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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Mi Recovery: Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan (aka Self-Love!)

“The Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan (aka Self-Love!)”

ME_468_AcceptingSelfLove

“A trigger is a recognisable risk that can produce or stir-up symptoms. Triggers can be preventable,”

In week one of the Mi Recovery series we built a biopsychosocial model of the causes, symptoms and treatments of our mental illness(es). Now, in week three, we look at how we can use this model to identify techniques and strategies in which we can combat our triggers.

Since my breakdown in 2007 I’ve done a lot of work in understanding, analysing and identifying my triggers. The manner in which I’ve been living (homeless, socially isolated, no support structure) has forced me to educate myself on what needs to be avoided in order to prevent catastrophic collapses of my mental health. Personally, I think it’s vital that anyone dealing with mental health issues spends some time identifying their triggers; for doing so gives you knowledge – and knowledge is power!

There is no easy way to identify a trigger; sometimes they are obvious, sometimes they sneak up on you, but with time, committment and support (I can’t express how important this latter factor is when it comes to dealing with triggers!) it is possible to produce a list of things that trigger you.

For example, the smell, taste and presence of Gin and Tonic sends me right back to the night I was assaulted in Adelaide ’07, whereas articles on emotional abuse, rape or victim blame mentality have the potential to dredge up a cavalcade of unwanted memories and emotions. There are also a plethora of songs I cannot go anywhere near, as well as people, places and movies that can send my spiralling out of control.

Whenever I am confronted with a trigger my gut reaction is to avoid at all cost! But, as I recently wrote about, triggers can be preventable. Approaching triggers from the biopsychosocial approach is one such way to identify potential new strategies and wrestle back the control that triggers have on our lives.

My Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan (aka Self-Love!)

“Enjoyable and healthy activities that I do for myself, that decrease stress and symptoms, help my moods and help me manage the things that trigger my symptoms.

Personal Treatment can affect all aspects of the person – the physical/biological, the psychological and the social. Personal treatment is a holistic approach. Research says that people who have included Personal Treatment activities in their lifestyle are more likely to recover than those who rely on medication,”
~ Pat Deegan ~

The first step in applying the biopsychosocial model to our triggers is to work out which categories they each fit into; are they biological, psychological or social in origin?

For example, if your trigger is a place, food or medicine – then they are biological triggers. Whereas (in my opinion) loneliness, anniversaries and television series are psychological triggers and people, boarding houses and clothing are social triggers. However, how you categorise your own triggers is entirely up to you. There are no right or wrong answers, only those that are pertinent to your lived experiences.

This – utilising ‘The A-Z of My Emotional Triggers‘ and input from Meadhbh and Audrey – is what I ended up with:

__week3__Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan-vert

Once you have identified biopsychosocial nature of your triggers, you can then use the same approach to brainstorm potential new strategies and lifestyle changes that could be implemented to help you manage them.

Again, there are no right or wrong answers as to how you approach this. In creating my list I decided to take a two-pronged approach, firstly by looking at things I could implement to help fight my triggers in general:

General Strategies

And secondly, by creating ideas specific to the more difficult triggers in my life.

Given my current situation, the most obvious trigger to tackle first was the person who has been – through no fault of their own – triggering me of late:

cats After this, I decided to take a look at the issues of songs, sleep (lack of) and the isolation/loneliness that plagues me so:cats2

And, as a final experiment, I decided to brainstorm strategies I could implement next Tuesday (being the 7th May and one of my “bad days“):

Specific Strategies 2

A few notes on the above tables:

  • All text in black is specific to me.
  • All text in purple is specific to Meadhbh.
  • All text in orange is specific to Audrey.
  • Some of the ideas in the ‘Strategies & Lifestyle Changes’ table may seem extreme to others (e.g. is self-harm really a viable treatment option? is leaving Wodonga really something that would help deal with my triggers? is it really possible for me to give myself comfort?) but, like I said, they are pertinent to me.
  • Some of the ideas overlap as I believe they fit into multiple categories (e.g. ‘tell her about the person she reminds me of’ or ‘face head-on’)

How the Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan could help…

In all honesty, given my current mood, I’m still processing this approach to dealing with triggers – hence why I haven’t explained it all that clearly (sorry!) – so if you have any questions about this activity or how I’ve applied my triggers and strategies, don’t be afraid to ask.

