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01 December 2012 @ 10:29 am
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26 July 2012 @ 01:03 am
This week Channel 4 has been doing several programmes regarding mental health issues and stigma. It's been really interesting so far.
First there was Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions where she had 3 people with mental health problems 'come out' to their work colleagues. It was interesting, but i couldn't help that think that the conditions that the volunteers were 'coming out' with (depression, OCD, a small mental breakdown) were the most stigmatised conditions - in my opinion the most stigmatized conditions where peoples attitudes really need to change are schizophrenia, personality disorders, self-harm and bulimia. But maybe that's just me? I found it weird to see the volunteers struggling so much with their fear of judgement over their conditions - i guess it's because with my experience i was forced to be open about my problems from the very beginning because they came on so quickly and with such severity that there was no chance of me keeping them secret. Of course at times i have come across stigma, mostly along the lines of "what have you got to be depressed about?! Pull yourself together!" with regards depression, but most of the time my 'coming out' has been a fairly positive experience, usually because whoever i'm talking to is interested and often opens up about their own struggles (that actually happened today at work). Ironically the most stigma i've come across is within the NHS and particularly within mental health treatment - frightening really.

Then there was Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD. I was really looking forward to this one because Jon Richardson is one of my favourite comedians and i find him incredibly likeable. What i found interesting about the programme was that i learnt things i didn't even know about OCD, which is kinda ironic because i think i was diagnosed with OCD in the past! Mainly i never realised how severe it could get - to the point of hospitalization, with some people so incapacitated by OCD that they can no longer eat, drink or go to the toilet. The programme was really good at identifying the difference between full-blown OCD and a tendency towards it. And i found it fascinating at a personal level because everyone in my family has OCD traits.

And then tonight it was The World's Maddest Job Interview where 8 volunteers, half who have a history of severe mental health issues, are assessed by 3 potential employers (who don't know who has the MH history) to see if they're employable. At the same time a psychiatrist and psychologist observe the participants and try to guess who has the MH problems.
The employers picked their top 3 who happened to all have MH histories, and the psychs were only right in half of cases when guessing who had MH issues.
I found this really interesting, particularly the guesswork of the psychs. I sometimes wonder if if someone were to observe me, would they guess? If i tell someone that i have a MH history they're often not too surprised, but often people are shocked nowadays if they learn of its severity. If i tell someone medical about my MH history and its severity they're not phased at all, like they see it every day - which i guess medics often do because a MH history can't be hidden from a medic as easily as it is from the general public. I guess it's different a bit for me compared with the participants on the programme because my history is written onto me in the form of my scars - the entirity of my inner right forearm has hundreds of scars - and i don't know how much people notice them because no-one ever says anything.

One thing about the programmes this week that has bothered me is that in The World's Maddest Job Interview and Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions there's been a running theme of telling the audience that mental health problems don't inhibit a persons ability to do their job - trying to reduce the stigma of MH conditions in the workplace. However that assumption then goes against another bit o stigma i've come across, where people literally don't believe how inhibited being severely mentally ill can make you, and therefore how your mental health can make work impossible. Like, when i first got depression (and i know this is complicated by the onset of ME/CFS and sleep disorder being at almost exactly the same time) i stopped being able to function. My concentration was so poor, my energy was gone, i slept a huge amount, i had bad headaches, and my brain seemed to have turned to mush. I couldn't read anymore, all my creativity was zapped, in my lectures the words were coming in through my ears but i couldn't make sense of them, i could barely write a sentence, i struggled to walk far. At college my grades dropped suddenly from Bs and Fs, and i was missing more than half my days at work and when i was there i was making countless mistakes and bursting into tears repeatedly.
Even if i hadn't got ME/CFS, most of the symptoms of ME/CFS that i have are also symptoms of depression, so it's very possible that a person with simply depression could be as incapacitated as i was, and is therefore unable to work, therefore discounting the constant assurance of the stigma-reducing concept that people with MH problems can work as normal.
Another aspect to all this is that work can make your MH problems worse, depending upon the job. Though i haven't been employed i'd been studying (or trying to) during my time mentally ill, and it occurred to me after quite some time that my studying was actually contributing to my illness - by way of the stress and pressure i was putting myself under (which you need to do when studying or in many jobs in order to just get by) - and it was essential that i leave those pressures in order to regain my health (and, looking at me now, that theory was right).

