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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SOC: How do I live the life I deserve to live?

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Tuesday 8 September 2015 between 9:52 – 10:24am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

Federation Square Abstract

Before going on holiday, I was apprehensive. Melbourne has been the staging ground of some of the worst, most abhorrent, actions that have ever been inflicted upon me.

It was in Melbourne where I was emotionally abused to the point of suicide and homelessness; emotional abuse that cost me my tertiary education, my income, my social and support network, every possession I’d ever owned and left me a terrified, hollowed out shell of the person I once was; emotional abuse that has caused a lifetime of lost opportunities and trauma of the like I’ve never before, or since, experienced.

It was in Melbourne where I found myself homeless, eking out an existence on the streets of Victoria’s capitol, scrounging for food in bins, begging for loose change on the streets, and doing whatever I could to survive in spite of my new-found station in life as the world’s biggest loser. This too caused untold psychological damage and trauma that I haven’t even begun to deal with.

It was in Melbourne where I was physically assaulted, not once, not twice, but several times. On some occasions I was doing nothing but sitting in a park when a gaggle of alcohol/drug fueled sociopaths set upon me for their own entertainment. On other occasions the assaults were warranted; when I intervened upon seeing a boyfriend beating up his girlfriend, when I refused to hand over money in a run-down boarding house. But whether warranted or not, each assault inflicted emotional damage, each assault traumatized me.

So before going on holiday I was apprehensive. How easily would my traumas be triggered? What emotional pain would I find myself revisiting? How would I control the surge of PTSD symptoms that would inevitably overpower me? How much of my holiday would be lost to the memories of nightmares past?

So colour me surprised when nothing happened. Walking around the Kings Domain, my old ‘home’ throughout my homelessness, brought back memories, but they didn’t come close to overwhelming me as much as I thought they would. Traipsing around my old haunts of Carlton and Fitzroy, major locations throughout my abusive relationship, became more nostalgic than triggering. Even lazing around the city’s alleyways and open spaces, key locations of my various assaults, were more relaxing and subdued than nightmarish or painful. The PTSD that I expected to overwhelm me was only a problem for a brief few hours, brought on by tiredness and exhaustion instead of memories and triggers. And even when the PTSD overwhelmed me, I was able to control it, I was able to occupy my mind with beautiful art or a canister of Cherry Coke, instead of losing myself to the pain of times past.

All of my fears. All of my apprehension. All of my nervousness about Melbourne. Everything I feared proved unnecessary; a complete waste of energy.

My time in Melbourne, rather than being a carefully balanced nightmare of trauma and psychological distress, was a wonderful escape from the terror that (usually) dominates my mind. It was not Melbourne that I should have been afraid of…it was Wodonga.

Since my return two weeks ago, I have been so stressed, so wound up, so overcome with nervous energy, that I’m surprised I haven’t had a heart attack! Not a single minute, not a single second, has seen me as calm, relaxed and happy as I was in Melbourne. I’ve just been well and truly overwhelmed by anxiety, by depression, by PTSD symptoms and the resultant stress that these conditions create.

Hours have been lost to violent, volatile conversations with the ghost of my abuser. There are no triggers in this town of her sociopathic narcissism. There are no reminders of the vile, cruel attacks that she used to direct upon me. But flashbacks, reliving and nightmares have dominated since I returned to this quiet, sleepy little town.

In Melbourne, I was regularly walking past hundreds of people a minute, but not once (not once) did my anxiety present any problems with this. There were no anxiety attacks. There were no panic attacks. There was just me, losing myself into the breathing heart of the city. But since my return, the anxiety has reigned supreme. Within an hour of returning I walked to the supermarket, passed one person, and suffered a crippling panic attack that left me a jittery, bawling wreck on the side of the road. Hundreds of people in Melbourne I could deal with; but one person in Wodonga overwhelmed me.

Throughout my week in Melbourne depression never entered the equation. I was happier than I’d been in years. I was skipping down the street, singing songs to myself and, unless I was taking selfies (I never smile in photographs), had a stupid grin plastered to my face. But back in Wodonga? I don’t remember how to smile; I walk around with a glum and gloomy expression on my face because happiness has escaped my soul; replaced with a dark, black, bleakness as I topple on the abyss between life and death.

