Friday, 17 August 2018

You can't be against bullying without actually doing something about it.

The above title is from a quote by Randi Weingarten, an American activist.

The essence of it sits firmly and appropriately at the foot of many businesses and organisations, no more so than the NHS.

I say it sits firmly at the base of our beloved health service because they do absolutely nothing about it.

In fact, I have had it said to my face that 'we don't have an issue with bullying here'.

Right.

Tell that to the more than 100 NHS employees who have contacted me from one organisation alone, telling me the stories of bullying in this particular NHS trust in the north of England.

I have more than 30 from another in the North East NHS hospital and have been contacted by more than 10 from one in the Newcastle/Tyneside area.

So, what does this tell you?

It tells you that either they are ignorant about it and actually, honestly believe that bullying doesn't take place in their organisation, or they know and do nothing about it.

I happen to know it is the latter in one particular case, as I was told that they know about bullying but because the individuals hadn't wanted to take it down a formal route, they did nothing.

Nothing.

They knew it was happening but did nothing.

If that makes you feel a little sick or angry, it should.

And before anyone decides to ask why am I attacking, yet again, our wonderful NHS, I will say it is wonderful. It performs procedures that are tantamount to miracles, has some of the most amazing and inspired nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, domestics, estates departments and pathology technicians known to man (I could go on, but you get the gist. There are lots of amazing people there).

But it is undeniable that the NHS also has, in its employee, some of the worst examples of humanity possible.

One case in point.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6066943/NHS-nurse-30-hanged-bullied-work.html

Rhian Collins hanged herself recently after reportedly being sworn at, bullied and given the worst shifts by colleagues at a mental health hospital.

So, let's break that down for a moment and discuss the elephant in the room.

Shifts - so many suck when you are a nurse on a ward, for no other reason than there are not enough of you.

"Oh, yes there are!" a CEO shouts in a repeat of the rhetoric they spout every, single when claiming the wards have enough staff.

Well, you would say that as you have absolutely no medical experience whatsoever and are sat in a large office with your head so far up your arse you can taste your own breakfast. It is what they all say.

"Well, you have 62 staff nurses on the roster."

"We do, but 36 of them are off on the sick and 4 are on maternity leave, not to mention the 14 on holiday, so we actually have 8 nurses who can actually work... on a 36 bedded ward... to cover 7 days a week, 24 hours a day... and need days off in between shifts.

I know I have exaggerated the figures there, but the point stands and is exactly how most hospitals consider the off duty.

"I'll tell you what, why don't you just borrow the non-clinical staff from somewhere else, like IPC or Practice Development or Research?"

"Well, we could but that doesn't solve the problem and whilst they are here, who is doing their jobs?"

And on it goes.

Every nurse will have a variation on a theme of the same story.

So, basically, shifts can either be terrible or nice, depending on those statistical variables that you can never account for.

But, moving that aside, let's look at the bullying aspect.

The reports state that Rhian, a mother of two children, was treated so badly that she began to struggle with the stress of her job. She was reported as appearing rundown on the month before her tragic death, with her statements of wishing to 'walk into the sea' dismissed as throwaway comments.

That, right there, is a vital point and something that so many campaigns nowadays are trying to get society to address - no one should dismiss a suggestion of suicide.

Now, there is an argument that someone who goes around saying they will kill themselves is unlikely to do it, as it is only a cry for help.

Someone deadly serious about wishing to end their life will just go and do it without much, if any, foreshadowing.

I didn't tell anyone. Kelly just kind of... suspected that I was going to do something.

But, and I firmly believe this is so very important, it should never, ever be dismissed out of hand if someone threatens it, because, even if it is a cry for help (and often it may well be), it doesn't mean that someone isn't serious.

Rhian Collins had two children who I know will have been her entire world and a fiance she loved; I had, at the time, two children and a wife who is, was and will always be my world, but I had no qualms about leaving them for good on 26th December 2016.

So, what could have made Rhian feel that nothing in life held any meaning or purpose any longer; made her feel her children and fiance weren't enough to keep her here? What kind of individuals could have made her feel that she was so worthless and had so little to offer that she would want to leave behind all those who adored her?

What kind of organisation allows such individuals to continue working without sanction or punishment?

In a court of law, if you are found guilty of having played a part in killing someone, you are guilty of manslaughter.

