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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Thirteen things to do instead of smoking…

Yesterday, I had a major set-back in my quit smoking endeavor. After a brutal night of no sleep, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks (courtesy of my bedfellow, PTSD) I turned to my age-old coping mechanism and puffed my way through a pack of smokes. I was angry with myself. I was annoyed with myself. But there is little I can do about it now other than slap my own butt and start the day anew. So. Instead of smoking I’ve decided to Thursday Thirteen my way through the morning, with thirteen things you can do instead of smoking. Hopefully writing it will renew my determination and help others struggling with this crazy thing called quitting smoking.

So without further ado…

Thirteen things to do instead of smoking

quit-smoking-now-no-smoking-please

~ in no particular order ~

~1~
Exercise!

So you’re craving a cigarette? You need that sweet feeling nicotine gives you? Stop. Take a breath. And go for a walk instead. If you don’t feel like walking, go for an endorphin creating session at your local gym or a thigh burning bicycle ride. If you don’t feel like doing either of these things, press play on the video below and spend ten minutes working your cute little butt off. Exercise will take your mind off your cravings and help shape a better you in the process.
I promise.

~2~
Binge!

I’ve long been a fan of the binge-on-your-favourite-TV-show craze. It’s a pleasant way to pass the time, keeps you entertained and engaged, and can quickly take your mind off the unpleasantness of nicotine withdrawal. So instead of lighting up, slip a DVD in your player and treat yourself to several episodes of your favourite show. You’ll forget about smoking in no time!

game-of-thrones-daenerys-targaryen-dragon-20150624140946-558aba2a95724

Top five TV shows to binge on:

1. Game of Thrones; it’s a contemporary classic for a reason
2. 24; Jack Bauer can kick anyone’s butt, including cigarettes!
3. The Walking Dead; zombies, zombies, and more zombies!
4. Castle; if Molly C. Quinn can’t curb your craving, nothing will.
5. Doctor Who; the Daleks can exterminate anything, including nicotine cravings!

~3~
Om nom nom!

Instead of smoking your way through a pack of cancer causing chemicals, why not sate your cravings with some scrumptious food. Since quitting smoking I’ve been addicted to toasted cheese sandwiches, peppermints, licorice and maple pecan pastries. But you could try something more healthy, say fruit juice, carrots, celery or salad. Find something that works for you and go with it. You’d be amazed at how quickly yummy food can take your mind off those evil, vicious, cravings.

The+Perfect+Grilled+Cheese+Sandwich+800+1581

How to make the perfect toasted cheese sandwich

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 slices bread, day old
3 ounces cheese, grated/shredded, room temperature

Directions
1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Completely butter one side of each slice of bread.
3. Place one slice of bread in the pan, buttered side down, sprinkle on the cheese and top with the remaining slice of bread, buttered side up.
4. Turn the heat down a notch and cook until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.
5. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2-4 minutes.

~ from ClosetCooking ~

~4~
Video Games!

Video games can be a godsend during a quit smoking campaign. They keep your hands occupied. They keep your brain engaged. And they’re both an entertaining and enjoyable way to pass the time.

Last week, on my first day without cigarettes, I treated myself to a second-hand copy of Yoshi’s New Island for the 3DS. The idea was that the happy, bouncy green dinosaur would help take my mind off the cravings, and for the first few days, until I completed the game, he did. Since then I’ve moved on to other video games in an effort to take my mind off cigarettes. And they’ve helped, enormously.

Lego-batman-the-videogame-characters_(1)

Top five video games to take your mind off smoking:

1. Lego Batman; a glorious game of minion fighting and puzzle solving.
2. The Legend of Zelda; by the end of your first dungeon, cigarettes will be a thing of the past.
3. Yoshi’s New Island; you’ll enjoy the dinosaur so much you won’t think of smoking.
4. Mario Kart; challenge yourself with time trails, they’ll stop the cravings in their tracks.
5. Brain Training; keep your brain engaged with simple, fun trials and tribulations.

~5~
Music!

Music has the power to transport us to another time and place. It has the power to make us happy when we’re sad. It has the power to take hold of our soul and shower us with warm feelings of excitement and merriment. So instead of lighting up, log onto iTunes, stick a CD in your stereo, and blast your cravings away with your favourite tunes. But make sure it’s something you love, something that speaks to you, something that will get you singing and dancing along. Your cravings will evaporate in no time.

~6~
Blog!

If you’re a blogger, why not write your way through the cravings. Settle down in front of the computer and exorcise your demons through words and emotions. Write about your day. Write about your craving. Write about donuts. Just write anything. By the time you’ve shared your moment with the world your cravings will have disappeared and you’ll have gone another hour without the dreaded cigarettes.

It you’re not a blogger, then log onto the internet and check out other people’s blogs. Spend some time surfing the net and experiencing life through the thoughts and minds of others. By the time you’ve read your umpteenth blog post your cravings will have dissipated and you’ll have gone another hour without the demon cigarettes.

Blog-Image

Top five blogs to read your way through the cravings:

1. Panic Disordered
2. Many of Us
3. Strong Enough to Break
4. Blahpolar Diaries
5. Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess

~7~
Have a bath!

