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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Update: So what am I doing about it?

Yesterday I outlined some of my current stressors; issues that are triggering my mental health into uncontrollable territory. It was a somewhat whiny, somewhat depressing post, but one that needed to be written. Life is hard for me at the moment, there is no joy, no happiness, no relaxation and no pleasure. I have virtually no energy and my loss of hope is making it difficult for me to keep fighting…but, as I have been for twenty-three years, I keep pushing myself.

First and foremost is my attempt to obtain psychiatric support, something I have been trying to obtain for the last six months. You would think this would be simple, that it would just be a case of contacting the local mental health service and – bam – I have a psychiatrist. But, as with everything in my life, nothing is ever that simple. The simple truth of the matter is Wodonga is a small town with only one public mental health service – and they dismissed me as not needing support in 2012, my first year in this town. The psychiatrist I saw back then treated me like crap, just as the psychiatrist I had seen prior to him treated me like crap. He believed (wrongly) that there was nothing wrong with me and that there was nothing the mental health service could do to assist me. He is the only psychiatrist available on the public health system in Wodonga. And I am not putting myself through another abusive psychiatrist appointment. Period. Thus, the only option I have when it comes to psychiatry, is the private sector.

For the last several months my support worker and I have been looking into this option. There are no psychiatrists in the Wodonga region that could help me, which means I have had to look further afield to Albury in order to obtain this support. And we have identified two potential candidates that may be able to help. Both are women (I am unable to see a male psychiatrist due to the misandry and distrust of men I have developed since my rape) and both have lengthy waiting lists. Also, because of the private nature of their service, I am going to have to pay to see them. But this is something I am willing to do (even if it means not eating for the week!)

Hopefully my six-months-and-counting effort in this aspect of my treatment will pay off soon. Whether I will be taken seriously is another matter. I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to psychiatrists (because I am a high functioning bipolar sufferer they tend to believe I have too much insight into my illness and, therefore, am not suffering from anything) but I’m willing (and determined) to give it a go. Whatever the emotional and financial cost!

However, I am not naive enough to believe that a psychiatrist will solve all my problems. The simple fact of the matter is (as my post yesterday attested) I am currently navigating a minefield of triggers and stressors, all of which are negatively impacting on my mental health. And the simple fact of the matter is a whole army of psychiatrists and CPNs are not going to change the stressors I am dealing with.

And my neighbour is a major source of this stress.

The noise that my neighbour makes causes me stress twenty-four hours a day. It is incessant. It is continuous. It is mind-numbing. How am I supposed to fight mental illness when I cannot relax for even a millisecond in my own house? When you’re homeless you learn pretty quickly what a home really is. It is not just a roof over your head. It is a sanctuary; a place where you can feel secure, comfortable and safe. And the simple truth is that my neighbour, courtesy of his endless noise, has made my house an unsafe place to live. Two days ago, whilst my house was under attack from his wall shaking video games, I self harmed for the first time in nearly a year. A year of hard work and determination was undone in a matter of seconds because cutting myself was the only thing I could do to deal with the cacophony of noise that batters my conscience on a daily basis. And in the moment that the blade sliced through my flesh I realised once and for all I can no longer live under these conditions: I have to move; for my own sanity – for my own safety – I need to move.

I am not under the innocent belief that moving will solve all my problems (again, I am not that naive) but it will remove a dangerous trigger from my life that will make fighting my mental illness that much easier.

The same can be said for Wodonga as a whole.

My trip to Melbourne proved one thing: I hate Wodonga. It is a town that is bad for me. It is a town that is amplifying my mental illness and making it impossible to live the life that I want to live. There is nothing to do in this town. There are no distractions. No social options. No opportunities to live and breathe. The longer I live in this town, the worse my mental illness will become. Wodonga is a trigger. Pure and simple.

Now, some people may think I’m being over-the-top, that I’m allowing the relaxation of a holiday to control my feelings in this respect. Of course I was calm in Melbourne, I was on holiday, everyone is calm on holiday, yada yada yada. But consider this: my mental health in Wodonga is worse than when I was homeless in Melbourne. I was more stable living on the street than I have been over the last few years living in this town. Why? Because even though I was homeless, I was homeless somewhere I wanted to be.

And, as with my noisy neighbour, no amount of psychiatric support is going to change this. Even if I do manage to obtain a psychiatrist they will be facing a losing battle as their work will be quickly undone by the triggering nature of Wodonga.

They say you only live once, maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not, so why would you live your life in a town/city that amplifies your mental health and makes living a chore devoid of excitement, happiness and social interaction?