In the NHS, if you cause someone to take their own life, you appear to get a promotion and definitely get to keep your job, even after it has been proven you are an out and out bully who has caused untold torment to others.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/doctor-bullied-by-colleagues-killed-himself-7382v6ztd

Carl McQueen was found hanged in his grandfather's home on 12th February 2016 after being bullied by fellow paramedics, who would tease him about his medical student status, leaving chicken wing bones in his mug, leave signs next to his name saying 'child at work' and telling him he was shit at his job.

Yes, an investigation had begun concerning the death of a patient in his care, but that was an incident that had occurred months prior and had only just been decided to be treated as a serious untoward incident. Because, in so many cases, the employees in the NHS do not follow their own policies and procedures, otherwise why would it take a month and a half to decide that a patient's death actually warrant investigation?

His line manager stated that he hated to make a distinction between bullying and banter and that he didn't feel it was directed towards Carl.

"Where you struggle, there's support; where there's normal running you scrawl obscenities on the bottom of each other's mugs. That's the nature."

WTAF!

I was big on banter and had some of it thrown back at me once upon a time (I said to a friend once when I saw her that, because her hair was dishevelled, had she come in on a motorbike without a helmet? This individual was my friend, remains my friend and stood by me throughout many circumstances; the individual who used it against me was actually just someone in the background, not the recipient and it was twisted so that I was being 'abusive') but nothing like obscenities or insults.

As for Carl, the trust said they accept the findings of the inquest, and admitted they didn't follow policy and opportunities were missed.

I'm certain that went a long way to helping Carl's family and wife move on because, you know, they didn't think it was an issue whilst he reported bullying whilst alive, but once dead, then you can look back with hindsight and go, ooops. Our bad. We should have perhaps followed the policies that were there in the first place to protect staff.

Except they don't, not only because they are often not followed, but because they are not fit for purpose and haven't moved with the times.

Every hospital/medical facility etc has an Occupational Health department or liaison for physical ailments and/or injuries. Why is there no immediate contact for mental health issues, staff suffering from stress, anxiety...

Yes, you can be referred to a therapist which takes weeks if not months, but why is there no one on. call, 24 hours a day to be there for those who need someone to talk to?

Instead of wasting money, which the NHS does on a regular basis with failed I.T experiments, prospected electronic notes that only end up being used in one particular place, huge bonuses for chief executives (factoid, dear readers; chief executives get paid more than both the Prime Minister and the President of the United States of America. I know they are responsible for the actions of their subordinates and may go to jail if held accountable; like that has ever happened; but seriously, one of those individuals has control over the world's nuclear arsenal, but the chief executive of a hospital gets paid more).

Is the word obscene? You can decide the correct and appropriate designation.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2987218/NHS-bureaucrats-140-000-20-bosses-award-higher-salary-PM.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/12077917/NHS-hospital-bosses-given-pay-rises-worth-more-than-a-nurses-annual-salary.html

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/londons-fat-cat-hospital-bosses-revealed-60-nhs-chiefs-earn-more-than-the-prime-minister-a2918566.html


We need to address the issue of individuals being paid more than they deserve and the nurses and medical staff being paid next to nothing, alongside the fact that money needs to be funnelled into mental health support for the staff (and maybe even some executives) to prevent staff from suffering.

But aside this necessary service, something needs to be done, right now, about the issue of bullying.

The above are just a few who have lost their lives due to the culture of bullying in the NHS. In essence, by ignoring such behaviour, certain individuals in those trusts may as well have tied a knot themselves.

Make no mistake, bullies are responsible for those wonderful individuals losing their lives.

Taking their lives.

Because a person or people made them feel so worthless that they felt there was no other option but to leave behind those who loved them.

And what of the bullies? I mentioned earlier that often nothing is done.

I can attest to the fact nothing is done. They are supported, protected and even encouraged to continue with their behaviour.

It is believed by those in positions of power that such behaviour demonstrates strength, that they are able to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to make a difference.

The irony, the sad irony, is that the inappropriate behaviour is all their own and that they are cowards who take pleasure in making others miserable, with no consequences whatsoever.

When will Janet Davies (RCN), Simon Stevens (NHS Choices), David Behan (CCG), Sue Killen (NMC), Matt Hancock (Minister for Health) stand up and acknowledge that this insidious culture of bullying is ever present in the NHS and needs to be addressed? The acknowledgement that it exists is the first important step in addressing the issue.

