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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What does recovery mean to you?

As one half of my psyche lurks in the dangerous yet intoxicating world of nostalgia; recanting the painful, pleasurable and painfully-pleasurable events of the last five years, the other half of my psyche continues on its journey down the road to recovery. This week, I will be looking at what my future holds – and the various methods, attempts and therapies I am undertaking to get me there.

What does recovery mean to you?

A few weeks ago I was filling out a referral for a mental health organisation called Mind. One of the questions on this form was what does recovery mean to you?

Much umming and ahhing ensued until I decided upon:

Recovery means living; not existing or surviving.

And then I got a bit carried away, as I am prone to do from time to time:

Recovery means allowing myself to be better version of myself. To not be controlled by the demons, anger and confusion of the past. To accept that these events happened and that I was strong enough to not let them drag me into the undertow. To understand that mistakes were made and to learn self-forgiveness. To give myself permission to move on from these mistakes and not let them define me.

Recovery means learning how to love myself. To accept that I do not deserve to be alone for the rest of my life because I am a caring, loving, talented and passionate human being with much to offer the world. To not allow the abuse I received to continue defining my personality. To understand that I am a wonderful person who deserves everything his heart desires.

Recovery means believing in myself. To set realistic goals that I can work toward; goals that I know I deserve to achieve. To stop endlessly belittling and playing down my achievements and realize that I am a man of many talents and skills. To give myself permission to be the man I know I am in my heart.

Identifying the roadblocks

Although sabotaged by oscillating moods and deeply embedded abuse trauma, over the years I have been working as hard as I can to repair not only my sanity, but my life. In doing so I have identified a number of roadblocks that are hindering my road to recovery.

One of the central roadblocks  is my social anxiety and isolation. It is hard for some to understand how infinitely more complicated everything becomes when you are on your own; when you have no-one to share your problems with, no-one to hug or touch you, no-one to love or care about you, no-one to offer guidance or distraction through the rough patches of life we all have to face.

Hence why this roadblock is the one I need to hurdle before anything else.

Over the last few months, alongside this blog and Twitter, I have been trying to navigate this roadblock on several fronts.

Front #1: Disability Support Pension

I am mere weeks away from discovering if I have been granted the Holy Grail of the Disability Support Pension. For the last two and half years I have been surviving on the pittance that is the Newstart Allowance (a benefit that even the Australian Government announced yesterday was too low given the cost of living increases in Australia, but simultaneously announced they have no plans to raise it.)

This payment has made the triple whammy of rent-bills-food almost impossible to meet and have lumbered me with several hundred dollars’ worth of unpaid energy bills, an inability to purchase clothing or footwear and rendered haircuts and medication luxury items. This making socializing and entertainment an impossible dream.

I’ve been told to expect a decision by mid-November, so until then I must play the waiting game and demonstrate my innate patience.

Front #2: An impending munch

I have mentioned in the past a social network I have been using to try end this insidious isolation. Although I’ve some headway in connecting with people online I have yet to meet anyone in real life. Last night, it came to my attention that a gathering has been organized for Thursday evening; a gathering that I have tentatively announced to the network I will be attending!

Given my desire to build new social connections (and knock ‘item 1’ off the bucket list) this munch is something I’m looking forward to – but I’d be lying if I said the evening wasn’t filling me with anxiety fuelled dread already.

We shall just have to wait and see what happens come Thursday :)

Front #3: GT House

GT House is an organisation in my locality that offers counseling services and support groups for those suffering from mental health problems and social isolation. After several months of languishing on the waiting list I had my first meeting with them last Thursday.

One of the aspects discussed in that session was the view that labels – although they have their place – are not the be all and end all of mental illness. Sometimes symptoms overlap, sometimes the way an illness presents in one person is different to the way it presents in another, so the best course of treatment and therapy will differ from person to person. Therefore GT House looks at the needs of the individual rather than the needs of the illness.

Following a follow-up meeting with them this morning I have registered for three of the groups:

1) Pool: where we gather and spend a couple of hours socializing and playing pool.
2) Stress: where we gather and work through ways to reduce and control our stress of day-to-day life.
3) Scrabble: where we gather and spend a couple of hours socializing and playing scrabble.

As well as expressing an interest in attending three other groups once I have increased my self-confidence and feel more comfortable.

