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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Working with Voices: Nightmares

Previously, in the ‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’ workbook series…
~ Introduction ~ Dreams ~

MOnsters INc

“Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.”
~ Stephen King~

My nightmares…

“Close your eyes and think about all the things in your life that have caused you pain, distress, anger and frustration. These things could be brought to the fore as you work through the workbook so it useful that you write them down so that they do not take you by surprise later in the process. These can be states of mind as well as actual occurrences and symptoms of your mental health problems.”

This particular exercise in the workbook is incredibly difficult for me to do, which is probably why it’s taken several months for me to attempt it! There’s something about revisiting my ‘nightmares’ that causes such distress I’m often left unable to function, and without someone to help pick up the pieces and put me back together again, my fear of such an occurence increases ten-fold.

However, as it’s an important part of the workbook I will endeavour to do my best. The manner that I’ve chosen to complete this exercise is to separate the list into three different sections: actual events, symptoms of illness and emotional states/reactions. Please note that these lists are in no particular order.

Actual events

  • The emotionally abusive relationship I was a victim of
  • The (numerous) physical assaults I’ve been the victim of
  • The sexual assault I was a victim of
  • My sister’s mental illness
  • The bullying I was a victim of during my primary and high school years

Symptoms of illness

  • My greatest nightmare when it comes to symptoms of illness is who I become whilst manic. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that I live in constant fear of ‘becoming’ that person again!
  • I abhor my socially anxious self. This part of me is a source of great frustration and anger.
  • Incidents of self-harm often bring on feelings of fear, emotional pain and anger, more often than not after the act.
  • I am terrified of the frequency and severity of my suicidal ideation, especially in times of severe depression.
  • The frequent nightmares and random night-time behaviour that occur as a result of PTSD scares the bejesus out of me!
  • The negative (nay, abusive) content of my voices – especially from Vanessa and Shay – causes tremendous distress.
  • As does Shay’s preoccupation with misogynistic and sexist content, as it goes against my values and beliefs.

Emotional states/reactions

  • I am frequently distressed by my lack of self-esteem, confidence and image of self, not because it scares me, but because I know when trapped by these emotions I am incapable of showing the world my awesome self.
  • The same can be said for the mute-idiot I become when in any social situation – be it conversations with support workers/GPs, supermarket queues, support/social groups or the rarity of an actual social situation.
  • Although it doesn’t happen all that often, when I become truly angry I scare myself; which is why I’ve spent many years honing my skills of controlling my anger so that no-one ever sees this side of me…ever.
  • My lack of physical and emotional intimacy, i.e. hugs, kisses, sexual intercourse etc.) causes pain so intense it’s impossible to describe.
  • For that matter, my isolated state in its entirety is a source of tremendous negative emotion.
  • The unfocused and lost to pain states I fall into during the evening and weekends cause me great distress.

My fears about the ‘Victim to Victor’ process…

As mentioned above, my primary fear of the Victim to Victor process is opening a Pandora’s Box of negative emotion that will cripple my ability to function. The work-book recommends you work through the book with the help of a supportive person, but as I am isolated, I lack such a person so have to brave through it myself.

As such, the actual work-book could be classified as a personal nightmare, for it is yet another reminder of my loneliness.

But, as I’ve managed to work through various negative situations all on my lonesome (such as the anxiety I feel whilst shopping or pushing myself to attend support groups), I’m hoping that the skills I learned in doing these things will hold me in good stead throughout the remainder of the book.

Only time will tell, I guess!

~ Next ~
Identifying Your Experiences


It’s OK to say no to something you don’t want to do (I’m just not very good at it!)


The swimming pool at the campground I’m going to. However, I WILL NOT be doing any swimming courtesy of my extreme body image issues. I’ll just be watching…but not in a ‘creepy’ way! :p

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the organisation I use for social groups and inclusion have organised a group camp to mark the end of term. Today, a dozen or so people are headed to a nearby caravan park to spend three days ‘chilling out’, ‘having fun’ and ‘enjoying themselves’. Given my current extreme state of exhaustion I spent the weekend mulling over whether or not I should attend.

