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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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 :)


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026 – 030. Salmagundi, Part 2 (Better late than never!)

Five days ago I was supposed to be catching up with my 365 Day Blog Challenge with two posts, the first one was written and the second, wasn’t. The reason the second wasn’t is because after investing in a half price USB dongle I realised I had invested in a company that provides shoddy-at-best reception and thus have been offline since 2pm on Friday afternoon.

Now I am able to connect again, here is the second post I promised all those days ago, consisting of days 26-30 of the challenge. Enjoy :)

Day 26: 5 things you’re looking forward to

The Dark Knight RisesWhat does an (ex) homeless, affected by mental ill health socially ostracised person have to look forward to? You are indeed correct, the answer is nothing.

Certainly, I could say I look forward to death so this intensely painful existence can finally be over. Plus, I suppose I’m looking forward to the introduction of the carbon tax so I can sit back and watch the majority of middle-class Australian’s realise the apocalypse will not occur as a result of it – even if it means I, part of the sub-human class, will mostly likely become homeless again as a result.

But to conform to the rules of the challenge:

1. The completion of item number one from my Bucket List, as I mentioned here.

2. The Dark Knight Rises. ‘Nuff said :p

3. I look forward to the day where all my hard work, determination, strength and sacrifice pays off and I am no longer haunted by the abuse I suffered so I can live the happy, creative, non-isolated life I deserve.

4. A Legend of Zelda game where Zelda is the primary character, dashing around Hyrule being all acrobatic, daring and adventurous as she races to rescue Link, save Hyrule and defeat the evil that has (once again) taken hold of the land. What’s wrong with a woman saving the day for once? We need more kick-ass heroines in film, TV and video games.

5. The day where there is no such thing as discrimination; where everyone is accepted for who they are, regardless of all.

Day 27: a person you wished lived closer and why

My nephew; so I can meet the wee man and most likely scare him with my quality facial hair.

Day 28: something that makes you really angry

Just one thing?

How can I choose?

The Australian homeless crisis that no-one seems to care about; the devolution of our society into a self-obsessed, narcissistic cesspit where only the self matters; the appalling mental health treatment I have received throughout my life; discrimination; the appalling stereotypes reinforced by Fifty Shades of Grey; the price of electricity and other household necessities; reality television…

…fine, if I have to choose only one thing?

There is only thing that makes me angrier than abuse. To control, deceive, manipulate, belittle, lie, beat and destroy a human being is a deplorable, despicable act. To support, justify and defend such a person is inexcusable, making abuse sympathisers the thing that makes me most angry in this world.

Day 29: a date you’d love for someone to take you on

I can’t answer this question as it is likely to illicit some form of anxiety fuelled depressive period. Sorry, but to imagine things that I want, that are never likely to happen, is painful for me. The trauma from the abuse, social anxiety, my distrust of the human race and the discrimination against the homeless means I will unlikely never be on a date again, regardless of much I yearn for a candlelit dinner, spontaneous picnic under the stars or an evening at the theatre followed by lively artistic debate over a few glasses of wine and a chocolate pastry.

Day 30: 5 favorite girls names, 5 favorite boys names

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in th...When I come to create a character I never start with their name. I begin by writing a short biography of their life as I dislike writing about someone without knowing them personally; where they were born, who their parents were, whether they have any siblings, major incidents (if any) of their childhood, how and to whom they lost their virginity (I’m a stickler for details) and continue onwards through any events that shaped who they are; their belief structure, moral standpoint and ethical values.

Once I have a full understanding of how they became the person up to the commencement of the story, I look at where their life is headed over the course of the plot and then bestow them a name that reflects who they were and what they will become.

For example;

Alexander; origin, Greek; form of Alexandros; meaning, defender of mankind.
One of the easiest characters to name given his character arc from birth to death. Born in Inverness to an abusive father, Alex overcomes an introverted, traumatic childhood to become a protective yet conflicted soul who ultimately dies at his own hand before achieving his prophesied destiny of saving the world.

Douglas; origin, Gaelic; form of, Dubhghlas; meaning, Black Water.
Pseudonym of Shay, and as with all of this character’s self-chosen nom-de-plumes derives from Gaelic to reflect (a) his heritage and (b) his state of mind at the choosing of the pseudonym.

Natalie; origin, Italian; form of, Natalia; meaning, Christ’s birthday.
Deciding on a name for my quintessential girl-next-door character was tough. It needed to be bland yet special as well as hint toward the culmination of her character arc.

Nothing too unique about this, most writers do the same thing, it was just especially important to me as names feature heavily in early folklore and myth (that’s old magic) and as the Chronicles were initially forged in this area I decided names should be important elements of my work.

