Work Capability Assessment.

Back in June,  I was released by my employer as an administrator for the NHS on medical grounds, because I had been off work for over a year. The contract termination was handled with compassion and fairness, and I remain on really good terms with my old co-workers and have regular catch-ups and coffee.

The next step was to sign on for unemployment. Now when I signed on for social security payments, the staff made me feel like something they’d scraped off the bottom of there shoes, they made me feel worthless, that it was all my fault I couldn’t work. There was absolutely no offer of help, nothing about what they would do to help me, all I got was  a contract I had to sign to get money, what it also  says, is you must do everything they say when they say, or you will be sanctioned, which means your money will be stopped, 3 sanctions and they stop your money for 3 years. Even though I am unable to work due to complex medical conditions, I  am still made to grovel for help.

Now I had been signed off work  by my doctor indefinitely, but the jobcentre tell me I will have to attend a work capability assessment, the reason for this assessment is because they don’t believe me,and they don’t believe what 7 medical specialists have said and diagnosed over the last 7 years, plus reports from several General practitioners. The stress they put me under is inhuman, they made me feel worthless,  a liar and a cheat.

Well it’s now 5 months since I signed on, and  Monday I finally had to attend my Work capability assessment. It’s just over an hours drive to get there, though any travelling over 30 mins these days is difficult and extremely painful. Luckily I had a lot of help to get me there from good friends Karen and Sue,  so I  wouldn’t have to drive.

When we arrived at the centre we found that the only disabled parking bay was about 25 yds from the main entrance of the jobcentre, and was on a slight slope, not helpful when your disabled, and because your there for a work capability assessment your can’t use it, instead you have to make your way down and around  the outside of the building, then you have to go down a driveway that has to be another 75 yds to the assessment centre entrance, only, the top of the driveway is coned off so  you can’t be driven and dropped off.

Anyway we arrived on time, in fact we were 15 mins early, unfortunately  we had to wait around for  an hour past my appointment  time. The receptionist did apologise and said it won’t be much  longer as your assessor is just reading your notes. Now I’m sure that some of you will be saying , oh well shit happens an hours not too long to wait, so let me put it from my side, in the contract I had to sign, it states that if I am late for or miss my appointment I  will be sanctioned and lose my benefits, then the week before the appointment I received several texts reminding me to attend, and reminding me that  my benefits will be affected if I don’t attend, then to top it all off I  got a phone call to remind me about attending. So by Friday night my stress levels were through the roof.

They already have the information which they will question me on, because they sent me a 20 page questionnaire  to fill out before I attended,  I  also had to take along proof of the medications I take, MRI Scan pictures of the damaged area of my spine and the spinal cord inflammatory scar. In fact proof of just about everything. About half way through the questioning the doctor tells me she hasn’t read my notes and  she doesn’t really know much about Osteoperosis. I was told the doctor had read my notes and they would have a good understanding of my conditions,  what a joke. Once the ordeal was over, Karen  asked them if we could leave through the jobcentre entrance as I was struggling, so it only took us less than a minute to get outside to the car park. So why make people take the long way, why make it harder.  It makes you think.

Now I just have to wait, to see if they think I  am fit for work, or not, by there standards not medical ones, and I  have no idea when I will find out.

I have to say that they way this Tory government, the DWP, Jobcentre +, ATOS, & MAXIMUS, treat the sick, the disabled, the homeless and the poor is disgusting and inhumane. Why are we demonised? Why are we penalised? Why can this not be carried out with compassion and fairness?

Why?

I still feel I am one of the lucky ones though, simply because I have an amazing support group of family and friends around me, but for those who don’t  have that, and end up homeless, or end up taking there own lives as so many 1000″s already have. It really makes me very angry, and it absolutely breaks my heart, nobody in the 21st century in the UK should be treated this badly . We are the Worlds 5th richest country.

Thank you Karen for accompanying  me, and supporting me during the assessment, and thank you Sue, for driving me to Brighton General for the first leg of my journey.

 

Take care all,

Gary x

 

Warnham Nature Reserve

For this story, we were asked to write a piece on our favourite place and describe it in a way that the reader can see it without being there.

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Warnham Nature Reserve

14 years ago, I started studying for my City & Guilds photography diploma, as I loved photographing nature and wildlife, I just wanted to learn more and get better.  Around this time, I was told about a local place called Warnham Nature Reserve by a friend.

On my first visit, I fell in love with the place and have been visiting the reserve whenever I get the chance. So, what I thought I would do is let you in on a typical visit to a place I love to spend time.

I am a creature of habit; I have a specific ritual for when I visit that hasn’t changed from my first day. It’s a Wednesday morning and I have just parked up in the car park. First thing I do is get my camera bag out, and head to the café, which is also the entrance, I get myself a black coffee and a packet of crisps, I sit outside at one of the tables. I’m there for about half an hour checking that I have the right lenses on the cameras, and check all the batteries are charged, so cameras work ok, coffee is drunk, and crisps are eaten, so off I go through the café.

I like to visit on a weekday, as it’s a little bit quieter so I can get around easier in my chair or using my crutch.

As you enter the reserve you are assaulted by the smells of the heather and lavender, in the small rock garden Bee’s and Hover Flies lazily fly between the grey, purple, yellow and green of the plants, and the sound of the Seagulls above the pond. To the right of this area is a small viewing point called “Tern Hide’, it overlooks the right-hand end of the pond and weir. A great spot for viewing the swans.

After passing through the rock garden you have a choice of paths, left takes you along the boundary of the golf course, but straight ahead is the path I take, through the gate and across the wild meadow, were you are again bombarded by the sights sounds and smells, of the butterflies, Crickets, Bees and flowers. I always stop at the small bridge in the middle to drink it all in.

Once through the next gate I cross the long wooden bridge that spans the smaller pond whilst watching and listening to the colourful Butterflies, Demoiselle flies and the Dragonflies.

Now I follow the path into the musty old woodland, full of Oaks, Maple and Firs, I can hear a distant woodpecker, and then coming out of the thicket is a deer, a young female, she stops in the middle of the path about 20 feet away looks me in the eyes the slowly moves off, my day just keeps getting better.

A few more steps off to the right and I finally arrive at the ‘Heron Hide’, which is a good size and is wheelchair accessible. I sit on the bench at the far end of the hide put down my bag and get my camera ready, at this point I took the picture you see above. I can see three Herons on the other side of the pond and a swan chasing a Moorhen, at that moment I see the recognisable electric blue streak shooting across in front of the hide, one of the Kingfishers heading back to their nest, a little blurry but I manage to get a picture.

I turn my attention back to the Herons just in time to see two of them fly off, there is a bird calling to my left and as I slowly turn I see the Iridescent blue and orange of a female Kingfisher perched on the post in the pond. I’m too slow with my camera as it dives for a fish, it flies back up to the post but no fish. Then to my astonishment it just sits there and allows me to take my pictures, then it’s gone again, an electric blue streak racing across the pond.

