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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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!

 


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Saturday 9: Key Largo

Saturday 9 is a weekly blogging meme hosted by Crazy Sam Winters (she added the crazy, not me!).

Every Saturday there will be nine questions – sometimes they will be around a common theme, other times completely random – to be answered however we like.

1) This song was inspired by the Bogart/Bacall movie of the same name. Do you have a favorite Humphrey Bogart film? 

Although far from my favourite Hepburn movie, Sabrina is one of the few Bogart movies I can remember seeing. Plus, Billy Wilder :)

2) Where do you rent movies? (Netflix, Redbox, OnDemand, etc.)

When I can afford to do so, I rent my movies from a little known service called a DVD rental store. Back in the day, they used to be rather popular. You could roam the shelves checking out movie after movie, indulge yourself in holding the DVD cover in your hand to peruse the synopsis and stills, spend some time debating whether the cleavage shot is really necessary (yes, Sleepy Hollow back cover, I’m looking at you!) and ask the staff cunning questions to find out just how knowledgeable they are in the realm of film and television.

3) Have you ever been to the Florida Keys?

I have never been to the Florida Keys. In fact, I’ve never stepped foot on American soil in my life. The closest I came was the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Perhaps one day I shall visit, but in all honesty, the Florida Keys would be very low on my list of places to visit. (No offense to anyone in the Florida Keys intended :p)

4) According to government statistics, more than half the people who currently live in Florida were born in another state. Were you born in the state where you currently live?

I was not. I was born in a rather random town in Northern England called Leeds. I lived there for only a few months before we moved when my father got a new job, never to return.

5) To be honest, Crazy Sam really hates this week’s featured song. (Hear it here.) Do you like it? Loathe it? Or are you unfamiliar with it?

I do not know the song or artist. However, he has a remarkably entertaining beard :)

6) Local authorities in a suburb of Sydney blasted Barry Manilow songs into a neighborhood park to keep “hooligans” away after dark. Is there an artist or song that would make you run in the other direction?

New life goal: discover what suburb of Sydney this is so I can move there and begin crooning every night. Barry Manilow rocks!

However, if they were to start playing this song, I would run a country mile without ever looking back:

See also the Paul McCartney’s The Frog Song.

7) Two of the most common fears are going to the dentist and speaking in public. Do either of those really get under your skin?

Given I am open in suffering with social anxiety disorder, I am not afraid of dentists and speaking in public; I have an outright phobia about them! I would rather lock myself into a room playing the above song on repeat for an entire year than go anywhere near these two.

8) We’re having burgers. What do you want on yours?

The burger would have to be chicken breast, for I am not a fan of red meat in any way, shape or form. Toppings? Some crisp lettuce, pineapple, a sprinkling of cheese and a dash of bbq sauce would be lovely, thank you.

9) Here’s your chance to do a shameless plug. What charity or cause do you wish got more support?

“I once heard a story about a homeless man on Hollywood Blvd who really thought he was invisible. But one day a kid handed the man a Christian pamphlet. The homeless guy was shocked and amazed, “what! You can see me? How can you see me? I’m invisible!”

It isn’t hard to comprehend this man’s slow spiral into invisibility. Once on the street, people started to walk past him, ignoring him as if he didn’t exist… much like they do a piece of trash on the sidewalk. It’s not that people are bad, but if we make eye contact, or engage in conversation, then we have to admit they exist and that we might have a basic human need to care. But it’s so much easier to simply close our eyes and shield our hearts to their existence.

The purpose of this vlog is to make the invisible visible. I hope these people and their stories connect with you and don’t let go. I hope their conversations with me will start a conversation in your circle of friends. These are the real people, telling their own, very real stories… unedited, uncensored and raw.

The invisible guy didn’t intend to become homeless. I didn’t plan on living on the street. Everyone on the streets has their own story, some made bad decisions, others were victims, but none of them deserve what they have been left with, and it is a reflection of our own society that we just leave them there.

Please always remember, the homeless people you’ll ignore today were much like you not so long ago.”

from InvisiblePeople.tv


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Hug a Homeless Person Day

I’ve just realised an obvious problem in my decision to take on the WordPress Daily prompts as a challenge throughout November. Being in Australia, I will always be a day ahead (or a day behind, depending on your perspective), as new prompts are posted in US time.