As such, most of my favourite names appear in some form or another in the Chronicles.

My five favourite girls names:

Kira origin, Gaelic; form of, Ciara; meaning, little dark one.

Kathryn origin, Greek; form of, Katherine; meaning, pure.

Tara origin, Gaelic; form of, Teamhair; meaning, Craig; hill.

Gwendolyn origin, Welsh; form of, Gwendolen; meaning, white ring.

Aurora origin, Latin; form of, itself (Aurora); meaning, dawn.

My five favourite boys names:

Rowan origin, Gaelic; form of, itself (Rowan); meaning, little red one.

Magnus origin, Latin; form of, itself (Magnus); meaning, great.

Sawyerorigin, English; form of, itself (Sawyer); meaning, one who chops wood.

Alexander see above

Mackay origin, Gaelic; form of, itself (Mackay); meaning, son of the fiery one.


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Reflections on being homeless, Part 6

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

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

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

Today, I skim through a barely remembered period of breakdown and talk about something that heals me…

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

A New Life (Days 440 – 446)

In October 2010 I caught a train from Southern Cross Station to Sydney, via Albury. It was to be the start of my new life. A new beginning after four hundred and twenty-nine days of pain and misery on the streets (and boarding houses) of Melbourne. My months working to rebuild my confidence and self-belief via Twitter and social networking were paying off.

I can clearly remember getting off the train in the early hours of the morning and relishing in big gulps of Sydney air. After I’d finished choking on the pollution from the heavy rush hour traffic I slung my bag on my back and walked from Central Station to the only part of Sydney I love in order to commemorate my ‘new life’ with a photograph:

Seven days into my new life, I took another photo:

I was back in Melbourne, back in my park, back under my tree, sharing my nights with possums and my mornings with the daily keep-fit brigade. All I can remember from that period is sitting on a train as it drew into Melbourne thinking ‘what the fuck just happened’ with tears streaming my face and a renewed hatred of social networks.

As I lay trembling in the park – a physical reaction from the stress and pain I was feeling – it dawned on me that Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other online shenanigans are for people who already have social networks, they are for beautiful, talented, loved human beings.

They are not for socially phobic, mentally ill, lonely, ugly, grotesque people like myself.

It was time to end this part of my life, once and for all.

Breaking Down (Days 447 – 681)

On Friday 29th October 2010, I logged off of Facebook and Twitter for the last time. I erased my blogging presence and effectively went dark in both the online and real world; I’d had enough.

For the first time since my assault at the boarding house I returned to a homeless organisation I had visited several times and, for the first time, was offered emergency motel accommodation and, for the first time, given a $10 food voucher. It is highly likely that the only reason I received these two things was because I spent the entire time physically shaking and crying uncontrollably.

After leaving with directions I slowly made my way to the motel they had organised for me. I had never been to the suburb this motel was located in, besides fleetingly drifting through it whilst cycling with my ex-girlfriend, but as the following months were to play out, it would become a suburb I’d get to know well.

By the time I arrived at the Coburg Motor Inn I was exhausted, emotionally drained and in dire need of some tender loving care. But first, I needed food – and alcohol. The voucher I had been granted could only be used in Safeway/Woolworth’s stores and – after a conversation with the motel operator – was informed the closest supermarket was in Preston, some several kilometres away. With blisters on my feet and a desire to drink myself to death, I hiked the distance and purchased a few packets of noodles, some coca-cola, bread and processed cheese slices, before returning to the motel via Cash Converters, where I sold my camera, in order to buy as much alcohol as possible.

After a brief couple of months where things had looked like they were coming together, I had descended back into the mindset of mid 2010. Little made sense, cohesive thoughts were few and far between, hallucinations reigned supreme and I was drinking vodka as if my life depended on it. Which, I guess, it did,

I had no idea what to do, who to talk to or where to go. Conversations with Centrelink social workers went nowhere – the contacts they gave me for food weren’t valid, the accommodation options either unavailable or my mental health was not a serious enough risk for acceptance. As for more mental health specialised services, either contact was not returned, or because I had no-one to validate my words, my tear fuelled conversations fell on disbelieving and unhelpful ears (the story of my life); if I was mentally sound enough to make a phone call, I was mentally sound enough to manage all other areas of my life.

That weekend I spent the days sitting in the motel staring at the walls and the evenings sitting in a park nearby staring at the trees. When it rained, I didn’t care, I just sat near the creek gazing into the fast flowing waters hoping there would be a sudden flood and my pitiful life would be swallowed for good.

