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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Death is the only answer

As I’ve been having trouble writing lately, mainly because my stress levels have been so high, I’m experimenting with stream of consciousness writing as a way to overcome my current malaise. As such, this post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Tuesday 29 September 2015 between 10:09 – 10:33am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

death

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. The demons of my past forcing me to relive the emotional abuse I received from my sociopathic narcissistic cunt of an ex-girlfriend. Words like useless, worthless, repugnant, repulsive, selfish, waste of space, evil, pointless, unlovable reverberated around my mind making sleep an impossible dream. They were all the words my abuser used to use; all the words my abuser specifically chose to control my life, minimize my emotions and render me a quivering, isolated, self-hating freak. That was her intention. That was her goal. To make me hate myself; to render my emotions invalid; to destroy the very essence of my soul. And she succeeded. Last night wasn’t a one-off. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Every night and day for the last eight years, no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, her voice echoes in my mind, continuing her vicious quest to assault my soul and control my life past, present and future.

For the last six days it has been the same. Night after sleepless night of reliving the abuse I was the recipient of. Night after night of hating myself on a level few could ever conceive of. Night after night of the ghost of my abuser pushing me ever closer toward the precipice of suicide. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. I’m clinging on to the last minuscule threads of sanity. Even when I wake up, even when I try to distract myself from her cruel, taunting voice, she is still there; still forcing her abuse upon me, still pushing me to rid the world of the repulsiveness that is me. That’s what she wants, you see, it’s what she’s always wanted; my suicide. An act that she believes would save the world from the most evil, selfish, repugnant human being that has ever lived.

And she’s convincing. Last night, as the minutes dragged into hours, I started trying to work out how many pills I would need to take to successfully end my life. I started to plan how best I could slash my wrists to rid the world of the scourge of humanity. I started to concoct elaborate, complicated plans involving a combination of pills, cutting and trains; the end result always being my death, to rid the world of a voice so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone it talks to. And as the plans formulated in my mind, I started to feel at peace, I started to feel content, for it dawned on me that this is what I want. This is really the only way for me to find happiness.

They say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And I have always hated that saying. My problems are not temporary.

There is no cure for bipolar affective disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its mood swings, with its madness, with its intricacies, and it will always, in the end, win.

There is no cure for post traumatic stress disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its flashbacks, with its reliving of past trauma, with its heinous nightmares, and it will always, in the end, win.

There is no cure for social anxiety disorder; it is an illness that I will suffer from until the day I die. It will assault me with its panic, with its control, with its neurosis, and it will always, in the end, win.

Sure, there is medication that can help control the symptoms, but there is no medication that will eradicate them completely, they will always control me, always take everything from my life, as they’ve been doing for the last eight years. Eight years. I used to have a life. I used to be happy. I used to have hopes and dreams, passions and friends. But now? There is nothing. There is just me. Continually hated by the world and every human being who populates it. I am nothing, a nobody, a repugnant isolated freak that, as my abuser so relished in informing me, no human being could ever love and/or care about.

It’s no surprise to me that I’ve lost hope for a better, brighter future. Over the last eight years, despite homelessness, despite rape, despite physical assault, isolation, mental illness, trauma and abuse – all of which I have fought on my own – I have worked my cute little arse off to become the person I want so desperately to be. Over the last eight years I’ve helped people whenever and however I can; I’ve replied to thousands of emails from lost souls searching for meaning, and done whatever I could to provide them with the hope they’re looking for; I’ve shared my journey on this blog in the hope it would help people feel less alone; I’ve even helped people actualize their lifelong dreams. Over the last eight years I’ve continued to write even when the world did everything it could to stop me; I’ve sent manuscripts to publishers for consideration; I’ve written for websites on all manner of topics; I’ve even self-published my work online because writing has, since I was a child, been one of my primary passions. Over the last eight years I’ve been there for people when they’ve needed me; I’ve offered support and kindness when they had done little to earn it and I have always put other people’s emotions ahead of my own. Over the last eight years I have clung onto the hope that my life wouldn’t always be so isolated, so painful, so irrelevant. But eight years of hard work, eight years of fighting mental illness, trauma and loneliness, all on my lonesome, has seen that hope evaporate. My abuser was right; there is no hope for me, I will never amount to anything, no-one will ever love me.

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. Memories of abuse and trauma assaulted my mind and I came to the inevitable conclusion: I am an inconsequential member of the human race. It doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t matter how hard I work, it doesn’t matter what I sacrifice or how many people I help. No-one will love me. No-one will care about me. Nothing will ever change. It will just be me, living in abject poverty, devoid of happiness, killing time until the inevitable happens.