The lateness of this post comes from hoping WordPress would post their 1 November update in time for me to write something, but alas, they did not. Thus, for my 1 November post I’m answering the prompt for 31 October. Whereas tomorrow I will answer the 1 November prompt, and so on.

Only tomorrow I will answer the prompt much earlier as I’m so sleepy at the moment I can barely keep my eyes open!

Invent a holiday! Explain how and why everyone should celebrate.

If I could invent a holiday it would be Hug a Homeless Person Day. Whether they are real life bear hugs, online {{HUGS}} or hug-like acts of donating time to volunteer with homeless services; showing you care about the homeless is all that’s required to celebrate this day.

With homelessness an ever-increasing problem more needs to be done to help those unfortunate enough to find themselves in this predicament, so why not form a holiday to help those individuals too often forgotten within our society?

For years I slept in parks, alleys, storm drains and doorways, never once receiving any form of human contact. Throughout those long, lonely years I became withdrawn and disconnected from society. I forgot what it meant to be loved or cared about and became ostracised from society at large. The hardest part of trying to regain my life is trying to relearn all the basic communication skills I forgot throughout my homelessness. Skills that would never have been lost if society treated the homeless as human beings instead of animals.

On any given day a hug would have made all the difference. It would have proved to me that I was visible. That even though I was in the direst of situations there were people out there who cared. The simple act of someone sitting down to talk to me, to take an interest in my personality rather than their preconceived stereotypes, would have given me hope. Hope that I, like many, found so hard to hold onto.

No-one chooses to be homeless. So why is society ignoring the plight of those most in need of support? We have holidays to gather candy, to celebrate horse races, ignite the sky with fireworks, commemorate monarchs and feast on chocolate eggs…so why no holiday to care about those less fortunate?


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6 Places…

A rather open ended prompt for today’s installment of the challenge. Six places I love? Six places I hate? Six places I want to visit? What sort of places are they referring to?

Harumph.

Okay, I suppose I shall have to be all decisive and choose for myself…

~ All photographs © Addy ~


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No home, no life, no love, no stranger singing in your name.

This post was originally written for my blog The Secret Diary of a Homeless Romantic  as my journal entry for 16 September 2010. At the time I was rough sleeping in Melbourne and trying to hold onto what little shred of sanity I had left in spite of discrimination and the ever-present loneliness.

I’ve chosen this post as my voice from the past this Monday for two reasons. One, because it’s an entry I’ve always been quite happy with (a rarity for my writing) and two, the Time to Change research mentioned in the post is a disturbing reminder of the stigma attached to those with mental health problems and deserves to be remembered.

Note: This post was imported from the now-deceased aforementioned blog so all images, links and comments remain as a record of that moment in time and place.

Blanket soldier

Not me. Just a look-a-like.

My day began at about 5am when I dragged myself from the concrete,  cleaned my blankets and secreted them away into their usual hiding place.

The bathroom called before my basic morning yoga routine (I stress basic) produced all sorts of odd looks. Seriously, a homeless man performing yoga in the park – I should charge!  I had my shower, argued with myself and then found a two dollar coin nestled on the grey asphalt.

Woohoo!

It’s not often I find money that’s gold in colour. Usually it’s silver, and the smallest denomination at that, but this find meant I could purchase some foodstuffs for breakfast. Aware a restaurant chain is currently offering $2 bacon and egg sandwiches before 11am I strolled into town in the hope I would be settled in front of ABC News 24 (at Federation Square) without a growling belly this morning.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. As soon as I entered I was asked to leave, apparently this particular chain doesn’t serve the homeless.

When the library opened I was able to Tweet and Facebook my frustration:

This am was refused $2 brekky & told to leave shop. I’ll quote: “You know yr homeless. We don’t want troublemakers like you in here,” Nice!

and fortunately was not alone in being pissed off! The greatest response came from Facebook, where I was told that:

You seem too intelligent to be a bum. Things happen tho. Your thoughts and writing are cool & you take awesome photos. :)

I’m fully aware the person who wrote it didn’t mean anything other than being nice, so I’m not angry with them in any way – but it does come across as a little, umm, yeah. What does intelligence have to do with homelessness?

