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…


31 Days of Bipolar: Day 31. Every day I think why am I still here?

Day 31: Have you attempted suicide? What, when, why, how and what did you learn?


There are many people out there who say we shouldn’t talk about suicide. Most of these people work in the media. Fortunately I don’t work in the media because I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that we should talk about suicide; as loudly as possible. We should talk about when people attempt to take their own life. We should talk about why they attempt to take their own life. And we should talk about how people attempt to take their own life. Only by talking about suicide can we begin to understand what goes on in someone’s mind when the only option they feel is left is to end it all.

I’ve been one of those people. I’ve been to a place so dark, so abysmal, so rotten with chaos and trepidation, that I felt the only route I had available was to end my own life. I’ve stood on bridges and stared into the abyss. I’ve tied nooses round my neck. I’ve consumed vast quantities of medication. And I’ve slashed at my wrists with knife and blade. On nearly a dozen occasions I’ve visited that dark place; that place where death is the only solace.

  1. November 2000: I stood on a viaduct in Glenfinnan, Scotland, eager to throw myself off
  2. March 2006: I sat on a beach in Port Fairy, ready to slash my wrists with a knife
  3. May 2007: I took an overdose of medication whilst in the safety of my bedroom
  4. October 2007: I attempted to hang myself in the midst of a rainforest
  5. January 2008: I cut my wrists with a knife in the middle of a public park
  6. June 2008: I swallowed dozens of tablets in the non-safety of a hostel dorm room
  7. May 2009: saw me so close to death I don’t like talking about it
  8. November 2009: I fashioned a noose out of clothing to cease my homeless existence
  9. Mid 2010: lost to homelessness, I hacked at my wrists with blunt sticks whilst living in a park
  10. October 2011: I used my belt to hang myself from a tree, in the wilderness of the Australian bush
  11. December 2011: I attempted to decapitate and dismember myself on a railway track


And on each occasion I failed. In whatever attempt I was taking to end my pointless existence, I failed. And even though some people don’t like talking about suicide with those words – failed, succeeded – I do, because my desire to end my own life was so strong, so powerful, that I felt I had failed. All I wanted in each of those eleven moments was my death. I no longer wanted to live. I no longer wanted to breathe the air or feel the rain on my face. All I wanted was to die. To no longer exist. To end my worthless, useless, insignificant life. In fact, the desire for death was so strong, so powerful, that I am surprised I am still alive to type these words.

By all accounts, I should be dead. I often talk of 11 October 2007 as the day I should have died. The same could be said for May 2009 and October 2011. All three attempts were so solid, so thought out, that I am amazed I failed. I am well and truly stunned that I was able to keep breathing beyond those dates. In fact, the only reason I am still alive is because of the fundamental lesson I’ve learned over the years. It may sound simple to end your own life, but the reality is starkly different. In fact, ending your own life is the hardest, most complicated and difficult thing you could ever attempt. There is nothing simple about killing yourself; unless you’ve done your homework, unless you’ve thought of every angle, you will fail; and rightly so.

For that is the other lesson I have learnt from all my suicide attempts; there is always something worth living for. It may not be something you’ve considered. It may be something as simple as a scent, a taste or sight. But there is always something that should be powerful enough to keep you breathing. On one occasion, for me, it was the desire to not die a virgin. Whilst on another occasion, it was the desire to look upon another beautiful female posterior. Both desires prevented me from successfully ending my own life. Both desires were enough to convince me to keep living.

So if you do ever find yourself staring into that abyss, try to find that one thing powerful enough to keep you breathing. It may be so you can hug your kitten again. It may be the desire to taste Vegemite on toast once more. It may be as simple as not wanting to die in the dodgy underwear you’re wearing. There will always be something, buried deep down in the bottom of your mind, that will keep you wanting to breathe. That will make life feel lively again. So just find that something and hold onto it as tightly as you can, for you really don’t want to kill yourself; it’s harder than you think.

I have written extensively about all my suicide attempts in two previous posts, which you are more than welcome to read:


31 Days of Bipolar: Day 30. My quest for the magic cocktail of medication

Day 30: What meds are you on now? Have you found your ‘magic cocktail’?


