All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 08: The Close Friend

As the year quickly speeds toward its timely end, I’ve decided to polish off the outstanding challenges that I’ve commenced over the last twelve months so I can begin 2014 anew. One of these is the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge (devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass).

When I left the challenge I had reached day seven, which means today I pick up with day eight: If you had a friend who spoke to you or treated you the way you speak to and treat yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend and why?

theclosefriend

This is actually a tough prompt for me to write about, not because the answer eludes me, but because the answer is so painfully obvious it’s almost unbearable to admit to.

Most readers of my blog will know that I was once the victim of an abusive relationship; a relationship that cost me everything in my life, a relationship that continues to haunt my life seven years later.

So to admit to being in a second abusive relationship is extremely hard for me to do, especially as the abuser in this relationship is myself. But no matter how hard I try to deny the obvious, the evidence is staring me in the face every single day.

On any given day I put myself down, make myself feel bad about myself, call myself names, play mind games, humiliate myself, make myself feel guilty whenever possible and deny the abuse is happening; often blaming external sources for the grief I am bringing to myself. My abusive side forces me to control what I do, who I see, what I read and where I go, thus limiting my outside involvement and preventing me from forging new relationships. The abuse is so bad that I am frequently afraid of myself, especially when threats of self-harm and/or suicide come in to play. In fact, the abuse is so extreme that I frequently feel like a prisoner in my own mind; a servant to the whims of a controlling overlord.

All of which are signifiers of an abusive relationship.

So how long would I allow a friend to speak to me/treat me in this way?

I’d like to think that I wouldn’t put up with being treated this way for any period of time, for having been in one abusive relationship there’s no way in hell I want to be in another.

But the fact I believe I deserve to be treated this way makes me think I would put up with it.

And I don’t know what to do about that.

~◊~

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

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

 


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Why am I so damned hard on myself?

In response to my Ask me Anything post, Mind of Mine posed this question:

I want to ask this question but I am worried it might offend you. But what the hell, I am going to ask you anyway.

Do you think the reason why you are so damned hard on yourself and haven’t gotten over your issues is because you are worried that they make you the person you are and if you didn’t have them, then what/who are you.

In other words, do you think they define you as a person?

First of all, it takes a lot to offend me and this question doesn’t even come close to nudging my offense-o-meter. It is however a very interesting question that I will answer as best I can.

The simple answer is no. I don’t think my issues define me as a person, nor do I worry about being thrown into an existential crisis if I suddenly stopped being so hard on myself. With or without them I am who I am;  a passionate, creative, strong, beautiful, courageous, compassionate individual who has many wild, varied, kinky and inspiring talents that elevate him into the realm of pure awesomeness :)

However, as one of my favourite movies points out (cue Scottish accent) No, Dr Dempsey. You have to believe it before you can see it,” I’m so hard on myself because although I know who I am, I don’t believe in myself enough to allow this person to shine. All courtesy of the emotional abuse I received five and a half years ago.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person. It creates scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Source: The Mighty Phoenix

By the time I realised what my girlfriend was doing it was too late. I had lost every aspect of my personality, my self-worth, self-concept, self-confidence and self-belief. I had been brainwashed through months of insidious insult, attack, abuse, control, humiliation and manipulation into believing I am the most worthless, useless, repulsive piece of human excrement that has ever existed in the history of human kind. I had been transformed from a man on the cusp of achieving everything he had ever dreamed and worked for into a hollow, empty shell who firmly believed that the world would be a better place if he was dead.

Perhaps f it had only been this abuse the damage would not be so severe, but the addition of the victim blame mentality I received from my friends, all of whom informed me I deserved what my abuser was doing, cemented her words as ‘truth’ rather than the bitter ramblings of a sociopathic narcissist.

Thus, as I had no-one to ameliorate the effects of the abuse, my brain convinced myself that (a) everything that was said was a true and correct description of who I was and (b) I should be punished for whatever it was I had done to ‘deserve’ the abuse in the first place.

Everything I’ve experienced since – the assault and rape (which further eroded my already weakened masculinity), my mental health (which [erroneously] added to the perception I am ‘weak’), the social isolation (which further fuelled my abusers belief that I was unloveable and worthless), my homelessness (which annihilated what little I had left) – has made any attempt to repair the psychological damage caused all but impossible.

Hence the continued belief that I deserve what has happened to me and that I should be punished for past sins; both aspects manifesting in a continuous cycle of self-hate, self-criticism and self-judgement.

