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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Hearing Voices Support Group: Week 05

PREVIOUS ‘HEARING VOICES SUPPORT GROUP’ ENTRIES
| WEEK 01 | WEEK 02 | WEEK 03 | WEEK 04 |

ZZB

How have my voices been this week?

Following last week’s ‘date-deal‘ with Vanessa and Meadhbh, this was the first week since I began going to the HVSG where my people never once tried to talk me out of going.

In fact since causing me to have a freak-out on Wednesday, they’ve all been reasonably well-behaved. Which, truth be told, is a little un-nerving!

Getting there…

For the last few weeks only Meadhbh has been accompanying me to the HVSG. However, following our lengthy conversation on Saturday last week – where I reiterated to her this endeavour was not about erasing her, but finding ways to build better relationships – Audrey decided to come along to find out for herself what it was all about. Fortunately for me she decided to bring her own bike – as cycling with two hallucinations perched on my handlebars would have been a mite difficult!

Thus – because of the three-way conversation I was engaged in – I didn’t have time to become anxious or nervous about the coming events. Meadhbh was telling Audrey about her life as a Dragon Slayer, Audrey was doing her best to ignore Meadhbh whilst asking me questions about the group and what she should expect and I was doing my best not to ride into any cars, walls or inconveniently placed trees with so many distractions around me.

As a result I was late to the group. As the three of us walked into the room we were met with a circle of fifteen people all sitting in an uncomfortable silence.

Has someone died?” Audrey asked.

Zip…Zap…Boing!

For those of you who haven’t worked it out yet, Meadhbh can be a bit ‘childish’. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact, her wide-eyed excitement over the little things in life is one of the things I most love about her. So, when this week’s warm-up game revolved around saying zip, zap or boing with excited glee, Meadhbh was in her element.

The object of the activity was to move around a circle saying one of those three words. If you said zip, you kept going around the circle. If you said zap, the direction changed and you went back the other way. If you decided to use boing, you bounced to the person opposite you and it resumed going around the circle.

It was kinda weird, and a little boring, but goddamn did Meadhbh enjoy herself. She was adamant that I had to do whatever action she decided and was having a gleeful time of it.

Meanwhile, Audrey sat back wondering what on earth she had got herself involved in.

Record breaking time!

By the time we finished the warm-up game more people had arrived, meaning the group was now bulging at its twenty-person strong seams.

As regular followers of my HVSG posts will know, this section of the group is the one most likely to create immense (at times uncontrollable) anxiety. As I have stated frequently in the past, the larger the group, the less likely I am going to say anything. So when my time came I pulled my “I’m not in a very communicative mood at the moment so I have nothing to share” trick and sat back to listen to everyone else.

Part of me thought this was for the best. If I had forced myself to share there could have been a repeat of week two’s babbling ramble that precipitated a panic attack. Plus, due to the size of the group, I thought the less people shared would mean we could get around everyone without it taking up the entire group. The problem was, pretty much everyone else seemed to have the same idea!

Less than thirty minutes later everyone had had their chance and we were left wondering how we’d managed twenty odd people in such record time!

Cue a smoko.

For those not familiar with this term

Smoko” (also ‘smoke-o’ or “‘moke-oh’) is a term used in Australian English, New Zealand English and Falkland Islands English for a short, often informal, cigarette break taken during work or military duty, although the term can also be used to describe any short break such as a rest or a coffee/tea break.”

The history of my people…

You may remember that in week 02 of my HVSG adventure, I began working through a workbook that allows me to explore my voices from various angles. In that week, I looked at my dreams, whereas this week I tackled the ‘history of my voices’ segment of the book, which asks: “Can you describe for each voice, the circumstances you first heard them? E.g. where, when, how old were you? What was happening in your life?”

Now, I’ve stated in the past that my initial meetings with my various voices is something that I struggle to recall. So much has happened over the years that remembering every last detail is something I can no longer do. So, as I sat down to complete this section of the workbook, I didn’t quite know where to start. Until Audrey began to nostalgically reminisce about our first meeting…which prompted Meadhbh (still a little jealous over the time Audrey and I have been spending together) to do the same.

