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

Bipolar Me- Job hunting and interviews

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog.

It’s been a time of big decisions for me. One decision I’ve made is that I am going to attempt to return to the world of work, whether I am ready is a matter of discussion. I feel ready but until I actually return to work I do not know.

My work experience with the Hull Daily Mail shows that I am capable of getting up and going to a place of work.

To be honest the prospect of work excites me and scares me in equal measure. The fact I haven’t worked for close to 5 years may not work in my favour. Mental health issues not withstanding, it’s a long time not to be in a paid job. It’s not as if I’ve been idle – I have been active. Active as in my photography, education courses and volunteering.

Being in the benefits is a trap. One that is difficult to escape.

The pros are I would get my dignity back and to be honest there is no greater therapy for people like me with bipolar, depression and anxiety then that of activity of work.

The cons are I would lose the benefits I have come to rely on. One of the benefits I would lose would be no more free medicine. But in the same breath, and this is contradictory, I want to pay. I want to pay into the system that has helped (and hindered) me and my family.

To this end I have applied for jobs online. 4 jobs so far, not a lot but small and vital steps. One at a supermarket, one working on the trains, one in security and one in a call centre. One rejected almost straight away (the security job), I am still to hear about the from the supermarket and train jobs but the call centre job I heard from almost immediately (I will come to that later.)

Whilst I am job hunting I have decided to apply for the return of my Category “D” driving license or Bus / Coach driving license to the rest of the world.

I decided to telephone the DVLA and ask what the chances of getting my bus license was. Their answer was simple – I could apply for it (doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get it though).

All I have to do is fill in the correct forms, have a medical examination and a eye test. The medical will cost approximately £80 and the eye test £15. On the scale of the world £95 is not a lot of money, but it is if you haven’t got £95 to spare however I am getting help with these costs. I do not expect it to be a smooth or easy process. I have to prove with evidence from the doctors that I am psychologically stable. I am confident and optimistic that I will get my license back. I have to be.

Well back to the call centre job. I am not naming the company for reasons of etiquette and legality (I don’t want this blog to come back to haunt me). I will say they are a company local to Hull.

I saw the advert for the job on a job search website late on Sunday night, read the criteria for the job and what was expected of me. I read it and thought to myself – I could do that but I have doubts. Noted the telephone number and rang them Monday morning. They were as keen as mustard to speak to me and interview me. This felt a little rushed to me, I said I’d forward my CV (resume) to the email address supplied.

With in hours they rang up and asked me if I’d like to do an interview over the phone. Which I did. I did point out that I had bipolar, which didn’t seem to phase them. I was asked if I could come in for a group interview on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Knowing I would need time to physically (ironed shirt, polished shoes and clean myself up) and psychologically (anxiety can be debilitating) I elected for Thursday.
In the meantime Sarah and I discussed the pros and cons of working there. Sarah was concerned that it was a busy, pressurised, target driven sales environment that I might not be mentally resilient enough to cope.

That the basic wage of £17,000 would not be enough to sustain us financially and keep the roof over our heads. The fact we have the bare minimum of savings to rely on until those wages should I take the job finally be paid.

I pointed out that it was just an interview, nothing more. If nothing I would get valuable experience and practice of being in an interview.

Thursday came and I arrived an hour early in town. I get anxious about being late to the point of it almost being a phobia. It’s a hang over from being in the military. Always 5-10 minutes early for a parade, always!

I got to reception twenty minutes early and joined six others there to be interviewed. There was so many of us in the reception that they had to move us to the canteen to wait. The interviewers finally arrived and took us to a training room as opposed to the interview room that they usually use as it was being used for a meeting. Çe la vie.

In the group we had to introduce ourselves and give some background on ourselves. Then we were given a laminated piece of card with a random item pictured on it. I had a black and gold watch. We had to give a sales pitch for the item. So proving one can think on their feet.

