mental-health

All posts tagged mental-health

Published May 24, 2014 by Bellatrixa

When people say that depression can be cured by work, it really bothers me. I started working from the age of 14. My first suicide attempt was at 15 on the night of my last GCSE; not exam stress related but due to the abuse I was suffering at home, didn’t know it was ‘abuse’ at the time because it was what I’d always known and grown up with. I was in full time education, had many extra curricular activities going on including sports and music, and worked most of the weekend. I still ‘had time’ to be depressed and it came out in a way that caused the police to find me and bring me home. To more abuse.

In 2005 I was working 50+ hours a week in retail as a store manager while in an abusive relationship where I was a victim of pretty much every type of  domestic violence. I still went out clubbing at least once a week with my best friend, but attempted suicide multiple times, went to my GP who signed me off for a month with depression because I finally got up the guts to ask for help. I was then diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder as he referred me right away to mental health services when I told him what I’d been struggling to keep under control for so many years.

I don’t work now, but I have worked and paid my taxes and NI. I deserve to take out of the system and intend to contribute to it again. But you know, just because you go to work, it doesn’t mean you’re paying into a ‘keep myself free from mental health’ fund like you pay National Insurance. It doesn’t make you immune to the urge to cut yourself, to kill yourself, to feel as if there’s nothing worth living for. It doesn’t stop the panic attacks that can cripple you in the middle of the street. Or in the workplace. It doesn’t stop the lack of concentration. The drops into the abyss where you feel you just can’t face anyone. Work doesn’t give you an immunity to that.

I want to work, but I know that my mental health right now, while vastly improved from the days I was housebound with back pain and depression, the days when I would shun every single person including those who were trying to help me because I felt that I was a ‘scrounger’ if I did; I didn’t claim benefits for a year other than still receiving my existing Disability Living Allowance claim, fell into major rent and council tax arrears as a result – directly linked to my mental health and lack of sufficient support when I transferred from 24 hour supported accommodation to my own tenancy, still having the arrears docked from my benefits along with paying the bedroom tax for a flat that I was entitled to as a disabled person needing an overnight carer for how severe my suicidal ideation had gotten. I still have the major hurdle of facing my major summer depressive episode that even last year made me feel irrationally suicidal for a week straight. But you know, I went to my GP instead of trying to do anything to myself. For the first time in 9 years since I first sought help. Because I have the right support now and I’m not going to let people intimidate me into feeling that I’m not allowed to have a fluctuating condition that can cripple me.
Depression comes in different types and can be part of different mental health conditions. Sometimes you can have it alongside other mental health issues. I have Borderline Personality Disorder as well as MDD, although as I’m always being assessed when I’m on manics and downplaying everything trying to pretend that I’m OK (much like I did with people for many years), I actually think it’s bipolar, as did my therapist who I saw weekly for a whole year when I was experiencing my most intense manic episodes without the buffer of any medication. It’s splitting hairs though. A label on your condition isn’t everything and only gets you so far. It’s how you deal with what’s going on. BPD has a massive stigma attached and isn’t as ‘accepted’ as bipolar. You’re seen as manipulative, psychotic, unstable, unsafe… You end up scared of yourself to the point where you feel life isn’t worth living if all you’re going to do is hurt and scare others because of something that isn’t your fault. As someone who’s grown up in the shadow of an abusive alcoholic parent, it made me put even greater pressure on myself. I failed to meet my own expectations and punished myself for it. Didn’t know that at the time, but I can understand it now in retrospect after I’ve gone through a living hell.
Antidepressants were sending me off the rails. Antipsychotics were crippling me as a person, leaving me incapable of forming a coherent sentence at times or remembering certain words. As someone who’s seen as verbose, it made me frustrated and fuelled my manics or made me feel so depressed because I couldn’t get out a simple sentence; because I couldn’t control my emotions without pills which didn’t seem to be doing anything but causing me more problems, robbing me of dignity because of the side effects (weight gain included). Pills which my then GP refused to change other than to another that would make me worse. The linkworker system had scared me off trying to access mental health services and there was only so much the counsellor I was seeing could help me with. After 25, I was too old to use the service where I was seeing her, a service which is currently under threat by government cuts and lack of funding. A service that while I was using it, was helping me cope with my condition and allow me the opportunities not just to seek advice and help, but also to give back with voluntary work which boosted my self-esteem and helped me manage my depression and anxiety.