The things that always pisses me off about you, Addy, is you always get it wrong! Did I really mean so little to you? Piffs. You weren’t thirteen. You were twelve. Twelve years, five months, eighteen days and four hours, to be more precise. You were sitting on the playing fields at school after playing football, gazing lustfully at that vixen’s ass. Remember? How her knickers peeked out from her netball skirt as she cartwheeled across the grass? C’mon! I know you do! Don’t you? You must. You do. Piffs. Anyway, I told you that you should just waltz the fuck over there and say hey, great ass and take it from there. You were hot, she was hot, you both were hot, what’s the prob? Piffs. But I didn’t know you back then, not like now. You wouldn’t ignore me now like you did that day

The problem is I don’t remember that. I (rather blissfully) recall sneaking glimpses of Natalie’s posterior during various gym classes (god bless netball skirts!) but I have no memory of hearing Meadhbh during those times. However, as I would often think back then that everyone could hear her, perhaps I thought nothing of it.

My own first memory (of sorts) of hearing Meadhbh was much later. After I’d started slicing my leg with compasses, after I’d started writing self-hate fuelled messages into my flesh with scissors.

So, your first memory of me was that night? The night with the fork? I don’t want to think about that. Don’t make me think about that. I’ll fucking hate you if you make me go back there. Makes me wanna cry. You were such a beautiful boy. So kind. So sweet. So passionate. So I told you that. And you heard me. Didn’t you? Admit it. So why didn’t you believe me?

What I did with the fork was heat it up with a lighter before pushing the burning prongs into my heel. That’s when I first remember Meadhbh coming into my life; her petite form lying with me on the bed, soothing my tears with her infectious Scottish lilt.

Not much of a fairy tale, is it? Piffs. But you were so sad. So lost. You always were. And I hate you for that. Sometimes I want to watch you burn, Addy. But. But. What was happening to you wasn’t your fault. Not back then. Your sister’s illness, the bullying, your mum’s pain. See. I can answer the questions. None of that nor the neglect or shit you had to deal with was your fault. Not always. You thought no-one cared but I cared. I did. Yes. Piffs. I still do.

Like you cared in oh-seven?

Unfortunately, I had spent so long reminiscing with Meadhbh I hadn’t noticed everyone else had finished their section and gathered back in the main group. Thus, in order to not piss Audrey off, I promised I’d let her tell her story later in the week.

Don’t give her ideas!

By the time I rejoined the group I realised for the first time how many people had left early. In the space of ninety minutes we’d gone from twenty odd people, to eight. This meant that when we began discussing the workbooks and soul-searching we’d been undertaking, I was able to speak a little more freely. The simple fact is, the smaller the group, the easier I find it to open up.

So I spoke about how the workbook is similar in many respects to the interview I’m working through with my support worker regarding my voices. I admitted that I had been using it to write (as yet unpublished) blog posts and that so far, the hardest section has been the ‘triggers’ section. For some reason, even though I am aware of my major PTSD/anxiety/bipolar triggers, I’ve never been able to put my finger on the things that set my voices raging.

One of the other members of the group then shared a story in which a woman who had undertaken the same interview process as I am currently doing was much like me in not being able to identify the triggers. However, one of her voices could, so sent an email to the counselor to explain them.

This immediately set Meadhbh off: I want an email…I want an email…you have to set me up an email…I could email you…I could…ohhhhhh, I NEED an email!

So, in order to appease her, she now has an email address!

Under the bridge (reprise)

On the way home from the group we decided to stop under the same bridge Meadhbh and I had stopped under two weeks ago. As I rolled a cigarette, Meadhbh told Audrey about the scolding I’d given her in this spot, something that amused Audrey no end as she’s long believed Meadhbh gets away with way too much.

Whilst Meadhbh sulked over Audrey’s curt words, Audrey apologised for her initial reaction to my HVSG attendance. She told me that the initial introduction (in which the group leader welcomes any voices who may be present and tells them they’re in a safe place) made her feel all warm and gooey. The zip-zap-boing game, although geared more toward Meadhbh’s childishness, was amusing. Whilst the workbook helped ease her fears over her belief I was trying to eradicate her. She’s still not one-hundred percent sure about the group and believes it will ultimately lead to my humiliation and destruction (so I should reconsider my attendance to protect myself!)

