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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The hope that tomorrow will be better

anxiety

So far today has been a day that could be best described as ‘not good’ but most aptly described as ‘effing awful’. It all started yesterday afternoon when I had an appointment with my support worker. Usually they’re fairly uneventful occasions that see us discuss how my life has been (crap) and what could be done to improve it (pretty much anything). But yesterday she decided to assault me with dozens of questions about my anxiety, how it makes me feel and what can be done about it. After two dozen rapidly fired questions I started to dissociate and, as such, was totally non-present throughout the rest of the appointment. In fact, after that twenty-fourth question, I have no memory of what was being discussed at all. All I can remember is sitting on a cloud watching an overweight person speak monosyllabic statements at someone who seemed to be completely unaware of the mental health crisis that was unfolding before them.

I gained nothing from the appointment. In fact, I left in a completely anxious daze that saw me suffer a panic attack in the supermarket within ten minutes, a panic attack that consumed my being and left me, quite literally, a dribbling creature on the floor. By the time it took me to gather myself together and leave the supermarket with a shred of decency, I knew my day was over. It usually is when I suffer a panic attack in the open. It took me nearly forty-five minutes to walk home (a journey that usually takes me twenty) and when I finally crashed in through the back door I ended up lying on my back staring at the ceiling for some two hours, desperately trying to calm myself down and enable me to function at least half as much as a normal person.

Suffice to say, I didn’t, function as a normal person that is. I spent the rest of the evening cowering on the couch with feelings of high anxiety, unable to watch DVDs, unable to listen to the radio, unable to do anything other than my level best not to have another panic attack. Eventually I grew tired of the couch and retired to bed, where I could at least curl up in the shelter of the doona, and slowly drifted off to a fitful, nightmare laden sleep.

Upon waking up this morning I was still overwhelmed with feelings of high anxiety. In fact, they have followed me throughout everything I’ve tried to do today. This morning I tried to watch a movie (Lethal Weapon) but found myself unable to concentrate for longer than five minutes, so switched it off and stared at the wall instead. This afternoon I tried to watch a different movie (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) but again found myself unable to concentrate for longer than five minutes, so switched it off and stared at the ceiling instead. Realizing that I needed to do something (anything) I switched onto my blog and tried to write something (anything), but found myself all but unable to focus on the words, and my fingers stumbled on the keyboard so greatly that I was mistyping letters every few seconds. Eventually – after some sixty minutes – I managed to complete a blog post that felt, for the most part, like I was pulling my own teeth.

Which brings us to now, and another blog post, another teeth pulling session, and another attempt to do something with my day so it isn’t a complete failure. Even if I could write one sentence without mistyping a letter it would be some small victory in a day devoid of them. All my usual coping mechanisms – from distraction to grounding exercises to mindfulness – have done nothing to quell the anxiety, have done nothing to quench the overwhelming feelings of depression, desolation and ineptitude that have consumed me today. Even my favourite musicians – Paul Mounsey, Serena Ryder, Runrig – have been unable to soothe my soul today.

All because I allowed myself to become overwhelmed during an appointment yesterday afternoon with someone I trust, someone I actually like. Why I became so overwhelmed is the reason I’ve been so anxious, because I have no true explanation for it, one minute I was present – the next I was dissociating like a fiend, my brain doing whatever it could to protect me from the onslaught of emotions that were attacking me, an onslaught that has continued and ruined yet another day of my so-called life.

So all that is left is to finish typing this post, publish it to the world-wide web, and then somehow scrape myself together some dinner before once again retiring for the night with the hope that tomorrow will be better. That’s all I have left these days, the hope that tomorrow will be better, which it usually isn’t, especially as this vicious depressive episode continues, especially as anxiety continues its relentless quest to consume my soul.


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Incidentally, what is happiness?

what is happiness

Panic Attacks…

On Tuesday afternoon, at approximately 4 ‘o’ clock, I dropped my basket of meagre foodstuffs and collapsed to the floor of a Coles supermarket. It was all I could do to stop the tears from cascading as I struggled to regain enough composure to stagger from the store to the nearest public toilet. Once safely entombed, I dropped to my knees, vomited the contents of my stomach into the toilet and burst into tears. Suffice to say, the sight of a grown man with a sick-streaked beard, blubbering like a baby, was not a pretty sight!

I have no idea how long I sat on those cold stone tiles, nor how many people I was inconveniencing with my far-too-public-for-my-liking panic attack. I couldn’t even tell you what was racing through my mind during those long, lonely minutes, though I would make an educated guess, based on previous attacks, it was am I dying, please God let me be dying liberally mixed with you’re useless, worthless, pathetic, what the frack is wrong with you man self-critical thoughts and a seasoning of both intense physical pain and intolerable emotional anguish.

That’s the problem with panic attacks; they are completely irrational reactions, but when they’re happening, when you’re trapped by their power, all thoughts of rationality and reason are replaced with the all-consuming belief you are literally in the process of dying. The speed in which your heart races, the tightness of your chest, the uncontrollable urge to vomit, the way the world spins out of control and you slip in and out of consciousness with your life’s regrets, pain and failings playing back before your eyes.

Eventually, somehow, I was able to get it together. I picked myself up, threw some water on my face and made my way home as quickly as possible. The moment I ensured all doors and windows were locked and I was completely safe from the evil of the world outside, I curled under my doona and allowed the memories of being safely ensconced within my mother’s womb to sooth my bleeding soul.

