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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SOC: How do I live the life I deserve to live?

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Tuesday 8 September 2015 between 9:52 – 10:24am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

Federation Square Abstract

Before going on holiday, I was apprehensive. Melbourne has been the staging ground of some of the worst, most abhorrent, actions that have ever been inflicted upon me.

It was in Melbourne where I was emotionally abused to the point of suicide and homelessness; emotional abuse that cost me my tertiary education, my income, my social and support network, every possession I’d ever owned and left me a terrified, hollowed out shell of the person I once was; emotional abuse that has caused a lifetime of lost opportunities and trauma of the like I’ve never before, or since, experienced.

It was in Melbourne where I found myself homeless, eking out an existence on the streets of Victoria’s capitol, scrounging for food in bins, begging for loose change on the streets, and doing whatever I could to survive in spite of my new-found station in life as the world’s biggest loser. This too caused untold psychological damage and trauma that I haven’t even begun to deal with.

It was in Melbourne where I was physically assaulted, not once, not twice, but several times. On some occasions I was doing nothing but sitting in a park when a gaggle of alcohol/drug fueled sociopaths set upon me for their own entertainment. On other occasions the assaults were warranted; when I intervened upon seeing a boyfriend beating up his girlfriend, when I refused to hand over money in a run-down boarding house. But whether warranted or not, each assault inflicted emotional damage, each assault traumatized me.

So before going on holiday I was apprehensive. How easily would my traumas be triggered? What emotional pain would I find myself revisiting? How would I control the surge of PTSD symptoms that would inevitably overpower me? How much of my holiday would be lost to the memories of nightmares past?

So colour me surprised when nothing happened. Walking around the Kings Domain, my old ‘home’ throughout my homelessness, brought back memories, but they didn’t come close to overwhelming me as much as I thought they would. Traipsing around my old haunts of Carlton and Fitzroy, major locations throughout my abusive relationship, became more nostalgic than triggering. Even lazing around the city’s alleyways and open spaces, key locations of my various assaults, were more relaxing and subdued than nightmarish or painful. The PTSD that I expected to overwhelm me was only a problem for a brief few hours, brought on by tiredness and exhaustion instead of memories and triggers. And even when the PTSD overwhelmed me, I was able to control it, I was able to occupy my mind with beautiful art or a canister of Cherry Coke, instead of losing myself to the pain of times past.

All of my fears. All of my apprehension. All of my nervousness about Melbourne. Everything I feared proved unnecessary; a complete waste of energy.

My time in Melbourne, rather than being a carefully balanced nightmare of trauma and psychological distress, was a wonderful escape from the terror that (usually) dominates my mind. It was not Melbourne that I should have been afraid of…it was Wodonga.

Since my return two weeks ago, I have been so stressed, so wound up, so overcome with nervous energy, that I’m surprised I haven’t had a heart attack! Not a single minute, not a single second, has seen me as calm, relaxed and happy as I was in Melbourne. I’ve just been well and truly overwhelmed by anxiety, by depression, by PTSD symptoms and the resultant stress that these conditions create.

Hours have been lost to violent, volatile conversations with the ghost of my abuser. There are no triggers in this town of her sociopathic narcissism. There are no reminders of the vile, cruel attacks that she used to direct upon me. But flashbacks, reliving and nightmares have dominated since I returned to this quiet, sleepy little town.

In Melbourne, I was regularly walking past hundreds of people a minute, but not once (not once) did my anxiety present any problems with this. There were no anxiety attacks. There were no panic attacks. There was just me, losing myself into the breathing heart of the city. But since my return, the anxiety has reigned supreme. Within an hour of returning I walked to the supermarket, passed one person, and suffered a crippling panic attack that left me a jittery, bawling wreck on the side of the road. Hundreds of people in Melbourne I could deal with; but one person in Wodonga overwhelmed me.

