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Reflections…Week Eighteen

canstockphoto8630797I once had to dump my motorbike and jump into the side of an Artic Lorry Cab, leaving a dent in the cab door and wrapping my tobacco tin around my thigh where it hit the cab wheel. I was bruised and I ached the next day but I went back to my very manual job. Just another day, just another bruise. It was a walk away, though for the motorbike it was the end, that went under the wheel – and then under it a second time as he reversed back over it to see what he had hit.

I’m older now, not so able to just shake off the knocks, but I manage. What I find difficult is the days I wake up with every muscle aching for no reason, my head swimming like it is the morning after the night before, including the hissss – sunlight – shut the curtains and block it out, and the brain fog.  Yesterday was bad, I hardly moved out of my darkened room, my head in limbo from one thought to the next, even prompting by spot didn’t get me out of the house.  It took most of today to work up the momentum to do it, sometimes going outside is like walking against a strong wind, but only you feel it, and until you do, you don’t really understand how difficult it is.

Spot has been a godsend in my recovery, she knows when I am dipping, she plays the fool more elaborately to cheer me up, in her mind it works because I take steps to divert it when I can, she is my early warning system when I don’t wake with it in place. She will prompt me for going out, to the point of anoyance, and a simple day out for a walk with her is something to aim for .

And she gives good cuddles without asking.

But even with Spot in place the constant pain is starting to wear me down, I have support in place, but I just want to know what is happening and why my feet feel like someone is trying to rip them apart. These are the worst parts and at the same time these are the ‘worst’ parts.

They hurt the most and they hinder the most, I cannot remember a time without some sort of pain in them now. I hate being given ‘advice’, the meaning well’ness is there, but if it aggravates whatever it is, I suffer the next day maybe two. An exercise for one complaint can be torture for another. That is why I am waiting for an answer from the doctors before I start anything new, heck even they have offered no exercises to do that I am not already doing.

Its been two and a half years now and though I have a few “it’s not” statements the path has run its course and i am being signed off, so I have to start right back at the beginning because I was sent the wrong way. Not that I was expecting much from Neuro, they admitted that my stammer/stutter and twitch, which appeared out of the blue five years ago, was neurological but they did not know why, off I was sent to ‘receive help’ to accept this new feature, job done. But never have I been treated like I was dog  dirt on a shoe for being there, on another doctors referral, and wasting his time before.

All I want is an answer to the question….”Whats up doc?”

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk/reflections-2017

 

A crossroads reached.

DSCF0966Perception.

Perception is a curious thing, it taints all we see or it reveals, it all depends on your view point. Perception is individual and yet it is, for all under a psychiatrist, supposed to be what someone else has perceived to be normal. And not all the people who wrote the book come across as what would be perceived in this ‘modern’ world as ethically correct. Case in point would be John Broads Watson, the ‘Father’ of behaviourism and the ‘little Albert’ experiment, an experiment on a nine month old infant to condition a phobia.

If you take 100 people off the streets today, ask them all the same 100 questions, on a scale of 1 to 10, then take the average from all the results; how many would be normal? A Mathematician does not think like an Artist who does not think like a Writer, and yet there is art in all three. A flower will still be a flower when all three perceptions put there respective art onto paper as their representation of  the said flower. Not all will be understood by all viewing, but that by no right makes one  perspective wrong. As long as there is no harm done, that pretty much is universal.

Mental Illness has a mask, a false projection, not only to others but also to the sufferer. Perception of ones self is not what you would expect, many a reflection is of a stranger, coping well, whilst failing. Being asked the same questions over and over, on  a scale of 1 to 10. Never wanting to answer truthfully if experiencing a really bad patch, for the fear of being put back into ‘Hospital’ is a real one. A Hospital where the beds can be broken and should have been thrown out ages ago. The last one I slept in I had to put a folded blanket under the mattress to fill the hole in the bed itself. Not to mention the negative stigma that would come from ‘another’ stay in ‘the’ Hospital.