This singular event – which in hindsight lasted no longer then twenty-five minutes – has become the defining moment of my entire week.

…capsaicin…

On Wednesday, I refused to crawl out from the safety of my doona until my urge to urinate overwhelmed all else. For the first time, I missed my 8-Ball pool group, choosing instead to move my computer under the table where I built a fortress of books to hide and protect me. I crouched in my darkened solitude for the majority of the day typing a post about biopsychosocial models in the hope it would distract me before finally crawling out into the darkness to procure myself some capsaicin cream.

For those of you who are unaware of capsaicin cream, it is an ointment used to relieve the pain of arthritis and shingles. Capsaicin, as with several other capsaicinoids, is derived from chilli peppers and used, amongst other things, in the production of capsicum-spray; that delightful riot-controlling weapon of choice. As such, when it comes in contact with the skin, it can be quite painful due to the amount of heat it produces.

Although I am not (in any way) advocating its use, after discovering this information many years ago, I began occasionally using it when the urge to self-harm overwhelmed. As I am currently trying to reduce my invasive self-harm, after such a terrifying panic attack, I needed the distraction that only capsaicin cream could provide. Thus, upon returning home, I crawled back under my doona and applied it to the body part of my choice, before closing my eyes to allow its fire to burn the pain from my soul.

Regardless of your opinion of this action, without this cream I would still be lost to the nightmare of that panic attack. Without nurture, without comfort, without support, I have long had to resort to more ‘creative’ ways to cope with the ever-increasing and painful setbacks in my mental health. The fire burned to such a degree that by the time Thursday rolled around, I was able to leave my doona, demolish my fort and approach the day’s activities with far more focus and determination.

…and epiphanies.

One such activity was an appointment with my support worker. Expecting to be interrogated about the post I had written on Monday, I was initially reluctant about attending, but decided sharing this particular trigger – especially after the reaction it had provoked on Tuesday – was probably the best course of action.

However, although I shared that it had been a bit of rough week, I fell back on the usual but everything is okay appeasing attitude that I was forced to perfect throughout my abusive relationship. I said nothing of the horrifying nature of my attack nor my resorting to capsaicin in the absence of hugs or someone to talk to. Even though I had spent hours working out how I was going to explain the nature of my trigger, the insecurity I have over how this will come across prevented me from sharing it.

Instead, we continued with the Maastricht Interview before discussing my inability to exist in anything other than a heightened state of anxiety and fear.

“When was the last time you were functioning around a 1 or 2 on the anxiety scale?” They asked, following my admittance that my base-line was usually an 8 or 9.

“Probably early April 2008,” I replied, thinking about, but not sharing the details of my day in Glasgow with Samantha.

“Do you remember what it’s like to feel happy, contented and relaxed?”

“No,” I replied without hesitation. “I really don’t,”

Later that night, as I worked through my Mi Recovery and Victim to Victor workbooks, I realised that exchange had perfectly summed up my primary issue:

It doesn’t really matter how much effort I put into controlling triggers, reducing anxiety, stabilising my mood, fighting self-harm urges or combatting the debilitating panic attacks that can strike at any time or place. How can I expect to accomplish anything – to live – when I can’t even remember what happiness or relaxation feels like?

The problem is, even though I’ve had this epiphany, I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Incidentally, what is happiness?

Since 2007 my life has revolved completely around survival; every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year has been about getting me through the next second, minute, hour, week, month or year. It has been about discovering creative new ways to control my pain and diffusing the anguish of whatever aspect of my mental health has decided to rear its ugly head. It has been about appeasing all those around me – be they friends, family, support workers or strangers – into believing that I am fine, where in reality I am vomiting in public toilets and isolating myself from the terrors of the only world that could bring me any solace.

How does one allow themselves to relax when they’ve been conditioned to believe they must work continuously in fear of being seen as ‘lazy’?

How does one share their problems and pain with the world when they’ve been conditioned to believe that no-one cares and they must fight everything alone in order to prove their worth as a human being?

How does one find happiness when they have no real memory of what this mythical state-of-mind feels like?

If this week has proved anything it’s that regardless of how far I thought I’d come…I still have an awful long way to go!

~◊~

Six things I’ve learned this week:

  • Don’t be afraid to be honest about how you feel; for the trap of “always putting on a ‘brave face’ when in reality you’re dying inside” is almost impossible to escape from!
  • If you are going to attack a trigger head-on; make damn sure you have a network of support in place who know what you’re doing, for if you don’t, chaos will ensue!
  • Women have a much, much, much, better selection of clothing (especially underwear!) than men do. In fact, I’m so jealous I’m considering becoming a cross-dresser! :p
  • It is much easier making a fort out of doonas or blankets than it is books. Especially if you decide to read a book you’ve used as a foundation stone.
  • Do at least one thing every day that makes you happy. For the longer you go without happiness, the harder it will be to find again.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t let anyone make you think otherwise!

