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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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! :)


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Thirteen tips to help you survive Christmas

If you’re anything like me, Christmas is not the all-out happy family and friends fun fest that the media would have you believe. Instead, it’s a time of loneliness, emotional triggers and wishing to whoever will listen that the whole ‘holiday period’ would just bugger off and leave you alone.

Well, help is at hand. For today’s Thursday Thirteen I’m going to share some of my plan for getting through this insidious time of year relatively unscathed. Who knows, perhaps you will pick up a few ideas to help you survive this year’s silly season.

Christmas

~ in no particular order ~

1. Take steps to minimize self-harm

Because of the sheer number of emotional triggers that occur for me during this time of year (e.g. Samantha’s death, my girlfriend cheating on me on Christmas Day, not very pleasant memories of my abusive relationship) there is always the very real chance that I will resort to self-harm in order to get me through the days. However, as this is something I am trying not to do this year, I’ve taken steps to minimize the possibility.

Firstly, my random assortment of cutting implements have been given to my support worker to keep locked up in an impenetrable building during the holiday period. Secondly, I have placed on the fridge and bathroom mirror a list of distractions that I can utilize instead of self-harm. And thirdly, I have given myself permission to forgive myself should I take a misstep and actually self-harm.

Should this be a problem for you, other possible things you can do are: have a help-line number on hand in-case things become too difficult to control, make sure you have a trusted friend (or friends) that you can turn to if needs be, organize a ‘tool box’ of coping and distraction implements that you can use instead of your usual self-harm implements.

2. Seek out other people…

Most major towns and cities will have a charitable organisation that organizes a Christmas event for people in need. In my town there is a community lunch being offered, where people who don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with can enjoy a cooked meal in the company of other, like-minded souls.

Although I didn’t attend last year’s event – for reasons I shall divulge in a moment – I did head down in 2011, so this is an option that’s on the table if I can handle being around other people this Christmas.

So if you don’t fancy being alone for Christmas, why not do a little bit of local research and see what community events are planned for your towns or cities this year. Even if you do have people to spend Christmas with, you can always volunteer your time to help make Christmas a special time for those who are most in need.

3. …or spend the day on your own

The reason I didn’t attend last year’s community Christmas lunch was because my anxiety was so extreme that I couldn’t handle being around other people last year. There is also the trigger of being reminded just what I’m missing the most in my life; the company of others. However bizarre it may sound, being around others will often amplify my feelings of isolation and loneliness, thus making it more difficult when I return home alone.

As such, there is the very real possibility that, like last year, I will be spending Christmas Day alone. Although this sounds rather sad and pathetic, it really isn’t.

One of the best Christmases I ever had was spent completely on my own. I didn’t see friends, I didn’t see family, I didn’t see anyone. Instead, I chilled out watching movies, reading books, going for casual strolls in the snow and treating myself to a blissfully tasty home-cooked Christmas dinner.

Given the media make it abundantly clear that you should be spending Christmas Day with family and friends it’s all too easy to forget that there is nothing wrong with being on your own.

So if this is how you are choosing to spend Christmas, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for it. Not even yourself!

4. Limit your alcohol consumption

Last year, I found myself turning to alcohol as a means of surviving the Christmas period. Normally I will drink alcohol on only four days of the year – my primary triggering anniversaries – so after last year I am acutely aware that this could become a problem again this year.

The plan I have in place to prevent this from happening is very similar to that of the self-harm issue above. I have resolved not to keep any alcohol in the house, I have my list of distractions to turn to in times of distress and, once again, I’ve given myself permission to forgive myself should a misstep occur.

So if the holiday period is a depressive one for you, and you feel you may be turning to alcohol to ease your pain, remember that alcohol is a depressive, so all you’re doing is making it harder for yourself!

5. Distractions I: Watch an uplifting movie

One of my primary methods of distraction is film and television. In preparation of the Christmas period I have made a list of films and television series that I want to watch; all of them being titles I can utilize to help me survive; all of them being ‘uplifting’ or ‘comic’ in nature.

So this year, in times of distress, I will (hopefully) be entertained by Monsters University, Due South, The To Do List, 30 Rock (S7) and The Lone Ranger.

