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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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 09: Questions for Heaven

Day nine of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
what questions relating to your mental health would you ask God and why?

Monty Python God

Religion is a topic I tend to shy away from talking about, not because I’m scared of broaching the subject, but because I am not a religious man. If I had to define myself, I would lean toward agnosticism, for I neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a deity.

The other reason I tend to shy away from talking about religion is because I find it a triggering issue. Throughout my homeless existence I had daily contact with religious organisations, as it was these organisations that operated the drop-ins, food services and soup vans that I would frequent. In order to access the services or receive the food, we would often be forced to pray or attend religious services, with refusal to do so leading to the denial of the help we most needed. This was something that I had a serious issue with, as I felt that the organisations were forcing (or manipulating) people who were most in need to ‘convert’ to a particular religion in order to receive the help that they desperately needed.

I’ve never held anything against those who choose to believe in a particular religion, but I have had (and continued to have) issues with people who forced their faith on others, especially those who are lost, without voice and most in need of help.

With these issues in mind, I am choosing not to answer today’s prompt.

Sorry.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |


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The Vagina Conundrum (and other oddities)

Triggering, is one word to describe this week.

Random would be another.

With World Suicide Prevention Day occurring on Monday and R U OK?Day happening yesterday, I found myself overwhelmed with memories from the past that didn’t exactly have a positive effect on my mental functioning.

Fortunately, Roald Dahl Day assisted in bringing a smile to my face, as well as some rather random articles, including: Fifty Shades of Wrong, Mothers I’d Like to Slap (MILS) and Today Ridiculed Over Choice. The remainder of the news seemed to focus on the continuing internet ‘trolling’ debate, the unfortunate death of an AFL player in Las Vegas, the redefinition of homelessness and suicide.

Lots and lots of suicide. Yay!

So, in an effort to stop yet more painful and disturbing memories and think more positive and happy thoughts, my issue for the week is the vagina.

Issue of the Week

The Great Wall of Vagina (yes, I’m aware of the inaccuracy) | Jamie McCartney

Yes. I wrote the word vagina. Oops, I wrote vagina again. And again. And three more times…

And now I’ve duly annoyed Net Nanny, made several people uncomfortable and reduced my meager blog hits dramatically, may I enquire as to just why so many people have an issue with this word? Why there is such an obsession with euphemisms whenever this part of the female body is raised?

As a man, I just don’t get it. I really don’t. I’m genuinely asking.

Women have a vagina, men have a penis, women have a clitoris, men have trouble with directions. What is the problem? Why, with all the pain and misery in the world, do people have such trouble talking about this perfectly normal part of the body?

This week Apple censored the word vagina with v****a on the Apple iStore listing of Naomi’s Wolf’s new book Vagina: A New Biography. In recent months, there was a nationwide furor when a television advert for tampons dared to mention the word vagina. Yet despite the fact we’re raising generations of men (and women) who don’t know the difference between the vagina and the vulva, it remains a word that is spoken in hushed tones or gestured in spontaneous charade games whenever it’s discussed in conversation.

Maybe it’s just me that’s so annoyed with this. Maybe I’m supposed to have a problem with the word vagina. Maybe the fact I don’t has contributed to my mental ill-health and homelessness. Maybe all my problems stem from my inability to take offense at this word.

I’m genuinely confused by this.

My final word on the matter:

The word vagina is not offensive, it is not explicit, it is not disgusting.

It is normal. It is beautiful. And if you don’t believe me say the word aloud…vagina…see? Gorgeous :)

So can we quit with the censoring and the euphemisms and the deafening outcry whenever it’s used and just accept there’s nothing wrong with the word vagina.

Scrotum, on the other hand…that’s a whole other blog post!

Further reading on this topic

Vagina by Naomi Wolf covered up by iTunes (The Guardian)
iTunes Censors ‘Vagina’: Feminist Author’s Book Title Allegedly Considered Explicit (Huffington Post)
Naomi Wolf Gagged by Apple (The Age)

Five things I learned this week

1. Twenty-one people found my blog by searching for “socks fetish confessions”
2. ‘Mad Men’ is apparently the best television show of the last twenty five years. Sigh.
3. How One Tree Hill ended. But I won’t tell you, in case you plan on watching it.
4. I am actually a woman, at least when it comes to how I fantasize.
5. One person found my blog by searching for “is there a mental illness of sitting on the toilet all day”.

Five things I plan to do next week

This week has been one of mixed success. Unlike last week, where I completed each of my goals for the week, I didn’t fully complete any of my tasks this week. As is often the case with mental illness the rollercoaster I found myself on this week prevented me from focusing as clearly as I would have liked, leaving me feeling somewhat frustrated that I failed.