On the one hand, attending the camp would be a big challenge to my anxiety and allow me to have a (brief) respite from the cabin fever I’ve been experiencing for several months given that I’ve been trapped in this quiet, uninspiring, monotonous town for nearly two years now!

On the other hand, attending the camp is sure to resurface memories of my time homeless (as I will be living in the same tent that was my ‘home’ for a while) and have a serious impact on my current morose suicidal exhaustion. It could also have a massive detrimental effect on my anxiety, as I would be away from all of my distraction and safety nets (such as my home, the internet, DVD, Wii etc.) and spending three days in the constant company of other people. Then there is the omnipresent, undeniable, proven by many incidents of my life fact that when I take on too much I tend to crash and burn. And when I crash and burn…I really crash and burn!

Whereas, on the original hand, also attending the camp is a rather cute support worker who I could surreptitiously admire from afar! What? I didn’t say perve, I said ‘admire‘, there’s a difference! :p

Last night, after days of constantly thinking about it, I decided it would be best for me to remain at home – chilling out, having fun and enjoying myself with blogging, radio quizzes and Conversation articles – rather than risk the (currently very real) outcome of complete mind and body shutdown if I were to attend.

However, this morning, in a moment of masterful emotional manipulation that I will forever hold against her, one of the camp’s organisers got me to agree to attend. Mainly because, as many people know, it is impossible for me to assert myself and say ‘no’ to something I really don’t want to do. Hence why I’ve spent the majority of my life doing things for everyone else whilst neglecting my own needs, desires and safety.

So, with extreme apologies, my HVSG update, the Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge and responding to my backlog of comments/emails etc. will have to wait until I return from three days of ‘heightened anxiety’, ‘homeless fuelled PTSD flashbacks’ and ‘why can’t I just say no’ frustration.

But who knows, maybe this is all just anxiety fuelled by my belief that I don’t deserve to be happy and if I permit myself to, I’ll find myself having a wonderful time!

We’ll find out in a few days! :p

Until then, stay safe, happy and well…and remember, you are allowed to say no to something! :p


There appears to be lots of palm trees where I’m going. Or perhaps they’re the same palm trees, just taken from a different angle than in the pool photo! :p

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The only thing we have to fear is…everything!

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said:

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

This is absolute bollocks!

Tomorrow, as I mentioned on Monday, I will be attending my first social gathering in almost four years. I’ve had maybe half a dozen conversations with people other than MH and homeless workers in that entire time and I have no idea who the people I’m meeting are other than the brief messages we’ve exchanged on a random social networking site I can’t name over fear of being laughed at.

With every minute that passes, I can feel my anxiety increasing in strength and severity, overpowering every waking thought with its deafening voice. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself? Really?

In the last three days my mind has come up with plenty of things to be afraid of about tomorrow night:

• The strangers I am meeting could turn out to be a motley band of serial killers who have lured me into their trap for an evening of torture, cannibalism and death.

• Spiders. There are always spiders looking for a cute man to snack on somewhere!

• The strangers I am meeting could turn out to be members of the Alan Jones Appreciation Society.

• One of the strangers I’m meeting could turn out to be Alan Jones. Shudder.

• What if the strangers I’m meeting don’t like my clothes and insult them all evening?

• Given I’ve never been to the pub before I could spend the entire evening sitting in the wrong venue.

• What if one of the strangers I’m meeting brings a puppy? Hmmm, what do I do then?

• The strangers I am meeting could turn out to be all part of an elaborate practical joke orchestrated by my abuser with the goal to humiliate me in public and destroy me once and for all!

• Given I’ve never been to the pub before I could get spectacularly lost and die of dehydration.

• This will be my first time in a pub by myself, with no-one I know, since the night I was raped. Oh joy.

• Maybe the strangers I’m meeting will take a dislike to my weight and call me Mr. Fatty McFatty Fat Fat all evening.

• The strangers I am meeting could turn out to be Elvis Presley impersonators.