Then I was taken on my real test- the call centre floor. It was busy, crowded and noisy. A true test of me and how I deal with my anxieties and the methods I have put in place to deal with them. I was put with a young lady to listen in on the sales calls. Lets just say – I coped.

After which I was asked if I could do a one to one interview with one of the managers. I was asked how my mental health issues would affect me working in the call centre. I was open and honest with them. I said I had things in place in my mind to help me cope with the demands placed on me.

They seemed happy with that answer, usually I get a glass eyed look.

They said they would be in contact the next day. With that experience behind me I left with a positive step in my stride. I had not cracked or crumbled in the face of a difficult and testing environment.

The next day I got the call- I did not get the job.

They didn’t think I was suited for sales but I would be more suited to customer services for which they had no placements. My name would be kept on file.

Am I disappointed? I am a little as I had put effort in to the task at hand but from every negative you must draw a positive.

The positives are I went to an interview early, clean shaven, smiling and I presented myself at my most confident and able light.

Now this proves to me and hopefully to you the reader that having mental health issues is not something that can hold you back if you apply yourself.

Well if you think this has been any help drop me a line or two. Follow my journey on twitter at @lash1978. Thanks for reading if you got this far. Have good mental health.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Interview, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bipolar Me- Work experience Day One

This week has been extraordinary .

I went on works experience with the Hull Daily Mail [HDM], the local paper in Hull and the East Riding. This came about due to my blogging about photography and my mental health issues. After I was interviewed with Allison, the deputy editor Jamie contacted me and asked if I wanted to do some works experience. An opportunity I’d jump at.

After a few emails between myself and Rob the photo editor at the HDM we settled on a date and a timing for me to come in.

On the day I arrived at the HDM offices half an hour early for three reasons. One, I am an former soldier. Soldiers are always on parade 10 minutes before, it’s ingrained. Two, I get really, really really anxious if I’m late, close to a panic if I am late. And three- It shows willingness.

Unfortunately Rob the photo editor was away on holiday so his senior photographer Kate had been deputised to fill in for him. Kate is a wonderful photographer who I’ve met out and about.

They actually thought I was meant to be in earlier but there had been miscommunication somewhere but it wasn’t a problem. I was paired with an affable gent called Les who freelances for the HDM amongst many things.

Les had been tasked with some briefs for the day. The first task was to get images of a cricket match in Beverley. We arrived to see that the match had already started, so we set about taking images of the cricket action.

Taking multiple shots of the bowlers and the cricketers replies by striking the ball. Unfortunately my shoots were all taken at a distance so my lens was not adequate enough to get close-up shoots of the action but I persevered.

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For the next brief we headed to the centre of Beverley to take photos of the Thai Palace Restaurant. The brief was to collect photographs of the exterior, interior and photograph some of the food on the menu.

The restaurant owners prepared the dishes and presented them beautifully in the upstairs of the restaurant away from the bustle of the lunch time rush. I took some images of the exterior and a couple of internal shoots of the busy diners. I didn’t take any photos of the food, I simply acted as an assistant to Les. Helping take the food to a table and presenting the food on a table we had prepped for individual shoots of each dish. Observing how he took the images using the ambient light and bouncing the flash of the ceiling.

When we finished the task the manager turned to us and said – you may as well eat it now. You could have knocked me over with a feather. We tucked in, it would have been rude not to.

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The next job was also in Beverley. The brief was to collect publicity shots for a popular chain of hardware supply shops. Les and our point of contact arranged a time to meet. We arrived at the location to find were in fact early. So whilst there Les showed me that no time is wasted. Les got out his laptop and edited his images and transmitted them to the Picture Desk via the Internet. Being a novice I did my best to get my images to Kate on the Picture Desk best I could by wiring my SD card to my iPad. Unfortunately my images were far too big to be sent in bulk via my email.

This frustrate me a little, but I discussed it with Les who explained why I needed to take smaller file size images for the picture desk and papers in general. Expediency and speed is name of the game.

