Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Black Dog keeps on biting......and other shit

Hello again

As you probably know by now, I'm pretty open when it comes to my health issues, and it's a mission of mine now to break down the walls on Mental Illness, in particular, depression.

My mental health has taken a turn for the worse recently, and this culminated in me being referred to a Mental Health Clinic for a full consultation.  This took place yesterday, 4th November.

After an emotionally gruelling 75 minutes, the specialists had a diagnosis.  They told me I had Major (Recurrent) Depressive Disorder.  Now this is a pretty serious and at times debillitating mental illness, and I've been put back on anti-depressants and will be taking part in Talking Therapy (counselling to you and me).

The whole day left me feeling incredibly emotionally exposed and feeling very vulnerable, weak, unsure of myself, unsure of what to do in the immediate future with regards to work.

I don't mind admitting I am really struggling to function at the moment, I'm hanging on to normality by a thread but feel it's important to carry on fighting and keep on going as close to normal as it's possible to do so.  It's not the right course of action for everyone but I feel it's the right thing for me.  However, things in life are rarely straight forward, and whatever control you have over yourself is often dependent on how you're treated by others.

So, I went to work today, with that feeling still raging inside me.  As you will know from my previous posts, I see that inner battle as a second person inside me, trying desperately to derail and debase me.  I often give it a voice.....I guess that is what people mean by the voices in their head.

I opened my emails and set about reading a few of them.  I saw one from my line manager asking for a meeting.  Not a problem, I thought, I've always been up front with him about my health and it's important to keep your boss informed.....how else are they supposed to know of things that may be affecting your work, right?

The meeting started pleasantly, with him asking me about the assessment yesterday.  I told him I was glad I took the full day off, that yesterday was a harrowing experience and that I was feeling very raw indeed.  I added that the treatment for this was medication and therapy, and that as this would likely be covered by The Equality Act 2010, I would be looking for time off for any treatment relating to this illness.  I did however tell him that if I could, I would arrange this in my own time, although it may not be possible.  

Then almost without a pause, I started getting questioned about my work and my time spent on union duties….again.  I told him that I was working mainly on an 'off line' project last week and that I'd only worked 14 hours anyway due to child care.  I'd kept my union work to a bare minimum as I knew my time in the office was going to be so heavily restricted. 

I was getting questioned about what I spend my non-union time doing, I have acknowledged that I'm currently running slightly over the 50% limit but as I have repeatedly reminded my manager, this is for the year as a whole, not just a part of it.  I know that my manager is getting leaned on from above and from those who want to see the end of union reps.

I am convinced that this is now co-ordinated tactics by the employer.  It's an attempt to make the lives of union reps so incredibly stressful that we walk away from the union stuff.  I am feeling victimised and harassed, and as the law is written, that means I am being. 

Every time I mention doing PCS work now, I get a reminder about the 50%, or some comment about the time I'm spending.  I'm well aware of the restrictions and don't need the constant reminders.

No one else in the office is asked to account for every single minute as I am.  No one else in the office is expected to be purely doing their job for 100% of their time.  There are always group discussions, Intranet reading, 1-2-1 meetings, Team Meetings, Whiteboard meetings, aspects of union work that count as FT etc, Toilet Breaks, time away to grab a cup of tea etc.

Yet I am constantly being harangued and harassed over my time.  I sat there, took my glasses off, head in my hands and said I can't take this any more.

My boss then started saying how flexible he was.  When I asked in what aspect, he said that he allowed me to work short days last week for half term.  I was furious!  Allowing people to take their own leave or flexi for childcare purposes (or any other reason) is not being flexible, that's allowing people to take time off that they're entitled to!!!  

It's not even as if this was short notice leave, this had been planned for weeks.  He then cited that he was allowing me to do PCS work without challenging it.  Again I pointed out that this was a legal requirement and I always gave him as much notice as possible.

He then said that as far as he can see, all I do when I'm in the office is sit and answer emails.  How he can say this when he sits at the other end of the office from me and rarely if ever ventures to my end is beyond me.  I told him that I did not like having my integrity questioned in this way.  He denied he was doing this. but then said he had to be satisfied that the time I was recording my time correctly and that he couldn't be satisfied at this point.  The conclusion I drew from this is that he thinks I'm fabricating either my flexi records, my union time, or both.

Then......the final breaking point.  

