Thursday, 6 February 2014

Memories are made of this

Memory is a funny thing.  Being a slave to your memories is anything but. 

It is three years since the things I can't get out of my head started.  I couldn't have imagined that they would still be causing me this much distress.  Long story short? A Person who had a grudge against me started to write anonymously to my work place which culminated in them investigating me for supposedly lying about having depression.  I wasn't lying, I became suicidal, I resigned. 

When I put it like that, it doesn't sound like much. It was.  It is. That I could be hated that much is something I really struggle with but not as much as I struggle with the fact that the people I worked with at The Place, who knew my mental health history lifted not one finger to support me or defend me. The Person and The Place threw me to the wolves and stood by whilst they tore out my sense of self.

Until the last week or so, I've not told anyone how The Person and The Place infiltrate my thoughts. It's constant. One or the other, or both, are there when I go to bed, there in my dreams and there during every waking hour.  I relive each moment, I imagine it happening again, scenarios from the past and the potential future play over and over in my head.  I can see it, I can see them. 

I resigned in January 2012.  It was January 2014 before I could even go to the train station near The Place.  As for The Person,  they are still on the periphery.  Being part of my local community is great but it also means it is almost impossible for me to avoid them, although I do try.  

Last week I did an assessment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It seems to fit.  What happened to me wasn't typical of the type of events that trigger PTSD and this in itself makes me feel like a fraud - I haven't be assaulted or witnessed an act of violence, been in a war or earthquake zone, I haven't had a life-threatening illness.  I read this earlier though that I think I can justifiably say is the case:

Harmful intentions

Man-made disasters, particularly those involving deliberate acts of violence, terrorism, or exploitation, seem to cause longer-lasting and more painful emotional consequences than natural disasters. The crucial factor may be that such experiences destroys people’s trust in others, particularly if they involve someone you have depended on.
It was a disaster.  Me and my mental health were exploited by someone with harmful intentions and that experience did destroy my trust in my colleagues and employer who I depended on.  I had depended on them for nearly 9 years. 
I've been signed off work for two weeks due to depression and anxiety. I am so scared that when I go back to work next week, it will be to be told they've received an anonymous letter with allegations that I am faking a mental health condition.   I really wouldn't put it past The Person to do it again, just to fuck with me. I've only been in this job 7 months.  If an employer of 9 years wouldn't back me, can I really expect the current one to? I know the rational answers to all this, but I don't think the fear will ever go away.
Sitting here writing, I can't stop the images of The Person reading this and feeling satisfied at the role they still play in my life. I wish I could cut out the part of my brain that does this and feed it to the wolves. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mr Bearface - Saviour of disgarded teddies.

Mr Bearface is a gardener. Yesterday he built a compost heap at a job in South London.  When he returned today, he was shocked and horrified to discover three stuffed bears, thrown away, on the compost heap.

He rescued them and brought them home.  I love him a lot I do.

Here are the three bears. I love them too.








Saturday, 17 November 2012

I'm out of the Twitter closet!


Morning campers, how’s it going?

Today is a big day in the on-going trials and tribulations of me and Twitter.  I’ve come out.  My real name and my Twitter name are in the same place for the first time ever.   Given the problems I've had in the past and particularly given how I was feeling when I wrote my last post you might think this is a move of the utmost foolishness on my part.  Maybe it is. 

I’ve started blogging for the Tottenham Journal under my real name and my first piece includes a link to my Twitter account.  It seemed like a bit of a faff to have to start explaining why I couldn't actually give out my Twitter name in the same space as my real name and to be honest, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I shouldn't have to.  I am not ashamed of anything I put on Twitter and whilst this move may mean I need to be a little more circumspect in what I write on there, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – there may be a few less ‘cunts’ but the internet is littered with swearing bears (just look at who I follow on Twitter) and I doubt my lack of contribution to that arena is going to break anyone’s heart. 

There is also the fact that the more open I am the less opportunity there is for nasty mean-spirited people like The Person to try and get one over on me.   I’d like to think they’re over all that now, but I’d never be so foolish as to not give it due consideration.

I am a very open person and hiding out of fear doesn't sit naturally with me. So I’ve decided I'm not going to do that any more.

My name is Tara and I am Bear Faced Lady. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

I can’t let go


I am angry.  I am angry and I can’t get past it. I am angry and it is not doing me any good. I am writing this in the hope that it will be cathartic and I’ll stop having nightmares about the place I used to work at, that I’ll stop being terrified of not being believed, that I’ll stop thinking about it all the bloody time.

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know something of what I’m going on about and might not want to read anything else about it, so here’s a Get out of Jail Free card; collect £200 and pass Go without reading any further.  I wouldn’t blame you; I’m sick to the stomach of the whole thing. If you haven’t read it before, here is a brief synopsis: I had depression and was signed off work. A nasty, grubby individual wrote to my employer saying I was faking it and using my tweets as ‘evidence’.  My employer investigated me, found me guilty of misconduct on the basis of my tweets and precious little else and began disciplinary action. I was suicidal.  I resigned.

I’ve tried so hard to get past it.  I cleared my desk on 10th January this year.  Time has gone on and yet I can’t stop thinking about it.  It affects everything I do.  I am so fucking angry.

They knew I was on a waiting list for therapy.  They had medical certificates from my GP stating I had depression.  They had letters from my GP confirming the severity of my illness.  They had reports from their own Occupational Health doctors who having met and examined me on at least three occasions agreed with my GP’s diagnosis. And yet, on the basis of what I put on Twitter and a telephone conversation with a different doctor from Occupational Health who I hadn’t even met, they told me I was a liar.  They told me my behaviour was not consistent with that of someone with depression.  

This, from a manager who, by her own admission, had no experience or understanding of depressive illness.  This from a manager, who, when I said I felt uncomfortable talking openly to her about my symptoms told me “Stephen Fry talks about his depression…” This, from a manager who whilst carrying out the investigation into the veracity of my mental illness, was also appointed as my line manager, responsible for over-seeing the phased return to work recommended by the organisation’s Occupational Health doctors.  Conflict of interest, much?

Of course, everyone asks why I didn’t take this to an employment tribunal.  I thought about it, I really did.  I sought advice.  In the end, I was still too ill.  Even though I was told that legally, I had a strong case.  The prospect, however remote, of being found guilty a second time of something I hadn’t done was just too terrifying.  I’d pulled myself back from the brink once; I knew I couldn’t do it again.  It’s too late now, you only get so long to lodge a complaint with an employment tribunal, and honestly despite being more mentally healthy now than I have been in a long while, I don’t think I’d ever be strong enough to fight that battle again, even if it were an option.

I’m starting a new job soon. I am terrified of it all happening again.  I’ll never be able to say where I work, or have any public facing role in the new organisation, for fear of the grubby individual who began all this, sending their nasty poison pen letters to my new employer as well. I’m not angry with the grubby individual anymore; they are not worth the effort.  They are nothing. I am angry with my old employer.  They knew me. They knew my past history of depression.  They knew I was good at my job. They knew me. And they called me a liar. And I can’t forgive them.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Being my friend


So I’m guessing y’all know by now that I suffer from time to time from a big ol’ dollop of that there depression? (I don’t know why the mid-Western twang, I’ll stop it – it’s a little unbecoming one feels).  Anyhoo, I’ve been giving some thought to how that impacts upon you – I know, how unselfish am I?

As such, and in the interests of continuing ease of friendship, here are some things you should know and hopefully some things you can do to help me when the going gets tough. (Yes ok, do your best Billy Ocean impression now…that’s right, let it out…)

I need a plan.  Not a life plan (although, yes possibly one of those too).  What I mean is, I’m not good with tentative.  If we arrange to possibly meet up, I need to know if it’s on or not and the where’s and when’s pretty much from the get go.  If I don’t know,   I get very stressed and can’t settle to anything else until I do.  If for whatever reason I don’t hear from you (and that can happen for a number of reasons, rational-me does get that!) I become horribly paranoid and worried.  To the point that I think you’ve a) met with a terrible fate and are dead in a ditch or b) decided I’m a god-awful person you can’t bear to spend time with.   So please, wherever possible, furnish me with a plan!

I may not always answer my phone.  There are times when basic conversation, or even texting, is just too hard.  It really is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” so don’t think I’m deliberately ignoring you.  Well I am, but not because I can’t be bothered with you, it’s because I can’t think of anything to say or because what I could say is too painful to begin to know how to express.

I may cancel our plans.  Most of the time this will be for an actual reason like I forgot, I double-booked, something urgent came up – you know, the kind of reasons the rest of you give for cancelling plans.  Occasionally it may be because I’ve hit a wall of depression and can’t move from my bed let alone leave the house,  that being the case I’ll probably say I’m not feeling well – which is, funnily enough, the truth!  It’s just that for me, not feeling well doesn’t mean a headache or a cold, it means I’m depressed.  The thing I'd ask you to do here is just give me time, I'll come back when I can.

One thing I won’t do is lie to you.  I may not want to burden you with the full truth of how I am feeling but I won’t lie.  I was accused recently by a friend of 18 years of continually lying and making excuses to get out of seeing her.  One of my ‘lies’ was something along the lines of “I had a bit of a breakdown this week and ended up having to go to a mental hospital so I’m not going to be able to meet up on Friday.”   I don’t know what hurt and angered me more, the fact that she was so unfeeling about what had happened to me, or the fact that she thought I would make up such a monstrous untruth!  Needless to say, that friendship is well and truly over.  

I am blessed by having many good friends.  And sometimes this blessing is a curse.  I want to be there for you, to help you through your bad times, I pride myself on being there for those I love.  But the depressed me has a tendency to think that I won’t be of any value to you if I can’t be the strong one, the advice-giver, the cheerer-upper, that I’m not really worthy of your friendship so I hide away from you until I feel able to be the friend you might need.  I know it’s awful, that there’s a part of me that apparently thinks you are that shallow that you’d only see our friendship on the basis of what you can get out of it; I’m working on it.  When I’m well I do know that it’s really not like that, it’s just that sometimes, and it’s certainly been the case over the past year or two,  I’m not that well at all. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Dark Arts

"The problems of the UK benefits system* are many, varied, ever-changing and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible." 

Severus Snape in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Price. *Dark Arts

Thursday, 26 July 2012

If you’re on benefits, don’t get a job.


I cannot believe I am actually saying that but I am tired.  I am tired of having to negotiate my way through the mire that is our benefits system whilst trying to get a little bit of paid work whilst applying relentlessly for a full time job.

I’ve had my Housing Benefit reduced from £180 to £55 a fortnight because apparently they’ve overpaid me and they’re reclaiming it back from my current and future payments.    This is because I did 5 days work in April and May netting me £621 after deductions and because of this they have calculated I have been overpaid in every payment from April to June.   So that’s 12 weeks of overpayment because of 5 days work. 

I’ve already written about how these 5 days of paid work affected my Job Seeker’s Allowance so I can only conclude that I shouldn’t have bothered working, trying to pay my way, trying to get back into work because the benefits system makes it impossibly complicated and financially penalises you for the effort.  I can understand entirely how you can end up as a long term unemployed statistic and find yourself subject to all the vitriol that label engenders – the system is gamed against you getting any kind of work that doesn’t enable you to kiss goodbye to being a benefit claimant entirely.  They cut your benefits if you work part time or occasionally whilst trying to get that elusive full time job and anyway your Job Seeker’s Allowance is taxed as income and included by the Housing Benefit bods as earnings, so it is included in their calculations of any overpayments. 

The game is rigged and the house always wins.