I put my camera down and just sit watching and listening to nature doing its thing, I find these times to be so relaxing and it’s the main reason I go, the photography is just a bonus when I remember I’ve actually got my camera with me that is.

As I sit there relaxing in the moment, the door behind me opens and in come three teenagers with Cerebral Palsy, all in their electric wheelchairs followed by there three female carers, who unsuccessfully try to get there wards to quit down, which was funny to watch, then I helped with identifying the birds and where they are, it must of sounded like a party was going on with all the laughter, and for an hour we have a great time, one of the carers turns and thanks me for being so helpful, she says they will definitely come back as it is such a beautiful site and the kids had so much fun, we all say goodbye , and except for the odd cry from a gull quietness descends once again.

These are the days that are so important to me, not the photography but the experience and the enjoyment, and this is why I love the nature reserve so much. The best medicine I have found.

 

25 Years

 

The 17th September was my 25th wedding anniversary, damn I looked good back then, what the hell happened? The Mrs hasn’t changed though.

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I’m so lucky to still be with the woman I fell in love, and still love with all my heart.

As a 25th present Tracey got me a silver Claddagh ring from a store called ‘The Great Frog’, on our wedding day Tracey gave me an antique gold claddagh from Galway.

Sorry about the hairy hand , should have combed it first.15700481248549133919374187270440

Then on the 19th September as part of our anniversary, we set off for a long weekend, to the city of Edinburgh. The city where my grandmother was born, grew up in, and was Married to my grandfather.

We stayed at a fantastic hotel called Motel One just down from the castle.  The city was more beautiful than I imagined it would be.

We visited the Castle and the Royal Mile,

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thankfully there are lots of coffee shops to rest along the route,  Tracey got to look around the shops, not my thing though, so I sat in a coffee shop and people watched.

We also took a bus tour, and stopped  to see the botanical gardens which were beautiful, lots of places to rest.

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Next stop was the Ocean terminal, where the royal yacht Britannia is berthed, so we did the tour , the yacht is fantastic and there is so much history, plus they have a working cafe on board, where you can get afternoon tea, being your typical Englishman I had a black coffee, whereas the wife who is a little more sophisticated had the afternoon tea option, which consisted of a small pot of English breakfast tea, a scone with a small pot of clotted cream and a small pot of jam, then to top it off , it comes with an Edinburgh pink gin. She will kill me for posting this picture.

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My God how many chins have I got now? Don’t answer that.

Once we arrived back at the hotel it was time for some refreshments, only the one though🍺 , the tartan pattern is very close to that of our family tartan.

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This spot was also the perfect place for a pint of cider and some people watching . Continue reading “25 Years”

Good & Bad

So over the last couple of weeks there have been a lot of changes going on, some good some bad,  but mainly good.

Got to meet up for coffee and a chat with my old boss Karen which is always a plus. Also got to meet up with one of my fellow volunteers, Ian, it was great to catch up, have a bit of a laugh and drink coffee, and also managed to to have a coffee and a catch up, with Sue, I used to share the office with her, and we talked about my possible return to volunteering again in the new year.

Thats three pluses.

The wheelchair archery I  started last month is going really well, I’m so glad I decided to  do it,  there also a great bunch of people, at last a bit of a sociaal life.

That’s two more pluses

As for bad news, well I’m dealing with the jobcentre, even though I cannot work, I’m  being hounded by the DWP for a current fit for work doctors note, even though the one I  sent them says I have been signed off work indefinitely, and today a 20 page capability for work questionnaire dropped through the letter box, oh joy. Though I  will now be getting Employment and Support Allowance for a year.

So that’s two big negatives.

The car got damaged, a foot long gouge along the top of the rear wheel arch, courtesy of one of the neighbours kids on his bike. More costs.

 

Another big negative.

Got more hospital tests happening on the 16th, so this could be a plus  or a negative, will have to wait and see.

West Ham have now won there last two games.

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That’s another two pluses. The pluses win 7-3, gotta love that.

Take care,

Gary x

 

 

 

 

Archery sunday

So on Saturday  I was in an extremely good mood, West Ham United FC won 3-1 away to Watford FC, oh yeah, and I was asked if I would like to go along to watch an archery competition at the club I have joined on Sunday morning.

The type of  competition they were running  is called a “Short Western”  there were 10 archers taking part, 2 per target. The targets are  set at a distance of  50 yards, each archer then has to shoot a total of 4 dozen arrows, over 8 rounds, each round is 6 arrows.

A small sticker is also placed on the outer black ring and one on the inner red ring of the target. Once they have shot there first 48 arrows at 50 yds, they each get to soot one more arrow, and closest to the sticker wins a medal.

Then it’s time for a barbecue lunch, a chat and a laugh.

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The archey range @ Worthing Archery Club.

So with lunch  over, the archers have to shoot again at 40 yards. At the end the scores are added, handicaps are applied and the medals are handed out.

On a day when temps soared to 30 degrees, I was able to watch the competition from the relatively cool shade beneath the Oak trees that grow along the back of the range, it was so peaceful and calm whilst the shooting was going on, so I  was able make notes, study techniques and just be amazed at how good all the archers were.

At the end when everybody was packing up and leaving, Dan one of the coaches came across and asked me if I’d brought my bow with me, luckily I had, and ended up getting an hour of coaching on my shooting technique, how to set up the bow correctly, and also how to set up and adjust my sight when needed.

What a relaxing, enjoyable weekend, and did I forget to mention that West Ham United FC won 3-1 away to Watford FC.

Take care

Gary x

That Friday feeling

So this Friday was a good day, andeven though things have been a bit rubbish lately, I  was still able to enjoy myself.

To start off, it was a beautiful sunny morning. So I  enjoyed my coffee in the garden with the dog.

Next I went for a haircut, which I have always found to be enjoyable and relaxing, except when I was a kid, I hated it then, I had a good reason though it was called Alopecia.

I also had a very nice lunch of French bread, and some homemade Leek & Potato soup, which I’d made the day before.

Afterwards it was time to be taken out for a coffee by one of the nicest people I know, I  always enjoy coffee with a friend .

But little did I know my day was about to get even better, I got home from coffee in a good mood, but the  missus was a bit stressed, so I suggested we go to a garden centre near Worthing so she could return something she had bought. The good part of the trip though was when I  suggested we go somewhere nice for dinner, just the two of us, so we went to “The Worlds End Pub”, the food was amazing as was the company.

It was date night, yay.

Remember the little things do add up.

Take care

Gary x

Struggling

In the last couple of months I have written a lot of stuff down, unfortunately I haven’t been able to finish more than a few of the different pieces.

It all starts off fine:

  • Theme – ok
  • Title – ok
  • Lots of ideas – ok
  • Start writing – ok

Then:

  • Not happy with what I’m writing
  • Questioning the subject
  • Questioning  why I’m even writing

I know there are a lot of things going on in my life right now, and there are many changes happening some are really big ones to me and  some are extremely stressful.