He asked me whether I felt guilty about leaving my colleagues in a fix by not doing anything.  I'm sorry, but laying a guilt trip like this is totally unacceptable, and even more so when you're a manager sat with a member of staff who's just told you that they're suffering from what is a serious mental health issue.  It was at this point I walked out.

To suggest that it's my 18 hours a week that are the make or break issue here and not the fact that we work for an employer with 40,000 fewer staff than we had 8 years ago is clearly laughable....but I wasn't laughing.  If he's taken on work that needs more staff hours than he has at his disposal, isn't that just poor planning on his behalf?

I probably came over as being really defensive, but given the condition I have, and that I had literally just minutes before told him about it, is that really a surprise?

So now the dilemma.  I have to take my illness seriously, and this may involve minimising my union involvement for the forseeable future,  

Whilst part of me is screaming that I shouldn't let the b*****ds grind me down like this, there is another part.....a massive part of me that is thinking I should do just that anyway.  I'm no good to anyone if I'm ill.  I've got to seriously question whether I'm in the write frame of mind to continue with things as they are, or whether I need to simplify my life a hell of a lot.

I am now going to spend a couple of days thinking about what I'm going to do next. 

The reason I'm blogging about this is that this episode shows just how far we have to go when it comes to understanding and dealing with hidden disabilities and mental illness.  I'm not a weirdo or a freak, I have a problem that needs support from all sides.  I get that from my wife, my family and friends.....shouldn't I get it from my employer too? 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Battling the demons, the war rages on



Hello again.

It's been 2 weeks since I last posted, and it's 2 weeks that have shown me that the battle will never be over.  However, that's not a reason to give up.  The only thing giving up will lead to is despair, desolation and physical problems that no one wants.

As I've said before, the physical manifestation of depression for me has been food addiction.  It results in spells where I am totally out of control, totally unable to control what I put in my mouth.  My desire for food overtakes any rationality.  I don't stop to ask myself if I'm hungry, I don't stop to ask myself whether I need what I'm about to eat.  Sometimes I'm not even aware that I've eaten until I wash the dishes or put stuff away and wonder where they came from.

I am hyper sensitive to sugar.  It's getting more widely recognised as a hugely addictive substance, with the usual addiction habits that go with alcohol, nicotine, heroine, cannabis or whatever your weapon of choice may be.

Without belittling the battles addicts face in any way, you can manage your way around alcohol, nicotine etc.  You can just not buy them, you can say no, you can focus on this very real enemy, you can fight it and channel your energy in one direction.  The devil IS the cigarette, or the bottle of vodka, or the bag of white powder.  You can see the devil, you can take up arms when the devil appears and fight it.

Now try that battle when the thing you have an issue with is food, the very fuel we physically need to survive.  And imagine if that fuel was broadly contaminated with your particular vice.  What if sausages had alcohol in them?  What if biscuits were laced with nicotine?  What if carrots or apples or bread contained whatever your drug may be?  How would you avoid it then?  How do you deal with an addiction that you cannot go cold turkey from and is an ingredient in almost everything we eat?

With me, it's sugar.  Even typing the word is torture.  I am sat here craving it.  My teeth clench, my jaw tightens, I physically salivate and feel the urge for it with every bone in my body and every fibre of my being.  I'm fighting it right now by writing this blog, but I fell last night, and have failed a few times in the last week.

I know there is a Jacobs Orange Club biscuit in the house….and I know where it is!  Right now, I am like Father Dougal trying not to press the big red button!!!!! And even if I didn’t have it, or couldn’t find it, there’s sugar in the house, there’s butter…and the mixture of fat and sugar is within easy reach (see http://the-tangent-wordsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/battling-demonsthe-real-never-ending.html for details)

The major problem is the downward spiral, and the twin pronged attack of failure and despair.  You fail, you cave in, you feed the demon and allow them in, you see that in itself as a failure because you couldn’t keep up with the battle.  Then you think “what’s the point”, you reach for the weapon and cut yourself with it, the demon sees its chance, it sees the chink in your armour and it dives right in.  Before you know it, the demon is in charge again and your physical and conscious being is out of control and joining in with the damaging behaviour.

There are times when I feel like the little boy in the picture.  The monster towers over me, it’s attached to me, it’s part of me.  I can’t escape it and I am massively ill-equipped to deal with it.  No matter how fast or far you run, you never escape your shadow.