Throughout my week in Melbourne depression never entered the equation. I was happier than I’d been in years. I was skipping down the street, singing songs to myself and, unless I was taking selfies (I never smile in photographs), had a stupid grin plastered to my face. But back in Wodonga? I don’t remember how to smile; I walk around with a glum and gloomy expression on my face because happiness has escaped my soul; replaced with a dark, black, bleakness as I topple on the abyss between life and death.

I never once though of ending my life when I was in Melbourne; but since being back in Wodonga, the suicidal thoughts have returned, overpowering my belief that I’m a decent person and leaving me convinced that this world, and everyone in it, would be better off without me. After all, what do I bring to the world? What magic do I pass on to the lives of others? I’m just nothing. A nobody. This world would be better off without me. That I’m convinced of; when I’m in Wodonga.

And that is the crux of the issue, the life lesson that my holiday in Melbourne taught me; the major problem in my life isn’t my anxiety, isn’t my PTSD, it isn’t my depression, bipolar or suicidal ideation. My major problem in life is Wodonga, this sleepy hamlet where there is nothing to do, nothing to feed my passions and nothing to occupy the cravings of my mind. For me to get better, for me to recover, for me to live the life I deserve to live, I need to leave this place. And I need to leave soon, before the stress-caused heart attack strikes and I am taken from this world forever.

But how?

How does someone living in abject poverty move house?

Yes, I’ve reached the conclusion that I need to leave this suffocating town, but there is no way I can. The money I receive from the government doesn’t  cover my costs as it is. Last week I had to humiliate myself at the food bank as I couldn’t afford to feed myself. Whilst I’m walking around with a hole in the crotch of my jeans so big that I can put my hand through it, but the measly DSP I receive won’t allow for the cost of a new pair. So how do I realise my realisation and leave this unhealthy place when I can’t afford accommodation, can’t afford deposits, can’t afford anything?

The thought of being trapped here stresses me out something rotten, but that’s exactly when I am; trapped. Enslaved within a town that is damaging and detrimental to my mental health because, as I live in abject poverty, I have no choice of where I live or what I do with my life. Life. I don’t have one in Wodonga. I just have pain and trauma. I just have stress and depression. I could have a life somewhere else. Somewhere like Melbourne or London or Glasgow or Edinburgh or Inverness. Somewhere where my heart would be allowed to sing and I could occupy myself with cultural, artistic and inspirational pursuits. Where I could distract myself from the trauma of my life and allow myself to skip and sing and be happy.

But how?

Before going on holiday I was apprehensive. I thought I would be overwhelmed with pain, but instead I was showered with happiness. The pain came when I returned to the town that I hate; the town that, for better or worse, I have been forced through poverty, through lack of choice, to call home.

A town that will continue to suck the life from me until I’m nothing but the empty, worthless, shell of the man I once could have been.

 


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 13

Last August, before the demon Depression firmly grasped my soul, I began working through a 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge. I was able to reach day 12 before I stopped writing. Now that things are a little (and I repeat, a little) better, I’ve decided to continue working through the remainder of the challenge. Partly because I hate leaving things unfinished and partly because I think it’s an important subject to talk about. So I’ll pick up today where we left off nine months ago, with day 13…

trigger_warning

What is the biggest realization about self harm you’ve had?

recovery quote

When I was last writing this challenge, I was self-harming on a daily basis. Every day, around the same time, I would take out my knife and slowly, carefully, begin cutting my flesh. It was a means to an end. A way to cope with the tremendous emotional and psychological pain I was under. Depression had seized control and my means of fighting back was to hurt myself; to show the world that no matter what, I wasn’t going to let the demon overwhelm me completely. I believed that by seeing my pain in neat, red lines on my flesh, I was proving to all and sundry that I was coping; that I wasn’t letting things get the better of me. But I was wrong. All I was doing was externalizing my pain. All I was doing was proving to the world that the demon was winning; that it was causing me to not only feel tremendous emotional pain, but by self-harming, tremendous physical pain as well. By self-harming, I was allowing the demon to win. The only way to not let him win, was to not self-harm. The only way to not let him win was to defy twenty odd years of coping strategy – the length of time I had been self harming in order to control my emotional pain.