Also, I don’t mind the term hobo (reminds me of the show The Littlest Hobo, yay!) but I HATE the word bum.

Bums are for sitting on, kissing, squeezing and spanking.

Do you see anyone sitting on, kissing, squeezing or spanking me? Sadly, no. Thus, I am not a bum. When someone does start doing these things I will happily refer to myself as a bum ;p Until then you may refer to me as either homeless, hobo, awesome, spankable or all of the above.

Anyway, as it turned out today seemed to be the day for discrimination as I also discovered that most people would rather date someone they weren’t attracted to than someone with a mental illness!

More people in England would turn down a date with someone who had a mental illness (57%) if they were single and looking for love online than someone they found unattractive (44%) or someone without the same interests (43%), a new survey as part of the Time to Change campaign addressing mental health prejudice has found.

Also, people with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they reveal they have a mental illness (44%) than those who disclose they have been in prison (42%), have a physical health problem (19%) or are unemployed (18%).

So basically, I was refused food from a company whose sole purpose is to sell food to hungry people and then moments later found out it’s unlikely I’ll ever be in a relationship again. Cracking start to the day! As I continued reading the article I also discovered it’s unlikely I’ll ever get accommodation:

The survey also looked at flatsharing and revealed 60% of us would not want to rent a room to someone with a mental health problem, more than three times as many as who would say no to someone with a physical health problem (18%).

This is far more annoying than the comment posted to my Facebook account or being discriminated against by the restaurant chain.

I’m not trying to be arrogant when I say this, but I believe I’m a good guy. I’m caring, compassionate, generous and passionate. Granted I’m not a comedian (unless you appreciate extremely dry usually need carrots to see through it dark comedy) but I do have a very twisted, generous and imaginative mind. I’m also very much a downer than a downee, which should surely make up for some of the points lost on the mental illness, or am I clutching at straws there?

Yet purely because I suffer from mental health problems it’s unlikely anyone of the opposite sex would give me the time of day let alone prove this to them. In other words, in order to stand a chance of having an honest and loving relationship I would need to lie from the very start; bit of a contradiction, no?

Argh!

So I spent the rest of the day listening to the same Foo Fighters album on repeat. I’d never heard a Foo Fighters album before but a Twitter-Friend recommended them and I’ve become addicted.

Especially this track:

Which just makes me think of two words: road trip!

She’s driving, I’m in the passenger seat. She’s in jeans and a tee, I’m in board shorts. I’m feeding her gummi-bears (or grapes, depending on her taste preference), she’s telling me they’re all hers and I’m not allowed any. The music’s blaring, the sun’s blazing, the road’s endless and we don’t care. It’s all just too damn fun :D

Sure it’s a dream, but given I learned today I’ll never have a relationship and won’t be allowed to eat in one of my favourite restaurant chains until I get a home from one of the 40% who won’t discriminate against me, am I not allowed to dream from time to time?

Related Articles (as chosen on 16 September 2010):
Related Articles (as chosen today, 24 September 2012):


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

This week’s challenge is ‘everyday life’.

For millions of people around the world having nowhere to sleep is an everyday reality.
All of them believed it would never happen to them. What do you believe?

Home (19 September 2010) © Addy

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life
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Weekly Photo Challenge – Everyday Life
(pakos.me)


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Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless

Some are poignant, some are personal. Some are important, some are silly. For today’s Top Twenty Thursday I share some of the life lessons I learnt during my years living on the street.

Twenty Life Lessons I Learnt Whilst Homeless

20. Discrimination is still prevalent in today’s society.
However accepting our society has become in certain areas, discrimination against the homeless is still rife and we need to do everything we can to stop it. After all, homeless people are just like you; human.

19. No matter how waterproof you think your backpack/jacket/shoes etc. are. They’re not!
Something I learnt the hard way after losing important paperwork, notepads of writing and clothing.

18. When ‘showering’ in a public toilet – always remember to lock the door!
Otherwise you may find yourself inadvertently flashing an unsuspecting jogger at five in the morning.