However, I do believe it is a worthwhile activity to undertake. In creating the above lists I have identified hitherto unseen strategies that could help in my ongoing battle with triggers. The exercise has also helped me realise my current coping mechanisms (flee, run away, avoid) have done little to help but a lot to hinder my recovery.

In creating this list I have acquired knowledge over my triggers. Thus – once I’ve implemented some (or all) of these strategies – I will have power over them to.

Like I said, knowledge is power.

And power…is strength.


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Mi Recovery: A picture of me, in a strong fame

“The importance of maintaining a sense of self,”

whatareyouworth

“Our stories and relationships change when we learn to value our whole self,”

As many who suffer from mental illnesses may attest, mental health problems do not exactly lend themselves to an over-flow of self-esteem. When a person becomes unwell with mental illness, they exert a lot of time and energy finding ways to treat their symptoms and manage their illness. So much so that it’s common for the individual – as well as family, friends and medical professionals – to focus entirely on the illness, forgetting that there is an actual, unique and whole human being beneath it.

This renders the person with a mental illness almost unable to see themselves as someone worthy of love or attention. In fact, in some extreme circumstances (and I speak from personal experience) the focus solely on the illness(es) can lead to someone completely losing their sense of self, their worth as an individual and their necessity as a member of the human race. They can see none of the skills, talents or values they possess as their illness (and/or trauma) causes them to focus solely on the negative aspects of their personality; aspects which are often unfavourably exaggerated out of all proportion.

A good example of this was a post I wrote yesterday in which I questioned whether or not I actually had any positive skills or values. A statement that immediately returned the comment:

You are a very caring person and very aware of other people’s needs. You have very good computer skills, you are a good artist, you are a talented photographer (if you had a camera that is), You have great taste in music with a wide variety of styles, You are also a very skilled writer when your illness allows you to be.

You seem to have got yourself in a rut of running yourself down and not seeing what is good about yourself, I know this is due to your past experiences but somehow you must break through this and see yourself for how good you are, not how useless you are.

This rut is something many who suffer from mental illness fall into, especially those who have had their sense-of-self destroyed by an abusive relationship.

Stephanie, for example, was a talented artist and photographer, someone who could work in a myriad of styles and produce work that was both multi-layered and truly inspiring. Whenever I would tell her this, however I would tell her this, she would instantly disregard my comments as a “complete lie” or that I was just saying that because I “had to” as her friend. The years of abuse she’d suffered (in combination with her mental illness) had made it impossible for her to see what everyone else could.

My thinking follows the same pattern of negative reinforcement that the exercise we undertook in the Mi Recovery group seeks to change.

A picture of me, in a strong frame

“I respect my limitations. I know my strengths. I compare myself with myself,
not with others who have different challenges and attributes to mine,”

The premise behind this exercise is to build a picture of who we are; the things we value, the things we like to do, our strengths and skills, how someone who knows us well would describe our abilities and successes, what aspects of our illness fit into the picture and what knowledge, resources and strategies strengthen this picture.

Once this picture has been formed, we then need to ask ourselves what internal and external resources we need to draw on to maintain this picture. For example, support groups, counselling, asking for help (external) or resilience, determination, insight (internal). This I could do easily…it was the actual strengths that I struggled with.

