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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Why am I so damned hard on myself?

In response to my Ask me Anything post, Mind of Mine posed this question:

I want to ask this question but I am worried it might offend you. But what the hell, I am going to ask you anyway.

Do you think the reason why you are so damned hard on yourself and haven’t gotten over your issues is because you are worried that they make you the person you are and if you didn’t have them, then what/who are you.

In other words, do you think they define you as a person?

First of all, it takes a lot to offend me and this question doesn’t even come close to nudging my offense-o-meter. It is however a very interesting question that I will answer as best I can.

The simple answer is no. I don’t think my issues define me as a person, nor do I worry about being thrown into an existential crisis if I suddenly stopped being so hard on myself. With or without them I am who I am;  a passionate, creative, strong, beautiful, courageous, compassionate individual who has many wild, varied, kinky and inspiring talents that elevate him into the realm of pure awesomeness :)

However, as one of my favourite movies points out (cue Scottish accent) No, Dr Dempsey. You have to believe it before you can see it,” I’m so hard on myself because although I know who I am, I don’t believe in myself enough to allow this person to shine. All courtesy of the emotional abuse I received five and a half years ago.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person. It creates scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Source: The Mighty Phoenix

By the time I realised what my girlfriend was doing it was too late. I had lost every aspect of my personality, my self-worth, self-concept, self-confidence and self-belief. I had been brainwashed through months of insidious insult, attack, abuse, control, humiliation and manipulation into believing I am the most worthless, useless, repulsive piece of human excrement that has ever existed in the history of human kind. I had been transformed from a man on the cusp of achieving everything he had ever dreamed and worked for into a hollow, empty shell who firmly believed that the world would be a better place if he was dead.

Perhaps f it had only been this abuse the damage would not be so severe, but the addition of the victim blame mentality I received from my friends, all of whom informed me I deserved what my abuser was doing, cemented her words as ‘truth’ rather than the bitter ramblings of a sociopathic narcissist.

Thus, as I had no-one to ameliorate the effects of the abuse, my brain convinced myself that (a) everything that was said was a true and correct description of who I was and (b) I should be punished for whatever it was I had done to ‘deserve’ the abuse in the first place.

Everything I’ve experienced since – the assault and rape (which further eroded my already weakened masculinity), my mental health (which [erroneously] added to the perception I am ‘weak’), the social isolation (which further fuelled my abusers belief that I was unloveable and worthless), my homelessness (which annihilated what little I had left) – has made any attempt to repair the psychological damage caused all but impossible.

Hence the continued belief that I deserve what has happened to me and that I should be punished for past sins; both aspects manifesting in a continuous cycle of self-hate, self-criticism and self-judgement.

I know I’m too hard on myself. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists, blog friends, real-life friends, commentators, family and random people on the street have all noticed this over the years and pointed out how I’m actually a decent human being who doesn’t deserve to berate himself on a minute-by-minute basis no matter what it is that he does. But this does nothing to repair the damage the abuse caused.

The old adage sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me is crap!

There is a reason that many psychologists believe emotional abuse to be the most damaging form of abuse. However traumatising physical and sexual abuse is (which I learned the hard way that it is!) at least people see the bruises, believe that it’s happening and take action to help.

Emotional abuse doesn’t leave bruises, it attacks you from the inside until your soul is shattered into a billion tiny pieces that are impossible to put back together without help. Help that rarely comes as people cannot see what is happening until it’s too late.

The reason I am so hard on myself is not because I don’t want to get over my issues or that they define who I am, but because the repair job of slotting those billion tiny pieces together again is a long and grueling process, especially when you’re doing it all by yourself.

I live in hope (and bloody hard work) that one day I will be able to believe what I know is true. That I am a remarkable human being who deserves all the happiness in the world. Whose passion, creativity, strength, beauty, courage and compassion will be seen not only by everyone around me, but also by myself.