I guess when it comes to reducing stigma, my opinion is that it's important that people understand more than anything that people are individuals. People are affected by experiences and mental health conditions in different ways, and therefore people should be judged individually, as opposed to on the basis of labels.
For example, if someone has depression, that condition can either make you very successful in the workplace, or it can incapacitate a person completely due to the wide range of possible symptoms and responses to treatment, so a persons abilities can only be judged without the consideration of the label.
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Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
11 March 2012 @ 11:06 am
I've read the occasional thing lately to do with mental health awareness and one thing is stuck in my mind - the way we're encouraged to think of mental health issues as comparable to physical health issues. Eg "you wouldn't tell a person with asthma to 'just think positively' so why would you to a depressed person?" and that kinda thing.

What really has stuck in my mind is that the mental health system treats mental health as though it's significantly different to physical health. Like, say, if i went to a specialist because of diabetes, they wouldn't intentionally withhold treatment in case i became "overly reliant" on it. Or if i was given a lotion for eczema and it didn't make the eczema go away, i wouldn't be accused of not using the lotion, or for not wanting the lotion to work, or not trying hard enough to avoid the eczema in the first place (without being told how this is possible). Or if i went into A&E having a heart attack, the doctor wouldn't make you wait 5 hours for a specialist and then tell you that heart attacks are perfectly normal when you're feeling a bit stressed. Or if i had a condition that claims the lives of a significant percentage of its sufferers and then was told that the potentially life-saving treatment isn't available in the county.
(Unfortunately these examples are all parallels things i have experienced - and looking at it this way around it is absurd).

Interestingly, last time i had contact with the mental health services, the nurse did compare mental health problems to a physical one, with "your mental health problems are like diabetes, you just have to learn to live with it. A person with diabetes doesn't stay seeing a diabetes specialist forever" (what is it with psychs assumption that i want to be under MH services forever anyway?! Because of course i don't because it's hideous and soul-destroying. I just want to have their help to get better and then i'll go off and live my life. Maybe this assumption is because i seem to have "BORDERLINE" stamped on my forehead...). Now, maybe i'm not in a place to judge considering i don't have diabetes, but it seems to me that mental health problems are significantly more complicated to cope with than diabetes, and with diabetes they do actually give some advice as to how to cope, whereas with mental health they, well, don't.

I still can't get the face of my jobcentre advisor out my head when i explained to her what the mental health system is like and that they won't have me. When i explained what qualifies you for help from the mental health services (aka, in my case that is "a crisis"), when i explained that the therapy that they think would help me (DBT) isn't available in the county, and how she was going "would it help if i phoned them?".

Maybe i could come to the conlusion that the mental health system is actually more mental than me??
02 March 2012 @ 06:38 pm
I've been keeping an eye on the media furore regarding workfare for the past few weeks. It's something that may affect me sometime, being long-term unemployed and all. And wow - the stupidity of some of the things the politicians come out with baffles me!

1) The politicians saying that workfare helps someone get into work makes me suspicious. They've quoted a 50% success rate, which when you look further is actually the percentage of JSA claimants that stop claiming in the 6 months after finishing their work placement. The percentage of people who are off JSA in 6 months WITHOUT workfare is also 50%. AND coming off JSA doesn't mean someone has found fulfilling employment - they may have found a temp and/or part-time job (and the jobcentre have been known to insist that you take a job you're offered even if it's only 7 hours a week), they may be ill, they may have had a paperwork cock-up and lost their claim for a while, they may have chosen to face worse financial hardship than carry on with the humiliation of the JSA process, etc.
2) Potential employers are not exactly going to be impressed by a stint of workfare. If they have a choice of potential employees and one has a history of paid work, another has a history of voluntary work and another has a history of workfare, which would they choose? And it seems most of the workfare jobs are completely unskilled so you don't learn anything new.
3) The politicians suggesting that the unemployed are being "snobby" for not wanting to do the shit work offered in the placements is SO ABSURD. People are not objecting to doing the jobs, they're objecting to doing the jobs for no pay and with no choice in the matter! DUH.
4) The concept that workfare creates jobs is equally ridiculus. If a supermarket has 10 workfare employees, the workfare employees are doing work that would otherwise be being done by 10 employees, meaning the supermarket has 10 less jobs than it otherwise would. DUH.
5) There is no incentive for businesses involved in workfare to offer the workfare employees jobs after their stint. Why would a business do that when they could just get in another workfare employee to work for free?!?! And repeatedly we have heard testimonies to say that this is true - most people doing workfare haven't been offered interviews afterwards, and new workfare employees are drafted in.

