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…


7 Comments

Melbourne 2015: Day 01. I am come home

Well, after seven blissful days in Melbourne I have returned home to find the inevitable depression gripping my soul. I’ve found over the years that I will often go through a period of depression following a holiday. I guess many people do. But however deep the depression gets it will not take away the awesomeness of the holiday.

Unlike my time in Melbourne in 2013, which I spent mostly encased in the motel watching Doctor Who and playing Zelda, this time I was a super-busy bee the entire time I was there. Out the motel before nine each morning and not returning until at least six in the evening. I visited galleries and museums, stalked the city and inner suburbs and relaxed in parks, gardens and on the beach. It was a most blissful time that saw me relaxed, calm and – surprisingly – mostly anxiety and PTSD free! 

Over the coming days I will be sharing my numerous adventures with you. The text of the posts will be taken from the journal entries I wrote whilst on holiday and the pictures will be carefully chosen from the 730 photos I took throughout the week. So settle back and enjoy Addy’s Adventures in Melbourne…fun for all the family! :)

19th August 2015, 7:03pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve stayed in this motel so many times that returning here feels like I’m returning home. I first stayed here in 2008, shortly before returning to the UK, after my parents booked me accommodation so I would have somewhere to rest and recuperate before the epic flight home. I stayed here again a few months later when I returned to Melbourne and again in 2009 shortly before I became homeless. Then, throughout my homelessness, courtesy of money raised through numerous activities too traumatizing and shaming to admit to, I stayed here several times. And each time I stayed, it soothed my troubled soul and offered all sorts of comfort and solace. It is, without question, my ‘home’ in Melbourne. It is quiet. It is comfortable. It is a blissful, wondrous place that will forever live in my soul as one of my happy places. Without the Flagstaff City Inn, I don’t know where I would be in this city. It is the only place I want to stay when I come to this multicultural wonderland.

Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

So far the day has been pretty good. My train trip was free from the IBS dramas that plagued my last trip and, courtesy of an el cheapo MP3 player, full of laughter and merriment as I listened to classic Fawlty Towers episodes. It should be noted that the train system in this part of the world is third-world in nature and has some of the shoddiest service I’ve ever witnessed in the locomotive industry! The seats are uncomfortable. The carriages dirty and dilapidated. And the toilets…the less said about them the better! But I made the most of the situation and tried to enjoy the tedious, uncomfortable start to my holiday. It was a four hour trip, but a four hour trip that – due to my perkiness and determination to have a good time – harked back to my train journeys of old.

Once I arrived into Melbourne I meandered the fifteen minutes from the train station to my motel and checked into my home-from-home. I had a refreshing glass of water before deciding to brave the chaos of the city to re-acclimatise myself with the people heavy insanity that this city offers. I didn’t spend long in the city, just enough to be happy, just enough to enjoy a plate of Lord of the Fries (an eatery that offers home cooked chips with a variety of sauces; I opted for French Canadian, which consisted of drowning the chips with shredded cheese and gravy! Delicious!) before exploring Bourke Street and Melbourne Central (a shopping centre).

Bourke Street, Melbourne

Bourke Street, Melbourne

It was in Melbourne Central that I made my first discovery; a gorgeous little book shop that is both unique and delightful. Rather than selling books, they offer them on an honor system. If you want to read a book you can take it and then return it once you’ve finished. Alternatively, you can take the book to keep, but have to leave another book in exchange. They didn’t have many books, only a few dozen, but I love the idea behind the shop and can imagine me returning here regularly over the coming days to see what books are on offer.

The Little Library, Melbourne Central

The Little Library, Melbourne Central

After an hour or so in the city I decided to return to the motel and leave the rest of the exploration until tomorrow. Truth be told I’m really looking forward to this trip. I need a break from my routine. I need a break from my mental health. I need to spend some time chilling out, having adventures and loving both life and me again. I need to be happy. And I’m hoping Melbourne still has the power to make that happen!

Street Angel, Melbourne

Street Angel, Melbourne

On the agenda tonight is The Day of the Doctor. Last time I was in Melbourne was the weekend of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. I stayed specifically to watch the Matt Smith/David Tennant starring special. So it’s destiny or fate or happenstance that my first night back in Melbourne, they are playing the exact same special on television. After that I’ll just chill in the motel; watch TV, read, write in my journal, merrily anticipate the numerous adventures I will be having over the coming days.

