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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I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?

 This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on 15 March 2013 (beware those Ides! :p) between 20:38 – 21:09. Apologies for any grammatical/spelling errors that occur, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

exhaustion

The title of this post comes from a quote by the late (great) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The full quote is:

I am somewhat exhausted;
I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?”

And I’ve bolded the first four words because it amply describes exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. Ever since forcing myself out of the nightmare that was DecJanFeb I have been pushing myself harder and harder in so many directions I’ve forgotten which way is south.

Canny readers of my blog will have noticed that my postings have become a daily assortment of questionnaires, memes and random photographs not of my taking. Even cannier readers of my blog may also have worked out that the vast majority of these posts are written well in advance of publication.

Over the last few weeks I’ve sat down on a Friday evening, whipped out my daily posts for the week and scheduled them for publication. Is this cheating? Not really. They are still products of the warped, kinky and occasionally brilliant mind of me. They are just not written when people may think they were written. Instead, during these moments, I am usually spread-eagled on the floor dribbling onto my carpet wishing my traumatized mind would allow me a few hours of peace for a good night’s sleep.

The simple fact is, for the last several weeks I have barely stopped for breath.

If it’s not social groups where I whip ass at scrabble (285 points this week from playing five words), it’s lengthy conversations with my support worker about my not-so-merry-band of voices.

If it’s not hearing voices support groups where I sit in the corner terrified of making a sound, it’s lengthy conversations with my not-so-merry-band of voices about my support worker.

Throw in the work books I’m working through (Hearing Voices, Mindfulness, Mind Over Matter and Self-Harm), the munches I’m attending (two in the last month) and the ongoing duel with my social anxiety, there is no time left for me or that most beautiful of states, relaxation.

Emails are stacking up unanswered because after logging onto the computer I fall sleepily off the chair, DVDs I want to watch are stacking up because I can’t find a spare ninety minutes to watch a movie and my health issues are stacking up because there’s only so much the mind and body can take without respite.

Hell, I don’t even have the energy to click the mouse button to display images of excellent bottoms on my monitor! And when you’re too out-of-it to use the internet for what is was designed for, you know you have a problem with exhaustion! :p

In fact, I’m so tired that I’ve contemplated turning to coffee because it seems to work for everyone else. To hell with the fact it would probably make me violently vomit, if it allows me to be awake long enough in the evening to do something productive, it’s a price I think I’m willing to pay!

But it’s not really just the sheer emotional and physical exhaustion that’s getting me all down and distracted. I’m proud of the efforts I’m making to put myself out there and tackle head-on some of the serious problems I need to hurdle in order to continue my journey along the road to recovery.

It’s that it doesn’t feel like I’m actually getting anyway.

I don’t feel like my anxiety has improved, in fact, because of the exhaustion, it’s getting worse. My voices are as confusing, demanding and abusive as ever; Meadhbh aside, but we’ll get to her odd behavior in another post! My mood swings are still uncontrolled and volatile. Whilst my urges to turn to self-medicating behavior (alcohol, cigarettes and self-harm) are getting harder and harder to withhold; I am, after all, using a lovely little Sauvignon Blanc (such beautiful hints of lemon and passionfruit) to fuel the writing of this stream of consciousness. :/

And then there are the things that I’ve had to turn down, things that would actually make me feel like I’m getting somewhere.

Tonight I was invited to a party in Melbourne, a party where there was a 99.9% chance I would have crossed item one (item one…ONE…FFS!!!) off my bucket list! A party I had to turn down from attending because I couldn’t afford the $15 return train fare to Melbourne.

In two weeks, the organisation I use for my social groups are going on a two night camp, a camp that I was originally hoping to attend but now believe I will have to turn down because I have been receiving letters threatening to cut my electricity and gas off due to unpaid bills.

Throw in the invitation to coffee I had to turn down last week due to my anxiety, the invitation to lunch I turned down today because of my exhaustion and the library led Scrabble tournament (that there’s a good chance I would have won) I had to miss yesterday because of anxiety and exhaustion, and I’m left wondering why I even bother.

