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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Update: So what am I doing about it?

Yesterday I outlined some of my current stressors; issues that are triggering my mental health into uncontrollable territory. It was a somewhat whiny, somewhat depressing post, but one that needed to be written. Life is hard for me at the moment, there is no joy, no happiness, no relaxation and no pleasure. I have virtually no energy and my loss of hope is making it difficult for me to keep fighting…but, as I have been for twenty-three years, I keep pushing myself.

First and foremost is my attempt to obtain psychiatric support, something I have been trying to obtain for the last six months. You would think this would be simple, that it would just be a case of contacting the local mental health service and – bam – I have a psychiatrist. But, as with everything in my life, nothing is ever that simple. The simple truth of the matter is Wodonga is a small town with only one public mental health service – and they dismissed me as not needing support in 2012, my first year in this town. The psychiatrist I saw back then treated me like crap, just as the psychiatrist I had seen prior to him treated me like crap. He believed (wrongly) that there was nothing wrong with me and that there was nothing the mental health service could do to assist me. He is the only psychiatrist available on the public health system in Wodonga. And I am not putting myself through another abusive psychiatrist appointment. Period. Thus, the only option I have when it comes to psychiatry, is the private sector.

For the last several months my support worker and I have been looking into this option. There are no psychiatrists in the Wodonga region that could help me, which means I have had to look further afield to Albury in order to obtain this support. And we have identified two potential candidates that may be able to help. Both are women (I am unable to see a male psychiatrist due to the misandry and distrust of men I have developed since my rape) and both have lengthy waiting lists. Also, because of the private nature of their service, I am going to have to pay to see them. But this is something I am willing to do (even if it means not eating for the week!)

Hopefully my six-months-and-counting effort in this aspect of my treatment will pay off soon. Whether I will be taken seriously is another matter. I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to psychiatrists (because I am a high functioning bipolar sufferer they tend to believe I have too much insight into my illness and, therefore, am not suffering from anything) but I’m willing (and determined) to give it a go. Whatever the emotional and financial cost!

However, I am not naive enough to believe that a psychiatrist will solve all my problems. The simple fact of the matter is (as my post yesterday attested) I am currently navigating a minefield of triggers and stressors, all of which are negatively impacting on my mental health. And the simple fact of the matter is a whole army of psychiatrists and CPNs are not going to change the stressors I am dealing with.

And my neighbour is a major source of this stress.

The noise that my neighbour makes causes me stress twenty-four hours a day. It is incessant. It is continuous. It is mind-numbing. How am I supposed to fight mental illness when I cannot relax for even a millisecond in my own house? When you’re homeless you learn pretty quickly what a home really is. It is not just a roof over your head. It is a sanctuary; a place where you can feel secure, comfortable and safe. And the simple truth is that my neighbour, courtesy of his endless noise, has made my house an unsafe place to live. Two days ago, whilst my house was under attack from his wall shaking video games, I self harmed for the first time in nearly a year. A year of hard work and determination was undone in a matter of seconds because cutting myself was the only thing I could do to deal with the cacophony of noise that batters my conscience on a daily basis. And in the moment that the blade sliced through my flesh I realised once and for all I can no longer live under these conditions: I have to move; for my own sanity – for my own safety – I need to move.

I am not under the innocent belief that moving will solve all my problems (again, I am not that naive) but it will remove a dangerous trigger from my life that will make fighting my mental illness that much easier.

The same can be said for Wodonga as a whole.

My trip to Melbourne proved one thing: I hate Wodonga. It is a town that is bad for me. It is a town that is amplifying my mental illness and making it impossible to live the life that I want to live. There is nothing to do in this town. There are no distractions. No social options. No opportunities to live and breathe. The longer I live in this town, the worse my mental illness will become. Wodonga is a trigger. Pure and simple.

Now, some people may think I’m being over-the-top, that I’m allowing the relaxation of a holiday to control my feelings in this respect. Of course I was calm in Melbourne, I was on holiday, everyone is calm on holiday, yada yada yada. But consider this: my mental health in Wodonga is worse than when I was homeless in Melbourne. I was more stable living on the street than I have been over the last few years living in this town. Why? Because even though I was homeless, I was homeless somewhere I wanted to be.