When you get like this, you do shut down, and hide away.  


You don't want those who care about you to worry about you.....yeah that's part of it, but there's more to it.  You also don't want them to stop you.  That's the problem with self-destructive behaviour, you are so used to it, you crave it, you believe it's exactly what you deserve.  It's like a comfort blanket, it's a way of life and your mind finds solace on being in familiar surroundings, however unhealthy those surroundings are.

If those you love you intervene, they will stop you from doing exactly what the demons are telling you to do.  It's not Graham that's keeping it a secret, it's the demon keeping everything quiet.....Isolation, remember?  How a bully keeps control over their victim.

Over the last 10 days or so, things have been slowly slipping, and then I had an incident...a hypo....my blood sugars went really low, just over 3 for those who know what that means.  I needed to get them up and fast.  Luckily we had just bought some Orange Clubs for me to have one a night if I had enough calories left.  Well, I ate 3 in about 5 minutes, that and about 7 boiled sweets.  

I know it was necessary, I had to get those glucose levels up in a hurry, but it was still me consuming sugar.....well it drove a juggernaut through my defences, it did a whole load of damage to my state of mind...the demon was right there...."Well, well, well....looks like I have found a way to get inside again huh?  Diet is better, diabetes control is improving....but hypos!!! Who'd have thought they would be my ally in fucking you over! You need sugar to stop from being ill, but it's sugar that's made you ill.....WHAT A HEADJOB!!!  I've got you now......you are my puppet and I'll do what the fuck I want with you"  

The demon was loving it, laughing at me, he was totally relaxed, he was in again and he had me.....how do I battle that?

Well I'm ashamed to say I gave in.  Later that night, I had a ramekin full of margarine and sugar mix....better than the cereal bowlful I used to have but still.....a smaller bullet is still a bullet.

I did the same thing the night after when my bloods got to 5.5....I didn't want them getting any lower...."Don't worry, Graham, you're in control, just give in, have another little taster...."  Like I said in the title, they're sneaky little bastards.  They were working their way back into control, giving me the perception that I was in control, because I wasn't as bad as before.

The psychological landslide continued....I was surrounded by dark thoughts -
There are times I really fucking hate myself 
I hate me
Order me a pizza and a big bag of chocolates 
I'm just waiting for everyone to go to bed then I'll start
Bit worried about how dark I've got and the imagery I've looked for is....maybe time to learn to live with them and stop battling

I went surfing, looking for images and art work of inner demons, and these are the ones that jumped off the screen, that meant something to me....I won't say anything about each one, they speak for themselves.




















This particular piece of writing really struck a chord with me.  It's all part of the mental battle. 

 

When you're in the rut where the demons live, there is nothing positive, you can see nothing good about yourself and you are totally convinced that anyone who says anything nice to you is keeping the truth from you.

I convinced myself once that my friends were only my friends because they didn't have the heart to tell me to piss off.  

How messed up is that?

Even when I try and take control, and plan for the hypos, I mess up.  I was in town on Saturday and bought two packets of glucose tablets.  They are something I'm supposed to carry around all the time.  Good planning, right? 

"Sugar on tap? Good idea, mate, I'm gonna love torturing you with those!  You're going to want them, it's going to eat away at you, knowing they're there and you WILL eat them all" ....he was right, less than an hour later and they'd all gone, both packets, and I didn't even hide it, I ate them sat right there on the sofa.  You can hide in plain sight quite easily.

"Got any more bright ideas? Go on, think of something else you can fail at"

There was another ramekin of sugar and marg that night.  And I congratulated myself on the fact it was only a little bit. 

So, the result?  I've not lost any weight this week, and had a setback in Battling the Demons.  They've seen a gap, a flaw in my plan of action and they're working hard to exploit it.  Every hour and every meal time and every trip to the shop and all the parts in between....every breath is a battle at the moment, there's a war going on and I'm not coming out of it unscathed.

However, to finish on a positive, I'm not doing anything like the things I was doing before.  But make no mistake, this is bloody hard work and I guess it always will be.

These words from Stephen King are something I'm trying to remember.  

"Monsters are real, ghosts are real.  They live inside is, and sometimes, they win"
Nobody wins every time, but if you don't fight you will lose every battle.  I have to at least begin to accept that I cannot win all the time, and a defeat is not a failure, it's just not a step forward.