I never once though of ending my life when I was in Melbourne; but since being back in Wodonga, the suicidal thoughts have returned, overpowering my belief that I’m a decent person and leaving me convinced that this world, and everyone in it, would be better off without me. After all, what do I bring to the world? What magic do I pass on to the lives of others? I’m just nothing. A nobody. This world would be better off without me. That I’m convinced of; when I’m in Wodonga.

And that is the crux of the issue, the life lesson that my holiday in Melbourne taught me; the major problem in my life isn’t my anxiety, isn’t my PTSD, it isn’t my depression, bipolar or suicidal ideation. My major problem in life is Wodonga, this sleepy hamlet where there is nothing to do, nothing to feed my passions and nothing to occupy the cravings of my mind. For me to get better, for me to recover, for me to live the life I deserve to live, I need to leave this place. And I need to leave soon, before the stress-caused heart attack strikes and I am taken from this world forever.

But how?

How does someone living in abject poverty move house?

Yes, I’ve reached the conclusion that I need to leave this suffocating town, but there is no way I can. The money I receive from the government doesn’t  cover my costs as it is. Last week I had to humiliate myself at the food bank as I couldn’t afford to feed myself. Whilst I’m walking around with a hole in the crotch of my jeans so big that I can put my hand through it, but the measly DSP I receive won’t allow for the cost of a new pair. So how do I realise my realisation and leave this unhealthy place when I can’t afford accommodation, can’t afford deposits, can’t afford anything?

The thought of being trapped here stresses me out something rotten, but that’s exactly when I am; trapped. Enslaved within a town that is damaging and detrimental to my mental health because, as I live in abject poverty, I have no choice of where I live or what I do with my life. Life. I don’t have one in Wodonga. I just have pain and trauma. I just have stress and depression. I could have a life somewhere else. Somewhere like Melbourne or London or Glasgow or Edinburgh or Inverness. Somewhere where my heart would be allowed to sing and I could occupy myself with cultural, artistic and inspirational pursuits. Where I could distract myself from the trauma of my life and allow myself to skip and sing and be happy.

But how?

Before going on holiday I was apprehensive. I thought I would be overwhelmed with pain, but instead I was showered with happiness. The pain came when I returned to the town that I hate; the town that, for better or worse, I have been forced through poverty, through lack of choice, to call home.

A town that will continue to suck the life from me until I’m nothing but the empty, worthless, shell of the man I once could have been.

 


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Melbourne 2015: Day 07. A rather solemn affair

My final day in Melbourne was a rather solemn affair. It began innocuously enough; sliding myself out of bed, stepping into the shower, slipping my clothes on and then sidling out the motel room for another day exploring and relishing in the greatest city in Australia, but as the day progressed and time ticked slowly on, I was overcome with a melancholy that I wasn’t expecting. The fact of the matter was I didn’t want to leave. Since being in Melbourne my mental health had, for the most part, not been an issue. I was walking past hundreds of people a minute and my social anxiety was nonexistent. I was in constant connection with memories of the most traumatic periods of my life – abusive relationship, homelessness – but my PTSD had barely registered. Being in Melbourne, it seemed, was good for me.

Unlike the other days of my Melbourne adventure, my final day in Melbourne saw no tourist attraction being explored. I considered going to the zoo (but that was too expensive) and I looked into going to the Old Melbourne Gaol (but that also proved too expensive) so instead I just meandered around the city. I undertook a laneways tour; reacquainting myself with the alleys and back streets that I used to know so well. I explored the Queen Victoria Market; and felt ashamed by the grotesque prices being asked for tatty tourist merchandise. I meandered various shops that I once knew so well; PLAY, a DVD shop selling rare and hard to find titles, JBHIFI, a music/DVD shop selling mainstream titles and various booksellers at the top end of Bourke Street, whose collections were interesting and diverse. Alas, I couldn’t buy anything. After seven days in Melbourne my finances were low and I needed what little money I had left for food and beverages.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

Flinders Street, Melbourne.

It may sound boring, just walking around a city, but it was anything but. Melbourne may not be the prettiest city known to humankind, but once you get past the hipsterfication, it still heralds many architectural and retail gems. Walking around the city was something I used to do every week, and as I strolled around the CBD that final day, I was overwhelmed with memories of my past lives. Of when I was overwhelmed and excited upon arriving in Australia. Of when I was happily in a relationship with Louise. Of when I worked my arse off at the backpacker hostel. The memories flowed thick and fast that final day in Melbourne, but never once tipped me over the edge, never once did the PTSD overwhelm me. For once, I was in complete control.

