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…


Bunch of Flowers: On rape and its aftermath…

Prologue: The day to end all days…

On July 7th 2007 I was drugged, physically assaulted and anally raped.

Normally on the anniversary of my rape I hide from it. I lose myself to a bottle of whisky and ‘punish’ myself with self harm. This year, I am trying not to fall back into these unhealthy coping mechanisms. This year, I wanted to talk about my rape, to bring it to the forefront of discussion. It is not a pleasant post, it is not an easy, happy, whimsical post. It is confronting. It is painful. It is everything most people chose not to read. But it is a post I believe needs to be written.

If the subject of rape is a little confronting to you, I don’t apologise. Like mental health, like homelessness, like suicide, self harm and poverty, we need to talk more about rape. For only by confronting the evil that is committed by man can we hope to end the scourge of violence that stalks our streets.

Bunch of Flowers…

zentangleflower“I could tell you ‘bout my weekend. That’s all it was. It’s a party, it’s some downtime, it’s a breather. That blew me apart like a supernova and left me on the bathroom floor. Feeling dirty, trying to scrape myself clean,”

July 2007, Adelaide

Whilst lost to the headiness of a manic episode, I found that the best way to get a woman’s attention was to slap her excellent bottom and await the reaction. Now guys, that is not advice you should follow because the only reaction any self-respecting woman will give to this action is:

a) SLAP!

b) Drink over the head…then SLAP!

c) PUNCH! Drink over the head…then SLAP!…as you try to get up!

But Immortal God Addy didn’t care because the world and everyone in it was his. However, immortality doesn’t exist outside of fiction or the delusions of a psychotic mind. No matter how powerful you feel it’s a short step to leave someone on that bathroom floor, feeling dirty and trying to scrape yourself clean.

Whilst out on the piss one night in pursuit of the feisty fillies who populate that strange South Australian city, I began to feel very strange myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now, that I had been drugged. I don’t know what drug had been slipped into my gin and tonic, maybe Rohypnol, maybe something else. All I know is that it made me feel weird. Confused. Tired. Where before I had been talking and playfully slapping excellent bottoms to my heart’s content, after imbibing the drug, I could barely stand. Staggering about that bar, I recall a man taking me under his wing and leading me out of the bar into the Adelaidian night. His face is forever shrouded by the drug addled haze but he was big, not exactly rippling muscles/at-the-gym-every-day big, but big as in could-do-with-losing-a-few-pounds big.

And for some reason that I have never figured out, he took me from that bar, to a motel, and gave me a bunch of flowers.

When I came to the following morning I was groggy, badly bruised and in a fair amount of pain. I’m used to bruises, I’ve inflicted enough on myself over the years, but these were different. I didn’t inflict these on myself so they were more painful, more invasive. I felt dirty, repulsive, degraded, insulted, weak, angry, shameful, guilty, confused, hollow, guilty, and in pain…I knew men could give other men bunches of flowers, but I had never, not even for a moment, thought that someone would give me a bunch of blood-red, sickly smelling flowers.

The man was nowhere to be seen. There was little evidence in the motel room I was in to indicate anyone had been staying there long-term. No clothes. No toiletries. Nothing. It was just me and the grimness of a seedy hotel. Gathering myself together I left the room and painfully walked back to where I had been staying. As soon as I got there I stripped myself naked, examined my scrapes, cuts and bruises in the mirror and staggered into the shower. I stood – nay, lay on the floor of the shower – for hours, slowly scrubbing my flesh raw, slowly trying to eradicate any evidence of the flowers that had been thrust upon me. It didn’t occur to me at the time to go to the police. It didn’t occur to me that cleaning myself would erase any trace of the man. All I wanted to do at the time was cleanse myself. I was dirty. I was disgusting. I was weak. And with my flesh still raw and dripping wet I took a knife and cut myself to ease the pain (the irony of self harm). But it wasn’t just to ease the pain. It was to punish myself for being weak. For allowing someone to force their bunch of flowers on me without even putting up a fight.

