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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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.

the-room

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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My Recent Photography

It’s been a while since I’ve typed anything. So here goes.

This week I decided to get out of the house as I’ve been kicking my heels with boredom.  staring at the four walls is never good or healthy for someone with mental health issues.  The thing about Hull, the city I call home is it is pretty much a central location. There are cities like Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield to the west and the Yorkshire coast to the east.  With most places being over an hours journey time be it by train, bus or car which ever is best or convenient.

Usually I set one day a week aside for me to do a bit of photography. Be it a bit of urban exploration or to do landscape.

The thing you’ve got to remember is that planning and preparation is so very important.  You have to decide is…

1) What you are going to do? Is it landscape, street, urban, documentary etc.

2) Where you are going to it? Is it Leeds city centre or the Yorkshire coast like Spurn Point

3) What equipment will you need? It’s not just which camera be it a professional spec compact for street photography or a big full frame D-SLR (Digital- Single Lens Reflector) for landscapes.  It could be what clothing to wear.  It’s not much point going to Spurn Point where the wind gets very cold, it rains a lot  and you’re not carrying a wind/water proof jacket.  Plan for everything.

4) How are you going to get there?  Car, bus, train or walk?  If you’re going to drive where will you park that isn’t going to cost a fortune or how much fuel will you use?  Small things that add up.

5) Travel Time- Getting there to make the most of the time you have there.  If you’re doing a sunrise on the coast it’d be a good idea to know when sunrise actually is and how long it’ll take to get to your chosen location.

6) The weather- Which weather will add to the image.  If you want a bright sunrise it’s not much point going if it pouring with rain.  So check the weather forecast.

Over the last month I have travelled to places like Leeds, Hornsea and Spurn Point with each of these points in mind.

Sunrise over the North sea at Spurn Point-

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Me, standing on the beach at Spurn Point waiting of the sunrise

For this I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning (yes, there is a 4 o’clock in the morning) to get out of the house for 4.45am to travel the hour or so.  When I go there it was 5.45am-6.00am and still dark.

When I got to Spurn point I then trekked for over a mile through the darkness to a point I could set up my camera on a tripod to take images of the sunrise.  All told I took nearly 50 photographs to get that one image.  Which is the one below.

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Sunrise at Spurn Point over the North Sea

It was cold, windy but satisfying to get that one image which says everything.

 

Morning at Hornsea

On another day I decided to take images at the seaside town of Hornsea on the East Yorkshire coast.

With these images I wanted to show the emptiness and quietness of Hornsea when the town is out of season and free from tourists.  During the summer season the beach, chip shops and seafront cafes are full of tourists and day-trippers from all over the county escaping the town and city.

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The closed chip shop

There is a strange disquiet at seeing chip shops and seafront cafes that only a matter of weeks previous were all hustle and bustle filled with patrons are now closed and quiet almost as if their in a hibernated state waiting for the seasons to change and summer to return and then and only then do they wake up for summers business

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The closed seafront cafe at Hornsea

The beach was also empty bar a few hardy dog walkers.  During the summer time the beaches are usually full of day trippers making the best of the fickle Yorkshire summer.

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Where the sea meets the sky at Hornsea

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The beach at Hornsea

 

Leeds City Centre

Just to do something different I decided to get out of my comfort zone and travel to the city of Leeds to do some street photography / urban photography.  To this I set off at 8am to travel the hour or so to a park and ride to travel into Leeds itself

Being bipolar I usually shy away from situations that make me uncomfortable but from a creative point of view that is not always good.  So I go to places that are new, different and uncomfortable.

leeds-street-scene

Busy street in Leeds

Street photography always takes me out of my comfort zone due to the fact I’m not entirely comfortable or confident with singling out interesting individuals and capturing images due to the chance that people can be confrontational.  Lets face it you can’t get into an argument with a landscape.

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Busker in Leeds

However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t interesting things to behold as you can see by the next few images.

gorilla

The Gorilla

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Leeds City hall

leeds-church

Old Church in Leeds city centre

leeds-statue-against-building

Statue framed against a building in Leeds

Well I hope you enjoyed reading my blog.  Please share and comment.