My current medication regime consists of:

  • Anti-psychotic: Solian (100mg/daily)
  • Anti-psychotic: Olanzapine (10mg/daily)
  • Anti-depressant: Fluoxetine (60mg/daily)

For those of you familiar with bipolar medications, you will notice a glaring omission from this list, namely a mood stabiliser. Up until January 2015 I was taking 1000mg/daily of Sodium Valproate (Epilim), but this was cessated upon the discovery that it had caused a rather nasty bout of pancreatitis. Since then, my doctor has been hesitant to introduce a new mood stabiliser into the mix. Partly because he is fearful of causing a return of my pancreatitis, partly because the only other option, Lithium, has a negative reaction when used in conjunction with Fluoxetine. So instead of introducing this a new mood stabiliser, he has been attempting to fix the mood fluctuations I’ve experienced since ending the Sodium Valproate by tweaking my other medications. In fact, over the last several weeks I have had my dosage of Fluoxetine increased twice in a valiant attempt to assist my increased depression and anxiety. As such, there has been little to no change, but I hold out hope that something will happen in the coming weeks.

Without a mood stabiliser, which I am adamant I need, it is fairly safe to assume I have yet to find my ‘magic cocktail’. Even when Sodium Valproate was part of the mix, I felt I was still missing something when it came to my medication. My moods still fluctuated. My depression still raged. Personally, the best drug I ever took for my bipolar was Lithium, which I took for some time in 2011 before it was cessated by the psychiatrist who destroyed my faith in the profession. He, without even exploring how it had affected me, decided that no medication would benefit me so immediately withdrew it from my treatment strategy; something I have never (repeat: never) forgiven him for. When I was on Lithium I was far more cohesive, far more present, far more able to control my moods and manage my behaviour, more so than I was ever able to do on Sodium Valproate.

After the Sodium Valproate was stopped I begged my GP to restart me on Lithium but because he didn’t want to interrupt my Fluoxetine, he denied me the possibility. I understand why he did that. I have no ill-will toward him. But given the positive effect Lithium had had on me in 2011, I feel we missed a trick. Personally, I would sacrifice the Fluoxetine for Lithium, but when it comes to my medication, I don’t really have a say.

Over the last few weeks I have been discussing with my support worker the possibility of seeing a psychiatrist in order for them to undertake a comprehensive review of my medication. The only problem with this is that I have no faith in the profession, courtesy of the last psychiatrist I saw. So to see a psychiatrist would require a lot of strength, a lot of confidence and a lot of advocating from my support worker. But who knows, perhaps it will happen, perhaps in a few months I will have a whole new mix of medication to take, perhaps then I will be one step closer to my ‘magic cocktail’.


31 Days of Bipolar: Day 28. I suffer from bipolar; and I am not ashamed of that!

Day 28: To what extent do you tell people that you’re bipolar, and why?


Perhaps it was down to my overly honest nature, perhaps it was down to my overly naive nature, but from the moment I was diagnosed back in 2007 it never once occurred to me that I should hide my diagnosis from people. Almost from the get go I was announcing my diagnosis to the world, I was wearing my bipolar diagnosis as a badge of honor, as a means to explain my erratic and (at times) terrifying behaviour. I was never proud to be bipolar, it was never something that I wanted to be, but the moment I was diagnosed my life made sense. All the times I had been zipping around in a manic state of hedonism and misogyny. All the times I had found myself staring into the abyss of depression. All the times my moods had changed at the blink of an eye; one minute feeling immortal, the next painfully mortal and morbidly so. Everything was explained with those three words that would, unquestionably, change my life; bipolar affective disorder.

I remember writing my initial blog post about bipolar shortly after my initial diagnosis. Back then I knew next to nothing about the illness other than the brief synopsis my psychiatrist had given. It was something that scared me, something that confused me, but never something I felt I had to run from. I wanted people to know I was bipolar. I wanted them to know there was a reason that my behaviour had been, at times, odd and disconcerting. I wanted people to understand that everything could be explained by that one, seemingly, inconsequential word. It wasn’t until much later that I would learn this was the wrong thing to do. That it would find my life eclipsed by stigma and discrimination. That forevermore I would be branded with that word as if it were a bad thing; which it isn’t, in any sense of the word.