No-one smokes in the bath. No-one. Mainly because your cigarette would get all soggy. So instead of lighting up, strip yourself naked and soak yourself in a calming, relaxing, sweet-smelling tub of hot water. Not only will you be showing yourself some (much-needed) self-love, you’ll find the soothing water will evaporate any craving you’re experiencing.

bath

Top five secrets to the perfect bath:

1. If you use the right ingredients, bathing makes you look younger
It’s true – high quality, natural bath salts can take years off your appearance by helping your body defend against climate and UV exposure, genetics, and other elements that speed up the aging process. Not only that, but natural salts can help your skin repair and restore its youthful smoothness and vitality on a cellular level, addressing existing signs of aging such as fine lines and an uneven skin tone.

2. Atmosphere is key
Before you take your bath, make sure the lighting in your room is soft and low. Either dim the lights or place candles along the rim of your tub. Bring in a portable CD player and play your favourite, soothing music. Before you know it, your bathroom will be transformed into a quiet, tranquil oasis.

3. When it comes to bath salts, the more, the better!
Don’t be shy! Be generous with the bath salts – the more, the better. Grab a handful or, even better, two – and hold them under the running water as you draw your bath, allowing the salts to release their fragrance and oils into the steam as they fall into the water. The idea here is to replicate an oceanic environment – after all, there’s nothing more therapeutic than soaking in the sea.

4. Keep that curtain closed.
After you step into your bath, either partially or completely close the shower curtain or door. This not only seals in the heat (so water takes longer to cool), but it keeps in all that fabulous, fragrant steam. The steam will open and cleanse the pores in your skin, giving you a youthful, healthy glow.

5. Not so fast – keep soaking!
After 10 minutes of soaking, you may be tempted to hop out of your tub and go back to other activities. Instead, lie back and stay there for another 10 minutes. The bath salts will have time to work their magic on your skin while the warmth of the water improves your circulation and lowers your blood pressure. Not only will soaking longer help your body, but it will greatly benefit your mind. Believe it or not, it takes a while to get “used” to relaxing – those first few minutes are often spent thinking about appointments, projects, and deadlines. Once your mind is clear, close your eyes and relax!

~ from SFSalt ~

~8~
Go to the cinema!

You can’t smoke in the cinema. Well, you could, but it would be illegal, and you’d risk the wrath of both patrons and employees alike. So take your mind off the cravings by treating yourself to a movie and popcorn. Unfortunately, I can’t indulge in this activity as my social anxiety prevents me from being around so many people so, if you’re like me, why not recreate that cinema feel in the comfort of your own home? Just pop some popcorn into the microwave then curl up on the couch with your favourite comfort movie. Your cravings will just vanish, I promise.

~9~
Read!

There’s no pain or torment in the world that a good book can’t quell. So instead of reaching for your smokes, reach for a good book instead. You’ll be transported to another world, fall in love with enigmatic characters and lose yourself to the danger and excitement contained within. So much better than killing your body with harmful substances.

Woman reading a book

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
~ Jane Austen ~

~10~
Massage

Last night I dreamt (the divine) Karen Gillan was giving me a full body massage. It made me realise that (a) my life is devoid of human-to-human contact, (b) that dreams are so much more exciting than reality and (c) massages rock!

So instead of lighting up, pester your significant other until they tear your clothes off, lie you down, and massage the living hell out of your aching, cigarette craving body. By the end of the massage you’ll be relaxed, invigorated and ready to face the next challenge.

If your partner is ignorant to the ways of massage, why not get them to watch this video:

~11~
Colouring In!

Colouring in is no longer just for children. In recent years it has become quite the adult entertainment device. Not only is it an incredibly mindful activity, it can work wonders in taking your mind off whatever problem you’re having, including nicotine craving. So instead of cracking out the smokes, open up a pack of delicious coloured pencils and get creative!

Here are some colouring in pages to print out:

~ Click each image to enlarge ~

~12~
Spanking!

Okay, so I’m running out of ideas. But bear with me. It may sound random, it may sound bizarre, it may even sound a little kinky, but a good spanking will take your mind off whatever problem you’re having. So cosy on up to your significant other and quietly request they smack your cute little bottom until it’s rosy red and flooding you with warmth and excitement! Your nicotine cravings will be gone in an instant, I assure you. :p

OTKspanking

Six of the best spanking tips:

1. Massage is a nice way to prime his (or her) butt pre-spank. Start by gently caressing his cheeks, and after a few minutes, begin kneading them as though you were making dough. Every so often, give him a firm pinch to prep him for more intense action later on.

2. When you’re ready for the big shebang, keep a few pointers in mind (and share these with him, too): (1) Mix things up – try a series of quick little slaps, followed by one big whack. (2) Alternate between smacking with an open palm and a cupped hand; each feels and sounds different. (3) Stick to the fatter lower part of his butt or his cheeks, and avoid his tailbone.

3. Try this game: Collect a bunch of household objects that would make fun DIY floggers – a wooden spoon, spatula, paperback book, etc. Spank him with one of the items and have hum guess what it is.

