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

 

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.

20190815_1806186789575835650364237.jpg

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.

 

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

 

Thursday 13th June​ 2019

A date I will always remember, and It was probably the nicest way for anybody to lose their job, and for me nice is good.

I’d known the day was coming since the middle of May. Since the day of the last visit to the hospital pain clinic, when the treatment they tried failed in helping to reduce my pain. It was nobody’s fault, the treatment just didn’t work for me.

At that point, I knew the wheels would be put in motion the have me released from my contract on medical grounds. this would be the second time that this has happened to me, the last time was 7 years ago.

What was different this time, well firstly I knew what was going to happen, and secondly, I have been supported all the way through the process by the people I work for and those I work with. At no point during the last year was I made to feel like a burden which, to be honest, didn’t surprise me in the slightest, I was only ever told that my welfare comes first.

I am saddened that I will no longer be going into work, and not working with my friends and colleagues, which is what I will miss the most. This time though I have not been cut adrift and left to find things out for myself because they are still looking out for me and helping me.

That’s why today I’m feeling so lucky and positive, I have so many people in my life now that I am grateful for.

Goodnight have a great weekend and take care,

Gary x

Oh, and I’ve started to write a true love story, one I hope to finish writing in the next couple of weeks, fingers crossed.

To infinity and beyond

The day is almost here, tomorrow will be a turning point for me. In the afternoon I will be attending a meeting with the HR department for the organisation I work for, the NHS,. The meeting is about releasing me from my contract on medical grounds, it’s all very amicable and I’m prepared, but, still it will be a difficult and sad time for me for  a while.

I  can say that without the NHS and it’s amazingly talented, hard working staff, I wouldn’t be around  today.  They have looked after me and my various longterm health conditions for 57 years now, I’ve been a volunteer for them for 7 years, they have employed me as an administrator for the last 2 years, and I have loved every minute of it.

I will miss the work, tutors, participants, the friends I have made in fact I  already do, as I  have been off work  for a year now. The coffees  and the chats will continue with my colleagues, if they’re not sick of me yet, and at some point I hope to be able to return to being a volunteer in some capacity.

I have already made plans and set goals on what I want to do, and how I will achieve them, I am feeling really positive. Exciting times ahead.

As the saying goes “one door closes and another on opens”.

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

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

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.

What Do You See?

 

What do you see, when you look at me?

Do you see a man with a different way of thinking for getting form A to B,

Or a different way of physically getting from here to there,

Do you see the labels, disabled, crippled, broken, second class, scrounger,

I don’t want to be like this, I don’t want you to think like that,

Being different like I am is not a way of living we choose,

Being different is about choosing how we live because we are this way,

If I need help, I have learned to ask, if I don’t I have learned to say No,

And we must be polite when we do so,

We need acceptance for who we are, to be respected, to be equals,

We need love when we feel down, understanding when frustrated,

Friendship when lonely, and need help when we can’t manage,

We have the same likes such as, sport or reading or going to the beach,

And the same dislikes, taxes, racism or not being in charge of the TV remote.

We also have likes

The occasional beer and a pizza, a Larger and a nice hot ruby,

(a Ruby = Ruby Murray = Curry)

the chance to go to a concert or see a  film at the cinema,

everyone needs there relationships,

Someone to love, to laugh with, to cry with,

And those that get us and see past the differences,

For some our differences are visible, whilst for others, they are not so much,

But it’s okay to ask us about our differences, we don’t bite unless you want us to,

So don’t be a stranger, come and say hi, just try not to stare it’s not very nice,

Don’t pity us, understand us, don’t blame us, get to know us,

Were as human as you, with a little bit extra, or a little bit less,

We laugh, we cry, we live, we die, we also have a wicked, even dark sense of humour,

Please don’t dismiss us, or ignore us, do not pity us, or feel sorry for us,

Listen when we talk, understand what we need and help if we ask, please,

But we must also do our part,

We must listen when you talk, understand when you need, be a friend when you need,

But communication cut’s both ways and both way’s must get better,

We’re really not that different if we only take the chance and let each other in,.

We’re all only human after all.

 

Practicing my scribblings I hope you like, not sure it could be classed as poetry, I just needed to get it out. (The words that are, not anything else), see Humour.

Take care

Gary x

 

 

Day 4 Wheels

Damn the pain is crazy bad today in my neck and spine, legs are like jelly. Definitely  having a crap morning, overdid it yesterday.

