Tory Wedges Have Thin Edges

So this rather Nasty government are considering making the mentally ill conform to their idea of ‘treatment’ – or face losing their benefits.

Let’s leave aside for now the fact that this government have presided over the biggest cuts in mental health services ever. The fact that this leaves it as such a poor service that suicides have risen, self harm has risen, and getting help is a huge difficulty, with huge waiting lists already – even before a sudden influx of all these threatened mentally ill patients.

We’ll leave that aside.

What is more disturbing is that government is starting to adopt powers that it should never have: the forcible treatment of those who are ill.
They start with talk of ,talking therapies’ and ‘CBT’ – but what happens if the ill person complies with this, manages to get an appointment to see a mental health professional, and takes whatever treatment is deemed ‘right’ by the government – and does not get well?

Will this person then be judged to be ‘faking it’? And benefits withdrawn?
Or will they then be required to have deeper treatments – poisonous drugs that harm liver, brain, heart, hormone regulation, weight regulation? Or Electro Convulsive Therapy? Brain surgery?

The government is taking to itself powers to coerce ILL people into treatments that are – on test after test – often found to be only a few per cent better than nothing at all, yet which can substantially harm the patient’s physical health.
Yet, these representatives-turned-rulers (have a read of how democracy truly disappeared in 30s Germany) appear to show no end to their lack of compassion – they will do literally anything to ensure their gravy train is not derailed, almost any act to increase profit for corporations (in this case, Big Pharma), and all things needful to ensure that more and more people are denied their rightful benefits.

The disabled – and especially the mentally ill – were among the first to be exterminated by the National Socialists in the 30s; in the twenty-first century, their ideas rise again from the ashes of millions, which starts always with denigration, followed by denial, and ending in destruction.

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Totally Mental : Tory Torturers

The day before yesterday, I received a threatening letter from the DWP.
I was in the WRAG (Work Related Activity Group) group, and it informed me of the financial sanctions that I would face if I did not comply with whatever the Jobcentre told me to do – including working for £1.63 an hour on Workfare.

Yesterday I received another brown envelope from the DWP.
It told me, in an oblique way, that I had been placed in the Support Group! Success, my challenge to the original ATOS and DWP assessment had been successful! I would no longer have to go to the Jobcentre, or be faced with workfare! I could plan to recover, go forward.

Today – ONE DAY after being told I was too ill to work! – I got a white envelope.
It was from ATOS Healthcare.
It was notice of a new assessment of my ‘abilities’ to work. The whole process was to start again from scratch. The whole process, which destroys, kills, disables, was to be enacted upon me again.

If you ever believed that the ‘fitness to work’ assessments were about simply removing fraud from the system, you can now think again – and above is the proof.
ATOS assessments have nothing to do with fraud, nothing to do with enabling disabled people to find employment – and everyone to do with torturing the disabled until they either give up claiming their rightful benefits, have a worsening of their illness leading to death, or kill themselves.

The process – started by Labour but rolled out much more comprehensively by the Tories aided by their LibDem quislings – is about stopping the welfare state, removing benefits from those who have insured themselves to receive them if unwell.
They will stop at nothing. They will harass, demonise, and, eventually, obliterate the disabled.

I am beyond consolation – I am in shock. I do not know how to bear this, I do not know how to survive it; it is difficult enough keeping safe with a mental illness, without this constant stream of vitriolic political harassment thrown at you.
Staying alive is difficult.
Despair sets in.
Despair and a tiredness that seeps like rot into the muscles, into the fibre of your being; a weariness that does not allow for recovery from one of the most painful illnesses that can be imagined. Or not imagined, in fact.
I have so much frustration and pressure within me, I want to puke it out, violently assault that which threatens me, commit myself to their physical destruction. Yet, through love of my family, I cannot, for it would hurt them beyond hurt, remove me from them, and the victor would only be the Tories and their ATOS torturers. They would remain, and I would not.

Where is the justice? Where is the justice?
Our country has been taken over by barbarism; a friend remarked that the veneer of civilisation has been rubbed through, and the awful spectre of what this country has become has been made plain for all to see.
Black crows with torturers as evil-minded as Those who took over Germany with twisted swastikas have invaded our land.