• One of the strangers I’m meeting could turn out to be Elvis Presley. Shudder.

• Public panic attack. Is there anything scarier than those three words?

• Rogue panthers. They apparently live in the Australian bush somewhere.

• My trousers could fall down without warning forcing me to accidentally flash the entire bar.

• What if I can’t think of anything to say and sit there all evening like a mute donkey?

• The strangers I am meeting could turn out to be part of a cult looking for someone to sacrifice to appease their deity.

• What if the pub has decided to screen Watership Down on repeat all evening?

• Given I’ve never been to the pub before it could be built on an ancient burial ground and suddenly implode with me trapped inside for all eternity.

• Meteors. You never know when a rogue meteor will target you from outer space.

• What if the pub turns out to be not a pub at all, but the Black Lodge?

• The strangers I am meeting could turn out to be fans of Fifty Shade of Grey.

• One of the strangers I am meeting could turn out to be E.L James. Shudder.

• What if all of the above turns out to be true? Hmmm, what do I do then?

Although come to think of it, if all of the above does turn out to be true – what a spectacular blog post that will make come Friday morning! But yes, if you can’t tell, I’m fucking petrified about tomorrow night!

But if we don’t challenge ourselves to become the person we want to be…what’s the point in living?

The chances are it will be a rather fun and wonderful evening and all this worrying is just a monumental waste of time and energy!

(But I still think Roosevelt was talking out of his arse!)


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8 Fears…

1. Spiders

When I was five, we had a spider living in our house.

This spider was – I kid you not – twice the size of my adult hand (which for a young child, is entering into Eight Legged Freaks territory) and had an uncanny knack of knowing when I was at my most vulnerable.

On one occasion he approached me across the bubble mountains when I was having a bath. On another occasion, my parents ran frantically around the house terrified I’d accidentally severed a limb with a chainsaw such was the primal terror of my screaming. The moment they found me, casually sitting on the toilet doing my business whilst the spider approached centimetres from my foot, they collapsed onto the floor in riotous laughter.

I’ve had a morbid fear of spiders ever since.

2. Intimacy

This is something many people have issues with – but the thought of being in an intimate situation (such as cuddling, sex, receiving massages, serious conversation) fills me with a dread I cannot explain.

A psychologist once posited that it may have stemmed from my sister’s belief I was ‘contagious’, something my abuser re-confirmed when she used the same word to describe me on multiple occasions (going so far as to describe me as a cancerous tumor that needed to be removed with radiation therapy.)

Factor in the various abuse I’ve received, the social isolation, the anxiety and discrimination and it’s no surprise that I fear human contact more than virtually anything else.

3. Dogs (including puppies)

When I was six I was chased up a climbing frame by a vicious Doberman.

Okay, it was less a Doberman and more a baby Highland Terrier.

And if I were being honest, it was less vicious and more overly friendly.

But it still chased me up a climbing frame and refused to leave for what seemed like hours. When I first watched the movie Tremors and saw the scene where they discover a dead body clinging desperately atop an electricity pylon, I flashbacked to that day, fully aware that had someone not come along to take the puppy home I would probably have died of starvation atop that climbing frame.

I have had a fear of dogs (including puppies) ever since.

4. Being alone

The isolation and loneliness I’ve endured over the years has crippled my ability to communicate, think, interact and forge ahead with my life – regardless of all I’m doing to counteract it.

To be living your worst fear is something I wouldn’t recommend under any circumstances.

5. Crowds (and society in general)

All those judgemental eyes. All those critical thoughts. All those opportunities for embarrassment and humiliation. All those perfect people scrutinizing every aspect of my being…three cheers for social anxiety disorder, everyone! Hip hip…

6. Gin and Tonic

The night I was raped I was drinking gin and tonic. Do the math what my mind does when it encounters this alcoholic beverage.

7. Homelessness

Having spent years calling parks, alleys and random outdoor locations my ‘home’. Having spent years without the safety, comfort and love of what most take for granted. Having enjoyed near daily verbal abuse and the all too frequent reality of physical assault.

