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…


4 Comments

Reflections on being homeless, Part 8

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, the end of my homelessness nears…

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS
| PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 |

Christmas Under Canvas (Days 898 – 903)

It was the Salvation Army who helped me get a tent. After years of having no shelter, having something that resembled a ‘home’ was a totally new experience for me. Seeking some security for the Christmas period I checked into a campsite (paying somewhat extortionate fees for the experience) and pitched my new home amidst a sea of caravans and cabins.

I can remember this Christmas more clearly than virtually any other during my homeless experience. I can remember curling up in my blankets on a chilly Christmas Eve, rain pouring onto the canvas above my head, reading Ben Elton’s Past Mortem. I can remember being thankful for my tent during such a vicious storm, having been drenched by so many of them in the past two years. I can remember vividly attending a locally run Christmas Lunch for people in need; how succulent the turkey tasted, how the vegetables melted in my mouth, how the custard smothered the Christmas Pudding. And I can remember how bizarre it was that a local journalist interviewed me for a piece in the local newspaper, which featured one of the few photographs taken of me during the last seven years.

The rain lasted well into Boxing Day, and I sheltered from it reading more books under the cover of my tent; Jason Pinter’s The Stolen, Frank Perretti’s Monster and Robin Bowles’ Justice Denied. However lonely I felt, however lost I was, being able to hide from the world for the first time in years was a prize I relished. It had provided me with a truly relaxing Christmas period; a period that I will remember always as being one of the highlights of my homeless experience.

But as with everything in my life, such peace was not to last long, for by New Year my recent Marcus Kelman interlude rose its ugly head and drove me to turn to alcohol for the first time since becoming homeless in 2009.

My last suicide attempt (Day 907)

The last time I attempted suicide was on the 30 December 2011. I had spent much of the day sitting in my tent drinking through several bottles of wine before deciding to ‘go for a walk’ (read: stagger) very late in the evening. Not knowing the locale all that well, I meandered along a couple of roads, discovered a cemetery and then stumbled upon a railway line. Given my inebriated state, I don’t recall the moment that I decided my action, I just remember thinking that if I laid down on the railway line sooner or later a train would come and dismember me as I slept. So I positioned myself over the sleepers and, after a while, allowed myself to drift off to sleep knowing that it would be one I would unlikely wake from.

So when I woke up the next morning, several hours later, I was deeply surprised that I was still intact let alone breathing. Realising that I had failed once again I got up, shook myself down, had a quick vomit and began to slowly make my way back to my tent.

It wasn’t until several days later that I learnt the flaw behind my ‘train will hit me as I sleep’ reasoning; the train-line I had slept on was no longer in operation, replaced instead by one a couple of kilometres away.

New Year, New Outlook (Days 909 – 939)

Having spent another New Year homeless, lost and isolated, I vowed to myself as the calendar turned to 2012 that this would be the final New Year I would spend homeless. Sitting in the cemetery watching the fireworks blaze up around the town I realised that I had to syphon what little hope I had left (which at this point wasn’t much) into trying to find a way off the streets. I couldn’t handle another boarding house, so I knew it would have to be my own place, however difficult and impossible this seemed.

By now I was slowly starting to get to know the new town I had found myself in – Wodonga – and decided that I should return to applying for private rentals. Early in my homelessness I had spent many hours applying for such apartments and rental units, all to no avail, but thought that being in a smaller town may prove more fruitful in my search.

Thus, shortly after New Year, I began applying for whatever property I could reasonably afford. I spent my days scouring the local paper, visiting real estate agents and trundling along to viewings. I submitted application after application, all the while hoping that someone would take pity on the life of a homeless wretch and honour him with the opportunity to prove he was more than capable of renting his own property.

After a couple of weeks with no luck my initial flourish of activity began to fade. There were only so many affordable units in such a small town and with nothing offered to me so far I began to realise it was doubtful anything would be.

One of the main problems with being homeless is that most of society pigeon-hole you into the ‘no chance’ category. You’re not considered for rental properties in the same way that someone who works is because you are viewed as being no longer ‘part of society’. It’s the same mentality that governs work and friendship; it is much easier to find work and make new friends when you already have work and friends, because otherwise people wonder what’s wrong with you. Instead of being considered for my merits, people would have seen my homelessness (not helped by the recent newspaper article) and tossed my application aside.

So after three or four weeks I gave up and began spending what little money I had in the local pokie venues.

The thrall of light and sound

My first foray into the world of gambling in Australian pokie venues occurred in the months after my breakdown in 2007. It was a means of escaping from the pain and trauma that was happening to me. I would take a small amount of money and spend hours losing myself to the sights and sounds of the various machines, relishing each small victory and cursing every major defeat. I knew it was something I should not be doing, but it was the only joy I had during such a painful and destructive time.

