the road, grocery shop, return home, watch a movie then listen to talk radio whilst surfing the internet. It’s my safety net. My normal, boring, monotonous routine. But today was different. Today I had an appointment.

A few months ago my support worker submitted an application for a program operated by a local gym. Named Open Doors, it provides gym membership for people who are experiencing hardship and/or mental health issues. It’s designed to get people active. It’s designed to get them moving. A few weeks ago my application was approved and I was granted a 3-month membership to their facility. In addition to full use of the gym, I also have access to the swimming pool, spa and whatever group classes I wish to participate in. And if I attend the gym 20 times over the next three months, I may be granted an additional 3-month membership. An incentive, of sorts, to maintain a healthy regime. Part of the program is an appointment with a personal trainer, who analyses your current exercise regime and suggests a work-out that would suit your particular needs. And today I had that appointment.

I’d known about the appointment for two weeks, and my anxiety has been extremely high as a result. I hate gyms at the best of times. All those gym bunnies with perfect pert bodies trigger my body image issues and, as a result, heighten my anxiety. I feel rotten in a gym. I feel inadequate. I feel worthless. I become obsessed with my appearance and despise pretty much everything about myself as a result. It would have been easy to cancel the appointment. To not show up. To just let the 3-month membership slowly expire. But I was determined to go because I’m determined to shake up my routine. I’m determined to increase my activity in an effort to make myself feel fitter and lose some of the weight Olanzapine has put on. So I strapped on my running shoes and walked the five kilometers to the leisure center where I waited patiently for my appointment.

It was – of course – with a woman. For those who missed it, I admitted earlier today that women scare me more than anything else. Especially uber-fit, toned and beautiful women. Which of course, being a fitness instructor, this woman was. But she was also nice. Which made me question not only my fear of women but also my anxiety surrounding the appointment. We started with a Q&A session about my current exercise routine before she took my blood pressure, questioned me on my medical background and worked out both my weight and height. I never weigh myself. My body image issues can’t handle it. So I was freaking out about getting on the scales. Freaking out about finding just how much weight I’ve put on. The last time I weighed myself was some two years ago at the GP, before Olanzapine piled on the pounds and turned me into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Back then, I was 100kg. Today, I expected to be at least 110kg, if not 120kg. Fortunately, and to my surprise, I was still 100kg. Which just goes to show that you can’t always trust your mind!

After the initial part of the appointment was over, she took me into the gym for a quick tour, before advising me on the best regime for my beginner status. I’m to start with 5mins on the treadmill, followed by squats, followed by planks, followed by sessions on several different weight machines. To finish, a simple five-minute cool down on the exercise bike. But I can always swap the bike and treadmill around, if I felt like it. It’s a pretty simple routine, and one I should be able to manage, as long as I can stomach hiking the 10km round trip to the leisure center three times a week; which is my work-out goal.

After being shown the routine she left me to my own devices and, as I was there, performed my first tour of the treadmill-weights-bike that is to be my routine over the coming weeks. It’s been some eighteen months since I was last in the gym and I’m sure I will feel it tomorrow, but it felt good to be being active again. It felt good to be strolling along the treadmill, it felt good to be performing my first ever plank and it felt good to be lifting weights and feeling the burn in my stomach and abs.

Whether or not I will stick to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout goal is yet to be seen. The only thing that will stop me will be anxiety and/or the walk to the leisure center. But I’m adamant I want the 3-month extension to the program, and to do that, I need to visit at least twenty times over the next three months. My current monotonous life shows how easily it is for me to exist within a routine, so all I need to do is challenge my anxiety, my body image issues, and alter my current routine into something different. It shouldn’t be too difficult – surely! And who knows, perhaps it will result in me meeting a gym bunny with a perfect pert body. A gym bunny who finds me undeniably sexy and can’t resist throwing herself upon me at any given opportunity…what? I’m not allowed to dream? ;)

By the time I walked home I was feeling quite proud of myself. Not only had I successfully altered my normal, boring, monotonous routine, I had successfully challenged my anxiety and prevented a panic attack. Not bad for one days work! It proves that no matter how hard something is, how scared you are of doing something, it is possible to get through it with little to no harm on your person. Challenge yourself. You might be surprised!


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What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

This video was shown during the Introduction Day I attended last week and – courtesy of the excellent illustrations and wealth of information – is one of the better presentations I’ve seen on the topic of “Exercise as Medication”.


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Exercises to Build Self Esteem: #2. Love your talents and gifts

Narcissism vs Gratitude

Since beginning this blog in 2007 I’ve spoken frequently of the importance of loving ourselves.

When I wrote this post I was worried it would make me look like a narcissist. When I recently reposted it as part of the Voice of the Past series this same fear of being viewed as arrogant and self-absorbed returned; resulting in several arguments with myself over whether I should post it, and after I did, whether I should remove it. To this day I still think it makes me look self-important, vain and narcissistic.

