The Inevitable 'Goodbye' Post

Not Dead, Just Sleeping…

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday, dear Confessions
Happy birthday to me!

Confessions of a Serial Insomniac began exactly three years ago today with the first incarnation of the ubiquitous About page. It seems fitting and right that it meets its pseudo-demise on its birthday. It’s a nice, round timeframe.

Those of you that are regular readers will have seen this coming for months. Indeed, I’ve discussed it with several of you over the last…I don’t know, eight or ten weeks, maybe more. My passion for this place – once overwhelming – has waned profoundly, and it would feel a disservice to the blog to simply abandon it, rather than tying up its loose ends.

There’s so much I want to say that I hardly know where to start. I’ll jump in, then, with practicalities.

  • I said in a recent post that I intended to discuss my new set of sessions with Paul on the blog. I’m not going to do that after all, for which my apologies are due. I’ll outline the primary reason for this later.
  • I never did finish my series on my aunt Maisie’s demise. Again, apologies for those of you that were mad enough to be interested. To be honest, although I could have made the further details of the funeral into an epic yet dull piece of prose, not much of note really happened. Her coffin was carried up the road a bit, the eight men underneath it bulking under its weight. I once again, inexplicably, envied my cousins’ comforting of each other. Maisie was buried, atop a hill, in the sunlight. I cried again, like the sad cunt I apparently am. We went to the tedious, oppressive wake (on which, ironically, Maisie would have completely thrived). The only real out-of-the-ordinary incident was to do with Aunt of Evil. After hours of successfully avoiding the accursed woman, she managed to catch me out whilst I was aimlessly talking to her brother-in-law, Uncle of Boredom. Long story short: although she apologised to me for “whatever it was [she] ha[d] done” (as if she didn’t fucking know!), I ended up apologising to her too! I raged with myself for weeks, because I had done nothing to the heinous witch to warrant any words of atonement, but then I remembered she’d gone back to USistan without my having seen or spoken to her again, and I settled a bit.
  • Twitter and Facebook. I’ll keep them both ‘officially’ open, I think – Twitter especially holds so much history for me – but I’m very unlikely to be updating or checking either. Don’t unfollow them, though (unless you’re sick of me, which is obviously reasonable enough); you never know where and when I may re-crop up…
  • Although I’m finishing my writing tenure here, I’m not taking the blog down; it’ll still be fully accessible. Many of the search terms over the years – and the regular readers I’ve picked up therefrom – have suggested to me that some people have actually found parts of this rubbish useful, or at least enjoyable (!). I don’t want to deny others the opportunity to explore it should they so wish, and in any case the domain name and hosting are paid up until at least January 2013, so they might as well be made use of.
  • You can still contact me, though I’ll be disabling the contact form soon and, as observed, will probably not be hanging about Twitter. Instead, email me at pandora dot urquharthuxley at gmail dot com. This arrangement will most likely not be permanent either, but it will bridge a gap at least.

Now then. I suppose I should try to outline my reasons for leaving this place, my much-loved home for three years – the place where I met so many amazing people, garnered so much support and spouted so much crap that offered a surprising amount of catharsis. As I sit here and write this, it almost feels like folly to quit; Confessions has brought me so much, and here I am rejecting it. I will mourn it, and do so profoundly; it has shaped my life beyond my wildest dreams during its course, so how could I not?

But I am not this person any more.

I think there comes a time in the lives of most mental people where they realise, or accept, that they are defined by something greater than their diagnoses. For the most part, I have seen my life since 2008 – and, to a lesser extent, since I was a teenager – as an experience which was shaped by my diseased mind and its treacherous idiosyncrasies. Of late, though, I’ve begun to think differently of myself. I’m not naive, and I’m not an idealist: I have a mental illness, and although that can potentially be managed, I will almost certainly always have it. My views have not changed so radically that I now see myself as someone who has ‘pathologised her humanity‘ or some such other patronising fucking nonsense. Nonetheless, ‘mental’ is no longer the first word jumping from my lips when someone asks me about myself.

I suppose I could adapt Confessions to reflect this – I could write about gaming, books, pubs I like, holidays I’ve been on. But it does not, in any fashion, feel right; this has always been a blog about mental health, and I feel it more apt to let it stay that way. So as I as a person move on, so must my blog.

There are wider issues than just this, of course. Logistically speaking, I don’t always have time to write here any more, at least not in the essay-ish style to which I’ve always been prone. Again, I feel it would be a disservice to the legacy of what I’ve done with this journal to modify my writing style to facilitate shorter posts; it’s just not what this all became over the course of its life. I’ve had it said to me by a few people that my longest posts – probably because they’re the ones in which I’ve become most immersed – are my best, and I’d rather be remembered for that than for something that just dribbled dry over time. At the risk of employing a vulgar cliche, as Neil Young (and, more famously, Kurt Cobain) put it, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Additionally, to quote one of my favourite writers who has also lately bowed out of anonymous blogging, I am tired of pretending. I’ve long-since hated the anonymity that this place affords me – not because I hate the persona that you all know as Pandora, for she has become an irrevocable part of ‘me’, and despite it all, I actually don’t hate myself (and am not sure that I ever truly did). It’s because I am not ashamed of who I am, of who I have become, of what I have, and of what I don’t. The matters discussed on this journal have actively required that I cloak myself behind a pseudonym, but, again, I no longer see myself as someone solely prescribed and designated as a victim of sexual abuse or vicious hallucinations. To that end, I presently don’t need my anonymity (at least for pursuits unconnected to this website).

The final straw was in therapy recently. Nominally, Paul and I were having a proper therapeutic conversation, though he did at the end comment that it had been a strange session. It was, because I was not properly in it. Thankfully – or not – that had nothing to do with fucking Aurora; it was me playing games with myself. To get to the bloody point, I was sitting there considering in detailed terms how I could frame our discussion in dialogue-driven, prosaic terms – did he raise an eyebrow here, did I sneer at something there? – for this blog.

That is not healthy. I knew right then that I had to stop writing here. Therapy is meant to be a life-enriching, remedial experience; it’s not fucking blogging fodder. In the sessions that followed, having made up my mind to close things down, we were able to do much more fulfilling work together.

Naturally, this has a downside; I am unable to express to A, for example, the kind of material covered in session. I regret that, but I feel that healthy psychotherapy is more important for all concerned than others having insight into the process as it happens to me. If that sounds blunt, please forgive me: my point is that if I am unwell (as, without adequate, concentrated treatment, I will be), then everyone around me is affected. That’s no more fair on them – and probably you, as a reader – than it is on me.

I am a horrendously jealous person – I freely admit it. When I log on to that bloody curse that is Facebook – I really should deactivate it yet again – I see people I went to school with having brats and developing the careers they always wanted. I’m not envious of the former per se because, as you know, I’m childfree. But I am jealous of them having what they want, and of their apparent happiness with their lives.

But, you know, when I think about it all in context, when I think of all I’ve faced and all I’ve done – or at least tried to do – it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

I didn’t have the best start in life, whether through social factors, chemical ones or ones relating to my own psychology (or, in my view, a combination of all thereof). I could have let my resulting mental illness fuck me entirely – and at times it nearly has, and indeed it still might – but I fight with every weapon my arsenal allows me; I actively try to help myself get better. I engage with all services available to me – psychiatry, nursing and therapy (indeed, I had to go out of my way to secure the latter, after NHS Psychology shat on my face, rather than lying down under it like I could have done). I co-operate with them all despite the fact that they – like almost anything – are not perfect, because I don’t want this non-life any more. I want that sense of contentment that those twats on Facebook appear to have.

Although I’m still ill, I refuse to tolerate the idea that I should stay on state benefits indefinitely. That is most indubitably not to say that mentals (or anyone else with a serious and/or enduring illness) should be forced off ESA and other benefits. Fuck the Coalition and their myopic, dangerous biases; our first concern as a society should be to support individuals who are disabled, ill and/or vulnerable, rather than lowering taxes for people who can afford to fucking pay for them.

Still, I ultimately want to be self-sufficient, despite the perhaps precarious position in which I find myself. It may not happen any time soon, but I want to, when possible, try.

I’m pragmatic enough to realise that my illness can’t be cured, merely managed, and as such although in an ideal world I’d go back to a more traditional job, I realise that it may (and only ‘may’) not be possible (or at least sustainable).

So, for now at least, I write. I consider myself a writer now, regardless of whether others think the title narcissistic or grandiose. This is partly why I don’t have as much time as I once did for Confessions; it’s sad, but it’s real. As my best mate Dan (himself a full-time staff journalist) discussed the other day, I’ve made genuine in-roads into turning what was once a vague fairytale idea into a reality. I’m talking to Editors, engaging with the low-paying but still useful services of guru.com and eLance, getting my (real) name out there…and I’ve applied for a voluntary job which will involve, if I get it, writing for the local rags about mental illness. Most of my writing to date has been in relatively specialist publications and websites, so writing for the papers – a more mainstream pursuit, with wider readerships – would be a welcome challenge, and indeed a useful addition to my portfolio.