So it came as little surprise to me that, after weeks of trying to obtain secure accommodation to no avail, that I would turn to old habits to ease my pain. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I’m glad happened, for it led to me contact a gambling help line, who referred me to a local counselling service and, for the first time in years, I began seeing a counsellor who I slowly began to open up to about everything that was happening to me.

This counsellor helped me realise that I shouldn’t give up on applying for rental properties. That although my life had been fraught with pain and devastation for longer than most could deal with, it didn’t always have to be like that.

The phone call (Day 957)

I was sitting in the local library, reading the daily newspaper, when my mobile phone rang. Usually the phone only rang during the evening, when my parents would call from the UK, so at first I thought something catastrophic had happened at home that had forced them to call in the middle of the night (their time). But it wasn’t. The person at the end of the phone worked for a local real estate company and their message was simple; my application had been approved and I could move into my own unit, just so long as I paid them the bond and two weeks rent in advance.

At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. I thought it was someone’s sick idea of humour. But a visit to the real estate agent proved these fears untrue. All that work, all those years of hardship, all those 957 days of pain and torment would soon be over.

The Last Days of Homelessness (Days 958 – 960)

Kindly, my parents and relatives helped organise the bond and rent that I needed to secure the accommodation. They, like me, were overwhelmed with the chance I had been given and knew that I couldn’t pass it up. I spent much of the next three days lost in a mist of productivity; organising money transfers, signing forms, paying money, smirking like a lunatic hyped up on some form of illegal narcotic. And by the Thursday (trust me, it was definitely a Thursday – the 23rd February in fact) everything was sorted and I could move into my new unit.

Walking into the building for the first time, tossing my meagre possessions to the carpet and closing the door behind me, are all memories that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. After years of living in parks, alleys, boarding houses and hovels, I had a place that was ‘mine’; a roof that was ‘mine’; a home that was ‘mine’.

With no furniture I slept on the floor that night, overwhelmed with the week’s events and unable to process the results of my hard (hard) work. I remember a phone call from my dad waking me up and I just told him it was over; I had moved in and everything had worked out.

The relief in his voice was palpable.

A new life (Day 1…)

Home

~ Home ~

 


1 Comment

Eleven memories of Christmastide throughout my life

Christmastide

The Christmas Festivities (from Christmastide by W. Sandys)

1. There was definitely a reindeer in the house! (Christmas Day, 1985)

My earliest Christmas memory occurred in 1985 when, after running downstairs to tear open our presents, my siblings and I discovered a reindeer hoof-print on the living-room carpet. We were adamant that this proved Santa was not only real, but had ridden his sleigh through our front room.

Of course, the reality was our parents had decided to draw this hoof-print on the carpet in order to keep the magic of Christmas alive in their little darlings for another year. Or did they?

2. The punishment cushion (Somewhere between Christmas and New Year, 1986[?])

I’ll admit that as memories go, this one is rather random. I’ll also admit that I’m not entirely sure of the date, but am adamant that it occurred sometime in the days between Christmas and New Year.

It was one during one of those post-Christmas Day lunches that was made up of a metric ton of cold meat, boiled potatoes, salad and (the ubiquitous) Brussel Sprouts. Feeling somewhat frustrated and annoyed I was acting up; flicking food over the table, stomping my feet and generally being an annoying little devil. Although I had been told to behave on several occasions, nothing had worked, so, after a potato had splatted against a wall my parents had had enough. Informing me that I’d get a smacked bottom if my behavior continued in this manner I did what any child would have done – pushed them even further!

This caused my mother to rise sternly and move around the table. I found my feet and made a bolt for the living room door, only to have her grab the back of my trackie-dacks and pull me face down onto the floor. Expecting her to soundly smack my rather vulnerable backside I panicked; only to become immensely relieved when she pulled a cushion over my butt before smacking that.

As punishments go, it could have been worse!

3. Starter for Ten (Boxing Day, 1992)

Back when I was but a cherub-faced teenager, various members of the Lake family used to gather in the one location on Boxing Day. At its peak, these annual days of celebration would draw nearly twenty people vying for attention, gastronomic delights and entertainment. In order to oblige the latter, we would often dip into the board game collection, cramming around the table for epic games of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit or Sorry.

After a couple of these family based funfests, I decided to up-the-anti and began concocting elaborate quizzes (usually film and television based) in order to test the knowledge of my respective family members and prove how utterly awesome I was when it came to the field of film and television.

The questions generally ranged from quite difficult to utterly impossible and very few people ever scored more than half a dozen from the fifty odd questions posed to them. But it was always a joy to create and chair those quizzes.