4. A cute way to send the message that you’re in the mood for a spanking. Use permanent marker to write something sexy on the backside of your undies, like Spank Me or I’ve Been Naughty.

5. Dirty talk makes spanking even hotter. Tell him, “Honey, every time I spank you I want you to say ‘Again, please,’ like a good boy.” It might spark some sexy role play.

6. Make sure you decide on a safe word first – something totally disconnected from sex like “popcorn” or “sunshine”.

~ from Cosmopolitan ~

and

~13~
Plan for the future!

Think of how much money you’re saving from not smoking. Pretty soon you’re gonna be rolling in the stuff. So instead of smoking, get your mind working and figure out how you’re gonna spend all that money. Are you going to treat yourself to a new book? A new video game? A day at your local spa? Or have you decided to save up for something more magnificent, like a holiday, car or house?

holiday

Now that you’re no longer a smoker, the entire world is your oyster!

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Roadblocks to Recovery: #2. Social Anxiety Disorder

To say that being without hope is a strange feeling would be an understatement. To be without hope makes me feel hollow, that something important is missing from my soul. I feel empty. Lost. A little confused. Being without hope is not something I would recommend. It’s painful, disconcerting and altogether mystifying. Yet it’s one of those things that’s easily lost, yet interminably difficult to replace once it’s disappeared from your life.

In this series of posts I am dissecting what is preventing me from navigating further down the road to recovery; all the things that have created roadblocks and zapped the hope from my being. Hopefully, I will be able to shine a light on what I need to do to rekindle hope, and with it, myself.

Social Anxiety Disorder

anxiety

It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.
~ Stephen Fry ~

It’s true that social anxiety disorder has provided me with several positives in life. My love of writing, reading and literature. My love of movies, television and the moving image. Even my love of photography, a gloriously intimate act that can be performed quite beautifully in solitude. But for the most part, social anxiety disorder has been the devil that has destroyed me.

Since it’s onset in my teenage years, it has had a profound effect on my ability to make friends and retain relationships, to the point that I now find myself an isolated individual incapable of even talking to people, let alone making friends with them. Social anxiety disorder was also instrumental in destroying my educational career, affecting my A-level choices, ability to cope with examinations and my return to college in 2007 was also hampered by social anxiety, to the point I lost that course within weeks of returning (although glandular fever and abuse also played a large role in the loss of that particular course, it would be plain wrong to suggest social anxiety had nothing to do with it). Even now, as I contemplate returning to university, I find social anxiety rearing its ugly head as it convinces me I would be unable to perform the course or survive around so many other people. Social anxiety disorder plays havoc with the view that I have of my own body, feeding into preexisting body dysmorphic issues that have plagued me my whole life. It also renders simple, day-to-day activities, almost impossible to perform. For example, going to the supermarket has become a strenuous action that shouldn’t be anywhere near as complicated as it is. I have to go at a certain time of the day (early afternoon, when the supermarket isn’t as busy) and I have to go to specific supermarkets, ones which have self-service checkouts, so I don’t have to make ‘small talk’ with the checkout operators as they scan my food.

Everything in my life is controlled around my social anxiety. From walking down the street to the actions I perform whilst there, everything is ordered so as to keep my anxiety as low as possible; no communicating with people, no socializing under any circumstances, no pushing myself into situations that I deem uncomfortable. Activities that I used to enjoy, that I used to garner so much pleasure from, have become no-go areas; for example, I can no longer go to the cinema due to the number of people present, I can no longer attend munches, which in 2013, were one of my few lifelines of social interaction. Even blogging, an activity I used to relish, has become super-difficult for me to perform. I worry continuously over people judging the words I have written, stress endlessly about commenting, even on my own blog, let alone other peoples and find myself censoring myself for the first time in eight years out of pure stress over what people may think of my output.

Although social anxiety has always played a tremendous role in my life, I’ve found that since my hospitalization earlier this year, it has only become worse. Since coming out of hospital I have been isolating myself more and more, refusing to go out unless I absolutely (unequivocally) need to. I have become, for want of a better word, a recluse. A hermit. Someone who refuses all social interaction due to the worry over panic attack, due to the worry over what other people may think of me, due to the possibility of making a complete and utter fool of myself. I don’t know why being in hospital escalated the symptoms of my abuse. Perhaps it was being forced to share a ward with other individuals. Perhaps it was the control being taken from my life. Perhaps it had nothing to do with hospital, and that’s just become a convenient excuse. All I know is that over the last few months, my social anxiety has been so out of control, so impossible to contend with, that it has become (even more so than it used to be) a serious illness that has a profound (and monumental) debilitating impact on my life.

It is holding me back. It is preventing me from living. It is sucking the hope from my being on a daily basis. It is destroying what belief I have left.

So what can be done? What possible avenues can I explore to try to fix this particular, debilitating aspect of my mental health? Well:

Firstly, there is talk therapy. I have spent very little time in my life talking about social anxiety. Psychiatrists have been uninterested in this aspect of my mental health, preferring to focus on the (perceived) more serious illness that is bipolar affective disorder. Psychologists, equally, have ignored this part of my illness. Instead choosing to focus on my moods and blaming my ineptitude (and lack of effort) for my isolation and inability to communicate and/or make friends. What I need, more than anything, is a psychologist who understands what social anxiety is, how it impacts on someone’s life and the damage that it can cause if left unchecked. I’m hoping that the psychologist I am planning to see will have this understanding, but only time will tell on that.