The thing that bugs me the most about all of this is the issue that first gained it recognition (thanks to the brilliant Cait) - by people being told to do workfare or lose their benefits. Shockingly, the phrase "do ____ or lose your benefits" comes out a lot at jobcentres. And usually it's a lie, or half-truth. But people who are reliant on JSA are going to believe it - the rules around JSA are so complicated - and the terror of destitution is so strong that people will go ahead and do whatever they're told. And i find that sickening.

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side??
I had a housemate called Ella. She moved in about a month after i did, and then left last autumn to move to Manchester. And now she is back here and living in our house again. I'd always felt a little uncomfortable around Ella because i've always felt like she is kinda perfect, and i'm really not. She is someone who is very confident, communicates well, is very self-assured, is very career-minded and driven. She earns quite a bit so she drives a soft top and goes on beach holidays. She goes to the gym nearly every day after work and is very fit. And one time she was talking to one of our other housemates who was talking about how she'd quite like to train as a counsellor but was daunted by how in training you have to receive councelling yourself, and she was Ella were wondering if either of them had any ~issues~.
I find it weird that i feel inferior around Ella because i wouldn't want to be her, and i wouldn't want to have her life. But i guess her life is more how society expects a young successful woman to be, and therefore i have some kindof projected desire. I admit i am jealous of some things - i want to be physically fit, i want to live a life where the idea of having ~issues~ is an alien concept, i want to work full-time, i want to come across as confident and self-assured, and though i wouldn't want a soft top and beach holidays i would like more financial stability.  
And, through all this where i've been thinking Ella's life is perfect and mine is not.... well, in the last few days my feelings have changed.
First it was when she heard i was moving to live with Simon and we were going to have our own little place. She looked kinda wistful, and said she was jealous that she didn't have someone she could settle down with and the possibility of making her own home. I was thrown - Ella, jealous of me?!?!! And then the next day i was cooking dinner when she got back from the gym (she goes every day) and i joked "so, still a gym addict then?!" and a look i couldn't identify passed across her face (think it was sadness) and she replied "yeah, pathetic isn't it? I should be coming home and relaxing after work". And i was just thrown again. I'd been caught up in the jealousy of how Ella could do a full day at work and then still have the energy to go to the gym (considering my energy levels have been so shit recently that i've been taking ridiculus measures to avoid walking up and down the stairs more than i need to) that it had not even occurred to me that maybe she was addicted to exercise, or exercise was filling some void in her life - namely, that she *does* have ~issues~.

So, that is obviously a sign for me that i do focus too much on the negatives in my own life and see things in a too black-and-white way.