And I am left, bereft.
Trapped between the rock of the calumny of disability, like so many of my disabled friends, and the hard place of ATOS and their weapons; weapons paid for by you and me, millions and millions of pounds’ worth of weapons at their legal disposal.
I am helpless. Lost in a sea, lost and rudderless, pushed hither and thither by strong forces, whose aim is not betterment, but annihilation.

Help me.
Please, help me.

Brown Envelope Day – A Blast (And Buggery) From The Past

It’s not something that I care to come home to, is the brown envelope.

It’s something that I never think will arrive, and always catches me on the hop.  Take today, for example.

We started it off in a muted way, the wife and I, with a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal for me; I was neither feeling well, nor particularly poorly.  In fact, from the night before, when we had done some arty things together, I was probably a 4 out of ten.  Which is quite bearable, if not positively wonderful.  

I hied myself off to the charity that gives me an outlet for poor days, Towers Above, a place of healing though art.  I arrived, chatted and started about my latest ceramic masterpiece – meh – and had a damn good boost to my general mood and ability rating; off I toddled at the end of the session, and managed not just to go to Hobbycraft alone, but to chat to t’girlie from the knitting section about knitting, life and art.  She intimated I should contact the manager-type person who dealt with demonstrations, as I seemed able and interesting, to set up a date to come in for an art day for customers. And I damn’ well thought, at that point in time, that I might be able to, as well; I made a note to look at the possiblility for the new year.  If I could get through that, I could see a bonus in it for me of health-sense.  Worth trying to do it.

All in all, I now rated probably 7 on the ability and mood scale.  I’m pretty happy, looking forward to going home and getting on with some art.

The Brown Envelope was waiting for me.  

Threats from the Government as to what would happen if I was unable to comply with what the job centre were going to be telling me to do from the 3rd of December – yes, I an Duncan Smith, a merry fucking Christmas to you too – to whit, ‘sanctions’, a gradual reduction in my benefit until I came to heel.

Now, following the assault by the police, and handcuffing, in Wellington (see this blog ), I’m not even going to get into the Job Centre, because I simply cannot go into Wellington any more. Being scared of a place is no longer an ‘adequate excuse’ – if you think about it, if severe illness is not a good reason not to go to the job centre, then very little else (except, maybe, death) is going to cut the mouse turd, is it?

So now I am at a 2. I have very little but gradual, but accelerating, impoverishment to look forward to, and eventually the loss of the house.  Sure, there are people in the world worse off than me in the poverty stakes, but most of them do not live in a rich country, or have paid into a social insurance for their working lives.  Indeed, these poor people are going to be much worse off, ironically, since the aid Belinda and I currently give them will soon be cut off.

Threats from a Government – whatever the flavour or colour – toward ill people is a sign you are living in a very poor country indeed; not poor in resources or financially, but a country that has reached rock bottom in the way it treats the most vulnerable of its citizens.  A country so lost, so spiritually and morally bankrupt, that it is willing to put up with propaganda and strictures against the disabled, the like of which have not been seen since Germany of the 1930s – and thought that, with the sacrifice of lives that people  in WW2 suffered, we would never see again.

Threats in the post from a Government.  I shall soon be forced to wear a Black Triangle on my clothing.  I may preempt them and wear it anyway.

I’m unable now to see forward, with the remainder of people willing to let people like me die, some at their own hands, some at the hands of the DWP and ATOS, and this (Tory) government.  

I’m sort of lost.

I’m sort of afraid.

I’m very, very alone.

My World, Gone Mad: Epilogue

It’s been a few weeks since the incident where I was set upon by the police and handcuffed for nothing; other than I was having an internalised panic attack in a small provincial town.

At first, I was hopeful that I had coped with the experience, but, as time has gone on, it has become obvious that I am getting quite, quite worse. Anxiety levels are heading into the terror category; and a dread hangs, pall-like, over me and everything I try to do.