And, as with my noisy neighbour, no amount of psychiatric support is going to change this. Even if I do manage to obtain a psychiatrist they will be facing a losing battle as their work will be quickly undone by the triggering nature of Wodonga.

They say you only live once, maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not, so why would you live your life in a town/city that amplifies your mental health and makes living a chore devoid of excitement, happiness and social interaction?

As I’ve said twice now, I’m not naive or innocent enough to believe that moving will fix all my problems, I’m not my sister, but it will help in my battle. So, over the last few weeks, I have been looking for new housing options both in Wodonga (to eradicate the problem of my noisy neighbour) and in Melbourne (to eradicate the problem of my pathological hatred of this town)

The simple fact is something must change in my living arrangements. And I am working hard to make that change a reality.

As for my other current triggers, to be honest, there is little I can do about them at this time. My physical health problems are being monitored by doctors so only time will tell how this aspect of my life will play out. The same can be said for my current anhedonia and death fantasies; neither are going away anytime soon and, as both are intrinsically linked to my mental health, I can only combat them as best I can. Perhaps a psychiatrist will assist in this respect. Perhaps not. But even though I’ve lost all hope for a better future, I have yet to stop fighting.

I am just trying to do the best I can with the little I’ve got.

What else can I reasonably expect to do?

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Update: A wound up ball of stress and negative energy

stress

Sorry I’ve been absent lately. Life has become something quite unbearable and has not, in any way, lent itself to heartwarming, inspirational blog posts. Ever since I returned from Melbourne back in August I’ve been a wound up ball of stress and negative energy, triggered by so many things that I have no idea how to calm myself down and relax again.

First, there’s my neighbour and his daily cacophony of sound. If it’s not metal music blasting the cobwebs from my walls it’s his incessant video game playing that makes it sound like my unit is under attack twenty-four hours a day. The only peace I receive from his wall of sound is the twenty minutes he’s out of the house each morning, the rest of the time, it’s just noise, noise, noise! I’ve tried talking to him, I’ve reported the problem to my landlord, but neither has brought any relief. He just seems to have no idea (or rather, doesn’t care) how noisy he is being. And it’s been driving me insane.

Secondly, is the ongoing frustration of living in abject poverty. I can’t afford to clothe myself properly. I can’t afford to feed myself properly. I am regularly having to choose between medication and food; so much so, that a few weeks ago I went eight days without any medication so I could have a proper meal or two. Whereas the following week, I re-stocked on medication, only to find myself unable to eat for five days. It’s difficult for people to understand just how stressful it is to live having to make such decisions. When your entire life revolves around the paucity of your bank balance. There is no money for fun, no money for entertainment, no money for anything other than the barest, most essential of items. Truth be told this has been getting to me for years, but as with all the other stressors in my life at the moment, there is little I can do about it. I am too mentally (and physically) unwell to work so I just have to make do. And I’m tired of just making do.

Thirdly, is my physical health. When I was in Melbourne I felt on top of the world. Full of energy. Full of vibrancy. But since returning, since the stress took complete control of my life, my physical health has dwindled. For the past two weeks I’ve been battling through a particularly uncomfortable period of constipation, which has now rotated into a particularly uncomfortable period of diarrhea (I know, TMI!) but that’s not the worst of it. Last week I experienced another bout of abdominal pain which has my GP worried that acute pancreatitis is making a comeback. Over the last week I’ve had blood tests, X-Rays and ultrasounds, all of which has revealed no problem, but my GP is so adamant in his diagnosis that I am paranoid he’s going to put me in hospital; and that’s something I can’t deal with at the moment. Although (aside from the diarrhea) I feel fine at the moment I am stressed to high heaven over the possibility of operations and another grueling hospital stay. Yet more to stress about.