It is the worst kept secret in the health service. Everyone knows it goes on, but no one wants to mention it.

People are dying, just as though they have been infected with a fatal illness. And perhaps they have. Words have a way of permeating through your skin, working their way into your soul and corrupting your being, your character, your personality and your survival instict.

It's impossible to hypnotise someone to death as our survival instinct is too strong, yet we can convince someone to take their own life using words whilst the person is very much awake and aware.

And no one seems to care.

So we will continue to highlight the issue so that they do care.

I will continue to highlight the issue until someone shows they care and wish to do something to change it.

It only takes one organisation to acknowledge the issue and others will follow, as sure as the sun follows the moon.

A great individual once said, 'The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.'


Let's become the majority.

Monday, 16 July 2018

“When people are two-faced, the only thing you’ll know for sure is that you can’t trust either of them.”


I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about me.

Well, not about 'me' per se (yes, I spend my days looking for people who will talk to me about myself), but about the other guy.

That's what I call my personality pre-mental health realisations - the other guy.

Now, the other guy was still, I like to think, a generally okay bloke. After all, he is the version most people knew, the one Kelly married and the one who has been fortunate enough to maintain the same friends - the ones who didn't give up on me.

So, he can't have been all that bad, but he did have the potential to be a dick. 

He was dick-ish. Had dick-like moments. Could be a knob. 

You get the gist.

Now, I only just started to understand this other guy and try to make sense of his behaviours. It is still a work in progress because, as anyone reading this (all three of you) who has a history of mental health difficulties or a rudimentary understanding, you never know it all and, most likely, never will. 

But you continue to try because that is all part and parcel of moving forward. 

Now, I was told during this conversation that people I used to know, and thought were friends (which is still humiliating to this day; that I was so fooled by their claims of friendship) will often say, "remember when David did this" and "remember when David made so-and-so upset".

Now, before I get to owning my own mistakes (and the first thing I learnt on this long journey, is that you must own that shit. You don't make excuses - you own it), it is interesting to note that these individuals say such things as though they are whiter than white and would fall in shit and come up smelling of roses. 

They conveniently forget all the times they upset people, made other people cry, made other people not want to see them again, kicked drawers, tutted and made someone cry, swore and claimed they weren't going to go on a night out with those 'fuckin' two-faced bitches'. They forget that I fought for people to be accepted when no one else wanted them because they weren't a nurse or because no one else would stick up for them or because they didn't want a confrontation. 

I have always believed in these things, wherever I am and whatever I do.

But people have short memories and they revise their own history to suit their version of the facts; to support their decisions so that in the dark of the night, they try not to feel guilty for what they’ve done. 

They claim to have tried to help you and your struggles with your mental health by saying "Well, I did tell him he should calm down" and "I did say he should sort himself out"... the worst thing you can say to someone who is suffering, by the way!

But, to them, they will convince themselves that they did understand and did try to help and therefore, anything you did subsequently was all on you because they did their 'friend' bit.

Now, I mentioned earlier about owning my mistakes. I firmly believe you have to. No excusing your behaviour because you suffer from anxiety or depression - you still have control over your behaviour. I believe, certainly, in my case, you chose to behave in a particular way because it makes your life easier.

For me, and I can only speak for myself, it was all about control. Selfish control. Not out of malice, but because you know your anxiety is triggered by elements out of your control so, therefore, you have to try and control everything in order to not feel anxious.

Contradictory, eh?


Unfamiliarity and change triggered my anxiety (I only recently learnt to identify this - one of the first things in understanding yourself and trying to be a better person) so I had to try and control as much as I could to make my life easier.

My life.

Because mental health problems can be extremely selfish. It is all about you.

Now, this form of control wasn't anything terrible or horrific, but it would still make people occasionally feel uncomfortable because you might get agitated when things begin to spiral away or become glib as a method of coping.

In essence, I would be a dick. Only occasionally, but a dick.

At home and at work. 

Not all the time, but it was omnipresent and something that made, as Kelly told me once, people walk on eggshells.

What a horrible realisation to have. That you made people feel that way, worried that the slightest thing might make you upset and irritable.

You behaved a certain way because you were poorly, though you wouldn’t accept it because that would mean you were weak and pathetic.