Secondly, there is exposure therapy. Of all my readings on social anxiety disorder, this form of therapy seems to have a particularly positive effect. For those not in the know, exposure therapy is when someone is slowly exposed to the source of their anxiety and/or trauma in the hope it will lessen the impact and help the individual cope with what is causing the pain. In the sense of my social anxiety, this means exposing myself to situations where other people are present, where I am forced to socialize and communicate with strangers, in the hope it will lessen the control social anxiety has on my life. Perhaps this means attending psychosocial rehabilitation groups again, perhaps it means forcing myself to go to the cinema (under controlled circumstances), perhaps it means just going to the supermarket during the busiest time of the day. Whatever I decide, exposure therapy could work.

Thirdly, there is CBT and DBT, which I’ve heard can work wonders for people with anxiety disorders. As I have attempted to self-teach myself these practices, to little or no effect, I feel that I need to work through these treatments with another individual – perhaps a psychologist – who understands them better than I.

Fourthly, there is simply being more kind to myself. I am immensely hard on myself in all walks and manners of life. In fact, it would be fair to say that I hold everything I do up to intense scrutiny. From the blog posts I publish, through to the meals I cook, and the speed in which I walk, everything is criticized, analyzed and torn apart by my perfection seeking mind. I need to learn to be kinder to myself, to understand that not everything I do needs to be perfect, that nothing anyone does is ever perfect. I need to find a way to look at my body with acceptance rather than revulsion; I need to find a way to blog without tearing myself apart; I need to find a way to act without criticizing myself into oblivion. I need to be kinder to myself; for if you can’t accept yourself, how can you expect anyone else to accept you? If you can’t love yourself, then other people cannot love you. It’s as simple as that.

Fifthly, there is seeking advice from people who are either living with their own battles with social anxiety, or those people who have successfully managed to control the impact it has on their life. But for that I need to get past my own insecurities over commenting and emailing and teach myself, once again, how to communicate with strangers. For the knowledge of other people is often the greatest knowledge of all – or at least, that’s what I’m led to believe.

Sixthly, well, I can’t think of a sixthly at this time, so these five goals will have to suffice for now.

Whatever happens with my attempt to manage social anxiety disorder, I know that I will not be able to live the life I deserve (see, starting to be kind to myself already) until I have learnt to control my anxiety. It is, without question, one of the biggest (and most severe) roadblocks on my recovery journey – and one I need to tackle quickly and definitively.

Previous installments in ‘Roadblocks to Recovery’:


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My Suicide Attempts (2008-2014)

A long time ago I wrote a post called My Suicide Attempts (until 2007). You would be correct in assuming it did exactly what it says on the tin; through a thousand odd words it described the whys, whats and wherefores of my four suicide attempts up to (and including) the end of 2007.

I have long wanted to write a follow-up to this post. A post that covers the attempts I have made (and nearly made) from 2008 onwards, for only in analysing the events of the past can we hope to prevent a repeat of them in the future. As I find myself becoming ever more suicidal with each passing day, now is the time to write this post. 

trigger_warning

It should go without saying that this post contains triggering content so please exercise caution when reading. Should you be feeling suicidal, please contact your nearest mental health organisation or the emergency services.

My Suicide Attempts (2008 – 2014)

Introduction

According to the media, we are not supposed to talk about the actualities of a suicide attempt. This is because it is feared talking about suicide will encourage other emotionally vulnerable people to ‘copycat’ your attempt. Although there is some merit in this, I have never fully subscribed to the theory, and have actively talked about how and why I’ve attempted suicide over the years. I will used the words “hanging”, “cutting wrists” and “overdose”, I will talk about the pain and misery that accompanied each attempt, and I will do so with no apology. For only in talking about suicide in its entirity can we hope to shatter the taboo that still exists around this aspect of mental health.

With that in mind, I can now lead you through the seven attempts I made on my life between 2008 and 2011.

I: January 2008

Unlike October 2007, this was unplanned and spontaneous; after months of homelessness, isolation and the continuing trauma from the devastation of the year before I snapped and just tried to kill myself.

All I can remember from that day is watching Enchanted at the Greater Union cinema (my favourite inner-city cinema in Melbourne) before walking to my usual Internet café where I published a post to my blog entitled …all that I will ever be, which even the most naïve and ignorant would have identified as a suicide note.

I left the café in tears, roaming the nearby Flagstaff Gardens that had been my home for a time, before plonking myself onto the soft earth, taking out a knife and cutting my left wrist with incredible speed.

The moment the blood began pumping I panicked. The cut wasn’t deep but by god did it hurt! Using a T-Shirt I stemmed the flow of blood and sat in shocked silence, unsure of what to do or where to go.