I told her I would think about it; but that because I’m (slowly) beginning to feel less anxious about attending, the group may very well help, rather than hinder me.

~|~

Things I learned from the group this week:

  • Meadhbh’s memories of the first time she talked to me.
  • Audrey is the most well-behaved of my voices.
  • I (still) really don’t like playing the warm-down ball game (that sounds dirtier than I mean it to!)
  • You never know what’s going to happen at a support group.
  • An undeniable truth: the less people around me, the more I talk.
  • I still haven’t died as a result of attending the group.


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Hearing Voices Support Group: Week 04

PREVIOUS ‘HEARING VOICES SUPPORT GROUP’ ENTRIES
| WEEK 01 | WEEK 02 | WEEK 03 |

monsterhunter

“Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon.” ~Angel (Image from the cover of Monster Hunter Tri)

However frustrated I am to admit it, my people and anxiety got the better of me last Friday and convinced me not to attend the HVSG. Which isn’t altogether surprising given it was the week of the 26 February 2013.

Thus, this week’s update will not be about the group, but my people…who have been driving me completely insane over the last several days!

How have my people been this week?

~ Audrey

After her obsession with Lego Batman last Tuesday, Audrey disappeared for a few days before returning on Saturday dressed as Harley Quinn. This came as somewhat of a surprise, especially as I was in the supermarket at the time! As it was late in the evening and I’d walked rather than cycled to the supermarket, Audrey decided to walk home with me so we could talk.

She wanted to know how I’d been since Tuesday and, although suspicious of her intent, I shared my heightened anxiety, flakiness, lack of concentration and overall ‘tired of life’ feelings that had been overwhelming me. Eventually we stopped at a park bench and began talking about other things:

◊ The literature of George MacDonald, Irvine Welsh and Wally Lamb.
◊ Which Bronte was best (Audrey is adamant it’s Anne, I’m steadfast in my love of Charlotte)
◊ A rather lengthy conversation about my assault in 2007 (not a happy part of the converstion, truth be told!)
◊ Audrey requesting I give her thirteen reasons why I should kill myself (she was challenging me as she didn’t think I could); I gave her twenty-two before she stopped me from continuing!
◊ Audrey’s love of Fifty Shades of Grey; and there was me thinking she had good taste! :p
◊ Kathy. Somehow it always comes back to her. Grrr!

When we got home, five hours after the supermarket, I stayed up with her to play Lego Batman. Although I was tired, I was also nervous about going to bed. Plus, it was nice to have a conversation with her that didn’t descend into insult and criticism; although she did occasionally do the latter.

~ Shay

In my last HVSG update I mentioned that I hadn’t heard from Shay for several days; I still haven’t.

Given one of the last things he said to me (over two weeks ago) was a death threat, I’m a little on edge about how he’s going to be when he does reappear!

~ Vanessa

Ever since Audrey scolded her and sent her to the corner, Vanessa has been somewhat shitty with Audrey. Normally the two of them are BFFs who defend each other without a second thought, but over the last couple of weeks they’ve barely said two words to each other and seem to have entered into a competition over my attention, with Vanessa annoyed that she seems to be losing; especially after the conversation Audrey and I had on Saturday.

As a result, on both Sunday and Monday, Vanessa was pissed off and abusive in her actions and behaviour. Especially as during another session with my worker I was defiant to Vanessa’s wishes by describing her actions and behaviour. Vanessa doesn’t like being talked about so her retribution was swift, vicious and lasted well into the early hours of the morning.

However, in a rare moment, I was able to reach a ‘bargain’ with her. Over the last week or so, both Vanessa and Meadhbh have been annoyed with Audrey monopolizing my attention with the Wii and wanted to “get in on the action”. In a rather public conversation between the three of us, I struck a deal; I would let them each choose a video game and then I’d set aside a few hours of ‘personal time’ to play that game with them (and them alone) if they accepted that I needed to go to the HVSG this Friday. Any attempt to talk me out of going would instantly negate the deal and our ‘date’ was off.

Meadhbh agreed without argument; Vanessa took much more convincing but, given her current jealously over Audrey, eventually agreed.