I know I’m too hard on myself. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists, blog friends, real-life friends, commentators, family and random people on the street have all noticed this over the years and pointed out how I’m actually a decent human being who doesn’t deserve to berate himself on a minute-by-minute basis no matter what it is that he does. But this does nothing to repair the damage the abuse caused.

The old adage sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me is crap!

There is a reason that many psychologists believe emotional abuse to be the most damaging form of abuse. However traumatising physical and sexual abuse is (which I learned the hard way that it is!) at least people see the bruises, believe that it’s happening and take action to help.

Emotional abuse doesn’t leave bruises, it attacks you from the inside until your soul is shattered into a billion tiny pieces that are impossible to put back together without help. Help that rarely comes as people cannot see what is happening until it’s too late.

The reason I am so hard on myself is not because I don’t want to get over my issues or that they define who I am, but because the repair job of slotting those billion tiny pieces together again is a long and grueling process, especially when you’re doing it all by yourself.

I live in hope (and bloody hard work) that one day I will be able to believe what I know is true. That I am a remarkable human being who deserves all the happiness in the world. Whose passion, creativity, strength, beauty, courage and compassion will be seen not only by everyone around me, but also by myself.


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SOC: And not for the first time, it scares me

THIS POST CONTAINS MENTION OF SELF-HARM, SUICIDE, ABUSE, VICTIM-BLAME MENTALITY AND RAPE, PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION SHOULD YOU FIND ANY OF THIS CONTENT TRIGGERING AND/OR OFFENSIVE. IT ALSO CONTAINS SOME WOE-IS-ME WHINGING WHICH SOME MAY FIND ANNOYING, JUST SO YOU KNOW :)

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Monday 8 October 2012 between 1:22 – 1:52am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

All the signs that I’m heading back to depression are there. The withdrawing from Twitter, the confused (rambling) blog posts, the writer’s block, the increase of voices and hallucinations, the drop of focus, the loss of enjoyment, insomnia, the heightened loneliness and desperate craving for human contact.

And it scares me.

The depressive episode I found myself in a few months ago was the worst since 2007 and I’m terrified of falling into another so soon. For the last few weeks I’ve felt as if my triggers have been on overdrive, with everything from radio shows to smells sending me back into the past and the plethora of painful memories that threaten to keep me there.

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I logged onto Twitter and discovered a woman had gone missing from an inner-suburb of Melbourne. Although I never lived there, aside from a few occasions whilst homeless, I would cycle through this suburb on the way to work. I attended gigs there, hung out with friends, danced at street festivals, got legless drunk, worshipped the library (the 2nd best in Melbourne) and, on one occasion, had a rather enjoyable sexual encounter near the creek with my girlfriend.

It was a suburb I loved, a suburb I still love and a suburb in which some of my old friends still live.

As soon as I heard a woman had gone missing my first thought was to find out her name because I was terrified(/paranoid) it was someone I used to know. All sorts of nightmarish scenarios were multiplying in my mind about my old friends and the only way to stop them was to know the woman wasn’t one of them. Whether it’s heartless to say or not, when I discovered the missing woman’s name, I breathed a hefty sigh of relief as the people I care about were safe.

Throughout the following week Twitter and the Australian mainstream media exploded in a way I had never seen before. Virtually every tweet that appeared in my timeline was about Jill Meagher, the missing woman; the police were searching her apartment, the police were removing things from her apartment, the police were interviewing the husband, was the husband responsible (Note: Australian’s seem incapable of learning from their own history), what happened to Jill Meagher?, the police have found her missing handbag, the police have identified her on CCTV…and on it went, a massive blow-by-blow account of the investigation along with tens of thousands of tweets sending prayers, well wishes, thoughts and hope for her and her family.

And then, almost as quickly as I expected, the victim blame mentality began.

“She was obviously at a bar/club, left there in the early hours of the morning, obviously partially pissed/drunk, and she ‘lead someone on’ [sic] and the consequences followed her. if she is going to flirt with someone, make sure that you go through with it because someone is obviously pissed off with her….in my opinion, it’s now old news, she met with foul play as a result of her actions inside the pub/bar OR as I mentioned before…ask the husband.”
~ Comment posted on a Facebook page about the disappearance.