My moods are also up and down at the moment, not extreme swings but enough for me to notice. Being able to concentration for any length of time has gone out the window, and my depression my physical health, are also not playing fair.

One big issue I’m  having, is that my coping and distraction techniques are not working too well at the moment, such as reading, writing, photography and music. My archery does help whilst I am shooting but once I’ve finished shooting, the worries and stresses return.

I’m sure that once things settle down and I get some structure and normality back into my life things will start returning to normal.

Take care

Gary x

Changing, it’s not so easy, sometimes,

Change affects everybody differently, some people thrive on change, and some actually crave it, there are those who are ok with it, as long as it doesn’t happen too quickly, but there are some who will fight change tooth and nail.

For me, well, I’m pretty sure I have been all of these types at various stages in my life, but now I am going through all of these changes at the same time.

Some are happening too quickly as with my physical and mental health so I am finding that to be challenging.

Some things are going too slowly, like mastering the wheelchair and not being too embarrassed to ask for help or to accept it when it’s offered. This will change.

Finally, and this is a very difficult change for me, as I don’t want to be dealing with the department of work & pensions, because of how worthless they make me feel each time I deal with them. I need to find a new coping mechanism for this one

Today I’m in a lot of pain, and that’s my fault, It’s because I overdid things yesterday, I tried to do everything myself, I forget that I’m still getting used to using a wheelchair, and I guess asking for help in getting around is all part of learning to use one.

I know I need more help, a lot more help, and the last two months have shown that to me, only I haven’t been listening, to myself or to anyone else. I’ve been burying my head in the sand convincing myself that I need to find all of my physical limits, all at once.

With all my physical health changes and challenges I’ve been going through, I completely ignored the build-up of stress that these changes were causing, and on top of that, the stress and anxiety being caused by having to stop working, as well as having to deal with the welfare system on top of everything.

I need to calm down and sit down and do some planning. I need to think through what my next steps are going to be and think about how my priorities have changed. I will have to consider want I want to happen for the future, and how I’m going to get there.

One of the biggest things I’ll need to focus on is my finances if I don’t get help from the social, and that is a strong possibility. and if that happens I will need to have planned for how I will get an income. My Motability car will have to go, as without a job I can”t afford to run it, and driving is really painful for me at the moment, so that is something I need to look into as well, see if there is something out there that could help, maybe a medical aid or something similar

I guess I know what I have to be doing over the next few weeks. I just need to get my arse into gear and start doing it.

No more

Unknown

Take care

Gary x

 

What is the point of paying into a welfare system.

Warning this article may contain a swear word or two, Well that’s 3 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I knew today was going to be bloody awful.

Firstly there is no nearby disabled parking for those attending the Horsham jobcentre, actually there is no nearby parking at all that I know of.

So for those of you that live locally, I had to park in the Swan Walk multi storey car park, not ideal, as it took me 30 minutes to propel myself in my wheelchair to said jobcentre.

I still managed to arrive 20 mins early.

On arrival I was faced with two bloody great sets of fire doors, and after watching me struggle with my chair and the door, a security guard walked over and held the door open.

Here’s a little twist though, the pavement slopes down slightly towards the first door, which when opened revealed a low step, I found  this ot when I was almost tipped out of my chair, watched by the security guard, no offer of assistance and no warning of the step. Happy days.

I was left to get through the second door myself. I was then checked in for my appointment and told to got to the waiting area. I was an absolute wreck, I was exhausted, and in so much pain I just wanted to swear and ask for a ketamine injection, well it worked for me the last time I was in hospital.

After waiting for around 10 minutes, I was called over to the interviewer, I handed over all of the forms I’d been told to bring, they were then scanned I to the system and handed back.

Next I was told I would have to sign a contract, to basically do what they tell me to do.

This is how the contract goes.

If I am late in attending a meeting with my soon to be appointed work coach, I will be sanctioned. If I miss an appointment, I will be sanctioned plus fined £10.40 per day until I attend the rescheduled appointment. If I phone them to say I cannot make an appointment for whatever reason, even a hospital visit, they can choose to sanction me. Finally if I get a total of 3 sanctions all benefits will be stopped.

So the first 15 minutes were all about what they would do to me. What they could do for me was not even discussed, for the last five minutes of the meeting, he told me it would take around 10 days for a decision to be made, by somebody I’ve never met, on whether I get any money or not.

I will also have to go through a work capability assessment, but he couldn’t tell me when that would happen either.

So today comprised of travelling to and from Horsham by car 1hr 20mins.

Wheeling myself to and from the jobcentre in my wheel chair 50mins.

A 20min interview, not the 1hr to 1hr 20 mins I  was told

30mins of waiting and resting.

So if as they say, a country is judged on how it looks after it’s most vulnerable citizens, the UK has failed on an epic scale. These are sad times that we live in.

Below is a picture of my daily journal entry from yesterday, what I wrote pretty much sums up how I feel after what happened today.

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Take care

Gary x

The Joy’s of S & A

This wasn’t  what I  wanted to right about ,but it is what I need to right about.

STRESS & ANXIETY

Today  I will have to sit in front of a non medically trained person who works for the government, at the jobcentre. The thing is, they will decide if I am going to be entitled to employment support allowance.

WHY?

Well recently I  was released from my role as an administrator for our wonderful NHS, a job I loved, but a job I was no longer able to carry  on with my duties, due to y prolonged ill health.

So what happened was, that in June last year my health took a bit of a nosedive, initially caused by an adverse reaction to one of my medications, as a consequence of this I was signed off work by my doctor.  Now although the new medication seems to be working with no side effects, my health has not improved to to point it was, and so after a yearof being signed off work. I have had to leave my job.

I live with several long term health conditions that I live with (Fibromyalgia, type 2 diabetes, asthma, Osteoperosis, Oesophagial spasms, an egg allergy, and an auto immune disorder) I also have mobility issues and I’m  classed as disabled.

These conditions have been diagnosed and confirmed by doctors, consultants, and specialists  in there fields.  I have nowbeen signed off from working indefinitely.

For me this is history repeating itself, as this scenario happened to me 7 years ago, only then the doctors told me it was unlikely I would ever work again. For 4 years I didn’t work and I didn’t receive a penny in benefits, and didnt receive any assistance or help from our welfare services.

Then out of the blue I was given a second chance and returned to part time employment, I worked at this company for a year, it was fantastic, they were very supportive and understanding about my needs, but towards the end of that year, my health started affecting the physical side of working again.

But as they say when one door closes another door opens, and that’s what happened, I was offered the job with the NHS.

Fast forward to today. The appointment

I have filled out the 20 page questionnaire, I have my 3 forms of identification, I have an up to sick note, I have my final payslip, my P60, my P45, proof of the statutary sick pay I  received  whilst in work, and proof of my company pension. I have stress & anxiety levels that are through the roof  and are making me feel shittier than I normally do.

What don’t I have?

