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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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 09: Questions for Heaven

Day nine of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
what questions relating to your mental health would you ask God and why?

Monty Python God

Religion is a topic I tend to shy away from talking about, not because I’m scared of broaching the subject, but because I am not a religious man. If I had to define myself, I would lean toward agnosticism, for I neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a deity.

The other reason I tend to shy away from talking about religion is because I find it a triggering issue. Throughout my homeless existence I had daily contact with religious organisations, as it was these organisations that operated the drop-ins, food services and soup vans that I would frequent. In order to access the services or receive the food, we would often be forced to pray or attend religious services, with refusal to do so leading to the denial of the help we most needed. This was something that I had a serious issue with, as I felt that the organisations were forcing (or manipulating) people who were most in need to ‘convert’ to a particular religion in order to receive the help that they desperately needed.

I’ve never held anything against those who choose to believe in a particular religion, but I have had (and continued to have) issues with people who forced their faith on others, especially those who are lost, without voice and most in need of help.

With these issues in mind, I am choosing not to answer today’s prompt.

Sorry.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |


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Reclaiming ownership of your emotional triggers

The word ‘trigger’ has become synonymous with mental health. Almost every day an article is published in the mainstream media that warns people with a history of self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression and/or abuse that the words that follow may be upsetting or provoke unwanted emotional re-actions.

The recent Oscar-winning film Silver Linings Playbook featured a prominent storyline concerning a song which sends Bradley Cooper‘s character spiralling into an emotional episode whilst counsellors the world over work closely with their patients to identify everything from smells, tastes, people, places and objects that can cause similar reactions in their clients.

I myself have written extensively of my triggers (from an A-Z of my primary emotional triggers to the potential reactions such triggers can cause) for I believe it’s important to know what triggers us so we know what we need to face along the long road to recovery.

But how do we turn such potentially damaging triggers into something we can approach safely and securely?

One technique involves reclaiming ownership of our triggers and changing their ending.

images

Step 01: Say how you feel

The first stage in this approach is to state how you feel upon being triggered. The best option would be to talk face-to-face with a close, trusted and supportive person (e.g. a friend, support worker or partner). With eye-contact, use direct “I” statements to voice exactly how you feel, such as “I feel anxious” or “I am petrified” so that both you and your support can understand exactly how you’re feeling.

If you do not have a support person and are undertaking this process by yourself you can use a mirror to make eye contact, just remember to speak how you are feeling aloud instead of just in your head as it’s important to make sure the emotions are heard.

For example, the song ‘Unexpected Song‘ is a powerful trigger not only for my PTSD and anxiety but also Vanessa (one of my voices). When I am triggered by this song I may say that “I feel guilty” or “this song has made me feel worthless, useless and a pointless waste of space”. Other things I could say may include “I feel like I’m about a throw up” or “This song picks me up and deposits me back in my abusive relationship. I can’t stop thinking about how insignificant I felt during that period”.

Step 02: Validate

The second stage in the process is to validate your emotions. It is perfectly acceptable to feel how you feeling. Feeling scared, isolated, guilty (or whatever emotion the trigger has made you feel) is perfectly normal and human. Allow yourself some compassion, understanding and self-love.

In the above example, I could validate my emotions by allowing myself to believe that the abuse was not my fault and, because I did nothing to deserve it, there is nothing I should feel guilty over. I could also give myself permission to show myself compassion for the abuse I experienced, that although I may think these feelings and that there’s nothing wrong with thinking them, they are untruthful descriptions of who I am.

Step 03: Grounding

The third stage in the process is the grounding stage. This is where you bring yourself back into your body, mind and present from a heightened emotional state. Ways in which you could ground yourself include; focussing on five things you can see/feel/touch/smell (focussing on your primary senses), tapping a tune on a body part that you find comforting (perhaps a song from childhood or happy memory) or partaking in a muscle relaxation exercise (such as progressive muscle relaxation.)

