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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Imaginary Menagerie: A New Blog

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Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that my voices have taken over this blog. Almost every other post has, in some way, related to my journey with hearing voices. Although I am not apologizing for this – as understanding and building a better relationship with my voices is an integral feature on my road to recovery – it’s become apparent that I (and they) have a lot to share on this topic.

As such, Audrey suggested beginning a sister blog that focuses purely on my people and my relationships with them. A place where I can talk about them without worrying whether or not I’m boring, upsetting, annoying or generally pissing off my regular audience. After I mulled over the idea for a while I realised it was actually rather a good one and set about setting it up.

One of the biggest problems since beginning the HVSG and blogging about my people is the uneasiness with which they’ve approached the whole venture. Although Meadhbh has come around and Audrey is well on the way to doing so, Vanessa and Shay are staunchly opposed to anything to do with sharing their existence with the world. However, in the process of discussing the new blog, Vanessa did ease her opposition a little when she asked if she could write the occasional blog post. This, in turn, set both Meadhbh and Audrey asking the same thing.

So, in addition to my new blog being about my journey with my voices, it will also be a place where my voices can speak freely if/when they choose to.

After many hours of heated debate over themes and blog titles (Vanessa threw a fit when Audrey and Meadhbh vetoed her suggestion of calling it “The Misses of Addylon”) we finally reached an agreement on everything and the blog is now live. At present it contains only reposts of posts that have already been featured on this blog (such as my HVSG posts and the Victim to Victor series) but over the coming weeks all hearing voices related posts will be posted on Imaginary Menagerie instead of on this blog.

So, feel free to pay Imaginary Menagerie: My Journey with Hearing Voices a visit, you’re most welcome! :)

Note: The three avatars depicted in the Imaginary Menagerie header (above) are visual representations of (from left to right) Vanessa, Audrey and Meadhbh. They were designed, with my help, by the women themselves. Hence why Meadhbh has a whip, for she feels she might need one to keep any unruly readers in line!

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Your life as you remember it…

What follows, being a timeline of my life from birth to present, is a post I have been writing for nearly a year. Every time I’ve sat down to finish it I’ve found myself triggered by the memories of various events and incidents I’ve experienced, triggering which led to me being able to complete only a few sentences at a time before retreating to the safety of ‘distraction’.

As I embark on pulling my block back to basics, I felt now was the opportune time to finish this timeline so it could be used as a source of inspiration for future posts, as well as a reference point for myself (and others) to see how incidents are connected and the chain of events that led to my eventual social isolation and mental ill-health.

This, is my journey through life (with plenty of catastrophes along the way!)

My journey through life (with plenty of catastrophes!)

life

~Sometime in late February 1978~
After a romantic candlelit dinner and several glasses of wine, Addy’s parents head to the bedroom…I won’t give any further details, save for saying on this night that glint in his parent’s slightly tipsy eyes became the embryo who became the baby who became the horny teenager who became the passionate man who sits here today!

~28 November 1978~
Addy bursts out of his mother’s womb screaming into the well-lit maternity unit, as a kindly nurse smacks his posterior he tries to get his bearings in this strange new world devoid of comfort, warmth and embryonic fluid. Little did he know what this crazy planet had in store for him…

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Back to basics…

Back to Basics

Christina Aguilera | Back to Basics

Don’t worry, this post isn’t about me stripping down and baring my naked body to the world, nor is it about me deciding to release a cover version of the ‘classic’ Christina Aguilera song. Let’s be honest, the world needs neither of those things! This post stems from two conversations I’ve had with Audrey over the last two days.

The first conversation took place at approximately 3am on Friday morning. After waking me up from a particularly bizarre dream, Audrey decided to launch into a 38 minute monologue about her ‘thoughts’ regarding my blog; why she felt I wasn’t writing much anymore, why she believed I no longer feel pride about what I’m writing and a massive list of all the things she believed I should be doing to rectify the situation.