And that isn’t an easy thing to do. To stop something cold, as anyone who has ever quit drugs, smokes or alcohol will tell you, is a painfully difficult thing to achieve. For weeks the urge was ever-present. The urge to hurt. The urge to harm. The urge to control. But I fought through the urges by taking things day by day. If I felt overwhelmed, if I felt like I had no other option, I would take out a red pen and draw on me instead. Sometimes just lines. Sometimes intricate patterns. I imagined the red was my blood slowly seeping through my skin but took solace in the knowledge that it was only ink. And whilst it was only ink. I was triumphing over the demon Depression by not succumbing to its urges; by ignoring its command. Slowly days became weeks, and weeks became a month, then two months, then three. Although the urges were still present, although I wanted to self harm, I consciously chose not to.

And then came today. Another day I didn’t self-harm. Another day I didn’t give in to the urges. Another day where I beat the demon Depression. That makes it eight months, two weeks, three days and an unspecified amount of minutes and seconds. Eight months, two weeks, three days and an unspecified amount of minutes and seconds that I haven’t self-harmed; that I have chosen, consciously, to not let the demon Depression win. No matter what anyone says about this, it is an achievement that I’m proud of. To go so long without self harming, through such a deep and persuasive depressive episode, is a personal record for me. And that’s the biggest realization about self-harm I’ve had. That no matter how much I want to self-harm, no matter how much I need to self-harm, I don’t have to. I can survive without it. I can live without it.

I can’t say whether or not I will ever self-harm in the future. I may do. I may not. Only time will tell. But I can tell you that I have learnt I don’t need to self-harm. That no matter how bad things get, how painful things become, I can – and will – survive without it. And I’m glad I’ve learned such an important lesson; even though it’s taken twenty odd years to realize it!


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Day 05: Six things I wish I’d never done

Day five of the 10 Day Blogging Challenge asks for six things you wish you’d never done.

Melbourne

1. Emigrated to Australia (2002)

1. Emigrated to Australia (2002)

For a long time I’ve realised that one of the biggest mistakes of my life was emigrating to Australia in 2002. Even though I do love this country, it has never really felt like home, and the way the country has treated me – from abusive relationships, various assaults, impossible to break into friendship cliques, cheating girlfriends, false accusations and homelessness – I have long believed that my life would have been a lot better had I not come to this so-called “lucky country”.

2. Declined to study in Canada (2001/2)

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve long regretted turning down the tertiary education offer I received for a photography college in Canada. At the time I believed I was doing the right thing in turning it down to come to Australia, but the simple fact is, I should have gone to Canada. No question.

3. Not been there for Grace (2008)

Until this moment occurred I’d always believed I was a good friend. I thought I was attentive to other people’s needs, I thought I was a reasonably decent person to be around and I thought I was always there for people when they needed me; regardless of what my abuser used to say to the contrary. However, I proved all of her words true when I failed to be there for my friend Grace when she needed me the most – leading to a lifetime of regret, remorse and guilt that I fear I’ll never be able to get over.

4. Trusted my abuser (2006/7)

Given that the repercussions of my abusive relationship have plagued my life for over seven years, I’ve long wished I hadn’t fallen into her trap. In hindsight, I can see the grooming behaviour in the lead up to the relationship. In hindsight, I can see the vicious lies and grandiose manipulations that ensnared me. Over the last several years I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wished I could travel back and change my actions of that year, but alas, changing our decisions is not something we have the luxury of doing. We can only learn from them.

5. Chosen the wrong A-levels (1995)

As with my decision not to study in Canada, my anxiety-laden decision to study Maths, Computing and Media Studies at A-level has been well documented throughout this blog. Everyone (including myself) knew almost instantaneously that I’d chosen the wrong subjects; that I should have studied English Lit and Theatre Studies, but once the decision was made there was no option to change subjects and one of my life’s biggest regrets was set in stone.