It ended up as a wheelchair day today, I know I need to be using it a lot more these days. I just need to stop thinking about how others will look at me. I was the same when I started using a stick. Stupid I know but I can be Bloody stubborn at times

Shock horror, using the chair worked, I was able read a large part of the book “Writing the damn book” which I’m pleased about, and I ended up getting down loads of ideas, possible titles and a couple of mind maps. So it’s ended up being a really productive day. A small step closer to writing a book myself.

Take care

Gary x

 

A good day

Day 2 of the journey#

Good start to the day managed to get through e-mails and twitter in record time this morning and I was able to get yesterdays blog published as I had misjudged how long it would take last night, lesson learned started earlier tonight, result

Out in the garden again updating my journaal listening to kiss (the band not the radio station) and the coffee is tasting good.

Not sure what is going on, police with there blues and two’s on racing down the A29 to Adversane. Now there’s a police helicopter flying around overhead. Popped to the shop to get a coke zero and saw a van load of coppers heading towards the A29 as well,  police helicopter has been up there for about 40 mims now.

Heard later there was an armed robbery in one incident and in another incident a woman was killed in a road accident on the A29 at Adversane.

Managed to finish the book “Get Your Sh*t Together” reccomend it to everyone. Tomorrow I have a new book arriving, called “Write the Damn Book” for creative people who have a hard time finishing things. Very apt for me.

Hoping to go to the nature reserve tomorrow with my camera, I love going there because it is so peaceful and the cafe make a nice cuppa coffee.

onwards and upwards, let’s see what tomorrow brings

Lets be careful out there

Gary x

 

 

Day 1, The Journey Begins.

For the last few months I’ve pretty much been drifting along like one of those tumbleweeds you see in the movies. Thing is at some point in the next month I will be given notice due to illness at my place of employment and it s all very amicable.

so about a week ago I started reading a book that I got for my Birthday. The book is called “Get Your Sh*t Together” by Sarah Knight. Now I have plenty of experience in setting long term and short term goals, but I’d lapsed, no motivation, lots of things I wanted to do, but I had turned into the great procrastinator, I couldn’t be arsed.

Anyway the book has given me the kick up the arse I needed to start making plans (about bloody time) for my future, to live heathier, earn a living and make time for doing the things that I want and need to do. The book is humorous, uses a lot of profanities about the serious subject of planning for the future, writing lists and setting goals, the perfect book for me, I reccomend it to anyone.

GOALS

Long term – To earn a living from writing and to lose weight

Short term – Create structure in my life by using weekly timetables. The timetables will be further broken down into daily tasks of what needs to be done and what I must do  by prioritising  each task.

I feel really positive and confident that I am doing this the right way and for the right reasons, the main ones being it’s what I need to do and what I want to do.

Ok, day 1, The journey begins. 23/05/2019

I  booked myself onto a creative writing course starting in September 2019.

Went down the village collected my bag of medication and got my haircut, two birds with one stone.

Researched helpful websites, subscribed to a YouTube programme, joined a couple of mailing lists and purchased a couple of books.

ME TIME – sat in the garden with my dog Dora, sunshine on my back, the sound of tmany birds singing in the trees and jotting ideas down in my journal. Perfection and one of the most important tasks on my daily timetable.

After lunch I met with my Boss, we went for a coffee and a chat about my impending  release from my job on medical grounds and chatting over my plans for the future.

It’s been a job I’ve loved doing with an amazing team of people. I can truly say I will miss the job and miss working for the NHS. It has been an honour and a pleasure, and I will definitely be keeping in touch with my workmates.

After getting back home from meeting up with my boss I took a bit of time to reflect on everything  we had spoken about, I updated my jornal whilst sitting in the garden with my dog who laid there fast asleep cooking in the sun pretending to listen to me, this is not being lazy but me making sure I don’t overdo things,  today was a good day, which has helped me feel a little more positive for the future

I am going to make a blog each day with updates on my progress, as I  think this will be a good platform for me on my journey, writing about my plans, my health and any situations and observations I encounter. The aim will be to publish my blog at the end of each day.

Be kind to each other, please leave comments and criticism’s, always appreciated even though I can’t guarantee I will act on them

Gary x

Choices

Something that was said to me on Friday got stuck in my head and it niggled away in the back of my mind over the weekend.

Then I saw a film yesterday that struck a chord with me and with the comment that was made on Friday. The film was called “Choices”. Now I wouldn’t normally watch a love story, but the wife and eldest were watching it on the tv.

At this point I would just like to say that these types of film are not my guilty pleasure.