“But for a stranger looking around in daylight, there seems no obvious reason why a young woman would choose to walk this way home late at night … There are better spots for a young woman to be walking alone after a night out drinking with workmates”
~ Andrew Rule, Journalist

Fortunately, several intelligent female journalists leapt straight on this and gave it (and the people responsible) the thrashing they deserved!

Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no-one deserves to be abused! No woman deserves to be abused. No man deserves to be abused. No child deserves to be abused. No living thing on this planet deserves to be abused in any way, shape or form. The moment you say they do you’re removing blame from the abuser and burdening the victim with yet more guilt for what has happened to them. In essence, you are punishing the victim and rewarding the abuser.

But, unfortunately, victim blame mentality is part and parcel of abuse; even though it should never be.

Like I said moments earlier, I support all the positive articles that have been written about this issue. Since my abusive relationship, since the rape, since the physical assaults, since my failure to be there for someone I cared about, I have done whatever I can to fight the scourge of domestic violence and abuse against women in this world. I’ve written previously of a time when I intervened during a physical altercation between a boyfriend and girlfriend and clearly remember thinking better me than her because I fucking deserve this as he beat seven shades of shit out of me. So I actually mean doing whatever I can and not just signing the white ribbon pledge before swigging back a pot of beer feeling all chuffed with myself.

The problem is (and why this incident was the starting point of my collapsing mood) however much I and other people care about violence against women, very very few people care about abused men. Now, I know this is a touchy subject and I fully expect an avalanche of tweets, emails and comments (as has happened in the past) calling me everything under the sun but men can also be the victims of violence; men can also be afraid of what may happen to them; men can be the victims of victim blame mentality.

Just as I’ve been. Repeatedly.

In 2007 a friend told me that “I deserved” the emotional abuse my ex had been giving me. Another friend informed me that I “needed to understand that I’d brought it on myself”. A housemate told me they wanted to “beat me” for “how badly I had been treating [my girlfriend]”so I should “just suck [her abuse] up and take it like a man”. A fourth friend, again, politely informed me “I deserved everything” my ex was doing to me.

All four of these friends were women.

Over the course of the following eighteen months I was called a misogynist on thirteen separate occasions for talking about the emotional abuse my ex had given me (I repeat, for talking about the emotional abuse not her gender) and even total strangers informed me I must have done something to deserve it. [Note: a list of the things I did wrong in the relationship can be found in this blog post from 2007, so I shall leave it to you to decide whether I actually deserved it or not. Personally, I think I treated her pretty well.]

Only one of my friends believed I was/had been abused, but she’s dead now, so no-one does. To everyone else…nah, it was her prerogative to treat me like that. It’s just a woman’s right.

As for the rape…hell, who’s gonna believe that? Of course it’s my fault!

When I told a counselor in 2007 they rebutted with me being a bit ‘out of it’ at the time and the most likely scenario was ‘I’d consented but just didn’t remember consenting’. Excuse me? I consented to being drugged against my will and whilst mind-fucked, consented to being anally raped and physically beaten? Really? I consented, but I don’t remember doing that because I was a bit ‘out of it’? Ahh yes, when all else fails, blame the mental illness. In 2008 a psychiatrist in the NT laughed when I tried to tell him about what happened (he was a dickhead that I never saw again). Later that year, I was told by a friend that it ‘sounded like a bit of fun’.

Again, only one of my friends believed I was raped, but she’s dead now, so no-one does. To everyone else…nah, it was just mental health inspired lunacy, a bit of a jape, something I should look back on with smiles and laughter. You know, when I’m waking up screaming night after night and prostituting myself so I can be punished for allowing the rape to happen in the first place.

When I was reading all the articles about the victim blaming of Jill Meagher, when I was reading all the thousands of syllables about violence against women, I was asking myself why anyone would want to inflict such pain on a woman, on anyone of any gender. I was asking myself who cares about the female victims of abuse who don’t fall into the ‘white, beautiful, wealthy’ category  and every other minute of the day I was flashing back to the moments in my life where I was blamed for the abuse that happened to me, where people I trusted as friends would tell me I deserved it; that ultimately, I deserve this lifetime of eternal pain and isolation the abuse has given me.

I was flashing back to waking up on the floor of a motel, naked from the waist down, battered and bruised beyond belief; of sitting in the shower for an eternity; of desperately wanting to tell people but terrified the news would filter back to my emotional abuser who would have used it against me as she had everything else (mental health, suicide, anxiety, loneliness) that had ever happened to me.