I am trying to maintain a pretty sound exterior, and throwing myself into the art charity work. I try and seem ok, but it is becoming obvious that I am not myself. The pressure builds inside, the more I act out the mask, it is becoming more and more difficult to appear reasonable and I afraid.

Every thing I do, good or bad, seems to be out in the open for all the world to see; and I expect to be assaulted and handcuffed again at any moment.
It has taken 30 years to reduce the almost permanent terror. Now it is back as bad as ever. No, worse. It has been ‘proved’ that I am not safe from such incidents, however near or far apart they are. I cannot rest, I cannot work, I cannot concentrate. The fear pervades everything.

The news is full of horror that does nothing to lessen the tension. Abuse victims ridiculed in the press and on TV by politicians and commentators. Disabled suicides and death brought on by the stress caused through ATOS and the upcoming DLA assessments. Homelessness and the rise of the food bank in a rich and liquid economy. NHS being dismantled. CMHTs removing patients from their care.

I’m going down slowly.
In all of this, one CMHT has changed me over to another, who have failed to give me any care; I am four weeks since I last saw anyone, and they are not interested in my recent experience with the police. They are not interested full stop. With seven nurses off long term sick – presumably with stress – in the local CMHT, the rest are overworked to the point of not giving a monkey’s toss.

I’ve had to fight hard to keep getting my prescription from a new surgery that seems to be mostly staffed by locum doctors. There is no continuity. I have won the struggle for my drugs – they have at last found the letter from my consultant. But it has added to the stress.

I’m not sure just how long I can manage at present.
We fight on, in the face of indifference and hostility.

I have to check the front of the house..
It’s been an hour.

R.

Totally Mental: My World, Gone Mad

************Please note that there may be swear words in the following Piece.*********

As my head hit the gently yielding turf, I thanked God – not for the first time – that the keeper of the churchyard lawn had done their job well. The force of being taken to ground by four well-built officers of the law was cushioned beautifully by surprisingly soft greenery.
It is a fact universally … oh no I feel a cliche coming on. It is necessary to fill on the backstory to this event a little. I trust you will have patience with me while I do so.

It is no secret that the police, as a profession are not my preferred cup of tea. Have a policeman come into your home, saying they have a search warrant (it turns out they do not) looking for stolen items from the shop where you work, having them search out and ogle photos of your bikini-clad partner, then telling you that ‘…you don’t love your partner, you are only fucking her to get her money..’ – whatever that might mean – and then continuing to look through your photo album, despite your protestations … And you may start to feel what I felt, and now feel.
Having them then take you to the station for questioning, telling you they are ‘arresting’ you, and keeping you there for a few hours without offering a lawyer, or access to drink or food, while saying things like ‘We haven’t beaten you up have we? YET?’ And your feelings may then be even more anxious.
(I wasn’t innocent, completely. I had taken a car radio cassette, an iron, and another item I cannot remember. I didn’t tell them at that interview. Their tactics didn’t work. Apparently 40,000£ worth of stock was missing, including some chest freezers.)
This was, if I recall correctly 1978-9. I paid my fine and my debt to society.
I haven’t been off their radar since. I’m apparently capable of much more evil things. I won’t go into detail. I haven’t had so much as a caution since the first episode. When I was assaulted by a neighbour, they came into my house demanding to know why. Had spoken to someone about the incident, as it was sub judice. I had been assaulted, I was the victim, but I was the one in the wrong.
This may help you understand why I have a fear of and a mistrust of the police. To the extent of PTSD. I have lived with this fear for well over thirty years.

My other bête noir is being sectioned.
When I was in my early twenties, a girlfriend dumped me! It happens. I then saw her in her parents’ car an hour later, complete with ex-boyfriend ( hers not mine! ). I stood on the pavement, and hyperventilated with a panic attack. Of course, I passed out. For a moment.
Someone saw me and called an ambulance. I told the ambulance crew I did not want to go to A&E, as I was a student nurse, and it would be too embarrassing. They insisted, and took me.
Once there, it was apparent I was quite anxious! I was given – without consent – ‘some Valium’ (so they said) in an IM injection. I went, quite quickly, to sleep.
I was awoken by a man in a suit asking me how I felt.
I remember my slurred words. “If I go to sleep and never wake up, I won’t be too disappointed.”

