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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Working with Voices: Nightmares

Previously, in the ‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’ workbook series…
~ Introduction ~ Dreams ~

MOnsters INc

“Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.”
~ Stephen King~

My nightmares…

“Close your eyes and think about all the things in your life that have caused you pain, distress, anger and frustration. These things could be brought to the fore as you work through the workbook so it useful that you write them down so that they do not take you by surprise later in the process. These can be states of mind as well as actual occurrences and symptoms of your mental health problems.”

This particular exercise in the workbook is incredibly difficult for me to do, which is probably why it’s taken several months for me to attempt it! There’s something about revisiting my ‘nightmares’ that causes such distress I’m often left unable to function, and without someone to help pick up the pieces and put me back together again, my fear of such an occurence increases ten-fold.

However, as it’s an important part of the workbook I will endeavour to do my best. The manner that I’ve chosen to complete this exercise is to separate the list into three different sections: actual events, symptoms of illness and emotional states/reactions. Please note that these lists are in no particular order.

Actual events

  • The emotionally abusive relationship I was a victim of
  • The (numerous) physical assaults I’ve been the victim of
  • The sexual assault I was a victim of
  • My sister’s mental illness
  • The bullying I was a victim of during my primary and high school years

Symptoms of illness

  • My greatest nightmare when it comes to symptoms of illness is who I become whilst manic. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that I live in constant fear of ‘becoming’ that person again!
  • I abhor my socially anxious self. This part of me is a source of great frustration and anger.
  • Incidents of self-harm often bring on feelings of fear, emotional pain and anger, more often than not after the act.
  • I am terrified of the frequency and severity of my suicidal ideation, especially in times of severe depression.
  • The frequent nightmares and random night-time behaviour that occur as a result of PTSD scares the bejesus out of me!
  • The negative (nay, abusive) content of my voices – especially from Vanessa and Shay – causes tremendous distress.
  • As does Shay’s preoccupation with misogynistic and sexist content, as it goes against my values and beliefs.

Emotional states/reactions

  • I am frequently distressed by my lack of self-esteem, confidence and image of self, not because it scares me, but because I know when trapped by these emotions I am incapable of showing the world my awesome self.
  • The same can be said for the mute-idiot I become when in any social situation – be it conversations with support workers/GPs, supermarket queues, support/social groups or the rarity of an actual social situation.
  • Although it doesn’t happen all that often, when I become truly angry I scare myself; which is why I’ve spent many years honing my skills of controlling my anger so that no-one ever sees this side of me…ever.
  • My lack of physical and emotional intimacy, i.e. hugs, kisses, sexual intercourse etc.) causes pain so intense it’s impossible to describe.
  • For that matter, my isolated state in its entirety is a source of tremendous negative emotion.
  • The unfocused and lost to pain states I fall into during the evening and weekends cause me great distress.

My fears about the ‘Victim to Victor’ process…

As mentioned above, my primary fear of the Victim to Victor process is opening a Pandora’s Box of negative emotion that will cripple my ability to function. The work-book recommends you work through the book with the help of a supportive person, but as I am isolated, I lack such a person so have to brave through it myself.

As such, the actual work-book could be classified as a personal nightmare, for it is yet another reminder of my loneliness.

But, as I’ve managed to work through various negative situations all on my lonesome (such as the anxiety I feel whilst shopping or pushing myself to attend support groups), I’m hoping that the skills I learned in doing these things will hold me in good stead throughout the remainder of the book.

Only time will tell, I guess!

~ Next ~
Identifying Your Experiences


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Working with Voices: Dreams

Previously, in my series completing the Working with Voices: Victim to Victor workbook…
~ Introduction
~

stars

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
~ Louisa May Alcott ~

My life goals…

“Close your eyes and think about what you want to achieve by working though this workbook. Spend at least thirty minutes simply thinking about where you want to be in your life.”

Several weeks ago, during the second week of my Hearing Voices Support Group, we completed this very same exercise. During that group we had considerably less than thirty minutes to think about where we would like to be in life, but I wrote the following dreams:

◊ To feel more connected to myself both physically and mentally
◊ To no longer be afraid of being homeless again
◊ To be able to talk to people without intense anxiety (making me look like a twat!)
◊ To acknowledge my achievements instead of constantly berating them
◊ To feel happiness again
◊ To see my writing published again
◊ Increase my confidence
◊ To no longer be isolated and alone
◊ To have a better relationship with my voices
◊ To love and be loved in return (cheers, Moulin Rouge!)
◊ To believe in myself
◊ To have a pet turtle (whom I shall name Magnus)
◊ To have a family
◊ To no longer be traumatized by abuse
◊ To be able to share my thoughts without fear of judgment, ridicule and humiliation

Now that I have had more time to contemplate, I would like to add the following to that list:

◊ To better manage my insomnia and sleeping patterns
◊ To build a stronger and more varied set of coping skills
◊ To become a functioning and contributing member of society
◊ To find a head space where I am not controlled by fear, negative thought or anxiety

If, in the future, I think of any further dreams I will add them to the above list alongside a notation of when it was added.

My goals for 2013…

“Then ask what would be realistic to achieve in one years’ time.”

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post in which I shared thirteen of my goals for 2013. As it fits neatly into this section of the workbook I have rewritten the thirteen goals, along with any updates of my progress (if there has been any).