I was flashing back to the alcohol I would drink to drown the pain, to the knives I would use to medicate my tortured soul and the weeks I went without food because I was too scared to walk to the supermarket to buy food incase someone – anyone – was lurking in the shadows.

I was flashing back to standing in the middle of a forest months later with a noose tied around my neck begging for an end to the pain.

Jill Meagher’s body was found seven days later, followed, rightly, by an outpouring of grief. Tens of thousands of people marched through the suburb she had been abducted from to raise awareness of violence against women. Radio call in shows wanted to know what we could do to ‘remember Jill’ and the newspapers were blanketed with coverage of the aftermath, the man who had been arrested and the funeral.

But to many the damage had already been done.

The sheer volume of triggers I received that week set off all my victim guilt, survivor guilt, weakness guilt and every other form of guilt I’ve carried over the years. It affected my thinking, writing, sleeping and daytodaying. Not a minute went past without a nightmare memory of some description slipping back through the cracks of my mind and no amount of positive thinking was able to prevent them.

Whilst these nightmares were flooding my mind I was trying to navigate the complexities of a disability application (100s of questions are not a good thing for a mentally ill man with no concentration, let alone the trips to doctors and organisations to gather evidence of support.) All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and beat myself with a sock full of rocks but instead I tried to carry on a ‘normal’ life; blogging, online socializing, commenting, writing.

All the while being bombarded with memories of my past; tweets, challenge question prompts, forgotten photos and long-lost blog posts constantly reminding me of my pain of five years ago. Of my failure to retain friendships, of my selfishness, of my weaknesses.

Then came Friday, and the panic attack laden trip to Centrelink to fix a problem I had no warning over (I don’t deal well when something like that is thrown on me at the last-minute, especially with the possible ramifications (i.e. homelessness) if I hadn’t been able to sort it!)

Then came yesterday’s WordPress Photo Challenge asking for photos of happiness…every photo I have of Happy Addy is with someone else. Dozens of people I miss more than life itself. Dozens of people my actions and illness pushed away. Dozens of reminders of how lonely I am and – courtesy of triggers from the Jill Meagher tragedy – how I deserve how I’ve ended up.

And with all of this coming shortly before the 11 October; is it any surprise I’m scared of slipping back into a depressive episode?

For those who don’t know, on the 11 October 2007, I left a suicide note (described by a mental health professional as ‘schizophrenic’) and walked fifty kilometres from Melbourne CBD to the Dandenong rainforest where I attempted to hang myself. The attempt failed and I was ultimately taken by the police (who had investigated me as a missing person) to the hospital…

…where I was discharged 19 minutes later with three 20mg antidepressants (I had no other medication at home) and told I was fine! So, at 3am, a few hours after trying to hang myself, after walking 50kms with little to no food or drink, I had to walk home. The trip would normally have taken me 25 minutes, tops, but given I could barely move my legs and was about to pass out from the pain, that night it took me two hours. I spent the next three days sitting on a couch on my own (I had no friends to call) in a borderline comatosed state of fear, exhaustion, pain and emptiness. All I wanted was a hug, for someone other than my parents to show they cared. They didn’t.

As a result, around this time of year (end of September/beginning of October) this day and its events are all I can think about. And this year, being half a decade since the day I should have died, on top of all the shifting moods, reminders of the abuse I received, painful memories and lack of happiness, I’m scared what this week will bring.

Perhaps nothing.

Perhaps something.

As an old friend once told me, perhaps its all one great self-fulfilling prophecy.

All I know is that when I’m cohesive enough to look at what is happening right now, all the signs that I’m heading back to depression are there. The withdrawing from Twitter, the confused (rambling) blog posts, the writer’s block, the increase of voices and hallucinations, the drop of focus, the loss of enjoyment, insomnia, the heightened loneliness and desperate craving for human contact.

With my lease hanging on a knife-edge; with my disability application to sort out; with my lack of food and sustenance; with little to no distractions; the last thing I need is to slip into a depressive episode.

But everywhere I go, everything I do, the world seems to be pushing me toward that place.

And not for the first time, it scares me.


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Exercises to Build Self Esteem: #2. Love your talents and gifts

Narcissism vs Gratitude

Since beginning this blog in 2007 I’ve spoken frequently of the importance of loving ourselves.

When I wrote this post I was worried it would make me look like a narcissist. When I recently reposted it as part of the Voice of the Past series this same fear of being viewed as arrogant and self-absorbed returned; resulting in several arguments with myself over whether I should post it, and after I did, whether I should remove it. To this day I still think it makes me look self-important, vain and narcissistic.