Six things I want to do next week:

  • To give myself permission to do something I enjoy and enjoy it! (i.e. to not allow my negative self-talk and fear of being perceived as lazy prevent me from doing it!)
  • Share my trigger with my support worker, regardless of my insecurity over how insane, pathetic and weird this will make me look.
  • Stop scaring people away from my blog with talk about voices, pain and badly written blog posts. It’s starting to look like a ghost town around here! :/
  • Complete my Mi Recovery homework assignments; what are my beliefs about mental illness and how did I learn those beliefs?
  • Catch-up on my favourite blogs as I’ve been incredibly slack of late, sorry! :)
  • Brainstorm ideas of what I could do to bring some happiness, joy and relaxation back into my life.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone! And remember…there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be happy! :)

 


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Acting Up (Week 01: Addy vs His Triggers)

In October last year, following several years of social isolation, homelessness and severe mental health issues, I began working with a local organisation who describe themselves as being “a psychosocial rehabilitation day program who provide group and individual psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery services” in order to “maximise the social and community participation of people with mental illness“.

During the first term I was with them (Oct-Dec) I kept my participation simple by attending two groups; a Scrabble group and an 8-Ball pool playing group. In the second term, I upped my quota by adding an ‘Acting’ group (to combat my social anxiety) and the Hearing Voices Support Group to the aforementioned two groups.

Today, following a brief sojourn, my third term with GT House commenced. This time around I’ve challenged myself a further by taking on a number of groups that will tackle key components of my mental health; my anxiety, my trauma and my recovery.

Given the more educational and challenging nature of the groups I’m undertaking this term (it’s a little hard to write entertaining weekly accounts of whipping people’s asses at Scrabble unless you take a more literal, fictional viewpoint!) I’ve decided to write weekly accounts of some of these groups in the hope that other people will glean knowledge and inspiration from my (occasionally embarrassing) anxiety and determination to become a better version of myself.

One of these groups is Acting Up, which is described in the program as: “an opportunity to express yourself in many different ways. From discussing favourite films and books to experiencing some new ones. Gain confidence by participating in different drama activities and acting exercises. This is a great opportunity to learn some new skills and have some fun.”

A perfect fit for someone with a passion for film, television, books, acting, creativity and a desire to gain confidence and (finally) have some fun in life again.

Will this group help reduce my anxiety? Increase my confidence? See me gain a few new friends? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see! :)

fame-the-movie1

No denim jackets, afros, leg warmers or leotards were worn during this group…perhaps next week! :p

A polite request…

Under normal circumstances I am not a fan of the ‘read more’ button. Normally, I reserve its use only for posts of epic length and/or boredom inducing whiney tediousness. However, it’s use today is for neither of these reasons but for something entirely different.

I am aware that some of the staff at GT House (and Gateway) read this blog from time to time, so it is to them I politely request to read no further in this post. This is not because I’m about to insult the organisation (quite the opposite) but because it reveals something I’m not comfortable with the workers knowing at this point in time. It’s nothing bad, saucy or intimate, just something mental health related that I’m sure I’ll share somewhere down the track.

So, as you’re workers in the mental health field (ahhh, isn’t emotional blackmail fun!) I would be most grateful if you could respect my privacy on this occasion.

Thank you kindly :)

Everyone else may continue (if you wish to!) :)

Continue reading


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Courage doesn’t always roar

cour·age [kur-ij, kuhr-] noun

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear

2. Obsolete: the heart as the source of emotion.

Too often courage in today’s society relates only to people who carry a wounded soldier 14km across a raging battlefield or the plucky police officer who takes on a group of terrorists that have taken a high-rise hostage on Christmas Eve.

The smaller acts of bravery people undertake on a day-to-day basis are rarely, if ever, celebrated; the individual who goes six months without self-harming in spite of the desire to do so, the single mother raising two children whilst the Government pushes her further into poverty to ensure their re-election or the agoraphobic who walks to the supermarket to purchase a packet of licorice allsorts.

Unless their courage leads to financial gain or momentary fame, it is considered unimportant.

For the last four years I’ve lived alone, my life governed by social anxiety and ruled by Queen Kathy, who constantly drags me kicking and screaming into the abuse I received half a decade ago. The trauma created from this abuse led to insomnia, a deep distrust of humanity, a complete inability to engage with society, near permanent psychosis and annihilated my sense of self to the point I’ve had no idea who I am for over five years.

It led to years of homelessness, social isolation, (at times) daily self-harm and suicide attempts. But rather than focus on the courage I’ve showed – battling severe depression and glandular fever to get into a college course, overcoming anxiety to increase my social network, battling through three years on the street to get accommodation – society focuses only on my failures; the fact I am ‘lazy’ because I’m unemployed, ‘selfish’ because I became suicidal, an ‘alcoholic drug addict’ because I’m homeless, a ‘bludger’ for existing on benefits.

After all I’ve been through it would be easy to slip into those stereotypical insults, but my desire to become who I know I could be, keeps pushing me ever forward. I may not succeed as much as those privileged enough to have gone to university or be part of a social network, but the courage I constantly show is something I feel I should be proud of.

Straight to the pool room

Last week, after nearly four years of being completely on my own, I attended three social functions. The first of which occurred on Tuesday courtesy of GT House, an organisation I mentioned last week.

After a courtesy reminder phone call (which I didn’t need as it had been on my mind all day/evening/night/morning) I showered, shaved and headed down the street to the pub we were supposed to meet in. Given my anxiety had been intense all morning the attack I suffered on the way was not unexpected and I did consider walking home with my tail between my legs.