For example, to ground myself after validating my feelings following hearing ‘Unexpected Song’ I could sit someone safe and speak aloud five things I can see (carpet, table, radio, voices workbook and tobacco) following by five things I can hear (neighbours talking, the news on the radio, a jack hammer, someone shouting at his partner, rumbling stomach) followed by five things I can feel (my bottom on the chair, my foot tapping the floor, my back against the chair, sweaty palms, my jeans on my legs) and then return to things I could see, only this time stating four before repeating each step until I have reduced it to only one thing I can see/hear/feel; the idea being focusing only on my senses will remove me from the heightened state, grounding me back in the present.

Step 04: Re-Empower

The final stage in the process is to find a way to re-claim the trigger; to change the ending, so to speak. This stage is going to require commitment, patience and some trial-and-error, as finding a way to successfully re-empower the trigger may take some time. The idea is to take your trigger and do something that changes it’s ending; so that when you encounter the trigger in the future it is this ending you recall instead of the painful memories that were once associated with it.

For example, a possible way I could reclaim ‘Unexpected Song’ would be to inhale helium gas and then sing the song as if I were a chipmunk. The hope being that I would replace the painful associations of the song with that of laughter, fun and merriment.

Obviously, this stage is going to be unique to the individual. It may take several different ideas before you can re-claim the trigger, hence trialing different ideas until you have found something that works. It is also recommended this stage be undertaken in the presence of a support person due to the painful memories it may evoke.

Due to my isolated nature I’ve yet to implement this technique myself, but hope to deploy it as I head into battle against my most recent trigger. How I shall re-empower that particular trigger I’ve yet to work out but, if successful, I hope to tackle some of my other triggers (such as the example above or my intolerance of a certain boy wizard) using this approach.

Rest assured, should I ever sing random musical numbers after inhaling helium I’ll do my utmost to post an audio! :p


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The weak that was and the week that will be

Peanuts

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to write weekly updates about the mind-numbingly boring shenanigans I get up to each week, but decide it I have. Perhaps it’s because I hope it will help process emotions, identify achievements and allow me the opportunity to feel (a little) positive about the work I’ve been doing.

Last week, however screwed up my panic attack/book-fort building/capsaicin incidents were, they did provide me with both an epiphany (I need more happiness in my life) and an opportunity (to tackle a trigger in a way I’ve never had the confidence to do!)

So rather than looking back with my usual self-loathing, perhaps I should start looking back with a little self-love.

After all, last week was dominated with me dealing with things as I always have (avoid, avoid, disassociate, avoid, avoid, isolate, RUNAWAY!) whilst this week has seen me firmly venturing out of my comfort zone by seeking advice from multiple people about my most recent trigger; my support worker, a counsellor…

Was thinking about the trigger and just wanting to reiterate that this looks like a very useful opportunity to strategically deal with a trigger in a new way with (hopefully) immediate positive feedback.  Of course the process will provoke some anxiety but it can be done in a safe, structured and supportive environment.  You can plan preparation time beforehand and wind down time afterwards..  And you can decide if and when it happens at all.

~From an email my counsellor sent me after our appointment

and my hearing voices support group…

Sensing my anxiety (and not wishing to see me make an ass of my self) Meadhbh began to whisper the words she thought I should say. Genuinely thankful for her help, I began to share my current state of exasperation over how mental health is my whole life (the phrase “mental health shenanigans” drew some laughs) before Meadhbh tricked me into talking about the trigger that is currently dominating my life.

I tried to explain how tired I am of avoidance being my primary coping mechanism and that I will never change if I keep isolating myself from the triggers.

This somewhat personal revelation (quite possibly my first in the group) drew several comments about how awesome this was and what a huge step it would be if I could succeed in facing my trigger. Which, truth be told, made me feel rather warm and fuzzy; a sensation that felt oddly wrong given how rarely I feel anything other than shame, guilt and worthlessness.

~From ‘Hearing Voices Support Group: Week 10’ (on Imaginary Menagerie)

…all being advances I should be proud of given my (usual) complete inability to share anything with anyone!

This week, if I can share a blog post with my Acting Up group and, as I hope to do, formulate a plan of attack for dealing with my trigger and successfully attend a new group that begins this week (A.C.T for Anxiety) perhaps I will finally allow myself to see my current actions (and life) with the pride (and happiness) other people allegedly see.