As I’ve said twice now, I’m not naive or innocent enough to believe that moving will fix all my problems, I’m not my sister, but it will help in my battle. So, over the last few weeks, I have been looking for new housing options both in Wodonga (to eradicate the problem of my noisy neighbour) and in Melbourne (to eradicate the problem of my pathological hatred of this town)

The simple fact is something must change in my living arrangements. And I am working hard to make that change a reality.

As for my other current triggers, to be honest, there is little I can do about them at this time. My physical health problems are being monitored by doctors so only time will tell how this aspect of my life will play out. The same can be said for my current anhedonia and death fantasies; neither are going away anytime soon and, as both are intrinsically linked to my mental health, I can only combat them as best I can. Perhaps a psychiatrist will assist in this respect. Perhaps not. But even though I’ve lost all hope for a better future, I have yet to stop fighting.

I am just trying to do the best I can with the little I’ve got.

What else can I reasonably expect to do?

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Update: A wound up ball of stress and negative energy

stress

Sorry I’ve been absent lately. Life has become something quite unbearable and has not, in any way, lent itself to heartwarming, inspirational blog posts. Ever since I returned from Melbourne back in August I’ve been a wound up ball of stress and negative energy, triggered by so many things that I have no idea how to calm myself down and relax again.

First, there’s my neighbour and his daily cacophony of sound. If it’s not metal music blasting the cobwebs from my walls it’s his incessant video game playing that makes it sound like my unit is under attack twenty-four hours a day. The only peace I receive from his wall of sound is the twenty minutes he’s out of the house each morning, the rest of the time, it’s just noise, noise, noise! I’ve tried talking to him, I’ve reported the problem to my landlord, but neither has brought any relief. He just seems to have no idea (or rather, doesn’t care) how noisy he is being. And it’s been driving me insane.

Secondly, is the ongoing frustration of living in abject poverty. I can’t afford to clothe myself properly. I can’t afford to feed myself properly. I am regularly having to choose between medication and food; so much so, that a few weeks ago I went eight days without any medication so I could have a proper meal or two. Whereas the following week, I re-stocked on medication, only to find myself unable to eat for five days. It’s difficult for people to understand just how stressful it is to live having to make such decisions. When your entire life revolves around the paucity of your bank balance. There is no money for fun, no money for entertainment, no money for anything other than the barest, most essential of items. Truth be told this has been getting to me for years, but as with all the other stressors in my life at the moment, there is little I can do about it. I am too mentally (and physically) unwell to work so I just have to make do. And I’m tired of just making do.

Thirdly, is my physical health. When I was in Melbourne I felt on top of the world. Full of energy. Full of vibrancy. But since returning, since the stress took complete control of my life, my physical health has dwindled. For the past two weeks I’ve been battling through a particularly uncomfortable period of constipation, which has now rotated into a particularly uncomfortable period of diarrhea (I know, TMI!) but that’s not the worst of it. Last week I experienced another bout of abdominal pain which has my GP worried that acute pancreatitis is making a comeback. Over the last week I’ve had blood tests, X-Rays and ultrasounds, all of which has revealed no problem, but my GP is so adamant in his diagnosis that I am paranoid he’s going to put me in hospital; and that’s something I can’t deal with at the moment. Although (aside from the diarrhea) I feel fine at the moment I am stressed to high heaven over the possibility of operations and another grueling hospital stay. Yet more to stress about.

Fourthly, is the nastiness that is anhedonia. Nothing – and I mean nothing – is bringing me pleasure at the moment. Not DVD marathons, not reading, not kinky fantasies, not sleeping, not blogging, not food, not even Doctor Who. Nothing that usually brings me pleasure is working. Nothing is making me laugh. Nothing is bringing a smile to my face. It is just a constant stream of unhappiness, boredom and displeasure. And it’s stressing me out. How can you exist in life when nothing brings you happiness? How can you exist in life when all your life is just an endless array of misery?

Finally, are the ongoing death fantasies that have been assaulting my mind. Ever since reaching my conclusion a few weeks ago I have been plagued with haunting vignettes of my death; hanging, overdoses, slashed wrists, drowning. You name it, I’ve fantasized about it. They are in equal parts frightening and calming; frightening because, deep down, I want to live; calming because, on the surface, death is the only release I can see from my current stress. I have no intention in the immediate future to end my life, but the longer this stress continues, the more suicidal I find myself becoming.

The simple fact of the matter is life has become meaningless. It has become an endless stream of stress, unhappiness and tension. I want to feel happy again. I want to smile and laugh and joke and play and feel like my old self again. But how can I do that when nothing counteracts the high stress I find myself in day after day? Sometimes I just want to sit in my house and enjoy the quiet; but I can’t, because of my neighbour. Sometimes I just want to be able to walk down the road without running to a public lavatory; but I can’t, because of the diarrhea. Sometimes I just want to treat myself to beautiful food; but I can’t, because of the abject poverty.