Last night I lay in bed unable to sleep. And as the hours drifted by I came to the inevitable conclusion: death is the only answer.


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SOC: How do I live the life I deserve to live?

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Tuesday 8 September 2015 between 9:52 – 10:24am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

Federation Square Abstract

Before going on holiday, I was apprehensive. Melbourne has been the staging ground of some of the worst, most abhorrent, actions that have ever been inflicted upon me.

It was in Melbourne where I was emotionally abused to the point of suicide and homelessness; emotional abuse that cost me my tertiary education, my income, my social and support network, every possession I’d ever owned and left me a terrified, hollowed out shell of the person I once was; emotional abuse that has caused a lifetime of lost opportunities and trauma of the like I’ve never before, or since, experienced.

It was in Melbourne where I found myself homeless, eking out an existence on the streets of Victoria’s capitol, scrounging for food in bins, begging for loose change on the streets, and doing whatever I could to survive in spite of my new-found station in life as the world’s biggest loser. This too caused untold psychological damage and trauma that I haven’t even begun to deal with.

It was in Melbourne where I was physically assaulted, not once, not twice, but several times. On some occasions I was doing nothing but sitting in a park when a gaggle of alcohol/drug fueled sociopaths set upon me for their own entertainment. On other occasions the assaults were warranted; when I intervened upon seeing a boyfriend beating up his girlfriend, when I refused to hand over money in a run-down boarding house. But whether warranted or not, each assault inflicted emotional damage, each assault traumatized me.

So before going on holiday I was apprehensive. How easily would my traumas be triggered? What emotional pain would I find myself revisiting? How would I control the surge of PTSD symptoms that would inevitably overpower me? How much of my holiday would be lost to the memories of nightmares past?

So colour me surprised when nothing happened. Walking around the Kings Domain, my old ‘home’ throughout my homelessness, brought back memories, but they didn’t come close to overwhelming me as much as I thought they would. Traipsing around my old haunts of Carlton and Fitzroy, major locations throughout my abusive relationship, became more nostalgic than triggering. Even lazing around the city’s alleyways and open spaces, key locations of my various assaults, were more relaxing and subdued than nightmarish or painful. The PTSD that I expected to overwhelm me was only a problem for a brief few hours, brought on by tiredness and exhaustion instead of memories and triggers. And even when the PTSD overwhelmed me, I was able to control it, I was able to occupy my mind with beautiful art or a canister of Cherry Coke, instead of losing myself to the pain of times past.

All of my fears. All of my apprehension. All of my nervousness about Melbourne. Everything I feared proved unnecessary; a complete waste of energy.

My time in Melbourne, rather than being a carefully balanced nightmare of trauma and psychological distress, was a wonderful escape from the terror that (usually) dominates my mind. It was not Melbourne that I should have been afraid of…it was Wodonga.

Since my return two weeks ago, I have been so stressed, so wound up, so overcome with nervous energy, that I’m surprised I haven’t had a heart attack! Not a single minute, not a single second, has seen me as calm, relaxed and happy as I was in Melbourne. I’ve just been well and truly overwhelmed by anxiety, by depression, by PTSD symptoms and the resultant stress that these conditions create.

Hours have been lost to violent, volatile conversations with the ghost of my abuser. There are no triggers in this town of her sociopathic narcissism. There are no reminders of the vile, cruel attacks that she used to direct upon me. But flashbacks, reliving and nightmares have dominated since I returned to this quiet, sleepy little town.

In Melbourne, I was regularly walking past hundreds of people a minute, but not once (not once) did my anxiety present any problems with this. There were no anxiety attacks. There were no panic attacks. There was just me, losing myself into the breathing heart of the city. But since my return, the anxiety has reigned supreme. Within an hour of returning I walked to the supermarket, passed one person, and suffered a crippling panic attack that left me a jittery, bawling wreck on the side of the road. Hundreds of people in Melbourne I could deal with; but one person in Wodonga overwhelmed me.

Throughout my week in Melbourne depression never entered the equation. I was happier than I’d been in years. I was skipping down the street, singing songs to myself and, unless I was taking selfies (I never smile in photographs), had a stupid grin plastered to my face. But back in Wodonga? I don’t remember how to smile; I walk around with a glum and gloomy expression on my face because happiness has escaped my soul; replaced with a dark, black, bleakness as I topple on the abyss between life and death.

