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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How to cope with PTSD flashbacks?

I feel it pertinent to point out that this isn’t a ‘how to’ post. You may feel slightly jipped to discover this, especially since the first two words of the post title are “how” and “to”, but I did place a wee question mark at the end of the title, meaning I need your help. And with your help, perhaps we can write the ‘how to’ post that you were probably expecting.

My PTSD is a complicated beast. It doesn’t just come from one traumatic incident, but several, the memories of which have combined to form an almost impenetrable wall of trauma that I have no idea how to deal with. Firstly (and foremost) there is the emotional abuse that I was the victim of. Without question this causes the most damaging of my PTSD symptoms. Secondly, there is the assault and rape I experienced when I was in Adelaide in 2007. Thirdly, there is the recurrent memories of being homeless; of being ostracised by society and forced to exist in a sub-human state on the streets of Melbourne and beyond. Fourthly, comes the various physical assaults that I received during this homeless existence. On a daily basis I am hounded by flashbacks of these four incidents; flashbacks that occur without warning, leaving me a quivering, delusional wreck.

Over the last few months, ever since becoming unwell, the memories of the emotional abuse I received have been impossible to contend with. I have been regularly conversing with a hallucination of my abuser to the point I devolve into a fuming, shouty monster. Lord knows what my neighbours think of me, for the walls between us are thin, and my voice is raging. I will scream, yell, holler, bellow, bawl and shriek as I replay specific abusive events and attempt to discover why she saw fit to abuse me. I am desperate for answers, desperate for closure, but I know I can never receive it so my voice rages ever louder. I want to know why she decided to destroy my sense of self, why she was so cruel and callous in her criticism and insults, why she worked so hard to drive a wedge between my friends and I, why she decided I didn’t deserve to be in tertiary education and why she decided I should die because “my voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to“. I need to know why I deserved the abuse she gave me. But like I said, I know I will never discover these answers, I will never have the closure I need, so how do I cope with it? How do I live with the trauma rather than let it control me?

At least fourteen hours a day are lost to these fuming, shouting sessions. They occur when I’m home, they occur when I’m walking down the street and they occur when I’m surrounded by people in the high street. And I have no idea how to stop it. I have no idea how to cope with these intolerable flashbacks.

My GP believes a new anti-psychotic will help – a week into taking it, it hasn’t. I’ve tried mindfulness techniques. I’ve tried my usual coping mechanisms. I’ve tried CBT and DBT techniques. I’ve tried flooding myself with distraction. But nothing has worked. I always devolve into the shouting, always devolve into the trauma and always allow it to control my thinking, my actions and everything in between.

Hence the question – how to cope with PTSD flashbacks? How do you cope with your PTSD flashbacks? How do you stop it controlling your life?


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How do you overcome writer’s block?

It had to happen eventually. This endless pattern of my life where I write, and write, and write, and then…stop.

It’s not because I have nothing to write about, I do. I’ve been storing post ideas in my head for weeks: the recent report from Crisis UK regarding homeless mortality, a piece I’ve been toying with about triggers,  words on victim blame culture and more personal pieces along the lines of; the inspirational friendship I had with Sammi, the final part of my homeless series and the continuing saga of my sister and me.

But whenever I sit in front of the computer I end up staring at a white screen until I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Perhaps the encroaching 11 October anniversary is pushing me from a positive mental state back into the negative.

Perhaps I’ve contracted an illness that has stolen my ability to form sentences.

Perhaps my epic ludicrously personal password-protected post took more out of me than I’d thought.

Perhaps I need to crack open the whisky because it’s always worked in the past.

Perhaps I’m just procrastinating.

Perhaps it’s all – or none – of the above.

Whatever’s caused it, writers block has flattened me today.