Chances are I won’t…damn you, pesky self-loathing…but it’s a start! :)

~◊~

Six things I’ve learned this week:

  • Realisation #1: My entire life revolves around mental health. My support groups, social groups, blogging, thinking, reading and writing are all mental health focussed. Even the TV show I’ve watched most this week (Frasier) is about psychiatry and 99% of the articles I’ve read on blogs and websites have been about MH issues. This needs to change…and pronto…as it is an incredibly unhealthy way to live.
  • I was the only person in my Mi Recovery group that couldn’t come up with any positive skills or attributes about myself.  Do I even have any?
  • A walrus’ gestation period is 15-16 months.
  • Danny Wallace has written a novel! :D (Damn you abject poverty for preventing me from purchasing it!)
  • My methods of distraction are not too dissimilar to other peoples.
  • (Re)Realisation #2: I’m braver than I believe, stronger than I seem and smarter than I think. Cheers, Pooh bear! :)

Six things I wanted to do last week: (crossed off items are things I actually did!)

  • To give myself permission to do something I enjoy and enjoy it! (i.e. to not allow my negative self-talk and fear of being perceived as lazy prevent me from doing it!)
  • Share my trigger with my support worker, regardless of my insecurity over how insane, pathetic and weird this will make me look.
  • Stop scaring people away from my blog with talk about voices, pain and badly written blog posts. It’s starting to look like a ghost town around here! :/
  • Complete my Mi Recovery homework assignments; what are my beliefs about mental illness and how did I learn those beliefs?
  • Catch-up on my favourite blogs as I’ve been incredibly slack of late, sorry! :)
  • Brainstorm ideas of what I could do to bring some happiness, joy and relaxation back into my life.

Six things I want to do next week:

Being the two incomplete tasks from last week, and…

  • Develop a plan with my support worker on how to manage dealing with my trigger.
  • Find a way to pull myself back into my body and tackle my depersonalisation that doesn’t involve self-harm.
  • Write a fictional short story (of any length, genre or style)
  • Read Unsent Letter #7: A letter to my thirteen year old self during the Acting Up group on Monday.

Hope everyone has had a fantastic week and gearing up a magnificent weekend! :)


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Acting Up (Week 01: Addy vs His Triggers)

In October last year, following several years of social isolation, homelessness and severe mental health issues, I began working with a local organisation who describe themselves as being “a psychosocial rehabilitation day program who provide group and individual psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery services” in order to “maximise the social and community participation of people with mental illness“.

During the first term I was with them (Oct-Dec) I kept my participation simple by attending two groups; a Scrabble group and an 8-Ball pool playing group. In the second term, I upped my quota by adding an ‘Acting’ group (to combat my social anxiety) and the Hearing Voices Support Group to the aforementioned two groups.

Today, following a brief sojourn, my third term with GT House commenced. This time around I’ve challenged myself a further by taking on a number of groups that will tackle key components of my mental health; my anxiety, my trauma and my recovery.

Given the more educational and challenging nature of the groups I’m undertaking this term (it’s a little hard to write entertaining weekly accounts of whipping people’s asses at Scrabble unless you take a more literal, fictional viewpoint!) I’ve decided to write weekly accounts of some of these groups in the hope that other people will glean knowledge and inspiration from my (occasionally embarrassing) anxiety and determination to become a better version of myself.

One of these groups is Acting Up, which is described in the program as: “an opportunity to express yourself in many different ways. From discussing favourite films and books to experiencing some new ones. Gain confidence by participating in different drama activities and acting exercises. This is a great opportunity to learn some new skills and have some fun.”

A perfect fit for someone with a passion for film, television, books, acting, creativity and a desire to gain confidence and (finally) have some fun in life again.

Will this group help reduce my anxiety? Increase my confidence? See me gain a few new friends? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see! :)

fame-the-movie1

No denim jackets, afros, leg warmers or leotards were worn during this group…perhaps next week! :p

A polite request…

Under normal circumstances I am not a fan of the ‘read more’ button. Normally, I reserve its use only for posts of epic length and/or boredom inducing whiney tediousness. However, it’s use today is for neither of these reasons but for something entirely different.