However – partly because I had to, partly because I needed to – I did (finally) create a portrait of myself:

A Picture of Me in a Strong Frame (2)

~ Key ~
BROWN TEXT (HAT) are three things I value in a relationship
RED TEXT (HEAD) are things I value in life
ORANGE TEXT (ARMS) are aspects of my illness I believe fit into the picture of me
PURPLE TEXT (BODY I) are things I am skillful in
BLUE TEXT (BODY II) are some of my strengths
GREEN TEXT (RIGHT LEG) are external resources I need to maintain the picture
PALE GREEN TEXT (LEFT LEG) are internal resources I need to maintain the picture
YELLOW TEXT (GROUND) is something I really (really) need to learn how to do to maintain this picture!
GREY TEXT (ANNOTATIONS) are things I like about my body (I chose to add these due to my body image issues)

Given the negative view I hold of myself it’s safe to say I do not yet believe everything I’ve included in the picture of myself. Some of them are things other people have recognised in me (e.g. Samantha saw my kinkiness as a strength, my family see my compassion as a strength and many people have noted my intense survival instinct and determination) whilst others are things only I believe (Zelda games are a skill? Really?)

But I believe it’s important to include these things in my picture, purely because they are all things I need to start believing rather than dismissing about myself.

It may be a long time before I do believe in this portrait, but for now I shall just celebrate the fact I’ve created one!

Why not make one of your own…you may be surprised by what you come up with! :)

 


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Coping Skills: The Negative Thought Challenge

In a recent post I shared a “Coping Skills” worksheet that I obtained via Indigo Daya’s website. One of these skills was a ‘thought challenge’, wherein you write down all your negative thoughts and then make a list as to why they may not be true.

Given that I could write a dissertation on why my negative thoughts are all valid criticisms of myself, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to take on this challenge, whatever happens as a result!

negative thoughts 1

Part I: My negative thoughts…

Note: I’m not going to write every negative thought I’ve ever had in my life (otherwise this post would win an award for the longest blog post in the history of the world!) so I’ll focus only on the last twelve hours.

  • I’m a failure
  • I’m worthless
  • I’m useless
  • I have no passion(s)
  • I’m a waste of space
  • My voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to
  • I’m pathetic
  • I’m weak
  • I’m weak because I can’t just ‘get over’ the abuse I received
  • I’m unintelligent
  • I’m the most selfish human being who has ever lived in the history of the world
  • I’m the world’s worst kisser
  • I’m the world’s worst lover
  • I go down on women too much
  • I care too much about my partner orgasming
  • I’m not (sexually) selfish enough
  • I should just die
  • I don’t deserve to be alive
  • My life is pointless
  • I am pointless
  • I’m a terrible writer
  • I’m a terrible blogger
  • I’m a terrible emailer
  • I’m a terrible photographer
  • I’m a terrible everythinger
  • My photography is uninspiring, boring and monotonous
  • I use too many commas!
  • I use too many exclamation marks!!
  • My shoulder hair makes people want to vomit
  • I’m the fattest fattiest fatty who has ever lived
  • My weight is contagious
  • My self-harm is contagious
  • My illness(es) are contagious
  • I’m contagious
  • I’m unlovable
  • I’m evil
  • I’m grotesque
  • I’m insane
  • I’m too depressing
  • I’m too shy
  • I’m too anxious
  • I’m boring
  • I deserve to live alone
  • I deserve to die alone
  • I deserve to live alone and in pain
  • I deserve to die alone and in pain
  • My mind is repulsive
  • My body is repulsive
  • Heck, I’m repulsive
  • I’m a terrible friend
  • I don’t deserve to have any friends
  • No-body likes me
  • Everyone hates me
  • I should just go and eat worms!
  • It’s my fault I was abused
  • I deserved it
  • I deserve to be punished for it
  • I deserve to be punished for all eternity for it
  • My arse is too hairy
  • It’s my fault I was raped
  • I deserved it
  • I deserve to be punished for it
  • I deserve to be punished for all eternity for it
  • My mental illness(es) are a result of my own inability to cope with life’s stressors
  • Hell, my mental illness(es) are a figment of my imagination!
  • Homelessness is all I deserve out of life
  • I don’t like Harry Potter, thus I have no taste
  • My hugs are suffocating
  • I’m talentless
  • I’m a blob
  • I’m the blob!
  • My thoughts mean there is something wrong with me
  • My desires mean there is something wrong with me
  • My dreams mean there is something wrong with me
  • My thoughts/desires/dreams mean I am evil
  • There’s just something wrong with me.
  • I’m lazy
  • I don’t work hard enough
  • I don’t work hard enough to change
  • I don’t sacrifice enough
  • My opinions are invalid and deserve mockery and humiliation

Part II: Why they may not be true…

…and this is why I’m so terrible at thinking positively about myself.