How could I? Whatever drug had been given to me eradicated any fight left in me. And this is something subsequent meetings with psychiatrists, counselors and other health-related professionals have failed to grasp. Why didn’t you fight back? They asked. Why didn’t you do something to stop him?

One quote I’ve always remembered from the great Methos is “Just because I choose not to fight doesn’t mean I don’t know how.” I may look like someone who, if he slapped an excellent bottom, would produce only the feelings of a feather landing on her flesh – but if I want to, I could leave a lovely hand print or two. I can, only if necessary and/or provoked, defend myself and/or others with a violent Spike-like relish. It’s very un-Addy of me not to. That night however, because of the drug, I was unable to.

Once the bruises and cuts were tended to I sat on the floor for what felt like hours. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do. I cried, certainly, huge, blubbering, caterwauling, cries that filled the room and left my eyes red raw and cheeks sodden wet. At some point I stopped crying (probably when I had nothing left to release) and decided the only option was to take my mind off things. I slowly walked (because it was still painful to walk) to the nearest internet cafe to take my mind off things. I perused the kimnyk sites, soothing my soul with the passion that burned brightly within it. I looked up self-help sites. I looked up sites about being given bunches of flowers. I checked my email – and almost immediately wished I hadn’t. For Kathy (my ever abusive ex-girlfriend) had decided to launch a fresh attack on me. I was selfish. I was rotten. I was responsible for her stress. I was useless, worthless, nothing. The very last thing I needed at that moment was more attack and abuse. So I severed contact. I deleted my email account so she couldn’t contact me again, changed my phone number, walked to the nearest park and, with everything bubbling to the surface, threw myself into a tree.

When I came to, I decided I should probably go to the hospital. After all, it’s not everyday you knock yourself unconscious after being given a bunch of flowers. I said nothing of the flowers I’d been given. The cuts which accompanied the bruises and welts made it easy: I was just another naughty self harmer. What was the cute nurse gonna do, spank me? She gave me a stern scolding, the contact number of the crisis mental health team and sent me on my way.

On my way home from the hospital I thought about telling people what had happened, but who? Mae was too closely entwined with Kathy’s life, and the last person I wanted to know of this latest event was Kathy. She already thought me weak and repulsive, selfish and rotten. To her, I was nothing. A non entity no human being could ever care about. The simple truth of the matter is, she would have adored the bunch of flowers that had been bestowed on me. She would have seen them as the beautiful payback she believed I deserved for not helping or caring about people enough. Maybe that’s what they were for anyway. A punishment. A life lesson from Him up There. Grace, also, was too close to Kathy. Plus, they were both female. I felt degraded and emasculated enough as it was. My family, nope, not going there. Psychologists, too expensive. Mensline, I tried, but couldn’t. It was like Kathy had said, I was weak and worthless and I was like a cancer, I deserved it and so much more – she had already taught me what to do anyway:

You must always hide your problems and pain from the world. It’s what we must do, always make people happy and never share our problems. Ever.

So I spoke to no-one about what happened. As per usual, I bottled it up, refusing to let anyone in on the pain I was feeling. I returned to my motel, turned on the television (the Rugrats Go Wild movie) and cried myself to sleep. Over the coming days my mania waned. I’ve always cited the bunch of flowers I was given as causing this. My time at my hotel came to an end. I began sleeping in a park in the suburb of North Adelaide. My bruised, beaten body barely finding any comfort on the rough, hard earth. As the days progressed I self harmed as a matter of ritual. I cut. I hit. I burnt. I did whatever I could to stop the emotional pain from overwhelming me. I had never, in my entire life, felt as isolated as I did during those days. From those dark, lonely, pain riddled days, three memories stand out:

1. A night in Ararat that I spent in tears, desperately trying to make sense of the previous few weeks. I needed a hug. I needed a friend. I needed Grace.