By 1:30pm I was settled into Federation Square, shocked at how fast time was moving, so decided to slow things down with a final visit to one of my favourite places in the city, the NGV: Australia in Federation Square. It would be my third visit since arriving, but I didn’t care. There is something calming, something altogether relaxing, about roaming around the gallery, soaking in the majestic, inspirational art on show. To add some diversity to my visit I decided to undertake one of the free gallery tours they offer, in which a volunteer guides you through the gallery, regaling you with stories and history of various, important artworks. There were only two of us in the tour, but the information provided was interesting and informative. It cast the artwork in a new light; adding life and vitality to work that I have grown to love and care about.

Inside the NGV: Australia

Inside the NGV: Australia

After the tour I left the gallery and, on Audrey’s request, returned to the secondhand bookstore we had found days earlier. Bookshops, like galleries, are also a calming and relaxing venue for me. There is something about being surrounded by books that fills me with happiness. For nearly half and hour we scoured the shelves for anything that sounded interesting and, eventually, left with two books; one for Audrey (Riders in the Chariot, Patrick White) and one for me (Glencoe, John Prebble).

After a brief visit to ACMI we still had time left on our hands so, spontaneously, decided to return to the NGV: Australia, where we spent another hour roaming the halls and photographing the various artwork that spoke to us the most. It still amazed me how calming I found the NGV to be, and it hammered home just how stressed I have become from living in Wodonga, and how much I desperately need to leave that rural backwater town.

We ended the day in our usual way; a canister of Irn Bru, a visit to the Little Library and a relaxation session on a bench in Flagstaff Gardens. This bench, like many places in Melbourne, I had a personal history with. When I was homeless in 2007, following a year of abuse, breakdown and mental catastrophe, it was the first place that I called my ‘home’, with many nights spent curled up upon it trying desperately to sleep through the night. But I sat there, that final night in Melbourne, reflecting on my life now and my life then; how far I have come in certain respects, and how similar I remain in others. After solemnly leaving the bench I meandered to the pizza shop, treated myself to another beautiful potato and rosemary pizza, and returned for a night of relative calmness in the motel.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

The first bench I slept on when I was homeless in 2007.

Unlike my other days in Melbourne, this last day was far more reflective and quiet. I didn’t undertake any lengthy walks, I didn’t spend a huge amount of time doing the tourist thing. I just allowed the city of Melbourne to wash over me and, in turn, reignite my love for the Victorian capital. As I drifted off to sleep, filled with a cantankerous malaise over the end of my holiday and my inevitable return to Wodonga, I realised once and for all that I would need to leave that suffocating country town. For the sake of my mental health, for the sake of my sanity, for the sake of my life; I needed to leave Wodonga.

The next morning I awoke early, switched on breakfast television, and put off packing for as long as possible. I knew that packing would mark the end of my holiday and, truth be told, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be walking back into the city for another day exploring the urban landscape and relaxing in the concrete jungle. But I couldn’t. All I could do was stumble out of bed, throw my possessions together, and make the long, slow walk to the train station where a stressful four hour train journey awaited me.

My holiday was over…and it saddened me greatly.

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

The small library I acquired in Melbourne!

It had been seven blissful days of excitement, exploration and (occasional) extravagance. I had seen centuries old artwork, chillaxed in gardens, played with penguins, fought my demons and reacquainted myself with a city I once called home. It had been exactly what I needed; a break from my mental health, a break from stress, a break from Wodonga and a break from myself.

My holiday was, in one word, blissful.

A week I will never forget.

 


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Melbourne 2015: Day 06. A day of two halves

My sixth day in Melbourne was a day of two halves. Half of it was pure bliss straight out of the bottle. Half of it was a nightmare of anxiety and PTSD. But it is still a day I will look back on with fond memories.

Half One: Pure bliss straight out of bottle…

The day began like all my others in Melbourne; leaping out of bed, throwing myself into the shower, quickly dressing so as not to see my naked self in the plethora of mirrors and then hurtling out the door to commence another day of adventure and excitement in my favourite Australian city. On the cards today was a visit to the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and I couldn’t wait! Sitting in Federation Square waiting for the Aquarium to open was pure hell. Why didn’t it open sooner? Why had I left the motel so early? To pass the time I ended up treating myself to a cheapo cooked breakfast in a cafe I discovered whilst homeless – $7.50 for bacon and eggs, bargain – before meandering slowly toward to the Aquarium hoping it would open early just for me. Alas, it didn’t, but I only had to wait ten minutes or so before they opened their doors.