Somehow – I can’t remember exactly how – I made it to the nearest hospital and not wanting to explain it was a suicide attempt, told them I had merely self-harmed. Looking back, this is probably a more accurate description of what I did that day. Although I can remember the desolation and desire for death overwhelming me as I wrote that post, I cannot account for the depth at which I cut other than it was mere a ‘cry for help’ (even though I despise that term) rather than a serious attempt, as I could easily have cut deeper than I did.

After the hospital patched me up and I’d spoken to one of their psychiatrists I discovered several messages on my phone from my deeply worried parents who had read my post and been unable to reach me. Upon finally getting hold of me and venting their relief they relayed several comments that had been left on my blog from anxious readers which made me realize that even though I was friendless in Melbourne, there were people out there that seemed to care whether I lived or died.

Postscript: this all occurred twenty-four hours after I had attended an appointment with a mental health team, during which I tearfully begged to be admitted to hospital as I was deeply worried I would soon attempt suicide. I was told, and this is an exact quote, that “You cannot be hospitalized as we don’t believe you’re a danger to other people.” When they were told I felt I was a danger to myself, I was told that “there are only a finite number of beds, so we need to ensure they’re available to the most in need.” I haven’t trusted a mental health service since.

II: June 2008

Although I suspect my previous attempt had been a ‘cry for help’ (I really hate that term) I know this attempt was a cry for help.

After several months in the UK, I had returned to Melbourne for an array of reasons, including:

(a) The medication I had begun to take had fooled me into believing I was completely ‘stable’.
(b) Although I had enjoyed some of my time in the UK, it had never felt like ‘home’.
(c) After what I’d lost as a result of my abuser, I didn’t want her to take Australia from me as well.
(d) I was rapid-cycling (and soon to become hypomanic)

At the time I was living in a dingy backpacker hostel in Melbourne. My days were spent looking for work, my evenings were spent roaming the darkened alleys of the CBD lost in a haze of loneliness and isolation.

After a stressful Friday (during which I’d travelled to job interviews, applied for several others, self-harmed in the shower to keep myself going and had a lengthy telephone job interview) I was tense, stressed and desperately in need of company. Having only one person I could have contacted, and not wishing to bother them with my internal pain, I sat on the bed and took an overdose of the medication I had (antidepressants and mood stabilizers along with some painkillers and aspirin.)

Within minutes I realized what I’d done and immediately regretted it. I thought of calling my friend but concluded this would annoy them more than if I’d called them prior to taking the overdose, so decided my best option was to go to the hospital.

All I remember from the walk there is feeling drowsy, woozy and nearly collapsing three times.

Eventually I got to the hospital and promptly collapsed on the floor of the waiting room where I was rushed into the ER to be checked out. I woke up lying on a hospital bed wearing a hospital gown and staring at the tiles of the ceiling. I remained there for the remainder of the night, listening to the drunk patients screaming through their alcohol fuelled injuries.

The following morning I was taken to a room where I had a lengthy conversation with a psychiatrist who was worried about the suddenness of my overdose but, in tried and true fashion, as I was due to start a new job on the Monday, I convinced him I was okay and it had just been an anomaly in my bipolar management.

Postscript: after leaving the hospital I walked to the same Internet café where I’d posted the suicide note post five months earlier and watched the Doctor Who episode “Midnight”. I then slept for the majority of the day before speaking to my mum that night. I told her nothing about what had happened as I knew she was dealing with a recent health problem with my father and didn’t need my ‘cry for help’ to deal with as well. A few days later I spoke to my friend and was immediately scolded for not calling them before the overdose.

III: May 2009

I have only four things to say about this attempt:

  1. This was the closest I came to succeeding in a suicide attempt.
  2. It finally garnered me the mental health support I’d been trying to get for months.
  3. I have never told anyone about this attempt and do not want to.
  4. Hence why I am not writing any more about it.

Postscript: The reasons behind this attempt are many, valid and varied: the disaster that was Alice Springs, the loss of everything in my life for a third time, the continual guilt over letting Grace down the year before, the recent suicide of Stephanie, the complete lack of happiness, the continual rejection of everything I had tried to do to rebuild my life and the continuous, pervading loneliness, all combined together to push me completely over the edge.

IV: November 2009

I wrote about this in my post Reflections on being homeless, part 2. Following months of homelessness, desperation and mental health crises I decided that the only option I had left was to (once again) end my life.

Early one morning, when there was no-one around, I fashioned a make-shift noose from some items of clothing and selected a tree in which to hang myself from (directly at the back of the Myer Music Bowl).

As I was about to attach the noose around my neck a homeless man who lived in the same park as I, someone whom I had spoken to on several occasions in the past, walked over to me and asked what I was doing. Trying to get him to leave me alone I gave him my stock response of ‘nothing much’ and hoped he wouldn’t notice my ‘noose’.

He did.

Taking it from me he hid it in his bag and sat down beside me. He didn’t make me feel guilty, he didn’t lecture me on the selfishness of suicide, he merely chatted to me about the weather, the night he’d had, his plans for the day and began asking questions about my life, loves and passions.

