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…


11 Comments

Still here, still fighting!

Ever since I attended the GT House run camp earlier this year, my mood has been on the decline. In fact, it’s the longest and most debilitating decline in my mental health since the end of my homelessness in 2012. Hence why I haven’t been blogging over the last few months, for there are only so many times you can write “I feel shit”, “Life has no meaning” or “I have nothing to say” without people becoming incredibly bored by your monotonous melancholia.

But the time has come for me to at least make an effort in resurrecting this blog from the depths of despair (and dwindling statistics) by writing upon it once more. And what better place to start than a whirlwind tour of my ‘life’ over the last few months.

Support Worker

My last post noted the fact that I would be losing my support worker due to funding changes with the mental health organisation I frequent. I have now lost my support worker (and with them, my only real chance to communicate with someone face-to-face!) I have registered with two different organisations in an attempt to gain a new support worker and am now in the process of just waiting for them to respond to my referrals. Hopefully I will have a new support worker soon otherwise I fear a lot of my work with my isolation and social anxiety will be undone.

Sleep

This time last year I was lucky to get an hour of sleep a night. This year, and for the last several months, I have become the opposite of the insomniac I once was. Most nights I sleep for at least twelve hours, sometimes as much as fifteen or sixteen, and wake up feeling more tired than I was when I went to sleep. It has been pointed out to me that an increase of sleep often goes hand in hand with depression, which doesn’t surprise me given my mood, but as I miss out on psychosocial rehabilitation groups and other appointments because of this sleep (alarms do nothing to wake me up) I am becoming more and more frustrated with this aspect of my current life.

Monotony

Over the last few months life has taken on an ever-increasing air of monotony. There is little to no deviation in my life or its day-to-day activities. I awake after a lengthy sleep, listen to the radio, go down the road, come home, watch DVDs, (sometimes) cook dinner then go to bed for another lengthy night’s sleep. There is no joy in doing any of this, no excitement or stimulation, it is just the same actions day after day after day – all causing me to question what my life is for.

Self-Harm

Although it is far from the worst it’s ever been, my self-harm has been on the increase over the last few months. It doesn’t surprise me that this is the case given there has always been a link between depression and self-harm for me, but it does scare me the lengths I have gone to in order to get the ‘hit’ that I need from my self-harm activities.

Suicide

As such, it should come as no surprise that I have been considering suicide on an ever-increasing basis over the last few months. My life has such little point or purpose that I fail to see why I should go on living and my isolated nature means few people would miss me if I were to shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m scared that if this depressive episode goes on any longer it will culminate in an attempt at some point in the future, just as other elongated episodes have throughout my life.

The one bright light in the darkness

The only thing that has brought me any pleasure over the last few months came as a gift from my brother, who sent me his Wii U console to borrow so I could play through the only Zelda game I had never played; The Wind Waker. The Zelda series of games have always been a source of great inspiration and excitement for me, so whilst playing through this wondrous game I was able to forget the darkness that surrounded me and focus on the light this video game provided.

And with that my first post in nearly three months comes to a close. It’s not the happy and fluffy post that will lift the heart’s of my readers, nor is it the chirpy and inspiring post that will lift my dwindling statistics, but it is a post none-the-less.

And that is something I have always strived to highlight on this blog. This blog has never been about my journey to recovery from mental illness, it has always been about my journey toward recovery from mental illness. And when you have yet to reach that mythical (but attainable) state of recovery you will face a myriad of pitfalls and trap doors along the way. Right now I’m not in a good place. Far from it.

But I am still here, and still trying to battle through things.

Until next time… xx

Advertisements


1 Comment

I really hate change

One thing I don’t deal with very well is change. I think this is something that many people with mental health problems can probably relate to. I, like many, need some semblance of routine and order in my life. When something comes along that unsettles the carefully balanced apple cart of my life, my brain is sent scattering like the aforementioned apples bouncing away from the safety of their cart.

Yesterday, I discovered that change is afoot, and I am not coping with it at all. In fact – given how depressed, lost, confused and alone I’ve been feeling over the last several weeks – I’m a bit of an emotional wreck, truth be told.

Basically, the mental health organisation I’ve been utilising over the last eighteen months has had its funding pulled by the government; which means I will be losing my support worker in mid-late June. This may not sound like much, but it took me a long time to build a trusting relationship with this person and the thought of losing their support has totally freaked me out.

I have no idea how this is going to impact on my life. I’ve been told they will try to help find me a new support worker via a different organisation, but this is fraught with difficulties (given my lack of psychiatric support and anxiety issues) and may ultimately amount to nothing.