After leaving the motel, the organisation who had organised it, offered me accommodation in yet another strange suburb. For the first time I put my foot down – it was way too far from anything I knew, it would isolate me even more than I was, the rent was very nearly my entire benefit check, there was a forty-five minute walk to the nearest supermarket and the room had no windows or ventilation. I was NOT coping. I COULD NOT deal with this.

I was told that if I didn’t take this accommodation I would be on the streets as there was nothing else available.

There was no choice; the streets would definitely have killed me. Despite my desire for death, my gut instinct to survive reigned supreme…so I took the accommodation.

By now, with everything that had happened, boarding houses were not safe havens for me. After a few days of heightened tension following weeks and months of escalating chaos, I shut down.

I remained in my room for over four weeks; the lack of windows making it feel like a prison cell. I used bottles, boxes and black bags for a toilet. I ate raw oats mixed with raspberry cordial for food. I cried on a daily basis for no reason whatsoever. I self-harmed with a pair of scissors for tender loving care.

A marathon of Young Indiana Jones reminded me of my youth, a marathon of Veronica Mars reminded me of better days and then…with nothing left to watch…I inserted the first DVD of the first season of One Tree Hill and, as I wrote in a previous post:

“In a single week I watched the first four seasons back to back. I fell in love with Brooke (one of the best female characters in the history of television), Peyton (one of the other best female characters in the history of television) and developed an on-again/off-again bro-mance with Lucas’ hair.

More importantly this show reminded me of who I once was and wanted to become. As the episodes ticked away, I was reminded of my love of music, of television production, of story arcs and obsession with mind-blowing writing.” [from Hope, the greatest weapon of all]

The desire to see season’s five and six of this show is what drew me from that room, blinking back into the sun. Although still deeply disturbed I attempted to right what was happening. Over the coming weeks, leading up to Christmas, I tried to write again. My early attempts resembled the oft-disjointed posts that are published on this blog, but, over time, I began re-immersing myself in a world that had always healed me; the world of my Chronicles.

The Ghosts that Haunt Me

In February 2000 I visited the Outer Hebrides with two friends. On my second evening there I went for a walk around the town of Stornoway whilst these two beautiful women rested in our B&B room. As I walked the darkened, chilly streets, I came up with the idea of combining two-story ideas;

1) My autobiographical re-telling of my time backpacking in Scotland.

and

2) An urban romantic-fantasy based in and around a backpacker hostel in Inverness.

On that night, on that distant isle, Dust in the Wind was born. For several years it gestated, grew and strengthened in my mind. The characters became more real, their backstories fleshing out with finer and more intimate detail. The romantic elements dissipated to greater reflect the tale of loss and redemption I had envisioned.

As 2006 drew to a close I was finally content with both life and mind to write the book that had lived within me for nearly seven years. Glandular fever, my college course and a novella I was writing for my then girlfriend as a personalised birthday present, pushed this novel onto the back-burner until post breakdown, when I would force myself to write with lengthy periods of self-harm and alcohol.

The combination of breakdown, self-harm and alcoholism meant the first (renamed) draft of The Ghosts that Haunt Me failed on several levels. However, as my mind returned, I returned to it many times over my life in Alice Springs and Inverness (circa 2009) until I finally had an umpteenth draft I was happy with.

One of the stronger memories of this period of job hunting and isolation is me sitting for a day on a bench near the River Ness reading my novel from cover to cover. Although far from Pulitzer or Whitbread material I thought it was rather good, as did most of the people I sent copies for ‘opinion’ to. In spite of several rejections from publishers, I’ve always been proud of myself for completing that novel, especially in regard to all that was happening during that period.

Today, after my copies were lost in the early months of my homelessness, the sole surviving copy lives on a USB stick in my parent’s attic.

Spurred on by One Tree Hill and a desire to do something other than self-harm myself to death, I threw myself back into the healing qualities of writing and creating. Knowing I was not focussed enough to write actual prose, for weeks I wrote plot outlines, character histories and family trees. I fine tuned both story and character arcs and, for the first time ever, wrote a lengthy document that consisted of a comprehensive chronology of the entire Chronicles as they existed in my mind; a series of interconnected novels, films, TV series and websites that detail the lives, loves and losses of several dozen characters over three generations.

Back on the Streets

As I wrote this document, the ‘life’ within a boarding house continued to frustrate me. In the weeks since I’d moved in the room beside me had been occupied by three different people. The first, trashed his room upon leaving; smashing a television, damaging the walls and throwing urine over the floor. The second, remained for only a couple of weeks, whilst the third formed the habit of continually knocking on my door at all hours of the day and night. On one occasion, she knocked on my door thirteen times in half an hour to make sure I was ‘okay’ whilst on another, at three in the morning, she woke me up to ask if she could eat my eggs.