I don’t have confidence in this government department treating me fairly, I don’t have confidence that the person interviewing me will carry out his duties without bias and prejudice. I have no faith or trust in the system that is in place as a safety net for those who need it.

The reason  why I feel this way,  well in all my dealings with this government department over the last seven years I have been treated badly, they made me feel like a scrounger & a fraud. Even though the doctor’s  and I know I’m not. I have been made to feel like I am begging for what I am entitled to, after all I have paid into the system through my national insurance contributions over the last 41 years.

I hope I  am wrong, I shouldn’t be getting  stressed or anxious about what may or may not happen, I know that I shouldn’t allow what ifs to affect me so badly. I should be positive and confident, but I  can’t and until this appointment is over I know these thoughts and feelings of dread will not change.

Take care,

Gary x

Rant over.

 

Finding my MoJo

So, for a while now I have been having a bit out of sorts and having a weird feeling that something was missing, that something was not quite right, it also meant I couldn’t ask anyone for help as I didn’t know what sort of help to ask for.

 

So today I decided I needed to get out of the house and blow the cobwebs away.

I went to my nearest town centre and visited one of my favourite coffee shops The Panino Café, the sun was shining, and a cool breeze was blowing, and the flowers smelled amazing.

So, sitting in my wheelchair outside at one of the tables, I started one of my favourite pastimes, people watching. After a short while, I started getting the urge to write, and so I did.

 

As it is Sunday today, the town was not too busy which was good because I was in my wheelchair, which makes it a little easier to manoeuvre. The main problem is Horsham Town centre has a very uneven paved surface and many areas of cobblestones, which means it’s pretty tough going. Looking on the bright side of things, it hopefully means ill end up with biceps like Thor (I can dream).

Next visit though I should probably go with someone, as I’m finding that I’m not really fit enough to be allowed out on my own yet. A bonus in going or meeting someone would be to just have someone to chat with, and also to push me for short periods, when my poor old arms get tired (lol), and also it would mean that I don’t overdo things like I did today, but you live and learn I guess, and as far as wheelchairs are concerned I’ve still got a lot to learn.

 

But now I’m using the chair a lot more and with me starting archery soon, I’m hoping that ill develop his pecs as well and lose the “Moobs” or man boobs, I can live in Naïve hope.

Well, its good to know that I’m still feeling pretty positive and that my slightly weird sense of humour seems to be hanging on in there, just. And that is probably a good thing as I have just bought a “F*ck Boris” t-shirt. which I will wear with pride.

 

Whilst sitting here, watching, writing and drinking delicious coffee, I’ve had a Eureka moment, I’ve figured out what it was that’s missing, me enjoying my writing was missing.

So, what that tells me is that sitting in the sun, writing in my journal which has the words “My F**king plans to take over the world” with my pen that has “f*ck this sh*t” written on the side, two brilliant Christmas presents I got last year, and watching the world go by and not feeling guilty about it, is some of the best medicine you can get.

 

I’m sure if there are any people sitting here watching me writing with a bloody great stupid looking smile on my face, frantically writing away, probably imagine I’ve lost the plot.

 

Remember, Live, love, laugh.

                 

                                            Take care,

                                                       

                                                           Gary x

Thinking

So I’ve  been thinking a bit about where my life is headed. I’m really excited and looking forward to starting archery, as a new hobby. I’m also enjoying my writing and blogging  as well. But I can’t stop feeling that something is missing, that something is not quite right. I just can’t put my finger on what it is, and it’s driving me mad not knowing.

All in all I really had a good day today. Went out for lunch to a place called Wagamamas, met up with friends, great food, great restaurant, had a laugh and a chat. Celebrated a birthday. Getting more comfortable and confident in using my wheelchair.

Hot weather is not helping, pain levels are driving me up the wall, especially my back and neck,  not sleeping great, feeling a little down, a little depressed, a bit flat, a bit confused, which takes me full circle back to feeling like something is missing.

This requires further investigation,  just not tonight

Take care

Gary x

Always Forward, Forward Always.

The title is a line from one of my favourite television series “Luke Cage”. Now I’m definitely not Luke Cage, but the line has stuck in my head since the first time I  heard it, and is meaning is something I  want to live by.

I  have decided to stop letting the past have control over me, my boots of crippling worrying about things I am no longer able to do, my fear of using my wheelchair in public, because of some of the abuse and discrimination I have received in public, when using my crutch or parking in a disabled space, or even out with my camera has brought sneers and stares.

I have decided to get past these negative things and get over my self doubt. My first step has been to start writing, just getting everything I think and feel down on paper. Seeing everything written down in front of me, helps me get some perspective on the changes going on in my life, it also helps me with decisions I  need to make.

Another thing I have started doing again, has been to get out with my camera again it’s something I love, and even though my first solo trip to the nature reserve in a long time ment having the first hide door shut in my face, with 3 people shushing me and telling me to be quiet, amazingly I managed not to be rude to them(a minor miracle), so I  moved onto the second hide, it was empty so I picked a good spot to sit, and withing 10 minutes I was visited by a Kingfisher and it remained for around 5 minutes.

The best bit of the day came next when 3 young people living with cerebral palsy came into the small hide with their carers, it was a tight squeeze but we all fitted in, lots of talking, lots of laughter, and I think I was even able to help them by telling them what I  knew about what the could see on the pond and what the  names of the birds were, this is what nature is all about and it put a big smile on my face. This experience then lead me into my third positive act.

That encounter with those six people in the second hide, had really given my self esteem a massive boost and made me feel a lot more positive about meeting a bunch of strangers about joining an archery club, which turned out to be an amazing experience, and now I can’t wait to become a member.

So, I now have good supportive family and friends around me to help and encourage me, plus  activities and a social that will have a positive effect on my mental and physical health, I know I’m not where I  want to be yet, but at least I am steadily moving forward.

Oh, and one last thing, with some help from my brother my writing shed is finally finished and fully solar powered, so now I’m really looking forward to using it. Cheers bruv.

Take care everyone, and keep an eye out for those positive moments,

Always forward, forward always,

Gary x

 

Bows & Arrows

Not a bad weekend, my pain levels were fairly high, but I was determined that that wouldn’t stop me from trying something new.

For a while now I’ve been doing a lot of research into looking for an activity or sport that I could enjoy and get some exercise from.

So I asked myself some questions  and this is the answer I came up with.

  1. I wanted it to be something with a social aspect to kt and not something I would have to do on my own.
  2. It needed to be something I really wanted to do.
  3. I wanted it to be something I could indoors or outdoors.
  4. It had to be something that wouldn’t be cost prohibitive as I not exactly rich.
  5. It also needed to be something I would enjoy and exercise for me at the same time.
  6. And finally it needed to be something I could do whilst using my wheelchair.

The big question – Did I find something?

The equally big answer – Yes I did.

After much research I finally contacted an Archery club last Wednesday, explaining what I wanted to do, and also asked if They catered for wheelchair users, I then asked if I would I be able to go along on Saturday to see the facility and ask a few questions, and also speak to a few members if possible, thankfully the answer was yes.