In fact, all I do know at the moment is that I’m not happy about the change and wish it wasn’t happening.

But it is… :(


2 Comments

When Doctors Discriminate

“At least 14 studies have shown that patients with a serious mental illness receive worse medical care than “normal” people. Last year the World Health Organization called the stigma and discrimination endured by people with mental health conditions “a hidden human rights emergency.”
~ Juliann Garey, Aug 10/13 ~

Last week, Kristen from Pride in Madness wrote a post titled When Doctors Discriminate, in which she recounted some of the discrimination she has experienced from medical professionals. It was a post that grabbed me because, over the years, I have been continually shocked and dismayed by the level of discrimination that is shown by people who should know better.

It’s no secret that I’ve had “issues” with various mental health services over the years; “issues” that have caused me to foster a massive distrust of the industry and stopped me from seeking professional support.

What follows are just some of the discriminatory incidents that I’ve experienced from medical professionals:

  • On the 11th October 2007 I attempted suicide. Whilst lost in a delusional state I hiked nearly 50km without food or water from the Melbourne CBD to the Dandenong Rainforest because I believed that if I hung myself there I would save the universe from an apocalyptic event. Whilst I was doing this the police had begun to investigate me as a missing person. When they eventually located me they took me to a major Melbourne hospital in the back of a divvy van and refused to leave me on my own until the hospital staff had taken charge. Fully expecting to be hospitalized – given my mental state and obvious signs of bruising on my neck – I was stunned when the psychiatrist gave me three anti-depressants (no blister pack, just three white pills) and told me to go home because, in his words, “I would be fine”. I wasn’t.
  • Not long after this suicide attempt, I presented to the same hospital after a vicious act of self-harm. Whilst cleaning my wounds they treated me like I was a “naughty little boy” (I was 28) who should “know better”. I was then sent home with no follow-up from a psychiatrist.
  • In January 2008, whilst living homeless in Melbourne, I managed to get myself to a local Mental Health Service after a nasty period of self-harm. In floods of tears I was begging them to hospitalize me as I was terrified I would shortly attempt to take my own life. They refused to help me, informing me that they could only help people who were “a danger to other people, not themselves”, so sent me back to the park in which I was living. Less than twenty-four hours later I attempted suicide.
  • Whilst I was homeless, I was refused help from an NGO because I would not admit to being a drug addict. I wasn’t a drug addict, but they believed because I was homeless, and suffering from mental illness, I had to be a drug addict. Needless to say I was turned away and told to come back when I was willing to admit to my (non-existent) problems.
  • In late 2011 I went to see a psychiatrist to have my recently prescribed levels of lithium checked. I had been taking the drug for a couple of months after it had been prescribed by a different psychiatrist within the same organisation. In less than one hour, this new “psychiatrist” informed me that as a twelve-year old boy “I should have understand the complexities of my sister’s mental illness” and that “it was my fault I had allowed her illness to affect me the way it had”. He told me that “I did not deserve to have children”, that “there was no such thing as multiple diagnosis of mental illness”, that “there was no medication that could help me” and that “I was playacting mental illness in order to escape homelessness”. He immediately stopped my lithium dosage and, after reducing me to a trembling, shaking, crying mess, sent me on my way. I’ve refused to have any contact with psychiatrists or mental health services since this incident.

I strongly urge all of you to read Kristen’s original post and share your own stories of discrimination from medical professionals as, like her, I believe these are stories that need to be told.


Leave a comment

Days 29 & 30: The Long and Winding Road to Recovery

The final two prompts in the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge ask:
~ Day 29: what are a few of your goals regarding your mental health? ~
~ Day 30: what does ‘recovery’ mean to you? ~

road_to_recovery

A little over a year ago, on the 22 October 2012, I wrote a post about recovery that just happens to be the namesake of the final prompt of this challenge. I began the post in my usual random style:

As one half of my psyche lurks in the dangerous yet intoxicating world of nostalgia; recanting the painful, pleasurable and painfully-pleasurable events of the last five years, the other half of my psyche continues on its journey down the road to recovery.

Before continuing with my personal definition of ‘recovery’:

Recovery means living; not existing or surviving.

Recovery means allowing myself to be better version of myself. To not be controlled by the demons, anger and confusion of the past. To accept that these events happened and that I was strong enough to not let them drag me into the undertow. To understand that mistakes were made and to learn self-forgiveness. To give myself permission to move on from these mistakes and not let them define me.

Recovery means learning how to love myself. To accept that I do not deserve to be alone for the rest of my life because I am a caring, loving, talented and passionate human being with much to offer the world. To not allow the abuse I received to continue defining my personality. To understand that I am a wonderful person who deserves everything his heart desires.

