Bipolar me – Chasing the rainbow

I have chased the rainbow and at the end of it I have done the seemingly impossible for someone who has bipolar and depression – I’ve found and secured a permanent and stable job with a decent wage.

It’s working in a call centre helping people. However due to the nature of the job I am reticent to say exactly what it is.

To be honest it has left me mentally tired but that’s because I’ve only just started the job. The first three weeks was intensive and comprehensive training on the in’s and out’s of the job and the forth week going live in the training area with the coaching staff. Now I’m dealing with real live and breathing people.

It’s fairly unpredictable as you never know what the next call will bring. The people I help are often in dire straits with the situation they find themselves in. My job is simple- People ring in with a problem and I help them by solving it. Some of the problems that people have must be dealt with carefully with empathy and compassion.

There is a satisfaction to be had at that.

Being in permanent and stable work is taking a bit of adjustment for me and my family. The wages are decent. I won’t be a rich man but at least it’s paying the rent and keeping food on the table. Besides the wage it has given me something just as important; pride, self-respect and hope for the future.

However I am mindful of my mental health and I am in a good place at the moment- I am in that bland, boring and beige place. That is where I like to be; stable.

For anyone who’s thinking: I’ll never get a job. Guess what, there are employers out there and they are willing to give you a chance. It is just finding them. It seems that attitudes towards those with or have had mental illness are changing and for the better.

Mental health is no longer the bar it was.

Well I’m going to finish now. Any questions feel free to ask.

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Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, employment, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kieran, our Kieran

This is one of the hardest blogs I have ever written.

As I write there are tears welling in my eyes.  The reason as you read will become apparent.

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My family, Sarah, Brendan and Kieran in happier times

For those who don’t know Kieran, our eldest son, has Aspergers Syndrome which is on the Autistic Spectrum [AS].  We; Sarah, Brendan (Kierans younger brother) and myself have coped with Kierans lack of a social filter, testing behaviour and all those difficulties associated with having a child with additional needs for many years.

Usually he is a happy go lucky, friendly and chatty 13 year old who listens to loud music and plays strange video games.

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This is the Kieran we love, know and want back.  Playing happily with his little brother Brendan.

Believe it or not we get praise from other parents, family and friends saying we make parenting for an AS child look easy.  I wish that was true.  Oh my life I so wish that it was true.  If sleepless nights, arguments with Sarah, constant stress and ceaseless worry, dreading the phone calls from the school because Kieran has had a moment is “making it look easy” then Sarah and I are due a medal the size of a frying pan.

In all honesty I do not know anyone, any parent, who in their right mind thinks; You know what – I want to volunteer to be the parent of an autistic child.

I’m not knocking Kieran.  No I am not.  It’s not his fault at all.  We love Kieran with all our hearts and then some.  However it’s the hand fate has dealt Sarah and I.  All we can do is smile warily and just get on with it.  We have no choice.

Over the last few weeks life with Kieran has taken a dark, disturbing and distressing turn.  About mid November our Kieran had to be taken to A&E as he was in severe mental distress.  He was complaining of dark thoughts and was hurting himself.  We had to see a mental health specialist, and soon as possible.

Luckily there was someone from the Mental Health Crisis Team in the hospital to see Kieran.  Kieran seemed to calm down after speaking to them.  Listening to Kieran talk about his dark thoughts and try to hurt himself was distressing and took its toll on us.

In fact such a toll that I went to work the following morning bright and early as always.  I went to speak to my manager and simply burst in to tears right in front of them through a combination of fatigue and shock.

Now I do not do crying.  It’s a personal thing, not machismo, I don’t hold it against anyone who gets emotional.  Crying is a perfectly natural and healthy thing to do, like an emotional pressure valve.  It just not for me.

My manager had little choice but to send me home with instructions to get some sleep.

The day did not get any better.  A while later we got a call from the school.  There was one of the Teaching Assistants [TA] on the phone.  The sound of distress in their voice said everything which they could not say.  Kieran was saying things that disturbed and upset them and he had tried to self harm at school.

He had to come home….

In the proceeding days we had meetings with mental health practitioners, social workers and teachers.  All trying to solve and fix a problem like Kieran.  Unfortunately this is a marathon, not a sprint.  There are no easy fixes here.  No simple solutions.  No magic to be worked.

It’s going to take all of us- social workers, doctors, teachers, teaching assistants, family and us to help Kieran.

It’s a difficult thing as a parent to experience.  We had a meeting with a Clinical Psychologist [CP].  Just Kieran, Sarah and myself.