Oh, and The Book? It’s back on ūüôā I’m also half-minded to try and novelise this blog at some point, but that would be an immense piece of work – even harder than a random piece of fiction, because it would require endless re-working of Confessions, rather than putting a bunch of ideas down on paper and formulating them into prose. If The Book ultimately has any success, I may be buoyed to work on such a monolithic task, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

My writing ‘career’ may fail…but, again, I’m trying to make something of my life. It’s very difficult right now, what with not being fully well, and there are days when it’s impossible to face. There are days when anything is impossible to face. But I’m starting, and that’s got to count for something. If it goes tits up – yes, that’ll be disappointing. That much goes without saying. But I’d rather have that potential outcome than that in which I didn’t give it a damn good go.

And I feel a little better each day. A bit less depressed, a bit less despairing, a bit more positive, a bit more hopeful. My current medication cocktail, combined with an ever-excellent psychotherapist, has brought me closer to wellness than I’ve been in a very long time, despite the truly abysmal year this has been, circumstantially, so far. As I said way up above, I no longer see myself entirely through the lens of a mentally ill kaleidoscope.

In the years since my most recent breakdown, I’ve often cursed my psychic misfortune (aside from the fact that no, I still probably wouldn’t flick the sanity switch were I offered the option). Further, I’ve cursed this blog (sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes just in rage-fuelled piques). And yet…look what both my madness and my blogging have brought me.

  • A half-credible chance to use my afflictions to facilitate a respectable career, whilst simultaneously advocating for others in the same shitty boat.
  • Most importantly, I have met some of the most wonderful people in the entire known universe – people who (God/Buddha/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Richard Dawkins willing) will be lifelong friends.

Throw in the gratifying fact that I’m in a long-term – and, more crucially, happy – relationship with a loving, accepting partner. Multiply that by the other genuinely meaningful and life-changing friendships I have managed to forge throughout my life – Dan, Brian, Aaron, lots of people that are not close friends but that are certainly more than acquaintances. Minus the disastrously dysfunctional family, but add to the list a loving mother – something that not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

When I think about things thus, when I examine my life as though it were the Bayeux Tapestry, looking at the ‘bigger picture’ (I hate that fucking term) – well, I feel privileged.

And at the risk of repeating myself, in these circumstances, I find myself sometimes thinking, “do you know what, Pan? You ultimately did well, girl. You did well.”

And, for now at least, that’s enough.

Is this completely ‘goodbye’? Not necessarily. A number of you already follow another blog I write, and I will consider requests for the URL from others (email me as per the details at the start of the post, though please do not be offended if I don’t respond with the address; I don’t write exclusively about mentalness there, and don’t want it to become what this blog has). Furthermore, I may add the odd update here once in a very occasional while. And let’s not forget that when Maisie died, despite my pre-existing intention to wind down Confessions, I immediately gravitated here and ended up writing quite a lot; as it had been so many times before, the blog was my haven and lustration. Right at the top of this entry, I used the words ‘not dead, just sleeping’. So, when things inevitably go downhill again, or when some other life event once again sends me down the figurative shitter, this place could be resurrected. So do keep me on your RSS Readers and social media profiles just in case ūüôā I’m not offering any guarantees, and I’m certainly not saying it’s even likely. It would be folly to rule anything in, or rule anything out, though, so there you have it.

Whatever happens, thank you for sharing this madness with me. Your support, tolerance, friendship, and even love has made my life better – and literally saved me on occasion. I’m pretty convinced I’d either be dead or much more seriously ill than I presently am had it not been for the amazing people I’ve met through writing here.

In the parting words of the Ninth Doctor: you were fantastic – absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!

Farewell, my loves. Cue trite, manufactured, but tackily appropriate song from (who else but?! ;)) Lunatica.

Perspectives from the Mentalist's Partner (5): Thwarting the Downward Spiral

I should preface the following by noting that this post has not been written by Pandora. Rather it is a guest post by her partner, known to regular readers of this blog as A. The views expressed, needless to say, are not necessarily those that are held by the Serial Insomniac herself. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll proceed.

Over recent months, I have sometimes found myself wondering to what extent worklessness, quite independently of Pandora’s mental health issues, breeds the kind of motivational collapse that this blog so often and so effectively chronicles. The question seems particularly apt with the Coalition government taking forward very significant changes to disability support and out of work benefits.

Let’s get something straight from the outset; in raising this question, I’m not for one moment suggesting that Pan is in any position to work at the moment or that she isn’t deserving of the support that she currently receives. What I am asking is this: is being away from work for such a long time a contributor to the difficulties that now stand in the way of Pan resuming a ‘normal’ life? (Cue all the usual reservations about the word ‘normal’.)

In speculating on the life-deadening impact of worklessness I speak to an extent from personal experience, albeit not a long stint of same. When I completed my university education some years ago, I naturally went job hunting. I didn’t think I’d get anything quickly, and in the interim determined to enjoy myself, drink in (sometimes literally) the freedom that being away from full time study could bring. Without a care in the world, I could begin on any number of projects I’d always thought I’d like to do – writing some short stories, composing music, improving my guitar technique, learning to program a computer in a much less amateurish manner, honing my understanding of the world and its most important issues through wider reading. Sounded good. And yet I’d been warned that prolonged exposure to the dole could be psychologically debilitating. A friend of mine, a long term doleite, told of the fact that he had come to the stage where he couldn’t even be bothered getting up or having a shower on many occasions. I dismissed such thoughts; that was him, I was me. Nothing like that would happen to me.

Well, for my first four or so weeks of freedom, I was right. I had a whale of a time. No commitments. No pressures. I could go out when I wanted. I could stay up as late as I wanted for some deeply interesting all night philosophical conversations. I could catch up on series upon series of the good TV shows I’d missed, read good books, experiment with writing, compose bits and pieces on the computer, and so on. I could pursue what I wanted to pursue, all the while job hunting, attending a few interviews – not having much success – but oh well, time would sort that out, wouldn’t it?

Week five brought a niggling feeling that things were starting to veer off course. I’m obviously an impatient person, because by the time I’d reached this stage, the boredom had subtly, insidiously started to set in – and with it, the transformation of my motivation into molasses. That morning shower? Bah! Showers were for losers! [Pan – yes, they are. I’m actually scared of them, and since I am soooo awesome, anyone who thinks that showers are cool is wrong. Matter closed]. It could wait. Going to the shop to get milk? Black coffee would do just fine. Tomorrow, maybe. Getting up? Well, surely past midday was perfectly respectable. Maybe I could even practise some lucid dreaming! In short, postponement and procrastination gradually became the order of service, and with this development, the ebbing of creativity marched dolefully in step. Days blended into other days. Weekends were the same as weekdays. Friday afternoons weren’t the great escape they once had been. Time to do stuff was, well, just more time. And I had plenty of that, so why rush?

By weeks six and seven, my brain was beginning to atrophy. By week eight, I was finding it an achievement to force myself to take a daily walk into town – I’d even set this as a bloody goal, so pathetic was my motivation by this stage. That was the height of my ‘achievement’.

Luckily for me, I’ve always been driven by some sort of guilt trip which prevents me from giving up entirely – so far, at least. I continued the job hunting, somehow, and eventually secured a position.

But enough about me. The point I am trying to make is that worklessness – or so it seems to me – creates its own challenges which are generated separately from, or at least contribute in a separate way to, the challenges brought about by what I will call, for want of a less generic description, clinical depression.

I’ve now had this conversation with Pandora on a number of occasions. What part of her is unable to get out and about, to find motivation, to look for work, etc, as a result of her condition? And what part of all that is the result of being in the situation she has been in – without work, without what one might call external responsibilities – for around three years?

This thought process of mine should not be interpreted as a suggestion, as some would have it, that people struggling on benefits are necessarily work-shy and simply need a good kick up the backside. Do such people exist? Certainly. Are they typical? I doubt it. The long term unemployed who have lost hope need help back to work – a carrot and a stick, probably – but at the same time there are plenty of mentalists who, for various reasons, are unable to work, who want to work but are simply not currently in a place where they can do so at this moment. Let me put it like this: would you want your colleague having paranoid delusions, or bursting into tears/storming out of the office or off the building site because they can’t cope with what might seem an ordinary task? I have an acquaintance who sees conspiracies everywhere and who is working. Or was. Until he was fired. For threatening colleagues. On more than one occasion. Even after formal warnings. Because he erroneously thought that people were engaged in a conspiracy against him. He needed help. He ultimately couldn’t stay in work. He needs help now to get him back to a place where he can resume work. (That he fails to acknowledge this [I’d say ‘doesn’t realise he needs it’] does not negate the fact that he needs it.) I’m sure about this: a person like him should be nowhere near a workplace until he has had an opportunity to deal with – and be helped to deal with – whatever conditions afflict him.

I’m somewhat worried that the proposed changes to the system will fail to recognise cases like this; the medical assessors, as I understand it, won’t be specialists in the field they are assessing. Does that make sense? Not to me.

To return to Pandora’s case, and I can’t and won’t generalise about others, I still wonder how much her chances to get back to a ‘normal’ existence are constrained not alone by mentalism but also by having become stuck in a rut – through no fault of her own – for so long. Adjusting again to the concept of work, after the passage of a long time sitting in the house, will almost certainly be very difficult. It would be difficult for most people, I’d venture. For me, definitely.

So what’s the point of this post?

