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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Daily Prompt: Morton’s Fork

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is:

If you had to choose between being able to write a blog (but not read others’) and being able to read others’ blogs (but not write your own), which would you pick? Why?

To blog or not to blog

Given I’ve been thinking recently of ending the blog, this isn’t a difficult choice at all; I would read other blogs and not write my own.

Being someone who often questions why he continues to write a blog, I’d much rather throw myself into the worlds of others than continue sharing my own. This way, I could keep up to date with news, current affairs, opinions, the occasional naughty photograph and the lives of others without having to worry about creating interesting post ideas, the continual embarrassment of sharing my existence so publicly and whether or not anyone is enjoying what I’ve written.

Granted, for a long time this blog has been my only therapy. It has been there when no-one else was, helped me through difficult and painful experiences and provided solace when all felt lost. But if I didn’t write this blog I could still achieve this release through journals without having to bother anyone with my meandering, soul-searching ramblings.

There is also Twitter, which although far from a safe place, could offer the chance to micro-blog my pain and continue my quest to raise awareness of the things society prefers not to talk about.

So all up, this choice is simple, but the choice over whether I should end the blog in reality is a lot more complicated.

Until I’ve decided, I’ll just continue with the best of both worlds.

 


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World Homeless Day: The day Australia forgot

Earlier on today I wrote a small post about World Mental Health Day. A day set up to raise awareness of mental illness and the problems those suffering from it face on a day-to-day basis. I also questioned the merit of yet another day to raise awareness of mental health problems when there are already so many events on the calendar for this cause.

What many forgot – or simply don’t realise – is that today is also World Homeless Day, a day that does need more awareness.

On the last census night (August 2011) there were 89,728 human beings classified as being homeless in Australia. Some were sleeping in boarding houses, some refuges, some motel hopping or staying with friends. Others, like myself, were huddled under blankets or sleeping bags trying to endure the harsh winter’s night. Every one of them had been forgotten; cast aside by a society that doesn’t care.

Since first logging onto Twitter this morning I have watched the #WorldMentalHealthDay hashtags filling my stream from every corner of this country. Dozens of organisations, politicians, celebrities, journalists and regular folk have been tweeting to raise awareness of this important health issue.

They haven’t for World Homeless Day.

Since first logging on this morning I’ve seen a mere three tweets mentioning this day of action and awareness, not a single one from politicians, celebrities, journalists or regular folk. (Perhaps they were there, I just didn’t see them, and I follow almost all the homeless organisations and advocates in Australia!)

Earlier this evening I tweeted a simple little tweet that, so far, has been retweeted once.

Another tweet I wrote, in response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard‘s tweet about World Mental Health Day has been retweeted five times.

For many years now I’ve been aware of the non-issue that homelessness is in Australia. Certainly, I will acknowledge that every now and then an article is written or a political promise made (the infamous halving of homelessness by 2020 comes immediately to mind), but compared to movements overseas there is nothing even comparable in this country.

My UK Tweeps have been doing me proud today. World Homeless Day has been mentioned almost as equally as World Mental Health Day, with many making the comparison I made in my second tweet about the two issues being connected. Specific hashtags – in addition to the general one – have also been created and pushed to promote the issue (#whatsyourstep, being one such example).

Given the time difference I know when I log onto Twitter tomorrow my US Tweeps will also be going World Homeless Day crazy, for unlike Australia, it is a real issue in both of these countries. An issue that people understand needs to be discussed and promoted at length if we stand any chance of ending homelessness for good.

Given Australia relishes in promoting it’s world-beating economy and the richness of its land, it is despicable that 90,000 people (rounded up to take into account those homeless – myself included – that were not counted as part of the census) do not have a place to call home. That they are living a cold, lonely existence on the streets of every town and city in this country with very few caring about their plight.

Not even the Prime Minister cared enough today to tweet a simple 140 character message in support of Australia’s homeless; an honor, as mentioned above, she did bestow on those with mental health problems. Perhaps because, unlike mental health, homelessness is still seen as the individual’s fault. Whereas in reality, it is a situation that could befall anyone; regardless of colour, creed or class.

As I wrote once before: all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head.

The tagline for World Homeless Day is ‘thinking outside the cardboard box’.

Perhaps Australia could start with simply thinking about the homeless. Only then will we be able to put our heads together and come up with innovative ways to solve it.