In spite of the pride I was taking in my writing work, the ‘life’ I was living was continuing to destroy my mental health. I missed conversations with friends, trivia quizzes and pub nights. I missed walking the streets lost in conversation and being needed and wanted by people who cared about my life.

All I had were the power games, endless bitching, stolen food, sudden explosions of violence, constant verbal abuse and continual drug and alcohol problems that plague all boarding houses. After the events and assaults of 2010, I kept completely to myself but, as I expected, as things within the house worsened I began to once again lose control. My hallucinations returned in force and my screaming fits in the night started up again (as pointed out by fellow housemates.)

I am (to this day) continually stunned that these boarding houses are basically the only option for homeless people in Melbourne; environments that are totally unsuitable for anyone, let alone for unmedicated, unsupported people with a lengthy history of abuse and mental illness.

Eventually, these issues overpowered me, and I was once again sent hurtling into the abyss of inaction and unstable mental ill-health. As my moods cycled rapidly, and with no support from anyone, I began blacking out again. Entire days and weeks lost to the darkness of my mind until, one day, I found myself back on the streets.

Unable to deal with the city I lived for a time in a park close to the boarding house, before tiring of this area and returning to the park that had served me well during my nights in the motel.

For weeks I lived up and down the corridor between Coburg and the city, visiting the city only rarely (once a week mainly) to stock up on food van sandwiches and bread to feed me throughout the week. My days were spent reading newspapers, scribbling artwork (around this time I took to using my skin as a canvas with a red pen to try to curtail the increasing self harm) and talking to rogue possums and the occasional pigeon.

With the amount of rejection I had received from mental health and homeless services over the years I was adamant I would never return to them. I was tired of rejection. I was tired of being spoken down to. I was tired of being treated as a statistic; a meaningless non-entity who didn’t deserve to be alive.

I need a hug! (Day 682)

On the 21st June 2011 I sat in a small alley near Southern Cross station. It was drizzling with rain. I was tired, exhausted, confused and in desperate need of a hug (which, as of today, I have yet to receive.)

It had been a long and emotional weekend, partly because of the far-too-obvious ending to A Good Man Goes To War, mostly because reminders of my past life were everywhere I turned; my Sunday ritual had prompted a smile followed by a panic attack; a walk down a random street in East Melbourne had flustered me with un-needed memories of years gone; and I discovered something that forced me off of a website I had grown to love.

As I sat in that damp, cold alley, I talked to my father on the phone and he decided enough was enough and, after leaving me to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night (my old park, for the first time in many months), he sent some emails.

Note I: This post was written over eleven hours and fifty-two minutes because of my current mental state.

Note II: I’m considering posting the chronological timeline of the Chronicles mentioned above. Let me know if you’d like to see it :)

Note III: All photographs used in this post are my own (including cover photograph), and cannot be reused without my express written permission. I have pixellated the photos because I look better this way :p

 


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Reflections on being homeless, Part 4

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

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

In this series I am looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through. Some memories are stronger than others, some more painful than others whilst some have been blocked completely.

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

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

The Beasts Below (Days 157 – 273)

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to die.

Obviously, the attempt failed; I lived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For where I ended up was the worst place possible.


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A Bad Day of Panic, Anxiety and Triggers (including ‘The 21 Challenge, Day 3’)

Princess Zelda

Princess Zelda

Today has been one of the most difficult days in recent memory, so apologies in advance for the disconnected nature of this post.

My day didn’t start badly at all, in fact, I awoke quite jovial following an unusually pleasant dream that involved talking lizards, Stephanie Bendixsen, a giant Goomba, a couple of beautifully choreographed sword fights, Princess Zelda and a bunch of grapes.

Then, as is my usual ritual on a Sunday, walked to the local garage to collect a copy of the Sunday Age. The weather was pleasant – not too hot, not too cold – and I returned to browse the newspaper whilst nibbling on berry flavoured toast and sipping green tea.

It was around about the fourth mouthful that things began to go downhill as I read:

“The definition of domestic violence has been expanded to include emotional manipulation, withholding money and harming the family pet under controversial changes to family law.

The changes, which become law this week, for the first time broaden the definition of violence beyond physical abuse to other damaging actions to which a child may be exposed, including:

– Stalking
– Repeated derogatory taunts
– Intentionally damaging or destroying property
– Preventing someone from having contact with family and friends

Woman’s groups say the changes tip the balance of family law back towards putting the safety of children first, while men’s rights group say tehy will rob children of time with both parents.”
(from The Sunday Age, June 3 2012)

For it was around this time that I began to get an itch at the bottom of my stomach. As I continued to read, this itch spread, invading my spleen, kidney and lungs. The moment it reached my heart – around about the time I read “…a message to all involved in the ‘many violent family situations in Australia and who remain invisible to the legal system’ that violence has no place in society” – I was choking on my berry jam as I began to hyperventilate.