Anyway, the film had a very strong message, not just about the love between two people but also about choices. It doesn’t  matter how big or how small the choices we make are, because for us as people they can both be life altering.

This morning I started reading a new book, it is helping me think about why I have made the decision to make the changes I want and need in my now.  The book I am reading is called:

Get your sh*t together

How to stop worrying about what you should do

so you can finish what you need to do

and start doing what you want to do

By Sarah Knight

Though this book has a serious message, it is explained with a lot of humour and a lot of swearing, which I find refreshing and easy to grasp, because of that I know this will help me with the process planning the next steps in a way that makes sense to me.

It seems that these occurrences  over the last 4 days are probably the universe telling me to get of my ar*e and get on with it.

I know it is something I am passionate about and I know that is what I want to do, I have many questions to research to find the answers I need and I also to get some advice from people I completely trust.

Watch this space

Go well

Gary x

Changes

It’s been a little while since my last post.

Things are starting to change change for me at this time due to my ongoing health conditions, my time working for the NHS, a place I love to work with people I love to work with. I think I will miss this part most of all.

Hopefully though I will still be able to volunteer for them in some capacity my health permitting as the service is very important to me.

This morning was my formal meeting with the HR department to formalise the next step in leaving, a very friendly and amicable meeting, now I just wait for the next meeting and the final decision.

Back home now, feeling a little flat as this is the start of a door closing on a very happy part of working life. I will still be in touch with and involed with EPP so at least I still have that side but I will miss the work.

Anyway the sun is shining and I am ing the garden typing up my blog whist the lovely Dora chases rabbits in her sleep on the lawn, I was horrible and woke her up for the picture then she immediately went back to sunbathing and chasing rabbits.

15577509099805192863915956359875.jpg

I’ve known my leaving the NHS has been on the cards for a while now, so I have started making plans.

Firstly looking after myself and being more assertive, saying no when I need to, by listening to what my body is telling me.

Secondly is just enjoying the moment, living  one day at a time. Doing things I love listening to music, reading a book, waatching the world go by listening to the sounds in my garden (Though this does not include the sounds of my neighbour’s arguing, or the many children screaming shouting or fighting)

On a football note West Ham won there last two games of the season and finished 10th COYI and Brighton managed to stay up by the skin of there teeth. Though I do not support The Seagulls myself good luck with finding a top manager for next season.

This week it’s my Birthday, I can’t believe I will be 57 on Friday and will resist the urge to eat baked beans that day. I think it is true what they say that when you have kids time speeds up as my daughters will be 25, 23 & 21 this year yet in my head I still think I’m 32, the year I got married to my wife, the year my eldest was born  and luckily I was a lapsed Catholic for obvious reasons. I’m guess what I’m trying to say is grab life as tight as you can and wring the life out of it and I consider myself very lucky that, that is what I have always tried to do.

Finally I just want to say I have finished reading  the latest 2 books, the first is called “Why are you pretending to be Normal” a book I’ve read before, but have found to be really helpful, it’s about living with disabilities and impairments, learning new ways of looking, thinking and talking about them, the stories techniques are from people who are already using them to live there lives

The second book is called “This is going to hurt” Secret diaries of a junior Doctor by Adam Kay. The book made me laugh so hard at times I had tears rolling down my cheeks, his sense of humour and compassion shines through but ultimately left me heartbroken.

everybody that has used, will use and does use our amazing NHS should read it and reccomend it.

Thank you for listening to my ramblings

Remember live, laugh, love but don’t, live, love, laugh or your partner may get annoyed with you.

Love you all, take care, Gary

Just for good luck  COYI.

 

 

Endgame

Spoiler alert ” there are no spoilers in this post”

After resting for 2.5 days, I went for a coffee at the Cafe in the Park in my nearset town. I got there around 2:30pm and sat outside the Cafe drinking a very nice coffee, the sun was shining and I started to read my book “East of Croydon”, I then put on my  headphones listening to The Stranglers greatest hits, every now again I would look up  from my book and there would be a squirrel rumaging for food or a robin sitting in a Branch singing. Perfection, best medicine in the world.

So 3 o’clock arrived and so did my smiling boss, unfortunately that was the moment the sun decided to go in. So we moved inside to the Cafes conservatory to drink our coffee and talk about my health, football and the forthcoming meeting with our  HR rep, about how and when my being released from my job on medical grounds will be decided. Now I am very sad about what is going to happen, as I love my job and the people I work with. There is no bad feeling on either side and I really hope my health is going to  allow me to volunteer in the office.

