Thursday, 11 November 2010

Lest We Forget

Breakdown By Blood In The Sand 

Nine nine nine, the phone rings. 'Emergency which service do you require?' a female voice, metallic uncaring. Flashes in the night sky and I am there again.

'Fucking all of them, and make sure Plod has guns. I'm going to kill someone.'

Silence, then a cough. The woman composes herself and sighs.

'Hoax calls...' I cut her off mid sentence. 'Fuck you love, fuck this country, fuck the world. Tell them to bring guns.'

The television had shown troops in yellow swarming across a desert. Hazy green images, night vision. Tracer spiralled into the sky and my mind broke. My girl was 8 months pregnant. New life grew in her belly and children were dying again, because we are at war again.

I walked away from the news, out into the world and made a phone call. I couldn't breathe and my chest pounded. Small arms cracked in the distance, in my mind; then children ran past giggling. I screamed at them.

'Stand To'

They laughed some more and I ripped off my shirt. 'Fuck off... DO IT NOW' The kids ran and I fell to my knees. I didn't know what year it was and I thumped the tarmac to prove it wasn't sand. A cigarette and a moment to reflect, time to think.

An old lady wandered over. 'Are you OK love?' I shook my head and pushed the burning cigarette into my face. 'They're all dead' I started to laugh, got up and ran. Fear filled my veins, ice water. I found a bar.

Walking in unable to think straight. I must be dreaming. Kids are dying and folk are laughing, playing pool, drinking cold beer. What year is it? I ask a man and he laughs at me, they all do.

I am semi naked, burnt and frightened. I see a mans face, tattoos and anger. Fear becomes blurred and violence erupts. The pub is now silent and I am insane with terror. 'Where's my fucking weapon?' Blank faces, blue lights.

Two female Police officers ask to speak with me outside. I nod and allow them to handcuff me. Outside men are waiting, yellow jackets and flashing lights. I'm pushed into a wall and it hurts.

In the Police Station a Sergeant asks me my name, I ask him what year it is. He tells me to stop being a prick. I ask him again. His patience is worn and he tells his men to take me to a cell.

They want to take off my boots. I see a dead boy, one boot shredded. Dirty toe nails, thick black hair and no face.

'You're not having my boots'

A fist slams into the side of my head and my wrists are twisted against the cuffs. I scream and punches rain in. I cry out as I get beaten. On the floor now, kicks and more punches. I vomit and choke. Darkness comes.

I wake up, more fear. Panic now sets in, so I bang on the door. 'Shut up you dick' unseen voices taunt me, as I plead for water and my meds. I need the pills that stop the terror. 'Help me...'

I am given a cup of water. I beg the hand delivering it to call my Doctor, call my mum. I need my pills. Laughter and words are what I get 'Not so brave now are you?' I'm told to piss in my cell, so I fill the cup.

I bang at the door, again and again. Discipline, the will to go on, I still have this. The hatch drops and the Sergeant speaks 'I'm getting bored of you sunshine' I launch the piss at him, howling a war cry.

They leave me on the floor crying, broken. More fists and boots crashed in and I am ready to surrender, all fight now gone. I go inside my mind. I pick up a severed hand, cold and stiff. I wave it at the boy with no face and dirty toe nails. The car full of dead people has a flat tyre and I laugh. Who's going to change that?

Then I scream. Over and over. Men come in and walk out and still I scream. A woman holds my hand and I scream. My Doctor sits in the cell so I scream at him. As I shuffle out I look at the Desk Sergeant. I mouth a word at him and he looks to the floor, 'Soldier'

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A message to us all from Casdok

Dear Bendy Girl

I recently went to a fascinating talk given by Neil Coyle Director of Policy of the Disability Alliance (DA). Their aim is to break the link between poverty and disability.

Some of the talk was around the background of where we are now and how the Dynamic Benefits led to the creation in Government of the 21st Century Welfare and their principles.

As you know the ‘potential improvements’ to our benefit system include a Universal Credit – a one size fits all model. A savings generator rather than to transform people’s lives and tackle poverty.

No mention of support, genuine job opportunities, supporting employers, sustainable or even enough work etc etc (Statistics can be found here).

We are all in this together! Disabled people did not start in an equal position. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty already.