Everything in my life feels wrong at the moment. Where I live. What I do. How I survive. And I can’t see any end to it. That’s ultimately where the stress is coming from. Every day from today until the day I die is going to be the same; noise, stress and death fantasies. I can’t see an end to it. I can’t see a way out. In life, we need hope to survive. It’s what keeps us going. It’s what powers us to achieve our dreams day in, day out. And the simple fact of the matter is, I’ve lost mine. It’s gone. And I don’t know how to get it back.


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Death is the only answer

As I’ve been having trouble writing lately, mainly because my stress levels have been so high, I’m experimenting with stream of consciousness writing as a way to overcome my current malaise. As such, this post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Tuesday 29 September 2015 between 10:09 – 10:33am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

death

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. The demons of my past forcing me to relive the emotional abuse I received from my sociopathic narcissistic cunt of an ex-girlfriend. Words like useless, worthless, repugnant, repulsive, selfish, waste of space, evil, pointless, unlovable reverberated around my mind making sleep an impossible dream. They were all the words my abuser used to use; all the words my abuser specifically chose to control my life, minimize my emotions and render me a quivering, isolated, self-hating freak. That was her intention. That was her goal. To make me hate myself; to render my emotions invalid; to destroy the very essence of my soul. And she succeeded. Last night wasn’t a one-off. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Every night and day for the last eight years, no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, her voice echoes in my mind, continuing her vicious quest to assault my soul and control my life past, present and future.

For the last six days it has been the same. Night after sleepless night of reliving the abuse I was the recipient of. Night after night of hating myself on a level few could ever conceive of. Night after night of the ghost of my abuser pushing me ever closer toward the precipice of suicide. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. I’m clinging on to the last minuscule threads of sanity. Even when I wake up, even when I try to distract myself from her cruel, taunting voice, she is still there; still forcing her abuse upon me, still pushing me to rid the world of the repulsiveness that is me. That’s what she wants, you see, it’s what she’s always wanted; my suicide. An act that she believes would save the world from the most evil, selfish, repugnant human being that has ever lived.

And she’s convincing. Last night, as the minutes dragged into hours, I started trying to work out how many pills I would need to take to successfully end my life. I started to plan how best I could slash my wrists to rid the world of the scourge of humanity. I started to concoct elaborate, complicated plans involving a combination of pills, cutting and trains; the end result always being my death, to rid the world of a voice so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone it talks to. And as the plans formulated in my mind, I started to feel at peace, I started to feel content, for it dawned on me that this is what I want. This is really the only way for me to find happiness.

They say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And I have always hated that saying. My problems are not temporary.

There is no cure for bipolar affective disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its mood swings, with its madness, with its intricacies, and it will always, in the end, win.

There is no cure for post traumatic stress disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its flashbacks, with its reliving of past trauma, with its heinous nightmares, and it will always, in the end, win.

There is no cure for social anxiety disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its panic, with its control, with its neurosis, and it will always, in the end, win.

Sure, there is medication that can help control the symptoms, but there is no medication that will eradicate them completely, they will always control me, always take everything from my life, as they’ve been doing for the last eight years. Eight years. I used to have a life. I used to be happy. I used to have hopes and dreams, passions and friends. But now? There is nothing. There is just me. Continually hated by the world and every human being who populates it. I am nothing, a nobody, a repugnant isolated freak that, as my abuser so relished in informing me, no human being could ever love and/or care about.

It’s no surprise to me that I’ve lost hope for a better, brighter future. Over the last eight years, despite homelessness, despite rape, despite physical assault, isolation, mental illness, trauma and abuse – all of which I have fought on my own – I have worked my cute little arse off to become the person I want so desperately to be. Over the last eight years I’ve helped people whenever and however I can; I’ve replied to thousands of emails from lost souls searching for meaning, and done whatever I could to provide them with the hope they’re looking for; I’ve shared my journey on this blog in the hope it would help people feel less alone; I’ve even helped people actualize their lifelong dreams. Over the last eight years I’ve continued to write even when the world did everything it could to stop me; I’ve sent manuscripts to publishers for consideration; I’ve written for websites on all manner of topics; I’ve even self-published my work online because writing has, since I was a child, been one of my primary passions. Over the last eight years I’ve been there for people when they’ve needed me; I’ve offered support and kindness when they had done little to earn it and I have always put other people’s emotions ahead of my own. Over the last eight years I have clung onto the hope that my life wouldn’t always be so isolated, so painful, so irrelevant. But eight years of hard work, eight years of fighting mental illness, trauma and loneliness, all on my lonesome, has seen that hope evaporate. My abuser was right; there is no hope for me, I will never amount to anything, no-one will ever love me.