As much as I detest my mother for the severe abuse she put me through as a child, I wouldn’t wish my mental health on her or anyone else. And I know there’s people out there who have been through far worse and suffer far more than I do.

During my ESA claim so far, the Jobcentre have called me in twice. The first time I saw my advisor, I showed him my DLA forms which a so called ‘support worker’ had filled out for me and not only misrepresented me but missed out swathes of information about my health (my DLA award had been cut from high care/low mobility to low care/low mobility). I showed him my notes, letters from my GP, my old DLA claim form, letters from the hospital as well as bringing a friend with me because I was too scared to leave the house; I was keeping myself prisoner because I was scared of how severe my moods had gotten when around other people, was embarrassed at what my mental health had done to me physically – antipsychotics are a great way to gain weight, especially when you have back problems and untreated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome!
When the advisor read through my paperwork, he said that the ESA decision to put me in the Work Related Assessment Group was based on the botched DLA form, which I had been told to pre-sign before this support worker filled out so it could be posted faster. He said that with my medical conditions, the need for testing and hospital referrals, that it wasn’t viable for me to be in the WRAG, as I was in no state to be returning to work if I had to be constantly going places for investigative treatment. That was before last summer’s trip to the GP for suicidal ideation which meant that I was then attending weekly therapy in the middle of the afternoon, and later on physiotherapy in addition to a referral to ophthalmology at my local hospital about vision loss that I was experiencing and degeneration of one of my optic nerves.
He advised me to appeal (the Jobcentres do have some people with souls left) and said that they’d be in touch in 3-4 months time to see if my situation had changed and where to go from there. They didn’t contact me about requiring any help to return to work yet until yesterday when they texted me about it. Not forcing me to go in or anything, just a ‘We’re here if you need us’. I’m very fortunate as some people aren’t treated with such compassion and are constantly harassed and bothered by the Jobcentre. I’ve been extremely fortunate that they’ve left me alone to get better (although I’m sure that’s not their intention). Currently I’m waiting on my reassessment but after sending my ESA 50 off some 6 months ago now, the information’s going to be rather outdated. I’ll probably be back at work or in work-related training before I get the date for my medical. But see, without the constant pressure and hassle, I’ve been able to seek the correct treatment and help, to get better and be in a position where I can work again. The problem is that when I go back to work, the credit will go to the government for ‘helping me back’ with their schemes. No, I’m an example that the best method for those who are ill is to be left alone but informed that the assistance is there should it be needed.

The second time I was called in was because of someone claiming I was working when I wasn’t. I had fallen out with the friend who went with me before (who had basically been milking me for money constantly, was on benefits herself and had never worked – does now though) and think it was her who had reported me for some online game moderation I was doing while not claiming ESA; it was unpaid voluntary work from home which wasn’t even so much work as a hobby as I played the games myself. For that, I was pulled into the Jobcentre and interrogated like it was a police interview. I was crying, having an anxiety attack and going into a complete meltdown because I was so scared that I’d have the little money that was keeping me alive taken away from me. Just like I lost everything I worked for when I left my abusive partners in the past. How I lost my home because of my fiancé turning up on my doorstep with death threats that caused me subsequent issues with homelessness and rent arrears because I was too scared to go to the police about him. That caused me problems with relationships as well, some of which are still ongoing. Just like my mental health had stolen my life away from me and the best part of my 20s. How abuse had ruled the first 25 years of my life.

