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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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 01

The first day of the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
How long have you been self harming? Discuss why you started.

The first time I self-harmed I was in my bedroom in the hours after a particularly difficult day at school. I was thirteen years old and at the time I was being bullied, made to feel humiliated for having a crush on a girl at school and struggling to manage my school work with the demands of my sister (and I’s) developing mental illness(es).

Unsure of how to cope with my internal pain, I decided to cut my leg with the pointy end of a protractor I was using to complete my maths homework. Although it drew a little blood, the damage was relatively insignificant, especially in relation to the emotional release I received from the action; which was insurmountable.

From then on my quest to physicalise my emotional pain became a regular fixture in my life. After bad days I would secrete myself in my bedroom and assault myself with an ever-increasing array of implements. I stayed with the protractor for a while before moving to small scissors, large scissors and then knives. I experimented with hitting myself, then burning myself with a cigarette lighter, but always returned to cutting as nothing else came close to giving me the emotional release I desired.

Even now – twenty-two years later (blimey, has it really been that long!) – cutting is the means of self-harm I return to most frequently, despite becoming more creative and experimental in the intervening years.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Master List

Recently, Marci from Marci, Mental Health and More posted a 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge she discovered on the TeenLineOnline forum. As I am trying to blog more frequently than I have of late (and as my recent depressive episode has seen a return to self-harm behaviour) I’ve decided the time is right to take on this challenge.

Below is the master list of topics you can expect to see covered over the coming weeks:

  1. How long have you been self harming? Discuss why you started.
  2. What part of your body is most affected by it?
  3. What is your motivation to recover?
  4. Do you consider yourself “addicted”? Why or why not?
  5. What part of self harm do you dislike the most?
  6. What about it do you enjoy?
  7. List 10 activities that help you calm down.
  8. What the most supportive thing anyone has said to you about self harm?
  9. Have you ever taken pictures of your wounds? Discuss.
  10. How do you feel about your scars?
  11. Strangest place (school, park, etc) you’ve ever injured yourself?
  12. Where do you keep your ‘tools’? (Your room, in a box, disposed of them?)
  13. What is the biggest realization about self harm you’ve had?
  14. Is there anyone you consider to be an inspiration in your recovery?
  15. Do you visit any websites about self harm? If so, what are they?
  16. What advice would you give to someone about self harm?
  17. Do you know anyone else who injures themselves?
  18. Write a letter to the future (recovered) you.
  19. List 5 reasons that recovery is worth it.
  20. What is the most vivid memory you have of self harm.
  21. Have you tried to stop in the past? What are you doing differently this time?
  22. Where do you feel the most calm?
  23. What is your favorite inspirational quote?
  24. What are some of your main triggers? Why?
  25. Do you know any statistics about self harm?
  26. What is something that makes you the most happy?
  27. Discuss any and all progress you have made.
  28. What short-term goals do you have?
  29. Do you follow any self-harm blogs?
  30. Post your favorite picture of yourself and write a positive message to look back on.


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Sunday Stealing: The Not So Manly Meme

Welcome to Sunday Stealing. Here we will steal all types of memes from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent memes.

Today we ripped off a blogger named CV Rickfrom the blog CVRick Ninja Writer. He states that he got it from Alan, via Mrs. Chili. But, it was probably stolen there as well. So, of course, that will be as far as we go. Tracing back our theft’s thieves might take some time.

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1. Boxers? Briefs? Boxer briefs? Thongs? Bikinis? Commando?

One of my longest (and biggest) pet peeves is the choice women have when it comes to underwear. All those styles, cuts, shapes and colours have long been a source of great envy from this rather obscure little man.

There’s me, trying to choose between black boxer shorts, black with grey stripes boxer shorts or plain (read: boring) coloured briefs whilst secretly watching women out the corner of my eye choosing from underwear in all the colours of the rainbow and then some.

If I wasn’t so anxious I’d just march over and choose some of these awesome colours to wear myself! Other people’s opinion be damned!

Fortunately, in recent years a slight shift has occurred. Men do now have a (slight) choice over colours. We also have Batman underwear, Avengers underwear and Angry Birds underwear.

But women still have a much wider array of options when it comes to undergarments and that still make me insanely jealous!

…but to answer your original question, I wear boxers. The most colourful ones I can find! :p

2. What’s your fussiest personal care routine?

Shaving. It takes forever!