Front #4: Hearing Voices Group

Given the voices I hear have increased substantially over the last several years, and given it is an area of my mental illness few have ever wanted to go near, I’ve registered interest in attending a weekly Hearing Voices Support Group.

The thrust of this group is about learning to understand the voices I hear and developing ways to control such behavior, as well as socializing with other people who experience similar issues.

Although at the present time I haven’t committed to attend – I must be wary of taking on too much in fear of mentally collapsing – it is something I’m working toward for the future.

Front #5: Disability Employment Service

This organisation is supposed to work closely with me in order to help me access part-time study, part-time work, voluntary work and other avenues I want to pursue so I can create the future I deserve.

The drawback with this organisation is that it is closely linked to the DSP and I’m unsure if I qualify for their services if I don’t have this payment approved.

Thus, as mentioned in front #1, all I can do for the time being is be patient.

One of the things I have always been proud of is my determination to work toward a better future for myself. All that I have achieved over the last five years has been out of a stubbornness to give up; something I could easily have done on hundreds of occasions.

Although physically I am in the same (if not worse) position than I was in five years ago, the trials and challenges I have been through have altered my thinking and mental state in ways I had never thought possible.

So as one side of my psyche continues to analyze and work through the events of the past (a necessary part of my recovery), the other will continue, as always, down the long road of recovery toward that beautiful destination named ‘The Future’.

‘The Road to Recovery’ continues tomorrow with:
The Ballad of the One Who Got Away


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SOC: ‘There’s no amount of social media connection that can fix this…’

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Thursday 27 September 2012 between 2:30-3:00am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

Jean Jacques Henner, Solitude

Jean Jacques Henner, Solitude (Wikipedia)

For a soul that has always strived for balance this post, marooned within a sea of positivity, will stick out like a sore thumb. But I have to write it. I can’t shy away from it. Things have been building for days and if I don’t try to release them they’ll fester inside me and cause all manner of bad things to happen.

It’s one of the many problems with living a solitary life. Most people when they have a problem turn to their friends, a quick phone call to someone who loves them and a date is arranged. Perhaps coffee and cake, perhaps beer and peanuts, possibly hard-core liquor and cigarettes. Whatever the case may be there is someone there to listen to you, to absorb your pain and help you spank it away.

For a moment I want you to think about a few things. I want you to think about the last seven days of your life. I want you to think about everything you’ve done and then answer these questions:

In the last seven days, how many times did you have a conversation with someone?

In the last seven days, how many times did someone touch you?

In the last seven days, how many times were you hugged?

In the last seven days, how many text messages, emails or phone-calls did you receive?

In the last seven days, how many times were you thankful for the people in your life?

Now I want you to think of the last month and ask yourself the same questions.

After that, think of the last year.

Then, the last five years.

I want you to think about everything you’ve done, all the people you’ve met, all the moments you’ve shared with others.

Okay?

Are you thinking about it all? All the drinks, the parties, the cinema trips, the excursions, holidays, family Christmases, birthday presents? Do you have all the love you’ve received in your heart? All those moments that a friend sent you a quick text that put a smile on your face? Or turned up at your doorstep with a hot chocolate and kiwi fruit just because they wanted to make sure you were okay. Are you reliving it all? Smiling? Perhaps giggling over the odd moments you’ve enjoyed in the last five years?

Good :)

Now I want you to imagine not having any of them.

Erase them all from your mind and imagine the last five years of your life with no-one there for you.

No friends, no text messages, no phone calls, parties, presents or cuddles.

Just you.

Can you even imagine it? That level of isolation? That level of loneliness? That level of pain?

Honestly?

One of my favourite websites in Australia is called Mamamia. Although written with a female audience in mind I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember. Their site helped me through homelessness, has assisted me through depressive episodes and, on one occasion, stopped me from self-harming. I even mentioned it in my list of pleasures on Tuesday.

Recently, they published a post written by a woman who moved from Melbourne to Sydney and thus was away from her family and best friends and the feelings of loneliness felt like a slap as she’d never felt alone like that before.

And I felt for her, I really did; anyone who knows the pain of loneliness has my utmost sympathy.