Within seconds my green tea had been inadvertently knocked to the carpet (yay, stain!) and I was struggling to breathe. Having experienced many panic attacks in my life I knew the signs were not an allergic reaction; but a triggered reaction.

My panic attack stemmed from the mention of emotional abuse. This is all that was required to send my mind hurtling back into the pain and desolation I experienced throughout that period five years ago.

Gone were the heady memories of Hex, Zelda and I duelling a giant Goomba.

In were every attack, insult and narcissistic action that I suffered through five years ago.

All because of one article in a newspaper that described changes to Australian law that I whole heartedly agree with. For years I have campaigned for greater rights and treatment in every sense to those who are the victims of emotional abuse, and these legal changes are an absolute step in the right direction. Whether they will be in any way successful and not just a token gesture remains to be seen. I mean, how can someone be prosecuted for emotional abuse when few ever bear witness to this abhorrent treatment? No-one believes what happened to me, so why should people believe someone else claiming emotional abuse?

Once the panic attack faded I gathered a pen and a piece of paper and lay on my floor to write. I had planned on writing the latest installment of ‘reflections on being homeless’ but drifting back into the territory would have been dangerous after that reaction. Instead, I wrote a list of things that trigger me (whether big or small), a list I shall share with you now:

Note: this list is in no particular order and whilst the bigger things are SHOUTED, the huge things are shouted REALLY LOUDLY!

  • BRUNSWICK STREET
    This is a street near where I used to live when the abuse was occuring. My favourite street in Melbourne, no less.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Once my favourite television show of all time, now, something I cannot watch at all.
  • Any situation where I encounter the name (first or last) of the person whom abused me
    I was recently browsing the library and saw a book written by an author who shared the first name of my abuser. Being an uncommon yet beautiful name it is not one I come across all that often, but in this and every instance, it has negative consequences.
  • LYGON STREET
    Another street close to where I used to live when the abuse was occurring.
  • Bernadette Peters
    I wrote about her here.
  • ADELAIDE
    I didn’t state this was merely triggers of the emotional abuse.
  • Toasted cheese sandwiches
    One of my all-time favourite snacks. I used to make them for my abuser and received several criticisms for my efforts. Also, one night, I was attacked for one hour for eating a toasted cheese sandwich without her.
  • DOING ANYTHING FOR MYSELF
  • Harry Potter
    She was a big Harry Potter fan. I’m not. So not an easy trigger to avoid.
  • AMERICAN PIE
    I received nine hours of criticism for going out for dinner with my parents instead of staying at home and watching this movie on the television. I love this series and doubt I will ever be able to watch the recent Reunion installment as a result of this.
  • Forgetting someone’s birthday/Birthday Parties in general.
    I received over half an hour of abuse for not wishing a friend a happy birthday. On another occasion I was told I had destroyed someone’s life for not going to their birthday party.
  • Badgers
    Difficult to explain, but badgers remind me of her.
  • PHOTOGRAPHY
    After making her a handmade calendar of my own photographs as a New Year present I was told in no uncertain terms my photography was “boring”, “uninspired”, “pointless”, “a waste of time”, “garbage”, and that she didn’t understand “why I bothered to continue taking photographs”. On several other occasions my efforts to extend myself in this arena were criticised and attacked. Whenever I have taken photographs since I have become so paranoid about what I’m shooting I usually end up focussing only on this criticism rather than the subject I am photographing. It should be noted this boring, uninspired, pointless, hand-made piece of garbage remained on her wall for at least four months after the sexual side of the relationship ended.
  • TALKING TO PEOPLE
    “Your voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone you talk to. You should kill yourself,” As I’ve said previously, I’m not a sadist, nor do I wish to inflict pain on anyone. This criticism is hard for my social anxiety to get past in any way, shape or form
  • The Queen Victoria Market
    A location for many incidents of abuse.

…and once I reached this point I stopped writing for one reason; I was triggering myself! Merely writing these words were enough to send me boomeranging back into the realm of panic attack.

As I sat on my back steps smoking a cigarette I realised – not for the first time – just how well and truly fucked up I am. How could one relationship cause so much psychological damage? How could I be so weak to allow the damage to occur? These events happened five years ago; why are they still destroying me now?

Quickly gathering my stuff I headed out for a walk. I needed to turn to the internet to take my mind off the groundswell of negative memories that were flooding my mind and with the library closed I figured a few dollars at an internet cafe would be money well spent.

It was and it wasn’t.