Hence why I don’t do it all that frequently!

3. Do you have a favorite tool? Power or manual?

No. Unless you count: pens, pencils, brushes, whittling knives and other artistic implements.

4. Can you change your own oil? Do you?

Nope. I don’t drive, I’ve never had a license and I couldn’t change my own oil to save my life.

Although, thinking about it. If I did need to change my own oil to save my life I’m reasonably confident I’d be able to figure it out. It can’t be that difficult.

5. What’s the “manliest / ‘womanliest” thing you do on a regular basis?

Manliest: Urinate standing up.

Womanliest: Urinate sitting down.

6. What’s something “manly” that you never learned how to do?

Be violent toward a woman.

No, scratch that.

There is absolutely nothing manly about being violent toward a woman…and the more people begin to realize that, the better this world will become.

7. Do you ever cry? If so, what’s your trigger?

I was reliably informed by my abuser that men are not (and are never) allowed to cry under any circumstances (including but not limited to: diagnosis of serious terminal illnesses, the loss of a relationship, the end of Monsters Inc and death; be it your own or someone elses!)

I was reliably informed by my abuser that men must bottle everything up until they can’t take any more and implode with a breakdown of epic proportions.

I was reliably informed by my abuser that men are not attractive when they cry.

Because, you know, women are so hot when they’re bawling their eyes out!

But in spite of all this I do cry because I’m human. And as a human I’m allowed to cry should my emotions demand it. It is after all a wonderful way to release emotions.

Some of my triggers are:

• Loneliness and isolation; five years alone is reason enough to bawl your eyes out.
• The aforementioned end of that animated classic.
• Death.
• The end of relationships with people I am in love with.
• Finales of much-loved television shows (see: Chuck, One Tree Hill and Doctor Who)
• Pain (the more severe the pain, the more likely I am to cry)

8. Do you have a chivalrous streak? How does it manifest itself?

I open doors for people, I pay for dinner, I buy random gifts for no reason other than I see something my partner (or friends, family, colleagues) would like. I hold the elevator, help people cross the road, pick up dropped groceries and lots of other insanely selfless things I do because I’m tired of the self-absorbed, selfish direction that this world is headed.

9. Do you have a chauvinistic streak? How does it manifest itself?

I like to think I only have a chauvinistic streak when I’m not myself (i.e. manic).

It tends to manifest with an insatiable desire to slap unknown women on the ass, talk to them for insane periods of time, having wildly kinky sex in inappropriate locations (i.e. geographically, not biologically!) before moving on to the next bar to slap unknown women on the ass, talk to them for insane periods of time, have wildly kinky sex in appropriate locations (i.e. five star hotels) before moving on to the…you get the idea.

I don’t like it. I’m not proud of it. I hate myself for what I do. And I’d rather not do it.

10. What’s your favorite movie?

Hmmmm, cunning :)

Will men write something action orientated, violent and full of gigantic transforming robots and tiny little denim shorts clinging to womanly hips?

Will women write romantic orientated, gushy and full of soft focused kisses and Ryan Gosling?

Well, in fear of portraying myself as more manly than I am…Fight Club. Not because of the fights and the testosterone and the beating the crap out of each other. But because Fight Club is the work of a director at the top of his game; the editing, cinematography, stylized CGI sex scene, fourth wall breaking, the reveal.

Everything about this film is inspirational, beautifully realized and absolutely unique.

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11. What’s the dumbest, testosterone-inspired thing you’ve ever seen?

Jackass, drunk Collingwood fans, 80s action movies and FPS war styled video games.

12. What quality do you think makes a good man good? Do you have that quality?

Selflessness, honesty, loyalty. I do think I have those qualities…but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

13. Toilet seat up or down?

Down. Seriously, it’s not that difficult! It takes about half-a-second for fuckssake.

14. If your significant other is away, do you cook for yourself or eat out of cans and boxes (or rely on local drive-throughs and delivery)?

If you rely on your significant other to do all your cooking, then you seriously need to review your approach to love and relationships. We are no longer in the 1950s. We do not live in an era where women are chained to the kitchen to cook the nightly dinner for the man they love and nor do we ever want to return to such a chauvinistic, misogynistic era ever again.

Cooking, like all household chores, should be shared between both partners. Why not do it together? Who knows where steaming veggies and spicy curries could lead?

So, yes, I do cook for myself.