On the agenda tomorrow: NGV Australia, NGV International, exploring the city and a return to my ‘home’ in the Kings Domain.

Much to look forward to. Should be a cracking time! :)

~ All photographs are © Addy Lake ~


Leave a comment

Roadblocks to Recovery: #4. Home is where the heart is

Being homeless is more than just being without a roof over your head. It is being without comfort, without security, without love. It is being without any of the things that most people take for granted in life. When you’re homeless, your life becomes about one thing; survival. It is about finding food to provide sustenance, it is about finding water to imbibe, and it is about doing whatever you can to get through each day and each long, never-ending night. Some homeless people sleep with knives and/or clubs to offer a layer of protection should someone attack you in the night. Some homeless people have the emergency services on speed dial on their phone, just in case the daily onslaught of abuse you receive from those more-fortunate than you turns nasty.

I know this because I was one of those people. For years of my life my home was a park just south of the Melbourne CBD. I slept with a stick that I wrenched off a tree; I had the emergency services on speed dial. My ‘home’ was a patch of grass; no comfort, no security, no love. It was, without question, one of the most brutal periods of my life – but it was a period that taught me something; it taught me the value of ‘home’.

DSCN0235

My ‘home’ was a patch of grass beneath a tree; no comfort, no security, no love.

Ever since I moved into my unit in February 2012, I have felt grateful for having a roof over my head. I’ve felt grateful for not having to sleep with a stick digging into my ribs and for having some semblance of security and comfort around me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I’ve felt gratitude of the like most people couldn’t even conceive of, because my life has been, almost literally, in the gutter. But this gratitude still doesn’t detract from the fact I don’t – and have never – felt at ‘home’ where I live. It has always been a case of ‘the place I sleep’ or ‘the place I live’ rather than home, and that is because I know – and have always known – that my heart isn’t in it. And home, for me, has always been intrinsically linked with heart.

When I was growing up in Portlethen, on the east coast of Scotland, I liked where I was living. I felt at home in our house. I felt at home traversing the various streets and alleyways of the town. And I felt at home playing amidst the various brooks, burns and open spaces the township had to offer.

When I was growing up in Caldicot, on the south coast of Wales, I didn’t like where I was living. I hated the house in which we lived. I disliked the various streets and alleyways of the town. And I rarely, if ever, played amidst the various fields, parks and open spaces the township had to offer.

So it comes as no surprise to me that the latter – Caldicot – is where my mental health began to deteriorate. Sure, my age had something to do with it, but I have always linked my lack of ‘home’ to my increasing depression and anxiety. Being somewhere so devoid of comfort, so devoid of security, so devoid of love, can have a devastating effect on ones mental health.

After living in Caldicot for the better part of my teenage years, I finally realised that I was able to assert my adulthood and move somewhere that I actually liked. Within months of this decision I was back in Scotland, this time in the north, living in the city of Inverness. And I found almost instantaneous solace amidst the river, islands and back streets of this fair city. Within minutes of being there I felt ‘at home’; I could feel a weight being lifted from my soul, I could sense my depression easing, I could sense my anxiety waning. Years of pain that Caldicot had inflicted on me were being undone, simply from living somewhere that I was passionate about, somewhere that provided me the safety and warmth that I crave from a home.

And herein lies one of the fundamental problems that is plaguing my hopelessness today; however grateful I am for the roof that I have over my head, I cannot deny that it does not – and has never – felt like home. Not the unit that I call home. Not the town that houses that unit. None of it stirs my soul. None of it lights a fire in my heart. All this town is doing is slowly depleting my strength. It has become, over the last few years, a major trigger; impacting on my depression, PTSD and anxiety in ways that I could never have comprehended when I ended up here during my homelessness.

I need to be somewhere I feel passionate about; I need to live somewhere that I feel comfortable. It is as important to me as the most necessary components of human life; food, water and love. If I’m not happy where I live, then it stands to reason, that I’m not going to happy within myself.