Endgame

To say I was excited about what I was to do next would be an understatement, I was about to tick off another item from my bucket list. A trip to the Cinema to see Avengers Infinity war : Endgame. Luckily it wasn’t  going to be a packed cinema due to it being an afternoon showing on a schoolday and I managed to get an aisle seat Row G. Everything was set perfectly, the advertisments finished, the trailers began, the anticipation was rising.

Then just as the film was about to start two late comers arrived, they started walking up the aisle. Now the seats are quite small and there isn’t much leg room, hence the need for the aisle seat,damn they were sitting in my row so I would have to get up, so before I was fully standing they pushed passed whilst muttering “sorry” as I dropped back into the seat.

The film stareted everyone went quiet then I heard tose words you dread in the Cinema “scuse me”, it had only been 10 minutes, again never quite got to my feet before he pushed past, back I dropped, then repeat sequence 5 minutes later whe he got back from the loo.

Relax , deep breath, back to watching the movie, 30 minutes later repeat the sequence but it was his mate this time, one of the things that I really had a problem with was the absolute stench of smoke and beer

Relax, deep breath get back towatching the movie again. 20 minutes pass and I start to her a really strange annoying  noise, after about 10 minutes I realised that guy nearest me had fallen asleep and was snoring, this went on for about an hour  when he suddenly woke up and stared to pee into his empty drinks bottle, I relised they were getting up again so as fast fast as I could( which is close to watching somebody move in slow motion) I tried to stand up and get out of the way, no chance they caught my left leg as they ran past, so I fell back over the arm of the seat, landed with my backside on the seat and my legs and stick still sticking over the arm and out into the aisle, before I had sorted myself out they’d legged it through the door and were gone never to return, carried out a quick pee check to make sure I hdn’t been splashed in  all the confusion. then……..

Relax, deep breath and an extra strong mint this time, then settled down to watch the rest of the film. Wow the film lived up to all my expectations and more, I would reccomend it to everyone whether you are a mavel fan or not.

So all in all another blooming good day.

In the words of  Police Seargant Phil Esterhauss from the tv show  Hill Street Blues

“Let’s be careful out there”

all the best, Gary

Ps When I said the sun went in when my boss arrived, I wasn’t inferring that she was the cause of it going in. I needed to may that clear. She’s a little ray of sunshine really 🙂

 

 

 

Bucket List

Okay, so in my last blog I said I was going to write down a new bucket list. I had actually started thinking about what I wanted to do, how big or small I wanted the actions to be, Whether I wanted it to be big things like “I want to run the London  Marathon” or something small like “I want to make a model airplane”.

Any way here goes.

My Bucket List.

  •  1.  Attend at least 5 West Ham home games next season.
  •  2.  Get out and about with my Camera at least twice a month.
  •  3.  Go on a UK weekend break this year.
  •  4.  Work. Find something I can do from home, something creative
  •  5. Go out for coffee with a friend at least once a month.
  •  6.  Get power  installed into my shed.
  •  7.  Write my blog at least once a week.
  •  8.  Do a creative writing course.
  •  9.  Read a book a month.
  •  10. learn to make the best Chilli oil & Chilli sauce  possible.

 

So here is the list that I came up with. I am not saying I have to do all these, but try to do some of them.

Take care

Gary

A Better day

Damn, what a difference a good nights sleep makes, and it’s been a while since I’Ve had one of them.

Pain levels are still high, but mentally feeling less stressed out and low, so today I’m just spending time chilling, I have things I need to do, but I’ve decided they can wait until tomorrow.

My youngest daughter has been promoted to supervisor where she works and has been taken on full-time as well, great news as she is saving up to go to University next year, to follow her dream of becoming an actress and writer.

Today my wife has gone up to Oxford to see our middle daughter who will soon be starting her preparations  to begin her year 3 nursing degree after a short period of ill-health.

My eldest daughter  is starting to look for a new job or got back into full-time education because where she works now will be closing down in October, She is also looking at doing a 3 month solo trip around europe which will be amazing for her.

Finally my wife is hoping to go to a wedding in Toronto, Canada in July, for the marriage of her oldest friends second daughter, which will be an emotional reunion.

For me, well I have decided to re-write my bucket list,  hopefully it will be good fun and also help me to come up with some good ideas on which direction I want my life to go in once work is finished.

Live…..Love…..Laugh, but not necessarily in that order.

Take care

Gary