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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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.


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Roadblocks to Recovery: #3. Social Isolation

Over the last eight years, my hope has been on the decline, so it is no surprise to me to find that it has now completely evaporated. What caused this decline in hope began when I lost my social network in 2007, following my breakdown and the subsequent emotional abuse I received. For without people with whom to share our life with, there is little hope left. Hence today’s roadblock to recovery is the isolation I have found myself existing in.

Social Isolation

lonely-robot_00445841

There is a difference between loneliness and isolation, just as there’s a difference between isolation and solitude. What I experience is not the serenity of a few hours spent in solitude from the hustle-bustle of contemporary life, what I experience on a daily basis is the soul-crushing state of being completely isolated from the rest of the human world. I have no friends. I have no acquaintances. I have no-one. And over the course of the last eight years, that’s something few people have been able to comprehend.

We live in a world where friendships are common place. Everyone is supposed to have ‘friends’ on Facebook, everyone is supposed to have a cavalcade of followers on Twitter, and everyone is supposed to have one or two people in the real world that they consider friends. People with whom you can catch up with over a beverage or two, people who you can confide in, people with whom you can wile away the hours and validate your own existence. So when someone – such as myself – comes along who has no-one, people react with complete confusion.

Over the years, everyone from support workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and telephone counselors have reacted with disbelief upon being told I have no friends. They were unable to comprehend that some people have no-one they can share life with; that no matter how hard some people try, they just don’t have any friends.

The problem I have making friends stems from the first two roadblocks I have looked at; PTSD and social anxiety disorder. My abuser worked her genetically blessed arse off to convince both myself and the world that I deserved no-one in my life. She deliberately isolated me from my friends through a series of lies and manipulations, she informed me that I was an orphan that no-one could ever love and took great glee in informing me that I should move into a cave where I wouldn’t inflict myself on the world. Her incessant abuse also rendered me unable to trust a living human being – including my parents – and without trust it’s almost impossible to make friends, let alone sexual relationships. Even if it wasn’t for the psychological damage my abuser inflicted on me, making friends has always been something I’ve found difficult to do. Ever since I was but a wee young thing in school, talking to people has been difficult for me. This is why it took so long (five years) to make friends after my arrival in Australia, and why I find it so difficult to forgive my abuser for destroying this social network I’d created.

The other reason that I find making friends so difficult, is the simple reason that I don’t have any friends. It may sound odd, or plain ironic, but the simple fact is it’s easier to make friends when you already have friends than it is to make friends when you don’t have friends. Firstly, you are more likely to meet new people through your existing friends, and secondly, people are far less likely to ask “what’s wrong with you”. For someone who doesn’t have friends is automatically (and wrongly) labelled as being ‘not friend material’ because they must be ‘crazy’, ‘needy’ or ‘just plain damaged’.

I am acutely aware that being so isolated is damaging to both my physical and mental health. A study in 2013 found that people who suffer from social isolation are more likely to die prematurely and it is commonly known that isolation can increase feelings of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. So it isn’t too difficult to realise how being isolated has become such a severe roadblock on my journey to recovery. We all need someone in our lives. Someone we can vent to. Someone we can share with. Someone we can spend time with. To have no-one is painful, debilitating and damned lonely.

The only social contact I have comes from my weekly appointments with my support worker. They last for approximately one hour each. Every single other hour of the week I spend alone; staring at the wall, roaming the streets, trying desperately to work out how I can make friends. It’s debilitating, painful and makes me wonder why I continue with this crazy thing called life.

So what can be done about my isolation? How does one even go about making friends at the tender old age of thirty-six?

Well, firstly, I need to do something about my social anxiety disorder. For as long as this condition retains the control it does over my mind, I am never going to be confident enough to talk to other human beings. There is far too much risk of humiliation and badness if I do.

And, secondly, I need to do something about my PTSD. For as long as this condition retains the control it does over my mind, I am never going to be able to trust other human beings to the point of making and retaining relationships with them. There is far too much risk of pain and chaos if I do.

But once I’ve done those, there are other things I can do:

Thirdly, I could join some local community organisations or social groups, this way I can enjoy my spare time doing something I enjoy doing whilst placing myself in a position to make new friends and connections. Perhaps a photography group or book club would be suitable to begin with.

Fourthly, I can make more of an effort to connect with people online. I find this method of communication less painful than real-world conversation and it could lead to making online friends with the hope of transferring the friendship into real-world contact, depending on where the people live, of course.