But does it? Aren’t those fears yet another example of the negative way I view myself?

If we do not love ourselves, we cannot expect other people to love us; and if we don’t believe in ourselves, then how can we expect anyone else to believe in us?

Learning to love yourself is not an exercise in narcissistic behaviour, but a lesson in respect, appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful person you are. Sometimes the challenges we go through in life – abuse, mental illness, homelessness – can lead to our brain’s being reprogrammed to view ourselves in a certain light.

Ever since I was a child, being bullied at school, right through adulthood and the triple whammy of emotional abuse-rape-homelessness, I have been constantly told how worthless and useless I am. Partners, friends, colleagues, strangers, all lining up to endlessly criticise me into the ground, rarely if ever, offering any words of encouragement, compliment or support.

Which is why this exercise is so difficult, for today we are looking at the talents, skills and gifts you possess that you just love.

Write your ‘I Love…’ list

1. Take a clean sheet of paper and draw a smiling sun in the top left hand corner for no other reason than to make you smile :)

2. At the top of the list write the heading I Love…

3. Now, write as many things that you admire, honor and appreciate about yourself as you can. The talents you have, the skills you possess, the ability you have to do things better than anyone else.

4. Once you’ve written your list take your beautiful self to a mirror and, beginning with I love… each time, read each item out loud.

5. Repeat on a daily basis until you cannot deny your own awesomeness any longer.

My I Love… list

As mentioned at the beginning of this post I wrote one of these lists many years ago. For today’s exercise I will write the list afresh, with no apologies if I happen to repeat anything that featured way back when. Although I fear it will be nowhere near as long as that list!

I love…

…my inner strength
…that I always try to help the people I care about, no matter what
…my unquenchable desire to help others whenever I can
…my bum
…my thirst for knowledge, that I keep pushing myself to learn new things and better myself
…my kind and giving nature
…that I’m willing to make sacrifices for the people I care about
…that I’m able to appreciate what I have in life
…my ability to see the good in people
…my honesty
…my courage, that even though it would be easier to crawl into a hole and die, I still keep putting myself out there
…my bipolar
…my eclectic taste in music, and I wouldn’t want it any other way
…my eyes
…my two freckles on my left hand
some of my scars, as they’re reminders of the past
…my creativity
…my ambitiousness nature
…my ability to remain quiet and listen when I need to
…that I have a man-crush on Niles (from Frasier)
..that I am a published writer, because if I’ve already done it, I can do it again!
…that I support the causes I believe in with a fiery passion
…my bum (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again)
…that I never judge anyone, ever
…that I never leap to conclusions until I know the whole story
…my compassionate nature
…my ludicrously completed 40year, three generational story arc for my Inverness Chronicles
…that it actually make sense when viewed as a whole
…my contradictions
…that I cry when I need to
…feeling proud of my old friends and all they’ve achieved in life.
…my kinky side
…that I don’t carry grudges
…that I love tofu
…my eyes, even when they have bags under them because of insomnia
…my mistakes, because they give me things to learn from
…that I’m grateful for all I’ve been gifted in life
…that I can accept the part luck has played in my life
…being a sooky romantic
…that I keep trying

…and I’ll leave it there for now!
(PS…remember, your body was a gift given to you at birth)

Coda: The Importance of Repetition

After writing every entry in the above list my mind immediately began scanning for abuse and criticism I’ve received to dispel it.

That I cry when I need to, was endlessly criticised by my abuser as men should never – ever – cry under any circumstances! My bipolar, ummm, look around. Do you see anyone in my life? Nope. Exactly. My kinky side, has been attacked and criticised by all-but-one person I’ve opened up to for the last twelve years. That I’m willing to make sacrifices for the people I care about, my compassionate nature and that I always try to help the people I care about, no matter what have been roundly disproved by the few occasions I failed to be there for people in my life. My bum, attacked by two of my girlfriends as being ugly, horrible, unattractive and that I should consider getting plastic surgery. Feeling proud of my old friends and all they’ve achieved in life because they don’t know that, and never will, because I’m too scared to get back in contact.

This instantaneous, almost subconscious reaction, is not only a perfect example of a mind lacking in self-esteem, but of the intense psychological damage emotional abuse can reek on someone’s life. Five and a half years after the event my soul is still under her control!

Repetition is one of the only weapons to combat this constant barrage of haunting abuse. By constantly reiterating what you love about yourself, without you even realising it, you will start to believe it.

You will start to believe that you’re the gorgeous person you actually are.

Tomorrow…Emotional Abuse: Words are just as powerful as a fist

 


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(The 21 Challenge) Day 1: I Hate Running

For the next twenty-one days I have challenged myself to do one new thing every day that scares me to help raise support for at risk homeless youth.

You can support me here…go on, it will make you feel all gooey inside. 

Today’s new thing: running.