So on Saturday I arrived at the archery club around 9 am. I was feeling excited yet nervous. I met with Paul the head coach, who showed me around the range, and went through the range etiquette and rules with me, before introducing me to a couple of the other members.

Firstly he introduced me to Colin, who is also a wheelchair user. Colin was a really nice guy, we had a really good chat and a laugh, the other guy was Neil  who was another coach and also a nice guy. Now because I hadn’t completed the beginners/safety course I wasn’t actually able to shoot any arrows. ThankfullyColin allowed me to sit in his wheelchair, then they showed me how to sit properly, then hold and use a bow.

As a beginner and a wheelchair user they let me practice with one of the club bows, the type of bow I practiced my technique on was called a compound bow.

martin-krypton

The reasoning behind using one of these is.

  1. They are easier to use as a beginner shooting form the seated position
  2. They are fairly light.
  3. They look damn cool
  4. And the pressure can be adjusted.

I now realise I  have muscles where I didn’t know I had muscles, so I will definitely be getting some exercise.

So everything on my needs & wants list ticked.  Result. I will be doing my initial training course on the afternoons of 10th & 17th August and I  can’t wait.

Take care

Gary x

 

 

 

 

 

Pain

You know what pain is a bloody pain, for me, over the last week/week & a balf I have been struggling with writing my blog, due to a sudden rise in pain, in certain parts of my  body, mainly my hands/fingers, chest/left shoulder, neck/throat. Which has made it very hard for me to focus and concentrate. Worst of all is the fact that it has affected my ability to read or write for any length of time. I’ve pretty much used every technique I  know for dealing with my pain, but with little success.

Medication, doesn’t work, and the physio has told me there is very little they can do to help either. Even resting has had little to no effect.

On the bright side though I still I have my dog, my garden, my music and the sunshine to keep my spirits up. My family are looking after me as best they can, whilst  y pain has turned me into a pain which helps a lot, and tomorrow I will actually be able to get out of the house and enjoy a bit of socialising with cffee and friends. So it’s not all bad, is it?

All the best for now.

Be careful out there in the sun and heat, plenty of water and shade.

Till next time, take care

Gary x

Not Good

Not the best of weekends,  on top of my ever present widespread pain and fatigue, I woke up this morning with the beginnings  of a throat/chest infection, so pain and fatigue has ratcheted up.

Also this morning, my final pay packet dropped onto the doormat reminding me that I only have 18 days to go before I  become unemployed, I’ve accepted and understand that I  am now too sick to work. There are and never will be any bad feelings, as the last 2 years have been brilliant.

There is always a good chance of not being able to work again as in being employed and that makes me sad, but I’ve been making plans and have been looking into getting set up as self employed, so I’m feeling pretty positive about that.

I will miss the daily routine of my current job that I love, and the daily contact with my amazing colleagues. I know I’ll still get to meet up with them from time to time for coffee and a chat, and I know  I can contact them anytime I want.I will also be looking forward to being able to help out by volunteering from time to time when I am feeling well enough.

Finally this afternoon I have my first meeting with the physiotherapist, I’ve really been looking forward to this meeting as its been a long wait and I’m positive I will learn something I can use that will help me in some way, just wish I wasn’t feeling so crappy.

Take care

Gary x

Forgetting

As someone who lives with several long term health condition’s, I  think I’m qualified to speak on the subject of forgetting.

I’m so lucky to have such a great network of family and friends, who look out for me and look after me. Making sure I rest enough, eat right, drive me around, phone me up, message me, text me, Facebook me, take me out for coffee and a chat, the list of things people do for me is endless. They don’t do it because they want anything in return, they do it because they want to, because they like me or they love me or maybe it’s because they are just made that way,  caring, compassionate, nice people.

One thing I know I’m guilty of at the moment, is forgetting about the needs and the health of those who give up there time for me, and that time is one of the most precious gifts someone can give.

At the moment somebody I know, someone who puts so much of her time and effort into looking out for and helping others. A person who never asks for anything in return, who wears her heart on her sleeve, and is compassionate beyond words, has been struggling  herself. Now I realise if I look back over the last few months, I can see that I missed a lot of the signs that things weren’t quite right, and did nothing because I’ve been so wrapped up with me, I’m not trying to make an excuse. What  I’m trying to say is I’m not sure when I stopped, but I really need to start looking out for those who look out for me.

The person I am referring to is one of the nicest, hard working, considerate, unselfish,  funny, amazing human beings I have ever had the pleasure to know, second only to my beautiful  wife.

I’m sure this lady knows I am writing about her, I hope you don’t find all this embarrassing, I  just wanted to write down what I’m thinking and feeling today. I know I  can be a bit dense at times, but I genuinely worry and care about those who help me.

I hope you feel better soon, make sure you take all the time you need and all the sunshine you need to get back to being you. Enjoy your time off as much as you possibly can, you’ve done so much to help me over the last few years, without me ever having to ask, I  know you have a great family and friends around you, but please let me know if there is ever anything I can do to help you.

“Work to live, don’t live to work”

Take care

Gary x

 

Pain

Sometimes I wonder how in the hell can my pain levels increase any more but they do, I never know how long these periods will last, could be hours, days or even weeks, and so far this episode is 3 days in and counting. It actually reached the point last  night,  I  was wishing that if  having your legs amputated was an option I would go take it.

I’m not making light of amputation or making a joke of it, I  have seriously thought of talking to my specialist about it, as I have heard of people having this done, though I believe it is very much a last resort. For me at the moment the doctor’s have gone as far as they can down the medication pain relief and nothing has even come close.

The pain in my legs has been pretty much 24 x 7 for the last 8 years and steadily getting worse, but at times like these I just feel like I’m going out of my mind. The pain just takes over and blocks everything else out, it makes it almost impossible for me to concentrate on anything, do anything, or even think straight. It’s taken so many tries just to write this.

It’s  also at times like this I  have to try and convince myself that maybe there will be a medical  breakthrough around the corner, it’s  a real battle to remain positive  during these times, but it still doesn’t stop the real dark thoughts creeping in at times.

Going crazy, but not quite there yet, take care,

Gary x

School Daze

I grew up in Mitcham, in the London Borough of Merton. My mother was Irish, Roman Catholic, my Dad was a London boy and slightly Church of England, which meant, of course, my younger brother and I were going to be raised as good Roman Catholic boys. Our first school was called St Peter & St Pauls Roman Catholic, Primary School. I would say it was your typical RC London school, too much religion for my liking, but hey it was what it was.

As I said it was your typical school. We had the guy who would eat a worm or a spider for a dare, there was the girl who would always do handstands and show you her knickers for the price of a sweet, and the kid who would always pee himself in the classroom because he was too scared of the teacher to put his hand up to go to the toilet because he was embarrassed about asking in front of others9that must have been tough). We even had a few of the 7/8 yr old kids who used to smoke behind the bike shed(this was the late 60s early 70s after all).