Fifthly, well, I honestly can’t think of a fifth option, for making friends basically boils down to getting yourself out there and just meeting people! No amount of counseling or therapy is going to make friends, it’s just something you need to do, regardless of risk. For without risk there is no reward.

Previous installments in ‘Roadblocks to Recovery’:


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Roadblocks to Recovery: #1. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday reading through some of the blog posts that I wrote in 2012 and 2013, quite possibly the most prolific blogging period of my online writing career. Some of the posts were depressing, some were uplifting, some funny and others steeped in inspirational content. But the defining characteristic of each blog post that I read was hope; hope for me, hope for a better future, hope for my recovery journey.

Over the last twelve months, ever since I slipped into a deep depression that refuses to lift no matter what I do, I realise that this hope has evaporated. I no longer have hope that I will ever recover. I no longer have hope that my life will be any better than it is now. And that’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever written, for if my life is never going to get any better than what I have now, I may as well kill myself, because what I have now is nothing.

My “life” (if you can call it that) is a monotonous routine of the same-old, same-old every single day. I roll out of bed in the morning only because I need to go to the bathroom. I fiddle online. I listen to the radio. I watch DVDs (almost at the same time each day) and I yearn for something (anything) to happen so as to break the routine that I have fallen into. Sometimes I try to break the routine myself; go for a walk, cook something new for dinner, break up the route I take when walking to the supermarket, but nothing cracks the protective routine I’ve fashioned for myself.

As I read those blog posts yesterday evening I began to wonder why I have such trouble breaking my routine. Why I have no hope for recovery. I started to wonder about all the roadblocks that have been created that are preventing me from continuing my recovery journey. All the niggling frustrations that have been concocted to prevent me from living the life that I want to live. And it is these roadblocks that I need to explore, to try to work out why they are causing such problem and what (if anything) can be done about them.

For until I navigate these roadblocks I will have no hope, and without hope, there is nothing.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD

The first roadblock that is preventing hope from re-entering my life is something I wrote about recently: PTSD. My PTSD is a complex beast. It is not just from one incident, but rather several life-threatening and traumatic incidents that have occurred over the last eight years of my life. From being emotionally abused, to being raped, to being forced to live a homeless, sub-human existence, the memories of these events permeate every facet of my life, forcing me to live in a constant hyper-vigilant state. There are so many triggers, so many things for me to avoid, that ‘living’ is something that seems almost impossible. Even simple acts like someone chewing gum, talking to people or writing comments on blogs can cause crippling panic attacks and hours of re-living the events that have defined my life over the last several years.

Even without these triggers, my PTSD can come flooding back unbidden. I have already mentioned recently the near constant conversations I have with the ghost of my abuser, frantically trying to make sense of what she did, why she did it and why I deserved it. Conversations (nay, screaming matches) that can last for hours at a time, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m doing it. At night, my sleep is constantly disturbed by the near-endless nightmares of being raped, and that is when I can get to sleep, as my efforts are often affected by the memories of my time sleeping rough as my mind constantly asks whether or not I ‘deserve’ to be sleeping in a bed.

Living in such a hyper-vigilant state is exhausting both physically and mentally. Constantly having to be aware of everything that is going on around me, constantly avoiding things I want to do and places I want to go, in case I find myself triggered, in case I succumb to the crippling effects of a panic attack. It’s mindbogglingly tiring. So much so that I often have very little energy to do the things I want to do. I have trouble walking down the street without being overcome with exhaustion, I have trouble keeping my mind focused on even simple acts such as grocery shopping or watching a movie.

No matter what I do, the PTSD has a direct impact on every area of my life. And no matter what I do, nothing seems to alleviate my suffering. I’ve tried everything; from CBT, DBT and mindfulness, to talking therapy, exposure therapy and psychotherapy. Nothing works. Nothing does anything to alter the hyper-vigilance, flashbacks or endless replaying of my previous trauma.