2. Sitting on the balcony of the flat which was home for a while in Melbourne, Grace’s number lit up on the screen of my phone. She would be angry that I had gone dark. Angry that I had cancelled my email and changed my phone number. I convinced myself she wouldn’t understand, that she was, after all, on Kathy’s side. Anyway, I couldn’t connect the call. She was about to leave for a six month student-exchange in Mexico and I didn’t want to upset her trip. Like Kathy had drilled into me; you have to make everyone happy, always, and never share your problems under any circumstances.

3. The opening and closing scenes of the Doctor Who episode Gridlock, which reminded me even my hero can feel pain:

Over the coming months, the bruising healed and all that was left to indicate a bunch of flowers had been bestowed upon me was the scars cut deep into my brain. But even that was doing it’s utmost to protect me. For reasons unknown to me it blocked out the event and I found myself lost to a deep depression, unable to work out how or why I had fallen into it. Then, as things do when you suffer from mental illness, everything got too much.

October 2007, The Dandenong rainforest.

That wacky day of fun!

By the time I made it to the hospital after my suicide attempt, my brain had finished it’s subconscious act of protection. In order to protect me from the bunch of flowers, my brain had liberally doused my mind with fertilizers and all that was left were the fallen petals around my sweat ravaged bed sheets every morning.

August 2009, Alice Springs.

It was a full year before everything that had happened came flooding back. For some reason – which I believe was triggered by the abuse a friend received – my brain unleashed that bunch of flowers back into full bloom. I’ve never been able to figure out why my brain was so evil. Why it stopped protecting me. The colours, smells and feelings the flowers had provided me came rushing back, affecting everything I had cultivated in my ‘new life’. My job suffered. My relationship with Diane suffered. My friendship with Grace suffered. My mental health, unsurprisingly, suffered. The impact was immense. As I ran from the stream of petals my mind was unleashing, my life collapsed. My medication was tripled. I lost friends. I nearly lost my job. I made stupid decisions that I could never come back from. I tried to tell Diane what was happening, what had happened, but I couldn’t muster the words to describe the pain, so as per usual, I suffered in silence. After all, how could I talk about what had happened to me? Who would believe me? Who, on this earth, would believe that a man can be the recipient of a bunch of flowers? It is, according to the mainstream media, the domain of women. Only they can be given bunches of flowers. Men; we’re meant to be strong, defiant, unrelenting in our masculinity. Silence was the only option – even though it increased my pain and made everything ten times worse, the reality, admitting to what had happened, would have been far worse.

November 2009, Melbourne.

A year after everything came flooding back. A year of wallowing in memory, in pain and in torment, and the bunch of flowers was just another event I had to deal with. Another event that I should never speak of. Until I became lost to homelessness, to delusion and psychosis. Until my mental health collapsed to the point that the only thing I could do was come clean and let people know what had happened to me, which I did, on my trusty blog.

“I’ve got a tattoo, of a bleeding heart and a moon inside a sun. I wear it everywhere, it’s a part of me and how I see everyone,”

Epilogue: Long-standing scars…

Like all traumas, being raped has left long-standing scars. It’s doubtful I’ll ever return to Adelaide, for example. Smells (BO), tastes (gin and tonic), sounds (someone chewing gum) and vision (the river Torrens) all remind me of the trauma that befell me. My trust and intimacy issues have been badly damaged. I can’t have sex. I can’t kiss people. I even struggle to hug them. In fact, any physical contact, especially from men, reminds me of what happened. I can’t deal with people being behind me; so much so that I will stop if someone is approaching and wait for them to pass before continuing. I have recurrent nightmares about what happened that prevent me from sleeping soundly. And I have become a misandrist; a card-carrying hater of all things man and masculine.

To say that being raped is a defining moment of my life would be an understatement. It has defined me as a man (weak, worthless, a walkover) and rendered me unable to love myself in any way, shape or form. Being raped made me hate myself on a level I never thought possible. I have always blamed myself for being raped, even though deep down I know it wasn’t my fault. It was a random moment. Something I had no control over. A man – a sick, twisted, weak man – took it upon himself to drug me, assault me and forcibly rape me. And in the process, destroy me.