Recovery means believing in myself. To set realistic goals that I can work toward; goals that I know I deserve to achieve. To stop endlessly belittling and playing down my achievements and realize that I am a man of many talents and skills. To give myself permission to be the man I know I am in my heart.

~ from “What does recovery mean to you?

Compared to where I was when I wrote this definition, I have moved further toward the mythical (yet achievable) realm of recovery; I’m partaking in more meaningful activity, I’m (very) slowly forming new friendships, I am (slightly) more contented with my life and although I don’t have hope for a better future, I do have dreams that I would like to achieve.

When it comes to my mental health, some of these dreams/goals that come to mind are:

1. Social Anxiety
  • Reduce my anxiety in social situations, such as: shopping, walking down the street etc.
  • Broaden my social options, such as: (re)continue going to munches, find new avenues to make friends etc.
  • Be able to contribute more, such as during support/social groups or online (comments, emails etc.)
2. Hearing Voices
  • Build a better relationship with Vanessa and Shay.
  • Continue building a better relationship with Audrey.
  • Maintain the relationship I’ve built with Meadhbh.
  • Co-facilitate a session of the Hearing Voices Support Group I attend,
  • Find a way to contribute more with Hearing Voices Networks across the world.
3. PTSD
  • Reduce the amount of nightmares/flashbacks I experience.
  • Re-empower some of the more prominent triggers I experience.
  • Reduce the amount of time I spend in a ‘heightened state’.
4. Bipolar
  • Stabilize my mood swings/episodes
    I’ve crossed this from the list as now I am back on a medication regime, I am close to achieving this! :)
5. Body Image Issues
6. Related Issues
  • Manage my finances more proficiently; such as reducing comfort spending etc.
  • Continue eating a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Continue going to the gym three times a week (at least!)
  • Continue blogging in order to share my experiences and (hopefully) inspire others.
  • Find a way to tackle my crippling car/bus anxiety so I can take more trips outside of Wodonga.
  • Co-facilitate another social/support group for people with mental health issues.
  • Undertake more public speaking, with the hope to inspire others by sharing my story.
  • Continue working with GT House so I can continue having help with all of the above! :)

With all of that said, I promise to keep you updated as to if/when I am able to cross items from this list! :)

And this marks the end of the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge! If you missed any of the installments, you can catch up on them by checking out the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge category. :)

Society does need to talk more about mental illness, and even though this challenge has been completed, I vow to continue talking about it (in my own random way!) until the stigma against it has been spanked into submission once and for all.

I’d like to thank everyone for their wonderfully kind and supportive comments over the last thirty days and a huge thank you to Marci, who created this challenge and made all my posts this Mental Health Month possible! :)


1 Comment

Day 26: Ten ways my mental illness(es) effect my day-to-day life

Day twenty-six of the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge asks:
How is your day-to-day life effected by your mental illness(es)?

Ten ways my mental illness(es) effect my day-to-day life

social

~ in no particular order ~

1. Social Inclusion

One of the worst things about my mental illness(es) is the immense loneliness I feel on a daily basis. It’s difficult for people to understand how painful it is to be on your own for as long as I have (coming on six and a half years!) And it’s just as problematic for people to understand the difficulties this can cause; “forgetting” how to be social, problems expressing basic needs, the inability to express emotions, the crippling pain of lack of nurture and so much more that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

2. Shop Assistants

This is tied in to point (1) above. My lack of social skills which have arisen from such an elongated period of isolation means that heading to a shop counter to purchase products (be it food, medication or clothes) is immensely difficult. In fact, I plan my shopping trips around stores which have ‘self-serve’ counters so I don’t find myself in a situation where I have to talk to a stranger, even if this means travelling several kilometers out of my way.

3. Self-Hygiene

Due to my body image/body dysmorphic issues I will not look at myself in a mirror or put myself in a position where I see myself naked. Therefore, shaving is an extremely difficult action whilst having a shower is a painfully anxious procedure of closed eyes, swimming shorts and T-Shirts.

4. Finances

Whether it is a result of my bipolar, an innate inability to be financially aware or just a product of living in abject poverty, one of the primary problems I have on a day-to-day basis is balancing the books. Saving for the future, paying bills on time and keeping a stocked larder are all immensely difficult for me, regardless of how embarrassing that is to admit.

5. Cooking

My cooking is entirely dependent on my moods. If I’m manic, I won’t cook, in fact I’ll rarely eat. If I’m depressed, I won’t cook, but I will binge of unhealthy junk food. If I’m stable I’ll spend hours in the kitchen experimenting with all manner of new recipes and foodstuffs.