Posts I have written about my homelessness:

Reflections on being homeless
(a six part series looking back on my 2009-2012 homeless period)
Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless
No home, no life, no love, no stranger singing in your name
(a journal entry from my time on the street)
Five ways you could help the homeless
(written in 2010, whilst homeless)
Hope; the greatest weapon of all
(the things that gave me hope through my homelessness)
Addy’s (slightly tongue in cheek) guide to dealing with having a home after being homeless
(written in 2010, whilst homeless)

 Related articles:

 


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Trolls, friends and narcissistic jelly beans

It’s been a strange old week.

The Paralympics are in full swing, a vagina tightening cream was revealed, ‘Jelly Bean’ was caught out praising his own work and Victoria unleashed a new license plate slogan.

Given I don’t drive, think a vagina tightening cream is just wrong, consider ‘Jelly Bean’ a narcissistic prat and can’t watch the Paralympics due to my lack of a television, there’s only one issue that has dominated my mind this week; cyber-bullying – or, to call it what it is – abuse.

Issue of the Week

The cyber-bullying monster raised its ugly head at the tail end of last week. For those who missed it, or live outside of Australia, the trigger on this occasion was the events surrounding Next Top Model judge Charlotte Dawson, who ended up being admitted to hospital following an apparent suicide attempt after a vicious campaign of abuse had been directed at her via Twitter.

As per usual, the deniers were out in force; she should have blocked the abusers, she should have switched off the internet, she should have realized that it’s basically her fault, she shouldn’t have goaded the trolls, she shouldn’t have walked into a bar wearing revealing clothing because, let’s be honest, that’s just asking for it.

Okay, she didn’t do the latter. I slipped that in at the end of the paragraph to illustrate my belief that all the talk about logging off Twitter, blocking abusers and how she shouldn’t have re-tweeted their tweets is nothing more than victim-blame mentality.

If someone is being bullied at work, you wouldn’t tell them to just stop going to work.

If someone is being abused at home, you wouldn’t tell them not to talk about what’s happening.

If someone is being raped, you wouldn’t tell them that it’s their fault for goading the rapist.

As with other forms of abuse, the discussion focused on what the victim did wrong (thus, bringing the abuse on themselves) instead of looking at what the perpetrator did wrong (thus, dealing with the actual problem).

Which, in my opinion, is the continual disintegration of decency within society. There has always been bullying in some form or another, there has always been abusive behavior and the intentional degradation of others, but the onset of the Internet has created a positive breeding ground for anonymous haters to unleash their bile on the rest of humanity without fear of retribution or consequence.

From the top levels of government, seeping down through all walks of life into the kindergarten playgrounds, Australia is fostering an abusive culture. Such behavior is forgiven, excused, accepted and denied as ‘larrikinism’ or ‘the Aussie way of life’. The words taken as abuse were ‘misinterprated’ or ‘deserved’. The victim is making a mountain out of a mole-hill whilst their attacker sits back and relishes in the pain they’re causing.

In spite of movements to raise awareness of bullying and abuse the victim-blame mentality continues to reign supreme in this country. The debate this week should not have revolved around what Charlotte Dawson did right or wrong, the debate should have revolved around what Australia can do to make the internet a safer, more regulated place – and what it can do to improve support services for the people who are being abused.

Blocking users, logging off the internet or telling someone to just keep their chin up are not solutions, they are not even Band-Aids; they’re just excuses voiced by people who don’t understand the severity of the problem.

Everyone who uses the internet – whether it be news forums, Twitter or other social networking sites – should be able to do so safely. Just as someone going to work should expect a safe environment to operate in or someone enjoying a night out should expect not to be attacked randomly in the street.

My final word on the matter:

Cyber-bullying is just another example of the abusive culture we’ve been encouraging for decades. It is never acceptable, under any circumstances, to bully and abuse another individual.

Until there are consequences for their actions, abusers will continue their behavior, regardless of the pain and damage they are causing to the lives of their victims.

In all honesty, how many people need to die before society admits we have a serious problem that is fast becoming out of control?