Posted in Bipolar disorder, Blogging, Mental health, mental health issues, photography, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Kieran and me

After the reasonable success of my last blog about Kieran I want to talk about my relationship with Kieran and how we basically live together.

Kieran and mines relationship is far from ideal.

It is a relationship full of love, anger, compassion, frustration, hope and strain.

Having my own issues regards my mental health is bad enough but adding Kieran’s autism makes things worse. Kieran does not understand why I can lose my temper and get angry so easily and quickly. This coming from a man who was described in the Army as “notoriously patient”

My issues are complex and so are Kieran’s. He is not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a smart, funny and intelligent boy when he applies himself. He makes insightful observations of life and people. Unfortunately he doesn’t think it but says it out loud.

There have been so many incidents where he has said something about someone and I’ve wanted to vanish in to thin air because of it. One incident was when we were walking to school past a transgender person when Kieran pointed and shouted “Look! A man-woman”

You have to make allowances for Kieran and children like him. My family and friends do it all the time. Unfortunately other people who don’t know Kieran and autism, understand Kieran and autism or have the most basic elements of compassion towards children like Kieran and autism. You know the type- the type that sees Kieran flapping his arms, hear him talking a little too loudly or have the misfortune to witness him having an autistic meltdown, give you that look and “tut”. The type who freely offer unsolicited, unwanted and unwelcome child rearing advice with out a clue as to what is actually happening. The ones you smile at, grit your teeth and you think-

“you can fuck off.”

Kieran’s many traits deeply frustrate me and it’s that feeling of frustration and helplessness that angers me. Kieran will do something daft and I snap at him. Sometimes it will be at something where he has put himself or someone else at risk. Most of the time it because I’ve had to repeat myself endlessly to do something like put his shoes and coat on as we have to go somewhere. Other times it’s because he damaged or destroyed something then it’s frustrated anger. Sarah is constantly reminding me to breath and calm down. Easier said then done.

I am ashamed to say I get very cross with Kieran at times and he genuinely gets scared. In fact he runs and hides. It’s not his fault. I don’t know if it’s the toxic combination of my bipolar and medication grating with his autism. However I put it to a much simpler explanation-

I’m a man, a flawed human.

A friend asked how I cope with this frustration- it’s again really simple, I remove myself from the situation and catch my breathe.

The one person, no wait two people I haven’t mentioned in all this is my wife Sarah and our youngest son Brendan. Both are witnesses to mine and Kieran’s fire and ice situation. Sarah has to mediate between Kieran and I. As for Brendan, he asks questions of me and accepts Kieran’s behaviour as situation normal.

Don’t get me wrong I love Kieran with all my heart, soul and being but I am so frustrated by him too.

Well I’ve said enough. Please feel free to ask questions of me and Sarah by messaging us.

Posted in Asperger, Aspergers, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kieran.

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There are many aspects to my life. My bipolar [BD], my photography and my family. These three things make up my life. Another additional aspect to these three is Kieran who has Aspergers Syndrome [AS], which is on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder [ASD].

Kieran is a unique child. He is loving, friendly, intelligent, beautiful, well mannered and curious of things. I would have said “special” but all our children are special be they additional needs or neurologically typical [NT].

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Kieran was diagnosed at an early age, I think he was about 3 years when the nursery he was attending noticed that Kieran was different. He did not play with other children, he played alongside. He wouldn’t make eye contact or communicate properly. He was not meeting his milestones in nursery. He was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome [AS] at 5 years old.

With AS we had to deal with Kieran’s idiosyncrasies. Like always having an iPad, avoiding things or places that could cause a sensory overload and therefore cause a meltdown. The looks you get when Kieran has a meltdown are painful, not only do we have to deal with an upset child but the looks of unsympathetic strangers who have no idea, not a clue about Kieran and what is going on.

We, Sarah and I, wanted to give him, Kieran, our best and we placed him in a Mainstream school. This however did not always fit in with Kieran as Kieran did not always fit in. We had to fight to get him the things he needed like a Teaching Assistant [TA] who knew and understood Kieran, autism and his needs.