In the store, I told them to choose only from the ‘3 for $15’ bin. Immediately they both chose games that weren’t part of the offer and were pissed off when I put the games back and told them I couldn’t afford those titles. If they wanted me to buy them a game, it had to be part of the offer, otherwise I wouldn’t buy them anything and the deal was off. Several tantrums later they eventually decided any game would be better than no game at all and made their choices, with Vanessa annoyingly choosing a game she knows will trigger me (but, as she pointed out, “you did say any game from the ‘3 for $15’ bin”).

Thus, tomorrow night, Vanessa and I have a date to play Lego Harry Potter…and I swear to God, if she starts trying to out-filth Audrey with sexual fantasies involving Lego Harry, I may just throw up! :p

~ Jessica

Jessica has been more vocal than usual over the last seven days, with her cryptic comments including:

  • The spirit of the Gruntesk lies in the belly of the tulip (Saturday afternoon)
  • Panhandle the wallaby nostril (Monday evening)
  • Overload the milking station with the remnants of the river (Wednesday lunchtime)

As per usual I have no idea what she’s talking about, although I did notice that the ‘milking station’ comment was said shortly after milk had been spilled.

~ Meadhbh

After disappearing for the period around the 26th, Meadhbh returned to go for a walk with me last Sunday night. We ended up roaming the back streets of my suburb talking about my niece, my nephew, the Isle of Skye, whether I should return to Scotland (Meadhbh wants me to as she misses her home) and girls.

Meadhbh and I haven’t had a conversation about girls since I was a teenager, when she would give me advice on how best to talk to the one’s I fancied. She thinks I need a girlfriend and has decided it’s up to her to find me one. I’m fairly sure she won’t succeed in this self-imposed task, but hey, I kinda want a girlfriend as well so if she wants to try find me one, I’m not gonna stop her! :p

However, she was back in bitchy negative form yesterday during a focus group with some academics from Melbourne asking some of the HVSG members questions about the group and what we get out of it. In true Addy fashion, I said three sentences in the ninety minute session. Go me! :p

As my anxiety and self-hate grew, Vanessa and Meadhbh appeared to offer their opinions of my behaviour and uselessness.

Vanessa used my silence and anxiety to prove my worthlessness. Listing dozens of reasons as to why I didn’t deserve to live.

Meadhbh was also using my silence and anxiety against me, not to prove my worthlessness, but to inform me I was a “pathetic cock” who was sabotaging her attempt to find me a girlfriend. Eventually deciding that she’d be better off-putting her energy into more meaningful, achievable goals, such as proving I was a waste of space.

After this onslaught I ended up self-harming to alleviate the pain and frustration growing inside me, something that upset rather than amused, Meadhbh. When she reappeared for our ‘video game’ date last night she was silent, sullen and guilty. I explained to her that when she talks to me like that it does nothing but amplify all the negative self-hate I feel all the time – and I don’t deserve to think like that as I’m, on the whole, a half-decent guy.

So she apologised. Perhaps the apology was genuine, perhaps it was merely manipulation because she didn’t want me to cancel our ‘date’, either way it is something my people very rarely do, so that’s something! :p

Anyway, once we started off on our video game adventure, Meadhbh returned to the more playful friend she had been on Sunday night. The game she had chosen was Monster Hunter Tri, because her favourite Angel line is “Well, personally, I kinda want to slay the dragon.”

Thus, for a few hours I did exactly what she wanted me to do. I designed our character based on what she wanted, I went to the places she wanted, I fought the creatures she wanted me to fight. Even after we kept dying repeatedly because of our lack of armour, Meadhbh steadfastly refused to allow me to dress our avatar in anything as she thought it made her look like a wanker!

So far, Meadhbh has stuck by her word and not in any way tried to talk me out of going to the group this Friday. She even asked for my permission to go with me (another first, considering she normally just tags along regardless of what I feel!)

How have I been this week?

Tired, flaky, unfocused, shitty, cranky, angry (at myself) and not at all (in any way, shape or form) with it. In fact, I’ve felt that the last week and a half has been pulling me back toward the depressive state I was in throughout December/January, a place I do not want to return to!