In the past I’ve attempted many things to overcome this most vicious of all writer’s fears:

Stream of consciousness writing; attempted this moments before this post…didn’t work.
Naughty stories; I always found writing naughty adult fiction helpful, but maybe that’s just me. I haven’t tried this yet today…and it’s hardly something I could post on the blog now, is it? :p
Going for a bracing walk; too anxious to venture out until  dark :/
Memes; it’s all I ever seem to do and I’m weary of annoying my audience with questionnaire after questionnaire.
Slapping myself in the face; tried, didn’t work!
Eating ice-cream; not going to do much for writer’s block, but it’s a staple when it comes to raising one’s spirits.

So today, in a quest to build an epic list of “ways to overcome writer’s block”, I’m asking if anyone has any tips and/or tricks to overcome this mental state? What is it you do when those invisible walls are erected and you find yourself unable to write? I’d love to know :)


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So can anybody tell me how you do it?

The only way I can begin this post is to acknowledge how weak my posts have been this week. Every day I’ve returned to my blog to re-read what I’d written the day before, and each day I’ve come away disappointed. This dislike of my writing is hardly new. In the five years I’ve been writing this blog I’ve only ever been truly happy with five or six posts, the remainder becoming ‘things I failed to write properly’ or ‘things I failed at’.

Deep down I know this is my illness, the perpetual cycling of mood making it difficult to focus on what I’m doing. But knowing this isn’t the same as believing it.  And the more I believe in my worthlessness, the harder it becomes to create the content I yearn to produce.

So as I lie here after only six hours sleep in the last thirteen days, after four anxiety fuelling appointments in three days, after a 10km walk at 5am, I have already begun berating myself for not being able to voice my opinions on the issues of the week.

In Australia same-sex marriage dominated the press, a topic I have been passionate about for years, yet all I can think to write is:

1) Same-sex marriage should be legalised, effective immediately.
2) Same-sex marriage will not lead to an increase in bestiality.
3) Bestiality is spelt as I have just spelt it, not beastiality as large swathes of people seem to think.

Because nothing will ever change my mind on this topic and I’m tired of the endless debate surrounding this issue. Like unemployment benefits, like abuse, like the majority of issues that the media reports on, sooner or later the conversation needs to end and action taken.

I’m also tired of the media watering down events. Last week it was revealed that whilst at university, Tony Abbott punched a wall inches away from a female rival. Such an act of aggression, of violence, is disturbing. Yet some of the coverage it received was far too forgiving and sympathetic, once again reinforcing the belief that domestic violence is both acceptable and deserving. Which it isn’t, under any circumstances!

Of course, the issue of religion reared its ugly head once again, but my brain is too weak to voice my opinion on this. Similarily for the ongoing misogynistic culture Australia is promoting; the debate about reducing the alcohol drink-drive limit; and (as above) the ongoing cost of power crisis that is causing untold mental and physical health problems amongst Australia’s most poverty-stricken families.

I have opinions on them all but can muster only: I hate misogyny in all forms and am so tired of men who think they can treat women so grotesquely; I don’t like alcohol or what it does to people so make the blood alcohol limit zero; how many people have to die before we do something serious about the energy bill crisis?

Thus, because of my failings, there is no issue of the week today. Instead, a request for help.

Yep, I wrote help…

I hate asking for help.

I hate having to go to a food bank and humiliate myself by admitting I’m too pathetic to be able to afford food.

I hate having to go to a pyschdoc to embarrass myself with endless discussion over my life’s mistakes.

I hate having to go to a friend and admit I am too weak, pathetic and stupid to deal with life’s problems.

I’ve been like this my entire life. When I was self-harming as a teenager I hid it from the world. When I became suicidal I thought I needed to fight through it myself. When I was struggling after a breakdown I felt I couldn’t talk to my friends in fear of ridicule and abandonment. When I was raped I felt I had to keep it secret out of shame. When I became homeless I refused assistance in case it was confirming my worthlessness. Over and over in my life I convinced myself to cope with everything alone to prove I was worthy.

Only, it just made everything worse.

So can anybody tell me how you do it? Not just how you ask for help but everything.

How do you summon the confidence to connect with the world? To communicate and converse with people you like; to not spend days on end re-writing comments or tweets; to put your opinion out there without suffering a panic attack?