I never once though of ending my life when I was in Melbourne; but since being back in Wodonga, the suicidal thoughts have returned, overpowering my belief that I’m a decent person and leaving me convinced that this world, and everyone in it, would be better off without me. After all, what do I bring to the world? What magic do I pass on to the lives of others? I’m just nothing. A nobody. This world would be better off without me. That I’m convinced of; when I’m in Wodonga.

And that is the crux of the issue, the life lesson that my holiday in Melbourne taught me; the major problem in my life isn’t my anxiety, isn’t my PTSD, it isn’t my depression, bipolar or suicidal ideation. My major problem in life is Wodonga, this sleepy hamlet where there is nothing to do, nothing to feed my passions and nothing to occupy the cravings of my mind. For me to get better, for me to recover, for me to live the life I deserve to live, I need to leave this place. And I need to leave soon, before the stress-caused heart attack strikes and I am taken from this world forever.

But how?

How does someone living in abject poverty move house?

Yes, I’ve reached the conclusion that I need to leave this suffocating town, but there is no way I can. The money I receive from the government doesn’t  cover my costs as it is. Last week I had to humiliate myself at the food bank as I couldn’t afford to feed myself. Whilst I’m walking around with a hole in the crotch of my jeans so big that I can put my hand through it, but the measly DSP I receive won’t allow for the cost of a new pair. So how do I realise my realisation and leave this unhealthy place when I can’t afford accommodation, can’t afford deposits, can’t afford anything?

The thought of being trapped here stresses me out something rotten, but that’s exactly when I am; trapped. Enslaved within a town that is damaging and detrimental to my mental health because, as I live in abject poverty, I have no choice of where I live or what I do with my life. Life. I don’t have one in Wodonga. I just have pain and trauma. I just have stress and depression. I could have a life somewhere else. Somewhere like Melbourne or London or Glasgow or Edinburgh or Inverness. Somewhere where my heart would be allowed to sing and I could occupy myself with cultural, artistic and inspirational pursuits. Where I could distract myself from the trauma of my life and allow myself to skip and sing and be happy.

But how?

Before going on holiday I was apprehensive. I thought I would be overwhelmed with pain, but instead I was showered with happiness. The pain came when I returned to the town that I hate; the town that, for better or worse, I have been forced through poverty, through lack of choice, to call home.

A town that will continue to suck the life from me until I’m nothing but the empty, worthless, shell of the man I once could have been.

 


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Melbourne 2015: Day 03. Facing the demons of the past…

And so we come to day three of my fabulous adventures in Melbourne. A day that saw me explore Melbourne’s past, face my personal demons and rediscover the majestic taste of the greatest soft drink known to human kind…

21st August 2015, 8:02pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve done so much walking over the last two days that I’ve developed blisters on top of blisters! Walking back to the motel this evening was exquisite pain, but removing my shoes and socks after another busy day was exquisite bliss. Although when I finally got a look at my blisters I was a bit disgusted. I have one on my left foot’s little toe that is bigger than the toe itself. It’s quite disgusting and, as I brought nothing sharp to pop it with, resorted to using one of the in-room forks to relieve the agony. Which was difficult, to be sure, but mightily satisfying when the damned thing burst!

I wasn’t quite as keen leaving as yesterday but I was in the city by 9:30am and at the museum by 10:00am. Yes, this much-loved destination was my chosen activity for the day, and to be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed. Sure, Meadhbh got all excited and started RAWRing in my ear when she saw the dinosaurs (they were completely unexpected) but the rest of the displays were lackluster and somewhat disappointing. There was a delightful rainforest installation (actual trees!) and the section that investigated the mind and all that affects it was interesting but for Melbourne Museum, there wasn’t an awful lot about Melbourne itself. Just a lackadaisical display that was nowhere near as interesting as I remembered. Sure, Phar Lap was present and correct, but where was the information on Melbourne’s growth as a city? Where was the artifacts drawn from Melbourne’s colourful history? Where was the Neighbours kitchen that used to grace this magnificent building? I did enjoy my visit to the museum – fortunately, due to my concession card, I gained free entry – but I was just disappointed that the displays weren’t as interesting or enjoyable as I remembered them.