I'll leave you with this quote that I've found.  I may just have this made into a poster, or put on a t-shirt, or both.  If I can recite this, and live by this, then I can give myself hope and light up the darkest hours.  

If you like this blog, please click on the "follow" option.  I'll keep it going as long as people are interested.

Thanks for reading. 



Monday, 9 June 2014

Battling the demons - 1 week on....and the demons have been taken by surprise

Hi there

This time last Sunday, I sat down and wrote my blog about depression, attitudes towards it, food addiction etc.

To say I've been overwhelmed by the response would be a vast understatement.  At the time of writing, it's received 428 views.  I honestly never expected that.  But back to Sunday night first.

I was at a really low ebb, and wrote the blog from the heart.  It may not have been well structured or flowing, but it was emotion down on paper. 

I posted it, and started to shake.  I'd laid myself wide open.  For someone who is used to building walls and keeping people away, that was a huge effort, and took a lot out of me.  The first person to contact me was my oldest friend, Ruth.  Her heartfelt and caring message made me feel like at least one person was listening.  Ruth has always supported me, and me her.  It should have been a brilliant booster, and for a while it was.

So I went to bed and slept like a baby, right? Wrong!  The demons were in my ear all night....
"Oh you've done it now!! Who's gonna want to read that?? Self-pitying drivel, you have no idea what you've done.  Yeah, Ruth was nice to you, but she is always nice to you.  The only ones who are gonna read it are a few Facebook friends, and they are gonna see you for the feeble idiot that you are.  Well, we'll be here waiting for you, pizza and chocolate at the ready....."

I don't think I got much more than 2 hours sleep that night.  I was an emotional wreck on Monday, and had to face a meeting with my manager.  The frustration and emotional turmoil of the position I'd put myself in was coming out.  I was as angry as I'd been for ages.  The battle inside my head was raging and I have no idea what happened most of that day.  I didn't eat a lot, but that was down to feeling sick, and nothing to do with willpower.

Then I got a phonecall.  BBC Tees wanted to interview me live on air about my blog.  I agreed to go in on Tuesday, then started shitting myself!  I've been on the radio loads of times, but this was different, I would be talking about myself and my own fight for relative sanity.  What the hell had I said yes to!!
"You are a total dick!!! You're gonna go on air and tell thousands of listeners about your 'loserville' mentality??? For crying out loud, you couldn't even admit to yourself yesterday!! You're gonna lose it on air, and show everyone what a failure you are"

Then I checked Facebook, and saw the messages, and the comments about my blog, and the retweets.  And that, I firmly believe was the turning point, or at least a point where I started to feel like I was no longer alone, and the battle with the demons had at least become a fairer fight.

The support has been wonderful, and I feel very lucky all of a sudden.  I got messages from all over the country, including from Natalie in Bognor Regis, a friend who put me onto a Facebook support group called HOOP (Helping Overcome Obesity Problems), and the people on there have been a big help already.

So, Tuesday morning came along and I went along to Broadcasting House in Middlesbrough.  I was taken up to the waiting area, then taken into the studio to meet the presenter.  A lovely man, who made me feel at ease.  I also knew that interviews are invariably challenging, with presenters often asking uncomfortable questions.  However, I was ready, I mean all I had to do was talk about myself....how hard can it be? Oh wow.......

The interview went well.  I made it available via a link on my Facebook page and I know a lot of people listened in to it.  Once again the support and feedback was universally positive, although I was shaking like a leaf when I came out of the studio.  I think it was one of the hardest, most emotionally challenging things I have ever done.  

I kept myself busy the rest of the day.  I set up my charity page for my sponsored slim (shameless plug coming up) -

http://www.justgiving.com/Graham-Allport/

If you go on there and read the "my story" section, it tells you why I chose Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

I am determined to lose weight, not so much for the weight loss, but because I don't want my kids growing up without a dad.  I've seen the heartbreak it causes, I've also seen the emotional scars in my friends who lost parents when they were young.  I'll be damned if I'm going to do that to my kids....at least not before first showing them how hard I'm prepared to fight!  And since I'm doing it, I thought I would raise money for this particular worthwhile cause.

The physical health benefits will be worth it, but the psychological battle is the harder one.  By surrounding myself with friends to support me, and a cause to keep me focused, I believe I have given myself the best possible opportunity to keep the demons at bay.