I’m not sure, really. I suppose I want to reassure myself, and Pandora, that a return to work will be possible, but I need to acknowledge that, independently of mentalism, it will be a gradual process, perhaps starting with some very light voluntary commitments and working its way up to some part-time, low pressure role. Eventually, of course, the objective will be a return to a full-time and, ideally, fulfilling career. You may have observed that Pandora is a smart cookie, and I think she’ll do very well for herself as a professional, provided she is able to reach a sound level of stability and find something that she really doesn’t mind (or, dare I say, enjoys) doing [which is all I’ve ever really wanted out of life].

I don’t have the answers, but would certainly be interested in the views of others on the ‘worklessness breeds worklessness’ theory.

You can follow A on Twitter at @TheNyarlathotep.

Fuck the Welfare Reform Bill!

I’ve deliberately stayed away from the politics of welfare “reform” on this blog for quite some time, because it’s such a nasty fucking business. But given the heinous, subterfugal, undemocratic fucking bullshit that has permeated all circumstances pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill, recently and regrettably passed by the House of Cunts Commons, I can stay silent no longer.

A constitutionally and legally aware individual may well, at this point, cry, “but you’re in Northern Ireland! What the hell does this have to do with you?”

A reasonable query, since the WRB applies to Great Britain, not the UK in its entirety (does anyone know if it applies to Scotland? I really can’t find a definitive source telling me one way or another). However, I have a vested interest for a variety of reasons:

  1. Principle. This is fucked. The Coalition government are sending out a message of “we don’t give a flying rat’s arse what happens to the ill and/or disabled of this country”. More importantly, however, benefit claimants – who, according to the government’s own statistics, are 99 – 99.5% genuine in their claims – will be forced into poverty, homelessness and even death by the fuckwittery inherent in this steaming, fetid pile of bollocks. Who in their right mind can reasonably stand by, watch that happen and say nothing, regardless of how much it does or doesn’t affect them?
  2. I have dozens of friends – some online, some offline, some both – that will be directly affected by this. At least one of them has spoken tragically of how she would rather end her life peacefully than suffer the indignity of all that comes with being completely impoverished, as she would likely be if major amendments are made to UK social security. Obviously, I sincerely hope that she doesn’t kill herself, but I can certainly understand the rationale that has led to that line of thinking. In fact, the spectre of the WRB has already caused suicides. Or, should we say, murders?
  3. You’ll have heard the old adage that “when America sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” What you may not have heard is that whatever happens in Great Britain generally leads to the same happening in Northern Ireland. We’ll catch this pox: be in no doubt about that. My partner A works in drafting legislation (albeit in an entirely different arena than this), and some of his work involves adapting statutes from GB into workable legislation for NI. On most such occasions, this is simply revision, rather than significant modification. One might argue that as the Assembly starts to assert itself, this may start to change, but this is unlikely to be the case in terms of social security – and that’s even with the fucking Barnett formula! An independent Northern Ireland (whether officially or by extended devolution) could not afford to uphold its current finances, never mind better them. So, they will do what they’ve always done; they will copy Britain’s “welfare” laws, and the sick and/or disabled in Northern Ireland will be fucked, just like they will be on the mainland.

Why the Bill is a Steaming Pile of Horse Manure

Short answer: it will strip a very sizeable number of genuinely ill and disabled people of their only meaningful income – the money that keeps food in their stomachs, roofs above their heads and breath in their lungs.

Longer answer: there is so much. I would strongly recommend reading the blogs Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and Benefit Scrounging Scum for detailed, well-researched critiques and information. Sue and Kaliya (respective authors of the aforementioned journals) are two disability activist stalwarts who, despite their own profoundly disabling conditions, have fought steadfastly against this shit, even co-authoring the Spartacus Report which firmly shows the WRB up for the demeaning and threatening bollocks that it is.

In brief (ha!), and personally, though, here are a few issues.

  1. Benefits will be capped at ¬£26,000. That seems like a lot – and to many, myself included (my benefit income is circa ¬£10,500), it is. However, on a national scale, this could be An Issue. London has some of the most expensive housing in the UK, and arguably in Western Europe. If benefits are arbitrarily capped for claimants in that city, the place will be completely ghettoised, a la the 19th century and (backwardly-chronologically) beyond. This is because claimants will either have to leave London entirely, or move into geographically-determined social housing. Social housing becomes “council estate”-ish. People lack opportunities. The cycle of life on the line continues ad nauseum. Poverty, sickness, degradation and a slow, lonely wait for death abound. (Incidentally, this argument could have applied to Northern Ireland until relatively recently too; until the arse fell out of the housing market, we had ((after London)) some of the highest house prices in the UK. Things have come down a bit, and according to Ian Paisley Junior, only one person in Northern Ireland will now be affected by the benefits cap. But still; there are other people out there that this will affect, and affect horrendously. It demands our opposition for them alone).
  2. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will become “Personal Independence Payment” (PIP). On the face of it, that’s no big deal – a change of name, yes? No more and no less (despite the fact it’ll cost hundreds of thousands to re-brand the fucking thing, but let’s not split financial hairs, eh? It’s only people’s lives that could be saved, after all). Except that it’s not that simple. For one, there will be no ‘automatic’ entitlement for people with life-long conditions – say, folks who’ve had amputations, or people like A who have visual impairments. Clearly these are disabilities that one can overcome so easily, aren’t they?! They’ll all be fine in a year or two! On a related note, two: every claimant, existing or new, will have to undergo an examination by either the insidious, sinister ATOS (on the mainland) or the Social Security Agency (here). This will, despite an illness’s variation or otherwise, include re-assessments at regular junctures. I have already discussed why this is A Very Bad Idea Indeed, so see that post if you need further explanation (short answer: it will fuck people up). Three: DLA currently includes components pertaining to ‘supervision’. If, for example, you are too mental to take your medication as required, or to refrain from killing yourself during the night, you are considered to need supervision. This works in the realm of physical health too; let’s say you’re newly blind and need to climb the stairs to the bog or some such – you’ll understandably need guidance. Well, PIP will abolish any consideration of ‘supervision’, meaning that severely mentally ill people, or others with major disabilities, will strongly lose out.
  3. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will no longer be paid to young people with disabilities. Further, non-means-tested ESA will only be available for one year to any claimant (regardless of whether or not they’re still sick/disabled) – after which they can, presumably, go and top themselves to save the Cuntalition some money for fine dining in the Common’s restaurant(s). Of course, they claim that this is all fair and just, because people claiming this form of ESA are considered fit for work after a period of recuperation. Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Oh really? Assessments by ATOS and the SSA? Yeah. These fuckers really know how ill or incapacitated you are. After they (don’t) listen to you for 10 minutes, they throw some shite onto a keyboard, which, when processed by a computer that probably runs fucking Windows, then tells them that YOU’RE FINE. Seriously. This is the way these pricks operate. Again, I’ve ranted about this elsewhere – indeed, I’ve detailed my own personal experience of being shafted by a “medical assessment”, and how I had to fucking well fight, cunting my precarious sanity in the process, to be recognised as being ill – and to disprove the myriad of lies that the so-called doctor at the SSA had written about me, or told by omission. Furthermore, as noted in those posts, none of the medical “professionals” employed by the SSA/ATOS are specialists. So, effectively, they know shit all about psychiatry, gynaecology, gastroenterology, oncology, whatever. Yet they’re allowed to judge every aspect of your illness or disability to the point where it could affect the continuance of your very existence.
  5. This is perhaps tangential, but fuck it. Why is it that tax evasion is allegedly going on all over the show and glanced over, serving the usual gravy train of ludicrously well-off people, when all benefit claimants really want is a modicum of a life and a tiny dollop of dignity afforded in their general direction? And, at the risk of turning this entire post into a fucking clich√© – what about the gargantuan minuscule salaries and bonuses of the wbankers that twatted the economies of an entire half-hemisphere? I don’t see the Cuntalition demanding capital returns from, nor demonising, anyone from these demographics for failing to do their jobs or do things by the fucking book…never mind for simply existing.

Aside From All That, The Government are Arseholes Because…

…the House of Lords hated the fucking Bill, and consistently modified many of its proposals. The reality of modern British politics is such that eventually, the House of Commons would probably have got the Bill through Parliament anyway – but why wait when you can be backhanded bellends about it?

The Lords is an institution with many, many faults. I could go into them here, but I can’t be arsed – and in this context, it’s not entirely relevant anyway. One positive thing about the chamber, however, is that unlike the Commons, it has a fuck of a lot more members that are (at least ostensibly) independent of any one party (people known as cross-benchers). The alleged reason for the chamber’s very existence is that, as appointees rather than elected officials, the members are often considered to be “experts” in their field: business, religion, law, and so on. Now, in practice, that may no longer be the case – but regardless, it remains true that the chamber is the upper house of the UK Parliament, and still has a significant role in the scrutiny of our laws. If its amendments/revisions/whatever to a proposed statute are completely ignored, it means that Commons’ members are effectively sticking two fingers up to a long established and constitutionally proper protocol.

And, vis a vis the WRB, stick two fingers up they did. In fact, as observed above, ignoring things at the Lords’ last possible reading wasn’t even good enough, oh no. They had to pass the WRB now. So, in an epic piece of subterfugal, self-serving, ethically diabolical cuntery, they used a little known and desperately archaic little device – “financial privilege” – to tell the House of Lords, effectively, to fuck off.

Ah, such efficiency. Such respect for the legislature. Such respect for fucking democracy, for the fucking country, for that country’s people. NOT.

I could go on and on.