As I sat there in stunned silence – Audrey has always been a staunch opponent of my blog, so why the sudden change to advocate? – I realised that some of what she was saying was true. However, given it was the middle of the night and I was tired, exhausted and desperately in need of at least an hours sleep, I politely asked her if we could talk about this tomorrow. Although she expressed her wish to talk about it now, she agreed to hold off until later in the day but only if we met in the gardens she’d fallen in love with on our way back from the HVSG two weeks ago.

Therefore, the second conversation took place at approximately 3pm on Friday afternoon in the gardens she loves so much. Personally, I don’t really see the appeal. Yes, there is a small pond and yes, there are some awesome (most likely evil) ducks, but given our lack of rain the rest of the ‘gardens’ currently consist of dried out yellow grass that stab into your posterior when you sit down. Although this seemed to bother me far more than it bothered Audrey, who barely raised an eyebrow as she sat her cotton green dress wearing posterior down and suggested I take out my notebook.

After a brief conversation about how my HVSG had gone (more on that tomorrow) she began by reiterating what she had said in the middle of the night; that the reason [my] blog was not producing the same level of output or satisfaction as it once did was down to how far removed it is from what it once was. Several years ago, the central themes of the blog were mental health, discrimination and living with a mental illness. Now, it was about random books, odd posts about nothing and time-wasting.

According to Audrey, the substance that used to impress her so much had been replaced with an uninspired blandness that is neither thought-provoking nor inspirational. Then, whilst looking me dead in the eyes, she said I needed to go back to basics.

To her surprise (and happiness) I agreed with her. In fact, I pointed out something I’d written just last week that proved I’d been thinking along the same lines but didn’t quite know what to do about it.

Being an advocate for mental health, homelessness and sharing such personal (and intimate) details is fraught with danger, stress and potentially triggering material. Without any means to combat such emotions, writing as I once did was potentially dangerous for my current ‘fragile’ mental state.

So she told me (and if her becoming a supporter of my blog surprised me, this absolutely floored me) that she would do what she could to help me deal with whatever negative emotions that arose. Amused by my stunned silence, she began listing ideas she’d been brainstorming for possible future posts. These ideas generated a lengthy (near two-hour) session in which we lay on the grass discussing (and enjoying) how we could get my blog back to something I was proud of again.

In the end, we decided the best way to safely work toward this was to take a two-pronged approach:

(1) To finish and publish the timeline of my life (incorporating all major events that contributed to my mental health) that I’ve been writing for nearly a year.
(2) To undertake the twelve day Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge, as created by BoldKevin on Voices of Glass. Something I’ve been meaning to do for months. (I will hopefully be commencing this on Monday!)

By the end of the conversation I was more animated and inspired than I’ve felt in months; something that brought a rare smile to Audrey’s lips. Hopefully this mood that Audrey seems to be in will last a little longer, for she is far more fun to be around when she’s being nice than when she’s being abusive!

I’m also hoping that the inspired frame of  mind I found myself in will continue, for it has been far too long since I’ve felt anything other than morose suicidal exhaustion.

We shall see! :)

~ Please note, all text in orange are direct quotes spoken by Audrey during the conversation ~


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July 2000: Garabaldi, British Columbia

For those of you who missed out on my stream of consciousness last night, I shall recap. The last few weeks have not been the easiest in recent memory. A lot of painful memories have been triggered that threaten to send me back into a depressive episode, and with the encroaching anniversary of a day I refer to as ‘the day I should have died’ (October 11) I’ve been left a bit nervous about this week.

It brings to mind an old saying:

I’ve never liked how my mind throws me back into the events of five years ago during this time of year and I’ve always pushed hard to not allow those events to destroy me, which leaves only strength. And the only way to strengthen myself against the memories that are flooding me is to try trick my mind into thinking about other things instead.

Given I’ve never been one who likes to ‘force happiness’ (I much prefer people being honest about their emotions) I’m not sure how my decision to write about things that make me smile will work. But if it helps dissipate the approaching dark cloud, I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, the only things better than pain are pleasure and walking the tightrope between the two.