North vs South
Since moving to Lincoln it's made me think a lot about England and its north/south divide. Before it was not something i'd ever really thought about. I'd heard about it, but maybe thought it was kinda historical - the North is where the factories and the poor people lived, and the South is where the richer people lived, but that had all changed now. It turns out the north/south divide is much more significant than i thought.
Lincoln is a weird one because it's not North or South, but Lincolnshire people perceive anything south of Birmingham as The South and being distinctly different to them, whilst not considering themselves to be Northern either. Geographically Lincolnshire is barely any further North that where my dad lives (which is considered South), and is nearly as north as Sheffield (which is generally considered North). It's strange. Maybe being north and south is all relative - like a person from Cornwall probably sees Bristol as The North!!
I have something of an identity crisis going on, and it relates to the north/south divide. Do i consider myself to be an adopted Lincolnite, and therefore a nearly-Northerner? Or am i Southern and always will be? Why does it even matter anyway? When i initially came here people could tell the second i spoke and sometimes from just looking at me that i was from The South (and Lincolnshire is weird - it's almost like it's so cut off from the rest of the country that they see others as 'invaders' or something, and a person of strong Lincolnshire heritage - like Simon whose family is one of the oldest in the county - is respected more). Since moving here i've adopted a new more-Northern accent and picked up some Lincolnshire lingo, and nowadays people ask if i was born here. And when i go back south Emmy is horrified by how i've "gone all Northern!" (she also struggled with Simon's accent for a while).
Mind you, i've always had a bit of an identity crisis in terms of where i'm from. For my whole life if someone asks me where i'm from i don't know what to answer - do you say where you were born, or do you choose one of the places you grew up in? I moved 3 times as a child and where i was born had no relation to where my family are from.
And in terms of me relating to being Northern or Southern, i don't know which identity i prefer. If i were to generalise about Northerners i'd say that they have two traits - 1) they're down-to-earth, 2) they're traditionalist. I like the down-to-earth bit - people are more straightforward and honest and live more fulfilled lives. But the traditionist bit - it jars with my liberal leanings and my love of the unconventional, exotic and new. Vegetarianism, caring about the rights of minorities, loving sushi, wanting to look in the Polish supermarkets, wearing an unusual outfit... they make you stand out here, and not neccessarily in a good way - "Southern fairy" i think is the term!
But maybe there is no answer - i'm not Northern or Southern, i am just me and should be comfortable with my elements of both. When i am South i crave the North, and when i am North i crave the South; it's an odd dichotomy.

02 January 2012 @ 12:34 am
Well, mmm, happy new year!

Have had quite a busy few days.

On wednesday Simon drove over here. We didn't do much because Simon was tired out from driving, other than buying food for me and Libby to make dinner (i made pennetone bread and butter pudding!).
On thursday we went to Gloucester to visit Charlie, who was my best friend when i was about 12-14, and friends with right into our late teens. We'd lost touch a bit in recent years because we both moved away, and she's had children, so it was lovely to see her again. Her kids are absolutely adorable! Noah is nearly 3 (actually, 3 weeks younger than FT), and William is 7 months old. Charlie also has a siamese cat who is awesome! Noah was really taken with Simon (as all toddlers are...) and had fun bringing absolutely ALL his toys to pile on Simon's lap, and William sat on our laps gurgling and finding things to chew on. Charlie is much the same as she's always been, apart from a slight bitchiness she developed in her teens has been grown out of, making her lovely. She's taken to motherhood like a duck to water, it really suits her. Sadly seeing Charlie dealing with motherhood in such an admirably capable way has made me realise quite how dysfunctional Best Friend is in dealing with FT - even though she tries incredibly hard to be a good mother, her own poor mental health really interferes with FT's wellbeing, yet BF can't see it.
On friday me, Emmy and Simon went to Birmingham to do some sales shopping. It was horribly busy! We had all-you-can-eat sushi for lunch which was AWESOME, and later on we found bubble tea!!!!!! Sales shopping was grim, but i did find a dress, and Emmy got everything she was looking for. Still got some more sales-shopping to endure because my winter boots have got a hole in them and i get a wet foot!
Then yesterday Simon and I went up to Coventry to see my Auntie Anne (my mums sister), where we drank copious amounts of tea and chatted.
And today i've been shattered, so have spent much of the day asleep, in preparation for the mental energy i'll need tomorrow being a human sat nav when we go home!

The past couple of days i've been thinking about my life in 2011 and what i would like to be different in 2012, and pondering resolutions. Things i think i'd like to be different about my life:
- i want to be more considerate in how i spend my time. Time is a precious thing and for me is passing incredibly fast. I want to try stop wasting my time on things that are pointless.
- i want to have a job, or more voluntary work.
- i want a proper home with Simon.
- i want to by physically and mentally healthier.
- i want to do more interesting, exciting and new things.
- i want to work on being more sociable, even if it's little things like keeping in contact with far-away people (by phone, letter, facebook, etc) more.

2012 seemed to be very uneventful for me. On the one hand this was good, because it meant nothing awful happened, but at the same time nothing amazing happened either.... life just kindof passed me by quietly.