I’m not getting at that article at all, I thought it was a wonderful piece of emotional writing. What made me angry was one of the tweets Mamamia sent out to promote it. A tweet that – hand on heart – made me immediately rise from my computer, walk to the bathroom, open my SI kit and cut myself for the first time in weeks. Their words struck such despair in my soul that self harm was all I could do to alleviate the despair.

If “no amount of social media connection” could fix the author’s loneliness – what fucking chance do I have?

Seriously?

If I had slashed my wrists that night no-one would have known. My body would probably still be decomposing, unfound, as I wouldn’t have been missed. Social media is the only thing I have and this tweet made me realise it is basically all for nothing.

Nothing I do will ever make a difference to my life; all the pain I’ve been through alone, the abuse, the rape, the assaults the homelessness, is all my life will ever be.

All the effort I have to make – fighting with my bipolar mood swings, my crippling social anxiety, my PTSD nightmare fuelled insomnia, my massive distrust of every human being on the planet – just to write a single 140 character tweet to try to reconnect with the world is all for nothing.

A waste of time.

Pointless.

I was so proud of myself for rejoining social networks, to start blogging again, to start commenting on websites, but for the last two weeks I haven’t been able to get this comment out of my head.

If “no amount of social media connection” could help an intelligent, talented, witty, admirable, gorgeous young woman…what bloody chance does a fat, ugly, abuse-traumatised, mentally ill, (ex) homeless, socially isolated thirtysomething male have?

The pride I felt has evaporated, replaced with a single damning question that’s been permeating my thoughts for weeks:

Why do I even bother fighting when my life will never be anything more than this?


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Stop the abuse: why I left Twitter and why I’m returning!

Five months ago, after an eighteen month hiatus from Twitter, I made a return to the social network. I did so for one simple reason; being a socially isolated homeless man, with a history of mental health problems, it was the only outlet I had for interacting with society.

For two months I tweeted the occasional opinion, shared articles I felt important, engaged with other users and received abusive feedback. My homelessness was criticized with comments ranging from ‘get off your lazy arse and get a job’ to ‘why not just drink yourself to death’. My mental health was attacked with comments ranging from ‘harden the f**k up you pathetic c**t’ to ‘just f**king hang yourself, retard’.

With my mood descending into depression, in part from these comments, I eventually stopped logging onto Twitter and once again slipped into uncommunicative isolation; an isolation that prevented me from writing my blog, from reading websites, from having any contact with the outside world.

Throughout this period I often wanted to return. Despite the abuse I enjoyed reading Tweets, I enjoyed having a means to connect with the outside world, I relished the ability to begin communicating again after years of pain, isolation and homelessness.

Now, upon hearing what has happened to Charlotte Dawson, I have decided to return; abuse be damned!

When I was in primary school I was regularly thrown against walls and kneed in the bollocks. I was constantly attacked for wearing glasses, for wearing braces, for being fat, for being in the recorder group. The latter, I believe, out of jealously considering I was the only boy to eight girls (gotta love those odds!)

When I was in secondary school my weight (as always) was fair game, my inability to play sports well (often as a result of being rendered blind) was maliciously used and when my sister’s mental illness deteriorated, it’s not hard to understand this was used against me.

When I was travelling I would find anonymous notes (the precursor to Twitter?) left with my food in hostels telling me I should kill myself because I was fat, useless bastard.

When I was in an abusive relationship, not a single part of my past, present or future was left untouched. Every single aspect of my life – including all the intimate, personal information I’d shared because I trusted this person – was fair game. Everything I had ever thought, felt, said or done was regularly assaulted. I was borderline stalked, cyber-bullied and told to kill myself with vicious cruelty.

Verbal/emotional abuse can be just as horrific as physical abuse

When I began my blog I would receive dozens of anonymous emails and comments  attacking every aspect of what I was writing about. I still do to this day. Mental illness, it seems, is still an accepted reason to abuse!

When I was trying to rebuild my life following breakdowns, suicide attempts and mental illness I was the recipient of a vicious cyber-campaign. Out of nowhere I began receiving emails and text messages of ever escalating length and severity. Always sent in block capitals. Always anonymously.

Selected (actual) highlights:

YOU’RE A DISGUSTING MENTALLY ILL RETARD

BEAT YOURSELF TO DEATH. CUT YOURSELF TO DEATH. JUST FUCK OFF AND DIE.