He made some notes and said he thought I should come to the local mental hospital. I told him I had no intention of going, but he said that it wasn’t an invitation. He had got a social worker ( who had never even seen me, not awake at least!) to countersign a Section 28 of the Mental Health Act. I never saw him again. I was duly transported to the mental hospital, stripped, given hospital pyjamas, and told if I absconded, I would be brought back by the police, and placed in a locked ward.
I spent, if I recall, 3 days there. I then had a board before a large number of ‘health professionals’ – daunting in the extreme. I managed to act my way out of the hospital. At no time was I offered any therapy, counselling, never told my rights (my parents said they would take care of me at their home, but they would not release me), never offered an advocate.
It was, as I recall, 1977.
You may see why I mistrusted psychiatrists, and mental health professionals after that.

And so to the day in question. Thank you for your patience.

I parked in the small principal town, expecting to get my medication, buy some meat, and go home.
In the pharmacy – I know the people there personally – they said they had not had any prescription back, even though it had been submitted 22 days earlier! Things were not looking good, I began to get nervous.
It had been a tough week. My CPN of 10 years was being sidelined, she had to cancel our meeting that Friday. I had had an ominous call from a band 7 manager at the CMHT, telling me to come to a meeting ‘to discuss my future with CMHT’ on 1st November. My wife, a sister, had been working 9, 10, 11 hours days because of staff shortages and management idiocy. I was battling with the DWP and ATOS and they had declared me ‘fit for work with a year’ . The money was tight in the budget.
I was at the end of my tether, really.
They passed me the phone in the pharmacy – the surgery ‘wanted to speak with me’. They told me a lie (you have never been prescribed that while at this surgery), became sulky and informed me I would have to ‘see a doctor’ to get some of the meds I had been asking for 5 years or more.
I shouted rather loudly down the phone in extremely forthright language. Told them to get someone who had authority on the phone. Shouted again.
I suddenly realised where I was, and, embarrassed, fled the shop, expression my apologies for my shouting as I did so.

I didn’t reach my car before agoraphobia set in – I sat on a bench in the square, and curled up into a ball, trying to shut the bigness of the world out.

I rocked for comfort. I batted my head a few times with my hand. I remained curled up.
I realised people were staring. Embarrassed, I realised the was no easy way to get out of the situation. I became more anxious.
Someone must have phoned the police. A few minutes later the was a tap on my shoulder, and I looked up into the eyes of a Community Support Officer.
I fled. The police! I was visible again.
I curled up in the churchyard up the road., just inside the Lychgate.
I heard someone shout ‘there he is!’, looked up, and saw two policemen wheel round to face me.
They had there arms outstretched , calling me to ‘come here’. I shouted for them to go away. To fuck off.
I looked for an escape, saw two others blocking my way, shouting for me to get down, calm down.
‘Get on the floor!’
I went to run, and failed. Four policemen on top of me, one with his knee on my back after they turned me face down, and his weight causing me difficulty in breathing. I shouted for him to get off, I was old to ‘calm down’ as they wrenched my arms behind my back, and handcuffed me. I shouted again that I could not breathe, and for him to get the fuck off me. I was panicking and gulping for air. They eventually bundled me into a police car. I actually felt better as I was in a smaller space!

They then took me to a waiting ambulance, two nice ladies who took my obs and blood sugar, asked me questions. I was still handcuffed. One of the policemen said ‘what did I expect, I had put my fists up to him’. I had done no such thing. I never offered any violent action toward them or anyone else.
The police told me I might get a bit better from them if I stopped ‘being rude toward them’.
I was told the options. Either A&E under escort, or they would take me to the police station under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, up to 72 hours.
I wanted neither. But no other option was given. I elected to go to A&E, but I insisted they took the handcuffs off before I went. After a few minutes discussion outside, they did so, but I sat in the ambulance with a police officer and two police behind in a police escort. They offered to take my car to casualty. I had to find £2 for the parking.