Sometimes I just want to scream.

Loudly!

There are so many reasons I’m writing this blog post and none of them are for advice and/or sympathy. Not that I would expect any anyway…I’m tired – exceedingly, dribbleingly, so – but tired nonetheless. A perfectly normal, perfectly understandable human emotion that anyone undertaking the sheer volume of work I’m currently doing would be feeling.

I think I just need to prove to myself I still have an ‘emotional’ blog post in me. One that I write and post without scheduling. One that reflects who I am and what I’m feeling. One that will hopefully get me writing more thoughtful, analytical, unique posts again.

So, for the first time in months, if you’ll permit me, I’ll end this post with a list of six things I’d like to achieve this week. Perhaps this way, I will find a way to better manage my time, gift myself some ‘self-love’ and be able to stop this downward spiral into depressive emotional exhaustion.

Six things I’d like to achieve this week:

  • Have at least one night where I get at least three hours sleep.
  • I’ve had Zelda: Twilight Princess sitting in the corner of my room since purchasing the second-hand Wii over two weeks ago. Given my passion for all things Hyrulian, my crush on Midna and my life-long love bromance with Link…how have I not played this game yet? It will make me happy, it will make me feel something other than blarrrraggghhhhhh, it will be doing something wonderful for myself. Thus, this week, I vow to at least get to the point where Link must spank the evil monkey with his sword…and I mean that quite literally! :p
  • Write the first in my series of planned posts around the Mindfulness techniques I have been working through in order to deal with my trauma. I think this is something many people may find useful, for it’s certainly been helping me! :)
  • Write at least two other ‘non meme, questionnaire etc’ posts. This is something that really shouldn’t be all that hard considering I currently have 68 half-written drafts in my WordPress posts folder!
  • Spend at least thirty minutes using the internet for what it was designed for! What? I did say only a few moments ago I needed to gift myself some ‘self-love’! It’s perfectly natural! ;)
  • Clear my email inbox, which is starting to look like the online equivalent of this photograph!

paperfilledoffice

Hope you are all well and slightly less exhausted than I am at the moment! :)


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Addy’s Best of 2012: The Best Surprise of the Year

In addition to the Mental Health Month Challenge I have decided to undertake a more light-hearted challenge this month that I discovered on Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges. Each day in December I will be issuing an award in celebration of everything 2012, continuing with…

The Best Surprise of the Year

~ No longer homeless ~

Home

By far and away the biggest surprise of 2012 was the moment I received a phone call from a real estate agency offering me a unit. After three years of living in parks, urine soaked alleys and perfecting my best ‘living under a bridge’ troll impression, I firmly believed the only way I would escape homelessness would be to die.

Throughout those long years the constant stream of rejections I received from rental applications, employers and society in general had made me believe I was destined to exist on the streets for the remainder of my life. I had worked myself to the bone on a daily basis, never experiencing anything other than continuous pain on both a physical and mental level.

When that phone call came in late February I had all but given up and resigned myself to my deserved fate.

For the first several days after I moved in I was sleeping on the floor of my ‘bedroom’. After Vinnies kindly donated me a bed, I continued sleeping on the floor for several weeks as I was trapped in the mindset of a homeless person. I didn’t believe I deserved a bed, a home or any of the changes that I’d managed to create for myself.

Over time, I slowly began to settle. I moved from the floor to the bed, I began sitting on the couch rather than the floor and began listening to the radio instead of staring into space. But I continued believing I was homeless, locked into that way of thinking after years of trauma.

For this is the one aspect of homelessness people do not understand.

It is not a case of just finding somewhere to live and that person will miraculously fix every aspect of their life. Homelessness is more than not having a home; it is a way of life, a trap that once you’ve fallen into is immensely difficult to escape from as you have to re-learn all of the social skills that have been forgotten throughout your homeless life.