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SOC: And not for the first time, it scares me

THIS POST CONTAINS MENTION OF SELF-HARM, SUICIDE, ABUSE, VICTIM-BLAME MENTALITY AND RAPE, PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION SHOULD YOU FIND ANY OF THIS CONTENT TRIGGERING AND/OR OFFENSIVE. IT ALSO CONTAINS SOME WOE-IS-ME WHINGING WHICH SOME MAY FIND ANNOYING, JUST SO YOU KNOW :)

This post was written as a Stream of Consciousness on Monday 8 October 2012 between 1:22 – 1:52am. Apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors that occur throughout, they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

All the signs that I’m heading back to depression are there. The withdrawing from Twitter, the confused (rambling) blog posts, the writer’s block, the increase of voices and hallucinations, the drop of focus, the loss of enjoyment, insomnia, the heightened loneliness and desperate craving for human contact.

And it scares me.

The depressive episode I found myself in a few months ago was the worst since 2007 and I’m terrified of falling into another so soon. For the last few weeks I’ve felt as if my triggers have been on overdrive, with everything from radio shows to smells sending me back into the past and the plethora of painful memories that threaten to keep me there.

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I logged onto Twitter and discovered a woman had gone missing from an inner-suburb of Melbourne. Although I never lived there, aside from a few occasions whilst homeless, I would cycle through this suburb on the way to work. I attended gigs there, hung out with friends, danced at street festivals, got legless drunk, worshipped the library (the 2nd best in Melbourne) and, on one occasion, had a rather enjoyable sexual encounter near the creek with my girlfriend.

It was a suburb I loved, a suburb I still love and a suburb in which some of my old friends still live.

As soon as I heard a woman had gone missing my first thought was to find out her name because I was terrified(/paranoid) it was someone I used to know. All sorts of nightmarish scenarios were multiplying in my mind about my old friends and the only way to stop them was to know the woman wasn’t one of them. Whether it’s heartless to say or not, when I discovered the missing woman’s name, I breathed a hefty sigh of relief as the people I care about were safe.

Throughout the following week Twitter and the Australian mainstream media exploded in a way I had never seen before. Virtually every tweet that appeared in my timeline was about Jill Meagher, the missing woman; the police were searching her apartment, the police were removing things from her apartment, the police were interviewing the husband, was the husband responsible (Note: Australian’s seem incapable of learning from their own history), what happened to Jill Meagher?, the police have found her missing handbag, the police have identified her on CCTV…and on it went, a massive blow-by-blow account of the investigation along with tens of thousands of tweets sending prayers, well wishes, thoughts and hope for her and her family.

And then, almost as quickly as I expected, the victim blame mentality began.

“She was obviously at a bar/club, left there in the early hours of the morning, obviously partially pissed/drunk, and she ‘lead someone on’ [sic] and the consequences followed her. if she is going to flirt with someone, make sure that you go through with it because someone is obviously pissed off with her….in my opinion, it’s now old news, she met with foul play as a result of her actions inside the pub/bar OR as I mentioned before…ask the husband.”
~ Comment posted on a Facebook page about the disappearance.

“But for a stranger looking around in daylight, there seems no obvious reason why a young woman would choose to walk this way home late at night … There are better spots for a young woman to be walking alone after a night out drinking with workmates”
~ Andrew Rule, Journalist

Fortunately, several intelligent female journalists leapt straight on this and gave it (and the people responsible) the thrashing they deserved!

Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no-one deserves to be abused! No woman deserves to be abused. No man deserves to be abused. No child deserves to be abused. No living thing on this planet deserves to be abused in any way, shape or form. The moment you say they do you’re removing blame from the abuser and burdening the victim with yet more guilt for what has happened to them. In essence, you are punishing the victim and rewarding the abuser.

But, unfortunately, victim blame mentality is part and parcel of abuse; even though it should never be.