I arrived in casualty to be assessed by the mental health ‘crisis team’. The ambulance girl brought me water. She was very kind, as was her partner. I was taken into a side room at A&E, and sat there with the police constable.
My wife came down from her ward, a little angry. he cares me at times! The police left, leaving only one of their number behind in the room with me. I was then left alone, bizarrely, with a trolley full of needles and scalpel blades in the room!
The ordinary A&E doctor came in. Not the crisis team, they were hours away. She asked me questions to find out if I had capacity (I did), and whether I was likely to harm myself. After approx 10 minutes she was satisfied. I was ‘free to go’.

My wife and I negotiated my ‘release’ – we would go have a cuppa for me to ‘get straight’ and then I would drive us home.

We went home after the tea. I’m not sure I can come to terms with how an intelligent , articulate person, with an ILLNESS can be treated so. It seems to have become a crime to be ill – mentally ill – in the street, without hurting or in any way intruding on others’ lives.

My two worst nightmares – injustice and threatened sectioning – had come true on one day.

It has put me back 10 years. 20 years. But I bet CMHT will still want to sign me off their books on 1st November. I’ll pay odds on it, but they’ll be pretty short. Odds-on.

G-d help me.
I feel sick now I have written this out.
I’ll get hate mail, no doubt.
But that is the true account as I saw it.
E&OE

I had to write.
I couldn’t not write.
I can only write.

They may yet return, says my brain. They may wait for darkness. They may wait for sleep.
I no longer feel safe.
I no longer sleep.
I am.
Just am.

Roger, 27th Oct 2012

Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain. Final Day, Sunday

11.30
A quick entry now, as we are having to get ready to drive to my daughter Hannah’s flat in Reading. And put a few hooks up on the door. And pack (I generally leave that to Belinda who has a more organised mind).

I’m suffering from an adrenaline hangover this morning. Yesterday it coursed freely through my bloodstream, today it stays at home, and my system craves it. I’m not very able, but I’ll have to screw myself up and get going. I’ll let Belinda direct me.

I wish I was in church. I always felt a curious stillness and capability in church. Until I started becoming really ill, then I had to withdraw, as people where I went weren’t too understanding. One thought I was possessed by demons.

I have friends who are not coping too well, and feel useless to help. It’s depressing; frustration at not being able to help is very negative.

Yesterday was a good effort. I’m chuffed for myself.

Now I have to run. More introspection for your delight later.

*************************
It seems like I wasn’t destined to write a lot today.
20.45

I’m finishing this week drained. It has been a hell of a week, even for someone on the normal spectrum of mental capability.
I’m not sure I really know what to say right now. I’m feeling more hopeful, but more warily unhopeful than I have for many a long day; feeling more able, and more unable to access that ability than before.
Success and health seems only a paper-thin wall away, but that wall is out of my reach. I need to build myself an arm to reach the wall and punch through it. I only know how to do that by achieving what I am able to achieve, and have so far failed to reach.
I’m neutral and quiet, I have no panic or anxiety right now. But unsure of what the future can possibly hold for someone like me; I have many of the appearances and attributes that look like tools to build, but do not seem to have the hands to grasp them. I am frustrated by this, because I know others who have less, have done more.

I’m ambivalent as to the future. Can I really go on and improve my mind to make me well? The fact that each of us with a mental illness have an unique difference of illness; thus, we have no common remedy. This is not something that has a similar pill to make better in different cases. The is no universal panacea.

So tonight I am undecided.
I hope, but have no hope of that hope being fulfilled.
I try, but have no idea about the result of that trying.
I look, with no understanding of what I see.

But I will hope, try, and look.

And thank you, reader, for increasing my chances of success.

Fin

Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain.Day 6

0950 hrs
I’m sitting drinking the first cup of tea of the day, in a flat in Wembley. I’m starting to realise the enormity of what I have signed up to. It puts a trip to Liverpool Tate, a day at an Oxford museum, driving to London so far into the shade that you’d need a long train journey to get back to the sunshine.