All the bolded thoughts above were said to me by my abuser, those bolded and italicized were said to me frequently. As no-one believed she was doing anything wrong and I was told by many people I ‘deserved’ what she was doing…my mind concluded that they must be true, otherwise, why did I deserve being told them?

Given that the majority of these thoughts had been present prior to the abuse (some I specifically told her about), all the abuse did was make rational the irrational fears my social anxiety causes me to think.

And once a fear has been rendered rational…it’s almost impossible to deny as being untrue.

But, in the spirit of the challenge…

Is my photography really uninspiring, boring and monotonous? Although they never reach triple figures, whenever I post a ‘weekly photo challenge’ post, more often than not I receive dozens of ‘likes’ and twenty odd plus comments. Unless all these people are suffering from mass delusion, there must be something to like about my photography, isn’t there?

Ditto for my writing! People are often telling me how inspiring and enjoyable they find my blog. Plus, would an editor spend weeks helping me polish a short story and then publish it in a nationwide magazine if it was truly bad?

As for not making enough sacrifices, frankly, what THE FUCK?! I sacrificed my home, family, friends, uni course and future plans in order to move to the other side of the world purely because I loved someone. When my abuser was suffering from Glandular Fever I phoned in sick for work several times purely to look after her, in fact, for over a month I become her 24/7 nurse-maid, never once putting myself first throughout that entire period. Before that, I spent three years putting my life on hold for the benefit of my employer and staff, regularly working in excess of 60-80 hour weeks without overtime, cancelling night classes, social events and social groups in order to do so. Even though I live in abject poverty, I still find money for monthly donations to charitable organisations and have frequently done all I can, when I can, to help whomever I can (including complete strangers!) Even when I was homeless I would regularly give other homeless people money, clothes, food and blankets that I couldn’t afford to part with. Does that really sound like someone not willing to sacrifice things for the health, wellbeing and happiness of others?

You could even use the above to argue over the validity of my alleged selfishness…but the fact I wasn’t there for Grace when she needed a friend instantly renders all this evidence ineligible and one hundred percent proves my selfishness.

However, what about the negative thoughts relating to deserving to be abused? Astute readers amongst you will have connected what I was told following the emotionally abusive relationship to these thoughts. I was literally told I deserved it, ergo it must be true. But the rape? No-one told me I deserved to be raped…and I have no logical argument other than ‘guilt’ as to why I think this is true. But think it I do.

So what if I don’t like Harry Potter? There are so many better young adult fictional series (His Dark Materials, The Dark is Rising, Hunger Games, Narnia) than the tale of this young wizard. Or rather, in my opinion there are so many better young adult fictional series! Just because my opinion differs from others does not make me tasteless, it just makes me different. And while we’re at it…I don’t deserve mockery and humiliation for sharing an opinion, no-one does!

Ditto for all the my desires/dreams means there is something wrong with me thoughts. Just because I have cravings, needs and desires that are considered ‘deviant’ and/or ‘weird’ does not mean that they, or I, am wrong. It just means I’m different. Where’s the problem with that?

As for everything else…I’m afraid I can’t come up with reasons why they may not be true.

The simple fact is I have been living a socially isolated life for the last six years (give or take six months), so if I really am a decent person, deserving of friends, company and relationships, someone who doesn’t deserve to live and die alone, why is it that none of the efforts I undertake to create real-life connections work?

It is impossible to live alone for as long I have without believing that this is all you deserve in life.

