Category: Recovery Experiences

Going away for a break

Going away for a break

Wow. This week has been really emotional, with so many really sad tragic things happening – the Grenfell Tower disaster, two terrorist attacks in London, another attempt in Paris, another major attack in Mosul – so much pain. I desperately want to be able to “do something”. Help. Bring some hope. Bring the merciful love of our Heavenly Father into this pain.

My partner and I have taken some action to do this and I’ll post more on that separately.

Meanwhile I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a couple of appointments with the pain clinic which have been very draining and in some ways upsetting. I’m sure I’m going to learn things that really help there and I have to try to keep going, keep trying, keep open to what they’re saying and offering even through the parts of it that hurt.

Today my partner and I are going away for a few days. We are staying in a besutiful hotel. We’re going to meet up with some of his family and my goddaughters’ family too. This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been away on holiday. It’s not to a totally unknown area but I’m anxious. It’s a huge thing for me to go away and stay somewhere I don’t know and to stay a few days. I am excited too and know I really need a break. Most importantly I’m looking forward to some time to spend with my partner, talk and pray together, and share home calmly rather than constantly running around at the point of exhaustion and it seeming that time in which we can be there for each other and be thankful for each other sometimes comes last. I’m thankful for these coming days and pray for God’s blessing on our time together.

There’s a pool at the hotel and I have made up my mind that for the first time in about 7 years I’m going to get in the pool. I’m going to try to do some of the exercises my pain physiotherapist gave me and try to swim a little. It should be fun but also a great challenge to overcome as I haven’t been in a pool since I used to swim obsessively to try to lose weight when I was in the grip of bulimia.

So it will be a weekend of firsts and implementing some beautiful changes, please God.

Wishing you all good things this weekend.

Ginny xxx

 

They’ve found her

My mother has been found. My abuser has been found.

It has been a little over a year since I first reported to the police the abuse done to me by my mother in my childhood and early adulthood.

Since I made my statement, the police had been searching for my mother to question her. It had come to the point that with her not being found for so long, part of me felt perhaps she never would be. Had she chosen to disappear? She had gone from her last known address, disappeared and ceased contact with the hospital that was treating her, no information about her whereabouts was known by the very few former friends and similar, and none of the few leads I could think of helped (a relative she might have had contact with, a place she worked a very long time ago and so on). Even the police’s searches of records held by places like the DWP or tax office yielded nothing (very strange since she must surely be claiming a Benefit, or a pension, or working). The police had even searched the death and marriages registers and were talking about the possibility she may have passed away. It was in my mind whether the time would come that I might have to accept that, though bizarrely without ever really knowing what happened to her.

Then at the weekend I got the news that the police have found her.

Shock. I was stunned.

So, now I am to meet with the DC who is working on my case, the same person who took my statement. He has spoken to my mother. I don’t know if he has interviewed her. I expect he must have. He has things he needs to tell me but felt we need to meet face to face to talk about it.

I’m in a sort of suspense til our conversation. There are so many questions and uncertainties and fears. Where was she? Probably the DC won’t be allowed to tell me. How did they find her? Perhaps he will be able to tell me how. What state is her health in? She was not in good physical health when I last saw her and her mental health conditions are severe; she never believed she was ill though. Has that changed? I doubt it – but perhaps that’s too much of an assumption. No, actually, it isn’t; given the years and years history anything else would be astonishing. What has happened to her since our contact ceased? She disappeared from contact with the hospital team – not surprising, sadly – so has she had no treatment since? What’s she doing? What danger is she in? And what danger is she to others, that’s in my mind too, because of what she did to me, and because of her violence when she is ill.

For me, what now? If she’s been questionned, what happened? What did she say? What do we do now? I can imagine what she will have said to the police about me. I’m trying not to imagine too much in general about this, as it can lead to no good. There is no point in imagining scenarios until I meet the DC. A big issue will be her mental state now, I think, and whether she has capacity to understand proceedings. I think another big issue will be how will there be any evidence of what I went through? So much happened when I was alone and isolated with her. The lack of evidence gives the voices in my head power and I’m stifled and paralysed quickly with the flashbacks on the one hand, the voices telling me liar, disgusting, your fault, you wanted it….

The last 2 days dissociative episodes have taken hold scarily often. I’m fighting them, sometimes. But often that makes me break too much or I’m too far in.

If I have to make some decisions over what happens next, how can I choose for good?

Ginny xxx

How prevalent is the assumption that disabled people don’t work or don’t have responsibilities?