15. What societal expectation of being a man / women do you most resent?

Women: I hate that women feel the need to wear vast quantities of make-up whenever they leave the house, even if it’s just to buy a pint of milk. Personally I prefer natural beauty (i.e. no make-up) and have always been happy that my first (and longest) relationship was with a woman who never wore make-up. Ever.

But writing that I am reminded of the biggest expectation that women do which annoys me. And that is shaving. Particularly their pubic hair. There is nothing (absolutely nothing) ugly about pubic hair and personally, I love it. So let’s quit with the Brazilians and the waxing and celebrate genital regions that don’t look like pre-pubescent schoolgirls.

Men: That I’m always supposed to make the first move. That I’m supposed to love drinking beer. That I’m supposed to enjoy sports. That I’m supposed to never cry, ever. That I’m supposed to know everything about automobiles. That I’m supposed to look like Ryan Gosling at all times. Basically, everything!

But more than anything, I hate the societal expectation (and blatant, grotesque stereotype) that all men are simple. WE ARE NOT! Genitalia does not define one’s complicatedness. Our minds (by far the most important organ of the body) do that!

16. What’s the best part – societal-wise – about being a man / women?

I’ve left this question until last because I couldn’t come up with an answer.

I still can’t. So…

The worst part of being a man is the lack of attention some men’s issues (such as mental health, being the victim of female-to-male abuse) receive in the mainstream media and by society in general.

The worst part of being a woman is the grotesque objectification they receive on a daily basis.

Can’t we just understand that we’re all human and treat each other accordingly? You know, with compassion, understanding, honesty and decency? Instead of continuously raging this pathetic gender war over every last bloody thing on the planet?

17. Will you stop to ask for directions?

No.

Not because I’m too ‘proud’ to do so, but because I’m way too anxious to talk to other people.

18. What’s one thing about your significant other that you just cannot understand, no matter how hard you try?

I don’t have a significant other…[sniff]…and thanks…[sniff]…for reminding me of my loneliness…[sniff]…you obviously didn’t read my list of crying…[sob]…triggers!

But from the relationships of my past, I have never understood (and never will) why my girlfriend decided to abuse me to the point of suicide and lifelong psychological damage.

19. What do you need to have in the shower?

As I’ve written in the past, men can (and do!) suffer from body image issues, sometimes extremely so. Thus, when I have a shower, I need:

• Board shorts (because I can’t shower or stand seeing myself naked)
• A T-Shirt (because I can’t shower or stand seeing myself naked)
• A scrunchie/loofah/sponge (because I don’t like touching my skin with my bare hands)
• Shower gel (because, you know, it cleans me!)
• Shampoo (because, you know, is cleans my hair)
• A razor (because I need to eradicate all back/shoulder hair)

…and yes, this is all completely irrational, embarrassing and insane. Welcome to the world of mental illness!

20. Do you burp/fart/scratch? Do you do anything stereotypically male?

Grrrrr! Every single one of my girlfriends did all of these things and more. There is nothing stereotypically male about these things as they are bodily functions that all humans do!

So yes, I do burp/fart/scratch. Not all the time, always in moderation and if I’m around other people (especially someone I like) I control my functions as best I can.

the-fart


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Collaborate, Connect and Celebrate: Social Inclusion Week 2012

Social Inclusion Week is about encouraging communities to reconnect and be inclusive of all cultures, age groups, nationalities and the disadvantaged.

Social Inclusion Week aims to help Australians feel valued and to give people the opportunity to participate fully in society.  It’s about connecting with local communities, work mates, family and friends to build relationships and networks, addressing isolation and exclusion by supporting people who may be unable [to] help themselves.

However much it pains me to admit it, I know what it’s like to be socially excluded.

I can still remember the burning tears of loneliness that streaked my face in 2007 as I was consistently rejected from social events in favour of my abuser. The years I spent living in a park without so much as a kindly smile let alone warm conversation will never be forgotten. Whilst all the abuse, mental health crises and suicide attempts I’ve endured alone will haunt me to my dying days.

In fact, it’s been so long since I was an included member of society that I have (quite literally) forgotten what it feels like to be wanted, needed, loved or considered important.

My social isolation, to many mental health professionals I’ve spoken to, is the primary cause of what has happened to me over the last five years. The problems I’ve faced, the situations I’ve found myself in, the terror that I’ve been through, are all things that most people would consider impossible to get through if not for the love of their friends. So although I commend myself for the strength and determination I’ve shown, I am still aware of the damage that this isolation has wreaked on my life.