But I won’t. The Welfare Reform Bill is unjust, degrading, completely unhelpful and downright dangerous, and if it goes ahead, lives of vulnerable, genuine people will at best be made desperately difficult, and at worst ended.

But advocates for the ill and disabled, such as Sue and Kaliya to whom I alluded above, said they would do anything and everything to fight this. The only possible way to stop this fuckwittery now is to stop its Royal Assent (ie. where the Queen signs the Bill off into law). You and I both know that’s never going to happen; even if the Queen thought seriously thought about it for more than three seconds, she would correctly anticipate the constitutional crisis it would create, and put her name to it anyway. Even so, call on her to withhold assent anyway by signing this petition. It won’t change a thing, but we must exhaust every single possibility – and one never knows. Her Majesty might impart some words of wisdom onto these bastards that are meant to be her “subjects” and our representatives – not modern fucking dictators.

I feel ashamed to be British. If the Irish Republic wasn’t such a financial fuckhole itself (lovely in every other way, of course), I’d be banging on Enda Kenny’s door right now, begging for citizenship.

In short: FUCK THE WELFARE REFORM BILL.

How Do You Work Full-Time When You're a Mentally Ill Seroquel-Gobbler?

Seroquel has tended to dictate that I sleep until at least 10.30am each day, and often much later. When I say ‘sleep’, I don’t necessarily mean that literally, because of course Seroquel regrettably loses its soporific effects over time, and I have an apparent predisposition to insomnia anyway; however, one way or another, the hangover effects of the drug leave me in a zombified stupor the whole of each morning.

Seroquel may dictate that I don’t do anything at all in its wake, but unfortunately of late circumstance has demanded the polar opposite. You may recall that A and I were burgled (for the second time) about a month ago. Two requirements arose out of this: one was the need to urgently repair the damage caused by the tossbags responsible (that being the broken back gate and the door between the kitchen and living room) and the second was, in respect of our probable desire to move, to get the house into some sort of cosmetic order. A and I live in perpetual mess and don’t really give a shit what the house looks like ordinarily. Of course maintenance of a house is a general chore to anybody, but I appear to have a specific phobia of it. Not that I’m using that as an excuse to get out of it, mind you, because I wouldn’t fucking do it whether I had said fear or not. (At least I’m honest, yes?).

Anyway, A’s father and step-mother have a mate who’s good around the house. He paints, tiles, joins, does minor structural work, blah blah de blah fucking blah blah. He’s trusted, being a family friend, and he charges reasonable rates. Excellent. Brilliant. Amazing.

Does that sound sarcastic? It is, to an extent, but seriously – we’re very lucky to have this connection, because of course it would be just our luck, were we to seek out a similar sort of individual via classified ads or something, that the person contacted would be an unscrupulous wanker with a criminal record the length of one of my more…um…exploratory posts on this blog (that’s c. 4,000 – 5,000 words, for current readers fortunate enough to be uninitiated). Furthermore, the bloke in question is a nice bloke; he’s fairly easy to chat to and seems to do a good job.

However. Fuck me but I’ll be glad to see the back of him.

I have a routine. An inane and, perhaps paradoxically, fairly un-regimented one, admittedly, but something that suits me nevertheless. I get up when Seroquel allows me to get up. Then I write, read or occasionally watch the pointless but inexplicably addictive rolling *ahem* news¬†(read: sensationalised bullwank) on BBC News 24. I sound like a work-shy fucker, I know, but even in these not-so-heady days of pseudo-“recovery”, this is genuinely all I am capable of. I don’t like lying in half the day, and I don’t do it through choice. I do it because the medication forces me to do it. In turn, the threat of potentially dangerous psychosis forces me to take the medication.

Our builder-joiner-decorater-Everythinger, and his penchant for showing up at eight in the bloody morning, has screwed up this seemingly idle but oddly workable routine on an epic scale. I haven’t felt this chronically and soul-destroyingly fatigued since I was plagued with literally months on end¬†of insomnia. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it takes me back to when I was still at work full-time and plagued with literally months on end of insomnia (God, that’s a vile memory. I would lie in bed, awake, all night – every night, for months. I’d get up at 7am and almost throw coffee beans down my throat. Then I’d go to work for 8am, stay there to 6pm in a futile effort to wear myself out, come home, stare blindly at the TV for a few hours, then repeat the whole hideous cycle for another day, and another day, and another day. And¬†this was before my 2008 breakdown came a-callin’. How the fuck did I do that every day?).

It’s the Seroquel’s fault, of course. I would probably be tired if I wasn’t taking it, but I don’t think I’d be so completely devoid of any atom of energy whatsoever. It’s the drug that demands that I rest (if you can call existing in a stupefied Seroquel hangover ‘rest’) so much, and when I don’t do its bidding, it punishes me, like some embittered monarch lashing out at a traitor.

Anyway, whilst I’m on the themes of Seroquel and working both, herein lies a huge issue. Last month, Differently left the following comment on my rant about knobend MP Philip Davies (who, incidentally, was one of the ones to question the Murdochs and Rebecca Rebecka¬†Rebeckah Rebekah Wade Grant-Mitchell Brooks over the News of the Screws phone-hacking allegations – how the hell did Parliament let him¬†on that committee?):

…realistically I‚Äôm unsure that I‚Äôll ever be able to work full time, since a combination of my experiences and the meds I take mean that managing 2 weeks at 10-4 left me looking physically unwell, pale and tired and feeling horrendous, thereby meaning that I hope to work part-time…

Seaneen, who is presently working full-time, has also alluded recently to how much Seroquel has inhibited her at work in the mornings (and she has, as a consequence, withdrawn from it).

I had been thinking, much to my chagrin, that part-time employment was becoming my own only realistic option as far as future return to work goes, but I kept trying to tell myself that¬†eventually¬†that wouldn’t be the case, that¬†eventually¬†I could back to working full-time. But this exhaustion-debacle with the Everythinger has left me seriously questioning that feigned optimism.

I cannot function without devoting most of the morning to a complete state of bleugh. I just can’t. Not whilst 600 daily milligrams of Quetiapine addles my entire system. So, if I continue to take the stuff – certainly at this dosage – there is no way in hell that I could work full-time. It is simply impossible.

I keep looking at other people (especially, to my personal feminist frustration, other women) Рrandoms in the pub, the street, whatever Рand I silently ask them, how Рhow?! Рcan you possibly work eight hours a day, five days a week? How is that even remotely physically feasible? And then I remember that I too did this Рfor years, some of it whilst doing a sodding postgraduate degree Рand I shake my head in stunned disbelief. How did I do that? How was that even approaching possible? Was I an imposter in my own body? (I do love a bit of ((self-directed)) Capgras). I am certainly not that person now. Was I ever that person, really? Who was I then? Who am I now? How did it all change? (And, you might ask, who fucking cares, Pan?).

Those that are masochistic enough to regularly read this blog may be remember that, at my last psychiatric review, I asked NewVCB if I could consider reducing my dosage of Quetiapine. You may also recall that she was potentially amenable to this, citing a maintenance dose of 300mg.

This could¬†help, and I might notice the difference more markedly after coming down from such a high dose, but my recollection of taking 300mg in the past was that it was still very – if not quite, as currently, absolutely and unequivocally –¬†debilitating¬†the next morning. Besides, I’m not convinced that 300mg adequately functioned on the psychotic features of my illness. It sated some of the voices a little I suppose, but it was only when I started ingesting a daily whack of 400mg upwards that they actually shut the fuck up (and random, probably stress-related delusions¬†are¬†notwithstanding).

So, herein lies my dilemma. You all know I don’t buy into anti-psychiatry ideals and (conspiracy?) theories. Seroquel works. I know I whinge about weight gain and have launched a virtual diatribe against the stuff in this post, but it has truly made my life better. As long as I have my get-over-the-hangover routine, I am fine. Venlafaxine at a high dose has worked wonders – well, quasi-wonders, anyway – in terms of my mood; Quetiapine has probably aided in that too, but the key issue with it is that I am almost entirely without psychosis at the minute, and have been (bar that one episode the other week, as linked to in the previous paragraph) for aaaaaaaaaaages.

But, much as I don’t want to be normal in what seems to be the standard, societally accepted version of the word, I want to be able to do the things I always wanted to do. In other words, I want to work. A career – not a job, a career¬†– was all I ever really wanted. Thus far, mentalism has denied me a career, but has periodically at least allowed me to have jobs, which may have – in another place and time – led to careers. Is being mental now going to rob me of both possibilities? Will I be a dolescum forever? Are part-time workers actually commonly sought by employers? Besides which, why is it fair that A works full-time (fuck knows how he does it) and I don’t?

Bah. I don’t know. It looks to me like I have a choice between relative sanity and full-time work. Please don’t tell me to kick the Seroquel, by the way. It isn’t going to happen, at least not in the short to medium term. I’d rather not live with a bunch of nefarious fucktards telling me to kill myself (or, worse, others); I’d rather not live with Paedo following me about the place; I’d rather not have to make sense of contemptuously vicious peccaries and stupid fucking gnomes randomly¬†harassing¬†me; I’d rather not live convinced that cameras are watching my every bloody move. Waaah waah waah, whinge whinge whinge, ad infinitum.