But, twenty minutes of breathing exercises on the side of the road (where a kindly police officer stopped to ask if everything was okay; it was. This wasn’t my first public panic attack) sufficiently calmed me down so I could complete my journey, albeit arriving half an hour late.

There were about ten people in the group – all men aside from a GT House worker and a young student attending as part of her course – and for ninety minutes we played pool. Given there were only two tables we were playing in doubles so in the first hour I had approximately eight shots (about five minutes of table time) with the remaining fifty-five minutes standing nervously by myself whilst everyone else talked sport.

Regular readers of my blog will know I’m not an avid sports follower. Yes, I have an AFL team, but I chose this by throwing all the team names into a hat and drawing one out. When I randomly picked the team I was going to support I immediately put it back in the hat and drew another, but ended up drawing the same team, so figured fate was trying to tell me something. But even though I support a team I don’t really understand the rules (none of my girlfriends followed the sport, aside from the occasional game where they could ogle the tiny short wearing players, so I’ve never had anyone to explain it to me).

As for other sports; Rugby reminds me too much of my school PE lessons, hockey is something I’ve never had the opportunity to watch, fencing doesn’t receive any airplay, cycling is fun to do but boring to watch, I’m too distracted by the sexy posteriors involved in swimming to focus on the sportsmanship and snooker – the only sport I have any interest in – is considered too complicated for an Australian audience so we only ever hear of it when an Aussie wins, which isn’t very often!

Thus, I stood there, wondering why I was stupid enough to believe I would be able to socialize given it had been nearly four years since I’d last done any. Especially given the high ratio of men to women – the latter being a gender I have far more in common with and, in spite of my anxiety, find it easier to talk to.

After spectacularly missing every shot I took the group drew to a close and everyone went their separate ways. For the walk home I wondered how I had become such a terrible pool player; back in the day I used to be able to clear the table from a break! Yet that morning, I hadn’t sunk one ball.

To say the word failure was bouncing around my brain for the rest of the day would be an understatement. But, the simple fact was, I had still attended the event in spite of my anxiety!

“Qi” is a valid Scrabble word

The second group, again organized through GT House, was on Wednesday.

Although the anxiety was high, there was no panic attack on this occasion. The group is held in the library – a haven for me – so I felt safer there than I had in the pub. Plus, I adore Scrabble.

On my first word I scored twenty-five (with two letters); on my second word I scored thirty-five; on my third, twenty-one. On my fourth word I scored six and then hovered around that for the remainder of the game. Not because I couldn’t score any higher – I really, really, could – but because the people I was playing with hadn’t played much Scrabble before and it didn’t feel right to keep playing the kick ass awesome words that would have guaranteed me hundreds of points.

Instead, I came third, but the look on the winner’s face more than made up for this sacrifice.

Would it have been nice to win? Absolutely. It’s been so long since I’ve won anything I could have done with that burst of happy emotion, but I have no regrets about throwing the match to make someone else feel that happiness.

In fact, doing this stopped me from experiencing the feelings of failure that had overwhelmed me the day before.

Beware the Ives of Munch

The third – and most stressful – of the events I attended last week was the much mentioned social network gathering on Thursday evening.

To say this event consumed every waking (and sleeping) moment of thought last week would be an understatement. In fact, the anxiety I felt in the lead up to this event made the anxiety over the pool and scrabble groups feel like a tiny, insignificant mosquito bite.

Unlike those two groups this was not a ‘safe’ environment. There were no moderators, no trained professionals capable of dealing with mental health issues and should a panic attack occur, no-one to do anything but laugh and point. Throw in the fact it was the first time I’d been to a pub on my own since the night I was raped in 2007, I was positively terrified by what ‘could’ happen.

But, true to my courageous self, battling through half a dozen anxiety attacks on the walk to the pub, I managed to attend.

Walking into the bar all I could see were several youngsters in tiny outfits celebrating an eighteenth birthday. I was already half an hour late so approached the bar and ordered a coke from the beautiful women behind the bar (who was wearing a gorgeous teal shirt) and then stood there looking awkward.

From across the room a brunette woman met my gaze and we stared at each other for a few moments before I summoned the courage to find out if she was part of the gathering. Approaching the table I muttered “Are you…?”

“…part of the munch?” She finished with a smile.

Glad to know I wouldn’t be standing there like a guppy all evening, I slid onto the couch opposite this woman and begin talking. At first she led the conversation, but soon I was asking questions and offering opinions with a confidence I hadn’t expected. In retrospect, I think it was serendipitous that this gathering fell on the day my DSP approval came through. The high I’d been riding all afternoon bled into the evening and numbed the anxiety I was feeling, allowing me to communicate as confidently as I was.

After half an hour another person arrived, someone I can only describe as a stereotypical male. His gaze often drifted to the tiny outfitted youngsters who were buzzing around, his facial expression bringing to mind Jon Voight’s Oscar worthy leer from Anaconda.

The moment he sat next to me, my anxiety rocketed through the roof. Over the course of several minutes I found myself edging closer and closer to the arm of the sofa and my conversation dried up and became the random blurted lines I had expected from the beginning. At one point he suddenly slapped me on the back, an act that triggered a sudden flashback and nearly caused me to drop my coke (as I said, this was the first time I’d been in a bar without protection from a ‘friend’ since the night I was raped by a man!)