The only downside of going to the Aquarium is the price. For some inexplicable reason they have decided that the optimum price for adult admission is $38 which, even though you’ll be spending plenty of time admiring the cute liddle fishes, is somewhat extortionate. Especially for someone like me, who lives in abject poverty on a daily basis. But I stoked up the cash (Meadhbh would never have forgiven me if I hadn’t) and headed into the dimly lit building to begin the tour.

First installation was a huge tank full of grumpy looking giant fish and perky looking tiny fish. Perhaps the giant fish were so grumpy because they couldn’t swim as fast as the little fish, Meadhbh chimed in, before shrilly shrieking in my ear as she saw the next set of exhibits were crabs. We spent nearly fifteen minutes examining these crustaceans of all sizes, colours and shapes. Big crabs sat motionless in their aquatic wasteland, whilst tiny crabs scuttled across the sand of their domain in a hedonistic state of excitement. Why are all the big animals so still and un-entertaining, Meadhbh asked. I didn’t know. Perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they were biding their time to break out into a spontaneous dance number when no-one was watching.

From the crabs we took in starfish, coral reefs and numerous tanks filled with all sorts of bright, iridescent fishes. There was, of course, tanks full of Nemos and Dorys for the Finding Nemo obsessed kiddies and tanks full of jellyfish for the Ooo, dangerous obsessed adults. I loved the jellyfish. Watching them slowly power themselves through the water was hypnotizing and had a delightful calming effect on me.

Next up was the giant tank filled with sharks, manta rays, sting rays and all manner of strange-looking fish I couldn’t identify. Then was the turn of the Aquarium’s new star attraction; a giant salt water crocodile, who lay motionless on the floor of his enclosure, no doubt biding his time for when he can break out and munch down on all the kiddies that squeal and oooo in his general direction.

Then came the surprise. For some reason the head-honchos at Melbourne Aquarium have decided that lizards are now considered amphibious animals, so we were thrilled by blue tongued lizards, snakes and the graceful awesomeness of the Shingleback (Sleepy) Lizard, who is my personal favourite of the reptile kingdom. There were also spiders; and the only reason these have been included in an aquarium is to freak out arachnophobic individuals such as myself.

The final exhibit was Meadhbh’s favourite. In fact, she was so excited she was unable to speak properly. Her usually eloquent and considered words replaced with shrieks, squees and strange, indecipherable, high-pitched noises. For Melbourne Aquarium, unlike on our last visit in 2007, now has a penguin exhibit. A large, ice ridden enclosure filled with Emperor Penguins who stood around looking regal and awesome. Like Meadhbh, I love penguins, and relished the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. We spent a good twenty minutes just staring at the birds through the glass, watching them waddle around, swim in their personal pool and just be magnificent. Meadhbh also loved watching the children who were pressed up against the glass trying to get the penguins attention; waving and jabbering incomprehensible excited child noises.

Penguins! :D

Penguins! :D

All in all, although the $38 is too expensive a price, we relished our time at the Aquarium. Meadhbh loved it. I loved it. Easily one of the highlights of our trip; especially because of the Shingleback lizards and Emperor Penguins.

Half Two: A Nightmare of Anxiety and PTSD

Alas, the excitement of the morning’s escapade to the Aquarium did not extend into the afternoon. For the first time since I’d arrived in Melbourne I began to feel overwhelmed with anxiety. I was tired. I was exhausted. And I began to freak out at the sheer number of people who were around me. This increase in my anxiety led to my PTSD beginning to flare up, and I found myself overwhelmed with memories of my brutal homelessness and of the abusive relationship that destroyed my life. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to control the growing malaise that had overpowered me. So I sat for a while in Federation Square, taking (somewhat dodgy) photos of the architecture and maintaining a conversation with myself, and the ghost of my abuser, which drew strange looks from passers-by as they wondered why this strange, overweight man was talking to himself.

As the PTSD symptoms began to overwhelm me I knew I needed to do something. I was starting to feel as isolated, ostracised and judged as when I was homeless. My conversation was drawing not only strange looks but also muttered comment and this attention just made me feel worse. It increased my anxiety and, in that cruel, vicious cycle, increased my PTSD symptoms. So I packed up my camera and took myself to a place I knew would ease my troubled soul; the NGV International. It would be the third time I had visited this magnificent attraction since being in Melbourne but I didn’t care. It was free. It was calming. It was exactly what I needed.