The moment I learned this was in late 2008. A few months earlier I had been lost to the midst of a hypomanic phase. A hypomanic phase that had seen me take a job in Alice Springs and rampage around that desert town for a few weeks, before setting my eyes on one woman; Diane. It wasn’t an immediate connection, but my hypomania craved to be with her. I needed to be with her. She was, at that moment, one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever laid eyes on and my hypomanic fueled hyper-sexuality was hell-bent on conquering this ravishing challenge. When we eventually ended up in bed together – within days of actually meeting – we lay there the following morning chattering and nattering away. She told me she had problems with depression; I told her I was bipolar. Just like that. No fanfare, no build up, no long drawn out period of contemplation. I just calmly informed her I was bipolar as if telling her the weather was sunny or that I fancied scrambled eggs for breakfast. It never occurred to me that I should lie about my diagnosis. It never occurred to me that it was something I shouldn’t be telling someone straightaway. Like I said, I wanted people to know I was bipolar; it wasn’t something I was ashamed of.

Until that fateful day in late 2008. Diane and I had been ostensibly living together for three months. And one afternoon, after battling for several hours on the tracks of Mario Kart, we were nonchalantly talking on the sofa over a beverage of cold water. We talked about Alice Springs. We talked about the early days of our relationship. We talked about the moment I had lain in bed and, matter of factly, announced I was bipolar. Diane told me that afternoon she had been surprised by what I’d said; that she felt it was something I should have not said. When I questioned her as to why, she said it was something that I shouldn’t be proud of, that it was something that was, in her opinion, “frightening”. I had never looked at my diagnosis in this way before. It was always something I had thought explained my behaviour. It was always something that I had never thought to be scared of, despite the numerous instances of bad press that bipolar receives. Diane went on to tell me that most people with bipolar are vicious, violent human beings. That most people with bipolar hid their illness for good reason. That most people with bipolar weren’t so quick to readily divulge their condition.

She was quick to tell me she didn’t consider me one of the vicious, violent human beings she had mentioned. Few people who actually get to know me think of me in this way, because, quite frankly, you have a higher likelihood of being attacked by your teddy bear than me. But she was scared of who else I would tell, in case other people leapt to conclusions about who I was, in case other people branded me with the word bipolar without getting to know the me that she had gotten to know. When I asked her if I shouldn’t have told her, she said “yes, sometimes I wish you hadn’t told me.”

And those words have stayed with me. That whole conversation has stayed with me. As it made me question everything I had previously believed. That I should hide who I am – lie to people – in order to save wrongful conclusions or judgmental opinion. Even though I wasn’t ashamed to be bipolar, even though I considered it something that people should be able to talk about freely, I began withholding this information from all and sundry; all because I didn’t want them branding me with a word, and a set of behavioral issues, that didn’t necessarily apply to me.  I wanted people to see me, not the person they assumed I would be if they discovered I was bipolar.

So for years I kept it a closely guarded secret. I rarely wrote about bipolar on my blog. I never talked about it in polite company. All through the early months of my homelessness, I would even keep it hidden from support workers whose job it was to help and assist me. Surely they would have been able to do a far better job had they known I was bipolar; but I didn’t tell them because i didn’t want them drawing the wrong conclusions. I didn’t want anyone drawing the wrong conclusions. That conversation with Diane had shamed me into hating an aspect of myself that I shouldn’t be ashamed of, and one day, one nonchalant, uneventful day, I realised that.

Sitting there, in my park, I was thinking about my friend Samantha and something she used to tell me. She used to tell me that my kink was “just one small stitch in the multicoloured tapestry that was me”; it wasn’t something to be afraid of, on the contrary, it was something to celebrate. And sitting there, in my park, it suddenly dawned on me what I’d always known, that my bipolar was exactly the same. To hell with people who judged me harshly because they felt one word described my entire personality. To hell with people who wanted to brand me with the word for the rest of time. They didn’t matter, their opinion didn’t matter. All that mattered was me, and what I thought; and I didn’t care that I was bipolar, I never had. It wasn’t something I was proud of, but it was also something I wasn’t ashamed of.