When the client called Charles arrived we quickly arranged the people in to the shot and Les took his images and then he encouraged me to take mine.

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With guidance from Les I accomplished this shot.  It was nerve racking trying to encourage people to pose naturally and not feel awkward but that simply boils down to the confidence

So all in all a good day.  One of the best treatments for mental health is to do something and do something you love and enjoy.  It can be very effective in combating the negatives by doing something so positive.

Best part is I was invited in again to work the next day.  I will blog about that in my next blog

If you have enjoyed what I’ve written feel free to contact me and follow me on twitter at @Lash1978.  Until the next blog, have good mental health.

 

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Hull Daily Mail, Mental health, mental health issues, photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bipolar Me- Interview

Earlier this week I had an interview with Allison Coggan, health writer for the Hull Daily Mail (or HDM). I’ve been kind of keeping quiet about it until the interview actually happened.

To be honest I was fairly apprehensive about the whole thing. I have been interviewed before about my bipolar and associated mental health issues by the HDM but that was with Mind being in the background. Never before on my own.

The interview was conducted at the Hull Veterans Support Centre (HVSC), a place I felt safe and a neutral setting with friends close by.

Suffice to say the weather was pouring down and Allison walked past the centre a few times. She set me at ease. She was a friendly and affable lady.

The interview was a fairly casual and cheerful affair. Thing is I didn’t want to say anything silly or harmful either. Anyone who happens to know me personally in the real world knows I have a slightly screwball sense of humour. My sense of humour is something I hide behind. One counsellor I was a patient of remarked that I hid behind sarcasm and dark humour.

The common trait of anyone who has served in the military is a sense of humour that isn’t to everybody’s taste. If you don’t have a sense of humour when you join the military you soon develop one

Allison asked plenty of questions. Some I found difficult to answer, but questions I nevertheless answered. She asked how I discovered I had bipolar, My journey through the system, how I coped, how my family coped and what I’d say to people who may be about to go on the journey of diagnosis.

At this point in time I will not be quoting the interview by Allison until it is published bar this-

I would say to people to just find a little bit of courage, I’ve seen courage of all different types and it’s not all about running a machine gun. It takes courage to go to your GP and explain what it happening but you are not going to be carried away by men in white coats or admitted to hospital. You need to talk about it to get the help you need – and there is help.”

When the interview is finally published in the HDM I will post the rest of the interview on here sometime in July.

Thank you Allison for a good experience being interviewed.

Well I am going to finish now, follow my antics on Twitter at @lash1978.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Hull Daily Mail, Interview, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bipolar Me- Grief

Normally I will blog once or twice a week but for one reason or another I have put it off… Until today.

This week we, my wife’s family lost a special woman in their and our lives. Sarah, my wife, lost her grandmother, Bess. The matriarch of the family. She slipped unexpectedly and suddenly away peacefully in her sleep this Wednesday just gone.

Sarah was very close to her Grandma Bess so she is feeling the loss greatly. All I can do is stand by and be there for her through the grieving process. It has also affected our two sons, Kieran who is autistic and Brendan, who is not, in different ways.

Sarah will be “fine” one moment then she will be sobbing and sobbing hard. Luckily, she visited Grandma Bess the day before she passed. Spent time with her, even making Bess her favourite ham and beetroot sandwiches washed down with a cup of tea. Sarah has been deep in sorrow. Going over and over the things she didn’t say and should of said to her Grandma. Saying to me that she never said to her three small words- “I love you.”  

However Bess and Sarah’s relationship was so close I know that it was something that did not need to be said. Love, I believe anyway, is not just something you say but it is an act of something you do and something you show. Love can be the act of sharing time with someone, spending time listening and being listened to. Love is making someone their favourite sandwich and a cup of tea. Love is making someone you care for laugh and smile. Love is a gentle kiss on the forehead before you walk out the door. It does not necessarily mean saying, but in doing.