Looking through the NGV International's Water Window

Looking through the NGV International’s Water Window

Within an hour of being amidst the beautiful artwork displayed my anxiety was easing. I was having fewer PTSD symptoms and the conversations with the ghost of my abuser were diminishing. By the time I left the building and sat on the wall out the front for a medicinal cigarette, I was feeling in control again, so I smoked my cigarette and then walked back into the city for a spot of window shopping and my daily canister of Irn Bru.

By now the day had drawn to a close and dusk was settling over the city. The streetlights had come on and the neon signs that decorate the various intersections of the city were casting their alien glow across the city. I’ve always loved the city at night. During my homelessness I would spend many hours just drifting around the city, seeking out the shadows to hide in as I soaked up the energy and vibrancy of a city after dark. So this is what I did now. Just floated around, people watching, building watching, relishing in the excitement of a city come alive.

After a time I treated myself to Lord of the Fries, and their delicious French-Canadian topping, before deciding to wander back to the motel. Although I had managed to control my anxiety and PTSD, their appearance in the day had tired me, and I yearned to rest, to just lay back on the motel bed and lose myself to the world of sleep.

The next day would be my last in Melbourne, and I was slightly overcome with feelings of sadness and melancholy. I loved being in the city. I loved being in Melbourne. It felt right. It felt natural. I didn’t want to return to the stifling, suffocating world of Wodonga and all the mental health insanity that I knew would befall me there. So as I lay on the motel bed I vowed to make my final day in Melbourne something wonderful, something relaxing, something to remember during the monotonous, nightmare laden days ahead.


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Life is hard, sometimes…

One of the strangest things that has come from my quit smoking attempt is an addiction to cheese. Ever since going smoke free on Wednesday I haven’t been able to get enough of the stuff. I’ve devoured toasted cheese sandwich after toasted cheese sandwich. I’ve feasted on jacket potatoes slathered with lashings of cheddary awesomeness and snacked on savory biscuits adorned with cubes of tasty cheese. Part of me feels I should be worried about this new obsession. That I am merely substituting one addiction with another. But the other part of me laughs in the face of such thinking. Cheese, after all, is not known to cause cancer. It is known to increase your waist size, but as I’m already a big fat person (okay, not that big or that fat) I’m not too worried about this. I’m just thankful for the fact I’d gone three days without cigarettes…

…and yes, you read that sentence correctly. I had gone three days without cigarettes. For this afternoon, after a brutal night of PTSD nightmares and little to no sleep, after a morning of confusion and melancholy, I turned to the sweet drug nicotine to ease my troubled mind. I know what triggered it. I know what caused the onslaught of memory and flashback. And there is nothing I could have done about it. I’m trying not to see this as a setback. I’m trying to look at it with positive eyes. Yes, I smoked a cigarette. But I only smoked one cigarette. I could easily have smoked two, three or four. I could easily have said to hell with my quit smoking attempt, give me more of that nicotine drenched goodness! But I didn’t. I smoked one, blissful, cigarette and then placed the pack in the trash before returning to my quit smoking endeavor.

You might want to give me a bollocking. You might want to turn me over your knee and give me a sound spanking. But before you take such extreme, flirtatious measures, remember that at least I’m being honest about smoking today. I could easily lie about it. I could easily ignore the fact I smoked today and go on making everyone believe I was still smoke free. But that isn’t me. I’m an honest soul. Sometimes too honest. Every quit smoking attempt is littered with setbacks and relapses. Nicotine is, after all, one of the hardest drugs to give up. It’s grip is vicious, strong and vice like. I do feel bad about smoking today, but I’d like everyone to remember how difficult my life is before scolding me.

I’m not saying that for sympathy or special treatment. I’m saying it because it’s true. My life is difficult. I live alone, I have few friends in close proximity and I battle bipolar affective disorder, complex PTSD and severe social anxiety disorder with little to no help. Just being alone all the time is enough to drive most people to despair, let alone having to deal with complicated mental illnesses at the same time. The smallest, most inconsequential thing can trigger me. I could be watching a movie that features a rape scene and bam I’m back in Adelaide being anally penetrated by a grotesque stranger. I could be walking down the road and smell a scent that sends me hurtling back into my abusive relationship. Or I could read an online article and be sent spiraling into the depths of poverty and homelessness.