• I no longer know how to communicate with others. Writing text messages, emails, tweets, blog posts and comments are exceedingly difficult and can, at times, take several hours and/or days to complete. The same can be said for phone calls, which I will do whatever I can to avoid. As for face-to-face contact, aside from the occasional visit to a counsellor or food bank, I have only recently begun attending social events following over four years of constant isolation (and by isolation I mean complete isolation, not, ‘I have friends but I don’t see them as often as I like’ isolation.)

When I have a problem, I veer toward unhealthy vices in order to get through it. Whilst other people turn to friends or family to talk through and/or distract them from their problems, when things get really bad, I turn to smoking, (severe) binge drinking, a flutter on the pokies or self-harm in order to bury the problem and hope it goes away…which it never does; it just makes everything worse!

The likelihood I will be employed/in a relationship again is (at this point in time) slim to none. Given it’s been so long since I’ve had a face-to-face conversation, given I’ve forgotten what it feels like to engage in society, I wouldn’t survive the interview process let alone the first day of work. As for a relationship; I am an overweight, mentally ill, socially isolated, (ex) homeless man living on the DSP. Whatever positives I possess (and they are many and numerous) are not enough to overpower the discrimination these deal-breakers produce.

My mental health has deteriorated to the point I no longer believe I can stabilise it. Leaving aside the obvious difficulty of dealing with suicidal ideation on your own (it’s not always possible to call a help-line), my self-harm, hallucinations and mood swings have become increasingly more difficult to control without distraction or support.

As for the damage the various forms of abuse have caused? I’ve written recently how the trauma has embedded itself deep within me, effecting every aspect of my self-view, personality and ability to engage in society.

So with all this in mind, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I completely support this week, for I know only too well the pain of social isolation and the long-term damage it can do to someone’s life; pain that no human being should ever have to experience.

At the end of the day, no matter our age, financial status, educational qualifications, housing situation or health, we are all human beings who need social interaction in order to survive.

For without it, we just shrivel up and die.

For more information – and to see the events occurring throughout Australia – please visit the Social Inclusion Week website.

Further Reading:

“The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia will bring the plight of Newstart recipients to the fore this Social Inclusion Week, which coincides with the handing down of a Senate Inquiry’s findings into the adequacy of the payment on Thursday.

Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said that forcing people to live on $35 a day was one of the most powerful means of achieving social exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of support programmes to help people find work.”

“Activities at the expo include traditional Indigenous games and storytelling, cubbyhouse building and you can even learn how to cook tasty, healthy and affordable meals and much more.

We will also have representatives from community groups such as Family Relationships Centre, Carer’s Queensland, Red Cross Australia, Meals on Wheels, Men’s Shed, Carebus among others.”

“This week just happens to be Social Inclusion Week, so remember, a smile or a hello at the shops might make all the difference.”


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Loneliness isn’t a destination…

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of my pet peeves. A short while later, I wrote about a few more. On both occasions I missed something that has infuriated me for years, something that I’d written about with some rare anger in the past.

Yes, I understand that people who are full-time employed with no health problems, who are part of a social network, have regular communication with society, have someone to go home to every night and whose family live in close proximity can feel lonely. I’m not completely devoid of empathy or the ability to understand basic human psychology.

However, I am left wondering if these people have an understanding of what it feels like to be really, truly, utterly alone.

In July 2007 I was assaulted and raped. Sitting in a dingy motel room the following afternoon all I wanted to do was talk to someone. I needed someone to tell me everything was going to be okay. I needed someone to tell me it wasn’t my fault. I needed someone, anyone, to show that they cared. But after an emotionally abusive relationship had torn my life to shreds and a mental breakdown had left my mind in tatters, I has no one to turn to as I couldn’t risk my abuser discovering what had happened as she would have used it against me.

In October 2007, after eight months of accumulating pain and devastation I hiked into the middle of a forest and attempted to hang myself. After being taken to the hospital by the police I was discharged twenty minutes later and told I was ‘fine’. Sitting in my dingy flat that weekend, too frightened and out-of-it to leave the couch, all I wanted was a friend, but I had no-one; not a soul.