The DA need real people to speak up before the total effect of changes has such a devastating impact – case studies are essential.
So Bendy Girl I sent Neil Coyle your The Broken of Britain (A collection of real life stories) website which he said was very useful and he would be happy to add something to the site when they launch the research on DLA. (Dont worry i will remind him!)
So if we could urge people to send you their personal stories it could help make a difference.

Neil also urged that we all of course work with local councillors and MPs to highlight the impact of the proposals.

ACT NOW has put together an Impact Assessment report regarding the proposed cuts in public spending on people with Autism.

Disability Now warns of hard times ahead.

And the Ouch message boards are bursting!

Draft letter you can adapt and send to your MP

  I recently went on a one day Campaigning course – here is a brief summary of my notes which may help anyone wanting to take any of these issues further.

Good campaigns run by local people can make make a difference.

You need to ensure your aims and objectives are clear and concise.
SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound

Gather accurate information and evidence to support your case.
Examples include personal stories, questionnaires and surveys, good practice examples and relevant local or national statistics.

Timing is important, find out when to start influencing the decision makers.

Lobbying your local council. You can influence your council in a number of ways:
Contact your local Councillor. Use the Opposition. Use the Local Paper. Submit a Petition: Lobby the Leader, Executive and Cabinet, and use your local MP Locally and Nationally.

Use local media. When it works well, local media can be extremely useful in advertising your campaign to a wider audience. It can influence key decisions made by a range of people including, local councillors, MPs, business people and even help change public opinion.
It’s all in the first sentence – you need to sum up as much of your story in one sentence as possible and answer the questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. This is a great way to check if your story is news. If you can't sum it up concisely in a few lines of text, then perhaps it's not a news story.

Have a good sound bite. You can either put this in a quote in a press release. It can capture the imagination and get you more coverage and impact.

Letters to the editor. The letters to the editor pages are some of the best read pages in local papers. If you do send a letter, brief friends and colleagues so that when your letter is printed, they can respond and keep the story going. If the newspaper receives a number of letters on one issue, then it might prompt them to do a news item or a feature.
Phone-ins.These are the radio equivalent of letters to the editor.

Campaign stunts are effective way of getting media and public attention.
C and i will have to think of something! Any ideas?!
Hope all is going well Bendy Girl
Love Casdok xx