How wrong I was. How much time I wasted.

But there is always time to make amends.

I look back at so many things and feel so bad. No one died or suffered permanent harm; indeed, the opposite. The way I was treated by others caused me permanent harm.

But I feel guilty and accept that was how I made people occasionally feel - colleagues, Kelly, my children... It is terrible and sobering to realise this, but important that you do.

Important that I did.

Every day, all with the temporary crutch of medication, mindfulness, therapy and self-awareness, I live my life, trying to make amends for how I would have made people feel.

Make it up to my wife, my kids, my family.

I haven't mentioned friends for the simple reason that aside from a few individuals who were always part of my life, only one person from my former life really ever tried to understand and stayed by my side.

And this is where the embarrassment comes in. 

I spend a decade thinking I had friends when actually they didn't like me whatsoever. I know this because I read it somewhere on occasion (can't remember where) and these individuals spent a great deal of time telling me what a horrible person I was.

None of it was true, of course. That was the problem.

No one mentioned my dick-ish moments in life - instead, they made stuff up.
I wouldn't have minded the truth but when people feel they have to resort to making stuff up but realise that you have been a complete fool.

You spent so much time caring about and respecting these people, and yet they had you fooled the entire time.

All credit to them. They deserve a round of applause for their acting skills as I like to think I'm not easily fooled but fool me they did.

All the laughs, all the good times I have in my memory... none of them were genuine, all of them were fake.

I suppose that says more about them than it does about me.

Kelly experienced a similar situation recently. People tell lies to further their own, personal agenda but they think it will ingratiate them into some's books - someone who has the power to make their work life better. 

She had individuals who laughed with her, cared about her and cried to her, only for them to turn around and stab her in the back because it gave them a political, work-related advantage.

I guess how they sleep at night is their concern. I just despise them for what they did to her.

Karma is a bitch.

So, back to the other guy.

I hate him. Absolutely despise him.

He is locked somewhere far away in the deepest recess of my mind.

He rattles his sabre for his own ends occasionally, asking to be out so that he can deal with a situation.

"Let me deal with it," he'll say. "You'll pussy out and do the 'right' thing. Let me have a crack... they'll remember it if I deal with it."

But let him out I have no intention of. Ever again if I can help it.

I owe him a lot - he kept me safe, protected me and taught me to deal with bullies (only the physical kind and my Dad; the others I encountered later in life... well, he was fucking useless at dealing with them. What a bell end!). He spoke to me quietly and convinced me to keep people at arm's length because they would only hurt me. Deflect their attention with sarcasm and they'll get bored trying to get to know you.

He didn't tell me I would always feel alone, even in a room full of people and that I would nearly lose my family and my life because of him (did I say he was a bell end?).

He told me all of this, and I believed him. Until the day came that I didn't.

And him being locked away is the best thing I could have ever done.

Rule of attraction - everything happens for a reason and if you feel positive, good things will happen.

Not magic - just the power of belief.

The previous episode of my life that led here is, with the benefit of hindsight, the best thing that could have ever happened to me. 

Despite new job opportunities, writing, publishing and being able to work alongside my beautiful wife, I learnt who my true friends were.

I learnt that a few, a special few, will stick with you through it all and never expect anything in return. They will try to understand you and not speak ill of you. They will be honest with you and never lie. They will show you that there is still a reason for trying to become the person you wish to be.

The better version of yourself. The version you want your wife to know, your kids to see and the world to recognise.

They may not wish to socialise with you or even speak to you often, but the one thing they will do is show you that everything happens for a reason.

They will show you that you can always make amends.

After all, that's what friends are for.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Moving Forward - the Law of Attraction



"If you build it, he will come."

Famous, and oft misquoted, line from the classic 'Field of Dreams'.

And that is what I going to mention today. Not that actual line, but the meaning behind it.

How does any of this relate to bullying I hear you cry... all three of you who follow my blog!

Well, I'll tell ya. 

Law of Attraction.

Never heard of it? 

Heard of it and think it's a load of bobbins?

I fell into the latter. All part of my negative view of all of life until I accepted I was suffering from a mental health problem. And again, I will say compared to many, many, so many people, my problems are minor. I absolutely acknowledge that.

But, it is relative and it being remiss of me to discuss others individual’s issues, I can only relate to my own.