On the positive, as I read a few blogs and websites I got the answer to my how could I be so weak question: because I am “naive, vulnerable and easy to manipulate”. In other words, I was right, I was abused because I was/am weak and therefore deserving of it.

On the negative, yay, I’m weak, naive, vulnerable and easy to manipulate. Awesome!

On the positive, I figured out what I could do for today’s 21 Day Challenge.

On the negative, I was stupid enough to think my idea for today’s 21 Day Challenge was a good idea!


The 21 Challenge, Day 3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)From internet days of old I am the official Keeper of Willow’s giggle and tongue slip and of the creepily easy familiarity with which Willow handles the torture instruments.

This geeky admission is how ginormous a fan of Buffy I used to be!

I wasn’t one of those hipsters that tagged on in season 5 onwards just as it was becoming popular in the mainstream. Nosiree, I was a fan back when people used to cack themselves laughing at the mere mention of the show’s title. I was a fan from the very beginning!

Despite not having seen the show for half a decade I can still recall every episode title in sequence, recant dozens of monologues and air-conduct the score like a pro. I was uber-fan.

And this passion was taken away from me by one woman.

So after vacating the internet cafe I rented season 3 (my favourite season) from the local video store (not a great move considering how broke I am) and walked home locked in full stressed out “conversing with hallucinations” anxious mode.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch the whole season, so I selected a few episodes at random, namely the ones I used to adore: Lover’s Walk, The Wish, Doppelgangland and Graduation Day.

I managed to get through Lover’s Walk without incident, mainly because I used to do a cracking impersonation of James Marsters’ monologue:

You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be
in love ‘til it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and
you’ll hate each other ‘til it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be
friends. Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. Blood
screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at
least I’m man enough to admit it.”

But The Wish was fraught with triggers as my mind reeled in the ‘what if’ scenarios of an alternate world where I hadn’t met my abuser. Not even Beck’s beautiful scoring of the final fight scene was enough to prevent this panic overtaking me.

This panic remained throughout Doppelgangland (“Can you believe the Watcher’s Council let this guy go?”) and peaked half way through Graduation Day where I had to stop watching as a full-blown panic attack raged once more.

The DVD set isn’t due back until next weekend so I may give it another go later in the week when I’m less ‘wound up’, but from the strength of today’s reaction, it does appear my ability to watch this show has been stolen from me. Although I am proud I was able to return to the town of Sunnydale, however brief the visit turned out to be.


Sitting alone in my flat afterwards I couldn’t help but despair at how difficult and frustrating my life has become. The array of things I must avoid in order to save myself the pain of panic, anxiety and depression. The dearth of anything that resembles pleasure and enjoyment. The sheer amount of hard work I must put in to achieve even the most pointless of tasks, let alone the larger dreams I hold within me.

On days like today I wonder what the point of working so hard really is. Five years of nothing but pain because I was too weak, naive and vulnerable to realise I was being used and abused by the woman I loved.

Thinking back on this weekend it is one I would rather forget.

I just hope that the changes Australia has made to its domestic violence laws will help others from suffering the losses that I have. No-one should live as I do. Not a soul amongst us deserves isolated loneliness because of the actions of an abuser so insecure they need to attack others to feel better about themselves.

Earlier in this haphazard, convoluted, unfocused post I questioned whether these changes were merely a token gesture. I sincerely hope that they are not, and over time, prove an excellent addition to combatting the grotesque pandemic that is domestic violence. But I fear, in much the same way as mental health stigma, that little will change until the general public and society at large stops advocating the abusive behaviour of others.

We shall just have to live in hope.


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Reflections on being homeless, Part 2

*Trigger warning: this post contains mentions of self-harm and suicidal ideation*

In August 2009 I became homeless. It was not a choice I made, it was a situation born out of mental illness, the trauma of emotional abuse and other factors beyond my control.

I was homeless until March 2012, when I finally gained a privately rented unit. In that time I slept in parks, alleys, boarding houses, tents and everywhere in between. I attempted suicide, lost all sense of reality and learned to both despise and love this world.

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

Throughout this week I will be looking back on my homelessness in an effort to understand what has happened to me as well as holding onto the hope that others will learn from what I have been through.

The Kübler-Ross Model

Denial (Week One – Two)
“I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”

For the first several days of my homelessness I did nothing but what I would have done anyway. I visited art galleries, read books, went to the cinema. I continued logging into social networks and job hunting. Not once did I visit an NGO or food van.

If I couldn’t afford to eat, I wouldn’t.

If I couldn’t afford or find my own housing, then so be it.

My life revolved around one thing, never wanting to admit that I was homeless.