Over the years I have tried to talk to people about what happened but few have believed me. They believe I am making it up, that it is the product of my mentally ill mind. But I know it happened. I know what befell me. Psychiatrists laughed at me, counselors downplayed the incident. It was only my first support worker, whom I trusted, that believed me and understood the pain it had caused me. I have never spoken to friends or family about what happened to me. They know, as they read my blog, but I don’t think they fully understand just how much impact the event had on my life. I don’t think anyone can understand that, no matter how concisely I write about it on the blog.

The 7th July 2007 will always be forefront in my memory. It is a day of pain. A day of unimaginable torment. It is the day I ceased being Andrew.

~ The quotes from this post were taken from the song “Fortune’s Wheel”, by the always incredible Serena Ryder ~

Note: ‘Bunch of Flowers‘ was written in Nov. 2009. The version that appears in this post is a heavily edited, updated version.

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Reflections on being homeless, Part 4

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.

I have yet to come to terms with the last two and a half years and in spite of my current accommodation, still feel homeless to this day.

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, we are in early 2010, the beginning of the second worst year of my life.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

The Beasts Below (Days 157 – 273)

Yesterday I wrote of triggers. The things that send my mind reeling back into past trauma and pain. Sometimes these are physical things that can be avoided, other times they come out of the blue in the form of newspaper articles or blog posts. But from time to time they are dates, mere digits on a calendar, that remind me endlessly of the pains that I have experienced.

In 2007, my life was in disarray. After a year of battling through severe depression I had clawed my way out the tunnel and refocused my life. I had returned to college, formulated a five-year plan for the future, approached each and every one of my passions and foibles and devised ways to embrace and/or dissolve them. My social network was increasing, not just in terms of strengthening the friends I had, but extending it on two different fronts. In spite of glandular fever and other physical illnesses I had continued to work, as much as I was able given the illnesses, and push onwards with these changes.

Then, in the space of nine days, everything fell apart. I lost my girlfriend, college course, social network, income streams and suffered a breakdown. Over the subsequent three months I lost everything else: my possessions, my passions, my ability to think, my future.

And throughout all of this the emotional abuse was raging, forcing me to believe I was the most useless, worthless, selfish, despicable, grotesque piece of human excrement that had ever existed.

In May of that year, a few short months after I had felt so spectacular about my life and future, I downed every pill I could find and collapsed onto my bed praying for death. I wanted the abuse to be over. I wanted the pain to stop.

I wanted to die.

Obviously, the attempt failed; I lived.

In 2009, my life was once again in disarray. After two years of fighting to rebuild my life, I had failed. The words of my abuser had been proved correct. Living in a boarding house in Inverness I spent my days job hunting, scrimping and self-harming. Whilst online one day I received an email from a woman in Australia who had read my blog and needed help.

I have written of her in the past, and thinking of her now is still painful. The short version is I failed to help her and she took her own life; she died. And to this day I have blamed myself for her death and carried the guilt ever since.

These events, separated by two years of time, occurred on the same day. An anniversary that was marked by day two hundred and seventy-three of my homelessness.

It had been one hundred and sixteen days since I had left the accommodation I’d called home. A period of time that had been marked with some of the deepest periods of depression and isolation I had experienced in my life on the streets thus far.

My ability to function had become so bad I barely existed in the real world. My mind endlessly cycled in and out of fantasy, delusion and hallucination. I was now talking to myself almost constantly. Whether it be when I was on my own in the park or surrounded by others as I walked the streets in a cloud of illusion, the two and a half years I had spent isolated, with little to no human contact was taking it’s toll.