Shortly after he dived back into his bag and instead of pulling out the noose, pulled out a portable DVD player which he told me I could ‘borrow’ to help take my mind off of whatever was bothering it. Ensuring I was okay before leaving he told me he would swing by on his way back to his sleeping spot that night and hoped I would be okay.

After he left I sat on the steps in front of the tree and realized I didn’t have anything else I could use to hang myself, plus, I kinda wanted to watch The Dark Knight, plus, if I did kill myself I would never again be able to touch a pert backside of the like that was currently exercising a mere few meters from me (as the park I slept in at the time was a favourite spot for personal trainers and their clients!)

Postscript: I did indeed watch The Dark Knight that day, as well as discovering Season One of Chuck lingering at the back of the library’s DVD section. For the next several days I worked my way through the library’s collection (including The Three Doctors, Angel, Sabrina, 24 and Skins) whilst surreptitiously watching the various exercising women in the early hours of the morning. This latter admission may make me sound like a creepy, pervy bastard, but I cannot emphasize enough how those beautiful and determined women made me realize that (once again) I needed to find my own beauty and determination to keep going.

V: Mid 2010

I wrote about this in my post Reflections on being homeless, part 4. Following a rather nasty assault in a boarding house I ended up back on the streets in a complete state of psychosis and dissociation. My memories of the period are few and far between, with the majority being more emotional in basis than precise recollections of physical reality.

All I can remember is hacking away at my wrists with some sticks I found in my park in a desperate bid to end my miserable, pointless, existence.

Needless to say, the sticks didn’t do any serious damage.

Postscript: this is probably the most random and obscure suicide attempt of my life. Why my deluded mind believed that I could break the skin with some paltry sticks is beyond me. Although it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have a knife at the time, otherwise things could have turned out very different!

VI: October 2011

This attempt was mentioned in my post Reflections on being homeless, part 7. It had been one of the roughest periods of my homelessness. Following a three-month blackout (during which I had dissociated and created a totally new personality) I found myself in a foreign park, unable to deal with being alive any longer. I couldn’t take the homelessness. I couldn’t take the isolation. I couldn’t take the abuse. I couldn’t take anything. So I did what we are supposed to do when life becomes too difficult to cope with; I phoned Lifeline.

But this just made everything worse, because whenever you speak to Lifeline about being suicidal, they will always begin their ‘counselling’ with the same suggestion: “why don’t you call a friend and get them to come and be with you, that usually helps”

“I don’t have any friends,” I responded.

“None? You must have some friends, everyone has friends. They won’t mind if you call them if that’s what you’re worried about,”

“I don’t have any friends,” I repeated. “No-one. I have no-one,”

This totally threw the counsellor into a tizzy as she had no idea what to say. Following several seconds of silence, followed by several more seconds of umming and ahhing, she referred me to the crisis mental health team and told me it could take up to 48 hours for them to contact me.

“Forty eight hours? For a crisis team,” I said. “Are you being serious?”

She was. I hung up the phone and within minutes was hiking into the Australian bush. I was inconsolable; tears flowed, limbs shook, vomit was ejaculated from my anxious, traumatized belly. With no options remaining, and with Lifeline reminding me of my isolation, I took off my belt, wound it around my neck and attempted to hang myself.

Unfortunately, my belt had become so threadbare during the years that I’d been homeless, the leather snapped within seconds and sent me coughing and spluttering to the hard earth.

Postscript: this was the last time I phoned Lifeline. Although several people (support workers, counsellors, GP) have suggested I contact them when feeling low, I flat out refuse to do so. Simply because I don’t need someone reminding me of my isolation, especially someone who refuses to believe that someone doesn’t have any friends.

VII: December 2011

The last time I went to kill myself was between Christmas and New Year 2011. It’s not an attempt I like talking about and generally try to forget that it ever happened – for it makes me look like a complete tool!

Following the loss of my medication after a psychiatrist’s appointment that destroyed my faith in the profession, I descended rapidly into a lengthy period of desperation and despair. I began drinking. I began gambling. I began sleeping at the back of a cemetery.

After consuming a rather large quantity of alcohol I decided the only option I had was to finally end my miserable, pathetic existence. I took a handful of painkillers and then staggered onto the railway line where I lay horizontally across the tracks. Staring up at the stars, I knew that sooner or later a freight train would tear over me. And, if I was lucky, decapitate me in the process.

The next thing I remember is waking up and gazing into a pristine blue sky. My head was pounding, at some point I had thrown up over my clothes and my head was still annoyingly attached to my body. Glancing to my left, and then to my right, it slowly dawned on me (over a period of about fifteen minutes) that I was lying on a disused railway track.

So I threw up again and then laughed manically for about half an hour over my utter ineptitude.

Postscript: I saw the same psychiatrist who had (ultimately) abused me into this attempt within a week of it. I didn’t tell him anything about it, because I knew he either (a) wouldn’t believe me, or (b) not show the slightest interest in my internal pain. He really was that much of a tosser.

Epilogue

It is with some happiness that I can say I have not attempted suicide since that (rather hilarious) attempt on the railway line, but that isn’t to say I haven’t been suicidal.