In fact, in these days of lonely, isolated Christmases, it is those quizzes that I miss the most.

4. Sausage, Egg and Chips (2 January 1991[?])

This is one of those stories that will no doubt be passed down from generation to generation within the Lake family.

Various members of the Lake family had gathered at a five-star restaurant to celebrate the birthday of my Aunt. The food, as you would expect from such an esteemed establishment, was all top of the range ingredients and intricately prepared dishes. But I didn’t like the sound of any of them. I’ve never been one for veal, I’ve never been a big fan of lamb and the descriptions of the items – which came with more adjectives than any menu should have – did nothing to entice me into eating any of it.

Getting a bit grouchy, my father asked me what I wanted, so I answered with what was at the time my favourite dish; sausage, egg and chips. Hearing my request, the birthday woman summoned one of the service staff, who scooted off to the kitchen to inform the chef. Shortly after, as everyone else was being brought extravagant gastronomic creations, I was brought a plate of sausage, egg and chips; with the eggs being served fresh to my plate via silver-service.

This was the only time I ever made a personal request at a restaurant and, I fear, my anxiety will prevent me from making any further random requests in the future. But, believe me, did I feel special that night!

sausageeggchips

“I was brought a plate of sausage, egg and chips; with the eggs served fresh to my plate via silver-service.”

5. Meadhbh has her way (Christmas Day, 1995)

For as long as I can remember, Meadhbh has encouraged me to wear women’s clothing. In her opinion it’s more exciting, more colourful and more adventurous than the stale, boring and uninspiring options available for men. In fact, if Meadhbh had her way, women’s clothing would be the only thing I’d wear.

Generally, I’m strong enough to withstand her constant badgering, but there have been occasions through my life when, weakened by depression, I’m unable to. One such occasion occurred when I was a teenager, when Meadhbh decided that I should be wearing a purple polka-dot skirt, white blouse and make-up to celebrate Christmas with my family.

She thought I looked stunningly good, my family (and I) however, didn’t.

6. Silent Night (New Year’s Eve, 2000)

To say I’ve never really celebrated New Year would be an understatement. It’s one of those contemporary traditions that I’ve never quite understood. We don’t celebrate the end of a month, or the end of a day, so why do we feel the need to crack open the champagne and cheer on the change of a calendar’s digit at the end of a year? As such, my New Years are generally quiet and laid back affairs, often spent chilling in front of the television or conversing with (when I had them) friends and girlfriends.

Of all the New Years I’ve celebrated, the one that is most memorable is steeped in silence. When it came to mark the 1999/2000 New Year I was living in a backpacker hostel in Inverness. Although alcohol was a large component of that period, there was little of it drunk that night, instead four of us sat on a wall in the back garden of the hostel, silently watching the fireworks ignite the Scottish sky above.

One of the most peaceful (and memorable) moments of my life.

7. Losing my virginity (1 January 2001)

Some people I’ve spoken to would rather not remember the time they lost their virginity. But for me it’s one of the happiest moments of my life, for I lost my virginity at the beginning of the new millennium, on my favourite Scottish island, to someone I had genuine feelings for.

An unequivocally blissful moment of my life.

8. Happy Feet (Christmas Day, 2006)

This was, in retrospect, my last ‘happy’ Christmas. For the first time in eight years – courtesy of traveling and emigration – I was able to spend the day with my family. Although my parents wanted to spend Christmas on the beach – as many travellers from the UK want to do – the truly appalling weather that battered Melbourne that year meant we were forced to alter our plans. Instead of the beach, we spent the day meandering around Crown casino; opening presents, playing the pokies and eating dirt-cheap fish ‘n’ chips.

Once the limited appeal of poker machines had faded we decided to head upstairs to catch a movie and, after much deliberation, decided upon the newly released animated classic ‘Happy Feet’. Although I fell asleep half way through the film – courtesy of soon-to-be-diagnosed Glandular Fever – the positive memories of the movie, and the entire day, have never faded from my mind. For, unlike all other Christmases that I’ve spent in Australia, this one actually saw me happy for the majority of the day.

happyfeet

“For, unlike all other Christmases that I’ve spent in Australia, this one actually saw me happy for the majority of the day.”

9. Who wants a relaxing Christmas (Christmas Day, 2006)

Unfortunately, the happiness that overwhelmed me on Christmas Day 2006 (see item [8] above) could not last. Within an hour of leaving the cinema and bidding farewell to my parents, I had a conversation with my then girlfriend; the girlfriend who would soon become known as ‘the abusive one’.