Anger (Weeks Three – Four)
“Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”

After failing to sleep in any way shape or form on the benches I’d found a small patch of grass beside a low wall. This wall, I discovered, blocked me from view from all but one angle of the park. The problem was there was a path above it and unless you were looking down you wouldn’t have known I was there.

A few weeks into my homelessness, in the early hours of the morning, I awoke to find a heavy stream of warm liquid soaking my blankets, belongings and person. At first I thought it was a sudden onslaught of rain until the tell-tale odour reached my nostrils and I realised someone above me was relieving themselves.

After waiting for them to leave I exploded. I hurled my blankets across the park, kicked the wall, punched a tree and, after venting all the emotion I’d bottled up for weeks, collapsed to the ground and found a cigarette. Sitting there in the moonlight, the park deathly quiet, stinking of urine, my mind attacked anything and everything it could blame for my position; namely, myself.

  • If I had worked harder at school then I’d be curled up in a nice warm bed rather than being pissed on in a park in the middle of the night.
  • If I had fought past the social anxiety and gone to university then I’d be sharing pints in a pub instead of starving in the dark.
  • If I’d worked harder to dance, socialize and study whilst suffering from glandular fever I could be living a more connected, happy life.
  • If I hadn’t allowed my mental illness to overwhelm me I could have been someone.
  • If I had been a stronger person I wouldn’t have fallen victim to abuse and thus I’d be able to think of myself as a human rather than a nothing.
  • If I had killed myself in 2006 or 2007 I wouldn’t be here to suffer this degradation, humiliation and pain.

This night was a turning point for me. I was no longer in denial about my situation; I was homeless. I had become the lowest of the low, the most hated of the hated, the most maligned of the malignant.

My life, once something so full of promise and pride had become nothing but the urinal of socety.

Bargaining (Weeks Five – Eight)
“I’ll do anything for a…”

As my anger and self-hate faded I sought to find ways out of my situation. I turned to both government and non-government organisations to assist me in finding possible pathways but there was nothing. Waiting lists for public housing were 10-12 years long and as I didn’t have the money to sustain a hostel or boarding house there was little they could do but suggest places to visit for food and/or blankets.

In my desperate state to get out of homelessness and prove my strength I was willing to do anything. So I did. After all, it wasn’t as if anyone had never been there before.

Engaging in this money-making activity did nothing but make me feel vile and amplify every facet of my mental health. My anxiety skyrocketed, my hallucinations veered out of control and the PTSD blew into the stratosphere.

If I’d had my head screwed on I would have realised this would have been the outcome, if I hadn’t been so lonely I wouldn’t have rationalised my ‘decision’ with the use of terms such as ‘human contact’, ‘social interaction’ and ‘maybe you’ll make a friend’.

If I could have my time back I would never have done it for it did far more damage than good.

Depression (Weeks Nine – Eighteen)
“I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I miss my loved ones, why go on?”

English: Homeless man in New York 2008, Credit...

Toward the end of September 2009, nearly two months after becoming homeless, I decided to walk to Sydney. For those unfamiliar with Australian geography, Sydney is approximately 900kms from Melbourne.

One day I packed my clothes into my backpack, slung my blanket into a black bag and headed off. I roamed through the Northern suburbs and out of the city before collapsing after fifty odd kilometres by the side of the road. Unfurling my blanket I curled up beneath a tree as cars sped by sporadically and prayed for death.

After hitching to Albury I spent the night sleeping near the Murray river before a second in a small suburban park. On the third day I set off toward Sydney and made it all of 5kms before I threw myself under a tree and looked for something to hang myself with. In the old days I would normally have had a scarf or belt but being so destitute I had neither. Instead of carrying on toward Sydney I turned back to Albury to buy some rope but could find nothing in any of the shops that were open. Instead, I turned back and this time didn’t return.

For a week and a half I roamed the back roads and highways of rural NSW. I slept under trees, in ditches and under bushes. Several thunderstorms soaked me to the core and I developed a heavy flu that had me vomiting and barely able to move.

Before I’d left I’d suggested my desire to walk to Sydney had been to ‘find a reason to live’ looking back, it was probably more because I knew it stood a good chance of killing me.If it hadn’t been for a sudden call to attend an appointment in regarding benefits I think it would have done.

My appointment had to be in Melbourne so I boarded a train and journeyed back to the city a failure. Not only had I been unsuccessful in my attempt to walk between two major metropolises, I was still drawing breath.

The appointment, at 9am, lasted all of ten minutes and I spent the remainder of the day sitting in the park I’d called home crying, smoking and being incredibly ill. It wasn’t just the homelessness that was getting to me. It was the loneliness, the isolation, the hunger, the pain and the black dog that was tearing out my innards with its vicious, razor-sharp teeth.