I don’t think I can put into words quite how soul destroying that can be. If I hadn’t had my council intervene and be so compassionate about my mental health, I wouldn’t be here today. It’s been 5 years since I last attempted suicide, and I’m proud of myself for not giving in, even when I’ve not had any support. That it’s been 5 years since I last self harmed and that even when I had bailiffs on my door, it didn’t break my skin. I’ve had my minor setbacks and rough patches during my recovery, but I’ve come one hell of a long way from a mighty big fall.

You see the thing is, I didn’t have time for a job. I was too busy being ill. Depression can be worsened by lack of work, but it’s a much more complex condition than that. And there are so many people who have it much worse than what I’ve just talked about in my own personal experiences. I committed the crime of thinking in the past it wouldn’t happen to me, it wasn’t ‘that’ bad and people were faking it; mostly because of how my family thought and I’d never experienced anything to cause me to doubt it – plus I was in my teens, in denial about a lot of things and life wasn’t rosy at home. It took having my life stolen from me by depression to make me see it for what it was.

I wouldn’t be here now without the support of friends and my GP; support that some people lack, both in and out of work. When I’m back at work I’ll be even happier to stick two fingers up at people who look down on those who are seeking help (yes – that includes benefits) for what can be a life-ending condition. You wouldn’t do it to a cancer patient and mental illnesses are the cancer of the mind. The only difference is that some people can live with them for their whole lives, suffering until the day they die of other causes, not just from the illness itself causing them to take their own lives. We constantly tell people to check for physical cancer, but nowhere near as loudly for the mental health equivalent. Why? Because of stigma that desperately needs to be broken and people like the current government fuel, the ignorant falling for their divide and rule tactics because they can’t be bothered to do any of their own thinking. Because, it is ignorant to believe that mental health can simply be cured with a job. Stephen Fry is a shining example of that and a great inspiration to those of us with mental health problems. I have a great amount of respect for him for sharing what he as, as best as he has. But you, I nor anyone else will ever know exactly how bad it was for him and that right there alone is why you shouldn’t judge someone based on their mental health.

The view that work is the cure for depression is just as ignorant, bigoted and ableist as the social worker present when I was sectioned who told me I was ‘too intelligent and articulate’ to have a mental health problem.

 

When Duty Calls Gonna Bust Some Balls, Cause I Am The Mob

Published October 7, 2013 by Bellatrixa

 Yesterday morning I was awoken by a robin sitting next to  my bed and singing at me. It had somehow managed to fly  into my flat, no need to call the RSPB for me keeping a wild  bird inside! This morning, however, I was faced with  something a lot more unsavoury.

While for many years I have always had a low opinion of The Sun, never has it reached the depths that it has today with this headline:

I tried to give The Sun the benefit of the doubt at first. Thinking possibly that they were simply trying to help draw attention to the problems with mental health care in the country. Then I realised if that was indeed their intention, they had gone about it in one of the worst ways possible; by continuing the demonisation of the sick and disabled in Britain. The more I thought about it, even in my half-awake state, the more angry I became. The story is paywalled on their site. I wouldn’t spend 30p on a paper copy even if I was out of loo paper, let alone £1 to join The Sun+ and read more of their crap.  A friend of mine shared the image of the front page herself and said that she had emailed her displeasure.

After some mulling on the situation, here was my email, knowing full well it most likely wouldn’t be read or even acknowledged, but it was better than silently fuming:

To whom it may concern,

I do not buy your paper as I consider it to be nothing better than cat litter tray liner, however I will admit that The Sun has a long history as a newspaper, a very large readership and attempts to pride itself on journalistic integrity. Considering your paper has had a Conservative slant for a long time, I, along with many others, have come to expect the small mindedness that’s generally printed in your pages. How you enjoy campaigning against various minority groups.