Now three of us, the conversation ducked and dived over various topics until a fourth person arrived about an hour later. The moment she did, the other woman left and shortly after she left, so did the man. The moment he left, I began drinking alcohol to calm my heightening anxiety.

One glass was all I needed – not having eaten anything all day – for my mind to become tipsy. On ordering a second glass I complimented the gorgeous bar woman on her gorgeous teal shirt (something I would never do whilst sober) and began oversharing with the remaining woman on a scale that would be best described as biblical. Mental health, homelessness, anxiety, unemployment…all the things I’d promised myself would not be brought up out in case they caused people to flee in fear, were vomited from my tipsy, anxious mind.

Three glasses later we left the pub and given I lived 5kms or so from the bar, she gave me a lift. Another drink at her place led to her looking up my blog and after an awkward hug where I froze more rigid than a rabbit in headlights, began the walk home.

There were no feelings of the failure that had raged after the pool group, or the euphoria of allowing someone else a moment of happiness as with Scrabble. I had enjoyed myself, but I couldn’t stop Queen Kathy whispering in my ear about how much I was kidding myself. Walking through the quiet, pitch black night, I wasn’t focused on my success but processing the emotions of the days gone and wondering what was going to happen next.

Had people liked me? Had I made a complete arse of myself? Was Kathy right? Should I just keep to my own safe isolation? Or should I continue making an effort to push for change?

The battle’s done, and we kinda won, so we sound our victory cheer…

Whether it’s arrogant or not to celebrate my courage of attending these groups, I don’t care. Beating back the anxiety and the safety of my isolation to re-engage with society was a huge achievement for me – even though it’s left me emotionally exhausted and added to my current unease over the changes that are happening in my life.

This week, I will be attending both the pool and scrabble groups again as well as a Hearing Voices group that is held on Friday morning. Already comments have been made on the social networking site about organizing another event within the next few weeks so it’s possible I will have something else to attend.

Over the years I’ve noticed the more I take on in one go, the more likely it is that I will collapse. As such I need to be careful not to throw myself in too deep. The pride I have of the courage I showed last week amounts to nothing if it pushes me back into a dysfunctional state, something I’ve already started to notice is happening.

But for now, I’m happy.

Happy that I still have courage in my heart; even if it is more of a mew than a roar.

 


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16 Things I do when I’m alone…

First things first, should I avoid any mention of the obvious? Third things second, given I spend my days alone I do everything alone, so this post shouldn’t be all that difficult to write. Second things last, to narrow the topic down I will describe sixteen things I’ve done today.

1. Slept for eight hours!

Given I’d had about six hours in the last thirteen days, waking up after eight solid hours of sleep was as close to bliss as I’ll ever get.

2. Cleaned the oven

Contrary to popular mainstream media fed opinion I’m a kick ass house cleaner. Possibly latent OCD, possibly latent feminine chromosomes, I clean the house most days and the oven at least once a week. It’s satisfying, therapeutic and slightly disturbing.

3. Got lost in Officeworks

I thought the spiral bound notebooks were opposite the highlighter pens. The next thing I know I’m in printer cartridge territory. Ten minutes later, after a meander through Mousedom and the Kingdom of Ikearipoff I found the highlighters, only the spiral bound notebooks were nowhere to be found. Looking like a rabbit uncertain of where he’d left his lettuce, a female shop assistant approached asking if she could help so I fell back on my standard no thanks, I’m just browsing and then spent another five minutes looking at keyboards whilst I tried to get my bearings.

4. Had a panic attack in the Officeworks car park

I don’t deal well with crowds. I’d thought Officeworks would have been a little quiet given the weather today…but no! It was overcrowded with stationary fetishists like me; cue a quick escape and a little cowering in the corner of a car park until I was stable enough to retreat home.

5. Toe-tapped to Cloud Cult

6. Wrote a blog post

Granted I wrote my Saturday 9 post…and the one you’re reading…but the one I refer to here is one you will see later in the week.

7. Thought about Vanessa Hudgens

I blamethank the Saturday 9 for this. There I was, nonchalantly completely some random questions when TMZ gets mentioned and my head is suddenly full of random paparazzi photographs of Ms Hudgens in a bikini.

Could I get rid of them? Hell no. Cue…

8. *censored*

I’m a passionate and creative man who’s tired of being alone so whatever happiness I can squeeze from life I shall not apologise for :p

9. Browsed the internet

Choice picks:

This photograph from Broken Light: A Photography Collective
This humourous column from The Age: Let me tell ya ’bout the birds and the bees, and a thing called SEX!
This photograph from thoughts of a lunatic
This blog: Struggling with BPD
This photograph from Joy and Woe

10. Ate Vegemite on toast

There is only one thing better than starting your day with Vegemite on toast. And that thing isn’t Marmite on toast.

11. Had a good cry

Under normal circumstances I don’t cry any more, but after two weeks of mood swings, bottled up stress, massive triggers and memory overload on top of the constant loneliness and longing for company, it doesn’t surprise that around 3pm a simple coincidence caused me to just collapse and have a good weep.

Masculine, nope. Therapeutic, yep.

12. Cleaned the bathroom

Like I said…housework = therapy, relaxation, satisfaction. After the cry I needed to take my mind off the emotion. Cue Toilet Duck!