THE ONLY THING YOU DESERVE TO FUCK IS A RAZOR BLADE

WOMEN VOMIT AT THE THOUGHT OF FUCKING YOU. JUST DO US A FAVOUR, BUY A KNIFE, GO HOME, HACK YOUR COCK OFF. LET THAT MENTALLY RETARDED BLOOD FLOW.

When I became homeless the floodgates opened. I received endless verbal abuse. I had hot coffee ‘accidentally’ spilled on me. I was pissed on. I was physically assaulted by drunken AFL fans – apparently it was my fault their team lost that night. For some reason attacking the homeless is still considered acceptable by society.

As a result of the abuse: I started self-harming. I developed severe mental illness. I attempted suicide in 2000, 2006, 2007 (twice), 2008 and at least once a year since. I lost my chance of tertiary education. I lost every possession I’d ever owned. My social network was destroyed. I became homeless. And there’s a good chance I will never have anything or anyone in my life again.

But you know what?

I’m still fucking standing!

After years of misery, isolation, judgment, abuse, discrimination, homelessness and pain so intense I’d never wish it on my worst enemy…I’m still standing here, I’m still breathing and I’m still laughing!

All of the anonymous haters that populate these web forums and social networks, venting their spleen at people they’ve never met will never have the one thing that I possess in droves: strength! They inflict pain on emotionally vulnerable people because it’s the only way they can feel better about their themselves. Their lives spent hiding behind unfunny pseudonyms because they hate who they are even more than they hate the world.

Instead of working to improve their lot in life, they just take it out on everyone else and to hell with the consequences. They don’t understand the pain of knowing someone who has taken their own life as a result of being abused. If they did, they might think twice about what they’re doing, for it is a pain that never leaves you.

By staying away from Twitter all I am doing is telling these weak, self-hating, bullies that they’ve won.

Why should I withdraw from the only social contact I have because of these morons?

Why should I take away the only chance I have to get my life back because these selfish prats have decided I don’t deserve one?

Why should I let the abusers who have tried to destroy my life win?

I don’t agree with abuse. I don’t agree with bullying. I don’t agree that a human being has the right to inflict such pain on another. No matter what, no-one deserves to be abused!

I am many things; mentally ill, socially isolated, kinky, unloved, lonely, unsupported, overweight, homeless.

But I am also; caring, compassionate, kinky (it’s a good thing!), intelligent, cute, funny, driven, creative, determined.

I may have had everything taken from me; home, possessions, friends, health, passion, dreams, hope.

But no-one will ever take my strength.

Ever.

You can follow me on Twitter @addylake but please note, due to my situation and lack of 24/7 internet access, tweets are sporadic.


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031. Friendship, Anxiety and Isolation (Stream of Consciousness)

The 365 Day Challenge…a blogging endeavour I began when I restarted this blog a few months ago lasted all of thirty days before my depression cruelly yanked me from the keyboard and into the abyss of self-hate and worthlessness.

Given I was supposed to post each and every day for a year, it has obviously failed, but as this blog is about rediscovering who I once was I shall continue where I left off and hope no-one noticed :p

Today’s prompt is ‘a bit about your social life outside of your blog’.

So…

…ummm…

…errrrrr….

…bollocks!

I have no social life outside of my blog. I have no social life period. That much should be common knowledge for anyone who has had even a cursory glance around these pages. My tally of friends is zero. My family lives on the other side of the world. My budget is so tight I have no chance of going anywhere or doing anything to make new friends. In other words, I am a monumental joke, the very definition of a sad, pathetic, loser.

Yay, me!

It wasn’t always like this.

When I was a child, growing up in the rather odd little town of Portlethen, I had several friends. We would go on cinema trips to Aberdeen; Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Who Framed Roger Rabbit being stand-outs. We would play on a giant pile of mud, pretending we were wolves and then getting epic bollockings when we got home caked in smelly dirt and grime. We would play Curbie (a random game where you throw a ball and try to hit the edge of the curb), football and British Bulldogs. I even had a crush on the local hottie and, slipping on the rose-tinted glasses, it may even have been reciprocated.

But then we moved.

And then my sister’s mental illness hit.

Swiftly followed by the initial collapse of my mind.

