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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[NSFW] My kink and its effect on my mental health

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I’ve always been interested in the world of kink. How it relates to our personality. How it reflects on who we are. How it impacts on various aspects of our life. And how, if any, it links to the world of mental health. For someone who has battled mental illness since he was a teenager, and for someone who has struggled with his kinky self for even longer, the world of kink and how it relates to mental illness fascinates me.

In this post I ruminate on how my kinky self has impacted, or been impacted by, my various mental illnesses. From the ups and downs of bipolar through C-PTSD via social anxiety and self harm, I cast an eye over how kink has affected my life.

Given the subject matter, it should go without saying that this post is not for familial eyes. So any members of my family who just happen to stumble upon this post, please respect my need for privacy and read no further. Everyone else, feel free to join me on my journey with kink! :)

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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 31. Every day I think why am I still here?

Day 31: Have you attempted suicide? What, when, why, how and what did you learn?

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There are many people out there who say we shouldn’t talk about suicide. Most of these people work in the media. Fortunately I don’t work in the media because I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that we should talk about suicide; as loudly as possible. We should talk about when people attempt to take their own life. We should talk about why they attempt to take their own life. And we should talk about how people attempt to take their own life. Only by talking about suicide can we begin to understand what goes on in someone’s mind when the only option they feel is left is to end it all.

I’ve been one of those people. I’ve been to a place so dark, so abysmal, so rotten with chaos and trepidation, that I felt the only route I had available was to end my own life. I’ve stood on bridges and stared into the abyss. I’ve tied nooses round my neck. I’ve consumed vast quantities of medication. And I’ve slashed at my wrists with knife and blade. On nearly a dozen occasions I’ve visited that dark place; that place where death is the only solace.

  1. November 2000: I stood on a viaduct in Glenfinnan, Scotland, eager to throw myself off
  2. March 2006: I sat on a beach in Port Fairy, ready to slash my wrists with a knife
  3. May 2007: I took an overdose of medication whilst in the safety of my bedroom
  4. October 2007: I attempted to hang myself in the midst of a rainforest
  5. January 2008: I cut my wrists with a knife in the middle of a public park
  6. June 2008: I swallowed dozens of tablets in the non-safety of a hostel dorm room
  7. May 2009: saw me so close to death I don’t like talking about it
  8. November 2009: I fashioned a noose out of clothing to cease my homeless existence
  9. Mid 2010: lost to homelessness, I hacked at my wrists with blunt sticks whilst living in a park
  10. October 2011: I used my belt to hang myself from a tree, in the wilderness of the Australian bush
  11. December 2011: I attempted to decapitate and dismember myself on a railway track

 

And on each occasion I failed. In whatever attempt I was taking to end my pointless existence, I failed. And even though some people don’t like talking about suicide with those words – failed, succeeded – I do, because my desire to end my own life was so strong, so powerful, that I felt I had failed. All I wanted in each of those eleven moments was my death. I no longer wanted to live. I no longer wanted to breathe the air or feel the rain on my face. All I wanted was to die. To no longer exist. To end my worthless, useless, insignificant life. In fact, the desire for death was so strong, so powerful, that I am surprised I am still alive to type these words.

By all accounts, I should be dead. I often talk of 11 October 2007 as the day I should have died. The same could be said for May 2009 and October 2011. All three attempts were so solid, so thought out, that I am amazed I failed. I am well and truly stunned that I was able to keep breathing beyond those dates. In fact, the only reason I am still alive is because of the fundamental lesson I’ve learned over the years. It may sound simple to end your own life, but the reality is starkly different. In fact, ending your own life is the hardest, most complicated and difficult thing you could ever attempt. There is nothing simple about killing yourself; unless you’ve done your homework, unless you’ve thought of every angle, you will fail; and rightly so.

For that is the other lesson I have learnt from all my suicide attempts; there is always something worth living for. It may not be something you’ve considered. It may be something as simple as a scent, a taste or sight. But there is always something that should be powerful enough to keep you breathing. On one occasion, for me, it was the desire to not die a virgin. Whilst on another occasion, it was the desire to look upon another beautiful female posterior. Both desires prevented me from successfully ending my own life. Both desires were enough to convince me to keep living.

So if you do ever find yourself staring into that abyss, try to find that one thing powerful enough to keep you breathing. It may be so you can hug your kitten again. It may be the desire to taste Vegemite on toast once more. It may be as simple as not wanting to die in the dodgy underwear you’re wearing. There will always be something, buried deep down in the bottom of your mind, that will keep you wanting to breathe. That will make life feel lively again. So just find that something and hold onto it as tightly as you can, for you really don’t want to kill yourself; it’s harder than you think.