And when did someone come up with the idea that a person with a Mental health problem has the perception to answer the questions correctly when it has already been perceived that they do not have the mental perception that they are ill in the first place. A drunk will never perceive the level of drunkenness they are at, so asking them to rate their drunken state on a scale of 1 to 10 is pointless.

If by now you are wondering if I have a pet peeve with the forms resembling a customer satisfaction survey, Yes I have.

But if the system is not there to help one recover, rebuild and remove ‘shackles’ from the past if necessary, then what is the point of the system. When it feels like you have been drugged up and shipped out to pasture, is that the time to question the process? What if the drugs are making you ill? Or there is the chance they are making you ill, don’t you have the right to be told?

Imagine breaking a leg, being told you have broke your leg, given pain killers at varying strengths until the pain is blocked, told you have to accept that your leg is broken and all that can be done is to monitor the pain killer strength (the side effects of the pain killer include pain), ignoring the techniques are out there to mend the broken leg.

Wouldn’t happen would it?

Unfortunately it happens at a regular rate when the mind breaks.

This Chapter Ends

canstockphoto8630797Today was a sad day, after what was a monumental effort to even leave the house, I arrived at art therapy and received the news that due to lack of funds the Teacher/Therapist was being made redundant in two weeks time, voluntary, well that’s if you call not enough hours to live on if you don’t, voluntary. It is the right thing for Zoe to do and we all support her decision. Such is the common occurrence of redundancy nowadays it is almost viewed as a job change, unplanned. But this one has been viewed differently by the service users, much to the credit of Zoe herself.

My own story started two and a half years ago at a suggestion by my then mental health coordinator, a gateway as it were to get me involved with a community. I originally chose the art group with the idea it would be quiet and private, never suspecting the group would end up being such a big part of my recovery and wellbeing.

The welcome was warm but the room was something to be desired, Brighter Futures who runs the groups have bought two former pubs and converted them, the art group had drawn the short straw  at the Observatory and had been allocated the cellar. Steep wonky stairs made there way down to the musty smelling room, the light source coming from the florescent tubes running the length of the centre. Art was stacked up along one table at the edge of the room with finished pieces adorning the walls in places. The standard was high, I feared my own attempts would fall far short of what appeared to be expected.

To my surprise there was no expectation placed upon myself or my work except for my own, and the group was anything but quiet, Headphones became an essential piece of kit. Josie is the voice of the group, generally the first to greet any visitors  and explain what goes on in the absence of Zoe, with Josie, Dibs, quiet for the most part but missed when not present. For six months I went every Tuesday,  speaking when spoken too, never having the courage to initiate a conversation, observing and learning who had similar interests until the day I was ready to begin a conversation. Jo, I suspect, nearly keeled over with shock when I spoke to her. The conversation was short and sweet, but a start. Now I can rattle away like one of the girls, even if Ange lowers the tone.

The Tuesdays changed  to Thursdays and to location number Two (the American), this room was a conservatory, bigger, brighter and no musty smell. The group of people pretty much stayed the same with the addition of Anika, Richard , Page and Tina.

I haven’t been back to the cellar since and quite frankly if I go back to the ‘Obs’ I will stay upstairs in the cafe. Many more faces have come and gone, and come again, each with their own set of problems. You see we can leave the issues being faced at the door, It’s OK to laugh, there is no judgment. Nowhere else can you talk about pink rabbits crossing the road carrying elephants without the fear of being locked up, this of course is an exaggeration, maybe; but the principle’s the same. Weird shit is normal in this art group!

There are staff on hand to help with what they can, even if that is just a chat with a cup of tea, but Zoe has managed to create such a safe place, sharing personal problems within the group IS part of the therapy. This is coming from someone who has a host of coping strategies when in public and has an increased distrust, maybe even paranoia, of peers, real or perceived. She is also there to lend a hand if struggling with the art, Non artists (in their mind) can have a picture drawn for them onto the canvas by Zoe for them to paint. It’s surprising how many Non artists can paint.