When I look back on my life one of the happiest periods was my time backpacking in Canada. For three glorious months in 2000 I travelled the breadth of this great land and experienced many things I’d never tried before; I ate strawberries for the first time, allowed a tarantula to crawl over my hand, purchased my first book of naughty fiction from an amused woman in a Halifax adult store and, in a slightly odd moment of my life when I bent down to cuddle a rabbit in a petting zoo, a goat mistook my muscular back for a rocky outcrop and leapt on top of it – much to the hilarity of a friend who was with me.

Another of the ‘first time’ things I did in Canada was sleep in a tent with a beautiful woman beside me. In fact this happened on three separate occasions in Canada, which may not sound like much, but for the socially-anxious panic strewn man I was at the time (wow, how things have changed!) this was a major happy-dance worthy breakthrough.

The third of these occasions was with Annie during the final weekend I spent with her. Eager to show me some of the more breathtaking parts of British Columbia she took me on a weekend to Whistler where we camped for two nights.

The first night there we had dinner at a restaurant in town, where I sampled Beaver Tails for the first (and only) time whilst bitching about the grotesque cigar smoke an American was suffocating us with. Upon returning to the tent I was ordered to avert my eyes whilst she stripped down into her pyjamas and however much I would like to admit to a naughty glance, I was a dutiful gentleman and didn’t peek until she informed me it was safe to do so.

The next morning we woke early, packed up the equipment we’d need (cameras, energy food, day packs, pants that made our asses look spectacular) and headed off for the Garibaldi Lake Trail.

Arriving mid-morning we parked the car and thanked the heavens for providing us with such a perfect day. The sun beat down on us from a bright blue sky devoid of even a single wispy cloud. Birds frolicked and sang in the forest around us and, although I didn’t spot any, I’m sure the odd bear was loping around in blissful ignorance of the two (frankly) hot people about to stroll up the mountain.

Black Tusk © Addy

My overriding memories of the day are four-fold:

1) How stunning the scenery was. It would not be an understatement to describe the vistas I saw during this hike as the most beautiful I have ever seen. In fact, I would recommend you add this hike to your list of things to do before you tumble off the mortal coil.

2) The fear that overcame us when we noticed a trail of red leading through the snow. It seriously looked like a vicious animal – possibly a bear, possibly an abominable snowman – had attacked some unsuspecting hiker and then dragged their prey through the snow for a late afternoon snack. Of course, we found out later that it was in fact a fungal growth and not blood at all, but believe me, it seriously looked like blood!

Garabaldi Lake Trail © Addy

3) Upon reaching Garibaldi Lake I had decided to hurl myself into the waters to continue my rather odd campaign of swimming in every body of water I visited in Canada. In fact, for the week prior to this, I had stripped down for oceans, lakes, rivers and bathtubs whenever the opportunity had arisen.

However, upon inspection of the lake it was concluded if I did take a dip it would most likely had led to pneumonia and/or immediate death considering it was sub-zero in temperature, so I didn’t. Though I still protest it wasn’t as cold as Loch Sheil or Loch Ness!

4) How comfortable I was in Annie’s company. Again, this may sound a bit pathetic to most, but through my life I have always felt heightened anxiety around women – especially those I fancy. In fact the only thing worse than my anxiety around women is my anxiety around men!

The moment I met Annie I was enamored with her; but for the first time in my life I felt virtually no anxiety around her. And the more time I spent with her, the more comfortable I became. Even when massaging sun-tan lotion onto her bikini clad body or cuddling under a blanket listening to the Vancouver Folk Festival (too situations that always lead to anxiety and panic because of the intimacy involved) I felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of awesomeness.

So to on that day; from waking up to her sleeping face centimeters from my own, through the playful slaps she’d give me in the car if I told a terrible joke, to the ongoing conversation through the hike, being around her – for the first time in my life – felt like the most natural thing in the world. A feeling I have only felt twice since.