Within twenty minutes of talking to her she had criticized what I had done throughout the day (which wasn’t as adventurous as she wanted me to be), pointed out how I wasn’t making enough effort to wish my friends happy Christmas (even though I’d wished as many as I was able a happy Christmas) and attacked me for how I’d worded a Christmas e-card greeting I’d sent her earlier that day (she took offense to my use of the word ‘relaxing’).

By the end of the conversation, all sense of happiness and Christmas joy had dissipated, replaced with an overwhelming frustration and deep sense of worthlessness.

10. The worst Christmas present I ever received (Christmas Day, 2008)

It is only in recent years that I have become a staunch anti-Christmas Grinch. Many moons ago, I was the first person to hang tinsel from the walls, throw a tree into the corner of the room and annoy everyone and their dog by loudly singing Christmas tunes at all hours of the day and night. But all that changed when my girlfriend gave me the worst Christmas present I’ve ever received; a present that, no matter what I do, haunts my Christmas Days from beginning to end.

In 2008 I was living in Alice Springs. I had a job, I had a girlfriend and I was – aside from the depressive episode I’d slipped into – coping relatively well. In the lead up to Christmas we’d decorated my unit with a tree, hung sparkly decorations and planned for the best Christmas we could possibly muster.

The only problem was I hadn’t realised that my girlfriend’s idea of ‘best Christmas’ entailed sleeping with one of our friends. Now, for those of you who’ve never had someone cheat on you, be very, very thankful – for it hurts like an absolute bitch! There I was, cooking the roast for the two of us to chow down on that night, and there she was, rollicking and rolling around in bed with our friend.

But to be honest, that wasn’t the worst of it. What hurt even more was that when she finally returned home she decided that it was my job to fix her broken heart because she felt like she’d been “used” by our friend. Given the practice I’d put in during my prior abusive relationship, I dutifully slipped into appeasement mode, doing everything I could to cheer her up and ensure her day ended on a high. All the while feeling like my very heart had been torn from my body, thrown into a gutter and carried off by a rabid pack of dingoes!

I’ve hated Christmas ever since.

11. A Homeless Christmas (Christmas Day, 2011)

There are few things in life as depressing and lonely as a homeless Christmas. Not only do you not have anyone to spend the day with, you don’t even have a home to hide away in. Instead, you roam the streets like an unloved hobo wishing upon whatever you believe in that the day would just disappear.

My last homeless Christmas was spent enjoying a Christmas dinner cooked by a local charitable organisation before relishing in the quiet desolation offered by the local cemetery.

However much I hate Christmas now, I am eternally grateful that I have a home in which to seek solace throughout the big day, for this, and the other Christmases I spent homeless, showed me what real loneliness feels like. And trust me; you don’t want to experience it. Ever!

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight | Day Nine |
| Day Ten |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


3 Comments

Nine places I’d like to go in 2014

One of the hardest things about living in poverty is how hard it is to actually go anywhere. Most of the time I’m thinking exclusively about food and survival, not where my annual vacation is going to be. But after last year’s Melbourne trip, I realise the power that having something to look forward to can provide. As such, I haven’t simply chosen destinations that I know I’ll never get to, but rather a mix of the highly unlikely and absolutely doable.

I may as well kick off this list with the places that, if money were no obstacle, I wouldn’t hesitate to visit over the next twelve months, beginning with Canada. Ever since visiting this wide, luscious land in 2000 I’ve wanted to return. I’ve wanted to hike the great lakes and forests of Jasper, meander the endless streets of Toronto and visit, for the first time, the provinces of the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland. But as such a trip would be a mammoth (and expensive) undertaking, I can’t see it happening unless I happen to win the lottery. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dreaming! :)

Up there with Canada as dream destinations would be a return to my home away from home, Inverness, and a couple of weeks in the European city of Greece, not because I want to help them fiscally but because in October they are hosting the World Hearing Voices Congress, which I would rather like to attend.

But like I said, in order to succeed in some of these destinations, I’ve had to think a little closer to home, with the obvious starting points being Woolshed Falls and Tasmania, the latter of which I’ve wanted to visit since before I arrived in this sunburnt land.

Two more places I’d like to visit over the next twelve months are rather non-specific, as many destinations all over the world would suit my purposes. Following last year’s regret of not visiting the ocean when I was in Melbourne, I am more resolved than ever to paddle in the cool sea this year. I’d also very much like to attend a pub trivia night so will need to manufacture a trivia team to compete at any of the plentiful local venues who offer such entertaining evenings! :)

And lastly, I have chosen a place that is far more spiritual than geographical, for I would very much like to pay a visit to the state of complete relaxation; where none of life’s stressors, worries and frustrations are invited.