After departing the museum I decided to challenge myself and headed down Nicholson Street toward the (dreaded) Brunswick Street. Ever since my emotionally abusive relationship this street has been massively triggering for me. It stirs all sorts of bad memories of that painful, debilitating time. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into an abusive tirade about how kissing me made her want to vomit. It was on Brunswick Street that she threw a glass of water over my head, and then laughed maniacally at my humiliation, all because I had stated a preference of actor. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into a (different) abusive tirade about how I was the most selfish human being that had ever lived, and that the only person I ever thought of was myself. It used to be my favourite street in Melbourne. But today, it is just a painful reminder of the agony my abuser caused me, and thus, for eight years I’ve avoided it like the plague. So I was quite chuffed with myself when I was able to meander the street with only heightened anxiety. No panic attacks. No grueling PTSD flashbacks. Just me on my once favourite street in Melbourne. I say once favourite because, like the rest of Melbourne the hipsters have taken over. Where once Brunswick Street was an assortment of independent shops and funky retailers, it is now a collection of trendy, up market clothes shops and even trendier, up market eateries. It has, alas, become hipster central. And I hated it. The Grub Street Bookstore (my second favourite second-hand book retailer in Melbourne) was still there, as was Dixons Recycled, but this was not enough to ease the pain of what Brunswick Street has become. Damned hipsters and there annoying, arrogant, hipster ways. How dare you destroy large swathes of the city for your own, petulant needs!

From Brunswick Street I went for a constitutional down Smith Street before aiming for Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent a good hour relaxing in this tranquil, tree filled oasis before returning to the city for some light (but essential) shopping.

By 3:00pm I was in Federation Square, enjoying a can of Cherry Coke and trying to decide what to do next. I didn’t feel like browsing the shops, nor did I feel like just sitting still, so I opted for a visit to the Immigration Museum. And glad I was that I made such a choice. Beautifully laid out, dynamic displays, a wealth of information and all housed inside a glorious building that was, at one point in Melbourne’s history, Customs House. I was far more impressed with the Immigration Museum than I was Melbourne Museum, and would urge anyone who visits Melbourne to place this attraction on their itinerary.

After leaving the museum City Basement Books, DVD Collection and The Little Library followed before I happened upon a shop that sells Irn Bru. Yes. Irn Bru! That magnificent Scottish soft drink. That beverage from the Gods. Oh boy, have I missed this particular sparking liquid! Cue Irn Bru selfies and a couple of rather random abstracts!

Tonight I was supposed to go to my gathering, which was pretty much the reason I came to Melbourne this week, but I’ve made the executive decision not to go. I’m tired. I’m a tad overwhelmed after Brunswick Street and I’m just not in the mood to be around hundreds of extroverted (and introverted) individuals. Some might see me as weak, as pathetic, as unexciting, as many negative (and horrible) things. But sometimes I need to look after myself because – surprise, surprise – there’s no-one else around to do it. With the mood I’m in I know that were I to go tonight I would be anxious, I would suffer a panic attack and I would ruin the upcoming weekend in Melbourne. So I don’t feel bad for not going. I’m just taking care of myself and prioritizing my needs above my need for sociable activity. So it’s just another evening in front of the TV and – if yesterday is anything to go by – another fitful, restless sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is the book market at Federation Square (yay, books!) and a chilled out arvo in the motel. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Just another blissful day doing nothing and loving doing it!


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Borderline personality disorder is a hurtful label for real suffering – time we changed it

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by Jayashri Kulkarni, Monash University

Standing in the cold, dark bathroom, she hacked into her wrist with a razor blade and quietly stared at the blood that flowed from the cut. She told herself she was a bad person and deserved the pain.

A part of her felt reassured by the sight of the blood – it showed she was alive – since she felt so dead and empty inside. As she stared at her image in the bathroom mirror, she thought, “I have no idea who that person is staring back at me.”

Such deliberate self-harm is very common in people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It takes many forms, including intentional overdoses of tablets with excessive alcohol, risky sexual behaviour, as well as physical self-punishment.

Other symptoms of the disorder include identity disturbances, feeling “dead” inside, rage responses or difficulty regulating emotional reactions to situations, mood swings, constant anxiety and panic, poor self-esteem, memory blanks, dissociation (“out of body” or feeling “unreal”) experiences, problems with concentration, feeling invalid, and fear of being abandoned.

A bad cycle

Between 2% to 10% of the population have some degree of borderline personality disorder, which puts them at high risk of suicide. While it’s poorly understood, we know that it predominantly impacts women.

There’s no medication that specifically treats borderline personality disorder, and it’s associated with a great deal of stigma among both health-care professionals and the general community. Research shows people seeking treatment for self-inflicted harm, including taking medication overdoses, are often seen as “difficult”, a “nuisance” or just indulging in “bad behaviour”.