So from that moment on I have told people I suffer from bipolar. I haven’t brought it up in conversation, I haven’t blurted it out to everyone who would listen, but I haven’t hidden it if it has come up. If someone asks, I tell them. If it is raised in conversation, then I openly talk about it. And to hell with what people think. Because, quite frankly, if they can’t handle it, if they decide to judge me without reason, then that’s their problem not mine.

People shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of their illnesses, physical or mental. It is not something we chose to suffer from and it is not something that describes who we are. They are just aspects of our selves, aspects that should be talked about, that should be shared, if only to lessen the stigma and discrimination attached to them. People should be free to discuss their mental illness without fear of what other people think, and the only way we will reach a point in society when it isn’t stigmatized, when it isn’t discriminated against, is when people can say “I suffer from bipolar” or “I suffer from schizophrenia” without fear of retaliation. And the only way we will achieve this is by talking about it, openly, honestly and as loudly as humanly possible.

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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 17. What if bipolar was a real thing?

Day 17: If bipolar was a real thing or being, what would it look, sound and behave like?

bipolar creature

An alternative, and slightly more artistic, interpretation of the theme.

I’ve never really been very good at these ‘visualize your illness’ exercises. Not because I’m not creative, but because I fail to see what good it can do. A mental illness isn’t a real, living and breathing thing, nor is it something that can be picked up on a CT scan or ultrasound. It is invisible. It cannot be seen. Only felt. So what is the point of visualizing your illness as a creature or being; it’s not going to help, it’s not going to change a damn thing.

But. In the spirit of answering the prompts in this challenge to the best of my ability, let’s see what I can come up with.

Would bipolar be a monster? All slime and fangs and grotesque, dribbling orifices? Would it be a chirpy little woodland-esque creature? All fur, blinking eyes with a cute squeaky voice? Or would it be something from the realm of mythology? A hybrid animal with the body of a lion and the head of a hawk?


Bipolar would not be any of these things.

Bipolar would be a shape-shifter.

In depression mode bipolar would be a burrowing creature; all hardened scales, tough claws and unblinking, blind eyes. Imagine a mole the size of a wombat. A creature destined to spend its days deep beneath the earth, living a solitary, lonely life. A life so unremarkable that no-one has even thought to name the creature. It just exists. Seen fleetingly when it rises to the surface to forage for bugs to eat or grass to nibble on.

But in manic mode bipolar would be something else entirely; a humanoid with the physique of a supermodel, all hardened abs, rippling biceps and a long, flowing mane of hair. It’s flesh would be impenetrable. It’s skin immune to anything man-made, including the mythical silver bullet of werewolf slaying fame. It would be a creature of tremendous intelligence, highly manipulative and driven by a firm, unwavering belief in its own superiority. Never before has a creature existed as perfect as this. Physically, mentally and emotionally it is unlike anything that has ever existed. Unique.

But when it least expects it, it can change back to the burrowing, nameless creature that is rarely, if ever, noticed. It’s life once again devoid of point; endlessly burrowing through the earth in its quest to remain as unseen and irrelevant as it believes, deep down, that it is.

Such is the heady life of the bipolar creature; nothingness and solitude one day, perfection and partying the next.

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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 16. My best possible treatment strategy

Day 16: If you could plan the best possible treatment strategy for your bipolar self, what would it look like?


The only treatment strategy that I’ve ever had for my bipolar self is medication. I’ve never had a psychiatrist monitoring my moods. I’ve never had a psychologist offering me sage-like wisdom and I’ve never had a team of nurses keeping an eye on the intricacies of my mental ill-health. For some reason the powers that be decided that I have to deal with bipolar affective disorder all on my lonesome, not that I’m bitter or jealous, it has proven to me countless times how strong (and stubborn) I am. But there are times I wish I didn’t have to go it alone, that I had someone to help me with the roller-coaster moods that make up my life, which is why my best possible treatment strategy would start with a psychiatrist.