Complete Relaxation

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven | Day Eight |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


3 Comments

Eight minutes to share my opinion on New Year’s Resolutions

happy-new-year

~ This post was freewritten between 12:13am and 12:21am on the 1 January 2014 ~

For as many New Year’s as I can remember, I’ve never made a resolution. Not one. Ever. The way I see it, New Year’s resolutions are a token gesture, a promise we make ourselves that we have no real intention of keeping.

Sure, people start off meaning well. If they’ve resolved to quit cigarettes they may make it to the 4th or 5th of January, others may last until March or April, but the moment a particularly enjoyable night on the turps occurs the resolution is forgotten and the smokes come out. Similarly, you can bet your beautiful bottoms that gyms the world over will be heaving over the next few weeks as everyone who’ve resolved to spend more time at the gym hit the treadmills and pump the weights until their hectic lives take over and all good intentions are forgotten.

The problem with resolutions is that they are an absolute. There is no room for error in a resolution. If you resolve to stop eating cake, even eating one crumb of delicious chocolate gateaux means you’ve failed. And as a smarter man than me once said, there are no absolutes in life, so why do people persist in imposing them on themselves? Surely that’s just setting yourself up for failure?

A better option is to make plans; specific, accountable, trackable, achievable hopes for the year ahead. Goals are not absolute; they are organic, easily interchangeable with the fluctuations and constancy of life. Instead of resolving to go to the gym, why not make a goal to lose weight, this way if things come up in your life (which I guarantee they will) you can alter your plans to replace the gym with nightly walks and/or eating healthier food?

But with all that said – and with the statistics weighted against me (they say that 80% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first two weeks of January) – I have decided that 2014 is the year that I make my first resolution. The first time I’ve decided to set myself an absolute. Where there is only success of failure.

This year, I vow to stop drinking all forms of soft drink!
(Note, this does not include non-sugar cordial with soda water)

And the reason behind this decision? The reason why I’m setting myself this resolution now, after thirty-five years on the planet without making one? Simple. I want 2014 to be different. I want it to be epic. I want it to be the sort of year people will one day tell their great-grandchildren about. And what better way to state this intention than to do something so grotesquely out of character?

So you could say that in 2014 I’m setting myself two resolutions:

This year, I vow to stop drinking all forms of soft drink!
(Note, this does not include non-sugar cordial with soda water)

And, I vow to make 2014 the best year in my life. Bar none.

Who wants to start a poll as to which one I’ll fail in first?

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |
| Day Seven |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


1 Comment

2013: My year in blogging

Weekly Photo Challenge - Forward

My favourite of the “Weekly Photo Challenge” photographs (23 February 2013)

Over the course of the last twelve months I’ve published in excess of 265 blog posts. By some bloggers’ standards that’s nothing, but for me, blogging as I do about such niche topics as mental health, homelessness and the (occasionally kinky) life of a socially isolated outcast, it’s an achievement to be proud of. Although a large proportion of those 265 odd posts have been forgettable, time-killing garbage, some have shone my soul to the world for all to see.

As we approach the end of the year, I’ve found myself in quite a reflective (and uncharacteristically positive) mood.  To mark the end of twelve months of blogging, I’ve decided to share with you my favourite blog posts of the last twelve months.

So if you missed them on first publication – or have simply forgotten their unqualified brilliance – now’s the chance to (re)discover the blog posts that I’m especially proud of.

~ in order of being published ~

01. February 14thBeating Addiction Out of You…literally!

Courtesy of a lengthy depressive episode over the Christmas/New Year period I didn’t write all that many posts during the first month of this year, and what I did write was self-loathing, borderline suicidal ramblings. But that all changed on the 14th February when – after being inspired by an article in the Siberian Times – I wrote a piece that explored a rather radical form of psychological treatment; corporal punishment. Of course, being the somewhat random and obscure human being that I am, I concluded that I would be willing to give it a go. What about you?

If I were being completely honest – as I always strive to be on this blog – I would definitely be willing to give this course of therapy a chance. Over the years I have taken many different medications, undergone countless different therapies and tried every last thing I can think of that could help me get my life back on track. So far, very little of this has worked.

With my episode worsening and the recent collapse back into alcoholism, I’ve reached a point where I’m willing to give anything a shot – even if it means sacrificing my ability to sit comfortably! Although thinking about it, I’d much prefer this to some of the more severe side effects I’ve received from medication over the years!

02. February 14thHearing Voices: Introducing the People I Hear

This post was a turning point not only in the history of my blog, but also my life. Aside from a brief post back in 2007 and the occasional non-specific mention, I had never written about my voices before. But in this post I blew the secret wide open and introduced the primary five people who communicate with me on daily basis. So if you’re confused by the frequent references to Meadhbh (pronounced as Marie), Audrey, Vanessa and Shay, you can find out who they are here!