I am aware that some of the staff at GT House (and Gateway) read this blog from time to time, so it is to them I politely request to read no further in this post. This is not because I’m about to insult the organisation (quite the opposite) but because it reveals something I’m not comfortable with the workers knowing at this point in time. It’s nothing bad, saucy or intimate, just something mental health related that I’m sure I’ll share somewhere down the track.

So, as you’re workers in the mental health field (ahhh, isn’t emotional blackmail fun!) I would be most grateful if you could respect my privacy on this occasion.

Thank you kindly :)

Everyone else may continue (if you wish to!) :)

Continue reading


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The A-Z of my emotional triggers

The other day I was reading an article dealing with triggers and their predictability. Last week, I was talking to a counselor about my voices’ triggers. The month before that, I had another detailed triggers conversation with a different counselor. In fact, for the last several years I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had regarding triggers.

Which isn’t wholly unexpected, I suppose, given that any one trigger can send me careering into a near comatose state that can last for weeks on end. Knowing what triggers these states is vital to my recovery, for only by knowing them can I build coping strategies to deal with and move past them.

So, as I had little else to do this afternoon, I decided to see if I could come up with at least one primary trigger for every letter of the alphabet. Aside from a small cheat (which I’m sure you’ll spot) I was successful in my endeavour.

Although I’m not sure having so many triggers is something to be proud of! ;)

THEA-ZOFMYTRIGGERS

ADELAIDE, ALICE SPRINGS, APPLE PIE and AMERICAN PIE
Adelaide is where I was raped; Alice Springs was a nightmare from (almost) beginning to end; Apple Pie was being baked whilst I was assaulted in a boarding house; American Pie was part of one of the worst abusive tantrums my ex threw.

BRUNSWICK STREET, BOARDING HOUSES and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Brunswick Street was where I lived during the abusive relationship; Boarding Houses are some of the worst establishments in the history of the world and I would rather sleep on the street for the rest of eternity than have to deal with living in one again; Buffy the Vampire Slayer (one of my favourite shows of all time and one I’ve seen every episode of at least 12 times each) is a major reminder of my abusive relationship and can no longer be watched under any circumstances! I miss it :(

CIGARS, COLLINGWOOD FOOTBALL CLUB and CARLTON (the entire suburb)
Cigars were the favored smoking choice of my rapist, he STANK of them; supporters of the Collingwood Football Club beat the crap out of me whilst I was homeless; Carlton is the suburb where my abuser lived;

DANDENONG RAINFOREST, THE DARK KNIGHT
The Dandenong Rainforest is where I once attempted suicide; The Dark Knight is a reminder not only of Alice Springs but of one of my biggest failures/fuck-ups.

EMOTIONAL ABUSE
This basically means anything dealing with emotional abuse. If there’s a trigger warning I might be able to deal with it. If there isn’t a trigger warning it can send me spiralling into chaos.

FROZEN (Tegan and Sara)
Frozen was one of Stephanie’s favourite songs.

GIN AND TONIC and GRACE DARLING HOTEL
Gin and Tonic was my drink of choice the night I was raped, I’d never really drunk it before, I’ve never touched it since!; the Grace Darling Hotel was my ‘local’ from end 2006 to mid 2007, I wrote most of one novel and half of another there and it is my favourite pub in Melbourne, I just can’t ever go back :(

HARRY POTTER and HOMELAND
My abuser was a big Harry Potter fan and forced me to watch all the movies (up til year 4 at the time) so this entire phenomenon is a massive reminder of that relationship; when I first tried to watch Homeland I was triggered by the first episode and have never been able to watch it since.

I TRY (Macy Gray)
I Try is a song that reminds me of a bittersweet time of my life

JACK’S MANNEQUIN
My abuser’s favourite band. This trigger causes serious problems as the group features heavily in one of my favorite episodes of One Tree Hill and their music several times on the soundtrack!

KISSING
Attacking my kissing was one of my abusers favorite hobbies. It wasn’t just every now and then. It was CONSTANTLY! To say I have developed a complex about it is an understatement. It was a major issue in my relationship after the abuse and has affected many other things, including my self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.