But does it? Aren’t those fears yet another example of the negative way I view myself?

If we do not love ourselves, we cannot expect other people to love us; and if we don’t believe in ourselves, then how can we expect anyone else to believe in us?

Learning to love yourself is not an exercise in narcissistic behaviour, but a lesson in respect, appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful person you are. Sometimes the challenges we go through in life – abuse, mental illness, homelessness – can lead to our brain’s being reprogrammed to view ourselves in a certain light.

Ever since I was a child, being bullied at school, right through adulthood and the triple whammy of emotional abuse-rape-homelessness, I have been constantly told how worthless and useless I am. Partners, friends, colleagues, strangers, all lining up to endlessly criticise me into the ground, rarely if ever, offering any words of encouragement, compliment or support.

Which is why this exercise is so difficult, for today we are looking at the talents, skills and gifts you possess that you just love.

Write your ‘I Love…’ list

1. Take a clean sheet of paper and draw a smiling sun in the top left hand corner for no other reason than to make you smile :)

2. At the top of the list write the heading I Love…

3. Now, write as many things that you admire, honor and appreciate about yourself as you can. The talents you have, the skills you possess, the ability you have to do things better than anyone else.

4. Once you’ve written your list take your beautiful self to a mirror and, beginning with I love… each time, read each item out loud.

5. Repeat on a daily basis until you cannot deny your own awesomeness any longer.

My I Love… list

As mentioned at the beginning of this post I wrote one of these lists many years ago. For today’s exercise I will write the list afresh, with no apologies if I happen to repeat anything that featured way back when. Although I fear it will be nowhere near as long as that list!

I love…

…my inner strength
…that I always try to help the people I care about, no matter what
…my unquenchable desire to help others whenever I can
…my bum
…my thirst for knowledge, that I keep pushing myself to learn new things and better myself
…my kind and giving nature
…that I’m willing to make sacrifices for the people I care about
…that I’m able to appreciate what I have in life
…my ability to see the good in people
…my honesty
…my courage, that even though it would be easier to crawl into a hole and die, I still keep putting myself out there
…my bipolar
…my eclectic taste in music, and I wouldn’t want it any other way
…my eyes
…my two freckles on my left hand
some of my scars, as they’re reminders of the past
…my creativity
…my ambitiousness nature
…my ability to remain quiet and listen when I need to
…that I have a man-crush on Niles (from Frasier)
..that I am a published writer, because if I’ve already done it, I can do it again!
…that I support the causes I believe in with a fiery passion
…my bum (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again)
…that I never judge anyone, ever
…that I never leap to conclusions until I know the whole story
…my compassionate nature
…my ludicrously completed 40year, three generational story arc for my Inverness Chronicles
…that it actually make sense when viewed as a whole
…my contradictions
…that I cry when I need to
…feeling proud of my old friends and all they’ve achieved in life.
…my kinky side
…that I don’t carry grudges
…that I love tofu
…my eyes, even when they have bags under them because of insomnia
…my mistakes, because they give me things to learn from
…that I’m grateful for all I’ve been gifted in life
…that I can accept the part luck has played in my life
…being a sooky romantic
…that I keep trying

…and I’ll leave it there for now!
(PS…remember, your body was a gift given to you at birth)

Coda: The Importance of Repetition

After writing every entry in the above list my mind immediately began scanning for abuse and criticism I’ve received to dispel it.

That I cry when I need to, was endlessly criticised by my abuser as men should never – ever – cry under any circumstances! My bipolar, ummm, look around. Do you see anyone in my life? Nope. Exactly. My kinky side, has been attacked and criticised by all-but-one person I’ve opened up to for the last twelve years. That I’m willing to make sacrifices for the people I care about, my compassionate nature and that I always try to help the people I care about, no matter what have been roundly disproved by the few occasions I failed to be there for people in my life. My bum, attacked by two of my girlfriends as being ugly, horrible, unattractive and that I should consider getting plastic surgery. Feeling proud of my old friends and all they’ve achieved in life because they don’t know that, and never will, because I’m too scared to get back in contact.

This instantaneous, almost subconscious reaction, is not only a perfect example of a mind lacking in self-esteem, but of the intense psychological damage emotional abuse can reek on someone’s life. Five and a half years after the event my soul is still under her control!