I did begin The Comfort of Our Kind, but failed to finish it. One Tree Hill was watched, somewhat bitter-sweetly, but I’ve yet to channel my feelings into a blog post. In terms of the social network, my anxiety has prevented me from going near, the same issue affecting my ability to leave comments, no matter how wonderful I found the blog post.

Perhaps next week, if my moods settle, I will be more productive, with:

1. Watch Homeland and write a blog post about it.
2. Finish The Comfort of Our Kind.
3. Find the confidence to write the weekly series I want to write.

and lingering from last week:

4. Post at least one constructive comment a day, anywhere on the internet.
5. Make at least two new friends on the social networking site (i.e. message people…gulp!)

Linky Love

My five favourite posts I published this week, in case you missed them, are:

1. Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World
2. The only time I can be myself is in my dreams
3. Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m no trying to flirt with you
4. Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far
5. Unsent Letter #6: In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took

and five posts that other people wrote that rocked my world, are:

1. Crikey: The worst thing you can imagine
2. justb.: Trolls, Fame and Blame
3. Far from Paradise: Healing the Heart
4. Mamamia: I’d never felt alone like that before
5. The Punch: I’ve lost two loves to suicide. Ask someone if they’re OK

And finally…

My three favourite photographs of the week:

Early Morning Swim [EXPLORED]

hypnotised

001

Disclaimer
I do not claim ownership of these photographs.
Copyright remains with the individual artist.
Please click each image to view their Flickr gallery.


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Sticks only work on masochists, so why not give carrot cake to the down and out?

In a week that saw the death of Neil Armstrong, the arrival of RU486 in Australia, the opening of the best Paralympics in history and the cancellation of The Shire, the final days of Winter 2012 have been a mite busy. But nestled amidst all this is an issue that keeps cropping up every few months, an issue that is close to my heart, and far and away my…

Issue of the Week

A Centrelink office at Innaloo, Western Australia.

A Centrelink office at Innaloo, Western Australia.

In my humble opinion, the most significant discussion that occurred in Australia this week involved unemployment benefits. In Australia, this is amusingly called the Newstart payment. A contradiction in terms considering once you end up on it your chances of ever receiving a new start in life is minimal. Trust me, I’ve been receiving this payment for the last three years, so I have some experience of trying to survive on it.

Yes, survive, it is impossible to live on it.

By the time I’d worked through the bureaucratic bullshit required to get onto this payment I was living on the streets, unable to afford accommodation. I still had to apply for jobs, attend Job Service Providers, regular contact meetings with Centrelink, prove my income and assets…all whilst living in a park with a blanket my only shelter from wind, hail and rain.

A few facts about ‘life’ on the Newstart payment:

– It has been two and a half years since I could afford a haircut.
– For the last six days I’ve been showering and washing my hair with dishwashing liquid as I cannot afford soap and shampoo.
– The sole of my shoe has been slowly deteriorating for several months; it’s been fixed on a fortnightly basis with superglue but will very soon be beyond repair. I cannot afford a new pair and it is rare to find shoes my size in an op shop.
– I am able to buy clothes once a year; I have one pair of jeans which I wear daily and a rotating set of three T-Shirts and two shirts. I cannot afford laundrettes so wash these clothes by hand.
– Medication – whether it be over-the-counter or prescribed – is a luxury item.
– As are mobile phone recharge, internet access, public transport and underwear.

Yet despite countless research, reports, heartfelt letters and well-intentioned awareness campaigns the vast majority of Australians simply don’t care. Apparently, whatever money I have left from the vast quantity of illegal narcotics I consume every week is spent on alcohol, cigarettes, gambling and fast food.

A few facts to clear up this nonsense:

– The last alcohol I consumed was in July. I drink every year on this day as I have to, otherwise the pain of the event I’m drinking to forget will facilitate a suicide attempt. The same goes for February 26, May 7 and October 11. All other days of the year – including my birthday, New Year and Christmas – I do not drink alcohol.
– I have not taken any form of illegal drug since backpacking (twelve years ago) and have no intention of ever doing so again. For the record, this amounted to a few spliffs and nothing more.
– I have not eaten fast food for over two years. This was a Breakfast meal from Hungry Jacks that cost me $4.95 after going without food for eight days. It is the only fast food I can remember consuming since my episodes in 2007.
– I do not gamble; not pokies, not TAB, not underground Iguana fighting.
– Yes, I occasionally smoke (perhaps 10-20 per week.) It’s an addiction used to alleviate self-harm, stress and  anxiety.

But even if this were to be believed (which, most of the time, it isn’t) the simple retort is that I am just too lazy and have no intention of working again nor undertaking anything to become a contributing member of society.