05112012(010)

However grateful I am for the roof that I have over my head, I cannot deny that it does not – and has never – felt like home.

So what can be done about it.

Firstly, I need to make the difficult decision that has been plaguing me for over a year, a decision that I wrote about just last week; I need to decide whether or not I want to make my future Australia, or whether I’m going to return home to the UK. Both options have their advantages, both their disadvantages, and I have been veering between the two for the last several months. Although I know no-one can make this decision for me, I’m still open to hear your opinions and advice, given this is such an important and life-altering decision.

But until I make that choice, there are other things I could do to improve my sense of home:

Secondly, I could invest some money into decorating my unit. I’m not talking about painting and wallpapering, I don’t think my lease would allow such drastic alteration to the premises. I’m talking about fitting it with furniture and decoration that I have chosen. The only furniture I currently have was donated to me by a charity when I first moved in. They gave me a bed, a table and chairs, and a couch. I had no say in the style of furniture, I had no choice in the matter, I was just grateful for the help. But now I want that choice; I want to live somewhere that looks the way I want it to look.

Thirdly, I need to find the ‘love’ that makes a home a home. And this is where the social anxiety has an impact. I know that if I had friends, and/or a relationship, my sense of home in both my unit and the town in which I live, would improve. Love always has that effect. But to find those friends and/or a relationship whilst suffering from social anxiety is all but impossible, so I need to improve that, in order to improve my sense of home.

Fourthly, I could move to somewhere else in Australia. The only reason I moved to this town was because I couldn’t find accommodation in Melbourne. I didn’t choose this town. I didn’t opt to live here. I just ended up here because I had nowhere else to go. So moving somewhere that was my choice; moving somewhere that I wanted to be, may be the best thing for me. But this opens up a whole kettle of fish in regards to my finances that I’m not sure I would be able to deal with, for the last thing I want is to be homeless again. I may have survived it once, but that doesn’t mean I want to end up back in that park with a stick digging into my ribs night after night.

Fifthly, well, I can’t think of a fifth option right now so I’ll have to leave it there.

Unlike the previous installments of this series, this is a problem area of my life that I do have some semblance of control over. I could decide to leave this town tomorrow – and probably be happier for it – but the constant threat of homelessness prevents me from doing so. I know I need to improve my sense of home, I know that this would improve my hopelessness and other mental health issues, I just need to make some difficult choices.

Previous installments in ‘Roadblocks to Recovery’:


16 Comments

Should I stay or should I go?

In April 2014, when this crippling depressive episode started, I was sitting at home watching an episode of Monarch of the Glen. Although not the greatest television series of all time, it is one that means the world to me because of its, and my, connection to Scotland. Alongside Hamish Macbeth, it is one of the television series I return to whenever I’m homesick and eager to bask in the glory of Scotland. On this particular occasion though my homesickness overcame me and I said out loud: “I don’t want to be here any more, I want to be there,” whilst pointing at the glory of the Scottish countryside. It is a moment that has stayed with me because it was the moment that I realised I was no longer happy living in Australia.

Monarch of the Glen

Monarch of the Glen: what I was watching when I realised I was no longer happy living in Australia

I first moved to Australia in 2002 for one reason and one reason only; to be with my then girlfriend, Louise. I sacrificed my home (Scotland), my family, my friends, my education and my country of birth (England) to continue a relationship that had begun in the wilds of the Outer Hebridean winter. For a while, things worked out for me in Australia. My mental health was relatively stable, I had a job that (for a brief period) I loved, and my relationship with Louise was secure and loving. But then came 2006; my relationship with Louise faltered and failed, my mental health collapsed and I became deeply unstable, causing me to lose my job. And then came 2007; the loss of everything I owned, the end of my friendships and a complete breakdown in my psychological functioning. Since then, my “life” in Australia has been meaningless.

Certainly, there was a brief period of time in 2008 when things looked like they might work out, but that was a mirage, a mistake of epic proportions, and ever since my life has paid the price; homelessness, isolation and pain on a level most people couldn’t comprehend.