I have written extensively about all my suicide attempts in two previous posts, which you are more than welcome to read:


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 30. My quest for the magic cocktail of medication

Day 30: What meds are you on now? Have you found your ‘magic cocktail’?

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My current medication regime consists of:

  • Anti-psychotic: Solian (100mg/daily)
  • Anti-psychotic: Olanzapine (10mg/daily)
  • Anti-depressant: Fluoxetine (60mg/daily)

For those of you familiar with bipolar medications, you will notice a glaring omission from this list, namely a mood stabiliser. Up until January 2015 I was taking 1000mg/daily of Sodium Valproate (Epilim), but this was cessated upon the discovery that it had caused a rather nasty bout of pancreatitis. Since then, my doctor has been hesitant to introduce a new mood stabiliser into the mix. Partly because he is fearful of causing a return of my pancreatitis, partly because the only other option, Lithium, has a negative reaction when used in conjunction with Fluoxetine. So instead of introducing this a new mood stabiliser, he has been attempting to fix the mood fluctuations I’ve experienced since ending the Sodium Valproate by tweaking my other medications. In fact, over the last several weeks I have had my dosage of Fluoxetine increased twice in a valiant attempt to assist my increased depression and anxiety. As such, there has been little to no change, but I hold out hope that something will happen in the coming weeks.

Without a mood stabiliser, which I am adamant I need, it is fairly safe to assume I have yet to find my ‘magic cocktail’. Even when Sodium Valproate was part of the mix, I felt I was still missing something when it came to my medication. My moods still fluctuated. My depression still raged. Personally, the best drug I ever took for my bipolar was Lithium, which I took for some time in 2011 before it was cessated by the psychiatrist who destroyed my faith in the profession. He, without even exploring how it had affected me, decided that no medication would benefit me so immediately withdrew it from my treatment strategy; something I have never (repeat: never) forgiven him for. When I was on Lithium I was far more cohesive, far more present, far more able to control my moods and manage my behaviour, more so than I was ever able to do on Sodium Valproate.

After the Sodium Valproate was stopped I begged my GP to restart me on Lithium but because he didn’t want to interrupt my Fluoxetine, he denied me the possibility. I understand why he did that. I have no ill-will toward him. But given the positive effect Lithium had had on me in 2011, I feel we missed a trick. Personally, I would sacrifice the Fluoxetine for Lithium, but when it comes to my medication, I don’t really have a say.

Over the last few weeks I have been discussing with my support worker the possibility of seeing a psychiatrist in order for them to undertake a comprehensive review of my medication. The only problem with this is that I have no faith in the profession, courtesy of the last psychiatrist I saw. So to see a psychiatrist would require a lot of strength, a lot of confidence and a lot of advocating from my support worker. But who knows, perhaps it will happen, perhaps in a few months I will have a whole new mix of medication to take, perhaps then I will be one step closer to my ‘magic cocktail’.


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 29. Vincent van Gogh

Day 29: Of all the famous people (dead and alive) who are allegedly bipolar, who would you pick as your favourite, and why?

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Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 in Groot-Zundert. Born to upper-middle class parents he spent much of his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers but did not start painting himself until he was in his late-twenties. Before settling in the South of France, Vincent traveled between the Hague, London and Paris, and taught for a time at Isleworth and Ramsgate in England. In 1885 he painted The Potato Eaters, considered his first major work, and his palette consisted mainly of earth tones, with little of the vivid coloration that dominated his later work. After moving to France, where he discovered the French impressionists, he settled in Arles where his paintings developed the unique and recognizable style that he is known for.

After years of battling anxiety and frequent bouts of mental ill-health, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 37. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated by art historians. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill-health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, “longing for concision and grace”

Long before the Doctor and Amy paid a visit to Vincent van Gogh, I was a fan. I loved his style. I loved the bright, almost luminescent, colours that defined his paintings. I loved how gazing longingly at his artwork made me feel; lost to his creativity, to his brilliance, to his expertise. It was years before I discovered the extent of his mental illness, years before I learnt that he and I shared a commonality with bipolar affective disorder. And when I discovered this, it only made me love him more. It connected us. I had something in common with the master of contemporary art. Even though I would never follow in his footsteps – my artwork leaves a lot to be desired – Vincent and I had something in common. We shared a diagnosis. We shared a condition that many attempt to understand but few ever will. It helped me get under his skin, it helped me to understand how he felt whenever he put brush to canvas, desperate to ease his pain through his love of art, his unrelenting desire to unleash his creativity for the world to see.