6. Lost a USB stick (2010)

In 2010, whilst living on the streets of Melbourne, I had a backpack stolen. A backpack that contained, amongst other things, my passport, clothes and a USB stick containing a copy of my completed novel The Ghosts that Haunt Me. Back then I had little to no idea what eBooks were, let alone that you could self-publish, for if I did I would have put my work out there for all to download and enjoy. Now that I am more knowledgeable in this area, the fact I no longer have a completed copy of my novel frustrates me more than words can say.


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Five life lessons I learnt in 2013

Life

1. We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan.

Throughout every year there are four days that have the power to reduce me to a quivering, self-harming, self-medicating mess; the 26th February, 7th May, an undisclosed date in July and the 11th October. These are my key anniversaries; each one replete with memories of breakdowns, suicide attempts, the deaths of loved ones and painful, traumatizing abuse.

Every year I tell myself that this is the year that will see me survive each day relatively intact, and each year I find myself struggling harder and harder to make it through.

At the beginning of this year I decided to try something different. Instead of winging it through each of my anniversaries on a hope and a prayer, I decided to plan a series of  coping strategies into each day in the hope that this year would be the year that would see me survive them intact.

In February, I purchased a second-hand Wii; in May, I acquired an oversized cheesecake to celebrate, rather than mourn, Stephanie’s death; in July, I left my self-harming tools with my support worker and spent the day watching Pixar animated classics; whilst in October I spent the evening watching The Amazing Spider-Man.

Although there were still depressive thoughts, moments of self-harm and other mental health related chicanery, in retrospect, I’ve realised that the plans I made to survive each day succeeded.

Next year, I will be repeating this planning and hope to eliminate all self-harm and self-medication from these anniversaries. After all, we don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan…and next year I fully intend to take planning to a whole new (and successful) level!

2. Give yourself permission to do what feels right.

At the tail end of 2012 I began working with a mental health organisation that offers a range of psychosocial rehabilitation opportunities; from one-on-one work with a support worker through to social and support groups. During those few months in 2012 I attended only a couple of groups in order to ease myself into a new way of life. This year, with each successive term, I pushed myself harder and harder, attending ever more groups as the year went on.

As with most people who suffer from mental health issues, there were times I began feeling overwhelmed with my actions, days that I just wanted – nay, needed – to just chill out on my own for fear of pushing myself into a catastrophic depressive episode. But each time these moments occurred, I swatted them away and pushed forward, inevitably causing the depression that I knew would happen.

But since returning from Melbourne in late November I realised I had overdone things. My energy levels were shot, and with them, my concentration and ability to focus. So I did what I should have done all alone – gave myself permission to not attend the groups. Although I felt bad about not going, I realised pretty soon that it was the right decision, as it has given me the opportunity to not only prepare for (and survive) the insidious Christmas/New Year period, but put achievable goals in place for the year ahead.

So remember, if you’re not feeling up to something, you don’t have to do it. Let your heart, body and mind tell you what it needs…and have the courage to listen to it!

3. Public speaking isn’t anywhere near as traumatizing as your mind would have you believe!

On the 7th October, I performed the first piece of public speaking that I’ve done since the heady days of primary school plays. Before the event I was nervous as hell, fully believing that I wouldn’t be able to go through with it. I even managed to convince myself that if I did go through with it I would be either laughed off the stage or someone in the audience would magically summon a giant slime monster to consume me for the entertainment of the gathered masses.

Fortunately, neither of these worst case scenarios happened, and as the minutes of my speech ticked away I realised that it wasn’t as traumatizing as I had first imagined it to be. In fact, nearly three months later, I look back on that moment as one of the highlights of my year; one I fully hope to repeat in 2014.

4. You can never go home again.

Twenty-thirteen was the year that saw me return to the city of Melbourne and in the two years that had passed I realised pretty darned quickly how both I, and the city, had changed. I was no longer the dissociating, homeless blob that I’d been during my last time in the city; and the city itself was no longer the livable utopia that it had been during my Melbournian heyday of 2002-2006.