Is it any surprise I’ve developed a morbid fear of ending up back on the street?

8. Bad literature

When I was thirty-three I read Fifty Shades of Grey.

I have had a fear of bad literature ever since.

“It is of course mischievous of reviewers to pick out a sentence from a novel and offer it for the reader’s amusement; mischievous but often far too tempting to resist. Just like Mr Grey himself, it seems.

Anyway here he is on the job, urging the heroine to try harder: “ ‘Come on, baby, give it up for me,’ he cajoled through gritted teeth.”

Cajole means to “coax” or to “tempt by flattery” and, though it’s rather a literary word to be employed in the circumstances, I suppose this is what he is doing.

But cajoling “through gritted teeth”? Just try it. Grit your teeth and speak the line. It will come out as an incomprehensible buzz.

Memo to Romantic novelists: gritted teeth and lovemaking don’t go together.”

from ‘Fifty Shades of Bad Writing’ by Alan Massie


SOC: And not for the first time, it scares me


This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Monday 8 October 2012 between 1:22 – 1:52am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

All the signs that I’m heading back to depression are there. The withdrawing from Twitter, the confused (rambling) blog posts, the writer’s block, the increase of voices and hallucinations, the drop of focus, the loss of enjoyment, insomnia, the heightened loneliness and desperate craving for human contact.

And it scares me.

The depressive episode I found myself in a few months ago was the worst since 2007 and I’m terrified of falling into another so soon. For the last few weeks I’ve felt as if my triggers have been on overdrive, with everything from radio shows to smells sending me back into the past and the plethora of painful memories that threaten to keep me there.

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I logged onto Twitter and discovered a woman had gone missing from an inner-suburb of Melbourne. Although I never lived there, aside from a few occasions whilst homeless, I would cycle through this suburb on the way to work. I attended gigs there, hung out with friends, danced at street festivals, got legless drunk, worshipped the library (the 2nd best in Melbourne) and, on one occasion, had a rather enjoyable sexual encounter near the creek with my girlfriend.

It was a suburb I loved, a suburb I still love and a suburb in which some of my old friends still live.

As soon as I heard a woman had gone missing my first thought was to find out her name because I was terrified(/paranoid) it was someone I used to know. All sorts of nightmarish scenarios were multiplying in my mind about my old friends and the only way to stop them was to know the woman wasn’t one of them. Whether it’s heartless to say or not, when I discovered the missing woman’s name, I breathed a hefty sigh of relief as the people I care about were safe.

Throughout the following week Twitter and the Australian mainstream media exploded in a way I had never seen before. Virtually every tweet that appeared in my timeline was about Jill Meagher, the missing woman; the police were searching her apartment, the police were removing things from her apartment, the police were interviewing the husband, was the husband responsible (Note: Australian’s seem incapable of learning from their own history), what happened to Jill Meagher?, the police have found her missing handbag, the police have identified her on CCTV…and on it went, a massive blow-by-blow account of the investigation along with tens of thousands of tweets sending prayers, well wishes, thoughts and hope for her and her family.

And then, almost as quickly as I expected, the victim blame mentality began.

“She was obviously at a bar/club, left there in the early hours of the morning, obviously partially pissed/drunk, and she ‘lead someone on’ [sic] and the consequences followed her. if she is going to flirt with someone, make sure that you go through with it because someone is obviously pissed off with her….in my opinion, it’s now old news, she met with foul play as a result of her actions inside the pub/bar OR as I mentioned before…ask the husband.”
~ Comment posted on a Facebook page about the disappearance.

“But for a stranger looking around in daylight, there seems no obvious reason why a young woman would choose to walk this way home late at night … There are better spots for a young woman to be walking alone after a night out drinking with workmates”
~ Andrew Rule, Journalist

Fortunately, several intelligent female journalists leapt straight on this and gave it (and the people responsible) the thrashing they deserved!

Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no-one deserves to be abused! No woman deserves to be abused. No man deserves to be abused. No child deserves to be abused. No living thing on this planet deserves to be abused in any way, shape or form. The moment you say they do you’re removing blame from the abuser and burdening the victim with yet more guilt for what has happened to them. In essence, you are punishing the victim and rewarding the abuser.