Rage or diffuse anger is another symptom of borderline personality disorder that’s poorly tolerated by family and health professionals. If the person with the condition repeats self-harming behaviour, frustration among family, friends and health professionals increases and may lead to decreased care.

Since people with the disorder crave reassurance that they are worthy, valid and deserving of care, this rejection sets up a dangerous spiral of increasingly harmful behaviour that’s intended to attract care.

Origins in trauma

About 80% of people with borderline personality disorder have a history of trauma. They may block out recollections of early life trauma, but the impact of their emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a young person is profound and present for many years afterwards.

More specifically, people who were sexually abused as children often feel – wrongly – that they did something wrong, that they are to blame for being abused and that they’re bad people. At a deep level, they believe they deserve punishment; their self-harm acts out this belief.

The rage of people with borderline personality disorder, which often occurs in response to apparently small issues, may actually be a totally justified – a delayed expression of anger with the perpetrator of their abuse. And their memory blanks and out-of-body responses to stress may be attempts to repress recollections of abuse and to escape from trauma.

Not all traumas stem from physical or sexual abuse. Emotional neglect or deprivation can also be difficult for people to identify and define. They can, nonetheless, leave a mark for years to come. About 10% to 20% of people who have borderline personality disorder have no known history of childhood trauma.

Difficult diagnosis

The biology of this poorly understood condition includes the hypothesis that abused or neglected children produce high levels of stress hormones (cortisol) and remain on “high alert” – watching and waiting for the next abusive episode. These stress hormones impact brain circuits and centres that determine anger or emotional control and higher learning.

Deliberate self-harm is very common in people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. | Rachel Collins/Flickr, CC BY

Women with this condition can also have cortisol-induced cyclical reproductive changes, leading to menstrual cycle-related depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, increased facial hair, infertility and ovarian cysts. All these long-lasting mental and physical symptoms appear to have their origins in a history of early life trauma with biological brain changes.

There are effective psychological treatments, such as dialectical behavioural therapy, for borderline personality disorder but health professionals have to recognise and explain the condition before appropriate care can be provided.

And many health professionals find it difficult to recognise the condition because different symptoms come and go over time. An overall view of the person’s life is needed to correctly make the diagnosis.

Ill-fitting name

As a diagnostic term, borderline personality disorder not only fails to capture any of the underlying issues and mechanisms involved in producing its symptoms, it also denigrates. In contrast, major depressive disorder describes a serious condition with the key feature of depressed mood explicit in the diagnostic term.

The word “borderline” was used in the 1930s by psychoanalysts to describe patients whose symptoms were on the border between psychosis and neurosis. But today the most common interpretation of the word is that the condition “borders” on being a real illness.

In effect, there’s an invalidation of the illness in its name. This mirrors – as well as possibly enhancing – the feeling of invalidation the person with the condition already suffers.

And all this is not helped by the next word either. To suggest there’s something about someone’s personality that’s disordered – especially as personality is, collectively, the intimate and unique qualities that describe a person – is a devastating blow. And it cuts further into the already diminished self-esteem that people with this condition have.

Why it matters

Diagnostic labels carry a great deal of weight. They describe symptoms, attempt to answer the question of “what is wrong” and lead to a treatment plan. A diagnostic label such as borderline personality disorder with its stigma and propensity to invalidate the person’s suffering clearly has many negative impacts.

A name that captures the origins of the condition, such as complex trauma disorder, could shift the focus from seeing the person as “behaving badly” or not having a “real” illness, to recognising them as a survivor of trauma or abuse. Such a change could improve outcomes for them and their families.

Of course, what’s also urgently needed is clinical research that creates better understanding of the condition, and the development of tailored, effective treatments. But ultimately, prevention of early life trauma would make the biggest difference to the development and expression of this disorder.

In the meantime, changing the label borderline personality disorder to something more sympathetic, even if just informally, may start shifting negative attitudes to people with the condition.


Jayashri Kulkarni is Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University.

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This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


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Day 04: Seven things that cross my mind…a lot!

Four days in and I’m still blogging on a daily basis…woohoo!
Today’s prompt asks for seven things that cross my mind, a lot!

homelessness

4. Why don’t people do more to help the homeless?

1. Top of the list would have to be my abusive relationship. I know it’s not healthy reliving the events of that turbulent time, but the flashbacks come so frequently, so fervently, that I have little control over when and how this period crosses my mind.

When I’m not reliving the events in crystal clear HD, I’m ruminating on the whys and wherefores of the time; why did it happen? Why did she target me? Why did my friends not intervene? What did I do to deserve it?