Predominantly, I’m becoming increasingly upset that I can’t talk to people outside of the safety of ‘therapy’ settings. This has manifested in a multitude of ways; not being able to write on my blog (what am I supposed to write about when nothing worthwhile ever happens?), drinking two bottles of wine (still better than during that depressive episode), turning down an invitation to have coffee with a couple of people from the HVSG after the meeting (even though I really wanted to, I didn’t want to make a bigger fool of myself) and my first self-harming incident in four weeks (nothing serious, just annoying).

So, yeah, not all that spectacular right now!

Sorry.

~|~

Things I learned from NOT attending the group this week:

  • If you try to slay the Great Jaggi in Monster Hunter Tri wearing only skimpy underwear, you will die. Frequently!
  • If I’m going to bargain with my voices I need to be more careful and strategic with my wording (especially given Vanessa is a manipulative bitch!)
  • My voices still don’t like being talked about to other people and react with anger and viciousness.
  • Visually hallucinating a woman wearing an exceedingly skin-tight costume is incredibly distracting, especially in public.
  • I really (really) need to find a way to talk to people as my inability to do this is seriously getting on my tits.
  • I didn’t die as a result of not attending the group.


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Hearing Voices Support Group: Week 03

PREVIOUS ‘HEARING VOICES SUPPORT GROUP’ ENTRIES
| WEEK 01 | WEEK 02 |

Under-the-Bridge

How have my voices been this week?

The most interesting aspect of my voices this week has been Shay’s disappearing act. Normally I will hear from him several times a week – and converse with him even more – but for the last seven days I’ve not heard so much as a peep from him. I’d probably be more worried about this if I hadn’t heard so much from Meadhbh, Vanessa and Audrey, who have been even more demanding, and obscure, than usual.

As we approach the six-year anniversary of the day my life ended (aka the beginning of the breakdown) Vanessa’s abuse has been evasive, persuasive and continuous. For the last six days there has barely been an hour where she hasn’t slipped in to attack me anyway she can. Whilst, throughout yesterday and today, there hasn’t been a minute where she’s left me alone – something I fear will be the norm until Tuesday’s anniversary has passed.

Throughout the week Audrey has been pottering away being her normal self. The highlight of our interactions came on Thursday evening, when she intervened during a particularly vicious assault from Vanessa by scolding her (literally sending her to the naughty corner) for going way too far with her abuse. Vanessa’s sulking reaction is something I think I’ll always remember! :)

Meadhbh, on the other hand, has continued her decision to accompany me everywhere. On Tuesday she was distracting me so much during Scrabble I wasn’t able to play to the best of my ability; on Wednesday at pool she kept distracting me as I was about to take my shots and on Friday she sat quietly in the corner of the room observing everything that was happening, pointing out each and every mistake I made and giving ‘helpful’ (read: annoying) advice as to how I should act.

One of these days I’ll have to transcribe one of our conversations…

Getting there…

This week, Meadhbh decided to wear a red/black corset and leather pants to the group. She told me this was because if I rode fast enough she could pretend she was riding pillion (did you know this was Scottish Gaelic for ‘little rug’? I didn’t, until Meadhbh pointed it out) on a motorcycle.

So rather than annoy me with are you sure you want to go, are you sure you want to go, I was inundated with faster…faster…faaaasstteeerrrr throughout the thirty minute ride to my group. Or at least I was for the first fifteen minutes of the ride, for after last week’s near-accidents and Audrey’s inspired bollocking of Vanessa, I pulled the bike under a bridge so I could scold Meadhbh without fear of causing an accident. Being spoken to like this is not something Meadhbh is used to, so after an initial giggling fit she decided to be on her ‘best behaviour’ for the remainder of the ride and I didn’t hear a peep out of her until we got to Hungry Jacks.

Although I’m not a fan of fast food, I will admit to having a taste for the Sausage and Egg muffins at Hungry Jacks. So, in order to alleviate the anxiety of the previous two weeks, I decided to treat myself to one before the group. This way, I could spend the ride thinking of this fattening piece of food rather than the fact I was heading toward almost certain public humiliation.

Fortunately, this plan worked (sort of, but I’ll get to that later), although I can’t take the credit for the idea as it was Audrey who suggested it on Friday night.

Jackanory…

This weeks warm-up activity was something that should have seen me in my element but because of the social anxiety I was unable to participate.