For the umpteenth time since being homeless I ended up in the waiting room of a housing organisation. After telling me there was no accommodation available they allowed me to have a shower and I was sent back to the park where I spent the remainder of the day self-harming.

By this point I was self-injuring on a daily basis and talking to hallucinations 20 odd hours a day. The remaining four I was either too exhausted from the incessant noise to respond or crashed out in fitful nightmare-plauged sleep. Efforts were made to admit myself to hospital but I was told I was too ‘well’ to be admitted or there were no beds free.

As October drew to a close I could no longer recognise the person staring back at me in the mirror. The flu had lingered for weeks, my feet were blistered and infected after weeks of wearing the same shoes and socks and my moods were swinging wildly.

At times so confident I was trying to talk my way into hotels and writing several hundred pages of (what I believed) coherent prose in a week.

Whilst at others my anxiety was so extreme I couldn’t bear to be around a single soul. On one occasion I remained in my park for seven days, taking refuge under my bridge like the fairytale troll I believed myself to be.

English: Statue of General Sir John Monash in ...

Statue of General Sir John Monash | King’s Domain

It was early in the morning when I sat under a tree in the King’s Domain shredding a T-Shirt into a make-shift noose. I had been homeless for nearly three months. I’d asked for help, searched for accommodation, job hunted and done everything someone who follows the ‘pull yourself up from the bootstraps’ approach to homelessness suggests to do. And yet, nothing.

I didn’t just want to die because I wanted the pain to end. I wanted to die because I was nothing.

And never would be.

It was too early to be interrupted by the joggers and their maniacal personal trainers and I figured by the time they arrived to tone their abs and buns I would be beyond help. Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on someone who genuinely cares about the homeless coming along; that being, another homeless person. Perhaps it’s the “we’re in this together” mentality, perhaps you cannot truly understand the pain, shock and loneliness of this ‘life’ unless you have experienced it yourself, but I dread to think what would have happened if he hadn’t shown up.

The first thing he did was steal my Noose-Shirt and then he sat, handed me a cigarette, and pulled out his bible. Now, I’m not a religious man. I used to be, many years ago. When I ran away from home and during my backpacking days of ’99 I kept a small bible in my pack. But sometime since then my beliefs shifted. I didn’t turn my back on religion, nor do I begrudge anyone their beliefs, but they are just no longer my own. Normally I am turned off by someone forcing their views onto me, but I was so lost, so alone, so desperate for human company I just sat there and listened to him read from the scripture.

I wasn’t processing the words but the soft sound of his voice as it rose in fell in emphasis. By this point I hadn’t spoken to anyone besides a few organisations and my parents via the phone for months. It was the first time since I was homeless someone had taken time to speak to me in person and that, more than religion, is what stopped me from committing suicide that day.

After finishing the passages he placed the bible back into the pack and took out a portable DVD player. He asked if I wanted to borrow it to take my mind off the darkness. With thanks I took it and, after ensuring I was okay, he departed.

That day I watched The Dark Knight and half a dozen episodes of Skins courtesy of the library.

That night he found me in the park and we shared some food from the soup van. After we ate I went to hand him the player back but he said to keep it, he was heading out-of-town for a while and would collect it on his return.

Acceptance (Week Nineteen)
“I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

By November I had no idea who I was. The DVD player helped occupy my days but my mind was still lost in a maze of confusion, depression and instability. No matter what path I ventured down it just ended in a dead-end; whether it be housing, health, employment or loneliness.

Toward the end of the month my family wired some money to me to assist in celebrating my birthday. My original plan was to accommodate myself in a hotel as all I desired for my birthday was to be indoors and in bed. Unfortunately, due to price gouging on the weekend, this proved impossible. Thus, I booked a room for that night.\

It was the first time I’d been indoors for months. The moment I checked in I stripped naked. The moment after this I showered. For the remainder of the evening I remained naked for all but thirty minutes, a half hour in which I walked to the pizza shop to treat myself.

If you’ve never eaten a pizza in the nude after sleeping in various parks for three months you cannot begin to understand the sheer joy and pleasure I experienced that night!

It’s a bunny rabbit…eating pizza. Genius!

It was an emotion I had forgotten existed, something that felt altogether ‘wrong’ but naughtily enjoyable at the same time. Even though I had to check out of the hotel the next morning I carried that joy with me for the remainder of the day for I knew it could be a long time before I felt it again.

I accepted now that I was – and would no doubt always be – homeless.

What I didn’t know as I walked away from the hotel that morning is that I’d have the opportunity to be naked again very soon. And not in a creepy get-yourself-arrested in a park kinda way!

Because four days from that night I obtained accommodation…which means tomorrow’s post will be much happier. Honestly :)