Nine months later I still think of myself as homeless. I don’t feel settled and I continue to believe that homelessness is, and will always be, my future. In spite of the advances I have made over the last several months those years continue to haunt me on a daily basis, making hope for the future something impossible to believe in.

However, compared to where I was this time last year, I’m in a much better place and have a far greater chance of being someone again.

As long as I continue working (and fighting) for a better future as fervently as I have been these last few years :)

~ If you’d like to see some photos of the interior of my house, you can right here! ~

~ Runners up for ‘The Best Surprise of the Year’ award ~

*SPOILER WARNING*
The following video is the closing moments of Dexter Season 6.
Do not watch this video if you plan on watching this season!

 


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Hug a Homeless Person Day

I’ve just realised an obvious problem in my decision to take on the WordPress Daily prompts as a challenge throughout November. Being in Australia, I will always be a day ahead (or a day behind, depending on your perspective), as new prompts are posted in US time.

The lateness of this post comes from hoping WordPress would post their 1 November update in time for me to write something, but alas, they did not. Thus, for my 1 November post I’m answering the prompt for 31 October. Whereas tomorrow I will answer the 1 November prompt, and so on.

Only tomorrow I will answer the prompt much earlier as I’m so sleepy at the moment I can barely keep my eyes open!

Invent a holiday! Explain how and why everyone should celebrate.

If I could invent a holiday it would be Hug a Homeless Person Day. Whether they are real life bear hugs, online {{HUGS}} or hug-like acts of donating time to volunteer with homeless services; showing you care about the homeless is all that’s required to celebrate this day.

With homelessness an ever-increasing problem more needs to be done to help those unfortunate enough to find themselves in this predicament, so why not form a holiday to help those individuals too often forgotten within our society?

For years I slept in parks, alleys, storm drains and doorways, never once receiving any form of human contact. Throughout those long, lonely years I became withdrawn and disconnected from society. I forgot what it meant to be loved or cared about and became ostracised from society at large. The hardest part of trying to regain my life is trying to relearn all the basic communication skills I forgot throughout my homelessness. Skills that would never have been lost if society treated the homeless as human beings instead of animals.

On any given day a hug would have made all the difference. It would have proved to me that I was visible. That even though I was in the direst of situations there were people out there who cared. The simple act of someone sitting down to talk to me, to take an interest in my personality rather than their preconceived stereotypes, would have given me hope. Hope that I, like many, found so hard to hold onto.

No-one chooses to be homeless. So why is society ignoring the plight of those most in need of support? We have holidays to gather candy, to celebrate horse races, ignite the sky with fireworks, commemorate monarchs and feast on chocolate eggs…so why no holiday to care about those less fortunate?


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Embracing my inner penguin on the day everything changed!

Yesterday, I embraced my inner dancing penguin in the middle of an internet cafe.

Why?

Well, a few days ago I asked my parents if I could borrow $20 for my social gathering yesterday evening. Granted, this makes me sound like a teenager, but given I rarely asked to borrow money to go out with friends at that age (the perils of not really having any) I guess I was making up for lost time.

Anyway, they transferred some money into my bank account and yesterday afternoon I went to collect it in anticipation of my evening and, upon seeing my balance was $200 had a small heart attack. Knowing my parents couldn’t possibly afford to send so much over I initially thought it was either:

a) A cock-up with the international transfer.

b) A cock-up with my Centrelink payment.

or

c) A cock-up with the bank.

Having heard of numerous incidents where the bank randomly transferred money into someone’s account, wait for them to use it and then whack them with a thievery charge, I immediately entered the bank to enquire why my account had so much money in it.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: There’s $200 in my account.
Her: Congratulations.
Me: You don’t understand, there’s $200 more than there should be in my account. I have no money so why do I have $200?
Her: (looking at me oddly) Let me check that for you.
Me: Thank you.
Her: [tap tap tapping on the keyboard] Ok. You received an international transfer of $30 and the rest is a payment from Centrelink.
Me: But I get paid on a Saturday.
Her: It says here that the transfer is for your Pension Payment.
Me: Pension payment?
Her: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: Pension payment?
Her: Yes, sir. Is there anything else I can do for you today?
Me: Pension payment? No, no. Sorry. Thank you kindly.