Five things I learned this week

1. I have fourteen reasons to feel incredibly depressed. Yay!
2. 57 % of surveyed Australian women over 40 who say they want to have sex at least once a week; proportion who actually do: 36%.
3. Men can – and do – suffer from Postnatal Depression. Which technically I already knew, but at least now it’s been confirmed by a reputable source.
4. 125 students at Harvard University are being probed for cheating. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance of an elite education; don’t squander it by doing something as pathetic as this!
5. A new bookshop in Melbourne allows you to take a book for free, as long as you replace it with another. This is a wonderful idea that will benefit all booklovers – especially those, like I, who are unable to purchase books because of poverty and homelessness.

Five things I plan to do next week

It’s not often I get to feel pride over my own success, but all five of the objectives I set myself last week were completed. Perhaps I should mark the occasion with a celebratory jig or an imaginary glass of champagne?

‘Asylum of the Daleks’, the first episode of series 7 of Doctor Who, was wonderful. After last season, which aside from a few highlights I was disappointed with, it was an excellent start to a series I have high hopes for. Plus, massive kudos to Stephen Moffat and the team for keeping Jenna Louise Coleman’s introduction secret; we need more surprises like this in today’s spoilercentric world.

In terms of social networking, I have begun using the site again. Although I am yet to contact anyone directly, I have been dipping into the forums and sharing a few opinions here and there.

Stiffed, the first two chapters at least, is an excellent and intriguing read whilst I had completely forgotten how wonderful Frasier is. David Hyde Pierce, I salute you :)

Meanwhile, my blog – although sporadic in quality – has been updated twice a day, every day!

As for next week, perhaps I need a few tougher challenges:

1. Watch One Tree Hill Season 9 and write a blog about how this show changed my life.
2. Make at least two new friends on the social networking site (i.e. message people…gulp!)
3. Begin…and finish…The Comfort of Our Kind.
4. Come up with a new weekly series idea for my blog; which, given it’s only a few days away, I better start working on pretty soon!
5. Post at least one constructive comment a day, anywhere on the internet.

Linky Love

My five favourite posts I published this week, in case you missed them, are:

1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit
2. My 100th Post: The past, present and future of All That I Am
3. Unsent Letter #1: The first real friend I ever had
4. Seven things that make me happy (as searched via Google)
5. Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless

Five posts that other people wrote that rocked my world, are:

1. The Conversation: The Vagaries of Vulgarity and Honour Among Perverts
2. So You Think You Can Think: What If I Am Stronger Than I Think I Am
3. Becky Blanton: Mark, people, including the homeless themselves, still see the homeless…
4. Pride in Madness: I Used to Write
5. Mail Online: Men are suffering a depression epidemic too… and some of it is caused by women

and my favourite blog of the week is The Curse of the Single Parent, so be sure to check it out :)

And finally…

My three favourite photographs of the week:

The Escape Artist

The Ornament

Haunted Room


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected (actual) highlights:

YOU’RE A DISGUSTING MENTALLY ILL RETARD

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

THE ONLY THING YOU DESERVE TO FUCK IS A RAZOR BLADE

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

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

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

But you know what?

I’m still fucking standing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no-one will ever take my strength.

Ever.

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


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#myhomelesssignwouldsay you’re [sic] tweets are offensive

Screen Capture from Twitter.com

For the last few days the hashtag #myhomelesssignwouldsay has been trending on twitter, slowly rising up the ranks of what is most tweeted about the world over.

As of 8:18am AEST it is the third most tweeted topic in the world.

Let’s not beat around the bush, this hashtag is offensive.

Homelessness has become one of the few demographics (along with the overweight and mentally ill) that society has deemed acceptable to insult, abuse and generally treat with the sort of disdain that prevents any real change from happening.

Tweets such as these do nothing but further discriminate and perpetuate the stereotypes of homeless people.

Homeless = Violent
Homeless = Sexual Predators
Homeless = Violent and Armed
Homeless = Potential Murderers

With the power that Twitter wields would it not be better to be using it to spread awareness of homelessness rather than as yet another outlet for (non)comedians to prove how (un)funny they are with grammatically atrocious one-liners?

How nice would it be to see the #wearevisible hashtag trending through compassionate discussion rather than juvenile discriminatory humour?

Now, I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m being “precious” or that I don’t have a sense of humour, but hey, I’m homeless. It ain’t fun, it ain’t pretty and it ain’t enjoyable. Half the time I smell like two-week old gorgonzola so #myhomelesssignwouldsay  “Buy your nose peg here!”

Homelessness is a stark reality for millions of people the world over. They are struggling, desperate and in real pain. All this hashtag is doing is adding to it.