When you have spent years living in a park dealing with daily verbal abuse, sporadic physical abuse, the occasional non-consensual golden shower from a drunken idiot and months of blacked-out confusion, you begin to understand what real, true loneliness is.

Four years after my suicide attempt in 2007, almost to the day, I staggered into a phone booth in a nondescript Australian country town. With shaking fingers I dialled 13 11 14 and waiting patiently for an operator. I’d phoned Lifeline many times before, always when I had no other choice, always when I could no longer fight the isolation and pain I was feeling, always knowing that within seconds they would trigger me into feeling ten times worse.

After telling them I was suicidal, that I wanted to die, that I wanted to erase my pathetic existence from the world, they said it:

“Perhaps you should call a friend and get them to come over? Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to distract you from these thoughts,”

“I agree,” I snapped. “If I had a friend I would call them. But I don’t. I’m homeless. I’m insane. I’ve been on my own for longer than I can remember. That’s why I want to kill myself. Because I’m f**king tired of being on my f**king own so don’t f**king tell me to call a f**king friend because that’s half the f**king problem!”

After several deep breaths I began talking (with less naughty words) about the pain that had driven me, once again, to think such bleak thoughts. There are times when I can cope with this all-consuming isolation. Having been in this position for so many years I’ve become used to spending every minute of my life by myself, I’ve convinced myself I deserve it. But from time-to-time the intense, numbing pain of being truly alone overwhelms me, drives me to plan my death and leads me toward public phone booths where I engage in humiliating conversations about my failures in life, friendship and everything in between.

Fifteen minutes into that phone call I was reduced to a trembling, sobbing, wreck. Not by the Lifeline counselor, but by the pedestrians casually enjoying their day. Like good little sadists they were relishing in the human disintegration before them. Oh, just bugger off and do it, one twentysomething male called out. Three female college students laughed at this, turned to see me, then laughed harder. Pathetic, one of them whispered at a deliberate volume.

There is nothing to hammer home the extent of your loneliness than random verbal abuse from strangers. In spite of the best efforts of the counselor, who referred me to the MH crisis team (“they’ll contact you in the next 24-48 hours”), I attempted suicide later that day.

Fortunately the attempt failed, but whenever I think of the comments those people hurled in my direction, I am reminded of my loneliness. Of my mistakes; of my failures; of the abuse I received; of all that has happened that led to this isolation.

But I am also reminded of my determination to not only pass through this place of loneliness on my journey toward recovery, but to do whatever I can to help others who have found themselves trapped in a similar, unfamiliar state. No-one deserves to live their lives alone, devoid of hugs, human contact and all the aspects of life most people take for granted.

Take it from someone who knows, a simple act of compassion can be more healing than any medication or therapy on the planet.

So why not try it today?

You can read other interpreations of today’s theme by visiting the WordPress’ Daily Post blog.

 


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Anti-Poverty Week: Poverty in Australia, a national disgrace

We set ourselves this first goal: by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.
~ Bob Hawke (launching the ALP’s election policy, 23 June 1987) ~

575,000 children or 17.3% are living below the poverty line
~ ACOSS report into poverty in Australia, 14 October 2012 ~

Earlier today I spent four hours writing a post about what it is like to live in poverty. I deleted it following a disagreement with a hallucination over the validity of two sentences. And yes, I’m more than aware of how that sounds! Why do you think I live in poverty?

Yesterday, the Australian Council of Social Services released a report that revealed 2,265,000 Australians are living in poverty. For every eight people there is one who is struggling to make ends meet and survive in a country that doesn’t care about them.

And if you think that is being over-the top:

Last week the Australian government changed their policy regarding single-parenting payments. This change will force an estimated 100,000 people onto the (already impossible to survive on) Newstart Allowance. This will reduce their overall benefit by at least $65 a week and increase the criteria they need to meet in order to receive payments; apply for so many jobs per week, attend regular personal contact interviews with Centrelink, attend regular appointments with Job Service Providers, perform numerous somersaults through flaming hoops as and when required by the Australian Government with no thought to the cost and availability of childcare in Australia.

For years, the Australian Government has steadfastly refused to increase the Newstart Allowance (which has not seen an increase in real terms since 1994) despite overwhelming support from social services, charities and homeless providers. It is currently undergoing a parliamentary enquiry.