In October 2012, around the time of an anniversary of a previous attempt, I became so withdrawn, so adamant in the futility of my own life, my parents became worried and contacted my local mental health team as they feared I would do something about it. But, given my distrust of mental health services due to the incidents outlined above, I didn’t follow through with seeing them. I just dealt with my suicidal ideation as best I could.

In August 2014, during a dark period of depression, I began planning the best way I could end my life (it involved cutting my wrists) and even went to the extent of purchasing a new knife I could use to do it. Fortunately I was able to convince myself to keep the knife in the drawer and not use it.

In November 2014, around the time of my 36th birthday, I became convinced I could no longer continue with my meagre, pointless existence and contemplated hanging myself from a light fixture in my unit. Again, I was able to distract myself from my pain long enough for it to pass.

So even though it’s been over three years since my last proper attempt, I know that suicide will rear its ugly head in my life again. It’s part of who I am; part of my nature, and I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change that. But there are things to be learnt from the various attempts I’ve made in the past – and not just to use a brand spanking new belt to hang yourself with!

Things like: when you have friends in your life, friends that you trust, friends that you admire, friends that mean the world to you, do not be afraid to contact them when and if you are feeling suicidal. A true friend will be there for you. A true friend will help distract you and deal with your pain so you don’t do anything stupid with your wonderful life.

Things like: there are always reasons to keep on living, even when things appear so bleak you can’t see daylight. They may be simple things, like favourite movies or TV shows, they may be complicated things, like self-determination or stubbornness, or they may be beautiful things, like the female posterior. The trick is to not be ashamed of these things, no matter what they are.

Things like: even if they say the wrong thing, people will try their best to help you out of a situation, as long as you trust them enough to do so.

Things like: there is always something new in life to entertain, bring joy or make you laugh. Even if this is the realisation that you’re lying on a disused railway line.

Things like: even if you don’t believe it, there will always be someone who will miss you when you’re gone.

Things like: suicide is never the answer, no matter how fervently you believe it is at the time.

-ᴏ-

A selection of other posts I’ve written on the subject of suicide:


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Teaser Tuesday (December 03)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation
by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele and Onno Van Der Hart

copingwithtraumarelateddissociation

My teaser this week comes from a book I acquired at the World Hearing Voices Congress. Following a fascinating (and inspiring) panel on the topic of dissociation and parts of self, I decided that this book could help fill in some of the missing pieces of my life (notably, the various periods of ‘lost time’ that I’ve experienced) and help me work more closely with my various parts. As I work through the book, I will endeavor to share my learnings with you all! :)

◊~~~◊~~~◊

So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…


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Day 19: My (not very high) opinion of self-help books

The 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge continues:
Day 19: Have you ever read a self-help book or a book related to psychology?
What is your opinion on them?  If you have read them do you have a favorite?

selfhelpbooks

Following my breakdown in 2007, my abuser decided that all I needed to do to ‘get better’ was to read any of the hundreds of self-help books she had decided were the saviors of humankind.

Whether it be Roads Less Travelled or the endless Chicken Soup series, she believed that my entire life – that my entire soul – would have been fixed by simply reading one of these books.

I didn’t believe such nonsense.

In fact, the only self-help book I’ve ever loved is called Happiness (Will Ferguson); a fictional satire on the self-help book industry. For that is what it is, an industry established to make people feel bad about themselves for not being able to fix their lives with a single platitude or simple belief.

The “self-help” books I like are those grounded in reality. They are those that come with substantiated evidence from the medical field and are written by professionals who have practiced what they have preached with quantifiable results.

Books such as: The Happiness Trap (Russ Harris), 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery (Babette Rothschild), Getting Past Your Past (Francine Shapiro) or Living with Voices: Fifty Stories of Recovery (Marius Romme/Sandra Escher); all of which look at areas of recovery without resorting to the level of emotional manipulation that many self-help books do.

Many self-help books (and the ones my abuser believed held the key to my salvation) teach you that all you have to do to change your life is to believe your life will change and it will magically do so.

This is bollocks!

The only thing that will change your life is a hell of a lot of goddamned hard work, so if I do turn to the written word to help me, I will always turn to books that will assist me in my battle, rather than those that manipulate my fragile sense of mind with hope, faerie dust and bullshit.


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ACT: Identifying your values

compass

To phrase it in the simplest terminology, ‘values’ are what we want to be doing with our life. They are not the goals we aspire to (such as the items on a things to do before I die list) but the things we stand for and how we want to behave as we move through life.

A simple way to differentiate goals from values is by using the ‘compass metaphor’:

“Values are like a compass. A compass gives you direction and keeps you on track when you’re traveling. And our values do the same for the journey of life. We use them to choose the direction in which we want to move and to keep us on track as we go. So when you act on a value, it’s like heading west. No matter how far west you travel, you never get there, there’s always further to go. But goals are like the things you try to achieve on your journey, they’re like the sights you want to see or the mountains you want to climb while you keep on traveling west.”

~ from Act Made Simple, Dr Russ Harris

Once the differentiation has been made, it is up to us to know what our values are if we are to live according to them.

Identifying your values

The only person who can tell you what your values are is yourself. Sometimes it’s something that is known by instinct (for example, I have long known that one of my core values is determination) whereas other times, values reveal themselves only by happenstance or our own hard work.