The impact it has on my life is devastating. And the PTSD I’m afflicted with is clearly a major roadblock on my journey to recovery. For as long as the PTSD has such a hold on me, I will never have hope for recovery, let alone be able to recover to any reasonable degree. But what can I do about it? People suggest I should “move on”, “get over it” or “move forward” from the trauma. I’m told to simply stop replaying events. I’m encouraged to just “deal with it”, but these suggestions are nothing more than platitudes that I already know, platitudes that ignore the devastating effect that PTSD can have on someone. It’s not easy to just “get over it” or “move forward” when you are constantly being reminded of the trauma to the point of panic attack and inaction. It’s not as simple as just “moving on” or “dealing with it” when your subconscious mind constantly dregs up memories that you don’t ask to remember. When I’m lost to a PTSD flashback, when I’m trapped in a conversation with the ghost of my abuser, when I’m experiencing nightmares of being raped or being assaulted whilst sleeping rough, I’m not even conscious enough to acknowledge my own name, let alone tell myself to just “move on”. It’s just not going to work. Period.

So what can be done? Well, if I had the answer to that my PTSD wouldn’t be causing as much of a problem, but I need a plan of action in order to rebuild hope, so I have to come up with something. Anything. So:

Firstly, I need to undertake some extensive talking therapy. I firmly believe that psychoanalysis from someone who is trained, someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who has experience of PTSD, will do me the world of wonder. I’m hoping this will come courtesy of the psychologist I have recently been put in contact with, if it doesn’t, then I need to find someone else. Regardless of how much it costs.

Secondly, I need people in my life. People have always been more powerful to me than medication. The most stable I have ever felt in my life (late 2006) came at a time when I wasn’t medicated, when I wasn’t receiving treatment, but when I had friends. The simple act of just being around these friends, spending time with them, sharing my life with them, enjoying life with them, changed the structure of my brain and enabled me to see myself for who I want to be. They distracted me from my issues, took my mind off my troubles and enabled me to enjoy life. Yes, people would help, that much I’m sure.

Thirdly, I need to consider PTSD specific medication. If there is such a thing. I don’t know much about the world of medication when it comes to PTSD, but it’s something that I need to research, something that I need to look into. For if medication can help, I’m more than willing to give it a go. So if anyone has any experience of medicating PTSD, please leave a comment below, your experience would be greatly appreciated.

Fourthly, I need to write more about the incidents that have caused my PTSD, for by talking about them in a safe environment (such as my blog) I may be able to look upon them in a new light. I may be able to alter the way my brain interprets them, alleviating the control they have.

Fifthly, well, I don’t have a fifthly, so four items will have to suffice for now. At least it’s somewhere for me to start rebuilding hope.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear.
If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
Thich Nhat Hanh


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How to cope with PTSD flashbacks?

I feel it pertinent to point out that this isn’t a ‘how to’ post. You may feel slightly jipped to discover this, especially since the first two words of the post title are “how” and “to”, but I did place a wee question mark at the end of the title, meaning I need your help. And with your help, perhaps we can write the ‘how to’ post that you were probably expecting.

My PTSD is a complicated beast. It doesn’t just come from one traumatic incident, but several, the memories of which have combined to form an almost impenetrable wall of trauma that I have no idea how to deal with. Firstly (and foremost) there is the emotional abuse that I was the victim of. Without question this causes the most damaging of my PTSD symptoms. Secondly, there is the assault and rape I experienced when I was in Adelaide in 2007. Thirdly, there is the recurrent memories of being homeless; of being ostracised by society and forced to exist in a sub-human state on the streets of Melbourne and beyond. Fourthly, comes the various physical assaults that I received during this homeless existence. On a daily basis I am hounded by flashbacks of these four incidents; flashbacks that occur without warning, leaving me a quivering, delusional wreck.

Over the last few months, ever since becoming unwell, the memories of the emotional abuse I received have been impossible to contend with. I have been regularly conversing with a hallucination of my abuser to the point I devolve into a fuming, shouty monster. Lord knows what my neighbours think of me, for the walls between us are thin, and my voice is raging. I will scream, yell, holler, bellow, bawl and shriek as I replay specific abusive events and attempt to discover why she saw fit to abuse me. I am desperate for answers, desperate for closure, but I know I can never receive it so my voice rages ever louder. I want to know why she decided to destroy my sense of self, why she was so cruel and callous in her criticism and insults, why she worked so hard to drive a wedge between my friends and I, why she decided I didn’t deserve to be in tertiary education and why she decided I should die because “my voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to“. I need to know why I deserved the abuse she gave me. But like I said, I know I will never discover these answers, I will never have the closure I need, so how do I cope with it? How do I live with the trauma rather than let it control me?