Perhaps you too could benefit from preparing an emergency movie list! :)

6. Distractions II: Play an engrossing video game

Last year, I saved Hyrule twice and prevented Lego Middle Earth from total annihilation. This year, I plan to save Hyrule again (courtesy of a replay of Skyward Sword) and will no doubt play in Lego heaven once more courtesy of Audrey’s favourite game, Lego Batman. All the while reminding myself that there is nothing wrong with having a bit of playful fun over this time of year.

So if video games are your thing, perhaps you could plan to play through a particular title, or have a few old favourites up your sleeve in case of distressing times.

7. Distractions III: Write…Write…Write

As everyone is rushing around cooking Turkeys, tripping over presents and trying not to look silly in flimsy paper hats, blogs the world over will be desolate wastelands. But if you’re on your own, there’s nothing to stop you posting whatever meaningful thought that comes to mind. Writing is, after all, one of the most therapeutic practices there is and there will always be people like me waiting to read your words.

So if things are getting too much, remember that not everyone is with their family and friends, some will be sitting in front of their computer looking for things to read and people to spend Christmas with.

So get writing!

PS…if you’re stuck for things to write about, I will be undertaking a blog challenge of my own creation during the twelve days of Christmas, so you’re more than welcome to play along with me! :)

8. Treat yourself I: Gift for you

Christmas is a time for giving…so why not give something to yourself?

As I know Christmas is going to be a vicious period for me, I always try to buy myself a wee present to reward myself for all the good work I’ve done throughout the year. In the past these presents have ranged from a cherished music CD, items of clothing, a much wanted book or watchalicious DVD box set.

As yet I haven’t decided what my present will be this year, so if you’re not sure either, get your thinking caps on as Christmas is only six days away!

9. Treat yourself II: Food for you

As with item 8 above, one of my other personal traditions for Christmas, especially since my homelessness ended, is to treat myself to a particular foodstuff that I wouldn’t normally buy throughout the year. This foodstuff is something that always makes me happy, that I think is the most delicious thing in the world and something that I actually look forward to eating; namely, Yorkshire Puddings! :p

So why not reward all your hard work this year with a delicacy you wouldn’t normally buy, a foodstuff that will put a smile on your most worthy of faces.

10. Treat yourself III: Shower yourself with self-love

This is hard for me to do at the best of times, let alone during the most insidious and unpleasant times of the year! But this year I am going to do my level best to love myself as much as humanly possible.

Whether this is allowing myself an extra-long shower with sweet-smelling body lotion, indulging in half a dozen candles that are just as odorlicious as the body lotion or other, somewhat naughtier delights, this year I am going to try to make Christmas all about loving Addy.

So why don’t you do to? Love yourself, I mean, not me! Single out a few things you love to do but rarely get the chance – candlelit baths, massages, other, somewhat naughtier delights – and relish in the act of showering yourself with the love you rightly deserve.

11. Sleep!

With all the stressors and triggers ravaging your body, you may not be getting as much sleep as your body needs to function properly, so do your level best to get at least a few hours sleep each night.

Your body (and mind) will thank you for it if you do! :)

12. Remember that you’re not alone!

When the demons of isolation and loneliness consume you, remember that you are never alone. Even if you don’t have family or friends to turn to, most help-lines are operational throughout the Christmas and New Year period so don’t feel embarrassed to call them if you need to talk to someone.

But if you’re anything like me, when things become too overwhelming you completely forget your own name, let alone mental health help-lines. So one way you can remind yourself of this option is to create a helpful list of numbers – such as, Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Helplines, the Salvation Army, your local hospital or mental health service – that you can call if things get too overwhelming. Once you’ve created your list place it on the fridge, next to the TV, on a prominent mirror, so that you always know where it is should you need it.

13. Be prepared

If, like me, you know that the Christmas period is going to be a challenging, stressful and unpleasant time, channel your inner-boy scout and be prepared.

Hopefully this list will have given you a few ideas you can put in place to ease the stress over the holiday period, but if not, perhaps sit down and try to come up with a few ideas that could ease the loneliness, anxiety and depressive thoughts; and once done, perhaps consider sharing your ideas in the comments field below.