As a disabled person, I’m pretty used to being seen as a problem, especially in the workplace, and sometimes all the more even when “reasonable adjustments” are supposedly being implemented. For example, in my last secretarial post, discussions about supposedly agreed alterations to my working hours would begin with explicit statements about how I “had to realise how terribly difficult it is”. I was pressurised not to attend medical appointments or follow medical advice. If I was in any way assertive about my needs (not disability related ones) once “reasonable adjustments” had supposedly been put in place, I was reminded of the “great leniency” being shown towards me and how my boss was allowing things most firms never would. It got to the point that I explored this with a manager. Was there something wrong about my performance that they considered they were being lenient about – if there was I would much rather they openly told me what it was, so that I could try to correct it. Oh no, said the manager, and she went on to tell me pretty much in so many words that it was the fact that I’d been allowed to return to work after a period of sickness absence and that [what had been agreed amounted to reasonable adjustments] had been put in place! Once I dared to be assertive that whilst it was agreed that I was working reduced hours, there needed to be a plan for how urgent tasks that arose in my absence would be dealt with (it was not okay for me or for anyone else for them all to be left for my return on top of my usual full workload), I was told by my manager that everyone knew I could not cope with the job. From then on, bullying and harassment continued, along with continually calling on the fact that everyone knew I couldn’t cope with the role. This was despite the fact that, until the point that I had asserted my needs, all my reviews and appraisal had been excellent and I had taken on many responsibilities beyond my job description.

I left soon after, feeling I had no other choice as my mental health was deteriorating so rapidly. I made a formal complaint, but the lies in the company’s response and the regulatory body’s disinterest meant I gave up. 2 years since this started, the impacts on me are still considerable, especially intense self doubt about whether I can take on the responsibilities of a skilled job and the intense emotions I feel when I try to take on more responsibilities now. I’m a good way off returning to paid work but I know these memories will be something I battle with when I do.

Looking back, I feel that although the company I was working for made “reasonable adjustments”, they did so out of a sense of obligation. They made them on paper but were not really willing to discuss the practicalities. I did not hide my disabilities from my employer at any point but when I had a period of particularly bad health they became more visible. I feel that the firm continued to employ me out of obligation but from this point I was seen as a problem, an inconvenience, “terribly difficult”, someone who cannot cope. As soon as I asserted my needs (both relating to my disability and not), this was unacceptable to them. I was no longer wanted. Looking back I feel as though I was acceptable so long as I never spoke out, so long as I never dared assert myself because I was so grateful for everyone allowing me to stay despite all the problems I caused. Whatever happened they needed me to fit their impression of me as someone who can’t cope. If I didn’t assert my needs, eventually the ever mounting pressure would have got too much and I would not have been able to cope. When I did assert my needs, they took this as grounds to announce that everyone knew I couldn’t cope. Whatever I did, it came back to this. If I stuck to my contracted hours and a task went undone, I would be told off for not completing it. If I worked late to complete a task (sometimes specifically with a manager’s agreement or even at their request) I was told this showed I couldn’t cope with my job because no other secretaries worked late (untrue incidentally).

So, I wonder, how much of this was done malevolently and how much came from my employers’ assumption that disabled people can’t cope with responsibility or can’t do the job? Yes, in the later stages I believe their lies were malicious or at least covering their own backs so that should I take my complaint further I would have no case. However I am coming to think that their underlying beliefs about me as a disabled person played a large part. (It could have been that I was actually rubbish at my job from the outset but then why was this never reflected in my performance reviews?)

It seems a very backward assumption that disabled people can’t work. Then, the other day I encountered the assumptions of a total stranger who had met me for a few seconds at most, that I’m irresponsible and don’t work.

I was about to get off the bus when the driver sailed on past the stop despite 3 of us ringing the bell in plenty of time. By the time we got to the next stop this had trebled the length of my walk home and this over-exertion has now worsened my symptoms such that for the next 3 or 4 of days I’d be almost unable to walk at all and wouldn’t be able to leave the house even to get to my medical appointments. Someone who has no way to appreciate what life with a disability entails might not realise the extent of impact of having to walk a bit further. The driver was very rude and dismissive when I asked why he didn’t stop and so I thought it worth pointing out the impact it had on me. He would not apologise and lied saying that the bell hadn’t been rung and what was it to do with him. This being the last in a considerable number of recent bad experiences with the bus company that have left me dreading bus travel (recently I was shouted at and ordered off the bus because I asked the driver where the bus was stopping during a temporary diversion and wasn’t willing to accept his answer of “I don’t know I’m not a taxi driver”!), I decided to complain and asked for the company’s telephone number. The driver flatly refused to give any details. At this point another passenger came up, pushing into me, telling me “Just get off the bus, you [expletives deleted] idiot! It’s alright for you, all the rest of us have responsibilities and work to get to! Take the bus number you idiot, he’s told you [more expletives deleted].” On top of which the bus driver nodded and smiled, said she was absolutely right, actually thanking her. Pretty much encouraging her.