I was one of the quiet, awkward kids, who didn’t seem to quite fit in, I didn’t want to be noticed, hated being the center of attention, crap at sport, always one of the last to be picked for the football or rounders team, unlike my brother who was an excellent footballer and always one of the first to be picked for any team.

As a result of my awkwardness, quietness and constantly being off school sick I had a definite lack of confidence, friends, and my social skills were rubbish, it was also a time for me that would have a big impact on my relationship with the Catholic Church and it was called first Holy Communion, I hated studying for it, I didn’t want to do it and it turned out to be my first step in moving over to the dark side of moving over to atheism, for me the big battle would come when I reached 12 yrs old, the church and I were never going to be friends and 50 years later it’s still not for me, my Mum was never happy about my  lack of love with religion but she eventually came to accept it.

When I was 8  my parents divorced, this was a traumatic time for me, I didn’t understand what was going on, I never asked my brother how he felt about it, and I even started thinking it was my fault. Then our dad moved out and I turned into the antichrist, my brother and my mum became the focus of that anger.

By the time I’d started St Thomas of Canterbury, middle school, religion and me were on very thin ice. One of my teachers was a nun. If have you ever seen the nun in the film the Blues Brothers, she used the same punishment a rap across the knuckles with a wooden ruler which bloody hurt, her Maths lesson was always intertwined with religious stories which meant I would just switch off. I guess this was my first real experience of bullying, the next was the PE teacher who was a really nasty piece of work.

Now I know I keep referring to my poor health and at this time of my life, my egg allergy  caused fairly regular visits to St Georges Hospital, my chronic Asthma which would cause several bouts of Bronchitis a year and would put me in St Hiliers Hospital at least once a year, usually during the winter, cold air and London smog do not mix well.

Anyway back to the PE teacher, it was a really cold day, and very smoggy , My asthma was playing up, so I had brought a letter into school from my mum, to excuse me from cross country running, which was held on Mitcham Common, what this man did to me scarred me for the rest of my school days especially when it meant doing sport. After the teacher had read my mum’s note, he threw it in the bin then marched me into the gym in front of the class, he sat down put me across his knee pulled down my school shorts and slippered me with my own plimsole, whilst telling them I was a poof and a weakling for letting my asthma stop me from running which actually helps asthmatics, this was a mixed school so what he did was beyond embarrassing.

It was my final year at St Thomas’s, I was 12 yrs old and I had to do my confirmation after much arguing and fighting with my mother I went through with it, I had to or I wouldn’t get my new Blazer. I hated doing it, then the next day everything went bang, I was dragged in front of the Headmaster for laughing in assembly during the Lord’s prayer, I don’t know what started off my fit of giggles, but I just couldn’t stop. I was called into the headmaster’s office who was standing there with his cane in his hands, then I blurted out I hate God and I hate religion and I hate this bloody school. That was the last RC school I ever went to thankfully.

For my Last year living in London, I got to go to a school of my choice, Eastfields High School, a dream come true, Instead it turned into a nightmare, I ended up in the hospital and at home for 3 months because of my asthma. At 13 I moved with my family to West Sussex, for my sins, I had to go to Forest Boys Comprehensive school, I was told I wasn’t allowed to carry on with the subjects I had chosen the year before German, Art and general Science, instead, I was put into Drama, Geology and Social Economics.

As it turned out, these subjects were undersubscribed and there were no sets, I liked the teachers, funnily enough, I did well in these classes and got two of my highest grades. As  for my main subjects, my grades weren’t as good as they should have been, though that was partly down to the teachers who weren’t really interested in those students who weren’t in sets 1 or 2 in Maths and English, and partly down to me having finally given up on a school system that had given up on me.

But it didn’t stop me going to college, It didn’t stop me from traveling the world for 15 years in an amazing job, going to fantastic places, seeing some awesome sights and meeting some truly wonderful people. I have also finished my working career as I will soon be released on medical grounds from a totally amazing job within the NHS.

Everything has worked ok in the end, no grudges, no regrets.

I just want to be clear I don’t hate any religion, personally, I don’t think that religion would make me any better as a person, but if it helps you if it’s your thing That’s good.

“Carpe Diem”

Party on dude,

Gary x

Music Vs Pain

Over the last 3 years, listening to music has become one of the main tools I use to help with my pain, I can use it to help me relax,  or to carry out certain tasks by distracting me from the pain, tasks such as driving short distances, reading, writing or tending my Chilli plants.

I have built up a wide and varied selection of styles and band’s that I like to listen too, so selecting the correct band/music is very important, as my mood, pain level and task are all factors in selecting what I will choose.

For example, travelling by Bus, Car or Train I have a specific selection of bands that I would choose from, such as – Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queen, Nickleback, Counting Crows, Garth Brooks, First Aid Kit, The Beach Boys, The Mavericks or The Beautiful South.

For more leisurely pursuits such as reading or writing, I have a different selection that I choose from that consists of – AC/DC, Kiss, The Carpenters, The Clash, Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Vaccines, The Stranglers and 30 Seconds to Mars.

As you can tell a nice easy listening selection for an ageing heavy metal rocker like Myself. Here’s the proof with my passport picture from 39 years ago, 18 yrs old.

thumbnail

I know what your thinking, did his parents really let him go out dressed like that? Sadly I haven’t aged so well.

Rock Star or what?

There has been a lot of trial and error in putting together my playlists which has been so much fun, as well as being important to me so I get the results I need.

One last thing though, is I have to remember to set an alarm on my phone to make sure I get up and move around, otherwise, I could end up in a lot more pain than I started with,

Good luck if this is something you decide to try.

Take care

Gary x

EPP ​Volunteer Lunch

I enjoyed a very nice bucket of black coffee this morning at a garden center restaurant near Littlehampton, It was so nice to catch up with the EPP office crew minus Danny, sadly, and as it was volunteers day so it was great to catch up with some of the volunteer tutors, it was really good to see some familiar faces and a shame that everybody wasn’t able to make it.

It was good to rest the old vocal cords today and just listen to others for a change, as I commented to my Guv’nor. It was a great chance to hear how everyone has been keeping and getting on with the courses whilst I have been on long term sick leave. I even got to enjoy a bit of people watching for a while, which happens to be one of my favourite pastimes. The only problem was nothing really happened in the restaurant worth commenting about.

And last but not least, it was great to see Treacle the medical alert dog today, so glad he was able to come along, although when I got home I could tell that my dog wasn’t happy with me.

Thanks for chauffeuring me around today Sue, it was very much appreciated and great to catch up.

Karen thanks for organising today I really enjoyed myself, I think the new office pens are a wonderful colour and the logos are inspired.

One last thing I have finally got my first Physio appointment on the 24th  June 2019.

Take care

Gary x

Travelling

So in a previous life(1989 – 2007), I was lucky to have a few jobs in that allowed me to travel the world, meet some amazing people and see some amazing sights, and I got to do it all before I got too sick.