13. Sung Backwards Walk by Frightened Rabbit (as if no-one could hear me!)

14. Wrote an email

Which I shall never send.

I quite often do this for a number of reasons: therapy, release, fill my time, boredom. Mostly it’s because I have something I want to say.

15. Realised I have the perfect photo for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge but can’t post it so became really annoyed!

As soon as I saw the theme was ‘solitary’ a photo I took years ago popped into mind. It’s long been one of my favourite photographs and even though it hurts to look at it, I still cherish it to this day. I even titled it “solitude” long before I saw this week’s challenge topic.

FYI: The reason I can’t post is because it’s of someone from my past and I don’t want to use a photo of them without their knowledge.

16. Imparted the following words of wisdom to my wonderful readers:

Tomorrow: 15 Things I like to do…

 

 


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The impact of anxiety: #01. Commenting

As I explained in this recent post, writing has become a casualty of my current depressive episode, and as such I can only apologise for the lack of posts in recent months.

Without any real support fighting these episodes has become increasingly more difficult. What worked five years ago no longer has any effect or I simply don’t have access to anymore, but I need to continue pushing back toward stability. The next red mark on my calendar is swiftly approaching (October 11) and I dread what may happen if I can’t attain a better head space before then.

Part of that pushing comes in the form of trying to blog on a daily basis again. Over the months I’ve been away I’ve missed indulging in my own form of wacky therapy. No matter how bad my writing gets when I can’t focus properly, it’s better than not writing anything at all (cue the Lord Byron quote!)

Another part of working toward this better head space is attacking the parts of my being that cause the most problems. Namely the anxiety that has crippled me since I was a child and overtook my being courtesy of the abuse, not the crazy shifts of mood bipolar thrusts upon me.

I wrote a little of my anxiety back in the early months of this blog, but this series deals primarily with individual aspects of life that my anxiety has affected; past, present and future.

Today I look at something most people take for granted; commenting on newspapers, blogs and websites.

The Past…

When I was growing up I had no problem sending my opinion(s) to national publications:

At the age of 9 I sent a detailed letter to Blue Peter regarding the school garden we had created at my school. This letter was read and I become the humble recipient of a green Blue Peter badge (Brits will understand the magnitude of this!)

At the age of 13 I wrote a series of hints, tips and walk-throughs for the video game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that were published in an issue of a video game magazine I cannot recall the name of.

At the age of 16, a letter and quote I sent to Doctor Who Magazine was published, albeit with a misspelling of my surname.

At the age of 22, I had a comment published in a local newspaper, the first of many over the coming decade.

At the age of 30, an opinion piece I wrote and randomly sent to a local newspaper was published.

At the age of 31, I stopped.

Now, I cannot comment on newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites without suffering a major panic attack. The reason being quite simple; throughout my emotionally abusive relationship I was frequently insulted, criticized, attacked and publicly humiliated for sharing my opinions, so now, I fear a reprisal of the pain these incidents caused.

On one occasion I had a full glass of water poured over my head in a crowded restaurant on New Year’s Day for expressing a preference of one actor over another. There was no conversation following my voicing of this opinion, no questions or rebuttal. As soon as the name was spoken she picked up her glass and poured it over my head in full view of dozens of diners, staff and random people sneaking in to use the bathroom. After the incident I did as I was supposed to do; say nothing, share nothing and always ensure that what I was saying was what she wanted to hear for fear of further humiliation.

On another occasion, following a four hour monologue (I cannot call it a conversation as she said nothing throughout my talking) everything I’d shared with her was instantly disregarded with “That’s never gonna happen,” and “You’re just wrong.” Over the following months the information I’d shared with her was regularly raised whilst on trams, trains, walking through crowded shopping centers and street festivals. Never in private. The public forum, given the intensely personal and intimate nature of the information, was intensely humiliating as judgmental eyes and random comments were leveled at me from complete strangers.

On other random occasions comments and opinions I shared (even if they were true facts or a view shared by herself) were instantly shot down with numerous insults ranging from “you’re evil” to “no wonder you never went to college” to “you’re the most worthless human being I’ve ever met” to “yep, you’re gonna fail at college” – none of which being spoken with irony, sarcasm or humorous intent.

So over time I learned to shut the frak up. From actresses, film and television to my viewpoint on social and political issues to personal feelings, fantasies and desires, I made sure that whatever I said would meet with her approval, and thus, reduce the chance of humiliation and abuse.

The Present…

This self-sabotaging strategy of protection has continued ever since, aside from the odd random manic/hypomanic state where I can’t stop myself. Now that I’m homeless, a lifestyle that doesn’t exactly lend itself to being taken seriously, I don’t share any opinion in any forum outside of my control.

This week, for the first time in over a year, and only the third time since 2009, I did.

For the army of largely anonymous commentators (and trolls) who comment on a half-hourly basis, this sounds laughable, but for someone whose life has been annihilated by abuse, anxiety, and mental health, it was a big victory for me, despite the journey to the comment being littered with hazards and panic attacks.

I first read the article on Monday 13 August – the day it was published – and after reading both it and the report it discussed, began writing a three paragraph comment, prompted by the fact I am intimately acquainted with the topic being discussed; namely, homelessness.