We could argue the toss about the true roots of psychosis all we might like – Paul of course held (and, presumably, holds) that psychosis is an entirely logical response to severe trauma, and he may well have a point – but I don’t think I’m ever going to go all R D Laing/Robert Whitaker on this. At the risk of being infuriatingly repetitive, Seroquel, for me at least, works. It does exactly what it’s indicated to do. (Or, as I mistyped, tindicated¬†to do. Geddit?!!!?1?!!!?11????!!eleven?!?! It does exactly what it says on the tin? Tindicate? No? Meh. Sorry. Humour ain’t my strong point).

So, sanity or full-time work. Full-time work or sanity. Why is nothing ever simple or easy in this enforced existence that the fabled they (not my¬†‘They’ ;)) smugly refer to as ‘life’? Why do we always have to make choices, to compromise, to ‘make do’?

Am I an immature little brat for being irate that mutual exclusivity exists in this context? (Actually, don’t¬†answer¬†that).

Anyway, enough.

(And yeah, by the way, I have¬†sold out and stuck PayPal begging buttons on some posts and on the sidebar. What can I say? I’m a slave to a capitalist world, a traitor to my fellow benefit claimants, a betrayer of my lefty principles, a self-serving money-whore of evil, a rabiator of [insert hated multi-national¬†conglomerate¬†of your choice here]¬†proportions, a twat, a dick, a __________, a &%$(“($, a…yeah, you get the idea. A few of you also did ask about it, in my defence ;)).

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Philip Davies, Mental Health and the Minimum Wage

This is an expanded, more opinionated version of an article I wrote elsewhere.

Unless you’ve been living under a stone since Thursday night, you’ve probably heard about the controversy caused on Friday¬†by a hitherto pretty much unknown Conservative backbencher. Philip Davies stated, in a debate on opportunities for employment in the House of Commons, that people with mental health problems (or learning disabilities, as he inaccurately referred to us on several occasions) should be “allowed” to work for the minimum wage. I shall come to that main crux anon.

Firstly, though, did you know that he also regards young people who are unemployed – without, apparently, any particular qualification to his comments – as braindead layabouts, who spend their money on childish versions of gambling? Well, you probably did – it wouldn’t be difficult to guess that I suppose, given other things he’s said – but let’s have it documented here anyway. This may not be the most popular blog since the beginning of time, but it may well have more popular appeal than the fairly turgid transcripts of words said in the House of Commons:

It is bizarre that the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Tony Lloyd) [Labour] thinks that it is appalling for young people to be going out to work for low wages, and that he would therefore prefer them to be sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle and ‚ÄúThis Morning‚ÄĚ and visiting their local amusement arcades, rather than having gainful employment.

(Source: Parliamentary Hansard)

Good to know, Mr Davies, thanks. I was under the impression that the majority of people without jobs – whether young or otherwise – were sick, disabled or trying to get work. Now I know better. Cheers!

Seriously, yeah Рwe all know there are some unemployed people out there like those he describes, but the stats show time and time again that they distinctly are in the minority. But if Mr Davies wants to ignore findings from (of all sources) The Daily Mail, with whom I would imagine he would get on with quite nicely, who are we lowly dolescums to protest?

So, onto the minimum wage/mental health issues. Mr Davies has accused several people who emailed him in disgust of not properly reading what he said (see below), so let me, as promised above, dissect his commentary by going through the Hansard record of the debate in question.

I went to visit a charity called Mind in Bradford a few years ago. One of the great scandals that the Labour party would like to sweep under the carpet is that in this country only about 16%‚ÄĒI stand to be corrected on the figure‚ÄĒof people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities have a job.

(Source: Parliamentary Hansard)

I can’t correct him on that figure, mainly because – as someone who does not have a learning disability – I have not done an awful lot of research into that arena. But wait…doesn’t he say that he went to¬†Mind? Why yes – yes he does. Mind are, as many of you will know, a¬†mental health charity.¬†Could Mr Davies possibly be equating learning disabilities with mental health problems?

Nah, he must just have made a slip-up…

I spoke to people at Mind who were using the service offered by that charity, and they were completely up front with me about things. They described what would happen when someone with mental health problems went for a job and other people without these problems had also applied. They asked me, ‚ÄúWho would you take on?‚ÄĚ They accepted that it was inevitable that the employer would take on the person who had no mental health problems, as all would have to be paid the same rate.

(Source: Parliamentary Hansard)

Oh, good. ‘Mental health problems’, he says – that’s more accurate. Now, I think very few of us would deny that Mr Davies and the people with¬†learning disabilities mental health difficulties that he met at Mind have a point here: as things stand, yes – the employer¬†is likely to employ the non-disabled but otherwise like-for-like candidate in a competition against a mentalist. I get that. I think we all do.

Mr Davies makes clear in the debate that he opposes the minimum wage in principle. That is his perfect entitlement, and as far as I’m concerned he can go about and campaign for reform of it all he likes. The specific problem in this instance lies, in my view, in deliberately dressing up his ideology in false (or even erroneously perceived genuine) sympathy for what he at one point terms society’s “most vulnerable”. The assumption made in his spinning of this is that the “most vulnerable” are less worthy than the “less vulnerable”.

To get a foot into the job market, we are supposed to work for less than other people¬†doing the same job?! We should be “allowed” this supposed right, rather than be allowed the right to compete on an equal platform based on relevant occupational merit?¬†All this despite the fact that many people with mental illness(es) are educated, experienced, intelligent people – and that they and many others within this sphere have other skills, demonstrable creativity, and/or potentially lucrative or strategic ideas?

No, Mr Davies Рthat is unacceptable. We are not lesser people than others, and as such we do not make lesser employees. Ergo, we should not work for less than the legal minimum.

I noted the following on a¬†blog post that initially complained about the¬†furore¬†surrounding Mr Davies’ remarks:

Racism [for example] is still rife amongst certain people; if Davies had met a group of black or Asian people who said that they’d expect the nice British Aryan to be chosen over them at an interview and subsequently suggested that they should be grateful to work for less than the minimum wage, there would have been uproar (and quite rightly so). I fail to see how the demographic to which he did refer should be any different.

And I don’t. The problem is¬†stigma and inequality, not who pays who what. Here (not sure about the rest of the UK?), the law has recently been changed so that potential employees don’t have to declare that they have an illness before an offer of employment is made; this is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough in my humble-ish opinion. Greater reform of employment law is needed – for example, it being entirely voluntary for an employee to declare periods of work absence.

But meh. It would be easier just to continue to stigmatise the mentally ill, to make them ‘live’ off a pittance, rather than perhaps putting our dear friends in business out a teensy-weensy bit. Plus, it saves money too – YAY! (Of course, Mr Davies working for less than the minimum wage would also save¬†a hell of a lot of money. Maybe he should consider that as a viable proposition.).

And the ‘learning disability = mental illness’ thing? Not a mere slip-up after all, as it turns out:

…[t]he situation was doing the people with learning difficulties [that he apparently met at Mind]¬†a huge disservice.

(Source: Parliamentary Hansard)

[in the wake of the horrified response to what he said] Left wing hysteria now dictates that you can’t even repeat what people with learning disabilities tell you if it questions their shibboleths

(Source: Twitter)

Good to know he’s informed on what mental health and learning disabilities are, then. I find such touching comfort in the fact that he can therefore ably speak for both groups!

I mentioned above that Mr Davies accused complainants of not reading his speech accurately. Even if that were true, which is patently wasn’t, his responses left a lot to be desired:

One

I am extremely sorry but I am afraid that you clearly have no idea at all about what I actually said as I did not say any of the things that you have accused me of saying in your email [she pointed out the laws on equality and disability discrimination and stated that his comments “disintegrated” them, then said that his comments suggested that people with disabilities should be treated as second class citizens]. Please can I suggest you read what I actually said in Parliament.

Two

Thank you for confirming that you have not in fact read my whole speech.

If you had you would have known that I was merely repeating what people with mental health problems had said to me!

I am sorry you feel their views shouldn’t be aired just because you happen to find them unpalatable.

Three

[to the same woman as ‘two’, who had by this point read his speech in full]

If you have read my speech then I am unsure why you would want to distort what I said and misrepresent it so badly.

Clearly in those circumstances it is impossible to have a sensible debate.

There are very many people with disabilities who have congratulated me for what I said. I am sorry you feel their views shouldn’t be aired just because you happen to disagree with them.

That is what I consider to be intolerant.

Etc etc etc.

(Source: Facebook Page – Reduce Philip Davies’ Salary to Less than the Minimum Wage)

Even if you agreed with every word the man spoke, even if you were thrilled with his claims of mere repetition, the brusque, condescending and simply bloody rude tone of his correspondences with members of the above page is not something people should have to put up with an elected MP, whether he agrees with their outlooks or not.

Also, he keeps stating that he was merely repeating what Mind’s clients said to him. What he actually said in the Parliamentary debate was that the folks he spoke to knew there was a much greater likelihood of a non-disabled applicant getting the job for which they’d also applied (see above). As I said before, I think we all know this to be true. Accepting that this is a real situation does not equate to a willingness to derogate from our right to basic equality, to being treated like human fucking beings. So, I’d challenge Mr Davies to state whether or not the people to whom he spoke specifically and¬†unequivocally¬†stated that they would be willing to accept less than the minimum wage in order to get some sort of employment. If so, can this be backed up? Mind don’t seem to think so – they appear pretty outraged that their clients were being referred to in this manner.