Fourthly, is the nastiness that is anhedonia. Nothing – and I mean nothing – is bringing me pleasure at the moment. Not DVD marathons, not reading, not kinky fantasies, not sleeping, not blogging, not food, not even Doctor Who. Nothing that usually brings me pleasure is working. Nothing is making me laugh. Nothing is bringing a smile to my face. It is just a constant stream of unhappiness, boredom and displeasure. And it’s stressing me out. How can you exist in life when nothing brings you happiness? How can you exist in life when all your life is just an endless array of misery?

Finally, are the ongoing death fantasies that have been assaulting my mind. Ever since reaching my conclusion a few weeks ago I have been plagued with haunting vignettes of my death; hanging, overdoses, slashed wrists, drowning. You name it, I’ve fantasized about it. They are in equal parts frightening and calming; frightening because, deep down, I want to live; calming because, on the surface, death is the only release I can see from my current stress. I have no intention in the immediate future to end my life, but the longer this stress continues, the more suicidal I find myself becoming.

The simple fact of the matter is life has become meaningless. It has become an endless stream of stress, unhappiness and tension. I want to feel happy again. I want to smile and laugh and joke and play and feel like my old self again. But how can I do that when nothing counteracts the high stress I find myself in day after day? Sometimes I just want to sit in my house and enjoy the quiet; but I can’t, because of my neighbour. Sometimes I just want to be able to walk down the road without running to a public lavatory; but I can’t, because of the diarrhea. Sometimes I just want to treat myself to beautiful food; but I can’t, because of the abject poverty.

Everything in my life feels wrong at the moment. Where I live. What I do. How I survive. And I can’t see any end to it. That’s ultimately where the stress is coming from. Every day from today until the day I die is going to be the same; noise, stress and death fantasies. I can’t see an end to it. I can’t see a way out. In life, we need hope to survive. It’s what keeps us going. It’s what powers us to achieve our dreams day in, day out. And the simple fact of the matter is, I’ve lost mine. It’s gone. And I don’t know how to get it back.


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The mystery is solved

As I mentioned in my last post, my physical health has been somewhat of a problem since the beginning of this year. Abdominal pain led to pancreatitis which led to hospitalization and, since I was discharged from hospital, a mysterious abdominal pain that has zapped me of my strength, energy and motivation. In fact, it left me a doubled-over-in-pain, nauseous, vomiting wreck of a human being – and all I wanted to know was what was wrong with me. So last week, after numerous consultations with my GP, I was sent for a scan.

The scan took two hours. Two – tediously boring – hours! First of all I had to force myself to drink nearly a litre and a half of water. I don’t know why I had to consume so much liquid, this was never explained to me, it was just brought out to me and I was asked to drink it as quickly as possible. After making myself feel quite nauseous I was summoned into the scanning room where, after changing into a nifty hospital gown, I was laid on the CT scanner and was told I would need a canulla inserted in order to pump me full of the radioactive contrast medication that enables the scan to be viewed more clearly. This isn’t a problem if you have strong veins…but I don’t. After a gloriously failed (incredibly painful) attempt, the man summoned in his superior who would hopefully have better luck. They didn’t. So they decided (thankfully) to run the scan without the medication. Alas, this didn’t work, so they tried again to install a canulla into my quivering body. This time they wheeled in the ultrasound lady to try to locate my veins through technology. Two further (extremely painful) attempts later they finally managed to get the wee medical equipment into my vein and we were good to go. As the scanner man said “it took forty-five minutes to do something that should have been done in five”. At least the scan itself took only a couple of minutes.

The wait for the scan result, however, was seven days of anxiety inducing madness. As each day clicked over my mind flooded with all sorts of possibilities that could be causing this (at times) excruciating abdominal pain; could it be pancreatic cancer? Maybe it’s stomach cancer? Or an ulcer? Maybe it’s several ulcers all conjoining to create the world’s most grotesque stomach growth?

Yes.

I have hypochondriac tendencies.

It’s not fun!

But after seven days of waiting I finally got the results of the scan yesterday. Apparently what is causing the pain is a 4x7cm cyst that has nestled itself into my pancreas and is happily doing whatever cysts do, much to the chagrin of its host. The GP said this might require surgery (which I’m not too keen on) but because the pain has subsided slightly over the last few days, he hasn’t referred me to the surgeon’s knife just yet. He’s going to monitor me over the coming weeks and, in a couple of months time will send me for another scan (which I’m not too keen on given the canulla nightmare of my recent scan) to see what the cyst is getting up to.