Like I said moments earlier, I support all the positive articles that have been written about this issue. Since my abusive relationship, since the rape, since the physical assaults, since my failure to be there for someone I cared about, I have done whatever I can to fight the scourge of domestic violence and abuse against women in this world. I’ve written previously of a time when I intervened during a physical altercation between a boyfriend and girlfriend and clearly remember thinking better me than her because I fucking deserve this as he beat seven shades of shit out of me. So I actually mean doing whatever I can and not just signing the white ribbon pledge before swigging back a pot of beer feeling all chuffed with myself.

The problem is (and why this incident was the starting point of my collapsing mood) however much I and other people care about violence against women, very very few people care about abused men. Now, I know this is a touchy subject and I fully expect an avalanche of tweets, emails and comments (as has happened in the past) calling me everything under the sun but men can also be the victims of violence; men can also be afraid of what may happen to them; men can be the victims of victim blame mentality.

Just as I’ve been. Repeatedly.

In 2007 a friend told me that “I deserved” the emotional abuse my ex had been giving me. Another friend informed me that I “needed to understand that I’d brought it on myself”. A housemate told me they wanted to “beat me” for “how badly I had been treating [my girlfriend]”so I should “just suck [her abuse] up and take it like a man”. A fourth friend, again, politely informed me “I deserved everything” my ex was doing to me.

All four of these friends were women.

Over the course of the following eighteen months I was called a misogynist on thirteen separate occasions for talking about the emotional abuse my ex had given me (I repeat, for talking about the emotional abuse not her gender) and even total strangers informed me I must have done something to deserve it. [Note: a list of the things I did wrong in the relationship can be found in this blog post from 2007, so I shall leave it to you to decide whether I actually deserved it or not. Personally, I think I treated her pretty well.]

Only one of my friends believed I was/had been abused, but she’s dead now, so no-one does. To everyone else…nah, it was her prerogative to treat me like that. It’s just a woman’s right.

As for the rape…hell, who’s gonna believe that? Of course it’s my fault!

When I told a counselor in 2007 they rebutted with me being a bit ‘out of it’ at the time and the most likely scenario was ‘I’d consented but just didn’t remember consenting’. Excuse me? I consented to being drugged against my will and whilst mind-fucked, consented to being anally raped and physically beaten? Really? I consented, but I don’t remember doing that because I was a bit ‘out of it’? Ahh yes, when all else fails, blame the mental illness. In 2008 a psychiatrist in the NT laughed when I tried to tell him about what happened (he was a dickhead that I never saw again). Later that year, I was told by a friend that it ‘sounded like a bit of fun’.

Again, only one of my friends believed I was raped, but she’s dead now, so no-one does. To everyone else…nah, it was just mental health inspired lunacy, a bit of a jape, something I should look back on with smiles and laughter. You know, when I’m waking up screaming night after night and prostituting myself so I can be punished for allowing the rape to happen in the first place.

When I was reading all the articles about the victim blaming of Jill Meagher, when I was reading all the thousands of syllables about violence against women, I was asking myself why anyone would want to inflict such pain on a woman, on anyone of any gender. I was asking myself who cares about the female victims of abuse who don’t fall into the ‘white, beautiful, wealthy’ category  and every other minute of the day I was flashing back to the moments in my life where I was blamed for the abuse that happened to me, where people I trusted as friends would tell me I deserved it; that ultimately, I deserve this lifetime of eternal pain and isolation the abuse has given me.

I was flashing back to waking up on the floor of a motel, naked from the waist down, battered and bruised beyond belief; of sitting in the shower for an eternity; of desperately wanting to tell people but terrified the news would filter back to my emotional abuser who would have used it against me as she had everything else (mental health, suicide, anxiety, loneliness) that had ever happened to me.

I was flashing back to the alcohol I would drink to drown the pain, to the knives I would use to medicate my tortured soul and the weeks I went without food because I was too scared to walk to the supermarket to buy food incase someone – anyone – was lurking in the shadows.