Today i read a letter Auntie Anne sent to dad about the more dysfunctional aspects of our family. There's been an awful lot of feuds and bad feelings, going right back through the generations. It seems that every feud stemmed from stubborness and an inability for people to effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings with one another, leading to people simply not speaking to eachother for years on end. This is particularly interesting to me because two of my less useful traits are 1) stubborness, 2) a failure to communicate effectively with other people, especially about feelings! Clearly these are traits i've taken from my mum which have been passed down through generations of my family.
One thing that was particularly hard to read about was the feuding and fall-outs my mum was involved in. I'd never met Auntie Anne or any of her branch of the family until after mum died, and mum stopped talking to Grandma (and stopped taking us to see her) when i was 11. It was never completely clear to anyone why these fall-outs actually happened. I found out in the letter that Auntie Anne had sent me and Emmy cards and presents at every birthday and Christmas, but never knew if they arrived. And the only time she saw mum before mum needed her for her transplant was about 13 years ago when mum invited her to lunch.... but mum made Auntie Anne leave before Emmy and I came back from school. I just can't understand why my mum would do that; i can tell it really hurt Auntie Anne to not meet her own nieces.
I guess the fortunate thing for me is that i can look back at the mistakes my family have made and our more dysfunctional traits and then learn from them, especially with the background of mental health issues and years of therapy which has enabled me to see my own faults and those of my immediate family. And, although i missed out on having my family for many years, i have them now, and not taking them for granted makes them all the more precious.
30 December 2011 @ 10:44 pm
Five events that have been good this year? 
1. My trip to London in october.
2. Having artwork up in a gallery, dad and Libby coming up to see it, and them befriending Simon's parents.
3. When i found out about Favourite Toddler's improved prognosis.
4. Simon moving to Lincoln. 
5. Winning the ESA appeal and me becoming financially independent from my dad again.

Five events have been bad this year? 
1. Not getting the job at the hospital.
2. Being diagnosed with CFS/ME. It's also a good event, because it gives some possible answers, but i hoped answers=solutions+hope! Though, i do have a bit more hope than before i suppose.
3. BF being raped. 
4. Losing my DLA and having to drop my pride and ask for money.
5. Can't really think of a last bad 'event', so i'll just say my continuing ill-health.

What have you learned this year? 
I don't know really. I'd like to say something profound, like about the meaning of life or something.
I've learnt to cook quite well though...!
I guess i've also learnt the importance of connecting to other people. My automatic 'mode' in life is to isolate myself, but i'm learning that having people around you is one of the most rewarding things you can have.

Was the year that you expected it to be? 
I suppose so. I was hoping that i'd have made more progress concerning improving my health and returning to a more 'normal' life, but not managing that hasn't surprised me particularly either - progress is so slow for me. But i haven't gone backwards - that's very good.

What clothes did you wear mostly? 
In colder weather - jeans, boots, a top, a cardi and a scarf. In hotter weather - shorts or linen trousers with a top and sandals.

What's your most listened to music? 
Probably all of City and Colour's albums. Plus Adele more recently. And earlier in the year it was probably Bloc Party. 

What have you watched? 
On TV... nothing in particular really. The constant moving between my house, Simon's house and Simon's parents means that i can't keep up with any series. I'll watch cookery programmes (Jamie Oliver is prob my favourite, and i half-watch Come Dine With Me constantly), health-and-diet-related things (aka, triggering shit, such as The Food Hospital), and any programme involving the emergency services. Actually, i typically half-watch TV whilst messing around on my laptop in the evening.
One series i have watched is My Transexual Summer. I felt it was really good.

What is the best book you've read? 
Ooohh, probably One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. Though Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris was captivating. Both i would strongly recommend.

What is the most beautiful thing you got this year? 
Erm, i don't know really. I feel like the answer to this is meant to be "a diamond necklace" or something! I suppose the thing that's most precious to me is having Simon with me almost all the time.

What did you do on your birthday in 2011? 
On my actual birthday i didn't do all that much because Simon and BF were busy. I pottered around town a bit, and had coffee and cake in Waterstones, where MF and FT came to meet me from hospital with the good news about FT's prognosis. And that evening we went out to dinner at an Italian.
To celebrate my birthday properly we went to London for a lovely two days. We saw City & Colour, explored the Camden Markets, met up with jumpinggene, looked round some galleries, ate some delicious food, went to the London Dungeons, smoked a shisha pipe and drank bubble tea!