The same argument can be used for the kissing, hugs and sex negative thoughts. There is a reason why I don’t get to do any of these things…and it can’t just be because of severe abuse trauma rendering me untrusting and fearful of intimacy. Can it?

The simple fact is, for every single item on that list I could come up with at least a dozen individual reasons for why they’re true. These reasons would be backed up by comments multiple people have told me throughout my life.

As I’ve said in the past, the more you are told something, the more you believe that something to be true. When all you’ve had in your life is negativity, insults, criticism, isolation and abuse…how can you possibly believe you’re a good person?

negative thinking 2

Part III: What would I tell a friend who thinks like this…

If any of my friends thought like this I’d put them over my knee and spank some sense into them!

But once I’d been released from prison on assault charges (unless the spanking had been consensual, that is :p) I would sit them down and tell them how unhealthy it was to think like that, how brilliant, beautiful and awesome they are and how these thoughts were the product of low self-esteem, low self-confidence and (possible) mental health and abuse trauma related issues.

I would then ask them what I could do to help them think more realistically about themselves. If that meant surreptitiously sending stories to magazines to prove how awesome a writer they are, let them cry on my shoulder, help them organize counseling to defeat their guilt over abuse and/or just spending time with them doing things that make them feel good, I would, without any hesitation.

In fact, I have done all of those things (and a lot more besides) to help friends defeat their demons in the past!

Part IV: Conclusion

Over the years I have exasperated psychologists, counselors and therapists with my negative thinking. Every time any of them issued compliments, positive reinforcement or adulation, my mind would immediately source from my history of bullying, abuse and criticism several comments that proved they were lying. There have been times when these psychologists, counselors and therapists have told me they can see this process occurring; from the moment they issue the praise to the moment I discard it as an irrelevant lie.

None of them have been able to help me find a way to combat this cycle of thinking.

No matter how hard I try to break free, no matter how many times I tell myself I’m wrong, no matter how often I can see the awesome bastard that I am, the damage from all the bullying, abuse and isolation seems to run too deep to be overcome.

And if you don’t believe me, if you think I’m just being lazy and not working hard enough, go and spend six years on your own, living on the streets, frequently being physically and emotionally abused whilst receiving no praise, positive reinforcement, human contact, touch or compliments…then get back to me and tell me how easy it is to think ‘positively’ about yourself and your life.

However much I would like to think less negative thoughts, it is going to take years of intense work to fix the damage caused by abuse, homelessness and isolation.

But, as with everything, I’ve already begun to work on it. This challenge is part of me moving toward fixing the damage, as are the social and support groups I’m trying to attend, as is this blog and so many other skills, therapies and treatments that I’m currently undertaking.

It would be easier to lose myself to these thoughts, to let them overcome me, but I refuse to let them simply because there is no way in hell I’m going to let my abuser win.

I’m way too freaking awesome to let that happen!

(Even if I don’t believe this most of the time!)


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Fifty Shades of Addy: The evolution of a spanking fetish…

UPDATE: 11 July 2015

When I first wrote this post on 2 October 2012 I had no option but to password protect it. Family members read my blog, friends read my blog, and I was ashamed – no, terrified – of such people finding out the intricacies of my internal psyche. Three years later and I am not so ashamed. I have grown and evolved as a person. Although I don’t want my family to read this post (and they won’t if I ask them nicely!) I am no longer scared of how other people may perceive it. That is why I have decided to lift the password protection. If people know my deepest, darkest secret, so what? It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is nothing I should hate myself because of. As Samantha used to say, it is simply one small thread in the multicoloured tapestry that is me.

So strap yourselves in for a journey through the kinkier recesses of my mind. A journey fraught with self-doubt, self-hatred and immense, unwavering passion. A journey that will, undoubtedly, warm the very cockles of your heart posterior.

Note: Meadhbh has convinced me to lift the password protection on this (epic) post with one proviso: family members are politely asked to read no further. Thank you! :)

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