With all the media hubbub and consumerist shenanigans that occur over this time of year, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hurricane and swept away. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Remember, we don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan; and this year I am planning for a healthy, safe and relatively stress-free Christmas. How about you?


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The Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge

We all know the song, especially the undeniably contagious “Five gold rings!” line, but how many people know that the Twelve Days of Christmas are also known as Christmastide (or Twelvetide) and begin on Christmas Day, not (as the commercial calendar would have you believe) on the 14th December?

The Twelve Days of Christmas are celebrated in different fashions the world over. In Eastern Christianity, the Great Feast of Theophany (Epiphany) on 6 January is considered a higher-ranked feast than the Nativity (Christmas), and commemorates the Baptism of Jesus rather than the arrival of the Magi. Whereas in Western Christianity, each day following Christmas Day is a feast in memory of a Saint or event associated with the Christmas season.

In contemporary times, many in the UK still celebrate aspects of the Twelve Days of Christmas, whereas in the US, the traditions have been largely forgotten, replaced by more secular traditions and the ever-popular New Years Eve celebrations.

To celebrate this auspicious time, I’ve decided to begin something which I hope will become an annual tradition; the Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge! A challenge that will see reflections on the year just gone and anticipations of the (no doubt) glorious year ahead!

This year marks the inaugural appearance of this challenge and it will commence on the 25th December. As with all blog challenges, it would be magnificent if other people played along (unless you’re all too busy munching on mince pies) so feel free to do so at your leisure! :)

The prompts, should you wish to play along, are outlined below and can be interpreted however you wish:

-♦-

The Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge

Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Challenge_Large

Day 01 – 25th December – 1 Thing you got for Christmas
It might be something you got this year, last year or perhaps a favourite present from Christmases past!

Day 02 – 26th December – 2 Foods you can’t get through Christmas without
Are you a stickler for a traditional roast or do you favour a more eclectic array of food?

Day 03 – 27th December – 3 Favourite songs of 2013
I don’t know the actual figures but surely there have been tens of thousands of songs released over the last twelve months…so picking a mere three of them should be pretty simple. Or at least you’d think it would be!

Day 04 – 28th December – 4 Favourite movies (or TV Shows) of 2013
Are you a Game of Thrones fiend or an Iron Man aficionado? Now’s the time to share your pick of the entertainment industry’s output of the last twelve months.

Day 05 – 29th December – 5 Life lessons you learnt in 2013
Whether we realise it or not, we all learn something new every single day of our lives. So what have you learned in the year just gone?

Day 06 – 30th December – 6 Regrets from 2013
Today’s prompt is not about looking back with negativity, it is about identifying where we went wrong so we can take a more positive route in the future.

Day 07 – 31st December – 7 Wonderful things that happened in 2013
How many awesome things happened to you during the last twelve months? Surely picking just seven should be a piece of cake! :)

Day 08 – 1st January – 8 Minutes to share your opinion on New Year’s Resolutions
Some people swear by New Year’s Resolutions, others think they’re somewhat pointless…you have eight minutes of writing to outline what your thoughts on this annual tradition may be. And if you do make resolutions, why not share them?

Day 09 – 2nd January – 9 Places you’d like to visit in 2014
Take a moment in this hectic period to forget about your credit card statement and financial situation. If money were no object – where would you like to visit during the oncoming year?

Day 10 – 3rd January – 10 Books you’d like to read in 2014
Maybe you’re itching to read an upcoming release or catch up on some literary classics, whatever books you’re looking forward to reading, why not share them so others can add them to their list of books to read next year?

Day 11 – 4th January – 11 Memories from Christmastide throughout your life
This time of year is often seen as one of reflection, so why not spend a few moments reflecting on your life so far and share eleven memories that occurred at some point during the various twelve days of Christmas you’ve lived through so far.

Day 12 – 5th January – 12 Goals for 2014
And for the finale, the biggie: what do you want to achieve throughout the year ahead?

-♦-

So there we have it, twelve (relatively) simple prompts to keep yourself (and others) entertained throughout the Christmas and New Year period. If you do decide to play along, please remember to link up via the comments field so I can keep people abreast of all the magnificent answers that are floating around in cyber-space.

I for one am looking forward to embarking on this challenge…probably more so than the big day itself!