Sigh, get to know me instead of rushing to judgement and you’ll discover:

– My desire to work has never diminished. Even whilst on the street I applied for employment and on a few occasions was offered a job; all lost almost immediately because of homeless discrimination. I never received a cent for the days of work I did.
– I have been vocal for many years about my desire to return to education. It’s all I’ve wanted for the last ten years!
– Anyone who claims I don’t want to be a contributing member of society knows nothing about me, nor what drives me.

And that is the problem. The people who makes these stupid and generalizing comments know little about the problems that people on the Newstart face. The don’t know what it’s like to sleep in parks. To not be able to shower or buy hygiene products. They don’t understand the toll being isolated from social situations can have. All they care about is their holier than thou attitude and their repeated, uneducated, parroting of ‘get a job’ and ‘stop smoking/drinking/gambling etc.’

Unfortunately, in order to appease these opinions, it was announced this week that a much-needed increase to the Newstart allowance would not be happening. Apparently, even though they admit the current allowance isn’t much to live on, any increase would have a detrimental effect on someone looking for work. In other words, the much wanted $50 per week increase would convince everyone on the Newstart not to bother looking for work because they’re on easy street.

An extra $50 per week would:

– Ensure I could afford hygiene products to keep myself well-groomed.
– Enable me to be able to get a haircut so I could look half-decent instead of people mistaking me for someone attending a cosplay event as Captain Caveman.
– Purchase new shoes so I am not walking around with my foot visible through my footwear.
– Purchase some new clothes so unsuspecting pedestrians don’t occasionally catch a glimpse of my buttocks through unfortunately placed holes.
– Ensure I am reasonably well fed each week.

All things, I would say, are rather important when it comes to increasing ones chances of finding employment. And you’ll notice that I haven’t even included the obvious, which is:

– I could afford medication that would enable me to stabilise my mental and physical health problems!

And none of this takes into account the stress (which leads to both physical and mental health problems) that bill payments, rent, housing affordability, irregularity of nutritional food and continued social isolation has on people.

All very real realities for people on the Newstart allowance.

My final word on the matter…

It’s time Australia started to realise that sticks will only work on masochists. The continuing punishment of people on the Newstart, many with disabilities but unable to access disability payments, has created an underclass  living in abject poverty within a country that proudly proclaims to be the luckiest and richest in the world. Although there is a minority of people who manipulate the system for their own ends, the vast majority are trying to do the right thing. The Newstart allowance needs to be raised by $50 per week with immediate effect! I guarantee you the moment it is you’ll not only see a change in people’s attitudes but a substantial increase in people successfully moving back into employment.

Further reading on this topic:

Five things I learned this week

  1. RU486 has arrived in Australia, which is excellent news and a great leap forward for woman’s reproductive rights.
  2. One hundred and one people found my blog by searching for “supergirl spanking”. Good on ya!
  3. The average Australian will spend $28.26 on their dad this father’s day, less than half what they spend on their mum for mother’s day. Confusingly, in the same article all but 1 of the 39 gift ideas are significantly more expensive, with the most being $1,995. Apparently a hug, a conversation or an ‘I love you’ no longer cut it!
  4. Three clues as to what will be featured in series 3 of Sherlock. These are; Rat, Wedding and Bow.
  5. A primary school in Sydney has banned students from performing handstands, somersaults and cartwheels. Sigh.

Five things I plan to do next week

  1. Watch the return of Doctor Who.
    In an unprecedented move, the ABC has decided to tackle illegal downloads by fast tracking Series 7 of Doctor Who on their internet channel ABC iView. This means I will be able to watch the series hours after first screening in the UK without having to faff around with valuable internet time (and money) looking for a streaming service.
  2. Return to a social networking site.
    Having spent much of this week writing posts discussing my anxiety I realised that I need to continue challenging myself if I ever hope to overcome this debilitating part of my life. I am deeply scared of returning as I vanished without notice when this current depressive episode began back in June. So yeah, just somewhat nervous about it.
  3. Continue updating and evolving my blog.
    This, obviously, includes posting every day and not returning to my ‘aaaaarrrrggghhhhhh, I want to die’ state of two months ago.
  4. Begin reading “Stiffed” by Susan Faludi, which I picked up for 50c in a library book sale some months ago.
    As previously mentioned, reading whilst depressed is incredibly difficult for me, and I miss is.
  5. Watch Frasier Season 9, which I borrowed from the library.
    Not exactly taxing or demanding, but with the inevitable anxiety that will be created from returning to the social network and pushing myself to write this blog, I’m gonna need some downtime. Given Frasier always used to make me laugh, it should be good therapy for me as it’s been years since I last saw it!

And finally…

My three favourite photographs of the week:

Sunrise in Portland

piano lessons  6 o'clock

Untitled

Note: I do not own these images.
Click on each to visit the photographer’s Flickr stream.

Until next week, enjoy the weekend :)