One exercise that can be beneficial in revealing our values is The Bull’s Eye, available on Russ Harris’ website, and explained below. Of all the exercises I’ve so far completed, this was the most enlightening for me in identifying my values.

The Bull’s Eye

The Bull’s Eye exercise is quite simple. You begin with a set of concentric circles (an archery target) and then split these circles along the lines of a compass. Each of the quarters represent a part of your life, in this case: work/education, leisure, personal growth/health and relationships.

The Bull's Eye

You begin by listing your values for each of these parts of your life. In doing so, think about what really matters to you, deep in your heart? What do you want to do with your time on the planet? What sort of person do you want to be? What personal strengths and/or qualities do you want to be remembered for?

These lists can be as long or short as you like, but in identifying these values, bear in mind these five key points:

1. Values are here and now, goals are the future.
2. Values never need to be justified.
3. Values often need to be prioritised.
4. Values are best held tightly.
5. Values are freely chosen.

Values

Although not exhaustive, this list may assist you in identifying some of your values (Click to enlarge)

Once you have your values in mind, write them on your Bull’s Eye beside each of the areas. In doing so, you may wish to choose (i.e. prioritise) your top three values (or however many suits you) and mark them with a star or highlighter.

After you’ve identified your values in each of the areas, mark on the Bull’s Eye where you stand today. If you live fully by your values, all power to you ’cause you’ve hit the Bull’s Eye, but if not, don’t see it as a failure, but a new direction for you to take in the future.

My Bull’s Eye

So far this year I’ve completed two Bull’s Eyes. Firstly, back in May when I began the ACT for Anxiety support group, and secondly today, so I could provide an example for you, my dear readers.

I began by identifying my values for the four key areas:

~ Work/Education ~

| Discipline | Hard-Working | Dedicated | Committed | Safe | Courtesy | Creativity |
| Open-ness | Inspiring | Connection | Security | Non-Conformity | Fun | Passion |

~ Leisure ~

| Creative | Non-Conformity | Loving | Fun | Be-Yourself |
| Take Risks | Enjoyable | Pleasurable | Mischievous | Passion |

~ Personal Growth/Health ~

| Individuality | Creative | Non-Conformity | Be Yourself | Generosity | Resilience | Discipline |
| Knowledge | Hopeful | Trustworthy | Asking for Help | Self-Esteem | Dedicated| Passion |

~ Relationships ~

| Monogamy | Trust | Respect | Creative | Understanding | Honesty | Co-operative |
| Non-Abusive | Loving | Security | Committed | Harmonious | Compassionate | Passion |

And then prioritised my six primary values for each field (I have a thing about things coming in sixes!) These primary values have been bolded in the text above. In doing this, I was able to identify that ‘passion’ is one of my core values.

Following this I marked on the diagram where I currently believe I’m sitting. Because this is the second time I’ve undertaken this exercise, I’ve been able to chart any progress/regression since the first time I completed a Bull’s Eye.

My Bulls Eye (2)

Xs in yellow are from May 2013
Xs in red are from September 2013

By doing this, I can clearly see that I have taken a backwards step in personal growth/health (because of my recent relapse) but have made a gain in the work/education front (because of a current ‘plan’ to return to tertiary education next year). Obviously, because of my isolated nature I’m ‘off the chart’ when it comes to relationships and leisure has remained relatively stable since May 2013.

To my eyes, I’ve a long way to go to be fully living within my values, but at least I now know what my values are.

Hopefully, by completing this exercise, you’ll have a better understanding of your values as well. :)

~ Previous installments in this series ~
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?


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Coping Skills: Fifty Things of Self-Love

Earlier this year I wrote a post called Coping Skills, which shared a coping skills worksheet that came to me via Indigo Daya’s website. One of the categories on this work-sheet was ‘self-love’, which are all the things you can do to love (or care) for yourself in times of distress.

In this section of the work-sheet I wrote:

Me? Love myself? You gotta be kidding, right? This never happens…but I know it ’should’ be happening, so I seriously need to sit down and try to work out some ways that will allow me to love myself. I just don’t know how anymore. :(

Now, six months on – and to celebrate my 550th post! – I’ve decided to take up the challenge and come up with fifty things of self-love; for how can I ever hope to experience positive emotions again (e.g. happiness, joy, contentment, relaxation, nurture etc.) if I don’t know what will bring them on?

My Self-Love List

A few notes on the above list:

(i) For the sake of clarification, I decided that ‘my’ definition of self-love is: ‘anything I can do to feel something other than shit’. Your definition may be different (and involve less/more swear words!)

(ii) In terms of the final count, instead of merely stating movies, books etc. I decided to expand these sections by listing the five most awesome candidates. It is these five things that are included in the final count of fifty, not the movies, books etc. genres themselves.

(iii) And for all of you rolling your eyes at ‘masturbation’ and ‘kissing/sex/oral sex’…What? I’m just being honest! :p

Now, over to you…what things do you do to love yourself in times of distress?
Are you willing to take the fifty things of self-love challenge?