Monday, 8 November 2010

Rohan's Story*

Never before have I been so aware of myself, my strengths, happiness and many faults, as I was this morning on Sunday 10 October, World Mental Health Day 2010.
World Mental Health Day
There are so many misconceptions and myths surrounding mental health and depression, and they add a stigma which so often perpetuates the issues, and actively instil fear in those that might otherwise seek help.
For those who consistently tell society that sufferers can just ‘snap out of it with willpower’, I have nothing but contempt and pity, for as they have judged others so too will they be judged.
Depression and mental illness is not just ‘in the head’, as some would claim, but is a very real illness with potentially devastating consequences.
Women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some time, compared to 1 in 10 men. Men are far more likely to commit suicide, this may be because men are more reluctant to seek help for depression or it may be due to other factors including substance misuse, unemployment and social isolation
I cannot speak from a medical perspective, but can certainly do so as an individual who suffered from depression for the best part of ten years, a period which could and should have been a fraction of that, had I sought the assistance available to me.
Before I continue, I must emphasise that there is no blame to any of the circumstances surrounding my symptoms, but only on myself for being too proud and stubborn to either recognise or, more pointedly deal with them.
At the age of eighteen, I had had opportunities beyond what many would consider as reasonable. My parents did not have much, but had made every sacrifice to give me a first-class education and to nurture my sporting talents, particularly in cricket.
Two years later, I had become a man, far before I was ready to assume such responsibility. There were several underlying circumstances, not least the divorce of my parents, but most pertinently that in not dealing properly with that, I had turned to the bottle and turned my back on cricket altogether.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never an alcoholic that needed his first drink at 7am, but I was often to be found at the Student Union bar from lunchtime, often not to leave until the dying embers of the evening. Believe me when I say that is NO life for a young man just out of his teens.
The spin-off was that I ostracised and hid away from true friends because they are the ones who would tell the truth and would try and get me to seek help. We surround ourselves with ‘yes men’, none of whom truly care enough to disagree with us.
Denial turns to frustration, which turns to anger, out of which eventually emanates self-loathing. At this point, life no longer holds any type of value.
Life, at most points, was the same as that of anyone else, but an ‘episode’ was seldom distant. It is very difficult to describe the emotions and the constant shifts. It was almost as if there was no middle-ground, just moments of extreme happiness intertwined with dangerous lows, best described on a site that I discovered today:-
These destructive patterns of thinking seem to be connected to a “switch” in the mind of a person who struggles with depression. Certain “triggers” seem to “trip” the switch, causing a flood of hopeless and self-loathing thoughts, which then ignites the embers of depression into full-fledged flames.
Triggers can be anything that trips the switch, such as being criticized, having an argument with a spouse, losing a job, flunking a test, making a mistake, becoming ill, being denied a promotion, feeling rejected, raising a difficult child, having a bad day, experiencing a loss or disappointment, having a financial setback, and so on.
~ Source: Serenity Online
During this long period, there were times when the switch would not be tripped for over a year, but I always knew that it might not be far away. I lost a lot of friends during that period, and am eternally grateful to those who have stood, and continue to stand by me.
It was Saturday 14 January, 2006, the day on which I started to live again. I woke up that morning in St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester, at the age of 31, as a man with a past before he had even begun to explore his future.
By that point in my life, I had taken two major overdoses, and shamefully managed to acquire myself a single record, the type which is not available in HMV.
I know that I would not be here today, but for the intervention of Danielle, my late fiancée, and one of my closest friends Sally. Unanimously that morning, I was told that I was on my own and would have to face up to my problems. Dani simply said that as much as she loved me, she had to walk away. Maybe, it was tough love, either way it was indubitably my saving grace.
I moved back to Birmingham that weekend, leaving behind a life strewn with unpaid debts and bills, broken friendships, lies, anger and self-disgust. How on earth could I expect Dani to love me, when I was incapable even of liking myself.
Of course, there was one person, who had always loved me, despite the traumas to which I had subjected her, and that was my mother. She took me back in at that point, and I vowed to myself that the time for change had come.
I was fortunate to encounter a man whom I only knew for 6 months, but who had a dramatic impact on my life. My counsellor, who has sadly passed away, was the most positive influence on me, never reneging on the promise that he made not to be a comfort blanket. Instead he challenged me to start believing in and getting the best out of myself.
Make no mistake, this was not an easy process as baggage, for so long unattended, was carefully opened and constructively packed away into the past. It was a journey of self-discovery which has made me the person that I am today.
If there is a sole vindication of the positive changes in my life, it is that Dani took me back into her life, and that we were engaged to be married prior to her untimely loss last November. In many respects, it makes her loss all the more tragic.
However, any fears that I would find myself slipping towards any type of depression were confined to those around me, certainly never entering my psyche. I am a very different human being now, to the one which terrorised myself over a long period of time.
I am not too proud to talk about my problems – if this was the case, you would not be reading this. I am not afraid to deal with the challenges that life brings, and I cherish the gifts that we are given every day. I am surrounded by a fabulous group of friends and family who are not afraid to tell me the truth, and moreover, I am unafraid to listen.
It is because of where I have been, that I have absolutely no fear in where I am going. If I said that there were no regrets, it would be an untruth, but they are few and far between. My biggest regret is that I did not have the strength and wherewithal to deal with my depression before it had such a damaging impact on my life and on those around me.
For this alone, I implore you all to be more accepting of mental illness and depression, and not to attach a stigma to it. As an illness, it can have fatal consequences, and yet with the right support, it truly can be cured permanently. Whether you are reading this as someone who has or is suffering, or know someone that has, please do something positive to change it.
Mental illness is not just ‘in the mind’ but can have physiological and physical impacts, so we owe it to ourselves and those around us to do everything we can to raise awareness of it, and erase the ignorant myths and conceptions around it.
From a person who could not bare to look himself in the mirror, I am now a man full of life, hope, appreciation, and a better awareness of the feelings of those around me. In those moments of reflection and melancholy of all that has transpired, I simply remind myself of all the gifts I have had, and remind myself of the words of the Prophet Isaiah:-
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned”
However, you do not have to be spiritual to seek help, for it is available for all who choose to take it.
I have today written about things that have not been previously spoken outside my very closest circles. I dedicate this post to Danielle Antonia Price, my best friend and late fiancée, and to Pedros Kypridemos, an incredible man and counsellor. You both believed in me, and although you are not with me today, I feel you looking down on me and shining a light on me at every moment.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Jools' Story