Last year, the Australian Government implemented new Impairment guidelines in an effort to reduce the number of Disability Pension recipients. The new guidelines meant that “four out of every 10 people who qualified for the Disability Support Pension earlier this year [2011] would not qualify under the new regime”. Thus, forcing mentally and physically ill individuals to fund their treatment on the (already impossible to survive on) Newstart Allowance.

Why is all of this happening? From the point of view of someone living in poverty;

a) To ensure a budget surplus to please the voters (who matter) ahead of the 2013 election.

b) Because poverty is something that the voters (who matter) don’t understand.

c) Because poverty is a problem that requires a university-level education to fix and the current crop of Australian politicians dropped out of the education system after graduating kindergarten.

My journey into the world of poverty began in 2007 following a breakdown, serious physical health problems and multiple forms of abuse. In an eighteen month period I received no income (including benefits) and had to sell my worldly possessions in order to survive. For the three years between March 2007 – March 2010, I received seven months of income.

Since 2010 I have been existing on the Newstart allowance, with nothing to my name bar a few clothes and assorted oddments. The sole value of my assets is approximately $50 (a figure Centrelink deemed “too low” so rounded it up to $500 on their system)

In these two years I have had to balance serious mental illness (Bipolar, PTSD and severe social anxiety), physical illness and homelessness. I have had to regularly choose between accommodation, food and medication. On one occasion I had to choose between accommodation and eyewear (I chose to repair my glasses as without them, I’m blind). I am able to purchase clothes once a year; repairing the three T-shirts, two shirts and one pair of jeans I own as best I can. I have become so adept at fixing shoes with cardboard and glue I firmly believe I’m descended from Elves.

Yet through all this I’ve had to endure ill-informed abuse from Australian society, large swathes of which believe I am a lazy, good for nothing, dole bludger who deliberately chooses not to work so as to sustain my rich lifestyle courtesy of the hard-done by taxpayers. All of whom believe raising the Newstart Allowance will discourage people from looking for work as the current low payment acts as an incentive to find gainful employment.

Yet never has anyone been able to explain to me why someone willingly chooses to live $130 below the poverty line (at the current rate of the Newstart Allowance)

I have written in the past of the inadequacy of this benefit. Asking obvious questions that have yet to be sufficiently answered, such as: how does someone find a job when they can’t afford to keep a roof over their head, get a haircut or buy essential clothing, shoes, hygiene products or medication? The reality is the current rate of Newstart is acting as a disincentive to find work as it is impossible for a person to improve their own circumstances whilst entrenched in a ‘life’ of housing stress, financial insecurity and social isolation.

In the last two and a half years, although my housing situation has improved, my mental stability is now lower than it has ever been in my entire life, and yet because of rent, bills and food I cannot afford to run the heater when it’s cold or a fan if it’s too hot. I have to endlessly watch my electricity use, remembering to switch everything off before I go to bed in fear of exploding bills. I can’t go anywhere social. I can’t use public transport. I can’t even afford to fill the three urgent prescriptions I’ve had stuck to my fridge for the last two weeks. If I did, I would have to starve myself for the week and/or render myself at-risk of homelessness through non-payment of rent.

This is the life of someone living in poverty. These are the choices people in poverty have to make every day.

I’m not writing this post for pity or sympathy. In all honesty I actually have it better than most.

I (currently) have a roof over my head and although I haven’t had three meals a day since early 2007, I normally have enough food to eat a basic meal each day, even if it is just a tin of baked bins, bowl of rice or pasta, two-minute noodles or the occasional treat (once a month) of meat and fresh fruit/vegetables courtesy of the food bank.

Although it’s tough, with careful budgeting I’m able to save a dollar or two a week for a ‘treat’ every three/four months (such as a cinema outing, second-hand DVD or presents for family) and I continue to donate small amounts to charitable causes because you have to help people who are worse off than you.

In late 2009 I was sitting in a park in Melbourne with a choice to make. I could either kill myself or accept that my life was never going to get any better than this. For if I allowed myself to dream of a better future, just for a second, the pain would have torn me apart. With the intervention of a homeless man, I chose the latter.

But that ‘decision’ is something I should never have had to make. No-one should be forced to choose between suicide and a life of continuous pain and misery, but people are having to make that choice every single day.

In a country as rich and prosperous as Australia, it is a national disgrace that 12.8% of the population is ‘living’ in poverty. But this anti-poverty week Australians shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves, nor should they be engaging in a ‘debate’ over this issue.

They should be committing themselves to rectify this disgrace once and for all.