Zoe also managed to get funding for small courses, taught by herself, to encourage all who wanted. Tasters in Lino cutting, metalwork, clay and drawing to name a few. The courses where meant to be fun, informative, boundary pushing. The figure drawing course was that far outside my comfort zone it was described by myself on the ‘thought bubbles’ as “My eyes feel like they want to bleed,” emotionally I was shattered, Physically I hurt like hell. It has yet to explained how a mental problem can cause physical pain in a way I understand. I could not have felt anymore exposed if I was hung and skinned, but I trusted Zoe, so carried on, pain and all.

Zoe has had probably the biggest and the best therapeutic benefit to my mental health out of all the therapists I have seen. Genuinely caring for the members of her groups, wanting to help were she can in improving our lives. This may sound idealistic, and in some ways it maybe, but too many times the mental health service has left one feeling like the goal is to get one to accept what is broke is broke, and here are some tablets to do that. A bit like breaking a leg, being told to accept its broke and here are some pain killers to numb the senses. Some of us, after not being listened to, but medicated more for not knowing the correct terminology to explain what is happening, remain silent. Zoe gets us to talk again.

There is a good chance the group will be run by another member of staff who may be a good Therapist, or a good Artist, heck they may even be good at both, but they won’t be Zoe. Some are going to stay away in protest, showing,  in their minds, their support for Zoe. For me the art group is my social life , my anchor, letting Zoe’s work fade because some bureaucrat who has no idea the positive impact the therapy has on a range of problems would be failing her legacy. I am extremely anxious about starting afresh with someone new and if I thought that staying away would help Zoe keep her hours I would,  but realistically it will make no difference to a decision past. The only thing positive I can savage from this is… now there is a chance of Zoe the therapist becoming Zoe the friend.

 

I once heard that at the end of life we have two questions, Did I matter? Did I make a difference? Zoe does, Zoe will continue to, its what Zoe does.

Black dogs’a calling

IMG_0167

Grrrr

I watched a video on Facebook today called I had a black dog. The video was trying to explain what it is like with depression, the black dog.

Anybody who has  a dog as a pet, companion, friend, will understand just how loyal a dog can be and how they will always want to be with you and have boundless energy. The analogy is a good one and I am lucky to have a Jack Russell who does her best to keep the black dog at bay, she is my mental protector, noticing the visitor before me.

To go further I once heard a Quote that went something like “they incarcerated my body but they could never incarcerate my mind”. A powerful reminder that ones perception of the world is in the mind and the mind can carry us anywhere real or imagined.

Exactly what makes this world more real from say, an imagined one, at times is only a state of perception, often that of a ‘professionals’, in other words someone else perception. Who, ironically, can section (incarcerate), and then legally alter your state of mind through medication, without having any reference to how your mind worked before. Do we all like Broccoli, Sprouts, Stilton cheese or Marmite? If not should we all be medicated till we do?

Sorry I digress, It’s a pet peeve that I am intelligent enough to Lie on the multiple choice, Yes Really, Multiple frickin choice, questionnaire of mental health to be Perfectly healthy. But the same smarts also give me the reality something is wrong so I don’t.

But back to the black dog video, it’s a good video. For me however it misses a major factor, my mind has incarcerated itself and as the exact opposite of bodily incarceration, I can, with a fight, change location. I just take the prison with me, the black dog however has a get out of jail free card, and a get back in one. Heck he may even have a key.

I had scans,MRI’s and a batch of other tests at the beginning, the free gifts of stammering/stuttering and twitching that came with the depression saw to that. Hoping that the results showed a brain tumour or something is not what I would wish upon anyone, It’s just not right. I was looking for a way to remove the black dog back then, something physical to point at and go, “Your to blame”.

He’s visiting again, I never know how long he plans to stay.

Fight or Flight, where the *£@! is option 3???