Over the years I’ve come to realise just how precarious my life is. So many triggers. So many things to avoid. It amazes me sometimes how I have lived as long as I have. Chewing gum, gin and tonic, Buffy, Fitzroy, cigars, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight; all are things that I have to avoid. All have the power to pull me away from the present and send me tumbling into the abyss of panic, terror and nightmare. Just think, for a moment, how difficult that can be. How many times is Harry Potter mentioned in the media, on blogs? People who read Harry Potter don’t just like it, they obsess over it. Hundreds upon thousands of online hours have been dedicated to writing about this fictional wizard. He regularly appears in the mainstream media, on Buzzfeed, on blogs; and every time he does, my mind is triggered and I stop functioning.

Just the other day I was in the supermarket when a father asked his daughter “Would you like that?” and I was rendered almost non-functioning. For this was the exact assortment of words that my rapist said to me. And that’s not the first time that’s happened. Once, many years ago, I was in a similar situation, heard those exact words, and an ambulance had to be called to assist me as I ended up lying in the fetal position, unable to move. Can you imagine how difficult life can be when a simple four word sentence holds such power over someone’s functioning? It’s exhausting. It’s debilitating. It’s painful. It’s so many bloody synonyms I could be here til Doomsday typing them all out.

But I do the best I can. I get out of bed when it would be all too easy to remain there all day. I walk to the supermarket when all I want to do is remain in the comfort and safety of my own world. And I push myself to perform tasks that, although difficult, aid and assist my life. Just the other day I discovered that there is an event being held in Melbourne on the 21st August. A gathering of like-minded souls, congregating to celebrate their passion in a club like environment. There is going to be hundreds of people there. Hundreds of strangers that have the power to render me panic-stricken and comatose. But I put my hand up to attend. I, Addy Lake, social anxiety extraordinaire, volunteered to attend a function with hundreds of people who could render me unable to function. All because I want to go. All because I yearn to break through the hold my anxiety and PTSD hold over my life.

That’s why I’m not beating myself up for smoking one cigarette. My life is hard, it’s painful and it’s every day. There is very little joy in my life and very little relaxation. I exist in a constant state of hyper-vigilance; endlessly on the lookout for the next thing that could send me cascading into the past. But I keep fighting. I keep pushing myself. And I keep seeking out new and hitherto untried strategies that could break the hold mental illness has on me. And that is something to be proud of. Regardless of the occasional slip-up or setback.


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[NSFW] My kink and its effect on my mental health

WARNING_SPANKINGS

I’ve always been interested in the world of kink. How it relates to our personality. How it reflects on who we are. How it impacts on various aspects of our life. And how, if any, it links to the world of mental health. For someone who has battled mental illness since he was a teenager, and for someone who has struggled with his kinky self for even longer, the world of kink and how it relates to mental illness fascinates me.

In this post I ruminate on how my kinky self has impacted, or been impacted by, my various mental illnesses. From the ups and downs of bipolar through C-PTSD via social anxiety and self harm, I cast an eye over how kink has affected my life.

Given the subject matter, it should go without saying that this post is not for familial eyes. So any members of my family who just happen to stumble upon this post, please respect my need for privacy and read no further. Everyone else, feel free to join me on my journey with kink! :)

Continue reading


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Discombobulated…

It’s been a brutal, unforgiving, bitch of a week. As expected, everything has gravitated around the anniversary of my rape, with much of my week spent in a hellish realm of flashback and nightmare; constantly reliving and re-experiencing the torment and pain I was put through eight years ago. Pretty much every waking moment has been spent in the past. I’ve tried to stop myself. I’ve tried to bring myself back to the present. But despite my best efforts to ground myself, nothing has worked. My brain has stubbornly refused to let me have some peace, comfort and happiness.

It’s been exhausting, to be honest. Living in the past when all you want to do is survive the present is a tiring, uncomfortable place to be. I feel disconnected from the world. Unable to latch on to anything, unable to connect to anyone. When I go for a walk to the supermarket I know I’m walking, because I can feel the earth beneath my feet, but my brain is elsewhere, my mind a haze of confusion unable to visualize or smell the world around me. Because my brain is in Adelaide, being ravaged and invaded by an uncompromising stranger. However much I want to participate in the world, I can’t, because my mind steadfastly refuses to allow me the cognitive ability to do so. To say I feel discombobulated (I love this word) would be an understatement.