I’m going to march outdoors (anxiety trigger) with a huge number of people ( anxiety trigger ), in the presence of loads of police (terror trigger), with helicopters (fear trigger) flubb-flubbing overhead, in a strange place (anxiety trigger). I’m starting to wonder if this is not a bridge too far, a mountain to high, a river too wide.

Everybody is chatting randomly. I so want to have a day like that, where what is about to happen doesn’t affect ones ability to function. I’m acting away like Gielgud on speed. All seems to be fine with me, I’ve even made a joke about helicopters and police. I’m even trying to kid myself with affected bonhomie.

The present is reasonably pleasant; a flat I have been to before, daughter and her partner who I know, a cup of comforting tea. I’m trying to live in it. The reality is that even when not considering this afternoon, it hangs like a pall over me; it is the cause of the tight diaphragm, the small but persistent hamster trying out a plethora of wheels in my head. I’m having small narratives about consequent actions. All the things that might happen.

I’m going to have some muesli.
Or weetabix.
I’ll update before I go. That’ll be fun.
Happy weekend, people!

****************************************
11.30 hrs

I’m getting kind of jumpy now, unable to settle, wondering what I am doing, finding it difficult to settle. It’s disconcerting to think I haven’t even been outside yet today; even the thought of that is beginning to be more and more scary. I can vaguely see loads of people in the Asda car park opposite, and realise it is relatively empty compared to where I am going soon.

Can we talk about something else for a while ? Wine, music, postage stamps? Something to take my mind off it.

I’m so cloudy even these words are taking a Herculean effort to pass out; it’s constipation of the worst sort. I’m doing breathing exercises. I’m starting at one and doubling figures in my head. I feel like going to sleep. I want to escape. I don’t want the police to kettle me. I don’t want to hear the helicopter.

But I need to stand shoulder to shoulder with my comrades in arms.

We will leave soon.
If you do, please pray.
If you don’t, please send cash.

I’ll write later.

**********************************************
1800 hrs

Safely back to my daughters flat in Wembley.

I’m a little shell-shocked, but otherwise ok. I feel like a punchbag loaned to one of the more burly pugilists for training.
Noise, police, helicopters, people, lively chaos, strange city, tube, train, Oyster cards.
But we were there

20121020-180021.jpg

In amongst a hurumphing, happy crowd that just wanted to show their feelings. More left wing/anarchist factions you could shake a stick at, more causes and protests than you could accommodate in a linear week. And my head buzzed with the vibrancy of it all, nerves jangled at its raucous vitality that threatened to – but never did – burst out in to song; no jostling, but people being overtaken, and I, in my turn, being passed by those impatient to hear the speakers in Hyde Park.

Police lined the route, surreptitiously muttering into their radios, eyeing me with complete disinterest. Above a helicopter flummmppped it way over my head, causing the usual desire to run, and hide, to swear at it to ‘go away’. But I was in company – included within many children and a wire haired terrier that seemed to get into almost every picture I took – and that required control.

At that point it was too overwhelming, and I sought salvation in the company of a morning star seller, who was also selling ‘atos kills’ badges. Money changed hands, the din receded, and I moved on, thanking them for they knew not what.

Queuing for the toilet in Hyde park was not too difficult, unlike actually micturating with all the sounds of festival only a thin sliver of fibreglass away. I concentrated by reciting numbers.
The crowd started to swell, and we moved nearer the stage. I managed to clap and shout at the right places. People were reading my tee shirt and I felt very exposed and vulnerable. Any one of these people could have been following me. The helicopter frimmframmed overhead. I was alert and very very nervous all of a sudden.

Still, we sat by a fence, and ate out luncheon – a nice brown BAP with meat filling, and a muesli bar. I had forgotten to drink, something I continued to forget for the rest of the day.

The tube home was easier that the outward journey, even though I was now sporting the obligatory placard.

20121020-182318.jpg

I’m ready for sleep, ready for peace, ready for quiet. But I survived. No one knew I was in difficulties, and no-one knew I was winging it as I went along.
It was, for me, a triumph.

I’m going to lie down now.
Well, recede into the background and be quiet.

And return anon.