Things came to a head when something as simple and mundane as lunchtime became a problem- Kieran had to come home for his lunch due to the school not having adequate cover for lunchtime from his TA or others. This caused friction between us and the school. Eventually he was at school for lunch twice a week then three times a week and eventually after someone pointed out that the school was inadvertently discriminating against Kieran he was allowed the full five days of the school week.

Another battle in a long fight for Kieran.

Thing is as Kieran became older and grew and matured the differences between him and his classmates became obvious. His classmates were changing and maturing at a different rate to Kieran. When I watched him in the playground when I dropped him off at school he would be on his own, in isolation from the others. His classmates had developed friendships and had their own groups.

That is one of the problems with autism. It is an isolating social disorder as well as a neurological disorder. This is not to say he did not have friends. Kieran does have friends. Kian and Shana. Kian who gave him the friendship that is so important and Shana who would watch out for Kieran and protect him when the less than considerate and tolerant members of Kieran’s class took advantage of him by bullying him. These friendships are special and important.

When Kieran left mainstream primary eduction to go to a special needs secondary school. The school had a leaving party for the pupils. The parents who organised it, Caroline and Annabell, arranged the party they had with Kieran in mind and went out of their way to make sure it was suitable for Kieran to come to it. They made sure it was not too loud and not a sensory overload. Kieran protested to me that he did not want to go. Eventually we persuaded him to go even if it was just for 5 minutes.

You know what- he went to the party and stayed the whole evening. In fact Kieran was the only one to dance with another girl. Go Kieran(!)

Kieran is so very different from his younger brother Brendan. Brendan would be described as Neurologically Typical [NT]. Brendan can be a precocious, funny and compared to Kieran wonderfully, wonderfully boring. Sometimes I feel Brendan is 9 going on 15 years old at times.

DSC01506.jpgBrendan and Kieran have a loving but difficult relationship at times. It genuinely makes me sad that Brendan, the younger sibling, has to play the role of the big brother for Kieran.

Sadly at this point in Kieran’s life I cannot see him going through life with the guidance or supervision of others in his future. Be that me and Sarah, little Brendan or a responsible adult supervising Kieran.

But just because I cannot see it happening now does not mean it is impossible. Kieran is settled at a special needs school that can tackle Kieran and his traits.

Well I have written enough at the moment. In my next blog I will talk more about how Kieran’s autism affects me and my bipolar.

Feel free to message me and Sarah with any questions.

Posted in Asperger, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Bipolar Me- Jobhunting continues

It has been a struggle to maintain a sense of purpose and momentum when it comes to the job hunting front. My personal morale is a delicate and precious thing that I am painfully aware of is in short supply. I want to work but it’s not just a case of picking a job at random. It has to be a job that will challenge and maintain my interest.

The job also has to be able to support me, Sarah and the boys financially.

It’s depressing going through the classifieds on job sites like monster.co.uk and indeed.co.uk seeking that job that you can think to yourself- I can do that. Their either not financially viable or the job title or description is seemingly over complicated. Whether this is on purpose or not I have no idea. I only speak two languages English and bad English.

The thing that is silently killing me inside is the waiting, the waiting for a response be it positive or negative. One job I applied for hasn’t even got that companies get out of jail card- “If you have not heard in X amount of weeks assume you are not successful.”

I know it is an employers market at the moment but it doesn’t hurt to send a email.

At the moment I’m going to the Veterans Job Club in a bid to help me find a job. At the moment I’m steadily putting things in place to help me get my bus driving license back. However there are so many hoops to jump through to get it.

The first major hoop is the medical and then there is the eye test. Then I have to wait to be investigated and for the person at the ministry to decide if I should receive my license or not.

In the mean time I am applying for voluntary work to bolster my CV and prove I’m not idle.

With having the issues I have I find job-hunting a frustrating and vexing task. It isn’t helping my mental state. One thought I’ve had is to go self employed as a freelance photographer but I am in no position to do that, financially or mentally. I know it’ll be taxing.

What to do, what to do?

Well I’m going to sign now and post this.

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