Did you do anything this year that you've never done before? 
Awful as this is, i can't think of anything! I feel quite horrified...

What was your biggest success in 2011? 
Not sure really. I suppose managing to keep myself at a stable level of health and functionality, as opposed to self-destructing in some way. 

Best buy? 
Erm, probably my sandals. £45 is a huge amount to spend on them, but they're so comfy and practical it was worth it.
And the money i spent on going to London too; i had an amazing time.

Favorite video of the year?
I don't know really. I don't watch videos much. Though this made me giggle; it's so clever.

Are you happy 2011 is over?
Yeah. Not that it was a particularly bad year or anything, but i kinda like a new year because of the illusion of a new start. I know realistically that new starts don't really happen overnight like that, but i like the idea that a new year might help bring a new slate and a new me.
27 December 2011 @ 08:44 pm
I am rather shocked by how bad i was feeling last night. I realise i'm like a toddler - i get so upset and tearful and grumpy when i'm tired. Last night i was REALLY tired and made my mood ker-flump (this is a technical term!). Feel better today.

This morning we went to visit my grandma (mum's mum). And omfg i am SO ANGRY. Some absolute wanker-dickhead has been stealing from my grandma. She's 89 years old, in VERY poor health and not very mobile, so she has carers letting themselves in several times a day (as well as visits from OTs and stuff), and someone has been helping themselves to her stuff. At first it was little things like food, but now she can't find her expensive perfume or my (late) grandads medals. My grandma is now quite worried and upset about it, not because anything hugely significant has gone missing, but more that she can't trust anyone, and the carers are people she needs to rely on and be able to trust!
I just can not get my head around someone being cruel enough to steal from a frail elderly lady. It's just sick.
To add to this, she's also been getting a lot of people calling at her house claiming to be collecting for charity or be gasmen or whatever. Fortunately my grandma is savvy enough to not let anyone in, and always asks for ID... and usually these people don't have ID with them... very suspicious.
Other than this, grandma is doing pretty good. She had a break from The Evil Meals-on-wheels (social services cajole her into using them. Grandma hates it) for xmas day and cooked herself a partridge!

And then this afternoon we went to Ciren - the town where i lived from age 12 to 20. We had lunch at the pub, and then had a little walk round town to see what's different, and then went and visited some old friends.
I've not been there for 18 months, so that was weird. It's strange to go to somewhere which isn't your home, but it be so familiar and you recognise so many people. I don't think it was good for me to go back in a way - it reminded me too much of bad times. And when i was reminded of good times that made me feel sad too, because life's not as simple as those good times anymore!

We've left Emmy in Ciren staying at her friends. Hopefully when we see eachother again in two days time we will get on for our last few hours together. Every time she sees me her face sours; it's rather depressing.
25 December 2011 @ 06:00 pm

                       Merry Christmas!!!!

Am having a nice day. We walked uphill to the Wetherspoons in the next town for xmas dinner which was pretty nice. And then walked all the way back down again, and didn't get back til a couple of hours ago. Before and after xmas lunch has been spent sitting around the living room by the fire opening gifts. I am feeling incredibly spoilt!

21 December 2011 @ 10:37 pm
Am feeling a bit... weird?? Kinda lost. I think i'm homesick probably. And i miss Simon.

Got to dad's this lunchtime. Not really sure what to do with myself. Usually when i'm at home i've always got *something* to do, and if not there's always Simon there, and lots of places to go to. Here there's nothing i *need* to do, no-one here except dad who's working, and it's a village so nowhere really to go.

I feel a little deflated because i'd kinda got it into my mind that i'd be spending most of my time here hanging out with Em, but it seems she'll only be here for about 4 days of the 12 i'm here! Can't blame her - she's not in the UK long and she obviously wants to spend time with Tom and her friends too. Unfortunately unless i go to Italy, these 4 days are probably the only days i'll see her between now and July!!!
This probably seems a bit weird considering usually on LJ i'm moaning about her latest atrocious comments/behaviour towards me, but the rest of the time we're very close.

I have a tiny split on the tip of my thumb; i don't know if it's caused by my skin being dry or if it's a tiny papercut. But it's split further and further and appears to be infected. Yuck.