LYGON STREET
Lygon Street is the primary street in Carlton (see above).

MXXXXXXXXXXX and MELBOURNE
The XXXXXs are because the first is a person; Melbourne, because it treated me like a piece of shit – even though it’s still my favorite city in Australia.

NEVER AGAIN (Kelly Clarkson) and NORTH MELBOURNE
Never Again was a big hit in mid-2007 and reminds me of the manic phase and rape; North Melbourne is where I used to work.

OPINIONS
Whenever I tried to share an opinion my abuser would attack, insult, abuse and publicly humiliate so I learned to shut up quickly! I am now paranoid about sharing opinions in case people will react in the same way.

PHOTOGRAPHY
My photography was frequently and repeatedly attacked by my abuser. Not having a camera is not the only reason I don’t take photographs any more!

QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET
A frequent destination for my abuser and I. Many incidents of public humiliation, abuse and manipulation occurred here.

RAPE
Do I really need to explain this one?

SXXXXXXXXXXX AND SELF-HARM
Again, the XXXXXs are because they are hiding a name – a name that can render me self-harming and suicidal upon hearing it; Self-harm, especially implicit discussion and images of, can be a major trigger depending on my state of mind.

TALKING TO PEOPLE
“Your voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone you talk to. You should kill yourself.” For someone with social anxiety who had recently suffered a mental breakdown, this was one of the worst things she could have said. Once described as one of the most vicious and cruel things a counsellor of mine had ever heard.

UNEXPECTED SONG (Bernadette Peters)
A song I can no longer listen to because it was one of my abuser’s favourite songs and became a personal ‘anthem’ of that time of my life.

VICTIM BLAME MENTALITY
Articles dealing with, actual victim blaming and/or discussion of can be a massive trigger because of the amount of victim blaming I’ve received.

WOULD YOU LIKE THAT? I THINK YOU WOULD”
A sentence said to me by my rapist. It was once spoken by someone with a similar accent as I walked past them in a supermarket. I was rendered frozen in the foetal position and the staff had to call an ambulance to assist me. Exceedingly embarrassing!

(E)XTRA GUM
Okay, a little cheat, but I think I can be forgiven given my rapist chewed this brand of gum throughout the entire incident.

YXXXXXXXXXXX
Not a person’s name, but an establishment I used to work for. Bastards.

ZATHURA
A film that was playing whilst I wrote my suicide note in October 2007. I tried to watch it last year…highly unsuccessful.


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A Bad Day of Panic, Anxiety and Triggers (including ‘The 21 Challenge, Day 3’)

Princess Zelda

Princess Zelda

Today has been one of the most difficult days in recent memory, so apologies in advance for the disconnected nature of this post.

My day didn’t start badly at all, in fact, I awoke quite jovial following an unusually pleasant dream that involved talking lizards, Stephanie Bendixsen, a giant Goomba, a couple of beautifully choreographed sword fights, Princess Zelda and a bunch of grapes.

Then, as is my usual ritual on a Sunday, walked to the local garage to collect a copy of the Sunday Age. The weather was pleasant – not too hot, not too cold – and I returned to browse the newspaper whilst nibbling on berry flavoured toast and sipping green tea.

It was around about the fourth mouthful that things began to go downhill as I read:

“The definition of domestic violence has been expanded to include emotional manipulation, withholding money and harming the family pet under controversial changes to family law.

The changes, which become law this week, for the first time broaden the definition of violence beyond physical abuse to other damaging actions to which a child may be exposed, including:

– Stalking
– Repeated derogatory taunts
– Intentionally damaging or destroying property
– Preventing someone from having contact with family and friends

Woman’s groups say the changes tip the balance of family law back towards putting the safety of children first, while men’s rights group say tehy will rob children of time with both parents.”
(from The Sunday Age, June 3 2012)

For it was around this time that I began to get an itch at the bottom of my stomach. As I continued to read, this itch spread, invading my spleen, kidney and lungs. The moment it reached my heart – around about the time I read “…a message to all involved in the ‘many violent family situations in Australia and who remain invisible to the legal system’ that violence has no place in society” – I was choking on my berry jam as I began to hyperventilate.