The hardest thing to I have done is to just sit there, do nothing, say nothing and just hear your beloved and cherished child vent their darkest thoughts, frustrations and talk about suicide, self harm and pain.  But you have to say nothing; just sit and listen.  Letting them release the bile that has been building up inside him.  It’s a helpless and numbing feeling.  Knowing there is little to nothing in your power you can do.  To know all the soothing words, loving hugs and gentle kisses in the world will not ease your child’s mental distress.

Personally, I have had my share of mental health issues with having Bipolar, anxiety and depression.  Sarah says I should have more comprehension, empathy and understanding than many others.  But this is the sad fact- just because I have a front row seat to how mental health issues play out doesn’t necessarily mean my understanding is any deeper or greater.  In fact I think it’s much harder.

It’s only natural that you want to wrap your arms around your child, be they typical or additional needs, and hold them tight to protect them against all the horrors, terrors and darkness that this world has both outside and within.

Then at the weekend things came to a head whilst I was at a works party;

Sarah had to return to A&E with Kieran.

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Kieran, our poor Kieran

This is our Kieran.  At his most distressed.  Suffice to say I dropped everything and went to the hospital.  This photo pretty much says more than all the words I can possibly muster.

There is one person we haven’t mentioned in all this melee – Brendan.

Brendan seems to be unaffected by all this chaos and anxiety just accepting it as “normal”.  However I think this is an illusion.  Friday night Brendan was basically bundled off to his grandparents whilst we focused on getting Kieran the help he needed.  In all this stuff that goes on with Kieran it’s easy to forget that Brendans there too.  I just hope to the universe that he doesn’t grow up to resent me, Sarah or his brother.

Well, today the clinical psychologist visited Sarah whilst I was at work.  The CP has the working hypothesis that Kieran possibly has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [OCD].  I went to see my Team Leader and basically broke down emotionally in tears.  I was in such a state that they sent me home again.  I wasn’t even in a fit state to ride my bicycle.

I’m supposed to be a tough former soldier so I am unaccustomed to being an emotional wreck.  But Kierans our boy, my son.

I think I will leave things at that.  I would love feedback from any and everyone.  Thank you from me, Sarah, Brendan and Kieran.

Well done if you got this far.

 

 

Posted in anxiety, Asperger, Aspergers, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Bipolar Me – Working continues

Things are moving forward at a pace in life. After much trying I finally secured a more permanent and secure job working in Hull city centre. Unfortunately I cannot say too much at the moment as things are still being finalised but watch this space.

The old adage about it being easier to find other work whilst being in work seems to hold true.

And having the issues that I do have in respect to my bipolar, anxiety and depression does not seem to have put my prospective employers off. So the stigma about mental health is steadily being lifted. Unfortunately there is still a long way to go as those who have read my blog on discrimination can testify to (click here for link).

Was interviewed on the Friday and offered the job on the Monday has amazed me. I have applied for so many jobs in the last few months I’ve actually lost count.

Having a job is great. Being in the world of work is great. Work is great therapy. Work has given me my self-respect, my pride and the simple fact that I am not relying on benefits to get by. That I am paying my way. Work distracts me from wallowing in misery and self-pity which is probably what I would be doing otherwise.

However I think it has been a difficult adjustment all around. By virtue of having a job I am not as available to my wife Sarah and our boys as much as I would like to be. In the morning I am often up and out to work before Sarah is awake. Things like seeing the boys off to school has gone by the by. Sacrifices like missing sports days and school events, especially since both our boys go to different schools, for the first time was a bitter pill.

It also means I do not have time to do things like my photography which is a something I also find difficult to contend with. As anyone who knows me, knows I always have a camera to hand. It’s how I express myself and a form of therapy within its self.

Well this was only a short blog. Message me with any questions or suggestions as to what issues I can speak on are welcome.

Great mental health to you all.

Martin.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bipolar Me- Life so far.

It’s been at least 3 months or so since I last blogged. My last blog was about how I was discriminated by a potential employer. That situation has still left a bitter taste in my mouth.

However despite this I have accomplished the seemingly impossible-

I got a job.

It’s tedious, repetitive and laborious but it has meant I have come off benefits and I have something I have not had in the six years since I was last in a job- my personal pride and self respect through an earned wage.

But here is the rub. I have not told my employer about my situation with my mental health. Usually I am very honest about my bipolar and how it affects myself, my family and our situation. I sincerely hope that my lack of clarity does not come to bite me in the arse.

Thing to remember is simply this and it is something that I have taken a long time to realise-

I am NOT defined by my mental health issues; how I live with and deal with my bipolar is what defines me. My opening gambit is not “Hi, I’m Martin and I have bipolar.”

Today, right now, if you stuck me in a room full of people who are not affected by mental health issues and asked someone who had just walked in to choose the person with a mental health issue would they pick me? I doubt it. Honestly, I do doubt it.

It’s not as if I’m the living cliche of someone with mental health issues rocking back and forth, dribbling away, mumbling nonsense in a straight jacket now.

The job is only a temporary thing but it’s a start.

Actively I am for a permanent job. I apply for jobs and time to time I get a response. Usually it’s a rejection but you get that unfortunately, It is their loss really showing a lack of imagination at the possibilities I could bring.

But as in everything you got to remain positive and move forward. Keep going.

Any and all comments are welcome.

I wish you all good mental health.  Remember – KEEP GOING!

 

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bipolar Me – Discrimination

There are many things I am unaccustomed to.  A few of those things is an overwhelming sense and feeling of anger, frustration and injustice.

I have been discriminated against on mental health grounds.

It does not matter if you are of a different race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, creed, gender or as in my case having mental health issues.  Discrimination is a horrible and bitter thing to happen to ones self.

For many, many months I have worked hard to prove to the Driving & Vehicle Licensing Agency [DVLA] that I am fit and well enough to have my Bus and Coach license returned to me.  Continually proving I am stable, steady and well enough to earn my driving licenses.  Spending, actually investing is a better term, money I do not have and having to find the patience to wait and wait and wait for things to happen.  Well after 2 medicals (the first was botched by the doctor but thats another story) and jumping through proverbial fiery hoops I have finally been re-issued what is called my vocational licenses thus proving to myself and the wider world that I am indeed fit, well and ready to return to work in the transport industry.

When I received the news from the DVLA I was so happy I very nearly cried.  It was out of frustration and relief.  The thought that entered my mind was I can finally earn my keep in the world, I can put back in to the system instead of relying on the system to exist.

With this I put an application in to who I shall call my Preferred Employer or simply the Company and the reason why I’ve called them that is

(1) for legal reasons I CANNOT name the company and give them ammunition against me for libel or prejudice any legal proceedings that may occur.

(2) It’s exceedingly poor taste no matter how much it would feel good to name and shame the business in question.

I put in to my preferred employer immediately on the advice of a friend.  For 6 or 7 weeks I called every week to see how my application was progressing.  Then finally last week I got the news I was hoping for, they invited me in to their offices for an assessment.  I sat the various tests set out before me- tests of english, maths, logic and driver theory.  Standard stuff.

Then this week I received an email.  Sorry, but you can not proceed, good luck in your endeavours.

This is not a problem, when looking for work expect knock backs – I’m not the brightest person, I’d be the first to admit that.  So I let my support worker at the Veterans Job Club know and then they suggested I call my preferred employer and ask for feedback.

Which I did. However there was nobody available to talk to me.  Strange I thought, so I contacted someone I could name in the company.  A while later I received a call from a manager and he told me the reason why I did not get the job.  The reason left me dumbfounded and my jaw on the floor.

The reason had been because I had been ill with mental health issues – namely Bipolar Disorder – from 6  years previously.

I pointed out that the company was discriminating against me.  Their reply was just –

No, we’re not.

I was apoplectic with rage. Absolutely fuming with incandescent anger.  How dare this company use my medical history of mental health issues from the distant past to discriminate against me.  What are they expecting? a two-headed fire breathing monster? the incredible hulk? or a hostage situation?  No on all counts.  I really had to bite my tongue.

So I sort counsel of friends who knew about this type of discrimination.  And I was advised me to contact Acas, the employment conciliator.  Who in turn advised me of what I could do and the process I could take against this company.

First step is to write a letter of grievance.  I got help and guidance from the Citizens Advice Bureau to draft it.  Next step, if I’m not happy or satisfied with their reply then Acas can appoint a conciliator.  The final step is a Tribunal.  I don’t want it to go that far if I can help it.

 The lady who helped draft it said something very interesting-  I not just doing this for me.  I was fighting for all the people who couldn’t fight.

I even contacted the Disability Legal Service who after briefing them of what had occurred and they said it was a case “direct discrimination” but they couldn’t represent me if it went to tribunal due to budgetary restrictions.

When the Grievance letter was ready I dispatched them and I made sure it went to certain places or certain personalities with in the company-

  • Human Resources
  • The Company Director
  • The Company Chair

There was a strange satisfaction at sending those letters, I don’t know exactly why but it felt good to be taking action.  It must be the army veteran in me wanting to take action.  Now all I can do is wait 14 calendar days for their response to the letter.

Unfortunately I don’t think me or the company in question will come out in this senecio with any glory.  Any victory I attain will be a hollow one.  I’ll still be unemployed and I’ll still have been discriminated against for my mental health.

It’s a bitter thing to discriminated against over something you have little or no control over like mental health issues.

 

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bipolar Me – Urban exploration; The Lord Line Building

Today has been a productive day.

As always I set myself a day or some time to my photography.  As always I have difficulty deciding where to go.  Thought of going out of Hull.  However a friend on social media suggested I go inside the Lord Line Building at St. Andrews Quay.

Sat there and thought about it.  The iconic Lord Line building (below, pictured in the summer),  I’ve been passed it many times but I’ve never actually been inside the massive building. Nowadays in the plateau and clarity that I experience with my stable bipolar I am somewhat averse to risk.  Sometimes though it is good to come out of your comfortable safe zone.

lord-line-building

Has been derelict for decades.  Sadly it is one of the first major buildings you enter Hull off the A63 dual carriageway.  It is a mecca for urban explorers, photographers, graffiti artists and bored teenagers.

The years of entropy of the building has left its mark.  The vast halls of the Lord Line Building show years of neglect, decay and vandalism.

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Inside the floor is littered with glass from shattered windows, broken furniture and the walls are covered in graffiti from the sublime to the random thoughts of an adolescent mind scribbled on the walls with spray paint.

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The interior of the building is dirty, dark and dangerous.  You have to be careful as there hazards such as large black holes in the floor that plummet several feet.  Urban exploration of derelict buildings is not for the unwary or careless.

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There was strangeness to behold too.  The sight of barbed wire wrapped around an empty window frame seemed eerily beautiful in the cool light of a winters morning.

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There were holes in the wall enticing you to look in to what lay beyond them asking you to explore.

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Some parts of the complex looked frozen in time like this lift mechanism rusted still holding the lift that hasn’t moved in decades.  Wonder if the lift is still there?

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The view from the roof top was spectacular with views of the docks st-andrews-dock

A view of the empty plot on St. Andrews Quay

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And a view of the also derelict building on the Bulls Nose and entrance to the quays old harbour.

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In conclusion-  It was a challenging little excursion.  I’ve never been, or dared to go in a derelict building.  It took me out of my comfort zone to be sure.  But the risk was worth it to get the photographs I did.  I will probably return in the future to get images again.  There is a micro world to explore.

Hopefully take a friend with me too.

 

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, mental health issues, photography, Uncategorized, Urban Exploration | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bipolar Me- The job hunting continues

Well, the end of year is here and it has been a year to leave behind. 2016- a year you want to forget.

That said it hasn’t been all bad. I’m settled in myself and I feel that it is time to return to the work place. However the question is what do I do. It’s not as if I am inactive.

I volunteer for the Hull Veterans to give me a sense of belonging.
I volunteer for Fare share to give me a sense of purpose.
I am active with my wife and children to feel loved
I do my adult acting class to help exorcise my demons.
and I do my photography as it is my passion.
My social life though not great is improving.

I do all these things so I can keep the black dog at bay and on its lease in the kennel.

The question is what job or career do I do? With the job hunting it feels at times like I have a blindfold on, throwing darts with corks on the tips at a dart board that it constantly moving.

In the last six months I’ve one job interview. ONE. The jobs page in the local paper can give ones self a sense of hopelessness. Either not qualified enough, not experienced enough, too few hours or not paid enough to sustain us financially.

It’s so easy to get disheartened with everything.

People have suggested I look at going self employed as a photographer, which I’d love to do but it’s a terrifying prospect as I have no financially safety net.

Relatives want me to exercise caution when it comes to finding a job. It’s not a case of any just old job. It’s finding the right job that will maintain my interest, give me incentive to come in and not send my mental health in to a tailspin again.

I do not want my mental health problems to become an issue or hold me back when seeking work. My bipolar and depression are a part of me- nothing can change that. Thing is prospective employers need to see my potential as an employee and not just as a risk.  I want them to see me as an asset.

At the moment I’m still waiting on things to happen. I’m either waiting for prospective employers to call my phone or for a letter in the post or that email in my inbox.

At the moment I’m waiting for the DVLA to either say yes or no to me having my Bus License back. Unfortunately it’s not the DVLA that’s dragging it heels but my GPs surgery. Their bureaucracy moves with all the urgency of a glacier during an ice age. Leaving me twisting in the wind, waiting. All I want is a definitive answer as to where I stand. No or Yes. (I’m hoping for the latter)

Well I’m going to finish.  Follow my good self on twitter at @lash1978 or drop me a message.

 

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