One thing I am proud of though is that I didn’t turn to alcohol and I didn’t self harm. Usually the 7th July is a day spent in an alcoholic stupor as I hack at myself with knife and blade. It’s what I did last year. It’s what I did every year before that. But this year I worked hard to not turn to such outlets. I blogged my happiness challenge in the morning. I wrote my post about the event in the afternoon. And the evening was spent watching Doctor Who whilst eating chocolate (throw in a beautiful woman to snuggle with and that’s my idea of heaven!) before having an early night with my book. I remember lying in bed, waiting for the nightmares to start, smiling to myself about how awesome I was about not self harming that day. It may not sound like much to some, but it is these small victories I should be celebrating! :)

As for my voices, Meadhbh, as always, was a wonder. She took it upon herself to whisper inspirational sayings to me throughout the day. She told me I was beautiful. She told me I was amazing. She told me I was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. She did everything she could to make my 7th July easier. Audrey, too, was comforting and supportive. She pestered me to play Lego Batman at one point, but I was too disconnected, too removed from reality to focus on the fictional world. So instead I asked her help with editing and writing my post about the rape, something she threw herself into with aplomb, voicing her opinion on what I was writing and offering suggestions on how to improve what I was saying. Even Shay, who is usually a right prick on anniversaries, was strangely supportive. He and Meadhbh wrote a blog post (that has yet to be published, because it’s a bit naughty!) to cheer me up – and cheer me up it did! Vanessa, meanwhile, was the same vicious, abusive c-bomb that she usually is on my nightmare days. Barely a minute went by when she wasn’t telling me that I deserved what happened, that it should happen again, repeatedly, and I deserve nothing in my life bar pain and misery. Meadhbh took umbridge, of course, but didn’t argue. She knew if she did it would make things worse for me, so she just soothed with her inspirational words and kinky sense of humor.

Because my week has been such a cycle of PTSD, anxiety and depression I haven’t been to the gym this week. I’m not beating myself up about it. It’s been a tough week and I’ve had enough to deal with without my self-esteem ganging up on me too. I just decided to focus on my mental well-being this week rather than my physical well-being. It’s true that the gym might have taken my mind off of everything, but being so disconnected, so discombobulated (I really love this word!) it’s possible that throwing body dysmorphic issues into the mix would have broken me. And I feel broken enough already! So my plan is to resume my gym going next week. I may go tomorrow if I’m feeling up to it, if I’m feeling able to deal with it, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t. Hopefully people will understand this and not see me as a failure.

Other than all of this (which, let’s be honest, is pretty heavy stuff) I’ve just allowed my normal boring, monotonous routine to rule this week. It wouldn’t have been a good idea to challenge my normality in a week already fraught with pain and chaos. It’s been nice. Tweeting and blogging in the morning, movie in the afternoon. I’ve watched a few good ones. Teeth, a film about vagina dentata was an excellent coming of age comedy-horror. A Dangerous Method, starring Kiera Knightley, had everything I ask for in a film (as well as the occasional spanking, which is only a good thing!) Whilst Oculus was the best horror film I’ve seen since The Descent. I’m enjoying tweeting again and it’s nice getting the feedback from my Facebook page (which you can join here!) each day. I haven’t acquired many likes yet, but it’s early days, so I’m not allowing it to depress me just yet.

I’m hoping this disconnection doesn’t last too much longer. Usually, around my anniversaries, the disconnection and discombobulation (I really, really love this word!) last a few days before and a few days after. It’s always worse on the actual day but I think it takes time to build up and leave my system. Hopefully by the weekend things will be back to normal in my mind, as it makes everything, including writing, so much more difficult. How can you focus on writing when your brain is eight years in the past? So apologies for the disconnected style of this post. It’s just my stupid brain!

Wishing you and those you love a wonderful, happy, peaceful day. Hopefully it’s more grounded and present than mine!

Meadhbh helped choose the music today. She’s in a Scottish instrumental sort of mood. Hope you enjoy!


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Bunch of Flowers: On rape and its aftermath…

Prologue: The day to end all days…

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

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

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

Bunch of Flowers…

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

July 2007, Adelaide

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

a) SLAP!

b) Drink over the head…then SLAP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

October 2007, The Dandenong rainforest.

That wacky day of fun!

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

August 2009, Alice Springs.

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

November 2009, Melbourne.

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

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

Epilogue: Long-standing scars…

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

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

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

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

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

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