The problem is, I’m rarely ‘stable’! :/

6. Sleep

One of the most important periods of any day is the period that we spend asleep. It recharges us, reinvigorates both mind and body and grants us the ability to face another day with a smile on our face. My sleep is scattered and uneven, rarely restorative and fraught with nightmares, random sleepwalking and tears. It’s a pain in the arse…and not of the kinkily pleasurable kind!

7. Living in a Heightened State

In order to protect myself, I live in an eternal heightened state of anxiety; constantly aware of everything that is going on around me and the possible dangers these things (may) hold. As such, I am constantly stressed, never relaxed. It’s bloody exhausting!

8. Psychosomatic Symptoms

As a result of living in such a constant state of stress, the psychosomatic symptoms I experience (namely headaches, body aches, sweating, hiccups and digestive issues) will often govern my actions. They will stop me going out, lessen my enjoyment if I do go out and rarely leave my mind at any point during the day.

9. Isolating Myself

As a result of a number of the above items (such as: 8, 7, 6 and 1) I will hideaway, even if I have important things to do, which often causes problems with daily errands and lessens the chance of combating my social anxiety.

10. Hugs

They say you need 30-40 hugs a day to survive…I’ve had 3 in the last five years! Enough said.


Leave a comment

Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment?

The 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge continues, with:
What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment

Perhaps my view of this would be different had I ever been the victim of forced treatment for my mental health issues, but I’m not a strong supporter of coercive measures when it comes to mental health. In fact, the only times I could understand its necessity would be if a person was a serious danger to other people or that they are so unwell (i.e. suicidal, psychotic, delusional) they are unable to make their own rational decisions.

I know there have been times during my life when I wish a mental health agency, psychiatrist or doctor had forced hospitalization on me (e.g. my suicide attempts in 2007 and 2008 spring to mind, as do numerous periods of psychosis). If such an action had been made, although I would have vehemently hated it at the time, it’s possible that such hospitalization would have saved me a lot of pain and distress. But then, it’s equally possible that it would have caused more pain and distress.

As for the forced help from a friend/family member, although it can be difficult to watch someone you care about spiral out of control, sometimes all you can do is wait for them to realise they need help, for forcing it upon them may push them further away and worsen the situation.

After all, the saying ‘you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped’ is a classic for a reason.


Leave a comment

Day 20: Where do you get your support?

The 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge continues, with:
Day 20: Where do you get your support?

heart

The support I receive for my mental health issues comes from four different fronts:

#1: Gateway Community Health

Gateway Community Health is a local community health hub, containing GPs, pathology, counseling (for drug, alcohol and/or gambling problems) and youth and indigenous services.

The mental health aspect of Gateway Community Health is called GT House, a psychosocial rehabilitation day program that provides group and individual psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery services.

Through GT House I undertake a number of social and support groups as well as receive one-to-one support through my keyworker, one of the few human beings that I trust. The fact they operate using a recovery-orientated approach – meaning they view me as a whole person rather than individual labels – has been a massive help to me, given my dislike of the psychiatric approach to mental illness.

In the seven years since my breakdown, Gateway (and GT House) are the only organisation that have offered me any support with my mental health and trauma, and without them I’d probably be dead.

#2: My parents

Although they live on the other side of the world, my parents have done their absolute best to support me over the last seven years. It hasn’t been easy – especially when I’ve been trapped in manic, hypomanic and depressive episodes – but they’ve always done all they can, despite the problems they face in their own lives.

#3: My people

Some may consider my people part of the problems I face, and certainly this is the case in respect to Vanessa and Shay, but since February of this year Meadhbh has become one of my primary supports.; she soothes me when I’m upset, distracts me when I’m overwhelmed with self-harm urges, rewards me when I do something awesome and chastises me when I’m pushing myself too hard. Audrey, also, has become a friendly voice in my ear over the last few months.

I also count the Hearing Voices Support Group I attend as part of this front, as my collaboration with them has not only enabled me to understand my voices better, but helped me forge the relationships mentioned above.

#4: Myself

I’m not sure how contentious this front will be, but having spent the better part of the last seven years completely on my own, I’ve learnt that sometimes the only person you can rely on is yourself.

Over the years, I’ve developed a number of strict coping strategies (both healthy and unhealthy) that help me manage my sometimes distressing and uncomfortable mood swings, anxiety and PTSD.

Without this determination (and self-compassion), it is doubtful I would be writing this today.

And as I type these words, it occurs to me that if I had answered this post last October, it would include only items #2 and #4; which is an indication of just how much things have changed (and how hard I’ve worked) over the last twelve months! :)