Within seconds my green tea had been inadvertently knocked to the carpet (yay, stain!) and I was struggling to breathe. Having experienced many panic attacks in my life I knew the signs were not an allergic reaction; but a triggered reaction.

My panic attack stemmed from the mention of emotional abuse. This is all that was required to send my mind hurtling back into the pain and desolation I experienced throughout that period five years ago.

Gone were the heady memories of Hex, Zelda and I duelling a giant Goomba.

In were every attack, insult and narcissistic action that I suffered through five years ago.

All because of one article in a newspaper that described changes to Australian law that I whole heartedly agree with. For years I have campaigned for greater rights and treatment in every sense to those who are the victims of emotional abuse, and these legal changes are an absolute step in the right direction. Whether they will be in any way successful and not just a token gesture remains to be seen. I mean, how can someone be prosecuted for emotional abuse when few ever bear witness to this abhorrent treatment? No-one believes what happened to me, so why should people believe someone else claiming emotional abuse?

Once the panic attack faded I gathered a pen and a piece of paper and lay on my floor to write. I had planned on writing the latest installment of ‘reflections on being homeless’ but drifting back into the territory would have been dangerous after that reaction. Instead, I wrote a list of things that trigger me (whether big or small), a list I shall share with you now:

Note: this list is in no particular order and whilst the bigger things are SHOUTED, the huge things are shouted REALLY LOUDLY!

  • BRUNSWICK STREET
    This is a street near where I used to live when the abuse was occuring. My favourite street in Melbourne, no less.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Once my favourite television show of all time, now, something I cannot watch at all.
  • Any situation where I encounter the name (first or last) of the person whom abused me
    I was recently browsing the library and saw a book written by an author who shared the first name of my abuser. Being an uncommon yet beautiful name it is not one I come across all that often, but in this and every instance, it has negative consequences.
  • LYGON STREET
    Another street close to where I used to live when the abuse was occurring.
  • Bernadette Peters
    I wrote about her here.
  • ADELAIDE
    I didn’t state this was merely triggers of the emotional abuse.
  • Toasted cheese sandwiches
    One of my all-time favourite snacks. I used to make them for my abuser and received several criticisms for my efforts. Also, one night, I was attacked for one hour for eating a toasted cheese sandwich without her.
  • DOING ANYTHING FOR MYSELF
  • Harry Potter
    She was a big Harry Potter fan. I’m not. So not an easy trigger to avoid.
  • AMERICAN PIE
    I received nine hours of criticism for going out for dinner with my parents instead of staying at home and watching this movie on the television. I love this series and doubt I will ever be able to watch the recent Reunion installment as a result of this.
  • Forgetting someone’s birthday/Birthday Parties in general.
    I received over half an hour of abuse for not wishing a friend a happy birthday. On another occasion I was told I had destroyed someone’s life for not going to their birthday party.
  • Badgers
    Difficult to explain, but badgers remind me of her.
  • PHOTOGRAPHY
    After making her a handmade calendar of my own photographs as a New Year present I was told in no uncertain terms my photography was “boring”, “uninspired”, “pointless”, “a waste of time”, “garbage”, and that she didn’t understand “why I bothered to continue taking photographs”. On several other occasions my efforts to extend myself in this arena were criticised and attacked. Whenever I have taken photographs since I have become so paranoid about what I’m shooting I usually end up focussing only on this criticism rather than the subject I am photographing. It should be noted this boring, uninspired, pointless, hand-made piece of garbage remained on her wall for at least four months after the sexual side of the relationship ended.
  • TALKING TO PEOPLE
    “Your voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone you talk to. You should kill yourself,” As I’ve said previously, I’m not a sadist, nor do I wish to inflict pain on anyone. This criticism is hard for my social anxiety to get past in any way, shape or form
  • The Queen Victoria Market
    A location for many incidents of abuse.

…and once I reached this point I stopped writing for one reason; I was triggering myself! Merely writing these words were enough to send me boomeranging back into the realm of panic attack.