At least fourteen hours a day are lost to these fuming, shouting sessions. They occur when I’m home, they occur when I’m walking down the street and they occur when I’m surrounded by people in the high street. And I have no idea how to stop it. I have no idea how to cope with these intolerable flashbacks.

My GP believes a new anti-psychotic will help – a week into taking it, it hasn’t. I’ve tried mindfulness techniques. I’ve tried my usual coping mechanisms. I’ve tried CBT and DBT techniques. I’ve tried flooding myself with distraction. But nothing has worked. I always devolve into the shouting, always devolve into the trauma and always allow it to control my thinking, my actions and everything in between.

Hence the question – how to cope with PTSD flashbacks? How do you cope with your PTSD flashbacks? How do you stop it controlling your life?


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Working with Voices: Nightmares

Previously, in the ‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’ workbook series…
~ Introduction ~ Dreams ~

MOnsters INc

“Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.”
~ Stephen King~

My nightmares…

“Close your eyes and think about all the things in your life that have caused you pain, distress, anger and frustration. These things could be brought to the fore as you work through the workbook so it useful that you write them down so that they do not take you by surprise later in the process. These can be states of mind as well as actual occurrences and symptoms of your mental health problems.”

This particular exercise in the workbook is incredibly difficult for me to do, which is probably why it’s taken several months for me to attempt it! There’s something about revisiting my ‘nightmares’ that causes such distress I’m often left unable to function, and without someone to help pick up the pieces and put me back together again, my fear of such an occurence increases ten-fold.

However, as it’s an important part of the workbook I will endeavour to do my best. The manner that I’ve chosen to complete this exercise is to separate the list into three different sections: actual events, symptoms of illness and emotional states/reactions. Please note that these lists are in no particular order.

Actual events

  • The emotionally abusive relationship I was a victim of
  • The (numerous) physical assaults I’ve been the victim of
  • The sexual assault I was a victim of
  • My sister’s mental illness
  • The bullying I was a victim of during my primary and high school years

Symptoms of illness

  • My greatest nightmare when it comes to symptoms of illness is who I become whilst manic. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that I live in constant fear of ‘becoming’ that person again!
  • I abhor my socially anxious self. This part of me is a source of great frustration and anger.
  • Incidents of self-harm often bring on feelings of fear, emotional pain and anger, more often than not after the act.
  • I am terrified of the frequency and severity of my suicidal ideation, especially in times of severe depression.
  • The frequent nightmares and random night-time behaviour that occur as a result of PTSD scares the bejesus out of me!
  • The negative (nay, abusive) content of my voices – especially from Vanessa and Shay – causes tremendous distress.
  • As does Shay’s preoccupation with misogynistic and sexist content, as it goes against my values and beliefs.

Emotional states/reactions

  • I am frequently distressed by my lack of self-esteem, confidence and image of self, not because it scares me, but because I know when trapped by these emotions I am incapable of showing the world my awesome self.
  • The same can be said for the mute-idiot I become when in any social situation – be it conversations with support workers/GPs, supermarket queues, support/social groups or the rarity of an actual social situation.
  • Although it doesn’t happen all that often, when I become truly angry I scare myself; which is why I’ve spent many years honing my skills of controlling my anger so that no-one ever sees this side of me…ever.
  • My lack of physical and emotional intimacy, i.e. hugs, kisses, sexual intercourse etc.) causes pain so intense it’s impossible to describe.
  • For that matter, my isolated state in its entirety is a source of tremendous negative emotion.
  • The unfocused and lost to pain states I fall into during the evening and weekends cause me great distress.

My fears about the ‘Victim to Victor’ process…

As mentioned above, my primary fear of the Victim to Victor process is opening a Pandora’s Box of negative emotion that will cripple my ability to function. The work-book recommends you work through the book with the help of a supportive person, but as I am isolated, I lack such a person so have to brave through it myself.

As such, the actual work-book could be classified as a personal nightmare, for it is yet another reminder of my loneliness.

But, as I’ve managed to work through various negative situations all on my lonesome (such as the anxiety I feel whilst shopping or pushing myself to attend support groups), I’m hoping that the skills I learned in doing these things will hold me in good stead throughout the remainder of the book.

Only time will tell, I guess!