And I walked away muttering pension payment? until I reached the internet cafe, logged onto Centrelink, and realised they had granted my disability pension without actually informing me in advance that they’d approved my disability pension or be paying me back pay yesterday.

Sneaky bastards!

So, to add balance to the exceedingly depressing bullet pointing my day post I wrote a couple of weeks ago and because I am fecking exhausted and don’t have the power to form beautifully written paragraphs of text, here is me bullet pointing the events since embracing my inner penguin and doing a happy dance upon realising my disability pension has been approved.

  • I walked from the internet cafe to the hairdressers and sat outside smoking a cigarette.
  • I walked around the block four or five times before plucking up the courage to walk into the salon.
  • Upon seeing the divine beauty of the woman with the scissors I immediately faked a telephone call and left.
  • I then walked around the block ten more times before walking back into the hairdressing salon.
  • Upon having an empty store the woman grabbed me before I had the chance to fake another call and dragged me into the chair.
  • She then promptly fainted upon learning I hadn’t had a haircut in over two and a half years.
  • After reviving her with smelling salts (that I keep in case of emergency) I braved the chair for twenty minutes.
  • Her accent was a mix of Spanish and Australian. An odd, yet utterly beguiling combination that made the experience rather pleasurable.
  • With my hair looking magnificent I left with a renewed spring in my step, fully aware that this particular hairdresser is the incentive I need to get regular (at least once a fortnight) haircuts.
  • I then went to the shops and purchased: a not quite brand spanking new pair of jeans (yay, no more hole the size of a fist in my crotch!), some brand spanking new underwear (yay, for my sexy ass looking even sexier!), a 50% off yet still brand spanking new pair of shoes (yay, no more fixing with superglue and cardboard!) and a brand spanking new razor (yay, no more disposables tearing my face to shreds!)
  • Following this rather altruistic shopping spree I perused the op shops, had a shot of whisky in the pub (in preparation for the evening ahead) and then returned home.
  • Anxiety attack #1 was followed with me showering, shaving, making myself look and smell utterly edible and then commencing the 6km walk to where I was due to meet for the social gathering.
  • Anxiety attack #2 was followed by my phoning my parents to give them the first piece of good news in a long, long time.
  • Anxiety attack $3 was followed by me narrowly avoiding (with a rather stupendous forward roll) a swooping magpie.
  • Anxiety attack #4 was followed by me sitting on a bench near the river smoking three cigarettes as I realised in a few minutes I would be walking into a pub for my first social gathering in nearly four years.
  • Or I could just walk home.
  • After scolding myself for even thinking such a thought I took a deep breath and entered the pub…
  • …[which I will tell you all about tomorrow when I’m in a far more capable of writing mood]…
  • …[suffice to say I didn’t die, pass out, have the building implode on me or be tortured by sadists]…
  • …in fact by the time I returned home I was in a rather good little mood and promptly fell asleep dreaming of Spanish/Australian hairdresser woman and how frigging awesome and courageous I am!
  • I woke up at 5am after a PTSD nightmare and couldn’t get back to sleep.
  • After waking I headed out and logged online to make sure no-one was worrying about me too much.
  • I re-posted the Thursday Thirteen post I’d written (that, for some reason or another failed to schedule properly) before reading a few comments from yesterday that urged me, should I receive back pay, to treat myself.
  • Given my happy dance of the day before the staff didn’t seem too fussed with me saying “Very well, good sir, I shall!” in a verbal response to the comment.
  • Cue “Addy’s Fuck Yeah I’m On the Disability Pension and Goddamn Treating Myself After Five Years of Fucked Up Pain Shopping Trip!” (or the unpronounceable AFYIOTDPAGTMAFYOFUPSS for short)
  • Purchase #1: Two not quite brand spanking new pillows for $4 (!)
  • Purchase #2: A BSN doona for $10 (my first doona since early 2009)
  • Purchase #3: A NQBSN doona cover and pillow case set (red with purple elephants!)
  • Purchase #4: A DNBSN glass bottle for .80c (so I can keep tap water cool)
  • Purchase #5: A DNBSN mug for .20c (bit chipped, but a cool red/purple pattern)
  • Purchase #6: Two NQBSN shirts and two NQBSN T-shirts (red, red, ochre and brown)
  • Purchase #7: A foot long roast chicken sub on Italian herbs and cheese bread with lettuce, cucumber, pineapple, carrot, capsicum, salt and pepper, bbq sauce and a white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie as a treat. (Delicious!)
  • Purchase #8: A brand spanking new copy of Dollhouse Season 1, which has only just been released in Australia. (yes, I live in poverty, but if you have a problem with me buying a new DVD I refer you to what this shopping spree is in aid of!)
  • Purchase #9: Shampoo, shower gel, shaving foam, toothpaste, mouthwash and a brand spanking new toothbrush! (just, yay!)
  • Then I came home.
  • And chastised myself for being so frivolous and purchasing so many un-necessary items.
  • Then chastised myself for chastising myself because, Dollhouse aside, I needed every single thing I purchased!
  • So now, after the week I’ve had (three social events, DSP approval, multiple anxiety attacks and more emotions than you could shake a stick insect at) I’m exhausted, spent, out-of-it, confused, sleepy, anxious – yet strangely, unfamiliarly, relaxed.