In 1994 I fancied something different after living in London all my life and doing numerous jobs, in newspapers, clubs, pubs hotels and pet shops just to name a few. I saw an advert for Butlins in North Wales and applied. At the same time my soon to be husband was fed up living where he was and with life in general and so we ended up working in the leisure industry.
We both loved the work and after a brief break returned in 1995 for our second season. We both did numerous jobs on camp I was a chalet maid walking miles in a day up and down camp carrying supplies and checking with customers all was well, also worked on the amusement park shies standing all day sometimes for 14 hours encouraging people to play and win prizes. My soon to be hubby was on the fair, chairlift, handyman and gardener.
In 1995 we started dating and were married very soon. We moved off camp as I became pregnant and we could not have a child in staff accommodation. My husband carried on working at Butlins as I stayed home to raise our son. Then Butlins changed to Haven and they laid off loads of staff and as you had to speak Welsh to work anywhere other than on camp we decided to move to find work.
We decided we would get housing quicker in my Husbands home town so moved there in 99 and within days of arriving my husband had found a job. In between working and overtime he also worked on the house where he dug up the front gardens crazy paving and made a 3 story dry stone wall in a weekend. I would do all the housework and shopping walking miles to the shop after dropping my son at nursery and then getting home to unpack in time to collect my son from his afternoon session.
This continued until my Husband had a terrible accident at work due to no health and safety. His company wouldn't pay sick pay so we were left to cope on £62pw SSP. For almost a year my husband was left in agony bent sideways unable to lie down to sleep so would sit up all night. I eventually forced him to see another doctor and within a week he was in hospital having a disc removed from his back and being informed he would need a fusion operation to strengthen his back and would never work again.
In 2002 I became pregnant again and was so drained and sore all the time, I blamed the pregnancy and was sure once I had given birth I would perk up again. Sadly that was not the case and I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia/CFS in 2003. During all of this both children and my Husband were diagnosed with ASD's, dyspraxia and my daughter is hypermobile also.
My husband suffered terrible depression after his accident as he had always been a hard worker and felt pride in providing for his family. So he has now got to take medication for his back as well as depression and paranoia. My fibromyalgia/CFS has progressed so I can no longer walk any distance and use a mobility scooter. Both children are home schooled because of bullying due to their Autism.
We have been called retards by the neighbours. We have had people abuse us on Facebook because I dared to say I was worried about the cuts in benefits. But worse than all of this we have a lifetime on benefit to look forward to through no fault of our own. Our children's doctor referred up to Social Services for help and we were told we didn't meet the criteria. So I saved my DLA to by a mobility scooter, and then to adapt the bathroom.
We rely on the money we receive to pay to have things done that neither of us are able to do anymore, like gardening, window washing etc. We are not languishing on benefit like the government and media would like people to believe we are just surviving day by day. We have no family or friends to support us and are terrified of the future. I won't be surprised if they bring back the workhouse and gruel. People keep saying they don't want to pay taxes so we can languish on benefit but forget the taxes that a lot of us paid in for years as well. Some days I wish we had stayed in Wales we would never be in this state now.

Mark's Story

When we approached ESA with my father it necessitated that I get an overview of the benefit as the DWP simply did not take into account how overwhelming the experience of claiming ESA can be for those that are severely unwell. My father worked all his life from school leaving age till his late fifties. In the last few years of his employment it was clear to all that he was becoming so unwell that work was a serious risk to his health and an intervention from the family finally made him accept the seriousness of his condition. He is a proud man and he never wanted this to be his fate. He has Asthma, Bronchiectasis, Heart Failure, Primary Immunodeficiency Disease, Allergic Pulmonary Aspergillosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Hypertension, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome and numerous other conditions to boot. The daily cocktail of drugs he needs to survive has ravaged his body. He bleeds from the slightest knock, his bones are so damaged he requires daily morphine for the pain and is unable to walk. My father was judged fit to work and placed in the Work Capability work related activity group. Despite the sheer odds that faced him, he made it to the first interview this placing necessitated and the lady from DWP was so shocked by the state of his health upon presentation that she begun the process of moving him into the support group there and then.

The outcome was good for my father in the end but his treatment during the assessment phase was akin to bullying. I have heard of mental health patients who have attempted suicide as a direct result of the pressures they have endured in their attempts to claim this benefit.

The stories, hundreds of them, that my father's treatment inspired me to search for stunned me. The most severely ill people in our society are being judged fit for work and left without support. Again, I am going to stop short of writing much more as my ire is rising.

ESA was wrong and remains wrong