As I sat on my back steps smoking a cigarette I realised – not for the first time – just how well and truly fucked up I am. How could one relationship cause so much psychological damage? How could I be so weak to allow the damage to occur? These events happened five years ago; why are they still destroying me now?

Quickly gathering my stuff I headed out for a walk. I needed to turn to the internet to take my mind off the groundswell of negative memories that were flooding my mind and with the library closed I figured a few dollars at an internet cafe would be money well spent.

It was and it wasn’t.

On the positive, as I read a few blogs and websites I got the answer to my how could I be so weak question: because I am “naive, vulnerable and easy to manipulate”. In other words, I was right, I was abused because I was/am weak and therefore deserving of it.

On the negative, yay, I’m weak, naive, vulnerable and easy to manipulate. Awesome!

On the positive, I figured out what I could do for today’s 21 Day Challenge.

On the negative, I was stupid enough to think my idea for today’s 21 Day Challenge was a good idea!


The 21 Challenge, Day 3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)From internet days of old I am the official Keeper of Willow’s giggle and tongue slip and of the creepily easy familiarity with which Willow handles the torture instruments.

This geeky admission is how ginormous a fan of Buffy I used to be!

I wasn’t one of those hipsters that tagged on in season 5 onwards just as it was becoming popular in the mainstream. Nosiree, I was a fan back when people used to cack themselves laughing at the mere mention of the show’s title. I was a fan from the very beginning!

Despite not having seen the show for half a decade I can still recall every episode title in sequence, recant dozens of monologues and air-conduct the score like a pro. I was uber-fan.

And this passion was taken away from me by one woman.

So after vacating the internet cafe I rented season 3 (my favourite season) from the local video store (not a great move considering how broke I am) and walked home locked in full stressed out “conversing with hallucinations” anxious mode.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch the whole season, so I selected a few episodes at random, namely the ones I used to adore: Lover’s Walk, The Wish, Doppelgangland and Graduation Day.

I managed to get through Lover’s Walk without incident, mainly because I used to do a cracking impersonation of James Marsters’ monologue:

You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be
in love ‘til it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and
you’ll hate each other ‘til it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be
friends. Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. Blood
screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at
least I’m man enough to admit it.”

But The Wish was fraught with triggers as my mind reeled in the ‘what if’ scenarios of an alternate world where I hadn’t met my abuser. Not even Beck’s beautiful scoring of the final fight scene was enough to prevent this panic overtaking me.

This panic remained throughout Doppelgangland (“Can you believe the Watcher’s Council let this guy go?”) and peaked half way through Graduation Day where I had to stop watching as a full-blown panic attack raged once more.

The DVD set isn’t due back until next weekend so I may give it another go later in the week when I’m less ‘wound up’, but from the strength of today’s reaction, it does appear my ability to watch this show has been stolen from me. Although I am proud I was able to return to the town of Sunnydale, however brief the visit turned out to be.


Sitting alone in my flat afterwards I couldn’t help but despair at how difficult and frustrating my life has become. The array of things I must avoid in order to save myself the pain of panic, anxiety and depression. The dearth of anything that resembles pleasure and enjoyment. The sheer amount of hard work I must put in to achieve even the most pointless of tasks, let alone the larger dreams I hold within me.

On days like today I wonder what the point of working so hard really is. Five years of nothing but pain because I was too weak, naive and vulnerable to realise I was being used and abused by the woman I loved.

Thinking back on this weekend it is one I would rather forget.

I just hope that the changes Australia has made to its domestic violence laws will help others from suffering the losses that I have. No-one should live as I do. Not a soul amongst us deserves isolated loneliness because of the actions of an abuser so insecure they need to attack others to feel better about themselves.

Earlier in this haphazard, convoluted, unfocused post I questioned whether these changes were merely a token gesture. I sincerely hope that they are not, and over time, prove an excellent addition to combatting the grotesque pandemic that is domestic violence. But I fear, in much the same way as mental health stigma, that little will change until the general public and society at large stops advocating the abusive behaviour of others.

We shall just have to live in hope.