Although a large part of this has been down to my unstable mental health, an equally large part of it is that I know I’m not happy here anymore. I dislike the town in which I live with a venomous passion; there is nothing to do, nowhere to go and I feel as if it has been slowly sucking my soul dry for the last three years now. The unit which I call “home” is unpleasant, noisy and altogether boring. I dislike living here just as much as I dislike the town in which I live. It too, is a succubus attached to my soul, draining me of any passion, excitement and my ability to live. I have also lost any passion I had toward Australia as a country. I no longer enjoy living here. I no longer feel happy about calling myself an honorary Australian. In fact, I feel more disenfranchised and irrelevant than I have at any other point in my life, for it is hard living somewhere that you have no passion for.

As such, ever since I was discharged from hospital back in February, I have been seriously considering leaving Australia and returning to Scotland. But in doing so I would be risking much. I would lose my benefits. I would lose my home. I would, in essence, be homeless again; and I’m not sure I have the energy to rebuild my life from scratch all over again; which is what I would have to do if I returned to the United Kingdom, my home.

Inverness-2008-0021

Inverness, Scotland: my ‘home’

My desire to leave Australia has been so strong, I even had a discussion with my support worker about it, who agreed that I had little to keep me here. I have no friends. I have no family. I have no connection to the land. In fact, the only reason I’m here is because it’s where I’ve ended up. I didn’t even choose to be living in this town, I just ended up here during a particularly unpleasant period of my homelessness. And its hard living somewhere you don’t love. During this conversation with my support worker we wrote a list of pros and cons of staying/returning:

PROS

  • I would be living close to my family
  • I would get to see my niece & nephew for the first time
  • I would be living in Scotland; a country that I am passionate about
  • I would be able to cross off many items of my ‘things to do before I die’ list, as they are related to Scotland
  • Cheese is infinitely better tasting in the UK
  • Free medication
  • Free health care (albeit on the NHS)
  • Good public transport (albeit a trifle expensive)

CONS

  • Benefits situation is complicated. Although I would qualify for job seekers almost immediately I would have to wait two years before applying for disability. And as I’m not stable enough to work or look for work, this could cause problems and potentially leave me income-less.
  • Living with my parents on initial return to UK could prove troublesome as I am so used to living on my own.
  • If things don’t work out with my parents, I would be at risk of being homeless again.
  • Finding accommodation would be difficult, especially on job seekers allowance (which is approx. £60/fortnight)

So at this point in time, the pros of leaving Australia and returning home are winning. So I should go, right? But it’s not as simple as that, because of the risk I would be taking in terms of benefits and accommodation; two areas of life that are at lease stable if I were to remain in Australia, given I have the unit and am a recipient of the Disability Support Pension.

It all comes down to what I mentioned above; do I have the energy to rebuild my life from scratch?

And that’s a question I can’t answer at the moment.

So I’ve decided to turn to you, my wonderful blogging friends. Would you leave somewhere you have no passion for in order to return to where you felt at home? Would you risk homelessness in order to be close to family and friends? Or would you continue living somewhere you dislike, solely because you are the recipient of a reasonable benefit and have somewhere to live?

What would you do in my situation?


27 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: My Neighbourhood

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is:

To kick this off, grab your phone and head out the door. That’s right — get on your feet and go outside to explore — and document — where you live. I want to see your neighborhood: The path you take for your daily morning run. Your local coffee shop or dive bar. The nearby alley of street and community art. A shot of the intersection that perfectly captures the bustle of your own corner of town. Or a serene landscape view of your village.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I live in abject poverty so it’s hard for me to afford food, let alone swanky mobile phones with cameras. Therefore, for this week’s challenge, I’m sharing my neighbourhood of old; the town where young Addy used to rampage around the streets being all cheeky, happy and a wee bit naughty.