I scrutinized each and every line ensuring there was no grammatical or spelling errors that I could locate. Every five minutes I rewrote individual sentences and entire paragraphs, removing any point that could prove contentious. After four hours my initial impassioned comment on the state of homelessness in Australia had morphed into a comment that was cold, emotionless and safe. Before clicking the ‘Post Comment’ button I quickly switched off the computer and ran from the room.

The mere thought of someone – anyone – criticizing my opinion, as had been the case throughout the relationship, was too great for me to go through with.

For the next seven days I read and re-read the article, constantly pondering whether I should write my comment again, let alone post it.

On Sunday 26 August I spent ten hours working on a new comment before deleting it.

On Tuesday 28 August, I spent another five hours writing yet another variation of the comment, before once again having a panic attack and erasing it from existence.

By Wednesday 29 August, my mind had been totally consumed by this bloody comment. It was now a week and a half since the article had been published. It was no longer being read, consigned to the graveyard of online journalism for the rest of eternity. But a strange determination had overpowered me.

So, I sat down, and for another four hours (making the total spent on this ‘project’ now 23 hours!) I wrote yet another variation of my initial comment – only now it had been written and rewritten so many times it was soulless, lacking in passion and as safe as a man wrapped in bubble wrap visiting a bubble wrap factory.

So I posted it

…and promptly had a panic attack!

The Future…

The thought that my opinion – albeit a heavily diluted one – is out there makes my skin crawl. Such a heightened emotional reaction to something as simple as writing a comment makes me think I won’t be doing it again in the near future, but I know I must if I ever hope to bring myself back from the brink and achieve a state of mind where I’m no longer controlled by this insidious anxiety.

So this week I hope to leave two comments and the week after that, three, and then four…until I finally feel comfortable enough doing it whenever the urge takes me. That’s the plan anyway, so hopefully any of the myriad of sites I try to visit for my news and opinion will write something that stirs my soul enough to concoct a comment, otherwise this personal challenge will amount to nought.

Tomorrow…The impact of anxiety: #2. Education >>>


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(The 21 Challenge) Day 06. My fear of the cinema

From June 1 to 21, I have challenged myself to do one new thing every day that scares me to help raise support for at risk homeless youth.

You can support me here…go on, it will make you feel all gooey inside.

Ever since I was a young bairn I have loved going to the cinema. Some of my clearest childhood memories involve visiting this heavenly place; The Bear in a cinema in Richmond with my mother and siblings, Oliver and Co. in a cinema in Aberdeen with family and friends, pretending to walk the invisible bridge and drinking from the correct grail after viewing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade whilst on holiday in Jersey.

As I grew into an adult the cinema became a place to lose myself from the turmoil of my hidden self-harm and depression. Sometimes I would watch three or four films in a day or the same film multiple times over several months (my record is Baz Luhrmann‘s Romeo and Juliet; 16 times).

I can clearly remember queuing for nearly two hours with my brother so we could score the best seats for Jurassic Park and I can recall instantly the first film I watched with my respective partners; Meet the Parents, Kenny and Australia respectively, as well as the first film I saw in every city/country I visited, for example; High Fidelity (Vancouver/Canada), Blurred (Melbourne/Australia), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Adelaide), Star Trek (Sydney) and The Dark Knight (Alice Springs).

But over the last few years the cinema has become a place of fear and pain.In the last twelve months I have seen only two films in the cinema – Super 8 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (shudder) – despite dozens appearing that I wanted to watch.

Where once the cinema was a place of solace and relaxation, it has become a place of anxiety, stress and panic; something to fear rather than love.

So, given my current challenge to do something new each day that scares me, I had hoped to include the cinema on one of the twenty-one days. Does it count as something new? Yes – I haven’t been to the cinema in 2012, so that’s new, also,  I hadn’t seen the film I wanted to watch, so that’s new as well. Okay? :p

There are three primary reasons why going to the cinema scares me so much:

  • I have tremendous difficulty dealing with anything involving social interaction. Going to the cinema requires me to be out in public, talk to ticket staff, ushers, possibly fellow movie goers; all of which is hard because of my social anxiety.
  • I live 10kms from the nearest cinema, and my anxiety over buses means I have to walk – and walking for long distances tends to set my hallucinations running wild, which leads to chaos, frustration and migraines.
  • Ever since I had a panic attack whilst watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon I’ve been perpetually afraid another cinema trip would result in the same,

But today  I gathered my jacket and headed off. Throughout the ten kilometre walk I did descend into intense conversation with my hallucinations that resulted in a splitting headache and me sitting on the side of the path for several hours to compose myself. It would have been simple to turn around and head back to the safety of my house but I forged on.

I arrived at the cinema a good hour and a half early so I purchased my ticket and went for a sit down outside. In chosing my session time I deliberately opted for one that I thought would be quiet so I wasn’t surrounded by too many people, thus making things easier on my anxiety. Fortunately, this foreplanning paid off when I entered the cinema to find only a few people in the audience.

Stealing a breath I settled into my seat and waited for the movie to begin. A movie I’ve wanted to see for months.

The Avengers

Cobie Smulders

As I meandered the ten kilometres home I ruminated over the movie I had just watched and came to the same conclusion I reached after watching Toy Story 3 last year. It was a good movie, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I thought I would.