I know I’ll never have the answers to these questions, and I know there is little other people can do to stop the constant flood of memories and emotions this trauma creates, but hopefully I will one day find a way to manage and control the damage the abuse caused. It has, after all, been seven years since the abuse was occurring…which is far too long a period to be lost to such a manipulative, sociopathic creature.

2. Given that it’s been nearly five years since I last saw them, my family cross my mind frequently. Granted, I try to catch up with them as often as possible (usually a phone call every few weeks) but as I’ve never met my niece and nephew, being able to catch up with them in person would be almost like a dream come true. Especially as my niece has recently begun taking her first tentative steps! :)

3. Without wanting to sound crass, women’s bottoms (and other parts) cross my mind a lot. After all, I am a man, and even though I don’t think of sex every six seconds, it has been over fiver years since I got the chance to caress, massage, squeeze, kiss or playfully spank a woman’s bottom. And I miss it! In fact, an end to my unchosen celibacy would probably do me (and my anxieties) the world of good!

4. Why don’t people do more to help the homeless? This is a question that I’ve asked myself so many times over the last few years. On any given day, there are over 100,000 homeless people in Australia, and many millions more around the world. Yet governments persist in doing nothing to help these individuals. When the wait for public housing can be anything up to twelve years (as it is in some parts of Australia) a lot more needs to be done. And fast!

5. Alongside my family, I also spend a lot of time thinking of my old friends. Even though it’s (for the most part) my fault that I am no longer in contact with them, I often wile away the time wondering what became of them and whether or not they were able to build the happy, rewarding lives they (for the most part) deserved.

6. The death of punctuation and grammar is something that crosses my mind whenever I surf the internet. Your instead of you’re, apostrophes placed in random locations (if at all) and the shortening of words such as hate to h8 annoy me on a level that is too complicated to explain.

7. A month ago, an eleven year old boy was cruelly murdered by his father in an incident that shocked Australia. Almost instantaneously it was announced that the father was “suffering from mental health problems”, as if this alone explained (and excused) the senseless crime. However, a few weeks later it was announced that no history of mental illness had been discovered. So why it is that every time a violent crime is committed, mental health is wheeled out as the reason for the crime, even when there is no evidence of mental illness being involved?


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Reflections on being homeless, Part 7

In early 2012 I began a series that looked back on my homeless experience. This series began from when I found myself sleeping rough in August 2009, continued through my boarding house nightmares and ended with me still living on the streets of Melbourne in 2011.

There were several reasons why I stopped the story there, primarily because I discovered that writing about this period of my life was immensely difficult; the traumas too recent, the pain too raw for me to adequately deal with. But there was also a more simple reason; I had no idea how to tackle what happened next in the story of my life.

And I still don’t.

For what happened next is something I’ve never told anyone. Not psychiatrists, support workers, counselors or family…no matter how trusted they are. And the reason I never told anyone is simple; I have no idea what was happening, why it was happening or how people would react if they found out.

For this is the story of Marcus Kelman*.

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I need a hug! (Day 682)

On the 21st June 2011 I sat in a small alley near Southern Cross station. It was drizzling with rain. I was tired, exhausted, confused and in desperate need of a hug.

It had been a long and emotional weekend, partly because of the far-too-obvious ending to A Good Man Goes To War, mostly because reminders of my past life were everywhere I turned; my Sunday ritual had prompted a smile followed by a panic attack; a walk down a random street had flustered me with un-needed memories and I discovered something that forced me off of a website I had grown to love.

As I sat in that damp, cold alley, I talked to my father on the phone and he decided enough was enough and, after leaving me and my bag to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night (my old park, for the first time in many months), he sent some emails.

Huh?

When I woke the next morning I was lying on rain-soaked grass staring up at a cavalcade of fluffy white clouds. I could make out the sounds of distant traffic, the morning chorus of bird-song and the incessant screeching of a never-discovered species of insect. My whole body ached as if it had just run a dozen marathons and my two bags were carefully hidden beneath the single brown blanket I was using as cover.

I knew from the geography of the park that I had woken up somewhere other than where I’d fallen asleep…I just had no idea where or how I’d come to be there.

By now I was well and truly set in a morning ritual. I rose from the grass, neatly folded up my blanket and stuffed it into one of my bags. After tidying up the rest of my possessions I walked around the park I didn’t recognise, found a spot in which to stash my blanket-bag and then rolled a cigarette from the collection of butts I found in my pocket. As the nicotine burned my throat I realised that I didn’t recognise anything. Not a tree, bush or blade of grass was familiar. So, in order to find out where I was, I followed the sounds of traffic to the nearest road and meandered the streets until I found a railway station; Fairfield.