I am starting to feel like I've got an army now, and the collective strength is something I can draw upon at my hours of need.....like one night when the demons came raging back.......
"Hmmmm remember us?  Did you think we'd gone away?  We were just waiting for you to finish riding the wave and come crashing down....and we're right here as promised.  It's late, you're alone, none of your friends are about....eat...eat...eat....EAT....EAT!!!! Go on, go into the kitchen, have toast, have porridge, just eat sugar...anything.....FEED US!!!"

It was overwhelming, almost....I mentioned HOOP earlier, and I put them to the test early on in our relationship.  I posted about my struggle to stay away from food, how the calling was loud, and I'd only eaten two hours earlier, I couldn't possibly be hungry....but I was dying to eat!

Wow!!! The support I received...the instanteous back up from the new army around me...it was immense, mind blowing.  I did eat though, I had an apple and a glass of water.  That, for me, was a massive victory, an enormous step towards some semblance of freedom from the demons.  They were knocked backwards again.  Yes, I needed help, but the key factor here is that I reached out for it, rather than caving in....I took the difficult route and not the quick fix.

Since then, I've been feeling brilliant.  I've taken a step to reduce my anti depressants and stop taking my anxiety tablets (obviously after talking to the doctor first...I'm not that stupid) and I am beginning to feel alive again.

I know the battle isn't won, it'll never be won, but I have taken giant strides towards taking control of things again and it feels fantastic.  It's weigh in day tomorrow, and I don't feel scared.  I know I've eaten healthy stuff this week, I've not pigged out, I've not eaten in secret.  I've even had two nights where I've had 2 biscuits (counted the calories in them) and the rest of the packet is still there, and it's not driving me crazy!

Going public about all this was really scary, terrifying in fact.  But it was a necessary one if I was to break the cycle of despair, depression and self loathing.

I am going to keep blogging and keep taking away that weapon of isolation.

For anyone battling with demons, or whatever you want to call them, please reach out and let people help you.  The demons are like any bully, they feed on isolation....so don't be isolated. 

There is help out there, you just need to reach for it.





 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Battling the demons....the real never ending story

Hello Blog, it's been some time since I last used you, but it's good to see that you're still there for me.

A subject really close to my heart is the perceptions, attitudes and discrimination over mental illness.  All of us who suffer face a battle every day, and these are powerful demons we battle with.  They don't have a physical form, you can't punch them in the face, and they keep going.  They don't get tired, they don't accept defeat, and they never go away.  All you can do is keep on battling.

Let's get down to detail.  

Firstly, I know that there are many, many people who have things a damn sight worse than me, but the answer to that is that everyone has their own reality and their own levels of "normality".  However others perceive these details of my life and my issues, it will not make one jot of difference to be honest.  If others read this and think "what the hell has he got to worry about", then fine, but once you've had that opinion and expressed it, I will still wake up the next day to a new battle, and the demon will be ready to pounce on any weakness.

I have suffered from depression on and off since 1994.  It's an illness that never goes away.  Sure, you can go through spells where you have it more or less in control, and the medication helps, but that brings its own problems.  It's not just the side effects that a lot of these drugs have, but the demons have a field day...........
"Look at you, you can't even bloody function without popping pills, you're pathetic!"

Remember when Stan Collymore said he was suffering from depression?  The media and his then manager, John Gregory, rounded on him.  "What has he got to be depressed about?" they said.  He was derided and ridiculed all over the place, it was painful, cruel and distinctly unhelpful.  "He's on mega bucks, gorgeous girlfriend, showbiz lifestyle...how can he possibly be depressed?"

EASY!! It's an illness, it's not just being a little sad, or down in the dumps.  You can't just "snap out of it!", you can't just "Get over it", you can't just "Cheer up!".  You can't just smile and be cured, but you can (and very often do) hide behind a laugh or a joke.

A smile keeps the questions, and therefore the self analysis, at bay.  A laugh makes you feel "normal", it makes you feel part of wider society.

The thing with depression is that it isn't just depression, it leads to so many other things.  It completely debases your self-esteem and leaves you doing things that will make you feel worse, because you feel that is exactly what you deserve.  Here's an insight to what depression can do, and how it can manifest itself as a totally separate but equally destructive behavioural trait. 