How do you curb self-critical behaviour? To just believe in yourself and what you’re doing; to find the courage to be who you want to be regardless of what other people may think?

How do you forgive yourself? To embrace your inner-self with warmth over the wrongs you’ve done rather than dwell on them for an eternity?

How do you control the demons within you? To summon the focus without flitting between thoughts at a million miles an hour?

How do you beat the triggers? To be able to listen to the radio without freaking out; to be able to read articles on suicide without becoming overwhelmed; to be able to listen to a song without a minor-breakdown?

Never did I think I was perfect, but I thought I was doing okay. I thought I had implemented a decent array of safety measures that enabled me to cope with the bipolar, anxiety and chaos that reigns in my mind, but recently I’ve been questioning this. Each day the loneliness cloaks me like a dense fog and obscures my thoughts to the point of stagnation. I read Twitter feeds and envy the ease at which people write witty retorts, marvel at the focussed beauty of other’s posts, admire the ease at which people voice their opinion, and scold myself for being a failure, for being wrong, for being everything but normal

I guess I’m just tired of trying to do everything by myself. Balancing bipolar with severe anxiety whilst trying to access help, support services, disability pensions whilst trying to figure out what I did that was so wrong whilst trying to be a productive member of society whilst spending every minute of my life alone. I’m trying to put myself out there, connect with people, build the life I want, but it just feels like every step I take I end up four steps backward.

I guess I’m just having a whine as it’s one of those days.

Sorry.

But if you have any advice I’ll bake you a virtual cupcake – with the topping of your choice :)

Five things I learned this week

dead SIM

1. SIM cards will just inexplicably stop working for no reason causing you to have to buy a new one.
2. Trying to write a comprehensible blog post after six hours sleep in thirteen days is nigh on impossible.
3. “Digital Estate Planning” is one of the most brilliantly bizarre episodes of a sitcom, ever!
4. One person found my blog using the search term ‘advice on women who dance because of being homeless’.
5. Brian Cox was in Frasier.

Five things I plan to do next week

Bipolar Disorder

Once again my fluctuating moods had an adverse effect on my plans this week. I gave up on reading The Comfort of Our Kind not because it was bad (I was quite enjoying it) but when I’m so unfocused I can’t concentrate on reading. This lack of concentration also saw it impossible for me to focus on Homeland, instead resorting to Frasier marathons to keep me sane.

However much I want to, I can’t blame my moods on my failure to post a weekly series this week. Most of the posts are written, I just couldn’t muster the courage to post them. Perhaps next week. Whilst in the social world I did make two new friends on the social networking site, took a few steps closer toward attending an actual social event (I’ll keep you posted) and managed to post comments – which is something to be proud of, even if it wasn’t an every day occurence.

I also directly mentioned the author of an article I liked in a tweet, which is a very rare occurence for me!

Perhaps next week, if my moods settle, I will be more productive:

1. Write better blog posts!
2. Import the original Blogspot posts to increase the archive of this blog.
3. (Re)complete my DSP application and submit.
4. Post at least one constructive comment a day, anywhere on the internet.
5. Increase my Twitter followers to at least 200.

Linky Love

My five favourite posts I published this week, in case you missed them, are:

1. My Sister and Me (2): Anorexia Nervosa
2. My Sister and Me (1): Childhood, the most beautiful of life’s seasons
3. 20 Dreams I have…
4. Twenty of the Best: George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic
5. 19 Quotes I love…

and five posts that other people wrote that rocked my world, are:

1. The Age (Daily Life): The Undiagnosable
2. Bipolar Burble: Escaping a Bipolar Brain
3. Anne Summers: Her Rights to Work: The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister (R-Rated)
4. The Conversation: Housing stress and energy poverty – a deadly mix?
5. The Age: The science of a break-up

And finally…

My three favourite photographs of the week:

View from Stac Pollaidh, Assynt, Scotland

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Mama in the Corner

Disclaimer
I do not claim ownership of these photographs.
Copyright remains with the individual artist.
Please click each image to view their Flickr gallery.