In the intervening years, Melbourne has become a city choked with congestion, pollution and a serious attitude problem. Within hours of being there I was shocked by the sheer level of self-absorbed arrogance on display, with everyone and their dog seemingly out for only one person; themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Melbourne, but my holiday there has made me realise that I’m no longer in love with the city. Perhaps if I’d never left my love for those congested alleyways would be intact and I wouldn’t notice the selfishness as much as I did, but I did leave…and I no longer regret doing so.

5. If at first you don’t succeed…keep working your arse off ‘cause one day you will!

At the commencement of 2013 I set myself thirteen goals for the year ahead. At the time I fully believed that by years end I would have completed every single one of them. I didn’t. I completed five of them.

By my usual reckoning this is a catastrophic failure. Despite months of bloody hard I wasn’t even able to cross 50% of the items from my pretty reasonable list. In fact, I wasn’t even able to complete things as simple as ‘see six films at the cinema’ or ‘write one blog post in every month of the year’!

However, in spite of this failure and the barrage of self-criticism I’ve leveled at myself, deep down I know how hard I’ve worked this year. In fact, even though I didn’t complete all my goals, I did achieve several things that at the beginning of the year I didn’t even think possible; things such as facilitating my own psychosocial rehabilitation group, publically telling my story in front of 130 people and attending the World Hearing Voices Congress alongside 750 other people!

So even though I failed to complete all of my goals, I know that there is always next year. And I know that no matter what anyone says, I will never stop trying. I shall just keep picking myself up, dusting myself off and finding new, alternate ways to achieve all that I want to achieve.

However long that may take!


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{NSFW} 19. If you care about what other people think, you will always be their prisoner

WARNING_SPANKINGS

This is the nineteenth day of the 30 Days of Kink Challenge,
as such it contains adult content and the (self) spanking of consenting adults!

~ Any unexpected ways kink has improved your life?  If so, what are they? ~

Continue reading


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Six things I’ve done that I would recommend you never (ever) do

Yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt was:
Tell us about something you’ve done that you would advise a friend never to do.
(What? I’m running late. Sue me :p)

1. Opt for love over a university course…

Once upon a time I was accepted into a highly regarded university photography course. If I’d taken the course I’d most likely be a world-famous photographer by now, spending my day’s shooting inspiring landscapes and releasing erotic/fetish folios under a pseudonym.

Instead, after chosing love, I’m an (ex) homeless socially-isolated mentally-ill man after the person I emigrated for had a relationship with another man, lied to me for years and never once understood how her actions made me feel in light of the sacrifices I’d made for her.

Yep, don’t even think about it. Choose education.

2. Turn down the chance of realising one of your dreams…

In 1999, my anxiety seized control of my mind and body and pulled me away from realising a life-long dream. To this day, no matter how hard I’ve tried this dream has remained unfulfilled. I hope it won’t stay that way forever…

3. Watch Catwoman

I watched it once…and then wanted to gouge my eyes out with a spoon!

If you really need a Catwoman fix, I recommend Batman Returns or a session playing Lego Batman :)

4. Let a friend down…

I’ve done it. And I lost their friendship forever.

If you value your friendships always be there for those you love, otherwise your regret will eat away at you from the inside like a vicious parasite and leave you an empty, hollow, husk of the person you once were.

5. Attempt suicide…

Overdoses…hanging…wristcutting…jumping…drowning…been there, done that, got the scars to prove it. However bad you feel, however lost you find yourself, however confused you become, however much pain you’re feeling, it will get better.

So if you feel suicidal, seek help. Talk to your friends, call a helpline, tell someone…anyone!

The alternative is not worth thinking about.

6. Streak down a major shopping mall in order to win a kinky bet…

…actually, no. I would whole-heartedly recommend you do this whenever the situation presents itself :p

W00T! Lego Batman!

W00T! Lego Batman! (Photo credit: Carol Browne)