Repetition is one of the only weapons to combat this constant barrage of haunting abuse. By constantly reiterating what you love about yourself, without you even realising it, you will start to believe it.

You will start to believe that you’re the gorgeous person you actually are.

Tomorrow…Emotional Abuse: Words are just as powerful as a fist

 


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Stop the abuse: why I left Twitter and why I’m returning!

Five months ago, after an eighteen month hiatus from Twitter, I made a return to the social network. I did so for one simple reason; being a socially isolated homeless man, with a history of mental health problems, it was the only outlet I had for interacting with society.

For two months I tweeted the occasional opinion, shared articles I felt important, engaged with other users and received abusive feedback. My homelessness was criticized with comments ranging from ‘get off your lazy arse and get a job’ to ‘why not just drink yourself to death’. My mental health was attacked with comments ranging from ‘harden the f**k up you pathetic c**t’ to ‘just f**king hang yourself, retard’.

With my mood descending into depression, in part from these comments, I eventually stopped logging onto Twitter and once again slipped into uncommunicative isolation; an isolation that prevented me from writing my blog, from reading websites, from having any contact with the outside world.

Throughout this period I often wanted to return. Despite the abuse I enjoyed reading Tweets, I enjoyed having a means to connect with the outside world, I relished the ability to begin communicating again after years of pain, isolation and homelessness.

Now, upon hearing what has happened to Charlotte Dawson, I have decided to return; abuse be damned!

When I was in primary school I was regularly thrown against walls and kneed in the bollocks. I was constantly attacked for wearing glasses, for wearing braces, for being fat, for being in the recorder group. The latter, I believe, out of jealously considering I was the only boy to eight girls (gotta love those odds!)

When I was in secondary school my weight (as always) was fair game, my inability to play sports well (often as a result of being rendered blind) was maliciously used and when my sister’s mental illness deteriorated, it’s not hard to understand this was used against me.

When I was travelling I would find anonymous notes (the precursor to Twitter?) left with my food in hostels telling me I should kill myself because I was fat, useless bastard.

When I was in an abusive relationship, not a single part of my past, present or future was left untouched. Every single aspect of my life – including all the intimate, personal information I’d shared because I trusted this person – was fair game. Everything I had ever thought, felt, said or done was regularly assaulted. I was borderline stalked, cyber-bullied and told to kill myself with vicious cruelty.

Verbal/emotional abuse can be just as horrific as physical abuse

When I began my blog I would receive dozens of anonymous emails and comments  attacking every aspect of what I was writing about. I still do to this day. Mental illness, it seems, is still an accepted reason to abuse!

When I was trying to rebuild my life following breakdowns, suicide attempts and mental illness I was the recipient of a vicious cyber-campaign. Out of nowhere I began receiving emails and text messages of ever escalating length and severity. Always sent in block capitals. Always anonymously.

Selected (actual) highlights:

YOU’RE A DISGUSTING MENTALLY ILL RETARD

BEAT YOURSELF TO DEATH. CUT YOURSELF TO DEATH. JUST FUCK OFF AND DIE.

THE ONLY THING YOU DESERVE TO FUCK IS A RAZOR BLADE

WOMEN VOMIT AT THE THOUGHT OF FUCKING YOU. JUST DO US A FAVOUR, BUY A KNIFE, GO HOME, HACK YOUR COCK OFF. LET THAT MENTALLY RETARDED BLOOD FLOW.

When I became homeless the floodgates opened. I received endless verbal abuse. I had hot coffee ‘accidentally’ spilled on me. I was pissed on. I was physically assaulted by drunken AFL fans – apparently it was my fault their team lost that night. For some reason attacking the homeless is still considered acceptable by society.

As a result of the abuse: I started self-harming. I developed severe mental illness. I attempted suicide in 2000, 2006, 2007 (twice), 2008 and at least once a year since. I lost my chance of tertiary education. I lost every possession I’d ever owned. My social network was destroyed. I became homeless. And there’s a good chance I will never have anything or anyone in my life again.

But you know what?

I’m still fucking standing!

After years of misery, isolation, judgment, abuse, discrimination, homelessness and pain so intense I’d never wish it on my worst enemy…I’m still standing here, I’m still breathing and I’m still laughing!

All of the anonymous haters that populate these web forums and social networks, venting their spleen at people they’ve never met will never have the one thing that I possess in droves: strength! They inflict pain on emotionally vulnerable people because it’s the only way they can feel better about their themselves. Their lives spent hiding behind unfunny pseudonyms because they hate who they are even more than they hate the world.