A, who is registered blind, was furious when he heard about all this on Friday evening. He asked, rhetorically, if he should be paid less than the minimum wage because of his disability. I should certainly be interested to hear Philip Davies’ views on this.

In the end, whinging about this here isn’t a particularly good use of my time, because Downing Street have already stated that they “reject” the ideas espoused in Mr Davies’ remarks. Still and withall, this bollocks really riled me. Not only does Mr Davies clearly not fully understand mental illness or learning disability, he has twisted – and apparently continues to twist – the innocent and justified lamentations of unwell but otherwise¬†ordinary¬†people into a reactionary, macro-political discourse.

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Silence is Dolescum – Paul: Weeks 19 & 20

Week 19

I have lost every last word of my notes on week 19. Fuck! This has caused me considerable frustration, but it could be worse. I do remember the session as being a rather frustrating one – it was characterised by a lot of silence and little discussion. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that this happened a lot when I was seeing my previous psychologist, C, and it used to do my head in. In my interactions with Paul, it had not seemed anywhere near as common – but in fairness, I suppose it’s inevitable from time to time.

Paul doesn’t think that this economy of verbal expression is necessarily a bad thing. I know that when I vituperated against myself for same in this session, and the following one (below), he defended me. From a psychodynamic perspective, which I suppose this therapy broadly speaking is, there is, he holds, a lot to be drawn from sitting quietly, just experiencing whatever one is experiencing.

It doesn’t make for a particularly fascinating blog post, however, and even if it did, devoid of my notes and with five sessions in between now and then, there’s little I can remember specific to that day anyway. So I bring you, instead…

Week 20

He opened the appointment by asking me to fill in one of those wanky questionnaires that therapists routinely present to clients – you know, scales of depression, anxiety, that sort of bollocks. Apparently he’s meant to do them every six weeks, but the last time he’d done one with me was either in our assessment session or in the first week or two of actual therapy. He says that their main function, unsurprisingly, is for Nexus’ statistics; it keeps the funders happy, but Paul himself thinks it is “a load of old toss forced on [him] by [his] manager”.

This exercise completed, he asked me if it had been “intrusive”. I responded by stating that no, it had been nothing of the sort – but I did wonder, “why now?”

“I’m quite conscious of the fact that when I first approached this organisation, I was advised that I would have therapy of about 26 weeks,” I told him. “This being week 20, y’know…”

“Yes,” he nodded, resignedly. “This is about the time that I start thinking about this with clients.”

He asked me how I felt we were getting on when measured against the reasons that had brought me to Nexus in the first place. What were those reasons?

I hate it when therapists ask this kind of question. Surely the answer, simplistic and uncomplicated as it is, is to feel better. I said so to him.

“And are you?” he asked me.

I shrugged, which was perhaps not an entirely appropriate response, and gave him my usual spiel about not believing in cures, etc etc. I added, though, that I believed that things could improve; life will never be easy, and what happened will always have happened, but perhaps it can be made a little more ‘in the past’.

He agreed, but did note that much more could be achieved if we had longer than 26 weeks in which to achieve it. Ideally, he stated, we’d work together for two or three years.

“But we do have to stop after those 26 weeks,” Paul sighed. To my own surprise, I felt great sadness as I let this statement sink in. It was partly about the relationship that’s been established, but it was more about regret that the progress being made would now be struck down. As things stand I don’t think there will be a regression [at the time of publication, the therapy has ended, and there’s no regression yet], but there could be a lot more moving forward if the opportunities were there.

But wait! Perhaps there could be some opportunity?

“You can always come back,” he said casually.

I felt my brows furrow. “Can I?”

“Yeah. You’ll have to wait a few months between leaving and returning, and you’ll have to go through another assessment and all that shite, but then I’ll just pick it up again anyway.”

Splendifourous! In the weeks that have passed since this appointment, my current relationship with Paul has been and gone, but I confirmed with him several times that I wanted to come back, and he himself confirmed that he would be happy to work with me again. So, in a way, it’s a win. I get a break for a few months, then get to pick up largely where I left off.

I used the ensuing pause to consider how things had changed in the time since I first met him. One key issue is that I mostly know now that everything I’ve said about Paedo is true. I mean, I always knew that some of it was, but as well you know, o my little brothers (and sisters), I doubted myself on many of my memories, despite their vividness, despite their striking detail. This is no longer true, and I really think Paul has helped to guide me to this position. His faith in me, his explorations of my child self (Aurora, whatever) have been strong and in-depth, and that has in turn given me the strength to face the truth and stop running away from it with allegations of False Memory Syndrome and similar wank.

Another issue was that my self-harm had “improved”. Writing this now, reading the word “improved”, kind of makes me laugh at myself. I haven’t self-harmed in months, and it reminds me just how far behind I am on writing about these sessions. I must still have been doing something self-injurious at the time, though I note with interest that I haven’t scribbled the specifics of that down on my nigh-illegible immediate-post-session ramblings. What I have noted is that I then stated to Paul that I still fail to see why self-harm is so inherently bad. Even though I’m not doing it right now, and don’t have any particular inclination to do so, I still largely agree with my stated take on this.

He said, “it’s not bad compared to what?”

I looked at him curiously. I hadn’t considered it to be somehow comparable to something else. Eventually, I shrugged and said, sincerely, “boredom.”

Then my intellectual mind kicked in, and realised what he was trying to get at. “Of course,” I continued, “that doesn’t work from a psychodynamic perspective, does it?”

Used to this kind of inappropriate interruption, Paul immediately returned with, “let me worry about that. What does boredom mean to you?”

I shrugged. “Self-harm is something to do. Blood is something to watch.”

“Isn’t it about feeling something?” he asked. “Don’t you see the repetitive nature of what you’re doing? Stabbing? Penetrating?”

Well, I do, yes. I also see the repetitive nature of this particular conversation with you, Paul, but let’s not get bogged down by pedantry, eh?

I was silent for what felt like forever. The fact that we’ve had this particular exchange so many times frustrated me, and I didn’t want to confess that to him, but at the same time, Aurora was faffing about in the back of my mind and I kept, internally, telling her to shut the fuck up. She wanted her say, as she often does. I didn’t (and don’t) want her to have it (as you might imagine Paul finds this particular issue to be unhealthy, but that’s a story to be told in more depth on another day).

But she kept on and on and on and on and fucking on, until I could bear listening to her no longer. So I tried to speak for her, but each time – for ages, over many attempts – the words stuck in my throat. So I instinctively resorted to a more standard version of communication, and berated myself (whilst beating myself and Aurora about the head) for my inability to verbally convey the matters in my mind.

I was biting my thumb, I remember, during the moments of silence that preceded and indeed followed this childish outburst. Acting out, anyone? Paul observed at one point that the transference emanating from me was “very childlike.” Funny that, when I’ve got this fucking infernal brat in my head trying her damndest to take over my body as well. You folks with DID and multiplicity of other descriptions – fair play to you for coping with that kind of thing all the time. Dealing with one alter on an occasional basis (at least, as far as I am aware it’s occasional) exhausts me entirely.

Eventually he said, in that time honoured fashion of psychotherapists the world over, “how do you feel?”

I made a non-committal facial gesture in response.

“You looked angry,” he prompted.

“Of course I’m angry,” I spat, the vitriol in my tone almost palpable. “I sit here and waste both my time and yours by being unable to open my stupid fucking mouth. What’s the point in that, Paul? Of course I’m angry. I’m angry with me [and, not that I said this aloud mind you, I was angry with her too].”

“OK,” he replied, “you mentioned psychodynamic work earlier. In psychodynamic work, silence can be useful. A lack of words can say an awful lot. You know that.”

What can it say?” I begged him, sounding pathetically desperate for answers.

“Usually I come to your rescue at about this point,” he said. I waited for him to follow this comment up with the rescue itself, but he didn’t.

After another infernal millennium of no speaking, I blurted out, in a laughable squeal of apparent anguish, “please help me here! I’m stuck!”

Eventually, he began to respond, carefully. “One of the hardest parts of my job,” he said, “is having to sit here not having answers, nor knowing what to say. I have to sit here and let my clients suffer at times. The reason is, they were damaged as children and need an adult to be with them who won’t tell them how to think, what to say, how to feel. Sometimes they just need to sit with the pain.”

Another pause.

“OK, but what do I do?” Reading this comment back has amused me somewhat. He had already said that he wasn’t going to prescribe my comments nor my words, and when he responded with a simple, “I dunno,” I shouldn’t have been surprised.

He added, a few minutes later, that perhaps there was some value in not knowing what to do.

“And how does that achieve anything?” I enquired witheringly, looking out the window behind me at the frustrating normality of life outside the therapy room.

“It enables us to have a comfortable, honest relationship.”

“Right, that’s good and everything, but how does it advance matters?”

“It allows a unique relationship. It’s different from your psychiatrist, wouldn’t you agree? Does she ever not know what to do? Does she allow you not to? It’s even different from your relationship with A [well, I’d like to bloody hope so, yes]. You have to, at least on occasion, live in the real world with him. You don’t in here.”

When I didn’t answer, he went on: “the disorganised part of you is allowed in here, yet it’s the part you fervently fight to keep out. What can that tell us?”

“Well, I’m obviously uncomfortable with that side of myself,” I conceded.

“Yes – but why in here specifically?” he pressed. “I think there’s enough trust between us [yes] that you know that you’re safe here, that you won’t be judged or hurt or whatever, but yet you push it away nonetheless. Is it that it’s not needed in here?”