I have to admit that your ‘Shop a Scrounger’ campaign irked me as a great many people suffer from hidden disabilities and neither your paper nor your readers have any right to harass or cause distress to those who are genuine claimants, and that includes promoting the idea that everyone in receipt of ESA or DLA are doing so under false pretences. Had you actually checked statistics (government ones at that!) you’d see that DLA actually has one of the lowest benefit fraud rates.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fraud-and-error-in-the-benefit-system-201112-revised-estimates

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fraud-and-error-in-the-benefit-system-preliminary-201213-estimates

Not to mention, there has been a government phone number to report benefit fraud for many years. Yes, back when Labour was in power! I remember seeing commercials for it on TV. The funny thing is, whenever people come out with these anecdotes about “this guy down the pub who’s on the fiddle”, they rarely if ever actually report it. For those who do, most of the reports turn out to be people with genuine conditions. Doesn’t this prove that your campaign isn’t really going to achieve much?

As a DLA claimant myself, I wasn’t even aware that I qualified for DLA until I was told by a therapist who helped me to fill out the forms which are incredibly demeaning as well as dispiriting. They make you talk about how bad your conditions are and for many people will illnesses, this can be incredibly draining and demoralising. Sometimes putting all those things into words can make you feel even worse and hamper any recovery you might be experiencing. That along with the intrusive assessments by ATOS which have been proven over and over to be unfit for purpose.

The other week, I was disgusted at the sale of two Halloween costumes that contributed to the perception that mentally ill people are ‘scary’ and ‘dangerous’. From what I understand, both Tesco and Asda have withdrawn the costumes. My problem wasn’t with the costumes, but with the labelling of them.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24278768

So, imagine my disgust when I see the front page of your newspaper today trying to create more scaremongering regarding those with mental health conditions. How about reporting how many people in those same 10 years had been killed by drink drivers? By alcohol? By black people? Oh wait, if you’d have said ‘black people’ that would have been racist, wouldn’t it? But you seem to think it’s perfectly ok to attack those who are mentally ill because it’s not racist. It’s the same bigoted thinking, it’s the same prejudicial thinking and it’s unacceptable. Even the government, as much as I loathe them, are making faint hearted stabs at trying to change the way people stigmatise the sick and disabled. I will admit that it seems vacuous from them given how their policies have caused the deaths of many sick and disabled people. Shouldn’t that be the headline you should be running? About how many people have died in the past 3 years of this coalition government as a result of the draconian policies on the sick and disabled? I would expect that a paper with your finanical backing would be more than capable of hiring journalists that can at least use Google:

http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html

I’m aware you probably won’t like to acknowledge what a rival publication has to say, but I shall quote the following in the hope that some sense sinks in:

‘We’ve used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that, between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the “work-related activity group”.’

That’s the number of people who have died in a period of 8 months. People who you are intent on demonising with your headline. People who are the most vulnerable in society. People who need help the most in this time of hardship. You’re not helping us at all with headlines that only cause panic, fear and more persecution. Were you even aware that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crime and that the number of those has increased since this government came into power with its divisive policies which are aided and abetted by yourselves?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24420430

You are just as culpable as the government in those deaths and the hate crimes that happen towards the disabled. If you decide you have the responsibility to inform, you also assume the consequences of your actions. There is indeed a problem with mental health care in this country, however your newspaper’s headline is not the way to draw attention to it by causing yet more scaremongering and continuing to perpetuate the myth that all mental health sufferers are axe wielding psychopaths.

I will not only continue not to buy your paper, but will also take a more active role in campaigning against your odious little rag and small minded reporting. I know others will do the same and not just individuals like myself. The disabled community has taken far too much for far too long. Report on something more important such as David Cameron’s plans to scrap benefits for all under 25s. I’m sure that would be a great concern to your newspapers demographic considering how many of them are under 25 and buy your paper because it has tits on Page 3.

Yours not faithfully,

Bellatrixa Booty

 

If anyone wishes to use my email as a template to send to The Sun, be my guest. For too long this sort of thing has gone on unopposed. The lions of Britain are waking and boy, are they pissed off.