Apologies for being absent from the ‘net over the last few days. I shall be blog reading, commenting, comment replying, writing, tweeting and lots of other random things tomorrow (once I’ve slept and taken in all that has happened!)

Until then, hope you are all well and doing lots of wonderful fun things :)


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7 Wants…

A while ago I had a conversation about what I’d do if I had the Disability Support Pension approved.

After a few moments of thought I informed him I’d pay some rent, sort out some overdue bills, stock up food cupboards and buy some new clothes. They were quite surprised I didn’t say games console, Blu-Ray player, iPhone or blow the whole lot on a DVD collection.

Sensing my unease, they informed me that a moment of altruism after all I’ve been through is something no-one would blame me for (middle class web commentators aside, of course!) but after all I’ve experienced, I’m not sure I can be altruistic any more.

1. A bookshelf

My book collection isn’t spectacular. I have a few, picked up from charity shops and library sales, but it lacks the diversity and brilliance of my collection from years ago. The books I have are currently propped up on the kitchen counter gathering breadcrumbs, rogue cooking debris and make me feel like I live in a warehouse.

Hence my desire for a bookshelf :)

2. A haircut

I haven’t been able to afford a haircut since May 2010. There are no words to capture the mess that is my hair at the moment. So if I get the DSP approved and I can overcome my anxiety of hairdressers I will be getting it cut almost immediately!

3. A Digital SLR

Is this being too altruistic? It’s certainly more expensive than a bookshelf and it’s not exactly an essential item like a haircut.

Or is it? Back in the days that I owned a camera I would often venture out on all day photo-shoots when consumed with anxiety or stress. Just walking around the suburbs, towns or glens snapping off photograph after photograph filled my heart with joy and relaxed my soul.

It’s not just a hobby or aspiring profession for me; it’s therapy.

4. A new wardrobe

As I’ve previously written I can buy new clothes once a year. If I don’t get the DSP my next clothes shopping trip will be in January. To say I’m tired of wearing the same grotty, fast disintegrating clothes I’ve been wearing for the last ten months would be an understatement!

How am I supposed to feel good about myself when I don’t feel good about what I’m wearing?

5. A holiday

Massively altruistic. But I could really, really do with a couple of weeks kicking back and thinking only of relaxation and adventure.