But, unfortunately, victim blame mentality is part and parcel of abuse; even though it should never be.

Like I said moments earlier, I support all the positive articles that have been written about this issue. Since my abusive relationship, since the rape, since the physical assaults, since my failure to be there for someone I cared about, I have done whatever I can to fight the scourge of domestic violence and abuse against women in this world. I’ve written previously of a time when I intervened during a physical altercation between a boyfriend and girlfriend and clearly remember thinking better me than her because I fucking deserve this as he beat seven shades of shit out of me. So I actually mean doing whatever I can and not just signing the white ribbon pledge before swigging back a pot of beer feeling all chuffed with myself.

The problem is (and why this incident was the starting point of my collapsing mood) however much I and other people care about violence against women, very very few people care about abused men. Now, I know this is a touchy subject and I fully expect an avalanche of tweets, emails and comments (as has happened in the past) calling me everything under the sun but men can also be the victims of violence; men can also be afraid of what may happen to them; men can be the victims of victim blame mentality.

Just as I’ve been. Repeatedly.

In 2007 a friend told me that “I deserved” the emotional abuse my ex had been giving me. Another friend informed me that I “needed to understand that I’d brought it on myself”. A housemate told me they wanted to “beat me” for “how badly I had been treating [my girlfriend]”so I should “just suck [her abuse] up and take it like a man”. A fourth friend, again, politely informed me “I deserved everything” my ex was doing to me.

All four of these friends were women.

Over the course of the following eighteen months I was called a misogynist on thirteen separate occasions for talking about the emotional abuse my ex had given me (I repeat, for talking about the emotional abuse not her gender) and even total strangers informed me I must have done something to deserve it. [Note: a list of the things I did wrong in the relationship can be found in this blog post from 2007, so I shall leave it to you to decide whether I actually deserved it or not. Personally, I think I treated her pretty well.]

Only one of my friends believed I was/had been abused, but she’s dead now, so no-one does. To everyone else…nah, it was her prerogative to treat me like that. It’s just a woman’s right.

As for the rape…hell, who’s gonna believe that? Of course it’s my fault!

When I told a counselor in 2007 they rebutted with me being a bit ‘out of it’ at the time and the most likely scenario was ‘I’d consented but just didn’t remember consenting’. Excuse me? I consented to being drugged against my will and whilst mind-fucked, consented to being anally raped and physically beaten? Really? I consented, but I don’t remember doing that because I was a bit ‘out of it’? Ahh yes, when all else fails, blame the mental illness. In 2008 a psychiatrist in the NT laughed when I tried to tell him about what happened (he was a dickhead that I never saw again). Later that year, I was told by a friend that it ‘sounded like a bit of fun’.

Again, only one of my friends believed I was raped, but she’s dead now, so no-one does. To everyone else…nah, it was just mental health inspired lunacy, a bit of a jape, something I should look back on with smiles and laughter. You know, when I’m waking up screaming night after night and prostituting myself so I can be punished for allowing the rape to happen in the first place.

When I was reading all the articles about the victim blaming of Jill Meagher, when I was reading all the thousands of syllables about violence against women, I was asking myself why anyone would want to inflict such pain on a woman, on anyone of any gender. I was asking myself who cares about the female victims of abuse who don’t fall into the ‘white, beautiful, wealthy’ category  and every other minute of the day I was flashing back to the moments in my life where I was blamed for the abuse that happened to me, where people I trusted as friends would tell me I deserved it; that ultimately, I deserve this lifetime of eternal pain and isolation the abuse has given me.

I was flashing back to waking up on the floor of a motel, naked from the waist down, battered and bruised beyond belief; of sitting in the shower for an eternity; of desperately wanting to tell people but terrified the news would filter back to my emotional abuser who would have used it against me as she had everything else (mental health, suicide, anxiety, loneliness) that had ever happened to me.