USA:- California, Colorado, New York, Vermont, West Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Florida, Missouri, Massachusettes, Idaho, Maine, Texas, Pennsylvania.

Japan:- Tokyo, Nagoya. Fukuyama, Mito, Hitachi.

Hongkong

Taiwan;- Taipei, Tainan, Hsinchu, Kaohsiung.

Singapore:- Sentosa, Clarke Quay, Orchard Towers, Newton Circus, Tampines

France:- Grenoble, Corbeil-Essonnes, Paris, Lyon, Callais.

Germany:- Berlin, Dresden, Erfurt, Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Freiberg, Chemnitz, Cologne.

Holland:- Nijmegen, Hengelo, Eindhoven.

Ireland:- Cork, Limerick, Shannon, Galway, Claregalway, Clifden, Dublin, Leixlip, Maynooth.

Israel:- JerusalemAshkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Tel-Aviv

Italy:- Rome.

Switzerland:- Geneva

Canada:- Montreal.

I was very lucky I had the best job in the world, I got to do so many things, see so many sights, try so many different foods and cultures, so many good memories, so many photographs so many pamphlets, tickets, old passports and memorabilia saved. The best about being away was catching the flight home to my wife and kids.

This is why it is taking me a while to complete my memory book.

Take care

Gary x

I Can’t Unsee That.

Have you ever had one of those moments when  you’ve thought “Now I’ve seen that, I can never unsee it”. Well I had 2 instances like that today.

I was in town buying an Anniversary card and I started to head off home across the town square to get back to my car. Now, when I walk, I walk slowly with my head bent down slightly due to neck pain, then every now and again, I’ll look up to make sure I’m I not going to walk into something.

Anyway back to the story, so I was walking across the square when I looked up and the sight I beheld made me cringe inside. On the bench about 10 feet in front of me, was a lady. I’d say she was about 80 years old and she was reading the paper, I know your thinking that’s not so terrible.

The trouble is she was wearing a knee length skirt with her knees were very far apart and wearing no tights or stockings just bare white flesh. That sight is now burned into my brain and I’ll never be able to unsee it. I just hope she didn’t see the look of horror on my face.

I carried on across the square and made my way to the alley that leads to the car park, I could hear footsteps behind me which, sounded like high heels and whoever was wearing them made it sound like they were in a bit of a hurry. I’m not surprised as I’ve said before my walking is pretty slow these days. Then as we emerged from the alley this woman shot past me,.

she was a tall blond lady wearing a fur jacket and pale leather trousers. Now, it was a hot day and even at my slow speed I was perspiring. I don’t know if any of you have ever heard the noise that slightly sweaty skin makes when you sit down into a leather chair, move in it or get up out of it, well it sounds like a wet fart and that’s the only way I can describe it. So if you put together a hot day, leather trouser’s and perspiration you get the sound of a loud wet fart, it means every time her thighs brushed together you got a loud wet fart on rapid fire, it’s a sound I will never forget, I know I should have felt sorry for her, but I was too busy wetting myself laughing and I so needed a good laugh.

take care

Gary x

 

Writing – Changing

The purpose of this piece is for me to get used to writing, so hopefully the more writing I do the better I get. I’m sure there are many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors as you read through this but this is about learning and finding what kind of writer I’m going to be, so all of your comments will be of great value. In September I start a 10 week creative writing workshop, hopefully, I will have figured out how to use the spelling & grammar checker by then. So please be kind, be brutal, but above all please be honest about what you think.

Title:- Changed

Last weekend I started reading the biography about an Idol of mine, comedian & Film star Robin Williams. Reading it brought up emotions of sadness because he’d died & happiness because he made me & the world laugh. The very first time I saw Robin Williams was on the tv show Mork & Mindy, it made me laugh so hard I would have tears rolling down my face.

In the book many people were saying he was a comic genius, a legend, a star, I think he was just bloody awesome. He was one of those actors whose films would always cheer me up, they would always make me smile and laugh especially when I was feeling down. In the book people he performed with said he was an amazing guy to work with, he was always trying to make people laugh on set, always willing to help fellow cast & crew out & always helping those in need & those less fortunate. One example of his compassion reported that he would always insist that any of the films he worked in must always hire a number of the local homeless population to work on the set.

After reading the introduction and all the comments from his friends, colleagues, and family,. It moved on to tell his story. It started with at the end of his story with talking about his death at the age 63 & by the end of that first page I could feel a lump in my throat & could feel tears welling up also. I remember feeling the same way when his death was announced back in 2014. It made me think about a film I had recently seen; it was a documentary called RobinWilliams – Inside My Mind. It had its funny moments but was filled with heartbreak & sadness, he was an amazing human being, full of energy and laughter, but it showed he was also just a man who had his own demons & flaws such as drinking, drugs, anxiety & depression.

I got a bit distracted again at this point & started thinking about my own demons, my own long-term battle with my crappy health, depression & anxiety. So I decided I wanted to get my own story down on paper to bare my soul so to speak then share it on here.

Here we go.

I’ve pretty much had poor health since birth, though my battle with depression & anxiety didn’t start until much later(obviously). In fact, it started around the same time as the bullying I was experiencing did. I was about 11 when the bullying started firstly because I was rubbish at sport & didn’t feel like I fit anywhere, then it got worse when I got my girlfriend who was of Sri Lankan parentage even though she was born here. the verbal abuse from both British Asian kids & White British kids was equally as bad & it even got physical a few times. Going through school was the worst for verbal.

I was 13 when my family moved from South London to West Sussex, not long after the move, my episodes of depression began to get more frequent, I hated the countryside back then, I hated moving away from my Grandparents, I didn’t like my stepfather and I missed London, I became a right little shit (so I’ve been told). Around the age of 16, I started drinking and smoking, not a lot but I started, then after I’d had a teenage meltdown, I was sent to live My Father & Stepmother for 2 years by the age of 18 my drinking & smoking had become very heavy in fact I had turned into a drunk but not an alcoholic. It was also at this I met a girl who would eventually become wife even though over the next 5 years I was an absolute shit towards her, yet she has never gave up on me (madness, even I’d given up on me), but this year will be our silver wedding anniversary,  25 years ago was also when I also cut down on the drinking.

Then 13 years ago I quit smoking & drinking altogether which ended up being a stroke of luck because 6 months later, I was made redundant from a job I loved, the company was closing down and moving back to the good old U.S of A, one good thing to come out of this time was the bullying was finally over.(I was bullied for many different reasons over the years, in fact, I think I must have had the words bully me written on my forehead).

About 18 months after the redundancy a tragedy occurred that affected me badly. There was a serious road traffic accident. On my way into work at  new job one morning I came upon a serious road traffic accident, there were 3 of us that stopped to help the people in the 2 cars that had collided, we had to try to get the man trapped in the first car out,  one of the guy’s broke a rear window so I could crawl halfway into the car to hold the trapped man’s head steady, talk to  him and stop him from hurting himself even more, at the same time the guy who had broken the window went around to the other side to try to gain access through the other door but with no luck, the third bloke stayed with the other driver trying to keep him calm.