~ Next ~
Identifying Your Experiences


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Six things that have happened in my absence

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I think it goes without saying that – given my elongated absence – the last few months have either been filled with all sorts of wonderful excitement (such as restorative sleep, marshmallow fountains and rolls in the proverbial hay with Daenerys look-a-likes) or filled with the sort of nightmarish negative mental health episodes I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Given that last week I spent the better part of two hours writing a list of reasons to die/live in my journal (for the record, 28 reasons to die opposed to 1 reason to live!) I think the ‘nightmarish negative mental health episodes’ is the safest bet as to my absence. 

Thus, as I attempt to slowly ease my way back into blogging mode (and deal with all the WordPress changes!) I shall fill you in with a few of the occurrences in my life over the last few months.

And, given my somewhat depressive mood of late, the first couple of things on this list fall into the ‘it’s okay to admit you’re not okay’ category…

1. I have suffered a relapse of my mental health

There’s a hell of a lot to discuss in this area and, to be honest, I’m not really in a mental state to do so right now. But, to sate any ‘where is Addy?’ appetites: I have been self-harming on a fairly regular basis for the last month or so, I have been considering suicide (as the above list-admission attests), I still haven’t got all that much hope for a better future and my voices, PTSD issues and sleeplessness have gotten way out of control!

Not fun! :(

2. I discovered I have dangerously low levels of Vitamin D…

…as well as worrying discrepancies in several other vital substances that are essential for human life!

Thus, I am currently on a strict regime of supplements – which I keep forgetting to take – and hope that by the next blood test in a couple of months my levels will more closely resemble an ‘acceptable level’.

But it hasn’t all been self-harm, suicidal ideation and ‘what is the point of living?’ depression.

Some of what has happened has been downright embarrassing…

3. I locked myself in my house (!)

Most people can claim to have locked themselves out of their house at some stage or another, but how many can claim to have locked themselves in? Last week, I did just that!

There I was, nonchalantly opening the back door so I could have my morning cigarette when the key snapped off in the lock. No problem, I hear you say, I can just use the front door. Wrong! Because my front door has two locks – and one of them uses the same key as the back!

So I was trapped in my own home for nearly two hours until the real estate agency could sort out a spare key in order to release me from my not very comfortable prison!

…whilst other things have actually been rather wonderful…

4. I am now the creator and co-facilitator of a group at GT House

The group I created is called Creative Therapy and its mission statement reads like this: “To provide participants the opportunity to explore their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.”

Basically, for two hours every Monday afternoon I babble away to a miniature group of people about how therapeutic creativity can be. So far we have written letters to our younger selves, decorated a brand spanking new journal (you know, to take ownership of them), had a lively debate about the power of books and examined our personal positive experiences.

Basically, it’s what I’ve spent the last several years doing on this blog, only with a live studio audience! Some of it has been fun, some of it has been challenging, all of it has been severely anxiety inducing. But not enough to stop me from hoping there will a second term of creative shenanigans as I’m actually rather enjoying it! :)

5. I have joined a gym

The last time I was a member of a gym was late 2006; the glory days when mental health was a manageable nuisance and my life revolved around preparing for tertiary education, hanging with my social network and rolling in the proverbial hay with my then Daenerys look-a-like of a girlfriend.

But – courtesy of the wonderful people at GT House – I am now the proud owner of a free six month gym membership. My goal is that by the end of the membership I will more closely resemble a shaggable human being, instead of the hideous (body dysmorphic suffering) blob monster I currently am.

Last week (my first under this new regime) I put in 180 minutes of cardio (treadmill and cross trainer) and three sets of ten on four differing weight machines; I’m hoping to push myself harder in the future!

And yes, my menagerie are going mental at this attempt to alter my grotesque appearance, but more of that later!

6. I have obtained a camera!

Courtesy of a generous family member, who lovingly decided to send their distant nephew a camera they were no longer using, I now have the facility to take photographs again. Given it has been over five years since I really dabbled in this field – and given photography is now a bit of a trigger for me – it may take a while for me to get my form back, but expect numerous photographs of my ‘life’ appearing over the next few weeks, beginning shortly with a 30 Day Photo Challenge that I hope will help me get my photo-mojo back!

Just a wee photo I took as I played with my new camera. He is Meadhbh’s monkey and his name is Ceenem (pronounced as if C-N-M)

Aside from these things, ‘life’ continues as per usual.

Here’s hoping that you’ve all had a far more profitable, entertaining and joy-filled time since we last met! :)