I'm overweight, I've dieted before and lost weight before.  I've lost at least 4 stones on 3 separate occasions in my life.  I did this for the obvious health benefits, but it brings its own perils.  When you're losing weight, you get praised, you get people telling you how good you're looking and how well you're doing.  It feels great!  I mean, who wouldn't like that?  The demon doesn't like it, and it'll attempt to derail you......"I don't know why you bother, you'll only fuck it up again, you always do.  Go on, enjoy your day in the sun, it won't last, and I'll be right here waiting for you as always when you realise you're a fraud....you'll be back"

Then, you reach your goal, the praise doesn't stop, but people stop noticing.  Because people stop noticing, you start internalising and the demon sees its chance......
"You may as well eat, it'll make you feel better, just tell yourself it's comfort food, that it's only the one pizza, it won't hurt....go on, you know I'm right"

And so it begins.  You get weighed the week after and you've put a couple of pounds on.....but it's only a couple of pounds, right?  Well, yeah it is...as far as the scales are concerned.  But no one notices, no one says anything, even when you're piling the pounds back on, no one says anything.  Why would they?  Who would raise that subject with you?  And even if they did, you know how you'd react, right? Either way it's a path to disaster.

If someone says something, you take it as criticism, you get defensive, you reach for the biscuits or the speed dial....."See, they think you're a failure, go on and prove them right, stuff your face with any shite you can get hold of......get the 16 inch pizza, you know you can eat it....don't stop at 2 biscuits, you've got the whole packet to get through!  Come on, eat it all!!!"

Before you know it, it's all gone back on, and a few extra pounds for good measure.

This cycle goes on and on.  Whichever way you go, and whatever action you take, it's the battle against those inner demons that never, ever stops. And that is what needs the attention and the support from others.  Sadly though, it doesn't stop there.

As a result of being overweight for so long I've ended up with diabetes.  I had many meetings with the medical profession where i was warned about being overweight, I was told I would end up with diabetes....."See!! Told you, you deserve this, you deserve to be ill, you can't do anything right, so go ahead, get ill.  I knew I was right about you"

I do things to deliberately sabotage my health.  It's a form of self harm.  I might not be taking a razor to my arms, or plying myself with drugs, but I'm harming myself all the same.  It's manifested itself as a food addiction, and it's a bastard to handle!

This more than just reaching for the chocolate and saying "it's my food addiction" as a defence.  This is real physical and mental war zone.  For example, I will have my breakfast at 9am, and I'll be "satisfied" in the physical sense of the word.  Yet, when the sandwich trolley is due at work, I will get actual real hunger pains and my stomach will actually rumble.  Why?  Because my mind is set to eat at that time, and the power of the mind trumps the physical every single time.

This week, my son bought two bars of white chocolate to make a mousse, and it was hell!  I knew the chocolate was sat there, and the feeling i got in my mouth was indescribable.  I salivated, and tensed, knowing that the path to self harm was right there....I mean, what better weapon for self harm is there but chocolate, right? (actually that's not true, diabetics can eat sweet stuff).  But I didn't have the chocolate, so battle won, right? Wrong...read on....

That night, after everyone had gone to bed, i mixed some I Can't Believe It's Not Butter with some sugar, and made a rudimentary form of buttercream....and I sat and ate it, fighting back the tears as I did.  It wasn't nice, I didn't need it....the demons had won the battle.

I struck back the following day by confessing to my wife and kids, and I've never felt more vulnerable in my life.

They have, however, won many times in the past.........
When I've had nothing in the house to binge on so made cake mix and ate it.  
When I've gone to the shops for bread or milk, and bought a bar of chocolate and ate it before I got home.   
When I've dropped my kids off at home on a Sunday, and many times have stopped at Sainsbury's and bought a big bag of onion rings, and a big bag of maltesers and ate them before I got home.  If i hadn't finished them in time, I would drive a bit more until I had.

On top of diabetes, I'm on tablets for blood pressure, I'm on a statin, I'm on tablets for anxiety, and I've recently found out I've got angina too.  My demons are loving this! They are saying I'm finally getting what I deserve.  They won't be happy until something irreversible happens, and now it has.  You can mitigate things, but you can never rid yourself of diabetes or angina etc.  You have them for life, it's just a case of how you handle it.

So what do you do?  You fight, and believe me I'm fighting!  But the demons are still there, and they're still very real to me.