I was flashing back to the alcohol I would drink to drown the pain, to the knives I would use to medicate my tortured soul and the weeks I went without food because I was too scared to walk to the supermarket to buy food incase someone – anyone – was lurking in the shadows.

I was flashing back to standing in the middle of a forest months later with a noose tied around my neck begging for an end to the pain.

Jill Meagher’s body was found seven days later, followed, rightly, by an outpouring of grief. Tens of thousands of people marched through the suburb she had been abducted from to raise awareness of violence against women. Radio call in shows wanted to know what we could do to ‘remember Jill’ and the newspapers were blanketed with coverage of the aftermath, the man who had been arrested and the funeral.

But to many the damage had already been done.

The sheer volume of triggers I received that week set off all my victim guilt, survivor guilt, weakness guilt and every other form of guilt I’ve carried over the years. It affected my thinking, writing, sleeping and daytodaying. Not a minute went past without a nightmare memory of some description slipping back through the cracks of my mind and no amount of positive thinking was able to prevent them.

Whilst these nightmares were flooding my mind I was trying to navigate the complexities of a disability application (100s of questions are not a good thing for a mentally ill man with no concentration, let alone the trips to doctors and organisations to gather evidence of support.) All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and beat myself with a sock full of rocks but instead I tried to carry on a ‘normal’ life; blogging, online socializing, commenting, writing.

All the while being bombarded with memories of my past; tweets, challenge question prompts, forgotten photos and long-lost blog posts constantly reminding me of my pain of five years ago. Of my failure to retain friendships, of my selfishness, of my weaknesses.

Then came Friday, and the panic attack laden trip to Centrelink to fix a problem I had no warning over (I don’t deal well when something like that is thrown on me at the last-minute, especially with the possible ramifications (i.e. homelessness) if I hadn’t been able to sort it!)

Then came yesterday’s WordPress Photo Challenge asking for photos of happiness…every photo I have of Happy Addy is with someone else. Dozens of people I miss more than life itself. Dozens of people my actions and illness pushed away. Dozens of reminders of how lonely I am and – courtesy of triggers from the Jill Meagher tragedy – how I deserve how I’ve ended up.

And with all of this coming shortly before the 11 October; is it any surprise I’m scared of slipping back into a depressive episode?

For those who don’t know, on the 11 October 2007, I left a suicide note (described by a mental health professional as ‘schizophrenic’) and walked fifty kilometres from Melbourne CBD to the Dandenong rainforest where I attempted to hang myself. The attempt failed and I was ultimately taken by the police (who had investigated me as a missing person) to the hospital…

…where I was discharged 19 minutes later with three 20mg antidepressants (I had no other medication at home) and told I was fine! So, at 3am, a few hours after trying to hang myself, after walking 50kms with little to no food or drink, I had to walk home. The trip would normally have taken me 25 minutes, tops, but given I could barely move my legs and was about to pass out from the pain, that night it took me two hours. I spent the next three days sitting on a couch on my own (I had no friends to call) in a borderline comatosed state of fear, exhaustion, pain and emptiness. All I wanted was a hug, for someone other than my parents to show they cared. They didn’t.

As a result, around this time of year (end of September/beginning of October) this day and its events are all I can think about. And this year, being half a decade since the day I should have died, on top of all the shifting moods, reminders of the abuse I received, painful memories and lack of happiness, I’m scared what this week will bring.

Perhaps nothing.

Perhaps something.

As an old friend once told me, perhaps its all one great self-fulfilling prophecy.

All I know is that when I’m cohesive enough to look at what is happening right now, all the signs that I’m heading back to depression are there. The withdrawing from Twitter, the confused (rambling) blog posts, the writer’s block, the increase of voices and hallucinations, the drop of focus, the loss of enjoyment, insomnia, the heightened loneliness and desperate craving for human contact.

With my lease hanging on a knife-edge; with my disability application to sort out; with my lack of food and sustenance; with little to no distractions; the last thing I need is to slip into a depressive episode.

But everywhere I go, everything I do, the world seems to be pushing me toward that place.

And not for the first time, it scares me.