By the time we returned to the campsite we were both exhausted. Struggling to ignite the fire I decided to use the socks I’d been wearing all day; an action that made me realize rancid socks are quite possibly the most flammable substance known to humankind! And after chilling in front of the fire for a short while we retired to the tent where, after being a gentleman once again, we began a random – somewhat flirtatious – game of I went to Women’s Ware (an adult store near where she lived) and bought… (i.e. you said this sentence and then added an item, then the next person said the same sentence, the item said, and then added another, and then you continued until the list is so long someone forgets and the other person wins!) So I went to sleep dreaming of strawberry scented lube, vibrators, lingerie, ribbed condoms, handcuffs, paddles and the beautiful woman sleeping beside me.

I still dream of that weekend to this day. Three days jam-packed with laughter, smiles, happiness, intelligent, playful conversation and a sense of bliss I’ve barely been able to replicate since :)

Annie and I, July 2000 © Addy (edited to protect identities)

Movies that make me smile #1: Strange Brew

“This movie was shot in 3B – three beers – and it looks good, eh?”

When I arrived in Vancouver to spend the week with Annie she was having a particularly tough day. Her friend had gone into labor the evening before, her boyfriend was leaving for a few days and she was busy preparing for a move to Seattle. As such, the first day I was at her house she was elsewhere, leaving me to entertain myself with a video she owned and recommended; an odd little Canadian comedy I had never in my life heard of. A movie that I absolutely laughed my ass off over!

It’s been a while since I saw this movie (not the easiest title to find in Australia) but just thinking about it breaks me into a random giggling fit.

Books that make me smile #1: The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)

“Human beings are remarkable – at what we can learn to live with. If we couldn’t get strong from what we lose, and what we miss, and what we want and can’t have, then we couldn’t ever get strong enough, could we?”

Throughout my blog, I have written at length of my deep affection for this book. From the moment I read it I adored it and every subsequent read since has only strengthened my love for this majestic novel. Annie, the week I first met her, was the person who brought it to my attention and I picked it up in a second-hand bookshop in Edmonton to read on the long train journey across the prairies to Toronto. It’s a book that’s locked in a time and place; whenever I think about it, I remember Annie, and Canada, and how happy I was during that time of my life.

Songs that make me smile #1: Little Plastic Castle (Ani DiFranco)

“They say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine, and the little plastic castle is a surprise every time. And it’s hard to say if they’re happy but they don’t seem much to mind,”

I’d never heard of Ani DiFranco until Annie played one of her CDs whilst we were driving around the back roads of Alberta. Since then I have listened to every one of her albums, memorized half a dozen songs and introduced this fantastic musician to dozens of Di Franco virgins. If you have yet to encounter her, you really should listen to this; if you’re already a fan, just kick back and enjoy a song that always puts a smile on my face.

“Keep passing the open windows,”


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Saturday 9: Better late than never!

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. Given this week’s was posted late I’ve decided to whizz through these questions otherwise I risk today’s blog becoming a little samey (given my recently posted Sunday Stealing questionnaire)!

An otter; gorgeous, expert swimmers, deliciously cute and vicious as hades!

1. If you could experience any life form that was not a human of your sex, what would you pick and why?

I would like to be an otter; gorgeous, expert swimmers, deliciously cute and vicious as hades.

Or a turtle; slow, steady, dedicated, loves carrots and no-one questions when they pop into their shell when they get scared.

Or a wombat; built like  tank, spends all day sleeping and all night moseying around basking in its own awesomeness.

Also, I wouldn’t mind being a woman. Not to fondle my breasts or squeeze my buttocks as Hollywood lazy-writing may have you belive, but so I could experience life from the point of view of the female gender. And given I’ve been regularly told I think like a woman, emote like a woman and occasionally act like a woman, I think I’d be pretty good at it. Plus, women have always had a much better selection of underwear than men (something I’ve always been jealous of as plain coloured boxers just get boring after a while!)