I was flashing back to standing in the middle of a forest months later with a noose tied around my neck begging for an end to the pain.

Jill Meagher’s body was found seven days later, followed, rightly, by an outpouring of grief. Tens of thousands of people marched through the suburb she had been abducted from to raise awareness of violence against women. Radio call in shows wanted to know what we could do to ‘remember Jill’ and the newspapers were blanketed with coverage of the aftermath, the man who had been arrested and the funeral.

But to many the damage had already been done.

The sheer volume of triggers I received that week set off all my victim guilt, survivor guilt, weakness guilt and every other form of guilt I’ve carried over the years. It affected my thinking, writing, sleeping and daytodaying. Not a minute went past without a nightmare memory of some description slipping back through the cracks of my mind and no amount of positive thinking was able to prevent them.

Whilst these nightmares were flooding my mind I was trying to navigate the complexities of a disability application (100s of questions are not a good thing for a mentally ill man with no concentration, let alone the trips to doctors and organisations to gather evidence of support.) All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and beat myself with a sock full of rocks but instead I tried to carry on a ‘normal’ life; blogging, online socializing, commenting, writing.

All the while being bombarded with memories of my past; tweets, challenge question prompts, forgotten photos and long-lost blog posts constantly reminding me of my pain of five years ago. Of my failure to retain friendships, of my selfishness, of my weaknesses.

Then came Friday, and the panic attack laden trip to Centrelink to fix a problem I had no warning over (I don’t deal well when something like that is thrown on me at the last-minute, especially with the possible ramifications (i.e. homelessness) if I hadn’t been able to sort it!)

Then came yesterday’s WordPress Photo Challenge asking for photos of happiness…every photo I have of Happy Addy is with someone else. Dozens of people I miss more than life itself. Dozens of people my actions and illness pushed away. Dozens of reminders of how lonely I am and – courtesy of triggers from the Jill Meagher tragedy – how I deserve how I’ve ended up.

And with all of this coming shortly before the 11 October; is it any surprise I’m scared of slipping back into a depressive episode?

For those who don’t know, on the 11 October 2007, I left a suicide note (described by a mental health professional as ‘schizophrenic’) and walked fifty kilometres from Melbourne CBD to the Dandenong rainforest where I attempted to hang myself. The attempt failed and I was ultimately taken by the police (who had investigated me as a missing person) to the hospital…

…where I was discharged 19 minutes later with three 20mg antidepressants (I had no other medication at home) and told I was fine! So, at 3am, a few hours after trying to hang myself, after walking 50kms with little to no food or drink, I had to walk home. The trip would normally have taken me 25 minutes, tops, but given I could barely move my legs and was about to pass out from the pain, that night it took me two hours. I spent the next three days sitting on a couch on my own (I had no friends to call) in a borderline comatosed state of fear, exhaustion, pain and emptiness. All I wanted was a hug, for someone other than my parents to show they cared. They didn’t.

As a result, around this time of year (end of September/beginning of October) this day and its events are all I can think about. And this year, being half a decade since the day I should have died, on top of all the shifting moods, reminders of the abuse I received, painful memories and lack of happiness, I’m scared what this week will bring.

Perhaps nothing.

Perhaps something.

As an old friend once told me, perhaps its all one great self-fulfilling prophecy.

All I know is that when I’m cohesive enough to look at what is happening right now, all the signs that I’m heading back to depression are there. The withdrawing from Twitter, the confused (rambling) blog posts, the writer’s block, the increase of voices and hallucinations, the drop of focus, the loss of enjoyment, insomnia, the heightened loneliness and desperate craving for human contact.

With my lease hanging on a knife-edge; with my disability application to sort out; with my lack of food and sustenance; with little to no distractions; the last thing I need is to slip into a depressive episode.

But everywhere I go, everything I do, the world seems to be pushing me toward that place.

And not for the first time, it scares me.