But that didn’t make any sense. I had lived in Fairfield with Louise for over three years. I knew every street, every alley and every park; especially those within walking distance of the train station.

It wasn’t for several more minutes that it dawned on me; I wasn’t in Victoria, I was in New South Wales.

This revelation completely floored me. But not as much as the next piece of information that shouted its way into my mind courtesy of a discarded newspaper; it was October.

So not only was I in a suburb of a city that I detested, some several hundred miles from Melbourne, I had no recollection of the previous three and a half months.

Desperately in need of answers – and with no-one I could ask to get them – I turned to the only thing I could think of; my backpack. It was the same bag I’d had when I was in Melbourne so if anything was going to contain answers, this would be it.

Unfortunately, it seemed that the writers of Lost had taken hold of my possessions, for the only things I discovered in my backpack (besides dirty clothing, a stench that would knock you on your ass and a fly swatter) were several A4 sized note-books; all of them displaying the name Marcus Kelman.

All of them in my handwriting.

So having nothing better to do, I read them all.

The life (and times) of Marcus Kelman

Marcus Kelman was born on the 28th November 1978 in the Scottish city of Inverness. He grew up not far from this city, in the town of Nairn with his mother, step-father and step-sister. His childhood was a relatively tame and uneventful affair, marked with mischievous behavior and a close friendship with his best friend, Natalie. In his teenage years this friendship became something more and, for several years the two of them built a rewarding relationship. However, the relationship would not last and, after it ended abruptly, he left his hometown and began working in Inverness. After saving every spare penny he could he decided to travel, gallivanting around Scotland, the UK and Europe before heading to Northern America for a jaunt across Canada, where he would meet the love of his life, Joanne.

After eighteen months living in domestic bliss, he and Joanne returned to the UK and began living in his home-city of Inverness. They became engaged, moved into their dream house and, shortly after, discovered she was pregnant. However, several months into the pregnancy tragedy fell when Joanne lost her battle with depression and committed suicide, killing both herself and their baby.

Marcus inevitably spiraled into a deep depression. For months he isolated himself, refusing contact with everyone, until his cousin stepped in and set him off on the long road to recovery.

After realising there was no future for him in Scotland, Marcus decided to emigrate to Australia to start afresh, where he worked a series of hospitality and retail jobs until he suffered a relapse in his mental health and ended up homeless.

Putting the pieces together (Day 828)

In spite of some obvious differences, anyone who has had even a cursory glance around this blog will realise the similarities between my life and Marcus’s are plentiful: his birth day, the Scottish connection, the relationship with a girl named ‘Natalie’ (his school-hood crush), the travelling, the time he spent in Canada (where he fell in love), the tragedies of mental health, suicide and homelessness.

Also eminently noticeable is the high level of wish-fulfillment between my life and Marcus’s; such as the teenage friendships, domestic bliss, marriage, the dream house and becoming a father.

Even though I was confused, exhausted and distressed, I was determined to discover as much about Marcus Kelman as I could, for it was the only way I could think of that may reveal my actions of the previous few months. So I headed to an internet café and began logging into his blogs and email, the addresses for which I had found squirreled away in his notebooks:

  • For the previous few months he had been writing three blogs about his life and observations.
  • He had been in regular email contact with several people.
  • He was the owner (and user) of a Twitter account.
  • He had been in contact with people from my past.
    and
  • For nearly three months he had been in almost daily phone contact with someone in Sydney.

Even though it could have been a revelatory experience, one that could have helped put all the missing pieces together; I decided not to phone this person. Instead, I read every single blog post, every single email and every single tweet, finally coming to a number of conclusions:

  • People seemed to like Marcus Kelman.
  • People seemed to lust after Marcus Kelman.
  • He was a better, and more varied writer, than I.
  • He had more followers on Twitter than I’ve ever had.
    and
  • He genuinely felt like a ‘real’ person.

By the time I left the internet café I was exhausted. Whatever ‘Marcus’ had been doing for three months had left me physically spent, whilst the revelations of the day had eroded what little mental energy I had left.

It was one of those situations where there were more questions than answers: where had Marcus come from? Why had I become Marcus? What other things had he been doing that I didn’t know about? Was I finally completely losing my mind? How could I tell anyone about what had been happening? What the hell was happening?

These questions – and many more besides – plagued me through a sleepless night, and the only conclusion I came to was a simple one; I had to get as far away from Fairfield as was possible.