03. February 21stCoping Skills

In which I posted my responses to Indigo Daya’s superb ‘Coping Skills’ resource. To my surprise, over the last twelve months this post has become the second most read post on my blog!

04. February 25thCoping Skills: The Negative Thought Challenge

During the aforementioned ‘Coping Skills’ post, one of the coping skills featured was to make a list of all the negative thoughts that plague your mind and then write about how (and why) they are not true. Although I found it easy to list all the negative thoughts that my mind throws at me, convincing myself they weren’t true was a little more difficult, especially when it came to how I would react if a friend treated themselves in the manner that I treat myself.

If any of my friends thought like this I’d put them over my knee and spank some sense into them!

But once I’d been released from prison on assault charges (unless the spanking had been consensual, that is :p) I would sit them down and tell them how unhealthy it was to think like that, how brilliant, beautiful and awesome they are and how these thoughts were the product of low self-esteem, low self-confidence and (possible) mental health and abuse trauma related issues.

05. April 10thMi Recovery: The Biopsychosocial Model

Between April and June I underwent a psychosocial rehabilitation group called Mi Recovery. It was a peer led group that allowed sufferers of mental health issues to share their life’s experiences and create new coping mechanisms to help them deal with this crazy little thing called life.

One of the first things we looked at was the biopsychosocial model; specifically applying the causes, symptoms and treatment of our mental illness to this model. In this post I shared my own personal biopsychosocial model and encouraged others to create their own, based purely on how helpful the exercise had been for me.

06. April 14th101 Things that make me happy

As I’ve been writing this blog for over six years, I’m always looking for new challenges to undertake. In April of this year I decided to challenge myself to come up with a list of 101 things that make me happy. Some of them were poignant, some a little kinky, others completely random…but I did succeed.

Which makes me happy! :D

07. September 19thIf you care about what other people think, you will always be their prisoner

Of all the password protected posts I’ve written this year, this was my favourite. Not only because it was immensely personal, sharing as it did a rather private and embarrassing pastime, but because it revolved around memories of my friend Samantha and the life lessons the simple act of self-love had taught us.

08. October 6thPublically raising awareness of mental health

On the 7th October millions of things happened all over the world. In a tiny little hamlet in Australia, one of those things was me performing my first ever public talk. What I shared was intensely personal, (most likely) triggering and – as many people told me afterwards – made the audience sit up in their seats and take notice. In this post I shared with the blogging community the exact words that I would go on to share with the public; a letter to my younger self.

My name is Andrew, I’m 34 years old, I exist in Wodonga and I’ve been fighting on the front line against mental illness since I was thirteen years old.

I’ve cut myself to sleep more times than I can remember; I’ve exploded boxes of matches in my hand; tried to hang myself; suffocate myself and drown myself. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be touched, hugged or kissed. I’ve been a sufferer, a carer, a survivor and a nobody. I’ve had more conversations with people only I can hear than I’ve had conversations with people who actually exist and I’ve believed for as long as I can remember that the mythical realm of Death is the only place where I will be accepted for just being me.  I’ve had to deal with more crap than I’d wish on my worst enemy; neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, social isolation, homelessness and – rather obviously – PTSD from…well…all of the above!

09. October 9thAll of life’s most important events

One of the exercises I completed as part of the Mi Recovery program I undertook this year (see item 05) was to draw a timeline of the major events of my life. It was in this post that I shared my intricate (and somewhat elaborate) drawings with the world.

10. October 10thWorld Mental Health Day: An older person’s perspective

The focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day was ‘older people and mental health’. In order to commemorate the day I decided to conduct an interview with two people who have worked closely on both sides of the mental health community for over twenty years; my parents.

DAD: To be a parent of someone with mental illness is horrendous. A parent always wants to make things better but we can’t. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible in most cases to completely make someone with a mental illness completely “better”. It’s a matter of coming to terms with the condition your child has and accepting their new persona and capabilities, but this is extremely hard.

11. October 22ndMy (not very high) opinion of psychiatric medication

As the title suggests, I’m not a big supporter of psychiatric medication. In fact, I’m not a strong supporter of the psychiatric model, period. In this post I elaborated upon six of the reasons why I don’t like meds of any description, even though I take them on a daily basis!

12. December 22ndOne Day in Glasgow

Yep, it’s the post that’s so random hardly anyone read it. But it’s one I’m immensely proud of, not only because it’s gloriously personal (and rather self-indulgent) but because it’s one of the rare occasions on this blog where I focused purely on happy memories. In fact, I think I smiled more times whilst writing this post than all of the other posts combined!