6. Friend(s)

Do I even need to say this? I love all my blogging friends (hugs to you all) but it would so wonderful to have a friend in real life :)

but most of all

7. To meet my nephew (and forthcoming niece)

My nephew is now two years old and I have yet to meet him. My niece will be born early next year.

Perhaps I could combine items 5 and 6 and take a jaunt to see them both at the same time…yeah, right!But it’s nice to dream :)


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Day #7: What did you eat today? (Not really a question to ask someone living in poverty if you want a happy answer!)

English: Fish and chips in Ireland

Yes…I am a masochist! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day seven of the ’30 Day Blog Challenge’ sees a question that you really shouldn’t ask someone living in poverty if you want a happy answer.

In fact, if this blog were a motion picture, just after that question was asked would be a moment of silence followed by a tumbleweed rolling slowly across the screen. You see, for those who missed it, I am one of the 2,265,000 who live in poverty (academics, until you’ve experienced poverty, you can take your ‘relative poverty’ and feed it to the starfish) which means I don’t always have the luxury of eating on a daily basis.

My food budget is what some people spend on coffee and pastries every day and although I do my level best to make it stretch through the week, sometimes it’s just not possible to do this.

Thus my food intake for the day has been zip, zilch, nada, nothing. Unless you count air, I did have a nice couple of mouthfuls of hearty air.

So to say I’m looking forward to silencing the growling belly demon when I get my Newstart Allowance tomorrow would be an understatement!

In the meantime, whilst you’re munching down a sandwich or enjoying your Friday Fish and Chips, I urge you to read the best article I have read all week on the subject of poverty; Walk a mile in someone else’s battered shoes… (via The Punch) and then, if you can handle them, read the comments – most of which illustrate the writer’s point perfectly and echo the same uninformed judgemental statements I’ve heard over the last five years.

And people wonder why it’s so difficult for someone to fight their way out of poverty?


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Anti-Poverty Week: Poverty in Australia, a national disgrace

We set ourselves this first goal: by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.
~ Bob Hawke (launching the ALP’s election policy, 23 June 1987) ~

575,000 children or 17.3% are living below the poverty line
~ ACOSS report into poverty in Australia, 14 October 2012 ~

Earlier today I spent four hours writing a post about what it is like to live in poverty. I deleted it following a disagreement with a hallucination over the validity of two sentences. And yes, I’m more than aware of how that sounds! Why do you think I live in poverty?

Yesterday, the Australian Council of Social Services released a report that revealed 2,265,000 Australians are living in poverty. For every eight people there is one who is struggling to make ends meet and survive in a country that doesn’t care about them.

And if you think that is being over-the top:

Last week the Australian government changed their policy regarding single-parenting payments. This change will force an estimated 100,000 people onto the (already impossible to survive on) Newstart Allowance. This will reduce their overall benefit by at least $65 a week and increase the criteria they need to meet in order to receive payments; apply for so many jobs per week, attend regular personal contact interviews with Centrelink, attend regular appointments with Job Service Providers, perform numerous somersaults through flaming hoops as and when required by the Australian Government with no thought to the cost and availability of childcare in Australia.

For years, the Australian Government has steadfastly refused to increase the Newstart Allowance (which has not seen an increase in real terms since 1994) despite overwhelming support from social services, charities and homeless providers. It is currently undergoing a parliamentary enquiry.

Last year, the Australian Government implemented new Impairment guidelines in an effort to reduce the number of Disability Pension recipients. The new guidelines meant that “four out of every 10 people who qualified for the Disability Support Pension earlier this year [2011] would not qualify under the new regime”. Thus, forcing mentally and physically ill individuals to fund their treatment on the (already impossible to survive on) Newstart Allowance.

Why is all of this happening? From the point of view of someone living in poverty;

a) To ensure a budget surplus to please the voters (who matter) ahead of the 2013 election.

b) Because poverty is something that the voters (who matter) don’t understand.

c) Because poverty is a problem that requires a university-level education to fix and the current crop of Australian politicians dropped out of the education system after graduating kindergarten.