I was furious with the passenger as well as the driver and it took me some time to work out why I felt so strongly. Part of it was the driver’s refusal to apologise, refusal to admit he’d missed the stop and pretending the fault was mine and generally very poor customer service, which really gets to me as I’ve worked in customer service for years and feel strongly about how I’d treat other people. I also ascertained he missed the stop deliberately to save time, though that is something of an assumption. But I figured out that what really upset me was the implication in the passenger’s tirade and the driver’s support of her.

“It’s alright for you” whilst the “rest of” the passengers have “responsibilities and work to get to.” She made the assumption that I did not have work or responsibilities, that I was different from everyone else on the bus – why, because she could see I’m disabled? “Take the bus number you idiot, he’s told you”. She assumed the bus driver had given me the information I needed and I was too stupid to understand (he hadn’t). Again because I’m disabled? And I should “just get off the bus” – why did she find that it was wrong for me to stand up for myself? Are disabled people too much of an inconvenience to the “rest of us” when we do? Should I keep quiet because everyone else has responsibilities and jobs that count more than mine? The driver supported her being verbally abusive. Perhaps he was just hoping she’d intimidate me into giving up so there would be no possible repercussions for him if I made a complaint, but in the context it felt like him agreeing I was stupid, an inconvenience and so unworthy I don’t even merit decent customer service.

Am I being paranoid? Was it not actually to do with my disability? Was the other passenger setting me apart from her and the rest of the passengers for another reason? I don’t know. Instinctively I feel it was very much to do with my disability and perhaps the fact I wasn’t behaving in the typically meek, apologetic, unobtrusive way it seems acceptable for disabled people to behave.

Hmmmm. To be continued at some point, I think….

Ginny xxx

 

Mental wellbeing scales…. What do you think?

This is the SWEMWBS. Er, bless you?! No, it stands for the “Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale” Maybe the longest possible name for the shortest questionnaire!

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I was given a copy of this to fill out on two occasions recently: when registering with a mental health charity locally in the hope of accessing a community-based personality disorders support group, and at the first session with my Recovery Coach. I’ve lost count of the number of questionnaires of this ilk that I’ve done since my mental health conditions wete first diagnosed, for example one or two page scales at the GP Surgery to rate anxiety and depression, to 10 page booklets at the personality disorders service, repeated to examine changes through my treatment. The SWEMWBS is by far the shortest of all these, which could be a strength. I still found it tricky partly as to my mind it seems to have gone to the other, overly simple, extreme. However that does all depend on what you want to measure and why. I may have found it tricky because it didn’t match what I wanted to express. What I want to express might not be what services, support agencies and so on, wish to measure. Arguably, services do need to make sure there is the opportunity for us as patients / clients / service users to express what we feel is most important and often this can’t be slotted into a tick box or numerical scale. I’ve been fortunate that people working with me have given time and importance to that which doesn’t fit into these kind of measures.

As part of their work, a member of my family is exploring initiatives to support and promote mental wellbeing. They are looking at using scales like the SWEMWBS to measure how people feel across participating in activities, and whether the way they feel changes. The activities could be social groups, exploring nature together, art and art appreciation, developing and sharing particular skills – generally community based projects. Reporting how you feel on long complex scales proved off putting and daunting, understandably. In my opinion, there is a certain conflict between the fact that the most respectful and detailed way to find out how someone is feeling may be simply having a discussion with no constraints on how they express themselves; whilst at the same time, to analyse whether a particular activity or therapy has helped, there does need to be some form of quantifiable (so usually numerical) analysis of changes in how someone feels.

My family member asked me for thoughts and feedback on the above and to share my experience on how I find using scales like the SWEMWBS. How meaningful is it? How does it compare to unrestricted feedback where we can express freely verbally or in writing how we feel?

I’d be interested to know readers’ thoughts if you have any you would like to share, whether or not you’ve completed these kind of scales yourself.

I could pass these thoughts on anonymously if you wished, or not if you do not wish.

Thank you!!

Ginny xxx

The Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale is copyright NHS Health Scotland, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Warwick (2008).