Samantha was an incredible woman; intelligent, charming and ravishingly beautiful. She had a mature, almost philosophical outlook on this crazy thing called life, yet despite this maturity there was a delicious immature streak running throughout her soul; equally at ease playing with crayons as she was debating the age-old question of why we’re here.

It was almost impossible to meet Samantha without falling in love with her on some level. She never judged, never held grudges and had an almost super-human ability to draw the best out of people.

But none of this means she was perfect, far from it. Samantha worked too hard; filling almost every moment of her life with a project, scheme or double-shift at work, all of which leaving little time for play or relaxing. And when she did relax, she ventured far too easily into the world of illegal narcotics, with ecstasy and speed being her drugs of choice; a choice that would ultimately spell her untimely end.

But this post is not about her death, nor my reaction to it, that will follow in good time. This post is about my memories of her. It is about the day Samantha took time off from her life to hang out with a slightly overweight, mentally ill man who, according to her journal, made her feel happiness like no-one she’d ever met.

-♥-

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your support, readership and affection over the last twelve months. I hope that the New Year begins in a suitably awesome fashion for each and every one of you and I look forward to entertaining, enlightening and (hopefully) inspiring you throughout 2014.

:-)


3 Comments

Seven wonderful things that happened to me in 2013

Koala Bear

Koala Bear at Melbourne Zoo; my personal favourite photograph taken in 2013 | © Addy

If 2007 was the year of breakdowns and abuse; 2008 the year of false-hope; 2010 the year of forgotten memories and 2012 the year of found-hope, then 2013 was the year of achievement. Even my negative obsessed mind has had a hard time dissing the monumental leaps I’ve taken in both mental-health and personal development over the last twelve months.

So as 2013 draws to a speedy close, what better way to celebrate than bask in my glorious achievements and relay several of the most wonderful things that have happened to me over the last twelve months! :)

7. Building stronger (and healthier) relationships with my people…

This time last year I was at odds with all of my voices. When they spoke to me it was always abusive, derogatory content that made me despise myself on a level almost impossible to relate via words alone.

Twelve months on, courtesy of some ruddy hard work, we’ve managed to change this. Although Vanessa and Shay are as abusive and misogynistic as ever, Audrey has become a guiding voice of intelligence and reason; sporadically dressing up as Harley Quinn to entertain me and keeping me grounded with lengthy conversations about all things literary and artistic. Meanwhile, Meadhbh has returned to the playful, protective spirit that kept me safe during my angst-laden teenage years; eager to play with me whenever possible and never too shy to throw in her two-cents about what I should be doing with my life.

Of all the things that have happened throughout the last twelve months, creating this change in my voices is something I am eternally proud of, and proof that if you work hard enough, anything is possible!

6. Creating and co-facilitating my own peer-led social group…

In mid-2013, after weeks of solo-preparation, I began co-facilitating my own group through the psychosocial rehabilitation service I participate in. Creative Therapy was essentially my blog in the real-world, with each week focusing on a particular creative prompt designed to get people thinking about their life, strengths and values. Although I was immensely hard on myself for delivering a lackluster program, when the feedback came in it was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that it was difficult to believe.

5. Obtaining a Nintendo Wii…

To help me survive one of my bad-day anniversaries (26th February) I spontaneously purchased a second-hand Nintendo Wii that came with half a dozen games. Usually such a spontaneous purchase would turn out to be detrimental to my life, but over the last ten months my Wii has become one of my primary coping mechanisms. In fact, of my few big purchases this year, this is the one I am most thankful for, as there is nothing like using Lego Batman, Mario Kart or Zelda to beat the demons back to bay.

4. Performing my first ever public speech…

However much I’m amazed to admit it, in retrospect I thoroughly enjoyed performing my first ever public talk, so much so that I hope I have the opportunity to repeat the experience in the year ahead.

3. Re-empowering an emotional trigger…

Alongside creating better relationships with my voices, the other defining mental health related achievement of 2013 was the re-empowerment of a powerful trigger. When I realised one of the workers at the mental health organisation I use was triggering me I was tempted to quit the organisation and return to my homeless existence. However, my support worker encouraged me to face the trigger head on and, after a distressing conversation in which I admitted to the person that they triggered me, I set about the long road to re-empowerment. I attended groups that they facilitated, I had the occasional coffee with them, I learnt more about them as a person and…nine months on…they no longer trigger me. Victory!

2. Attending the World Hearing Voices Congress…

Although it was three days punctuated with severe anxiety, I am both proud of myself and ecstatic that I was able to attend this year’s World Hearing Voices Congress. Being around so many people who have had similar experiences to me was an eye-opening and revelatory experience; even though it feels impossible sometimes, recovery is not only possible but absolutely achievable!