When he cut off his own ear, I could understand the pain that he went through. Not physically, no, for I have never mutilated myself to such an extent, but emotionally, psychologically, for there have been times when I’ve felt I had no option but to carve off my ear or sever a toe. All the times I’ve self-harmed, that I’ve set upon myself with knife, scissors or blade, I can understand the chaos that was reigning supreme in his mind that dark, dark night. There are rumors too, that he heard voices, that he communicated with people only he could hear, so that is something else we have in common. Another link, another commonality, that I share with this genius, this creative savant, this painter of exquisite, world-renowned images.

And just when I thought my connection to Van Gogh couldn’t get any deeper, along comes the Doctor – my hero, my savior – to intervene in the painter’s life. Granted, it was a work of fiction, but the episode Vincent and the Doctor strengthened my connection to Van Gogh in ways I could only dream of. It is a masterwork of writing, of mental illness metaphors and of a performance so sublime, so divine, that it is worthy of the master himself. Tony Curran inhabited Van Gogh. He brought the troubled painter to life; flaws, faults, mental illness and all. This episode, this masterpiece of television, is easily the best of Matt Smith’s tenure in the role of the mythical Time Lord; and Van Gogh’s inclusion is the reason for that.

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There are many painters that I admire – Fred Williams, Frederick McCubbin, Monet – but none in the same way that I admire Van Gogh. His work, his life, speaks to my very soul. He is a hero; a man whom I admire more than any other. A man who fought the demons inside of him to paint some of the most respected and loved artworks in the history of the world. He lived side-by-side with mental illness his entire life, yet he never let it best him, he never let it stop him doing what he wanted to do. And even though his demons eventually got the better of him, tearing him from the world at too young an age, he is a man to cherish, to revere, to love. He is a man unlike any other; and I will adore him until my dying days.

 


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 28. I suffer from bipolar; and I am not ashamed of that!

Day 28: To what extent do you tell people that you’re bipolar, and why?

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Perhaps it was down to my overly honest nature, perhaps it was down to my overly naive nature, but from the moment I was diagnosed back in 2007 it never once occurred to me that I should hide my diagnosis from people. Almost from the get go I was announcing my diagnosis to the world, I was wearing my bipolar diagnosis as a badge of honor, as a means to explain my erratic and (at times) terrifying behaviour. I was never proud to be bipolar, it was never something that I wanted to be, but the moment I was diagnosed my life made sense. All the times I had been zipping around in a manic state of hedonism and misogyny. All the times I had found myself staring into the abyss of depression. All the times my moods had changed at the blink of an eye; one minute feeling immortal, the next painfully mortal and morbidly so. Everything was explained with those three words that would, unquestionably, change my life; bipolar affective disorder.

I remember writing my initial blog post about bipolar shortly after my initial diagnosis. Back then I knew next to nothing about the illness other than the brief synopsis my psychiatrist had given. It was something that scared me, something that confused me, but never something I felt I had to run from. I wanted people to know I was bipolar. I wanted them to know there was a reason that my behaviour had been, at times, odd and disconcerting. I wanted people to understand that everything could be explained by that one, seemingly, inconsequential word. It wasn’t until much later that I would learn this was the wrong thing to do. That it would find my life eclipsed by stigma and discrimination. That forevermore I would be branded with that word as if it were a bad thing; which it isn’t, in any sense of the word.

The moment I learned this was in late 2008. A few months earlier I had been lost to the midst of a hypomanic phase. A hypomanic phase that had seen me take a job in Alice Springs and rampage around that desert town for a few weeks, before setting my eyes on one woman; Diane. It wasn’t an immediate connection, but my hypomania craved to be with her. I needed to be with her. She was, at that moment, one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever laid eyes on and my hypomanic fueled hyper-sexuality was hell-bent on conquering this ravishing challenge. When we eventually ended up in bed together – within days of actually meeting – we lay there the following morning chattering and nattering away. She told me she had problems with depression; I told her I was bipolar. Just like that. No fanfare, no build up, no long drawn out period of contemplation. I just calmly informed her I was bipolar as if telling her the weather was sunny or that I fancied scrambled eggs for breakfast. It never occurred to me that I should lie about my diagnosis. It never occurred to me that it was something I shouldn’t be telling someone straightaway. Like I said, I wanted people to know I was bipolar; it wasn’t something I was ashamed of.