It was nearly a year after release that I watched that Pixar gem and after so many reviews proclaiming it to be the greatest animated film ever (it isn’t) and that it makes grown men weep (it didn’t) I came away wondering if I would have enjoyed it more had I watched it before the reviews and hype tainted my expectations and built it into something it could never live up to.

After so many positive reviews, after so many people proclaiming it to be the greatest superhero movie ever, after over a decade of loving Joss Whedon…I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with The Avengers.

The first hour was disjointed, poorly written and un-engaging. Far too many times I found my mind wandering – should I watch The IT Crowd or Black Books this evening, am I missing any good articles being published, what can I blog about tomorrow – as the surprisingly lacklustre dialogue failed to engage me. As far as I’m concerned there’s a problem when you can anticipate the punch-lines and conversational responses within a movie; especially a Joss Whedon movie.

And if I were being completely honest, the appalling introduction of Thor saw me consider walking out. Now, I wasn’t expecting some grandiose shot or superb sequence, but this blink and you’ll miss it reveal atop the plane was poor at best.

Granted, the following fight sequence served as a redemption for this, but even this sequence felt as if it had been hammered in to appease fans hoping for a Thor/Iron Man/Captain America smack-down.

Only when Loki boarded the SHIELD craft did things perk up for me…

Seven Things I loved about The Avengers:

  1. Cobie Smulders
    I’ve had a crush on this actress since she guest starred in an episode of Smallville many years ago. She is my favourite cast member of How I Met Your Mother and I think she is utterly wonderful, talented and gorgeous. She had a much larger role than I thought she would and looked spectacular in her costume. Still wish she’d been cast as Wonder Woman though.
  2. Mark Ruffalo
    I hated Bana’s interpretation of this character. I actually rather enjoyed the Norton movie, mostly because I adore Tim Roth. But Mark Ruffalo, an actor I’ve loved since his appearance in classic Canadian television series Due South, was outstanding. Out of all of the Avengers he was by far the most enjoyable and his take on Banner/Hulk was pitch perfect in every way. A highlight of the movie.
  3. Robert Downy Jr
    One of only three people I could watch read the phone book and come away satisfied.
  4. The single take
    OH-MY-GOD! One of my favourite things in the world are single take shots in movies and television. Given Whedon has several brilliant single takes to his name I had hoped he would slide a few into this film, and when this sequence appeared during the climactic finale, seamlessly following each of the Avengers in their independent battles I was squeeing intensely and hopping up and down on my chair. Worth the price of admission alone.
  5. Scarlett Johansson
    I won’t hesitate in saying she’s one of my favourite actresses and she was magnificent from the word go in. In fact her introduction – and subsequent sequence with Banner – were the highlights of the lacklustre first hour. And yes, I’m male, so it didn’t escape me how divine she looked in each and every frame.
  6. Hulk punching Thor
    If you’ve seen it, you know which moment I’m talking about. If you haven’t, watch the film for this moment of genius alone.
  7. Hulk body-slamming Loki
    See above.

Anyone who (like me) finds the repeated appearance of this pose when it comes to female (but rarely male) stars somewhat sexist and annoying should have a wee gander at the end of this post for something rather amusing.

Seven Things I didn’t love about The Avengers:

  1. The middling first hour
    I went into this in my preamble.
  2. Captain America
    Note, not Chris Evans. I enjoyed Captain America far more than I thought I would, perhaps because it was partly filmed in Caerwent near where I used to live and the inclusion of Hayley Atwell, but of all the superheroes I find Captain America the least inspiring. In fact, Bananaman is more interesting than this guy.
  3. The plot was kinda ‘meh’
    In all honesty I wasn’t expecting King Lear or Hamlet, but given Whedon has frequently balanced multiple characters with insightful and complex plots, I was a trifle disappointed with a storyline that seemed more focussed on one-liners than anything else.
  4. Loki
    Absolutely superb, multi-layered and brilliant in Thor. One note, slightly annoying and pathos free here.
  5. Thor
    I think Hemsworth does an excellent job in portraying Thor but, as with Captain America, I’m just not all that interested in Thor as a character.
  6. Hawkeye
    I don’t get the chance to read comic books as I would like to so I don’t know too much about this character other than his appearance in Thor. His lack of a proper introduction made it impossible for me to relate in any way to the character and I came away thinking Renner, a superb actor, had been criminally wasted, especially in the first hour of the film.
  7. The aliens reminded me of Transformers
    Given I had a panic attack during Transformers: Dark of the Moon, this is not a good thing.

With the cold night gripping at my bones and the darkness around me reflecting my loneliness, I was happy I had watched the movie; it was far better than Green Lantern and Iron Man 2 although not as magnificent as The Dark Knight or Spider-Man 2.

As I said before, the hype is what killed this film for me, with several of the better lines being spoiled by errant reviewers and fans. If I were being honest I could probably come up with many more things I loved about this movie, but the same could also be said for things I didn’t, so I shall just leave things as they are.

Is it worth watching? Of course it is. Once you get past the lacklustre first hour it becomes a highly entertaining movie that is certainly one of the better comic book adaptations out there. Just not the best.

Mostly I’m just proud of myself for accomplishing something and fighting past my fear. It may not seem much to other people, but as I fight to rebuild my life from the binds anxiety and trauma have on me, a small thing like this can feel very, very big indeed.

Avengers Booty Ass-emble by *kevinbolk on deviantART