Brendan has been a slow burner with his grief. When we told him he got red eyed, shed a tear or two then half an hour later said he was fine. Which I took with a pinch of salt. Now with grief it is expressed and affects each of us in the world differently. Yesterday I decided to take Sarah, Kieran, Brendan and Sarah’s mother, Sheila, out for a drive to the coast. I hoped this would prompt the boys to talk about the loss in a safe and carefree environment. They played on the beach and shared fish & chips with their Grandma Sheila. Despite the undercurrent of sadness, it was a happy time.

On the way home in the car the boys spoke about Great Grandma Bess, asking questions about what happens when you die, if there was a heaven and other difficult questions which Sheila, Sarah and I did our level best to answer.

It wasn’t until Sheila mentioned that Grandma Bess would get Jaffa cakes in especially for Brendan to eat that the dam was breached with Brendan. He was in floods of tears in the back of the car cuddling up to his mum, who planted gentle comforting kisses on his head, Sarah was fighting tears too.

Kieran, who I’ve mentioned is autistic,seems to have taken the passing in his stride. He asks more questions than anything about death, heaven and other things. Kieran unfortunately has difficulty with empathy towards others, a common trait in those on the autistic spectrum. Which can make it hard to predict how he will react and more importantly on what he will say. Sometimes what he says can seem cold and unsympathetic to these who do not know Kieran.  

Sarah has scolded him for some of the things he has said. However with Kieran not understanding how others feel and will react in times like this it is hard.

As for me. I am sad for Sarah, Kieran, Brendan and Sheila’s families loss. I was closer to Bess than my own grandmothers having spent more time with Bess and Bess being in my life longer. However I have not cried. I don’t know if this makes me a cold, heartless individual or if the medication has subdued me of emotions, especially strong emotions. With Bipolar it is an all or nothing situation. You cry buckets or you don’t- it’s that simple.

Thing is I never cried or showed any emotion when my own Grandmother Brenda (for who Brendan is named) passed away. This concerns me, as it makes me think that I am potentially a sociopath. My relationship with my own feelings and emotions is a complex one. Sometimes I feel happy, angry or sad in the usual spectrum of emotions, other times I feel nothing, absolutely nothing. Isn’t that cold?

The last time I cried was many years ago. So seeing Brendan cry, and this is going to sound selfish because it is, has made me a little envious of him. Yes I am envious of an 8 year old boy who can cry and express his grief. I want to cry, seriously I do. Myself not crying is not me being macho or a masculine thing going on but one of damaged emotions and a wounded psyche.

I will come to terms with that in time.

Well I think I’ve written enough. Follow me on Twitter @lash1978.

Posted in Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bipolar Me- A good week

For the last few days I have been busy with things in my life and life is good.

This week my photographs have appeared in a small pop up gallery in the Hull city centre. It is the first time since I’ve taken up photography that my work has appeared in the public space. The only other place it is usually seen is on the Internet on social media sites such as Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.

It gives me such a buzz to see people viewing and giving me feedback on my works. It’s an amazing boost to ones self esteem to hear what people have to say and think.  And generally the feed back has been positive, which is a relief.

The images in the gallery are as below.

These three images I am proud of as there was little to no planning in the taking of these images.  But they fit in with my interest of documentary and veterans.  From left to write we have Mike and his dog Red, a veteran handing out wristbands and lastly Cassie mopping out the kitchen. (Click on them to see them in their entirety and I would love a comment)

Alex

This image I am very proud of as if you look at it carefully and long enough it reads like a story, which is the intention.  Everything from the wound on the veterans head to look on his face to the medals to clenched fist to open hand on his beret and dog leash.  It tells a deeply personal story.

I have also heard from a publisher about the possibility writing a book.  They like what they read which is good.

This has done wonders for me with my mental health as it has been a fairly positive week.  My bipolar and depression has been in check.  Though the gallery opening was an anxious time.

All in all a satisfying week.

Until the next blog, have positive mental health.  Follow me on twitter @lash1978

 

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment