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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Celebrating Thirteen Years in Australia

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the worst decision I ever made in my life; emigrating to Australia. If I could have my time again I would never (in a million years) have come to this godforsaken, sociopathic country as it has done nothing but destroy my soul and leave me a hollow, empty, disenfranchised shell. But, alas, I cannot. So I can only try to focus on the good that my adopted ‘home’ has given me.

As such, in celebration of this auspicious day, I have decided to share thirteen of my favourite photos that were taken on Australian soil.

Hopefully you will enjoy gazing upon them.

~ Click each image to enlarge ~

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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on Street Art

One of the things I’ve always loved about Melbourne is the assortment of street art that decorates its streets, alleys and laneways. No matter where you look, a talented individual has painted an awe-inspiring image upon brick, stone or wood. One of the major locations for street art in Melbourne has always been Hosier Lane, which runs between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. There is so much street art on this single laneway that you cannot help but be impressed by the skill some of these artists display.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Back when I was homeless, you could walk down Hosier Lane and be the only person in sight. Not so now. No matter when I took a detour down this alleyway there were always dozens of camera wielding tourists analysing the artwork and taking selfie after selfie with their favourite piece. It was a tad saddening, to be honest, the touristification of a once peaceful street. But this is happening all over the world as more and more people come to know about a city’s hidden secrets.

Collected below is an assortment of the street art I encountered during my recent adventure in Melbourne. And next time you’re in town, pay attention to the walls around you, for you never know what you may find when you least expect it! :)


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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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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on the National Gallery of Victoria, International Collection

After yesterday’s excursion through the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, today we’re taking a brief stroll through the magnificent collection on offer at the NGV International. You see, the NGV’s collection is so extensive they need two galleries to display the work; one focusing on Australian artists, the other focusing on several centuries of international artists!

NGV International

NGV International

In 2011 the NGV celebrated its 150th birthday and acquired a highly important masterpiece by Correggio, one of the most influential figures of the Italian High Renaissance. The work, titled Madonna and Child with infant Saint John the Baptist, was painted circa 1514–15. The painting was purchased at Sotheby’s London for $5.2 million and is the single highest priced acquisition in the NGV’s history.

Personally, I much prefer the NGV Australia to the NGV International. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because the Australian collection speaks to me more than the international collection, perhaps because I’m more Australian at heart than I would like to believe, but either way, I still relish and adore the international collection. Wandering the dimly lit halls of the exquisite building still fills me with the same calmness, the same serenity, that the Australian gallery infuses me with.

In 1959, the commission to design a new gallery and cultural centre was awarded to the architectural firm Grounds Romberg Boyd. In 1962, Roy Grounds split from his partners Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd, retained the commission, and designed the gallery at 180 St Kilda Road (now known as NGV International). The building was completed in December 1967 and opened on 20 August 1968. One of the features of the building is the Leonard French stained glass ceiling, one of the world’s largest pieces of suspended stained glass, which casts colourful light on the floor below.

The Leonard French stained glass ceiling.

The Leonard French stained glass ceiling.

So why not join me on a brief tour of the NGV International. Its collection is wide, varied and covers all cultures and countries. It is, without question, one of the best collections of art in the world; certainly the best collection in Australia.

After the Massacre of Glencoe (Peter Graham)

After the Massacre of Glencoe (Peter Graham) [Note: this is my second favourite painting in the collection, mainly because is depicts a tragic chapter in Scotland’s history]

Mount St Michael, Cornwall (Clarkson Stanfield)

Mount St Michael, Cornwall (Clarkson Stanfield)

Susanna Highmore (Joseph Highmore) [Note: I have a bit of a crush on this beautiful woman!]

Susanna Highmore (Joseph Highmore) [Note: I have developed a bit of a crush on this ravishingly beautiful woman!]

The Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Margit Pogány)

The Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Margit Pogány)

The upper level of the NGV International is devoted to contemporary art. Sculptures, installations and mixed-media from a variety of artists that, usually, I wouldn’t much care for. For as long as I can remember I have never been fond of contemporary art. There is something about it that irks me, that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not that I don’t understand it, it just leaves me feeling cold.

However, on this occasion, there was a beautiful installation from Borna Sammak that caused my soul to sing. A large, rectangular screen was suspended from the wall. Upon the screen ran a continuous loop of colour. Colour that exploded, danced and pirouetted before you. Unable to take a video of the installation I settled for a series of still images that I hoped would capture the ever-changing melody of colour that played out before me.

So when viewing the following nine images, imagine them moving, imagine the colour dancing, imagine a glorious symphony of animated wonder!

Splash Into Me Yeah [Still] (Borna Sammak)

Splash Into Me Yeah [Still] (Borna Sammak)

~ Click each image to enlarge ~


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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on the National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Collection

One of the most beautiful places in all of Melbourne is the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Ever since I arrived in Australia, back in 2002, I have been positively in love with this magnificent building and the collection of inspirational art that is housed within.

Back in my heyday, when my mental health was stable and I had a loving group of friends, I was a regular visitor to the NGV. On my days off from work I would travel into the city just to walk the halls of this building and gaze lovingly at the artwork on display.

During my homelessness, when my mental health was far from stable and my loving group of friends had long since departed, I was a regular visitor to the NGV. During those long, brutal days, it offered solace from the chaos of my life. I would leave my bag at the cloakroom and spend hours studying the brushstrokes on display, losing myself (and the pain I felt) to the beauty of the art.

The NGV was founded in 1861. Victoria had been an independent colony for only ten years, but in the wake of the Victorian gold rush, it was the richest colony in Australia, and Melbourne was the largest city in Australia. In addition to donations of works of art, donated funds from wealthy citizens have been used by the NGV to purchase Australian and international works by both old and modern masters. The NGV currently holds over 70,000 works of art.

So it’s no surprise that upon my recent return to Melbourne, it was the first place I headed for. In fact, throughout my week-long adventure, I returned to the NGV Australia four times. It is, for me, one of the most calming and relaxing places I know. No matter what is going on in my mind – PTSD flashbacks, anxiety attacks, waves of depression – being in the NGV Australia soothes my soul and negates the evilness bubbling away within.

Collected on this page is just a small sample of the artwork on display at the NGV Australia. For those of you who don’t live in Australia, who have never had the honor of exploring this magnificent gallery, it is a chance to see the brilliance of what is on offer. For those of you who live in Australia, who perhaps have never been to Melbourne, it is an opportunity to urge you to find time for a visit.

It is impossible to be disappointed with the NGV Australia. Its collection is diverse, enlightening and comprehensive, covering every major movement in the Australian arts scene. Its collection is beautiful, ravishing and truly inspirational. As I’m sure this sample of artwork will attest.

So settle back and enjoy this beautiful array of art. You won’t be disappointed! :)

Collins St 5pm (John Brack)

Collins St 5pm (John Brack)

An Emigrant's Thoughts of Home 1859 (Marshall Claxton)

An Emigrant’s Thoughts of Home 1859 (Marshall Claxton)

Lost (Frederick McCubbin)

Lost (Frederick McCubbin)

Swanston Street from the Bridge (Henry Burn)

Swanston Street from the Bridge (Henry Burn)

The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's Farm [Detail] (John Glover)

The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s Farm [Detail] (John Glover)

~ Click each image to enlarge ~


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Melbourne 2015: Day 07. A rather solemn affair

My final day in Melbourne was a rather solemn affair. It began innocuously enough; sliding myself out of bed, stepping into the shower, slipping my clothes on and then sidling out the motel room for another day exploring and relishing in the greatest city in Australia, but as the day progressed and time ticked slowly on, I was overcome with a melancholy that I wasn’t expecting. The fact of the matter was I didn’t want to leave. Since being in Melbourne my mental health had, for the most part, not been an issue. I was walking past hundreds of people a minute and my social anxiety was nonexistent. I was in constant connection with memories of the most traumatic periods of my life – abusive relationship, homelessness – but my PTSD had barely registered. Being in Melbourne, it seemed, was good for me.

Unlike the other days of my Melbourne adventure, my final day in Melbourne saw no tourist attraction being explored. I considered going to the zoo (but that was too expensive) and I looked into going to the Old Melbourne Gaol (but that also proved too expensive) so instead I just meandered around the city. I undertook a laneways tour; reacquainting myself with the alleys and back streets that I used to know so well. I explored the Queen Victoria Market; and felt ashamed by the grotesque prices being asked for tatty tourist merchandise. I meandered various shops that I once knew so well; PLAY, a DVD shop selling rare and hard to find titles, JBHIFI, a music/DVD shop selling mainstream titles and various booksellers at the top end of Bourke Street, whose collections were interesting and diverse. Alas, I couldn’t buy anything. After seven days in Melbourne my finances were low and I needed what little money I had left for food and beverages.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

It may sound boring, just walking around a city, but it was anything but. Melbourne may not be the prettiest city known to humankind, but once you get past the hipsterfication, it still heralds many architectural and retail gems. Walking around the city was something I used to do every week, and as I strolled around the CBD that final day, I was overwhelmed with memories of my past lives. Of when I was overwhelmed and excited upon arriving in Australia. Of when I was happily in a relationship with Louise. Of when I worked my arse off at the backpacker hostel. The memories flowed thick and fast that final day in Melbourne, but never once tipped me over the edge, never once did the PTSD overwhelm me. For once, I was in complete control.

By 1:30pm I was settled into Federation Square, shocked at how fast time was moving, so decided to slow things down with a final visit to one of my favourite places in the city, the NGV: Australia in Federation Square. It would be my third visit since arriving, but I didn’t care. There is something calming, something altogether relaxing, about roaming around the gallery, soaking in the majestic, inspirational art on show. To add some diversity to my visit I decided to undertake one of the free gallery tours they offer, in which a volunteer guides you through the gallery, regaling you with stories and history of various, important artworks. There were only two of us in the tour, but the information provided was interesting and informative. It cast the artwork in a new light; adding life and vitality to work that I have grown to love and care about.

Inside the NGV: Australia

Inside the NGV: Australia

After the tour I left the gallery and, on Audrey’s request, returned to the secondhand bookstore we had found days earlier. Bookshops, like galleries, are also a calming and relaxing venue for me. There is something about being surrounded by books that fills me with happiness. For nearly half and hour we scoured the shelves for anything that sounded interesting and, eventually, left with two books; one for Audrey (Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White) and one for me (Glencoe, John Prebble).

After a brief visit to ACMI we still had time left on our hands so, spontaneously, decided to return to the NGV: Australia, where we spent another hour roaming the halls and photographing the various artwork that spoke to us the most. It still amazed me how calming I found the NGV to be, and it hammered home just how stressed I have become from living in Wodonga, and how much I desperately need to leave that rural backwater town.

We ended the day in our usual way; a canister of Irn Bru, a visit to the Little Library and a relaxation session on a bench in Flagstaff Gardens. This bench, like many places in Melbourne, I had a personal history with. When I was homeless in 2007, following a year of abuse, breakdown and mental catastrophe, it was the first place that I called my ‘home’, with many nights spent curled up upon it trying desperately to sleep through the night. But I sat there, that final night in Melbourne, reflecting on my life now and my life then; how far I have come in certain respects, and how similar I remain in others. After solemnly leaving the bench I meandered to the pizza shop, treated myself to another beautiful potato and rosemary pizza, and returned for a night of relative calmness in the motel.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

Unlike my other days in Melbourne, this last day was far more reflective and quiet. I didn’t undertake any lengthy walks, I didn’t spend a huge amount of time doing the tourist thing. I just allowed the city of Melbourne to wash over me and, in turn, reignite my love for the Victorian capital. As I drifted off to sleep, filled with a cantankerous malaise over the end of my holiday and my inevitable return to Wodonga, I realised once and for all that I would need to leave that suffocating country town. For the sake of my mental health, for the sake of my sanity, for the sake of my life; I needed to leave Wodonga.

The next morning I awoke early, switched on breakfast television, and put off packing for as long as possible. I knew that packing would mark the end of my holiday and, truth be told, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be walking back into the city for another day exploring the urban landscape and relaxing in the concrete jungle. But I couldn’t. All I could do was stumble out of bed, throw my possessions together, and make the long, slow walk to the train station where a stressful four hour train journey awaited me.

My holiday was over…and it saddened me greatly.

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

It had been seven blissful days of excitement, exploration and (occasional) extravagance. I had seen centuries old artwork, chillaxed in gardens, played with penguins, fought my demons and reacquainted myself with a city I once called home. It had been exactly what I needed; a break from my mental health, a break from stress, a break from Wodonga and a break from myself.

My holiday was, in one word, blissful.

A week I will never forget.

 


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Melbourne 2015: Day 06. A day of two halves

My sixth day in Melbourne was a day of two halves. Half of it was pure bliss straight out of the bottle. Half of it was a nightmare of anxiety and PTSD. But it is still a day I will look back on with fond memories.

Half One: Pure bliss straight out of bottle…

The day began like all my others in Melbourne; leaping out of bed, throwing myself into the shower, quickly dressing so as not to see my naked self in the plethora of mirrors and then hurtling out the door to commence another day of adventure and excitement in my favourite Australian city. On the cards today was a visit to the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and I couldn’t wait! Sitting in Federation Square waiting for the Aquarium to open was pure hell. Why didn’t it open sooner? Why had I left the motel so early? To pass the time I ended up treating myself to a cheapo cooked breakfast in a cafe I discovered whilst homeless – $7.50 for bacon and eggs, bargain – before meandering slowly toward to the Aquarium hoping it would open early just for me. Alas, it didn’t, but I only had to wait ten minutes or so before they opened their doors.

The only downside of going to the Aquarium is the price. For some inexplicable reason they have decided that the optimum price for adult admission is $38 which, even though you’ll be spending plenty of time admiring the cute liddle fishes, is somewhat extortionate. Especially for someone like me, who lives in abject poverty on a daily basis. But I stoked up the cash (Meadhbh would never have forgiven me if I hadn’t) and headed into the dimly lit building to begin the tour.

First installation was a huge tank full of grumpy looking giant fish and perky looking tiny fish. Perhaps the giant fish were so grumpy because they couldn’t swim as fast as the little fish, Meadhbh chimed in, before shrilly shrieking in my ear as she saw the next set of exhibits were crabs. We spent nearly fifteen minutes examining these crustaceans of all sizes, colours and shapes. Big crabs sat motionless in their aquatic wasteland, whilst tiny crabs scuttled across the sand of their domain in a hedonistic state of excitement. Why are all the big animals so still and un-entertaining, Meadhbh asked. I didn’t know. Perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they were biding their time to break out into a spontaneous dance number when no-one was watching.

From the crabs we took in starfish, coral reefs and numerous tanks filled with all sorts of bright, iridescent fishes. There was, of course, tanks full of Nemos and Dorys for the Finding Nemo obsessed kiddies and tanks full of jellyfish for the Ooo, dangerous obsessed adults. I loved the jellyfish. Watching them slowly power themselves through the water was hypnotizing and had a delightful calming effect on me.

Next up was the giant tank filled with sharks, manta rays, sting rays and all manner of strange-looking fish I couldn’t identify. Then was the turn of the Aquarium’s new star attraction; a giant salt water crocodile, who lay motionless on the floor of his enclosure, no doubt biding his time for when he can break out and munch down on all the kiddies that squeal and oooo in his general direction.

Then came the surprise. For some reason the head-honchos at Melbourne Aquarium have decided that lizards are now considered amphibious animals, so we were thrilled by blue tongued lizards, snakes and the graceful awesomeness of the Shingleback (Sleepy) Lizard, who is my personal favourite of the reptile kingdom. There were also spiders; and the only reason these have been included in an aquarium is to freak out arachnophobic individuals such as myself.

The final exhibit was Meadhbh’s favourite. In fact, she was so excited she was unable to speak properly. Her usually eloquent and considered words replaced with shrieks, squees and strange, indecipherable, high-pitched noises. For Melbourne Aquarium, unlike on our last visit in 2007, now has a penguin exhibit. A large, ice ridden enclosure filled with Emperor Penguins who stood around looking regal and awesome. Like Meadhbh, I love penguins, and relished the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. We spent a good twenty minutes just staring at the birds through the glass, watching them waddle around, swim in their personal pool and just be magnificent. Meadhbh also loved watching the children who were pressed up against the glass trying to get the penguins attention; waving and jabbering incomprehensible excited child noises.

Penguins! :D

Penguins! :D

All in all, although the $38 is too expensive a price, we relished our time at the Aquarium. Meadhbh loved it. I loved it. Easily one of the highlights of our trip; especially because of the Shingleback lizards and Emperor Penguins.

Half Two: A Nightmare of Anxiety and PTSD

Alas, the excitement of the morning’s escapade to the Aquarium did not extend into the afternoon. For the first time since I’d arrived in Melbourne I began to feel overwhelmed with anxiety. I was tired. I was exhausted. And I began to freak out at the sheer number of people who were around me. This increase in my anxiety led to my PTSD beginning to flare up, and I found myself overwhelmed with memories of my brutal homelessness and of the abusive relationship that destroyed my life. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to control the growing malaise that had overpowered me. So I sat for a while in Federation Square, taking (somewhat dodgy) photos of the architecture and maintaining a conversation with myself, and the ghost of my abuser, which drew strange looks from passers-by as they wondered why this strange, overweight man was talking to himself.

As the PTSD symptoms began to overwhelm me I knew I needed to do something. I was starting to feel as isolated, ostracised and judged as when I was homeless. My conversation was drawing not only strange looks but also muttered comment and this attention just made me feel worse. It increased my anxiety and, in that cruel, vicious cycle, increased my PTSD symptoms. So I packed up my camera and took myself to a place I knew would ease my troubled soul; the NGV International. It would be the third time I had visited this magnificent attraction since being in Melbourne but I didn’t care. It was free. It was calming. It was exactly what I needed.

Looking through the NGV International's Water Window

Looking through the NGV International’s Water Window

Within an hour of being amidst the beautiful artwork displayed my anxiety was easing. I was having fewer PTSD symptoms and the conversations with the ghost of my abuser were diminishing. By the time I left the building and sat on the wall out the front for a medicinal cigarette, I was feeling in control again, so I smoked my cigarette and then walked back into the city for a spot of window shopping and my daily canister of Irn Bru.

By now the day had drawn to a close and dusk was settling over the city. The streetlights had come on and the neon signs that decorate the various intersections of the city were casting their alien glow across the city. I’ve always loved the city at night. During my homelessness I would spend many hours just drifting around the city, seeking out the shadows to hide in as I soaked up the energy and vibrancy of a city after dark. So this is what I did now. Just floated around, people watching, building watching, relishing in the excitement of a city come alive.

After a time I treated myself to Lord of the Fries, and their delicious French-Canadian topping, before deciding to wander back to the motel. Although I had managed to control my anxiety and PTSD, their appearance in the day had tired me, and I yearned to rest, to just lay back on the motel bed and lose myself to the world of sleep.

The next day would be my last in Melbourne, and I was slightly overcome with feelings of sadness and melancholy. I loved being in the city. I loved being in Melbourne. It felt right. It felt natural. I didn’t want to return to the stifling, suffocating world of Wodonga and all the mental health insanity that I knew would befall me there. So as I lay on the motel bed I vowed to make my final day in Melbourne something wonderful, something relaxing, something to remember during the monotonous, nightmare laden days ahead.