Whether it's depression, or food addiction, or alcohol addiction or anything else, the mental illness is much more difficult to overcome than anyone can ever know until they have been there themselves.  

Before you dismiss food addiction as a fallacy, consider that it is a mental illness with physical manifestation.  
Consider that every time I walk past the biscuits that are on the cabinets at work that this is a victory to me.  
Consider that every time I remain seated when "Trolley!" is shouted at work, that this is a victory to me.
Consider that every time I walk past Greggs instead of going in, that this is a victory to me.

Just like an alcoholic who is battling to stay dry, or an ex smoker who is battling to stay smoke free, "just the one" can do an awful lot of damage.  
The alcoholic or the smoker may only have one drink or one cigarette, but it will be one hell of a battle to keep it at just the one.  The mental minefield they will go through is not a place you would wish on anyone.

Similarly with the likes of me, "just the one" can have the same effect.  It pushes down the defence and makes it easier for the demons to see that chink in your armour.

The battles are mental ones, the effects are physical.  They're very real and they happen every day in people who you probably have no idea are struggling.

Don't dismiss mental illness.  It's hell to cope with and is always, always with us.

This is just my side of things.  Other people will have different battles, but depression and it's resulting complications are mine, and they hurt like hell.



Saturday, 3 December 2011

Let's have Aspiration, Fair Pensions For Everyone

Let's play a bit of spot the difference -
"Oh look at that house, that's lovely! I wish I could have something like that"
"Wow nice car! Better than my old banger! I wish I could have a nice car"
"You've got how much in the bank? How lucky! I wish I could win the lottery or something"
"That's not a bad pension, I wish I could have one something like that"

For the first three, its perfectly acceptable to aspire to having a beautiful house or car, or a healthy bank balance. We wouldn't even begrudge folks the good fortune of a lottery win...but would anyone demand that they give them up because they're more fortunate than the rest?

Until it comes to pensions....then it seems that those who have decent provisions have to give them up because no one else has them.  All of a sudden, it seems to be a social taboo to have a decent pension.  Why??  For ages, successive governments have done all they can to tell us to provide for our old age.
Well I have been.  I've been a civil servant for 23 years now.  I went into this job in 1988 KNOWING that I could earn more money elsewhere, doubling my salary if I went to work for an accountancy firm, for example.  I went into this job KNOWING that the upside was a decent pension at the end of it.  Was I the only person who knew this?  Of course not!  Everyone knows that the upside of Civil Service is the pension you get at the end. 
There was an agreement dating back to 1973, stating that unions would forego large pay rises etc in return for a properly funded pension and compensation scheme.  Well, we've kept up our end of the bargain, NOW YOU KEEP YOURS!!
Yes, we know that our pensions are better than many of those available to the private sector.  But before you make up your mind, ask yourself why is that?  Is it because our pensions have been significantly enhanced in the last 30 years?  NO! In fact, there was significant and widespread reform to civil service pensions as recently as 2005 and 2008.  This is not being advertised though.
The scheme I'm in closed to new entrants WITH THE AGREEMENT OF THE UNIONS.  This was the final salary scheme.  Since then, career averaging schemes have been put in place.  As a result, even the Lord Hutton Report says that the cost of Civil Service Pensions will fall as a percentage of GDP over the next 40 years.
I say to everyone who doesn't have access to a private pension to join our fight.  We want fair pensions for everyone.  You don't achieve that by giving up one of the last decent workplace pensions out there.  I've copied below a link to the PCS leaflet on this and urge everyone to have a look.
http://www.pcs.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=31F34882-8A2E-4BAB-9CF42FA92DFB02CF

A friend of mine told me that if she dared ask for anything like this, she'd be sacked.  That is not right and no employer should ever be allowed to get away with it !  We have to fight this insidious attack on workers' rights.  Everything is loaded in favour of those who enjoy the fruits of everyone else's labours, and it's about time it stopped.  Reinvigoration of the Trade Union movement is necessary now more than ever.  Not so we can go on strike at the drop of a hat, but to do what we do best.....make sure that everyone gets what they're legally entitled to.
Our predecessors fought hard for these laws and if we lose them on our watch, then what do we say to our children when they can't defend themselves in the face of employers who's number 1 priority is profit.
I just can't understand the logic of "i haven't got that, take it off them".  Join with us and stop the rot.