My journey into the world of poverty began in 2007 following a breakdown, serious physical health problems and multiple forms of abuse. In an eighteen month period I received no income (including benefits) and had to sell my worldly possessions in order to survive. For the three years between March 2007 – March 2010, I received seven months of income.

Since 2010 I have been existing on the Newstart allowance, with nothing to my name bar a few clothes and assorted oddments. The sole value of my assets is approximately $50 (a figure Centrelink deemed “too low” so rounded it up to $500 on their system)

In these two years I have had to balance serious mental illness (Bipolar, PTSD and severe social anxiety), physical illness and homelessness. I have had to regularly choose between accommodation, food and medication. On one occasion I had to choose between accommodation and eyewear (I chose to repair my glasses as without them, I’m blind). I am able to purchase clothes once a year; repairing the three T-shirts, two shirts and one pair of jeans I own as best I can. I have become so adept at fixing shoes with cardboard and glue I firmly believe I’m descended from Elves.

Yet through all this I’ve had to endure ill-informed abuse from Australian society, large swathes of which believe I am a lazy, good for nothing, dole bludger who deliberately chooses not to work so as to sustain my rich lifestyle courtesy of the hard-done by taxpayers. All of whom believe raising the Newstart Allowance will discourage people from looking for work as the current low payment acts as an incentive to find gainful employment.

Yet never has anyone been able to explain to me why someone willingly chooses to live $130 below the poverty line (at the current rate of the Newstart Allowance)

I have written in the past of the inadequacy of this benefit. Asking obvious questions that have yet to be sufficiently answered, such as: how does someone find a job when they can’t afford to keep a roof over their head, get a haircut or buy essential clothing, shoes, hygiene products or medication? The reality is the current rate of Newstart is acting as a disincentive to find work as it is impossible for a person to improve their own circumstances whilst entrenched in a ‘life’ of housing stress, financial insecurity and social isolation.

In the last two and a half years, although my housing situation has improved, my mental stability is now lower than it has ever been in my entire life, and yet because of rent, bills and food I cannot afford to run the heater when it’s cold or a fan if it’s too hot. I have to endlessly watch my electricity use, remembering to switch everything off before I go to bed in fear of exploding bills. I can’t go anywhere social. I can’t use public transport. I can’t even afford to fill the three urgent prescriptions I’ve had stuck to my fridge for the last two weeks. If I did, I would have to starve myself for the week and/or render myself at-risk of homelessness through non-payment of rent.

This is the life of someone living in poverty. These are the choices people in poverty have to make every day.

I’m not writing this post for pity or sympathy. In all honesty I actually have it better than most.

I (currently) have a roof over my head and although I haven’t had three meals a day since early 2007, I normally have enough food to eat a basic meal each day, even if it is just a tin of baked bins, bowl of rice or pasta, two-minute noodles or the occasional treat (once a month) of meat and fresh fruit/vegetables courtesy of the food bank.

Although it’s tough, with careful budgeting I’m able to save a dollar or two a week for a ‘treat’ every three/four months (such as a cinema outing, second-hand DVD or presents for family) and I continue to donate small amounts to charitable causes because you have to help people who are worse off than you.

In late 2009 I was sitting in a park in Melbourne with a choice to make. I could either kill myself or accept that my life was never going to get any better than this. For if I allowed myself to dream of a better future, just for a second, the pain would have torn me apart. With the intervention of a homeless man, I chose the latter.

But that ‘decision’ is something I should never have had to make. No-one should be forced to choose between suicide and a life of continuous pain and misery, but people are having to make that choice every single day.

In a country as rich and prosperous as Australia, it is a national disgrace that 12.8% of the population is ‘living’ in poverty. But this anti-poverty week Australians shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves, nor should they be engaging in a ‘debate’ over this issue.

They should be committing themselves to rectify this disgrace once and for all.