This is Portlethen…and don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it, few people ever have! ;)

Portlethen

My old street; My old house; The ‘no ball games’ sign we used to completely ignore; The town hall (and site of my first school disco); My old primary school; The church I once won a competition painting a picture of…inspirational, isn’t it! :p

“When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood”
~ Sam Ewing ~

Other interpretations of the theme

Weekly Photo Challenge: Neighbourhood
(lucidgypsy.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: My Neighbourhood
(jidhu.wordpress.com)
Phoneography Challenge: My Neighbourhood – View From My Front Door
(shakespearesgal2.wordpress.com)
Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood
(thirdeyemom.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: My Neighborhood
(beijingcityphoto.wordpress.com)
Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood
(dropsofink.com)
Phoneography Challenge: Where’s the Wi-fi?
(retirenicaragua.wordpress.com)
Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood
(angelinem.wordpress.com)

 


1 Comment

Addy’s Best of 2012: The Best Surprise of the Year

In addition to the Mental Health Month Challenge I have decided to undertake a more light-hearted challenge this month that I discovered on Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges. Each day in December I will be issuing an award in celebration of everything 2012, continuing with…

The Best Surprise of the Year

~ No longer homeless ~

Home

By far and away the biggest surprise of 2012 was the moment I received a phone call from a real estate agency offering me a unit. After three years of living in parks, urine soaked alleys and perfecting my best ‘living under a bridge’ troll impression, I firmly believed the only way I would escape homelessness would be to die.

Throughout those long years the constant stream of rejections I received from rental applications, employers and society in general had made me believe I was destined to exist on the streets for the remainder of my life. I had worked myself to the bone on a daily basis, never experiencing anything other than continuous pain on both a physical and mental level.

When that phone call came in late February I had all but given up and resigned myself to my deserved fate.

For the first several days after I moved in I was sleeping on the floor of my ‘bedroom’. After Vinnies kindly donated me a bed, I continued sleeping on the floor for several weeks as I was trapped in the mindset of a homeless person. I didn’t believe I deserved a bed, a home or any of the changes that I’d managed to create for myself.

Over time, I slowly began to settle. I moved from the floor to the bed, I began sitting on the couch rather than the floor and began listening to the radio instead of staring into space. But I continued believing I was homeless, locked into that way of thinking after years of trauma.

For this is the one aspect of homelessness people do not understand.

It is not a case of just finding somewhere to live and that person will miraculously fix every aspect of their life. Homelessness is more than not having a home; it is a way of life, a trap that once you’ve fallen into is immensely difficult to escape from as you have to re-learn all of the social skills that have been forgotten throughout your homeless life.

Nine months later I still think of myself as homeless. I don’t feel settled and I continue to believe that homelessness is, and will always be, my future. In spite of the advances I have made over the last several months those years continue to haunt me on a daily basis, making hope for the future something impossible to believe in.

However, compared to where I was this time last year, I’m in a much better place and have a far greater chance of being someone again.

As long as I continue working (and fighting) for a better future as fervently as I have been these last few years :)

~ If you’d like to see some photos of the interior of my house, you can right here! ~

~ Runners up for ‘The Best Surprise of the Year’ award ~

*SPOILER WARNING*
The following video is the closing moments of Dexter Season 6.
Do not watch this video if you plan on watching this season!

 


9 Comments

This is home…

After much cursing, switching it off and on again, more cursing, hurling it across the room, even more cursing and promising to take it out for dinner and a movie…the camera on my phone finally decided to start working this weekend!

I think it may have had something to do with promising she would definitely get lucky at the culmination of the promised date, but not knowing much about the inner working of a phone’s mind, who knows what the problem was!

As a result, I can now show you my home. Aren’t you lucky people? :)

In order for you to have something to compare it to – plus show you how far I’ve come/how bloody hard I’ve worked – let’s first take a look at where I used to live.

Where I used to live… (circa 2010)

Where I live now… (circa present day)

My lounge room…

My bedroom…

My Kitchen…

I decided not to show you the bathroom. It’s a wholly unexciting room that contains a toilet (we’ve all seen one of those), a shower (we’ve all seen one of those, although some people seem to need lessons in how they work), a sink (it’s white, and well, a sink) and the linoleum floor is even harder to clean than the kitchen’s is!

Yes, I’m fully aware I live in a place that most people would describe as “dodgy”, hell, I’ve used far worse words than that over the months! But you know what? I really don’t care. Compared to where I used to live this is heaven; I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, my own toilet, a freaking awesome doona cover and a bread board that would deliver a helluva whack should I ever need to defend myself.

This is home, and no matter what anyone thinks of it, it’s a darn site better than living on the street :)

Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ll seize any opportunity to visit Narnia :p Plus, it’s kinda apt!