Now, after my last appointment with a psychiatrist, I’m not exactly overflowing with warmth and trust for people in this particular profession. In fact, you could go so far as to say I despise anyone who pulls on a white coat and decides that their opinion is going to govern someone’s life, but I can’t hide the fact that I believe I need a psychiatrist. Not just someone to correctly monitor my medication intake, but someone with whom I can discuss the intricacies of my life in the hope of finding answers and insight to all the niggling things that nag at my inner-being. Or maybe I just want a psychiatrist because other people have one, and find their input toward their mental health, to be invaluable. Either way, a psychiatrist that I admire and trust would be the starting point to my best possible treatment strategy.

A best possible treatment strategy that would continue with a support worker with whom I had a valuable and trustworthy relationship. A support worker with whom I could discuss things outside of the psychiatrist’s control. A support worker who could accompany me to appointments, advocate on my behalf and help me fight the demons that plague my soul. A support worker who could assist me with DBT, mindfulness and exposure therapy. If I were designing my ‘perfect’ treatment strategy, I know who this support worker would be, because for a short time in 2013-14 she was my support worker, but a funding cut ripped her out of my life and left me the poorer for it.

The next part of my best possible treatment strategy would be a medication regime that worked; not one that has just been throw together because it has worked for other people. A medication regime that included anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers. A medication regime similar to the one I was on prior to the mood stabilizers causing acute pancreatitis, a side effect that resulted in them being torn from my life and replaced with nothing.

The fourth part of my best possible treatment strategy would be a series of psychosocial rehabilitation groups. A program of activities that would prevent me from being socially isolated, teach me new coping mechanisms and allow me interaction with other human beings who were facing similar issues to myself. This would be an intrinsic part of my treatment strategy, and one that my support worker would assist me in undertaking should my anxiety prove too strong or uncontrollable.

Lastly, my best possible treatment strategy, would contain something that has been missing from my life for so long I’ve all but forgotten what it feels like; friendship. I’ve long believed that friends are more potent and powerful than even the strongest medication when it comes to fighting mental illness. Having one person talk to you, spend time with you, show an interest in your life, can re-program your brain chemistry and make everything you battle on a daily basis feel worthwhile. Having that one person care, having that one person show you love, can work miracles.

But like I said, I have been deemed unworthy of having these things. I have been sentenced to battle bipolar affective disorder and other mental illnesses all on my lonesome. So writing about what treatment I would like is painful, it tugs at my very heart and renders me in physical pain, for I know deep down that I will never receive it. Any of it. It’s just the way things are for me.

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31 Days of Bipolar: Days 12 & 13. The good, the bad and the ugly

Day 12. Who was/is your favourite doctor (any kind) and why?
Day 13. Who was your least favourite doctor and why?


I’ve decided to answer these two prompts together, not because I’m trying to rush through the challenge, but because I like things being in balance. The good with the bad, the yin with the yang, etc. etc. Over the years that I’ve been seeking treatment for my mental health issues (the first doctor I saw about it was in 2001) I’ve had many (many) bad experiences with doctors, in fact, I’ve had far more bad experiences than good. But the chief suspect, the most despicable example of a “doctor” that I’ve ever come across was a psychiatrist I encountered in December 2011.

We got off to a bad start. The first thing he ever said to me was “it’s impossible to suffer from multiple mental illnesses” (referring to my previous diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder, social anxiety and PTSD) and when I questioned him on this, he informed me “how am I supposed to know what to treat?” Now, my sister had received a multiple diagnosis twenty years earlier in the mid-nineties, and I had received a multiple diagnosis on multiple occasions over several years, so I wanted to scream at him “you treat them all you dumb ass!” but I didn’t, as my anxiety prevented it.