“It’s very destructive,” I responded, avoiding the question posed. “Sometimes I want to kick and punch the living shit out of things…wait, I haven’t done that have I?” I cried, suddenly panicked. “I didn’t dissociate and kick the fuck out of that wall [the wall has some paint peeling off it in a curious fashion]?”

He shook his head whilst suppressing a wry smile. “What brings those times about?” he asked me.

“It’s just…it’s just so profoundly un-fucking-fair. And that makes me angry.” I cleared my throat. “But so what? Life’s not fair; shit happens.”

“I think you’re allowed a bit of leeway on that,” Paul responded. “Most people thankfully don’t have to go through what you’ve gone through. That’s more than mere ‘life’ – that’s having shit kicked in your face and then some.”

“But I’m not angry with him,” I whined. “The anger is there, it’s just…not pinned down to one specific person. I don’t like him, but I don’t wish him ill.”

“Why?” (Inevitable).

“I just don’t,” I said pathetically, looking intently at the non-descript carpet. “I just…don’t.”

More silence befell the meeting, but I uncharacteristically broke it without it going on for 18 chiliads. Instead, a few minutes later, I admitted that I had lately been torn between feeling sad, and feeling bollock-bustingly furious.

“The problem with either anger or sadness is that neither gets you anywhere nor does anything,” I lamented with a philosophical sigh. “I mean, other feelings serve as uncomfortable but nonetheless useful catalysts or warnings, just like physical pain. Look at anxiety, for example – it’s horrible but it’s there to protect you, or scare you into a fight or flight response. Anger and sorrow do nothing.”

I went on to tell Paul that, a few months prior to this meeting, especially early in our acquaintance, the primary feeling I experienced was one of a low-lying but paradoxically paralysing terror. Or perhaps horror. Or dread. Or a curious alchemic mix of all three at the same time. See this post, for example. But as I said to him, that really isn’t true any more – or, rather, I don’t have that constant horrordread hanging in the air wherever and whenever I walk.

“What scares you now, then?” he queried pragmatically.

I thought this through out loud.

“Family? No. There’s just…well, again, there’s just a sort of sadness there [which is weird to read back as, aside from my mother, I mostly don’t much care about any of them]. Let me see…well, crowds. Obviously. Don’t do crowds well at all. And…work. That scares the absolute living fuck out of me.”

“What’s frightening about a job?” Paul asked.

What’s frightening about anything? I never said any of this was rational! As I said to him, it is just a vague, unspecific sort of anxiety that overwhelms me whenever I consider it. However, I did attempt to pick it apart for him.

“I’d theorise that my fear of failure is so profound as to be debilitating. I’m petrified of failing others, of letting them down. I’m scared of people, and in the vast majority of jobs there are – regrettably – people.

“More practically, there’s my pathological phone phobia. My concentration, whilst better than it was a year ago, is still rubbish. There’s no point in doing a job if you can’t concentrate, as it simply won’t get done or, if it does, it will be shoddy, and that is unacceptable. Also, I can’t deal with confrontation, no matter how civil it may ostensibly be, and in my experience even the best job in the world carries the risk of that arising occasionally. So, in summary – there are a number of practical concerns, and a few more abstract ones – but whatever the case, the anxiety about it is crippling.”

“Overwhelming,” he added, apparently having garnered that word from the fear he heard in my voice.

“Yes. But then, I hate myself for not being at work. I hate it. I just don’t want to go back into work, not be ready for it, have another breakdown and be back on benefits again. That would be no good for either the employer nor myself, and would probably set the progress I’ve made mentally back about a decade.”

I sighed. “But then, that makes me feel guilty. I should be able to return to work and just be able to fucking do it. I measure myself so strongly by the concept of a career. I have no idea why, because I’ve never had a career – only jobs.”

I told him about my abject rage when I hear of people I went to school with – stupid people, nasty people, whatever people – doing law degrees and being lawyers, doing computer science degrees and being computer scientists, doing engineering degrees and being engineers. Or the ones who had the bloody sense to jack school in at the age of 16 and become plumbers or electricians. God, if I could live my life over again, I would surely choose that path.

“So you describe your former classmates by their job titles. How do you describe yourself?”

“Dolescum.”

“Dolescum?!”

“Dolescum, yes. Oh yeah, I may try and re-invent myself as a writer [ha] or whatever, but really – ‘dolescum’ reigns supreme.”

“Isn’t ‘dolescum’ a little harsh?”

I ignored him, and went off on some impassioned rant about how I wanted to change my ‘dolescum’ status, but that I couldn’t, not yet, not now.

“Everything makes sense in context, as you know,” he said, which I initially found to be quite cryptic. “An interview panel, a set of colleagues – they’re all judging you, in your eyes…”

Of course they’re judging me,” I interrupted. “That’s the point of interviews.”

“…they’re judging you as adults. You feel like a demeaned kid in front of them – who can you trust? What will they do to you? It seems perfectly natural to me. The problem is, you judge yourself far more harshly than they will judge you. Do you think a colleague of yours is going to carve ‘bitch‘ into your stomach?”

Well, it’s a funny old world, Paul. Who’s to say there isn’t such a colleague out there, just waiting for me? I responded by saying, simply, “it feels like it.”

Time for another self-directed rant. “It wasn’t always like this! 10 years ago when I was first properly applying for jobs I was confident, cheerful, even charismatic in interviews. It came naturally to me – none of it was an act. Now all that comes naturally is stammering and floor-watching.”

“Is that how ‘Dolescum’ [he made a gesture denoting that he was, with irony of course, referring to me] has handled interviews?”

“Dolescum can’t have done that badly. Dolescum went back to work after breakdowns before.”

“How is ‘Dolescum’ dolescum, then?”

“Because Dolescum isn’t working again. It was all very easy when I was off for six months to make up some bollocks on my CV that I’d be travelling. I can hardly spin that yarn over three years.”

“OK,” he said, trying to ‘ground’ the conversation. “I don’t think it’s about unemployment, to tell you the truth. It’s about you. You don’t work now – you’re dolescum. If you were sitting behind a desk right now, you’d be office scum. If you were in a factory, you’d be factory scum. Etc etc etc. It’s the ‘scum’ bit that’s entrenched.”

“That seems reasonable,” I admitted, which led to the inevitable narcissistic whinge about the just-sort-of-Mensa-level-IQ bint with qualifications flying left, right and centre out of her arse who ended up as a receptionist or glorified typist* (though admittedly, my typing speed is very good – I can usually rack up about 90wpm, which is a bit unfortunate for you, a reader of my blog, as it helps facilitate the ludicrous verbosity of these self-obsessed ramblings).

(* Actually I should state that my last job in particular was a lot more than this, but it was not considered so by my superiors – but let’s not go down that route again. Past is past and everything, yadda yadda).

“Well, it’s my own fault,” I sighed. “I shouldn’t have done the courses I did.”

Pause. Then: “it’s his fault I don’t have a doctorate.”

Paul peered at me over his glasses. “Who said that?”

I shook my head in self-surprise. “I have no idea. It just came into my head.”

“Is there any truth in it?”

“It’s my fault I don’t have a doctorate,” I clarified.

“But did he [there was an implicit understanding that we were referring to Paedo] have a role in it? Didn’t he have a role in everything?”

I avoided his gaze.

“Your mental health issues,” he offered. “Whose fault is that?”

“It depends who you ask,” I said evasively.

“I’m asking you – you’re the only one that counts. Oh and please – don’t give me any bullshit from the medical model.”

I rolled my eyes a little, but shot him a wry smile.

“OK then, you’ve lain down the gauntlet. It’s not just him. There’s some residual issues with my mother, there was a whole pile of fuck with my ex, I still haven’t got over the death of my grandfather. But mainly – well, I attribute most of my mentalism to my father and Paedo, yes.”

“And to what extent did your mental health difficulties prevent you studying for a doctorate?”

It’s impossible to know the answer to such a question, of course, but I replied by stating that I reckoned they severely impinged on my failure to achieve one of the few things I ever really wanted in this world.

I saw Paul glance at the clock. “Shit,” he muttered irritably. “Just when we’re getting into some really meaningful stuff, we have to end the session.”

For some reason this took me right back to therapy with C, and his weekly mantra of shit of “we’re going to have to leave it there.” Shit-tinted glasses show me a glint of satisfaction in his eyes, as if he enjoyed throwing me out of his room like dirty dish water when I’d got into the midst of something gritty and murky with him. Of course, I know rationally that this is absolutely horse shit. But it was how I felt, and I responded accordingly.

“Am I game-playing?” I said, genuinely concerned.

Paul tilted his head and studied me, as if to look for clues as to where my odd comment had arisen from. “No,” he said finally. “If you’re ‘playing’ at all, then you’re safe-playing.” Before I could counter this, he went on: “it’s interesting that you put so much blame at your father’s door [it’s not interesting to me. It just is]. It underlines his failure to provide safety and security for his child – both in the context of your life as a whole, and in the context of allowing the abuse to happen.”

He sighed and looked contemplative for a minute, as if he were taking on the guilt that my father should have carried. Then he turned to me reassuringly, made some non-verbal gesture of, “we’ll pick it up next week,” and then it was – for another week – a meeting consigned to history.

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Will I be Forced Back to Work?