17. Ducks may look cute – but they’re naughty little tykes.
As proven when one duckling ‘distracted’ me with its cuteness whilst its mother stole my sandwich.

16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.
You’ll know what I mean when you try to remove the pair you’ve been wearing for three months straight and they’ve become attached to your skin. Ouchie!

Lesson 16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.

15. Libraries are the earth-bound equivalent of heaven.
Proof, for those who don’t believe me: Power points for recharging; comfy chairs for snoozing; books for personal growth; newspapers for education; free internet for socializing (see lesson 6); hot librarians for fantasizing; warmth for health. Libraries must continue to be supported and funded under all circumstances.

14. Never go to sleep using a backpack containing a Vegemite and cheese sandwich as a pillow.
A slightly odd life lesson, I’ll grant you, but one you should heed unless you want to wake up with a possum sleeping on your head! Note: this is not as fun as it sounds for they can be a bit cranky if woken.

13. Plastic shopping bags are not the pure evil they’re made out to be.
See lesson 19 and make the all too obvious connection.

12. Homeless people really are invisible. They shouldn’t be, but they are.
A lesson I learnt in a rather uncomfortable fashion when, on three separate occasions, three individual couple decided to copulate only meters from where I was all-too-obviously sleeping.

11. Drunken [insert sporting team of choice] fans should be avoided at all costs.
A lesson I learnt the hard way following a physical assault after their team lost a match. So be careful.

Lesson 11. Drunken {insert sporting team of choice} fans should be avoided at all costs.

10. Always listen to your gut (aka. You’re allowed to say ‘no’)
There were times I went to organisations for help with crisis accommodation and/or housing where they gave me the choice of “it’s either this boarding house in the middle of nowhere populated with drug addicted ex-cons or the streets”. In spite of my gut I felt guilt tripped into taking the boarding house. Another lesson I learnt the hard way.

9. Never eat the soup van sausage rolls. There is a reason why no-else does!
This was learnt after a six-hour vomiting session. Given no-one wanted to eat them, I fear I wasn’t alone.

8. Even though it should be, homelessness isn’t a priority for politicians.
During the 2010 Australian Federal Election there was no mention of homelessness. Why? Because for the only voters who counted, homelessness is something that will never affect them. They obviously haven’t learnt lesson 5 yet.

7. Never be afraid to ask for help.
It’s hard to fight your way out of homelessness by yourself but the humiliation of asking for help can be just as bad. The latter option, however difficult, is always the best avenue to take. You may not believe it, but there are always people out there who care, who will help you find ways you can get back onto your feet.

6. Social networks are vital.
Isolation can be devastating. Few can understand the psychological impact of spending every minute of your life by yourself, nor would I ever recommend it. For a homeless person, social opportunities are few and far between, which leaves social networking sites their only option. If you can forge past the occasional abuse you will find a supportive community that will welcome you with their arms wide open. For any homeless people reading this, may I suggest We Are Visible as a starting point.

Lesson 6. Social networks are vital.

5. Never take your life for granted. Ever!
I never expected to become homeless. And I’m willing to bet that you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you either. But let me tell you – all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head. Unless you learnt from lesson 14, that is.

4. Homeless people are decent, kind and compassionate human beings.
Not the violent, drug abusing, alcoholic psychopaths middle-class liberal commentators would have you believe. From my time on the street the homeless individuals I came across were always helpful, generous people who would go out of their way to assist you. Hell, one even saved my life once!

3. There is always someone worse off than you.
Have you had your daily moan about the cost of your coffee or the fact your train was seven minutes late? Have you taken to Twitter to have a wee vent about how your local bookstore has sold out of Fifty Shade of Grey or your partner farting under the covers again? Let me assure you, your life could be so much worse!

2. Don’t stop believing!
The one thing you never want to lose is hope. So find something – anything – to keep you warm during those long cold winter’s nights. Even if that means gathering together a posse of homeless people to perform your very own Glee style rendition of this classic song!

1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.
If you take the time out of your life to have a chat and a smile with a homeless person, you’ll not only be making their day a little better, but your own as well.

Lesson 1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.