Things deteriorated from there. He informed me, very matter of factly, that I should have understood the complexities of my sister’s mental illness upon her initial diagnosis and therefore it was my fault I allowed her illness to affect me the way it had. Now, I was twelve when my sister was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. No-one explained to me what it was. No-one explained to me what was happening. And no-one explained to me why she was all of a sudden screaming at me for being contagious. But, according to this “psychiatrist” I should have instantaneously understood what anorexia nervosa is (I’ve met adults who don’t understand it), how it affects someone (I know many adults that don’t understand what anorexia nervosa can do) and what can happen as a result (again, I know adults who couldn’t tell you this). So how was I supposed to understand it at the tender age of twelve? According to this “psychiatrist” I should have done, and because I didn’t, he blamed me for the onset of my depression.

If you think things couldn’t get much worse, they did. He went on to inform me that I couldn’t possibly be suffering from bipolar affective disorder because (a) I had never been hospitalised and (b) I didn’t have any children. Yes, you read that right. My “psychiatrist” informed me that I could not possibly be suffering from bipolar affective disorder because I hadn’t fathered any children. A symptom that I have never seen listed in the DSM, but according to this “psychiatrist” exists. Also, his obsession with my lack of hospitalization ran through the entire appointment. According to him if I had bipolar affective disorder I would have been hospitalised at some point. The simple fact that I should have been hospitalised but the health services let me down, escaped him. In fact, I can think of six occasions in 2007 alone that I should have been hospitalised, not including the occasion that I basically begged a mental health team to hospitalize me because I was terrified I was going to kill myself, but they refused because “I wasn’t a danger to other people”. But, this “psychiatrist” ignored all of that.

And when you think things couldn’t get any worse, you’d be wrong, for this “psychiatrist” ended our consultation with the quality line “you’re playacting mental illness in order to escape homelessness”. That’s right. When I was thirteen years old I decided to begin self-harming during a nasty depressive episode because I knew that in fifteen years time I would end up homeless on the other side of the world! This “psychiatrist” didn’t take PTSD into account (at all) despite my abusive relationship, being raped or living on the streets for three years! And given that most people who are homeless are suffering from at least one mental illness (remember, multiple diagnoses are impossible) to state that I was playacting mental illness was grossly ignorant and borderline dangerous.

He ended the consultation by immediately stopping all medication that had been prescribed to me a month earlier by a different psychiatrist. One who had taken my history seriously and medicated accordingly. The primary medication I was taking at the time was lithium, which anyone with any knowledge of this drug will know, is incredibly dangerous to just stop all of a sudden. But that’s exactly what this “psychiatrist” did.

The man (I can’t bring myself to call him a doctor) was ignorant, uncaring, arrogant, borderline sociopathic, narcissistic and downright abusive. He caused weeks of untold pain and torment, triggered a suicide attempt and, because of the lack of medication, caused me to become delusional and psychotic. Because of him I refuse to have anything to do with mental health services and psychiatrists in general. Even though I desperately need one. Because of him I do not trust any mental health or medical professional. Because of him my mental health has suffered. Period.

On the flip-side to this “psychiatrist” is my current GP, who is easily one of the best doctors I’ve ever had, as evidenced by the first appointment I had with him. My support worker at the time was in attendance and the topic of hearing voices came up. I explained to him that I heard multiple voices and, although they caused me grief, were not something I was worried too much about as they had been with me since I was a teenager. He didn’t try to medicate them. He didn’t tell me I needed to stop communicating with them. He just accepted that they were a part of who I was. This non-medical approach he took to my voices endeared me to the man almost instantly, and over the last two years, we’ve created a wonderful relationship.

He monitors my medication effectively, constantly informing me of any changes and what side effects I should expect if he introduces a new medication. He keeps up to date with blood tests, treats my illnesses with respect and doesn’t allow them to define who I am as a person. On most occasions that I see him, he remembers what we had been talking about during our last consultation, preventing me from recapping what we had talked about, which is a tremendous relief to my anxiety. He is caring. He is compassionate. He is kind. He is understanding. He is everything that the “psychiatrist” was not.

If it weren’t for this doctor I wouldn’t have the support that I have, and I will be forever thankful for finding him. Having quality support from medical professionals is quintessential to someone’s recovery from mental illness. We all need someone we can trust to talk to about what is happening to us. That “psychiatrist” was not this person. My current GP is. Without him I would be nothing. And I hope everyone suffering from mental ill-health can find someone they can rely on in the way that I rely on him.