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. Memories of abuse and trauma assaulted my mind and I came to the inevitable conclusion: I am an inconsequential member of the human race. It doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t matter how hard I work, it doesn’t matter what I sacrifice or how many people I help. No-one will love me. No-one will care about me. Nothing will ever change. It will just be me, living in abject poverty, devoid of happiness, killing time until the inevitable happens.

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. And as the hours drifted by I came to the inevitable conclusion: death is the only answer.


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Not to memory, but to dream

Way back in the distant past, in 2001 to be precise, I was nonchalantly browsing the books of a Cancer Council charity shop in Inverness. Various titles jumped out at me, various authors who were familiar to me made their presence known, but none more so than Charles de Lint. For there, sitting on the shelf, was a dog-eared, moth-eaten book entitled ‘Memory and Dream’. I had never read any de Lint, but I knew of him, my friend Deborah, who I’d met whilst long-terming in a backpacker hostel throughout the winter of 1999/2000, had recommended him to me on many occasions. But I’d never had the chance to read his work. None of the bookshops in Inverness carried his art, and at this time in life, few people shopped online as the internet was only beginning to take hold in people’s lives. So, in memory of our friendship, I paid the 50p for ‘Memory and Dream’ and popped the book into my backpack.

“The stronger a woman gets, the more insecure the men in her life feel. It doesn’t work that way for a woman. We celebrate strength–in our partners as well as in ourselves.”

Later that night, as it was quiet at work, I pulled the book from my bag and began to read. To say I was instantaneously captivated was an understatement. From the very first sentence of the book it grabbed my attention and spoke to me in ways that few books ever had. Never before had I found an author so capable of blending the atrocity of contemporary life with the beauty of the magical that so few humans choose to believe in. Within fifty pages I had fallen in love with Isabelle Copley, the gifted artist, and her best friend Katherine Mully, the aspiring writer of fairy tales. Within a hundred pages I knew Deborah had been right; de Lint was the author I had been looking for my entire life. A writer capable of weaving the fantastical and the mundane. A writer blessed with the ability not to simply tell stories, but to make them take on mythic, legendary status.

Over the course of four nights I devoured the book and, by the time Isabelle’s adventure had come to an end, I had grown to love both her and her numena in ways I had never experienced from fiction before. These were not simply characters on a page; they were living, breathing, real life individuals. Human beings that existed not just within the confines of a book, but, if you believed hard enough, able to live in the real world. Leaning back on my chair at work, I announced to an empty reception area that ‘Memory and Dream’ was one of my favourite books of all time.

“But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.”

As time moved on I became somewhat obsessed with de Lint’s tale of magic, art and myth. The book traveled with me wherever I went. A weekend in the Outer Hebrides; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to soothe me. An overnight camping excursion to the shores of Loch Linnhe; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to comfort me. When the time came to leave Inverness and resume living arrangements with my parents, ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to ease the stress. And when I decided to leave the UK behind and begin anew in Australia, ‘Memory and Dream’ took pride of place in my backpack, making the long, stressful plane journey into something less overwhelming and frightening.

For eight years ‘Memory and Dream’ continued to accompany me wherever I went. A weekend break to Apollo Bay. A week-long vacation to Wilson’s Prom and Gippsland. Even a day trip to Melbourne town, ‘Memory and Dream’ came with me. It lived perpetually in my backpack; easing my troubled mind with just the knowledge it was there should I ever need the comforting, inspirational words contained within it. The book was one of the few items that I refused to sell following the tragedy of my breakdown. It remained in my possession as I drifted into mania in Adelaide, was there for me following the chaos of the aftermath of rape and offered solace during those first few months of homelessness.

“It’s a mistake to go poking about in your own past,” she’d told her. “It makes you shrink into yourself. Every time you return you get smaller and more transparent. Go back often enough and you might vanish altogether. We’re meant to put the past behind us and be the people we are now, Izzy, not who we were.”

By 2010 ‘Memory and Dream’ had been through everything I had; abuse, assault, homelessness, breakdown…and it had never let me down. I read it religiously at lease once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Sometimes I just dipped into my favourite passages and allowed their grace to wash over me. But then, in April of 2010, a book I had protected, loved and cared for for nearly ten years, was stolen from me. An arrogant, cruel man, who appeared to be one of those hipsters I despise so much, decided to steal a homeless man’s bag; and with it the book he cherished the most.

For months I mourned the loss. No longer was I able to take solace in the magic de Lint weaved. No longer was I able to comfort myself with the unrequited love of Isabelle Copley, or her best friend, Katherine Mully. I knew I had to replace the book. I knew I needed it in my life, for without it, life seemed more frightening, more unbearable. For years I looked in every bookstore, every op shop, seeking ‘Memory and Dream’, but I was always left wanting. No bookstore stocked it. No bookseller had even heard of it.

“One expected growth, change; without it, the world was less, the well of inspiration dried up, the muses fled.”

But then, five years after it had been stolen from me, on a quiet afternoon in Wodonga, the sleepiest, most uncultured town I’ve ever visited, magic returned to my life. For there, on the bookshelf of a Salvation Army op-shop, was a copy of my old friend; ‘Memory and Dream’. It was the same imprint that I had once owned, the same delicious, beautiful nymphs dancing on the cover against the orange backdrop of some long forgotten forest. I grabbed the book in a flash, flicking through the pages to make sure they were complete and undamaged, I rose the spine to my nose and inhaled the gorgeous scent that only a second-hand book can contain; part musk, part hope and part magic. And I took it to the counter and purchased it without hesitation. My five-year search had ended; ‘Memory and Dream’ was mine again.

To relish. To love. To protect.

Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

Me, with my new copy of ‘Memory and Dream’, my much loved, much admired friend (August 2015)

The reading woman sits by the window, lamplight falling over her shoulder onto the book. It is the book that glows a golden bath of lemon yellow faintly touched with orange, surrounded by violet shadows. The glow of the book casts a soft light onto the woman’s features, a soft light and softer shadows, and sets the tangle of her hennaed hair aflame.

It is possible to see diminutive figures in the shadows, crouching on the arms of the chair to peer at the words in the pages of the woman’s book, peeping out from in between the curls of her red hair. Tinier shapes still, not quite the size of mosquitoes, hover in the lamplight. Some are silhouetted against the curve of her throat and the shadow of her nose, other against the faint spray of freckles on brow and cheek.

Their heads are like those of fledgling birds: noses sharp and long, features pinched, brows high and smooth. Their figures – when in silhouette – are not unlike a tadpole’s. They have limbs like small crooked twigs, bird’s -nest hair that stands up in surprise and in ungovernably wild. Some have wings with the gossamer iridescence of a dragonfly’s.

The reading woman gives no indication that she is aware of their presence. The book captures her full attention. But surely she can feel the press of miniature bodies as they move against her arm, or the faintest movement as they slip in and about the curls of her hair? Surely she can see the tiny shapes flitting in the dusky air that lies between her grey-green eyes and the page?

Or perhaps they are only shadows, nothing more. And the summer’s night that lies outside her window belongs not to memory, but to dream.

La Liseuse, 1977, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Collection The Newford Children’s Foundation.

~ from ‘Memory and Dream’ by Charles de Lint.


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25 Songs, 25 Days: Journey of the Featherless

Day 08: A song that makes you hopeful

Journey of the Featherless | Cloud Cult

whenaddywashomeless2

My home; circa 2010.

One of the most desperate and hopeless periods of my life were the five years I spent homeless. I had no security, no comfort and no love. My days were an endless cycle of survival and time-killing. My nights, a bleak nightmare of little sleep and total discomfort.

In order to survive the nightmare, I would spend my days in the Melbourne City Library. I would read the newspapers, browse the book stacks and listen to CDs on the in-house music system. Sometimes I would listen to music I knew, music that soothed my soul and showered me with waves of contentment. Other times I would take a chance, pulling a CD from the shelf that I had never heard of, just to hear something new, something different.

One such CD was Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) by a group I had never encountered before, Cloud Cult. I was immediately taken by the intricate blend of instruments and canny, clever lyrics. Over time it became a CD I turned to when feeling lost, when feeling hopeless, because I knew it would enliven me to keep going, to keep fighting the good fight. Over time it became an anthem for my homelessness.

I still turn to the CD when feeling lost and overwhelmed. It reminds me of a bleak and disparate period of my life. A period of my life that I thought was going to consume me until, with much assistance, I found the strength to break free of its bonds.

This CD, more than any other, reminds me that hope is the one thing you can never lose, for without it, you are nothing.


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Reflections on being homeless, Epilogue

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, in this special epilogue, I look at an aspect of homelessness many people overlook…

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS
| PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8 |

The first week

The first meal I cooked in my new house – on the 24th February 2012 – was jacket potatoes with cheese and butter. Ever since I was a teenager, this has been a tradition of mine. Whenever I move into a new place, I cook myself my favourite meal in celebration. I used to do it when I moved rooms in my parent’s house. I indulged in it throughout my backpacking odyssey and in every new unit/home I’ve had since. Usually I would have a table to eat off. Usually I would have a plate and cutlery. But on this occasion, after moving into my new unit from homelessness, I had nothing. All I had were my hands; so consuming such a meal was a decidedly messy (though thoroughly enjoyable) experience.

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Me; not long after moving into my unit in 2012.

In fact, that first weekend, the only thing stopping people from realising I was homeless was that I had a roof over my head. I had nothing else. No furniture. No nick-knacks. No nothing. I didn’t even have electricity for the first 24 hours I was in my new home. All I did was sit on the floor, sleep on the floor and stare at the ceiling of my new abode. It wasn’t until the Monday after I moved in, five days of being in my new house, was I able to organise for some furniture for this next chapter of my life. Courtesy of a local charity, I was able to obtain a bed, sofa, table, fridge, portable cooler, crockery and cutlery, and moving these items into my new premises was a delightful and (dare I say) orgasmic experience.

No longer would I have to sleep on a hard surface wrapped in disheveled blankets. No longer would I have to sit on a carpeted stone floor. No longer would I have to eat my food like a mindless savage. I could live like other people did.

So why did I spend the next four weeks sleeping on the floor?

The mindset of a homeless man

I had been sleeping rough for nearly three years when I moved into my unit. My bed had been benches. My bed had been patches of grass beneath trees. My bed had been the cold hard concrete beside toilet blocks. All I had for comfort and security were my blankets. I had no mattress. I had no duvet. I had nothing that most people would associate with sleeping comfortably. And throughout it all, complete strangers to me, random people on the street, had continuously hurled comment after critique after insult at me; they had abused me into believing I didn’t deserve to have any of the comforts most ‘normal’ people take for granted. So when I moved into my unit, when I gained a bed that I should have been overjoyed to sleep in, I wasn’t able to enjoy the comfort. I felt I needed to be punished. I felt I didn’t deserve to have a bed. So I didn’t sleep in it.

For four long weeks I slept on the hard, carpeted stone floor next to my bed. It was uncomfortable, to say the least, but the years of abuse had made me believe this was all I deserved. Whenever I thought about venturing into the bed, my mind was quick to rehash all the abuse I had received, it was quick to point out dozens of reasons that I didn’t deserve to sleep in the bed. So I didn’t. I just kept sleeping amidst my assortment of disheveled blankets.

But that wasn’t the worse of it.

On three nights, after moving into my unit, after finally gaining somewhere secure and indoors to sleep, I ventured outside to sleep rough in the park close to where I live. It was because of the abuse I received, it was because of the same reason I slept on the floor; I didn’t feel I deserved anything better. Parks had been my home for years. Parks had been kind to me. They had offered me protection.  So in those early days of ex-homelessness, I returned to the solace of the outdoors to soothe my troubled soul.

I can still remember the day I stopped doing this. I can still remember the moment that I decided, finally, that I should start sleeping in my bed. It was late one balmy summer’s night, the heat had been suffocating me all day and I was dead-tired after four weeks of little to no sleep. All I wanted was to sleep through the night. All I wanted was comfort. Was security. All I wanted was to feel loved. So after tossing and turning on the floor for several hours, unable to get comfortable on the hard, carpeted stone, I threw my blankets aside, rose up and jumped onto the bed. It felt weird. It felt wrong. It felt anything but natural. But I stayed there, curling up into the mattress, covering myself with the duvet, and almost instantly fell asleep.

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My bed, and improvised bedside table, circa 2012.

From that moment on something must have tripped in my mind, for the next night I immediately went to the bed, rather than the floor. And the night after that. And the night after that. I never slept on the floor again. I never ventured outside to sleep in the park. My days of homelessness, of lack of comfort, of not-sleeping rough, were over. I had a home. And, finally, I had a bed.

The Meaning of Life

When you are homeless your life revolves around one thing; survival. Everything you do. Everything moment of your life is about that one thing. It is about surviving the minute, surviving the hour, surviving the night. You don’t have time to do anything else. You don’t have the energy to do anything else. You sleep with a weapon close to your body in case someone assaults you during the night. You find somewhere to stow your bags during the day, hoping that your hiding place will be good enough to keep them hidden. You fill your time with pointless activities, such as reading newspapers at the library, or the odd spot of begging on the street. Everything you do becomes about survival. Everything you do revolves around keeping you safe. You don’t have conversations with people out of fear they will abuse you; and they often will. You don’t do anything that ‘normal’ people do, such as work, such as meet for drinks, such as kill time with friends. All you do is survive the minute, survive the hour, survive the night.

But when you get a home. When you finally succeed in doing what everyone has been telling you to do; to get off the streets. What do you do?

My life was no longer about survival; I had a roof over my head, I had access to cooking facilities, I had space and time to do what I pleased.

But I did nothing.

For three long months I did absolutely nothing but stare at the walls, stare at the ceiling, stare at the floor, and go slowly insane in my ‘home’. I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything. And even if I could have mustered the energy I didn’t know what to do. My life had been about the same thing for so long, my life had revolved around survival for so many years, that now I didn’t have to survive – now that I could live – I didn’t know what to do. I read some books. I read some more books. I twiddled my thumbs. I didn’t have a television so I couldn’t watch TV. I didn’t have a computer so I couldn’t surf the internet. I had nothing to do but stare at the walls and wile my hours away.

And it was boring; really, totally, unimaginably boring.

What saved me was my counselor. For months I had been seeing him to deal with my gambling issues. Every week, without fail, I would venture down the road and spend an hour discussing ‘life’ with my counselor. We would talk about what I had done (nothing), what I wanted to do (something) and what I had been doing for the last few years (surviving). We talked about how difficult it was to live after spending so long surviving. How people don’t understand how difficult it is to learn how to live again after being homeless for so long. People seem to think that you get a house and everything is better; but we talked about how this wasn’t the case. How it’s not as simple as that. How difficult ‘life’ is after feeling like death for so many years.

Then, out of the blue, he phoned me one afternoon. The organisation he worked for was upgrading their computer system and there was a PC going free, if I wanted it. I leapt at the opportunity immediately and within days he was bringing me a computer. All I had to do was obtain a copy of Windows and it would be good to go. This was achieved with a phone call to my parents, who tracked down a free copy courtesy of a contact they had. Weeks later it arrived in the mail, the disc was inserted into the drive and within an hour it was up and running.

And the first thing I did was type in a website address: http://www.wordpress.com.

My blog had saved me once before. My blog had given me direction when all had felt lost once before. Hopefully, it would do it again.

After months of feeling lost; after months of doing nothing; after months of nearly giving up; I had found hope again.

The first year

Being homeless had been one of the most brutal, unforgiving, periods of my life. There had been little pleasure. There had been little joy. What there had been was days of endless, incessant abuse; weeks of non-sleeping on concrete floors; months doing nothing but survive; and years feeling like a sub-human animal, an entity that deserved nothing but punishment and pain.

Getting my unit had taken time. It had taken energy. It had taken a huge amount of hard, dedicated work.

But finally I was able to start living again.

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My lounge room, about ten months after moving into my unit.

It wasn’t easy. It never is. That’s what people don’t understand. They think that getting an apartment, obtaining a home, is the be all and end all of homelessness. That if you just give a homeless person a home that will see their life sorted completely. But it isn’t as simple as that. Homelessness is all-consuming; it affects every aspect of your life, it affects your ability to live. Your life, when homeless, is nothing. It is beyond nothing. You are nothing.

After homelessness you not only have to learn how to live again, you have to learn that you deserve to live again.

Without my counselor, without his sage like advice and dedication toward helping me, there is a good chance I would have left my home and returned to life on the streets. It would have been easy for me to do, really easy. On the streets my life was sorted; it was all about survival. I didn’t have to worry about bills. I didn’t have to worry about what to cook, what to do or how to fill my day, because all of that is decided when you’re homeless. You don’t have choice. You have nothing but yourself.

But I was determined to live again. I was determined to learn how to live again. And with my counselor’s help I was able to get there. It took time, very nearly a year, but I was finally able to get to a place where I felt comfortable in my home, where I felt I deserved to have a bed and was able to fill my days with useful, worthwhile activities.

My time on the streets was in the past; and my future lay ahead of me.

But it wouldn’t have been without the support I’d received from my counselor. Without my counselor I would have ditched my unit, packed a bag and returned to life on the streets. That’s what people don’t understand. That’s what people need to start understanding. Giving a homeless person a home will not fix their problems. It will do nothing but give them a roof over their head. What homeless people need, what homeless people deserve, is support. Someone who will listen to their issues, understand the complexity of the problem, and assist them to start living again.

Fortunately, I had someone to help me. But not everyone does.

The solution to homelessness isn’t just housing; the solution to homelessness is continuous, professional support.

And people need to start understanding that for anything to change.


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 25. This endless monotonous repetition of nothingness

Day 25: What state are you in right now, when did it start and what are your goals and hopes about it?

fd5a606c6a0097343cccabaebb79fdd8A little over twelve months ago I attended a camp organised by the mental health organisation I frequent. From beginning to end it was an unmitigated disaster. Shortly before the camp my GP and I decided to change my medication regime, so when I was present at the camp, I wasn’t present, as the new medication I had started to take was unleashing all manner of side effects on my person. My participation at the camp – in part due to my social anxiety – was also lesser than what I’d hoped it would be, with my time spent sitting on my lonesome or helping out in the kitchen prepare each of the meals we were to have. I rarely said anything. I rarely opened up. And I rarely, if ever, participated unless I had to.

The reason I mention the camp now, twelve months after the event, is because it triggered a depressive episode that I am still floundering in. To this day I’ve never been able to work out exactly why the camp triggered such a depressive episode, but trigger it, it did. Ever since I attended that camp my mood has been low, my concentration has evaporated and my ability to function has been questionable at best. To say I’m suffering from an elongated period of anhedonia would be an understatement; nothing, and I mean nothing, gives me pleasure. Not movies. Not TV shows. Not reading. Not photography. Not writing. Nothing. All of the things that I have turned to in the past, all of the things that saw my soul sing and my passion inflame, do nothing for me. They don’t raise a smile. They don’t elicit a giggle. They just produce a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘meh’ sound.

Without question this has been the longest depressive episode of my life. As it enters its fourteenth month, it eclipses even the depressive episodes that permeated my mind during my homelessness, the longest of which was nine months. I have tried mindfulness. I have tried distraction. I have tried medication. I have tried positive thinking. I have tried everything that, in the past, made a dent in my depression. But on this occasion nothing, and I repeat, nothing has worked. I have just continued to be lost to this endless fog of self hatred, monotony and self loathing. Getting out of bed; only occurs because I need to go to the bathroom. Leaving the house; only occurs because I need to purchase food. Cooking this food; only occurs because I should be eating, not because I actually want to. I do nothing for the pure pleasure of doing it. I achieve nothing each day aside from the occasional vomit of words onto my blog. My life is just one endless monotonous repetition. The same actions day-in, day-out. Boredom personified.

Things have got so bad that even hope has left  me. I no longer believe that life will be any better than this. I no longer believe that happiness will find me. I no longer believe that my life will be anything other than this eternal, all consuming, depression. And I hate it. Even when I was homeless. Even when I was living in a park, eking out an existence with the help of soup vans and sheer bloody minded determination, I had hope. I clung to television shows. I clung to my own belief. I clung to anything that helped me get through the next hour, the next day, the next week. I had hope that my future wouldn’t always be this endless battle of survival and starvation. But now? This episode, these fourteen months of despair, desolation and depression, have stolen my hope and replaced it with a black hole of nothingness in the center of my soul. How can I hope for a better future when all I have in the present is pain? How can I hope for something more when all I have is just one endless monotonous repetition of nothingness.

My only goal concerning this episode is for it to end. I want it to end. I want to be able to wave a fond farewell to the pain, desolation and despair and be able to live my life with some semblance of enjoyment and meaning. I want to feel something beyond the agony and torment of depression and isolation. I want to feel the flutter of excitement ignite in my soul as I formulate blog posts; to revel in the act of writing and creation. I want to be able to watch a movie and actually laugh; actually feel something for the characters whose lives are acted out for my own personal enjoyment. I want to be able to read fiction again; to delight at the words as they dance in my mind. I want to be able to do so much more than what I’m currently capable of. Whether it be running barefoot through the grass, dancing under a sprinkler or skipping through the world at large. I want to be able to laugh again. I want to be able to feel again. I want to be able to hope again. That delicious, unquenchable emotion; hope.

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‘Hope and Despair’

But how do I accomplish this goal? How does one rediscover hope? How does one end an endless monotonous repetition of nothingness? My doctor has been tweaking my medication for months, dutifully striving to find the correct balance for my current ennui. I see my support worker on a weekly basis, each time striving to discover new avenues to approach this episode. I’ve also started to see a psychologist, and I have six appointments with her to try and find ways to combat this all-consuming episode. So it’s not as though I’m doing nothing. It’s not as though I’ve given up completely. I am trying to dig my way out of this depression; it’s just my shovel work doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. Yet.

The only thing I am clinging to is the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, no matter how much it feels like its going to. I’ve been depressed in the past, and bounced back to euthymia or hypomania with barely time to breathe. So it stands to reason that this episode isn’t going to last the remainder of my life, however much it feels like it’s going to. Sooner or later things will shift, my mind will rediscover contentment and everything will be rosy in Addy’s world once again. I just wish it would happen now. Or at the very least, tomorrow.

For I don’t know how much longer I can take this endless monotonous repetition of nothingness.