The premise was simple. One person began by speaking the opening sentence of a story, the next person then had to make up the next sentence, and so on, and so on, until everyone in the group had contributed to a rather random little tale.

However, by the time the story reached me, I had nothing to offer so quickly passed to the next person; feeling annoyed that I can’t even do something I’m usually so good at when I’m in a group environment!

Second in line…

After last week’s appalling ‘how was my week’ group share, I was making a concerted effort this week not to come across like an ass. In preparation for what was coming I spent the majority of Thursday evening preparing my ‘speech’ with Audrey and Meadhbh (whilst Vanessa stood in the corner!) so when it came to my turn, Meadhbh was able to prompt me the words as if I were an absent-minded actor on stage.

By a stroke of good fortune I was second in line so, unlike last week’s mind-numbingly frustrating wait, I was able to get it over and done with straight away. I mentioned I had become an uncle again, that I was blogging more regularly and that my anxiety had been lesser than normal. This latter point being a complete lie as my anxiety has been higher than normal for the last few weeks, but I tend to ‘hide’ how I’m feeling so as not to make people worry. Something I really need to stop doing!

After my few minutes were up I felt strangely proud of myself, even though Meadhbh kept pointing out I’d strayed from our script.

Anxiety increasing…

One of the most likely things to increase my anxiety is feeling trapped. When I go to a cinema, theatre or air travel I need to be in an aisle seat (something none of my girlfriends could support, regardless of how many times I explained it), similarly, when I’m in a restaurant or pub I can’t be trapped in a corner or against a wall. In these situations – and situations like them – I need to know I can get up/escape without bothering too many people if things get too much for me.

Due to the sheer number of the people in the group this week (fourteen) the ‘how was my week’ session went on much longer than it normally does. After an hour, I was itching to go outside, after ninety minutes I was practically clawing the walls. Even though I was in an aisle seat, I felt compelled (through good manners) to remain where I was until an official break was called.

So after surviving my speaking, by the time a break was called my anxiety was climbing to annoying levels, causing me to walk up-and-down in an alleyway for ten minutes hoping the repetition would calm me down.

It didn’t.

My Dreams

Fortunately, the second ‘half’ of the group was only fifteen minutes long. All we did was finish the ‘how was my week’ segment before group reading a passage from a book. The book (I forget the title) was a collection of personal stories from people who have heard voices and learnt to deal with their experiences.

Much like last week, I read my part of the story as quickly as possible to get it over and done with. After all, as Vanessa keeps reminding me this week, my voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to!

Warming-Down

At the end of the group, like previous weeks, we played the ball throwing warm-down game. Once again Meadhbh tried to intercept the ball (failing miserably as she’s not the most ‘sporty’ of people) whilst I babbled something about ‘how it’s okay to not be feeling okay’.

This part of the group was probably the most anxiety inducing because, as usual, I can’t deal with being the focus of attention!

Under the bridge…

It wasn’t just me thinking this week’s group had been a little strange. On the way home, following a short meander around the op-shops, I stopped under the same bridge I’d scolded Meadhbh under on the way to the group. This time, our conversation was less angry parent/naughty child and more friend/friend (a word I’ve hesitated to use to describe my voices given how they normally treat me).

For half an hour Meadhbh and I discussed the brevity of this week’s group and how it had revolved mostly around listening to other people’s weeks. There was nothing wrong with this (in fact, I pointed out that it had allowed me to be less anxious) but Meadhbh had hoped the group would be more challenging. Mostly because she likes it when I’m anxious because it makes it easier for her to slide into my soul and ‘get at me’ as only she can. Around about then, just as I felt we were making headway with our relationship, my Sausage and Egg muffin idea came back to haunt me.

But let’s not go there!

~|~

Things I learned from the group this week:

  • It’s okay to not feel okay (or something along those lines!)
  • Scolding my voices not only works but is strangely enjoyable! :p
  • I really don’t like playing the warm-down ball game (that sounds dirtier than I mean it to!)
  • You never know what’s going to happen at a support group.
  • I still haven’t died as a result of attending the group.
  • However tasty Hungry Jacks’ Sausage and Egg muffins are, do not eat them if you value your digestive health and are miles from a bathroom!