1. Returning to Melbourne

It took nearly twelve months of planning, twelve months of psyching myself up and twelve months of wondering if it was actually going to happen, but in November I finally returned to the city that I once lived on the streets of; and had an absolute blast! Midnight Zelda openings, art gallery meanderings, Sexpo shenanigans and Melbourne Zoo explorations defined a kick-ass week of chillaxing in the State’s capitol and helped create the most wonderful thing that happened to me in 2013.

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five | Day Six |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)


3 Comments

Six regrets from 2013

Regret

One of the (many) erroneous life lessons my abuser tried to ‘teach me’ was that we are never – under any circumstances – allowed to have regrets. To her, they were a sign of weakness, an indicator of our fallibility; but this is the very reason I like having regrets; for they are the things that allow us to look back on our life, learn where we went wrong and grow as a result.

In essence, they are what make us human.

Every year, around this time, my mind begins searching back through the previous twelve months for all the mistakes and regrets I’ve made. Not because I’m a masochist who wants to dwell on such failures, but because it allows me the opportunity to grow and become someone better in the year ahead.

So, at the half way point in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge, here are my six biggest regrets of 2013:

6. Not pushing myself harder when it came to exercising…

In the middle of 2013 I joined a gym for the first time in over seven years, and for the first couple of months that I was a member, I was a regular sight on the treadmills, weight machines and exercise bikes. However, as time pushed on, and I became more and more aware of my grotesque physical appearance, I allowed the body dysmorphia to win and refused to attend the gym. But as the year draws to an end – and I realise the monumental mistake that I made – I am hopeful that the New Year will see me able to push these negative thoughts from my mind and return to the gym on a regular basis.

5. Not putting myself out there in emails, social networking sites and blog comments…

As I have written extensively of in the past – including in a post specifically about it – my social anxiety extends beyond the real world into the cyber realm. When it comes to making myself heard in emails, blog comments or social networking sites, the gremlins spark up and inform me, in no uncertain terms, that I’m an effing failure that no-one in their right mind would want to have any contact with. Unfortunately, given their persistence, they usually win and I remain silent. However, as we approach a New Year, I am determined to give these pesky critters the spanking they deserve; I will not remain silent for another twelve months. I won’t!

4. Not going to the beach during my holiday to Melbourne…

Living, as I do, in the middle of the Australian bush, getting to the ocean is a little difficult for me. So when I travelled to Melbourne in November I fully intended to take some time to head down to the beach and bask on the glorious soft sand with my feet in the cool, Southern ocean. Alas, both time and energy impeded the realization of this goal. So, if I find myself back in Melbourne this year, I will definitely be seeking to make amends for this regret.

3. Not seizing the opportunities I had to cross item (1) from my bucket list…

Looking back, and with all honesty, I had three very good chances throughout 2013 to eliminate this item from my list. And on all three occasions the only thing that prevented me from doing so was money. Not mental health, not anxiety, not lack of confidence…money. As we progress into the New Year, I am more determined than ever to not let anything get between me and the achievement of this goal!

2. Not talking to anyone at the World Hearing Voices Congress…

Okay, so I did talk to some people, namely the rest of the Gateway Community Health contingent. But I didn’t talk to anyone new, despite their being several people I would have loved to talk to in more detail about their voice hearing experiences. With the congress taking place in Greece next year, it’s highly unlikely I will have the opportunity to attend, so I’m at a loss as to how to make up for this mistake; but I’m hoping to find a way, even if it means sending random emails to some of the speakers!

1. Not asking the woman I fancied out on a date…

Every year there is always one woman who steals my heart, one woman who takes control of my mind, one woman whom I lust after with scant regard to personal humility…and 2013 was no exception. I won’t give any names, I won’t even give clues to their identity, but being in her presence filled me with the sort of happiness that wouldn’t look out-of-place in chick-lit. She was intelligent, funny, engaging and compassionate on a level that is rare in today’s fast paced society. She was also completely and utterly out of my league; the sort of woman who would only be interested in a guy like me if I were the last human being on Earth.So, as with every year, I didn’t act on my feelings…and I’m getting tired of it! Next year I hope to at least ask if they’d like to have coffee and/or dinner with me, even if it means a completely humiliating shoot-down!

~◊~

Previous installments of the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Day One | Day Two | Day Three |
| Day Four | Day Five |

~◊~

Other wonderful bloggers participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge:

| Marci, Mental Health and More | Many of Us |
| Looking for Lucy |

If I’ve missed you from the above list, please let me know in the comments field below and I’ll add you as soon as humanly possibly so everyone can read your magnificent responses! :)