Instead of working to improve their lot in life, they just take it out on everyone else and to hell with the consequences. They don’t understand the pain of knowing someone who has taken their own life as a result of being abused. If they did, they might think twice about what they’re doing, for it is a pain that never leaves you.

By staying away from Twitter all I am doing is telling these weak, self-hating, bullies that they’ve won.

Why should I withdraw from the only social contact I have because of these morons?

Why should I take away the only chance I have to get my life back because these selfish prats have decided I don’t deserve one?

Why should I let the abusers who have tried to destroy my life win?

I don’t agree with abuse. I don’t agree with bullying. I don’t agree that a human being has the right to inflict such pain on another. No matter what, no-one deserves to be abused!

I am many things; mentally ill, socially isolated, kinky, unloved, lonely, unsupported, overweight, homeless.

But I am also; caring, compassionate, kinky (it’s a good thing!), intelligent, cute, funny, driven, creative, determined.

I may have had everything taken from me; home, possessions, friends, health, passion, dreams, hope.

But no-one will ever take my strength.

Ever.

You can follow me on Twitter @addylake but please note, due to my situation and lack of 24/7 internet access, tweets are sporadic.


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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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Tha mi ag iarraidh briosgaid!

This is the eighty-eighth blog post I have attempted to write since the last time I blogged. Each and every one deleted from my hard drive after a couple of incomprehensible paragraphs – usually accompanied by throwing something across the room with a loud expletive.

The simple fact is when I’m depressed, I cannot write, I cannot think, I cannot feel, I cannot do anything.

And right now, I am DEPRESSED with a capitol bloody everything!

I barely leave my unit. I do absolutely nothing every day. I sit on the sofa having day-long conversations with my abuser in a futile quest for answers or lying on the floor flagellating myself for being such a worthless, weak numpty. Yes, I’m too critical of myself. I have to be.

I have been eating less and less with each week and criticizing my ineptitude more and more.

On the odd occasions I leave the house I do so only to pay rent or swing by the library to accumulate DVDs to watch during my insomnia fuelled nights; my attention span and concentration being so low reading is (once again) off the table.

Nothing brings me pleasure. Nothing causes a smile. Nothing produces happiness.

I feel empty. A once strong, creative, passionate turtle who has walked so far he has shriveled up and dissolved to dust leaving nothing but a hollowed out shell for people to smash to smithereens.

Every day I’m haunted by the abuse I received; nothing I do shuts her up. Not alcohol, not knives, not Doctor Who. Every minute her voice assaults me to the point I have screaming matches in both public and private. Everything reminds me of the pain she put me through and the catastrophes that followed.

Every day I’m haunted by who I could have been had my hard work paid off. Had I pushed myself that bit harder. Had I put myself first. Had I not made the occasional mistake. Every minute my inner voice informing me of how useless I must be to have become the biggest failure the world has ever known.

Every day I am haunted by endless self-criticism; every minute my inner voice critiquing everything I have ever done in my life. Like I said, I have to. Criticism has far outweighed praise throughout my life.

It’s exhausting, destructive, soul-destroying and more painful than I can currently find words to describe.

These last few months have been (in my mind) the worst depressive episode I‘ve been in since 2007 – and it’s scaring the shit out of me. Back then, I slipped into an isolated state of nightmare following months of abuse, physical and mental illness, wild mood swings and horrendous assault that culminated in a suicide attempt that has, ever since, been referred to as ‘the day I should have died’.

I’m not scared of becoming suicidal again, nor of an actual attempt. I’m scared that I won’t.

I’m scared that I’ve been alone for so long I’ve convinced myself that all I deserve in life is punishment for whatever I did to “deserve” the abuse my abuser directed at me.

This is the eighty-eighth blog post I’ve attempted to write since the last time I blogged, and it comes nowhere close to explaining why I haven’t been writing anything, but unlike the others, I’ll post this purely for the small victory of ‘doing something’; even though it feels like I’m writing in a foreign language I can’t decipher.

I’m sorry for the depressing post and being gone for so long. I’m trying to right myself, but sometimes you just feel what you feel.

I’d like to write more of the happier times in my life but can’t figure out where to start. Any prompts and/or questions and/or anything you’d like to know would be appreciated. I can’t promise anything but it may be a start :)