Until that fateful day in late 2008. Diane and I had been ostensibly living together for three months. And one afternoon, after battling for several hours on the tracks of Mario Kart, we were nonchalantly talking on the sofa over a beverage of cold water. We talked about Alice Springs. We talked about the early days of our relationship. We talked about the moment I had lain in bed and, matter of factly, announced I was bipolar. Diane told me that afternoon she had been surprised by what I’d said; that she felt it was something I should have not said. When I questioned her as to why, she said it was something that I shouldn’t be proud of, that it was something that was, in her opinion, “frightening”. I had never looked at my diagnosis in this way before. It was always something I had thought explained my behaviour. It was always something that I had never thought to be scared of, despite the numerous instances of bad press that bipolar receives. Diane went on to tell me that most people with bipolar are vicious, violent human beings. That most people with bipolar hid their illness for good reason. That most people with bipolar weren’t so quick to readily divulge their condition.

She was quick to tell me she didn’t consider me one of the vicious, violent human beings she had mentioned. Few people who actually get to know me think of me in this way, because, quite frankly, you have a higher likelihood of being attacked by your teddy bear than me. But she was scared of who else I would tell, in case other people leapt to conclusions about who I was, in case other people branded me with the word bipolar without getting to know the me that she had gotten to know. When I asked her if I shouldn’t have told her, she said “yes, sometimes I wish you hadn’t told me.”

And those words have stayed with me. That whole conversation has stayed with me. As it made me question everything I had previously believed. That I should hide who I am – lie to people – in order to save wrongful conclusions or judgmental opinion. Even though I wasn’t ashamed to be bipolar, even though I considered it something that people should be able to talk about freely, I began withholding this information from all and sundry; all because I didn’t want them branding me with a word, and a set of behavioral issues, that didn’t necessarily apply to me.  I wanted people to see me, not the person they assumed I would be if they discovered I was bipolar.

So for years I kept it a closely guarded secret. I rarely wrote about bipolar on my blog. I never talked about it in polite company. All through the early months of my homelessness, I would even keep it hidden from support workers whose job it was to help and assist me. Surely they would have been able to do a far better job had they known I was bipolar; but I didn’t tell them because i didn’t want them drawing the wrong conclusions. I didn’t want anyone drawing the wrong conclusions. That conversation with Diane had shamed me into hating an aspect of myself that I shouldn’t be ashamed of, and one day, one nonchalant, uneventful day, I realised that.

Sitting there, in my park, I was thinking about my friend Samantha and something she used to tell me. She used to tell me that my kink was “just one small stitch in the multicoloured tapestry that was me”; it wasn’t something to be afraid of, on the contrary, it was something to celebrate. And sitting there, in my park, it suddenly dawned on me what I’d always known, that my bipolar was exactly the same. To hell with people who judged me harshly because they felt one word described my entire personality. To hell with people who wanted to brand me with the word for the rest of time. They didn’t matter, their opinion didn’t matter. All that mattered was me, and what I thought; and I didn’t care that I was bipolar, I never had. It wasn’t something I was proud of, but it was also something I wasn’t ashamed of.

So from that moment on I have told people I suffer from bipolar. I haven’t brought it up in conversation, I haven’t blurted it out to everyone who would listen, but I haven’t hidden it if it has come up. If someone asks, I tell them. If it is raised in conversation, then I openly talk about it. And to hell with what people think. Because, quite frankly, if they can’t handle it, if they decide to judge me without reason, then that’s their problem not mine.

People shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of their illnesses, physical or mental. It is not something we chose to suffer from and it is not something that describes who we are. They are just aspects of our selves, aspects that should be talked about, that should be shared, if only to lessen the stigma and discrimination attached to them. People should be free to discuss their mental illness without fear of what other people think, and the only way we will reach a point in society when it isn’t stigmatized, when it isn’t discriminated against, is when people can say “I suffer from bipolar” or “I suffer from schizophrenia” without fear of retaliation. And the only way we will achieve this is by talking about it, openly, honestly and as loudly as humanly possible.


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 27. My lifeline to the outside world

Day 27: What do you see as the most important thing in your treatment regime, and why?

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At this stage of my life, with my treatment regime currently revolving around medication and a weekly session with a support worker, I would have to say the most important of these two options would be the latter.

Without my weekly sessions with my support worker I would have no human-to-human interaction whatsoever. This interaction, as forced and clinical as it is sometimes, keeps me alive. It gives me something to look forward to. It gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts with another soul. It allows me to not feel quite so alone in the world.

Without my weekly sessions with my support worker, my life would be less than what it is now, and given how little value I place on my current life, that’s saying something. My support worker is my lifeline. My umbilical cord that keeps me attached to this crazy, often chaotic world in which we live. Without her, I would be nothing. So yes, she is definitely the most important aspect of my current treatment regime.