The Police, Fire Rescue, and Paramedics were pretty quick, I explained to the paramedic what was going on with the injured driver whilst I had been with him. The police asked the 3 of us that had tried to help to wait by our cars to be interviewed individually. About 20 minutes after our statements a police officer came across to us and told that there was nothing that could have done to save him, that he had died from his injuries. He advised us that we should all go home due to the shock of what had happened. We drove off & the next thing I remember was sitting in my van outside the house. As I opened the front door I saw all the dried blood on my arms and hands, I looked up saw my wife then I just broke. I can’t remember how long she held me for, but I am so glad she hadn’t left for work. For the next 6 months, I couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t even open the door, I’d also lost my job & it took me a long time to get over it.

For the next 18 months, I spent my time doing a lot of volunteering on conservation projects. I worked outside with a group of people with similar health problems, it was exactly what I needed to get better, getting back to nature and working with my hands again was the medicine I needed & it helped me find myself again, it helped me recover enough to look for another job, things were finally getting better.

8 years ago my physical health started to nosedive again, I began falling over at work, I was in constant pain, I was becoming forgetful & at times confused. Now, those of you that knew me back in my drinking days are probably thinking, hmmm sounds like you’re still a pisshead Gary, the problem was I had been off the sauce for 12 years(not fair). I saw the GP who sent me to a Rheumatologist who in turn diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. None of the pain killers they tried me on came even close to helping with the pain. The GP then sent me off to see a pain specialist. I was told it was unlikely I’d never work again, that my life as I knew it was over & I would have learned new ways to do things I was then released on medical grounds from the company I worked for.

After all this I started to feel that I was losing control of my life, that nothing was under my control anymore, my anxiety & depression were rising again, my physical health was getting worse, there seemed to be very little out there to help me cope with what was happening, I started attending CBT courses, 3 in fact one after the other to try and help me cope, but it just wasn’t for me. My mental and physical health were spiralling downwards & I was having some very dark thoughts. I was getting really scared.

Then on a visit to a medical drop in centre I overheard 2 old dears talking about a free NHS service called the Expert Patient Programme which helped people living with long term health conditions to live better. I had never heard of it before but thought I might as well give it a go, if it had worked for them maybe it could help me. So when I got home I contacted the service and got myself booked onto the next available course near to where I lived. I wasn’t very confident before I went as nothing else had worked for me, Then I thought what did I have to loose? I turned up for the first session of the 6 week course, it would be 2.5 hours 1 day a week for 6 weeks. As I walked through the door I remember thinking, what the hell am I doing here? But as the course got going I remember thinking it felt very different from anything else I had done & asked myself again, is this really going to work for me?

After all the introductions we learned that the tutors were also living with their own long-term health conditions, they had all been participants & completed the course themselves. They said they’d gotten so much out of the course they decided to become volunteer Tutors, I mean volunteers, wow that really struck me. Another thing was they talked to us, not at us, they were engaging with us, not judging us but asking us to give it a go, after all, they were living proof that the service worked. So after I left that day I decided I would go back for week 2.

The things the tutors were saying to us made sense, the coping techniques they demonstrated actually worked. The tutors came across as positive, compassionate, and understanding people who got us, they really understood what we were going through, it showed us we were not alone, and it showed me it was ok to smile and laugh without feeling guilty. The change in me was massive and quick, by week 3 my wife was telling me she couldn’t believe the difference the course was making, I was more confident, positive & happier, that I was talking and laughing more. So on week 4, I plucked up the courage and asked if I could become a volunteer tutor. Now public speaking was some really scary shit for me, I knew I would be well outside my comfort zone.  But 4 months later I finished my training and 6 weeks after that I started delivering my first course. I loved it. Since then my health has had many ups and downs.

But the main thing was I had my various families to support me, there was my wife and 3 daughters, my brother and his family, my work family & my fellow tutor’s & participant family. Then 2 years ago a dream came true for me, not only was I a volunteer tutor but I was also working as the Expert Patient Programme Administrator, it was a job I loved & life was good. Then 11 months ago my health decided to nosedive again & I was placed on long term sick leave. I’m still off sick now but in 3 weeks time, I will be going through the process of being released on medical grounds. This time though things will be different as I am far more prepared this time. I have been looked after supported & helped by my friends at work & my family at home, which includes my lovely Dog Dora.

I’ve started making a long term plan, which is to become a writer, what type of writer I will be I don’t know yet, but I’m enjoying the journey now that it has started, with all the reading writing and blogging I am doing these day’s I know one day it will happen.

There really is no way to thank all the people in my life who have helped and supported me over the last 8 years, but I love you all because you have all helped me arrive where I am today.

So now it’s on to the next chapter fo me although I will still be looking forward to coffee with the boss and volunteering in the office with my colleagues when I can. There’s no chance of work getting rid of me completely I’m afraid. The Service is known as EPP for short but is also known as the Living Well Course. If you like the sound of it & fancy giving it a go, make the call you have nothing to lose & everything to gain, it worked for me after all. I’ve written this in the hope that my story may help some of you.

Take care

Gary

Ok, so I am going to go a little bit Hollywood now &  thank some of the people who have helped me get to this point in my life.

So First to my Mum who never gave up on me even though I could be a right little shit(apparently), Thank you to my long-suffering wife Tracey, to my 3 yes 3 beautiful grown-up daughters Sian, Keri & Erin who’ve put up with my bad sense of humour on a daily basis. I’d like to thank my workmates Karen the Boss & Natalie (aka Danny Dyer) & Sue the co-ordinator’s who’ve had to put up with me being such an awesome administrator in my opinion. To all the amazing tutors & participants I have met along the way & last but not least some good friends, to Marion who was also my mum’s best friend We should meet up for a coffee soon, to Shelly & Ian who helped me get through the first couple of years and introduced me to the lovely Jenner & Ken who allowed me into there lives, I know I’m crap at keeping in touch & I need to rectify that.

Finally, to all those, I have not mentioned but are just as important.

Thank you all so much.

And finally again, a big thank you to Robin Williams for making me laugh, for making me cry, for being a hero to me & whose story has inspired me to write this piece.

Day 6, My First Attempt

The next post will be my first attempt at writing, if you have the time please read through it and let me know what you think about it, honesty please.

I want writing to become a big part of my life’s reading has. So I need to start sharing, I need to start getting pieces written and out there for all to see.

The first piece I have written how my life has changed over the last 7 years and how I have I have become the person I am today. A pretty positive one.

A little heads up on what I am living with health wise these days. I have allergies to eggs, fowl and peanuts. I live with anxiety, depression, Asthma, Type 2 Diabetes, Osteoporosis (spinal damage), undiagnosed MS (Spinal cord liaison), Neuropathy, Tested positive for Sarcoidosis (in remisson) and to top it all off Fibromyalgia.