2. Do you believe in the American Dream or has it passed through time?

Given I live down under, the American Dream is something I’ve never thought all that much about. The Australian Dream is dead and buried; house prices are extortionate, cost of living is increasing on a minute by minute basis and unless you’re a white, beautiful, middle class and wealthy, no-one gives a damn about you!

This country is not the place I fell in love with ten years ago.

3. It’s been asked before, probably weekly, but what’s irritating you today?

My mood. My mind. My anxiety.

It’s all been going haywire recently and I’m finding it harder to cope and focus on anything and everything.

4. What do you think you’ll end up looking like? (A picture would help.)

Sooner or later I’ll be dead and buried and my decomposing body seeping into the soil to nourish the plant life around me. I’d like to think my nutrients will help create an awesome looking tree like this one :)

5. Has anyone told you that you could not do something?

My abuser told me I was the most useless and worthless human being on the planet. According to her I couldn’t do anything, least of all the things I loved and were proud of myself for; my writing, my photography, my selflessness and the work I’d done at the hostel.

The sad thing is, because of abuse trauma and lack of support, I believed her. However much I don’t want to.

6. Is there anybody dead that you’d like to talk to?

Aside from Stephanie (to say sorry), Rachel (to ask why) and Sammi (because she was always so fun to talk to) I wouldn’t mind sitting down for a chat with George Mackay Brown, a flirtatious dinner date with Audrey Hepburn or a riotous evening of fun with Jon Pertwee.

Screenshot of Audrey Hepburn from the film Charade

Audrey Hepburn (from the film Charade)

7. Have you ever done volunteer work?

Yes. I’ve volunteered at soup vans in the past, as well as other organisations to help with homelessness and those society have forgotten about. I’ve also volunteered for mental health organisations, charity organisations and conservation initiatives. Just not for a while.

8. Have you ever walked away from a job and regretted it?

Yes. But, at the time I was deeply depressed and quit the job in order to kill myself. However much I regret the decision I know I wasn’t in a rational frame of mind at the time so try to keep self-criticism to a minimum in this instance. I just wish other people could understand that.

9. How did you find Saturday 9?

Whilst nonchalantly browsing the net looking for memes and prompts to inspire writer’s block I came across the Saturday 9 blog and decided why not?

Lula kicked my ass

Lula kicked my ass (Photo credit: TheeErin)


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5 Pictures of me when I was little…

This is either a dog, a hippo or a 1980s Doctor Who enemy!

I know it looks like I just stuffed my cat’s head through a piece of cardboard, but I didn’t. Honest.

In 2012, this is called “inappropriate touching”

The beginning of my torrid love affair with jug licking

In 2012, this would be called ‘cruel and unusual punishment’

Tomorrow: 4 Places I would like to go…


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6 Things I can’t live without…

Whilst glancing at the published posts title a moment ago I realised that this is in fact my

but unlike my 100th blog post celebration there will be no such extravagant self-love here. I have after all cheated (a little) by importing several dozen posts from the early days of my blogging adventure, which have thrown the stats off a little :p

So I’ll put the cake away for later and instead focus my efforts on today’s daily challenge, which is six things I can’t live without.

For someone who’s life is a series of carefully manufactured protective measures this question is actually quite simple for me to answer. Balancing precariously over the abyss of self-harm and suicide on an almost daily basis I’d be long gone if it weren’t for several things I turn to when I slip into these darker emotional states.

1. My strength

I’m not talking about my physical strength here, but my emotional strength. Sure, there are many people out there who would question this. How can someone with emotional strength suffer a breakdown, from anxiety and panic attacks, from PTSD fuelled nightmares? Hell, how can someone with emotional strength attempt to kill themselves on a yearly basis or self-harm?

The reason I have such an insane pride of my emotional strength is because of all this. As I wrote recently:

But you know what?

I’m still fucking standing!