***Beware of triggers: self-harm and (potential) benefit loss***

You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about how the delightful Social Security Agency (SSA) had managed to fuck up my ongoing claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) rather epically.  The bloke to whom I spoke on that occasion advised that I would get the money owed to me since the fucking 12th of October within a week.

Did I?  Did I fuck.

In light of their continued failures, I sent my ma a text message from the Republic last week asking her to ring them and find out what was going on. ¬†I was fairly sure that they wouldn’t tell her anything – a correct assumption, as it turned out – but¬†still, I figured that it was worth letting the fuckers know that I hadn’t forgotten that they owe me over a fucking grand, so I got her to ring despite the likelihood that they’d reveal fuck all to her. ¬†In the end, they shockingly did advise Mum that they would get one of their people to phone me by Tuesday of this week; ie. 1st February.

No such phone call was forthcoming, of course, but as I was driving home yesterday (Wednesday), a blocked number did call. ¬†Of course as I was behind the wheel I didn’t answer it (though I’ve been known to do so in the past, to my shame), but when I got home I checked the answering machine straightaway. ¬†The message that had been left confirmed that the call was from someone who, it seemed, was allied to the¬†relevant¬†governmental department. ¬†On those grounds – ie. because I wanted to know when I was actually going to be deigned worthy of payment – I returned the call.

Oh dear.

I should have recognised the woman’s name from back in 2009. ¬†I should have known that she was not ringing about the SSA’s pathetic yet monumental fail. ¬†I should not have called her back.

Because she is not involved with payment of ESA, or any other out-of-work benefit.  She is there to get people back to work.

I’m not sure if I ever explained exactly what happened about this matter. ¬†I did rant a bit about it here, and a little more here. ¬†To cover it again in a very¬†rudimentary¬†sort of way (more details are here), there are two ‘groups’ of ESA – the ‘work’ group and the ‘support’ group. ¬†If you are placed in the former, you are considered to have ‘limited’ capacity to work; if the latter, you are essentially considered incapable of employment for the¬†foreseeable¬†future. ¬†I was initially placed in the work group; I appealed against this, and I won (see the second link at the start of this paragraph), thus seeing me placed in the ‘support’ group.

Those in the work group are required to undertake wanky “work focused interviews”, which are allegedly voluntary for those in the support group. ¬†When I first received correspondence from the woman that rang me yesterday, she had invited me to one. ¬†At the time, I wrote back and said that I was way too batshit to cope with such an eventuality, and she kindly agreed to postpone it for 18 months.

So here we are, o my little brothers. ¬†The 18 months is fucking up. ¬†Which would be terrifying but at least understandable if I was still considered to have ‘limited capacity’ for work – but I’m not. ¬†I’m supposed to be too mental to work at all, as the SSA themselves fucking decided.

I rang the woman – let’s call her Pamela – and quite innocently started wanking on about my ESA claim, wondering if she could confirm when it would be paid. ¬†She listened to me without interruption, to be fair, but when I finally shut my gob, she explained that she effectively has nothing to do with social security payments and was in fact¬†calling about work focused interviews. ¬†Did I recall, she asked, the correspondence with her about a year and a half ago in this regard?

My blood ran cold. ¬†I could almost visualise blocks of deep red ice falling out of me, tantalising me into a deeper madness. ¬†In a reverse of what are apparently cultural norms, I saw my future – not my past – flash before me. ¬†A Mental Bird being talked to by things that aren’t there and dissociating into a fucking child nervously opens the door to a large, cold office. ¬†The assorted, hard-nosed personnel turn to see The New Girl, staring her up and down, making crude and probably cruel judgements within seconds. ¬†The voices, probably rightly, scream at the Mental Bird about how much her new colleagues already regard her with utter contempt. ¬†They chatter, chatter, chatter – louder and louder – until the¬†cacophony¬†builds to a sickening¬†crescendo¬†that sends the Mental Bird running out of the office screaming. ¬†Bye, job. ¬†Bye, sanity. Bye, benefits. ¬†Hello, increased dosage of anti-psychotics. ¬†Hello, crisis team. ¬†Hello, hospital. ¬†Hello…suicide?

I must have thus ruminated for a few seconds, because Pamela broke through my thoughts. ¬†“It’s not a job interview or anything like that, Pandora,” she was saying.

“Right,” I murmured, pointlessly, pathetically and frustratingly submissively.

“It’s just…well, its just to see where we are with things, and how I can help.”

“Right.”

“I’ve sent the appointment letter out…if that date doesn’t suit you, sure you can let me know.”

“OK.”

In fairness to her, she is actually quite nice.  Having explained the situation with my lack of ESA payments to her, she said she would ring the fuckwits responsible for same and attempt to ascertain what had happened Рand when I should expect to receive the back payment.

“Can I call you back on this number?” she queried.

“Yes,” I said, with that same empty,¬†obedient¬†blankness.

When I had hung up, I sat down on the sofa and stared into space in a sickened daze. ¬†I simply can’t go back to work. ¬†I mean, I want to go back to work, and as noted with Paul in week 11, that is what I’m trying to work towards. ¬†But I can’t do it yet, no matter what the consequences. ¬†I have to sort my head out first, otherwise not only am I screwed, but my potential employers aren’t exactly going to have gained much advantage either.

So much ran through my mind, though if you’d seen me, you could have been forgiven for thinking I was catatonic. ¬†I thought of Ali Quant’s post on her proposed way out if her benefits were removed (ie. suicide), and how I now identified even more than ever with what she’d written. ¬†I thought of the lovely Phil Groom and his admirable idea to save her, which has now morphed into the wonderful charity-to-be, 5 Quid for Life. ¬†I thought of One Month Before Heartbreak and my own post for that campaign.

I had always known that all this stuff was worryingly close to home Рbut I thought I had a little bit of breathing space before it was knocking right on my own door.  That particular illusion has now been well and truly shattered, as if someone has thrown a rather large rock at a rather small mirror.

Once again, my nihilistic thoughts were interrupted. ¬†This time it was Pamela phoning back, having contacted the cunts at the ESA branch. ¬†She said that they were unable to give her any explanation as to why things had fucked up, but that they had claimed that they were checking the final details of the claim (given that the backpay is so large), and that I would get the money by what is now today at the lastest (I haven’t). ¬†I thanked her for looking into the matter for me and rang off.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the sofa with a tension headache of migraine-esque proportions. ¬†Not only can I not go back to work, I don’t know how I can even so much as meet this woman. ¬†I can’t bear the idea of it. ¬†It’s alright for her to say that it’s informal and friendly, but when speaking to anyone beyond your partner, therapist and, arguably, mother seems an impossible task, how can it be reasonably done with a complete stranger who by virtue of her job is meant to at least encourage you into something that is, for now, inherently dangerous?

When A arrived home, he had already read my despairing tweets on the matter. ¬†He offered to attend the meeting with me, which may be beneficial, and believes that it’s probably an exercise in civil service box-ticking. ¬†Maybe so, but it seems horrific to me that the simple act of a tick on some cunt of a form is allowed to create such appalling distress in those to whom it relates. ¬†I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: can’t they just contact one’s consultant or GP if they need to confirm your illness or disability? ¬†And in any case, if I’m supposed to be in the ‘support group’, why the fuck am I apparently required to do this? ¬†As noted above, it is supposed to be voluntary for such claimants. ¬†Have they fucked up my particular group designation as well as the last three months of my income?

I couldn’t sleep last night, so at about 3.30am I knocked back a Zopiclone. ¬†Mercifully, it worked – but when I awoke today it was with great horror and dismay. ¬†Out of the corner of my eye, I happened to notice my old friend the scalpel sitting there. ¬†I thoughtlessly picked it up, and within seconds was cutting my lower arms to complete shreds. ¬†When I say ‘thoughtlessly’, I mean it in the most literal of senses; I didn’t think “oh, I should self-harm here, yay” – I merely acted. ¬†Perhaps it was as if I were a robot – behaviour on rote, I suppose, with apparently nothing to actually consider. ¬†As I later sat with disinfectant and bloodied paper towels lying all around me, in a classic example of “too little, too late,” I considered what I had done. ¬†I had cut my arms,¬†which not my MO at all. ¬†The actions of my subconscious now seemed cynical, even manipulative; if I was self-harming to relieve anxiety (and, to be fair, I think at least to some extent I was), then why not cut my abdomen or upper legs as normal? ¬†Why slice my arms? ¬†Stupid, pathetic, borderline,¬†attention-seeking freak. I have clearly cut myself in this particular location in order to ensure that people will see the fucking things (even though this evening, when out for coffee with A, I went to great pains to try to hide the fuckers).

I am scared. ¬†I am really, really scared. ¬†I don’t blame Pamela; she’s just the messenger, doing her job as dictated by our wonderful cunterngovernnment. ¬†But whoever is to blame, I am still – potentially – in a great deal of trouble here. ¬†I am making progress in therapy, but I am very far from recovery – nowhere near enough to even begin¬†to deal with basic human interactions, nevermind the complex stresses often observed within working environments. ¬†If I have to go back to work or face losing my benefits, I have no idea what I will do. ¬†The ‘s’ word strokes my mind from the fringes, despite the campaign that has resulted from Ali Quant’s discussion on same (see above). ¬†One way or another, I don’t think I can cope with the worry, the degradation, the anxiety and the results of everything that this impending meeting is likely to bring.

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