1. Cross item one from the 101 things I want to do before I die list
Having narrowly missed out on this a few weeks ago (cheers poverty and anxiety!) this may (and I stress MAY) happen on July 13th…if all goes to plan! :p
2. Return to the Kings Domain so I can scream ‘Fuck you homelessness, I beat your ass!”
As item (1) involves travelling to Melbourne, this may (and I stress MAY) happen on July 14th…if all goes to plan! :p
3. Continue going to the Hearing Voices Support Group on a weekly basis
So far I’ve missed only one group this year and am actually looking forward (!) to attending on Friday after the break for Easter last week! :)
4. Keep working toward obtaining ongoing mental health support
I still haven’t found the courage to see a psychiatrist but I haven’t ruled it out, yet. I will also be doing more therapy focussed groups next term.
5. Start writing my novel(s) again
6. Smile more
7. Stop procrastinating about writing and sending emails
8. Expand my social networking presence
9. Go on a holiday
10. Make at least one new friend (in real-life)
11. See at least 6 films in the cinema
Still only seen the one. So now I have to see five films in eight months. Not looking good! :/
12. Write at least one blog post in every month of the year
January…check, February…check, March…check, April…check! Yep, all going well so far!
13. To stop being so hard on myself all the time and begin believing how seriously freaking awesome I am!
No change yet.

And as I am no longer constrained by the limitations of a Thursday Thirteen post, I would like to add:

14. To exchange a ‘hug’
Because it’s been far (FAR) too long since I was last hugged!

hugs

As it’s been so long since I hugged anyone I realised some research was necessary if I stand any chance of achieving this goal. I’m not sure if I’m capable of a “flying hug” just yet…perhaps that will be something to work toward in 2014! :p

~ Next ~
Nightmares


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Working with Voices: Victim to Victor

Over the last several weeks I’ve been mentioning a Hearing Voices book that I’ve been working through. This book is called Working with Voices: Victim to Victor (by Ron Coleman and Mike Smith) and its goal is to help a voice hearer better understand the relationships they have with their voices. By examining a voice hearer’s history, including the power and influence their voices have on their life, a voice hearer can develop new coping skills, foster better relationships and use this knowledge to work towards a brighter, safer, future.

Although relatively short in length, the various exercises throughout the book can be quite confronting for a voice hearer. As such, it is recommended that you complete the workbook with the support of understanding individuals. In my life, this means you! ;)

So, over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing each of the exercises so that you – and I – can build a better understanding of my life and people. This way, if I have some form of meltdown brought on by one or more of my responses, you guys can either giggle smugly or offer words of support (whatever you feel like doing at the time!) :p

victimtovictor

Foreword

The book begins with a foreword from Professor Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, who are credited as creating the Hearing Voices Movement in 1987. This movement regards itself as being a post-psychiatric organisation,positioning itself outside of the mental health world in recognition that voices, in their view, are an aspect of human differentness, rather than a mental health problem and that, as with homosexuality (also regarded by psychiatry in historical times as an illness), one of the main issues is about human rights. As with homosexuality, members of the movement intend to change the way society perceives the experience, and psychiatry’s attitude will follow.

This book is for voice hearers and the people they select to support them. It will enable people who have difficulties to cope with their voices and to discover different sides to their voices. Following a systematic approach it will unfold their relationship with the voices and by doing so will stimulate them to acquire more effective ways of coping. Most important in this process, and well stimulated in this workbook, is to take ownership of the experience from writing one’s own life history in relation to ones voices.

In social fields and in medial care hearing voices is seen as the consequence of mental illness. Voices are felt only to be very negative, and must be controlled by professionals. Voices are hardly ever interpreted as the messengers of the person’s life history.

This book however helps  a person to overcome three handicaps:

1) The idea that hearing voices is the consequence of an existing illness within the person, most likely being schizophrenia, an illness of unknown origin.
2) The idea that schizophrenia is a diagnosis of an illness not related in an understandable manner with the life history of that person.
3) The idea that the person as the consequence of the illness concept is powerless against the voices, that the voices are not owned by the person, whilst in fact the voices are a persons own experience understandable from the personal trauma’s or overpowering problems with life.

~from the foreward to ‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’

Ground Rules

At the beginning of the book is a series of ground rules. As I will be sharing each exercise with you, I feel it pertinent to make you aware of these rules.

  1. Voices are real, pointless arguments about whom they are real for are, by definition, pointless!
  2. Voices in themselves may not be the problem rather relationships with them, the power they have and their influence in a persons’ life may be the problem.
  3. This book belongs to the voice hearer, it should be a record of their experience, their coping and their plans for the future.
  4. It is all right for new coping strategies to be slow to work.
  5. Many people try different ways of dealing with voices. It is better to try to partially succeed than to never to try at all. You are in charge as long as you try. You are no longer the victim you are now the victor.
  6. Take your time, there are no prizes for finishing quickly.

The Process

The following is the process that the book works through.

  • Identifying your experiences
    Identifying your experiences in your own words and as you see them.
  • Exploring your experiences
    Looking in-depth at your experiences and looking beyond yourself to others and their reactions.
  • Understanding your experiences
    This is for you, and with your permission a chosen person, to begin to understand and to put into context your experiences.
  • Moving on
    This phase is about accepting if you want to, and making choices about how you want to cope and live with your voices. It is also about developing strategies for you to take control in your life and for some getting back your life as you want it.
  • What do you want from this workbook?
    Having dreams and objectives at the beginning of the process gives us a much greater incentive to move forward.
  • Creating your future
    Where you want to be in your life, how you will get there, what you need to get their, who you need to help you get there and what the pitfalls on your journey might be.

As I share more of the exercises – beginning with goals, moving through my voices life history and ending with planning for the future – this process (and the ideals behind the Hearing Voices Movement) will become more apparent. If you have any questions about my voices and experiences, either now or as we proceed, don’t be afraid to ask. If I can answer them, I shall. If I can’t, then perhaps one of my people will! ;)

~ Next time: Dreams ~