After years of misery, isolation, judgment, abuse, discrimination, homelessness and pain so intense I’d never wish it on my worst enemy…I’m still standing here, I’m still breathing and I’m still laughing!
from “Stop the abuse: why I left Twitter and why I’m returning

No-one, no matter what they do or say, will ever be able to make me doubt my strength. Ever.

Without it, I would have been dead years ago!

2. Cold Showers

This has nothing to do with the fact I haven’t got laid in years. Many years ago, when I first began trying to control my self-harm, I read that having a cold shower could distract you from committing an act of self-injury. So I tried it, and it was bloody cold, and it worked.

Although it’s not something I do on a daily basis I still, from time to time, force myself under a jet of cold water when the urge becomes too strong and nothing else works. For anyone battling with self-harm, it may be worth giving it a try one day.

Anything is better than self-harming, believe me :)

3. Red Felt Pens

This is something I only really started doing after I became homeless. I’d read in the past how it could help control self-harm urges but always talked myself out of giving it a try.

One particularly dark night in 2011; with no access to a cold shower, a friend to talk to, a TV to watch, music to listen to or any of my other fail safes, I walked to a Safeway supermarket and purchased a red pen. Retreating to my park in the northern suburbs of Melbourne I whipped my shirt off and began writing on my arm.

I wrote I fucking hate you followed by piss off c**t and a myriad of other self-hate syllables directed at both myself and my inner demons.

But after a while, after I’d vented all the swear words I could think of, I drew a picture of a sheep. And then a pig. And a worm. And then an owl staring at the worm as if thinking mmmmm, lunch. After half an hour I had the cast of Animal Farm drawn on my arm – and I was laughing!

A few days later I found myself doing it again, this time drawing a panorama of Scotland. The next night, a really bad portrait of The Doctor. The next night, a completely random abstract pattern of lines, dots and swirls that stretched across both arms, chest and belly.

I had become obsessed with drawing better and better images on my body, things I would be proud to display; something I’ve never felt about my scars.

4. My computer

Most people take certain things for granted: iPod/MP3, smart phone, computer, roof over your head, daily food stuffs, clean underwear and friends. The last five years of my life I haven’t had any of these things on an ongoing basis. Aside from friends, the one that I missed the most was my computer.

I missed having the ability to write (my mind works too fast for pens sometimes), to browse news sites, random beautiful blogs and porn sites (don’t…give a homeless guy a break!) I missed having a means to communicate with the outside world and make me feel like I had something in my life.

When my counselor offered me a brand spanking new fourth hand computer shortly after I moved into my unit I did a happy dance outside the local Safeway supermarket. Literally! Sure, it took me several weeks to get a working operating system and I still rely on internet cafes and libraries for internet, but the computer allows me to do all that I listed as well as watch DVDs, occasionally listen to music and give me an outlet for my creativity.

I know what I’m like when I don’t have a computer, and it ain’t pretty. It has definitely saved my life.

5. Socks

I’ll be honest. I have a sock fetish.

Ever since my homelessness ended I budget to buy seven new pairs of socks a week. A waste of money, definitely, but when you’ve worn the same pair of socks for three months straight (2010) you begin to develop a complex about dirty socks.

Yep, it’s a hangover of anxiety and PTSD from my time on the street, but I get seriously bad if I don’t have a new pair to wear each day!

6. My mind

However much I despise the mental illness, I could not live without my mind.

My imagination is something I have cherished and adored since I was a child, my ability to emphasise with other people, the memories of better times and beautiful people who provide a source of solace, happiness and hope, my creativity can keep me occupied for days (or is that hypomania or other such bipolar related shenanigans) whilst my endless need to keep myself stimulated is both a curse and blessing.

Directly linked to my strength, I would be nothing without my mind.

TO WRITE LOVE HER ARMS 2009

TO WRITE LOVE HER ARMS 2009 by jcasianman, on Flickr

Tomorrow: 5 Photos of me when I was little