As far away from Fairfield as was possible (Day 831)

After a distressed (and ultimately futile) phone-call to Lifeline, I hiked into the middle of the Australian bush and spent several hours having a meltdown. Once I was fresh out of tears, I pulled my belt from my jeans, wound it round my neck and attempted to hang myself.

Alas, because this belt had been with me for the entire duration of my homelessness, I had failed to realise how threadbare it had become and, after a few seconds, it snapped in two and sent me cascading back to the hard, thirsty earth.

Dazed and Confused (Day 832 – 898)

For the next two months I was lost; physically, mentally and emotionally. As the Marcus Kelman months hung over my head, demanding explanation, I roamed the Australian bush. Eventless days were spent in small towns, big towns and nation’s capitols. Parks and alleys were slept in, soup-van produce and discarded scraps consumed. What little energy I had left was spent trying to solve the conundrum of Marcus.

Unlike the bipolar, unlike the PTSD, unlike even the social anxiety, I had no explanation for what had happened during the months I’d been Marcus Kelman. I was in entirely new (and entirely terrifying) territory. So, despite several appointments with mental health services, psychologists and psychiatrists, I told no-one about my alter-ego. Not because I feared they would lock me up and throw away the key, but because I feared they would think I had manifested this character intentionally; which I did not.

So, like my homelessness, like my everything, I decided the only safe thing to do was deal with this problem on my own.

By now I had become incredibly tired of sleeping in parks so acquired a tent and retired beneath the canvas to contemplate my past, my present and my future. For on that 22nd December – the anniversary of Samantha’s death – my life felt utterly (and completely) out of control.

Little did I know then that the end of my homelessness was only a few months away.

-●-

This post has been one of the hardest to write since the early days of my blog back in 2007. Admitting that, for a period of months I became someone else; someone completely fictitious yet close enough to me to be noticeable, someone who maintained relationships with real (unsuspecting) individuals is tantamount to admitting I am completely (and utterly) insane.

I know people will immediately think that I’m making this up; that I created Marcus Kelman intentionally. But I did not. The only explanation I’ve come up with is that I became Marcus as a way to dissociate from what was happening to me. That – following the weekend of triggers in June 2011 – my brain decided it needed to become someone else in order to feel safe.

Hopefully by writing this post I am taking the first step toward piecing together the confusing events of the most baffling chapter of my life.

* Please note that I have changed the name of the person I became to protect myself and the innocent.

 


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Flashbacks, heat and unexpected problems (oh my!)

Once again I find myself on hiatus from my blog and once again it hasn’t been entirely self-imposed. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing severe internet connectivity issues, which may not seem such a huge ordeal to some, but the internet is one of my primary coping mechanisms, and often the only outlet I have to the outside world, so when I can’t connect, my stress levels rise and I become more vulnerable to life’s negative emotions.

Normally I’d like to think I’d be able to handle this, but it seems that once again January is becoming a problem month. Last year, I spent the month wrestling with alcohol consumption, this year, I’m spending it locked in a battle with flashbacks. In fact, things became so bad last weekend that Sunday was lost to endlessly replaying the events of emotionally abusive relationships, homelessness and seemingly innocuous moments shared with long-gone friends.

No matter how hard I’ve tried, no matter what exercises I’ve practised, I’ve been unable to ground myself in the present. So much so that focusing on anything other than what my mind is forcing me to relive has been nigh-on impossible. I’ve been unable to watch movies with any clarity, I’ve been spending more and more time locked away in my unit and no matter how much I want to, I just can’t find the words to assemble the posts I crave to write.

Hindering all of the above has been the incessant heat of the Australian summer. Today was the fourth day over 40 degrees, and by all accounts there are going to be at least three or four more before there is even the slightest hint of a cool change. I’ve never been a fan of the heat, in fact I downright hate it! I hate being sticky, I hate sweating like a weird little sweat monster and I hate how the heat brings out the worst in my body-image issues. During summer I despise myself more than usual, so much so that this self-hatred  – considering my inability to wear shorts, go swimming or even shower without clothes on –  makes it impossible to cool down.

Unfortunately that brief moment where I believed 2014 will be the ‘best year ever’ has long since passed. The last sixteen days have been incredibly stressful and difficult to navigate and I’m sorely looking forward to February so I can banish January into the annuls of history and start the year afresh.

However, I’ve remained true to my resolution and have not drunk a single soft drink all month, which – when you consider all the flashbacks, heat and unexpected problems – is quite an achievement! :)