The Primary Role of the Government is to Protect Property From the Majority and So It Remains

Published December 3, 2012 by Bellatrixa

You know, it’s been quite an amusing December 3rd. First of all, it was International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which in England was particularly ironic considering  some new legislation especially for us with disabilities! No, it’s not the re-opening of workhouses, but it’s pretty close. From today in England, all of us who are on sickness benefit and deemed ‘fit to work’, will have to do so. For nothing. For as long as they feel like making us do it. If we don’t? We lose our money.

Now, I get some people haven’t worked in their lives. I’m not one of those people. Currently I’m having to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA) as I’m long term sick, have no specified date when I will be fit to work again and wouldn’t be able to hold down a job. When ESA was brought in, the idea was to replace the old Incapacity Benefit (IB) which didn’t have reassessments and people just claimed for as long as their doctors would sign them off for. Obviously this wasn’t the most efficient of systems, hence the reformation and introduction of ESA which would work nicely if it worked properly. See, the problem with ESA is that the government contracted this French IT company called Atos to do the Work Capability Assessments (WCAs).

Something struck me as strange about this; why would you ignore the fact that we have a national health care system who could do these assessments and appoint an IT firm to do them? So, Atos basically pays “healthcare professionals” to conduct these WCAs. When you go to them at/around the 13 week period of your ESA claim, you’re not even guaranteed to be seeing someone who has an understanding of your conditions. They’re meant to have information from your GP and any hospital/medical reports. You are in turn expected to provide any details of medication and treatment. The WCA is divided into two sections: the interview and the physical. The interview is a series of questions about how your day to day routine is affected by your illness, the physical is meant to assess your ability to perform simple physical movements. As far as I can tell, the ESA50 form that you fill in prior to this is meant to dictate what happens in the medical itself.

In my personal case, I have both physical and mental health issues. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) at 19 following 5 years of depression and self harm, soliosis (curvature of the spine) at 18 after 3 years of issues with my knees and back which I initially thought were due to the physical nature of the work I did and playing hockey, then borderline personality disorder (BPD) at 24 following further self harming, depression and suicide attempts as well as increasingly erratic behaviour. In my WCA, I was asked about how I had been coping with the wait for the medical, how I had gotten there and some questions about my daily routine. Now, as someone who has health issues that fluctuate (particularly the BPD), I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of response to give, so I spoke as if it was one of my worse days. When it came to the physical, I was having issues getting on and off the couch which was raised a fair distance above the ground and had no supports to help me stabilise myself, on top of the fact that as I was getting down, even though the woman doing my assessment saw I was having issues, she walked back over to the desk and didn’t bother helping. Apparently I’m far from the only person who has had this happen so courtesy is something also excluded from these assessments.

I’m currently waiting on the results of my WCA, so only time will tell whether they find me fit to work or not. The really dispiriting part is that people have been dying as a result of these inaccurate assessments. Last month, disabled rights movement Spartacus published The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment, which was a report put together by those who have been through the ESA system themselves or helped others through the process in a response to Professor Harrington’s third and final independent WCA review. An average of 73 people die each week as a result of the WCA process. In a first world country. Britain.

Today there was a 2 minute silence in remembrance for those who have died as a result of these despicable assessments. There has been increasing social media coverage of events and even celebrities speaking out against the effective genocide in my country. It’s funny because it also makes a mockery of the Second World War; you know, how Britain fought against the Nazis and has similar inhumane acts going on.

Groups like Spartacus, DPAC, UK Uncut and The Black Triangle Campaign have been doing sterling work across social media in drawing attention to and in supporting those who are experiencing distress and strife with the cuts from the government.

Although there have been a number of demonstrations (I’m going to a local one on Friday outside the Atos branch that I had my WCA at), one feels as if nothing’s changing. There are more and more people speaking out now about the persecution of the disabled, and yet there are no changes to anything and everything seems to be falling on deaf ears. I seriously worry how much more blood needs to be shed before something happens.