So whilst my school mates were gallivanting around drinking, having random sexual encounters and generally acting as if they were living in a 90s version of Skins – I was sitting in my room self-harming, writing random fictional stories and having odd conversations with a hallucinated faerie called Meadhbe. All of which reduce the chance of making friends and having a social life!

In the late 1990s I decided to spank my faerie into submission and tackle both my social anxiety and self-esteem issues. Throwing my life into backpack I headed off into the wilds of Scotland where I ended up in a backpacker hostel. I remained there for four months, cunningly pretending I was part of a social network where in reality I didn’t share a single iota of information about myself, caught in a cycle of fear that were any of them to know how pathetic I was, they’d never talk to me again. But, in spite of this, the weekly drinking marathons, late night conversations, cinema trips with people, excursions and random Highland based shenanigans were excellent fun.

And then came Canada.

And then came a relationship.

And then came a year of isolated hell whilst my girlfriend did whatever she fancied not caring a jot about how I felt.

And then came Australia.

And then, four years later, an actual social network with actual human beings whom I actually shared personal information with. Not everything, I was still adamant they would despise my existence were they to know the true extent of my madness. But there were trivia nights, binge drinking sessions, long conversations in pubs with fireplaces, cheap pizza, sharing of anecdotes, shopping trips, cinema visits and the whole gauntlet of wonderful fuzzy bunny feelings that being part of a social network brings.

And then came the abuse.

And then came the breakdown.

And then came the mania.

And then came the isolation.

From then, five years ago, nothing has really been the same. A couple of days with Sammi, a few months trying to reconnect with an old friend before I screwed up, a terrible decision to move to the desert, a relationship doomed to fail because of my own inadequacies.

And then nothing.

I cannot recall the last time I was touched.

I cannot recall the last time someone called just to talk to me instead of wanting me to help them.

I cannot recall the last time I spent time with anyone.

The circle of life has returned me to those long, painful teenage years of nothing and nobody but hallucinations and an anxiety so severe I cannot even comment on websites let alone maintain conversations with actual, living, human beings.

For a while I tried to use Twitter to re-engage with society, but that fell apart when the depression hit and I haven’t returned there for months. I was also a member of a social networking site (that shall remain nameless) where I attempted to connect with people of a shared interest, but once again, since the depression hit and my anxiety escalated to uncontrollable levels, I haven’t returned – despite enjoying my time there tremendously.

In both cases I am too afraid to go back. How do I explain my months of absence? How do I explain my complete lack of a life?

People say it is easier to find a job when you already have one. Ditto for housing. The same goes for friends. If you have friends you are more likely to find yourself invited to parties and social events where you are more likely to find yourself in a position to talk to new people. Plus, regular contact with others improves your ability to communicate (see my backpacking years, and the social network in Australia period) than if you were to be, say, living in a park for three years talking to hallucinated faeries and going completely insane.

My parents believe the isolation has caused more damage than the bipolar. Something I agree with. I like to think I’m not a bad person. I like to think I’m creative, passionate, interesting, caring and…and…even as I wrote those words my inner demons are instantly dismissing them as crap.

Like others I’ve tried to befriend over the years have said. What’s wrong with me? There has to be something pretty darned wrong with me to have no-one in my life who cares whether I live or die. And there lies the problem. The moment people discover I have no friends, their mind races around trying to figure out why I don’t – usually, as I do, settling on the he’s just an evil, worthless human being.

I would love to have a social life.

I would love to have friends.

I would love to reconnect with the world.

But with my anxiety off the charts, my mental health unsupported, my inability to trust anyone (including myself) since the abusive relationship and my determination to convince myself I’m the worst human being that has ever lived (again, a product of the abuse)…I have no idea what to do but remain alone.

Like my abuser said, my voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone I talk to, thus, I should kill myself to end the agony I bring to everyone.

When you don’t love yourself, when you don’t believe in yourself, when you don’t trust yourself, how can you create a social life? How do I get past the anxiety and find a way to talk to people again? What can I do to beat down the walls I’ve created to protect myself?

I honestly have no idea – and until I can find one – I can’t see me having any social life other than the isolated one I’ve been living.

This post was written as a stream of consciousness between 9:59 and 10:22. Please excuse any spelling, grammatical and woe-is-me depressive whining. I know it’s my fault I don’t have any friends and I’m trying to correct it, I just don’t know how.