Now, this may not seem like much to most of you, but the thought of slipping on a pair of runners and jogging through the streets of my home town scares me to the point I’d rather come face to face with my very own Saw puzzle than be seen exercising in public.

Why? Well, I’m glad you asked, for I have prepared a nifty list to explain:

Ten reasons why running scares me…

  1. Because – alas – I do not look like the gentleman to your right. I have quite severe body image issues – thanks mainstream media and the ludicrous expectations of some females – so being seen doing anything even remotely energetic fills me with the sort of anxiety that leads toward crippling, foaming at the mouth panic attacks.
    Besides, given my rather atrocious luck, if I were to run through a river I wouldn’t look as ruggedly sexy as this man does. I would either end up falling headfirst into the freezing water due to my lacklustre co-ordination and/or be eaten by a rogue crocodile.
  2. Because I have the lung capacity of a newt.
  3. because of my British heritage I have never quite adjusted to the Australian heat and thus, even on a rather mild 2 degree morning, will break a sweat by even opening the front door.
  4. Because said sweat messes up my (albeit) too long but alarmingly luscious hair.
  5. Because I don’t know this area very well and get lost a little too easily.
  6. Because I cannot exercise without music. This doesn’t sound like too much of an issue until you take into account I sound far more Bill Shatner than Gotye – and there are laws out there governing disturbance of the peace.
  7. Because I run like a girl. By that I mean I’m much faster than most men, my hips wiggle in a hypnotically attractive fashion, I should probably invest in a sports bra and workmen turn their heads and grunt disgustingly sexist remarks about what they’d like to do to my posterior.
  8. Because when I run I look like a constipated otter trying to move on only two legs.
  9. Because it reminds me of the time at school when I threw my all into winning the 200m sprint during a gym class. Surrounded by fit attractive boys and with gorgeous hot girls watching I ran…and ran…and ran…and ran…until I crossed the finishing line and promptly vomited behind a bush. It’s annoying I always remember this over the fact that I won.
  10. Because in addition to suffering from body image issues I suffer from social anxiety and despise to the point of soul crushing fear being seen in public. There’s a reason I liken myself to the majestic Tiger Quoll.

So when I rose at this morning at 4am, I was, to say the least, a trifle anxious. My reasoning for such an early start was simple: most people are far too sane to be roaming the near freezing streets at such an ungodly hour so I would have them to myself.

Slipping on a ‘No Fear’ T-shirt (purely for ironic purposes) and my AFLesque tight shorts I did a few warm ups as I checked the music on my MP3 player and ran my pre-planned route through my head: a few side-streets would take me to a park, from there I’d head to Lawrence Street, down Lawrence Street, up the train line, Thomas Mitchell Drive, then circle back home where I could die a rasping, suffocating death.

Easy.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ten reasons why running still scares me…

  1. Because I was reminded when I reached the end of the drive how out of shape all this mental health/homeless malarkey has made me. Note:it is approximately ten feet to the end of my drive.
  2. Because I have the co-ordination of a drunk giraffe trying to walk on black ice. Approximately five minutes after leaving the house I successfully managed to fall over a rogue tree root and sent myself hurtling into a storm drain.
  3. Because even at such an ungodly hour there are still people roaming the streets. Not good for the socially anxious, especially when they catch you in your rendition of power ballad classic Holding Out For a Hero.
  4. Because (a) I’ve had dog phobia since I was chased up a climbing frame by a rottweiler (read: corgi) when I was five, (b) I am not yet faster than a dog and (c) their tongues are sloppy!
  5. Because even though running is (apparently) good for your bowel movements, these can occur at inopportune moments. Especially when there are no bathrooms near where you live and you suffer from IBS. Thank God for trees is all I say!
  6. Because as I veered onto Thomas Mitchell Drive, covered in dog drool, I failed to navigate the railway crossing properly, caught my foot on the track and ended up arse over foot.
  7. Because I’m a stubborn fool who doesn’t know when to quit. With a massive gash on my leg dribbling blood onto the sidewalk, I recklessly ignoring the pronounced limp that made me look like I was auditioning for The Usual Suspects and kept running.
  8. Because I’m a masochist. After running straight past the end of my road following a surprising surge of adrenalin and/or endorphins I refused to turn back. Instead, I went up the hill, turned left, got profoundly lost, and ended up adding at least 2 kilometres to my run.
  9. Because I’d forgotten what running can do your nipples.
  10. Because I have the memory of an amnesia affected goldfish and forgot to buy milk; cue dry muesli as my ‘reward’ upon (finally) returning home from this monumental achievement.

So, to summarise; I fell over, was heckled, mauled by a sloppy dog, injured my leg, got profoundly lost, chafed my nipples atrociously and ate dried muesli for breakfast.

Could have been worse!

Now, only twenty more days to go in this 21 Challenge; how can I injure myself tomorrow?