Strangely enough I’m not too fussed about having a cyst. It’s a little disconcerting (especially given its size) but it’s wonderful to know that there is an actual cause of the pain and that it’s not just some depression/anxiety induced psychosomatic symptom. It’s also wonderful to have a doctor that seems to genuinely care about what I’m going through. He really has been fantastic over the last several weeks, putting up with all sorts of paranoia, hypochondria and anxiety from this most stressed out of individuals.

In fact, it’s safe to say that I have never in my life felt this ill (even when I had glandular fever, which is the closest comparison to my current woes). And when I feel ill, I don’t function well mentally. My mood turns sour, depression creeps in and life becomes bleak and unenjoyable. So hopefully, as time ticks on, and my physical health improves, I will find my mental health improving alongside it.

For I really am completely over hospitals, canullas and abdominal pain. Although I do quite like the gowns, as they show off my cute wee behind! :p


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Pancreatitis, pneumonia and abdominal pain, oh my!

It’s been nearly seven months since my last post and sometimes I don’t know where the time goes, for I certainly didn’t plan on being absent for so long. Last year (2014) was a nightmare for me from beginning to end; one elongated depressive episode that sapped my strength and rendered me incapable of performing even the most basic of tasks. I was lost from the first minute after New Year to the last tick of the clock twelve months later, and the only solace had been the hope that 2015 would prove to be “better”, for want of a better word.

Alas, this year has got off to just as bad a start, albeit for totally different reasons.

In early January I began to feel sick; abdominal pains, aching limbs, nausea, vomiting, the list of symptoms were as uncomfortable as they were endless. Then, a few weeks later, the abdominal pain became so severe I was forced to do something I have never in my life done before – I called an ambulance. At 3am, I crawled in agony from my bed and dialled 000 in order to find someone who was willing to help me with my physical torment. Fortunately, the ambulance was quick to arrive and even quicker to inject morphine. A short trip to the hospital later I found myself being connected with all manner of tubes, catheters and heart monitoring equipment. Another short trip to a different hospital later (my local hospital is on the small side) and I found myself in the critical care unit being diagnosed with acute pancreatitis; an illness I was told “could prove fatal”.

All in all I was in hospital for a little over two and a half weeks and every second of it tested every coping mechanism I have. The pancreatitis, I was told, had been caused by the mood stabilisers I was taking, so they were immediately stopped, causing for a little over a week all manner of paranoia and delusional thinking. At one point I believed the operators of the CT scanning equipment planned to murder me. At another point, I believed the hospital was under attack by a cursed Egyptian Princess and only I could save it. Fun times.

Because of my experiences in boarding houses when I was homeless I can’t deal with sharing my space, so being in a ward with three other gentlemen and only a thin curtain between me and them proved highly anxiety inducing; cue anxiety attacks, panic attacks and long sleepless nights listening to what can only be described as a symphony of snoring.

Eventually – after a brief bout of pneumonia which I picked up in hospital – I was fortunately discharged with a bag of pain meds and sent on my merry way. You would have thought this would have been the end of it. That my weeks in hospital would have fixed any physical ailments plaguing my body, but alas, over four weeks later I continue to suffer through an assortment of symptoms that no-one can explain.

The abdominal pain has continued but, rather than being related to the pancreatitis (which I’m assured has healed), is focussed on my stomach. Thus, I have spent much of the last month doubled over in pain whilst simultaneously vomiting and being unable to stomach virtually all foodstuffs. To say I am “over it” would be an understatement. I miss having energy. I miss being motivated. I miss my appetite. I miss feeling ‘healthy’.

Tomorrow, I am going in for another scan (which I’m told will take an hour and a half) in the hope that it will shed some light on whatever is causing my body to rebel in such a painful, uncomfortable and yucky way. For, nearly three months into the year that I hoped would be “better” than 2014, I’m still unable to enjoy a single minute of it.