This period marked several events that became defining moments in my homelessness:

  • After obtaining a new mobile phone through a JSP (Note: Job Service Provider, not Janet Street Porter) I was attacked on the street a few short hours after I had collected it. My two attackers had decided I was photographing a woman without her knowledge for nefarious purposes. It didn’t matter to them that I did not have a camera on my phone!
  • For the first time since 2007 I blacked out. For a period of five days I have no memory of where, what, how, who or where I was.
  • This boarding house was a nightmare, but not the worst I ever stayed in. It had only one toilet and bathroom for the twelve people living there. On weekends, when various friends, partners and family members came to stay, this number could increase to anywhere from 14 to 19.
    The house itself was invested with mice that would regularly eat through walls, food and possessions. It did not have a proper bed (merely a rodent faeces invested mattress propped on the floor with bricks) and several dogs lived in the backyard whose droppings were never cleaned up by their respective owners.
    My reasons for leaving this boarding house were several fold:

    • The money I was paying for rent made it impossible to afford adequate medication and food, let alone anything else.
    • My hallucinations and PTSD fuelled nightmares were causing issues for other members of the house.
    • The night before I left my door was kicked in by a fellow housemate and I was thrown against the wall by this person, demanding I give him money as he’d run out of alcohol and I’d just been paid. Only I hadn’t just been paid and had even less money than he did; a fact proven when he went through my wallet and found nothing but lint and moths. The black eye he gave me, I was told, was a warning.
  • One evening, whilst sleeping rough in a park in Melbourne, I witnessed a couple having an argument. Normally I would turn the other cheek for all couples argue from time to time, but when he began physically assaulting her I decided to intervene. As far as I’m concerned no-one has the right to abuse anyone; physically, sexually or emotionally. As he was beating the shit out of me all I could think was ‘at least he’s not hitting her’
  • For the first time I was awakened by police whilst sleeping rough. They were actually quite decent about it and, after checking my ID and running me through their computer, advised me of certain areas to stay away from and let me be.
  • This incident however sunk into my paranoia and I began sleeping in other locations to avoid any further police contact. Sometimes drifting miles away from the park that had kept me safe for so many months into areas that were even more unsettling and dangerous.
  • Also during this time my recently renewed passport was stolen along with other items whilst I slept. For the first time since being homeless I had no photographic identification.

All of this, combining with the ongoing verbal abuse I was receiving from non-homeless people and the damage that had been caused by having to leave my accommodation, mixed with the upcoming anniversary of Stephanie’s suicide and my own attempt in 2007, I knew I needed to be accommodated on this day.

With my distrust of homeless services elevating and my ongoing lack of support from mental health organisations I saved enough for me to book a hotel room for this weekend. I needed to be indoors. I needed peace and security. I knew if I didn’t all hell could break loose as the trauma triggered a napalm explosion in my mind.

So, as dawn broke on day two hundred and seventy-three, I cracked open my first bottle of wine since becoming homeless. I knew I would be criticised for being ‘just another homeless alchy’ but as nothing else was working, and with no-one to turn to, self-medicating with alcohol was my last and only option.

For months there had been triggers everywhere I’d been – the assault in the boarding house, the attack on the street, the ongoing verbal abuse, the (albeit my own stupid fault) assault in the park – and my mind was now firmly in non-functioning territory. And as I repeat these reasons I wonder why I’m defending my consumption of alcohol that weekend.

Every week people self-medicate with alcohol for far fewer reasons than I had. Perhaps because it made me realise I was now just another stereotype or that I had finally conformed to the abuse that my ex had levelled at me: I was a worthless, useless, unloved human being who deserved nothing but a life on the streets with alcohol his only source of comfort.

Whatever the reason it was the only thing that prevented me from doing something stupid that weekend so I have no qualms about what I did. Lost to a stupor of wine and beer (unfortunately, I couldn’t afford whisky) I drank to the memory of Stephanie, subdued the pain I was feeling and momentarily forgot the pain of my fallen life.

The simple fact was I was no longer coping with being homeless, being alone or with any of the crap going on in my mind. I didn’t know what to do or where to go and, after seeking help, I lost all trust in homeless services.

For where I ended up was the worst place possible.