So, once again, you say "What does this have to do with bullying, what you blogged about and what you are doing about it?"

Well, it has to do with you get what you give and deserve.

More technically, the law of attraction is a simple principle that works on the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. 


Jump off the sofa, you'll fall. Water your plants, they'll grow.


You don't have to believe in gravity; whether you believe in it or not, you will still fall off your sofa if you jump. Your belief will only allow you to predict what will happen. 


Look at this another way. Your relationship breaks up; wife, girlfriend, boyfriend - and you are sad, devastated, melancholy. Suddenly, everywhere you seem to go, you hear sad songs on the radio, notice sad films on television and think it is a global conspiracy.


But those songs were always playing, and those films were always on. They haven't just done it to mess with you. Your mind just wasn't attuned to noticing them because, mentally and spiritually, you weren't in a place where they would affect you emotionally. 


Like attracts like. Like migrates towards like.


This is true in life - in my humble opinion - and is true with bullying and those who bully.


Someone I once worked with had a long period of time off due to mental health problems. I visited them on a few occasions and would regular message or call them to make certain they were okay, see if they needed anything, but it was heart-breaking to see someone who had been your mentor and who you had worked with for so long in so much pain. 


I didn't know enough then on how to deal with it, as I was trying to understand my own car crash of a brain, but I did my best and just wanted them to know that people did care for them and just wanted them to know they were loved and missed.

My manager at the time would go to see them, making everyone think they were doing it because they cared. 

I like to believe they did.

However, when that person returned to work, my manager was not happy at all.

My colleague had come back on the standard reduced hours as instructed by Occupation Health, various mechanisms in place, technical and emotional, to try and make their reintegration as painless as possible.

All this time, my manager had a plan to line-manage this person out of my place of work.

The conscientious was that they were useless, wouldn't be able to pull through and provide a useful contribution to the workplace, mean and unsupportive thoughts from someone who purported to be supportive of mental health. Other individuals had their say too, believing I was devoting too much time helping them, but it was the right thing to do. Humanity is humanity. You do things because they are the right thing to do, not because you should or have too.

I argue that it was wrong and, given time and support, they would prove not only were they as great as they had been at their job, they would be better. Having a plan to line manage someone out of their job was underhand and deceitful.

They agreed and, as far as I know, this person has gone on to be not only the person they were but better.

I found out later and throughout the course of my suspension that pretty much no one likes this former manager. I mean, really don't like. The amount of staff, current and former who contacted me to say "Why weren't you surprised so-and-so did this to you? They are renowned for it."

Moving forward in time, the main antagonist and instigator of my whole situation were known as 'the miserable xxxxx' on many of the wards (I only found this out much later).

But do you know how that made me feel? Sad.

Sad because you reap what you sow. You behave a certain way and a reputation is created for you, one that sticks. And that goes full circle back to the problem of bullying in the NHS.

I always try to be honest about my failings. Christ, I have made so many mistakes in my 43 years (baby/toddler ones notwithstanding!) that I wouldn't know where to start.

I used to be accused of being manipulative in certain situations. But manipulative is a word used by those who are ignorant of mental health situations. 

Now, don't misunderstand me. there exists in the world, many people who have this trait on purpose for nefarious means. 

Mariana Fotaki (2018) said that narcissism is increasingly being observed among management and political elites and that productive narcissists are often dangerous as they are divorced from the consequences of their judgements and actions, striving at any cost to avoid their own painful realisations of failure that could tarnish their own image (Narcissistic elites are undermining the institutions created to promote public interest. British Politics and Policy)

But, as I discussed in a previous piece, people who suffer from anxiety sometimes can come across as manipulative, not because they want power, but because, in order to alleviate their own anxieties, they need to try and control the world around them to limit as many vectors as possible that could trigger their fears.

Selfish? 

Absolutely. It is selfish. Mental health issues often are, because you are only concerned about you. The sad side effect is, whilst you are busy trying to control everything to make you less anxious, your behaviours that do so are making other people anxious.

Ironic, eh?

The trick and the thing I found so difficult at first is to appreciate this is what you are doing. Not intentionally, but tacitly you are having a negative impact on those around you as you try to make your little world safe and free of fears.

Admitting you are selfish is so hard to do, but it is a first step in facing your problems. 

And this comes back to the law of attraction.

When I decided I wanted to become a writer, I make a promise to myself that I would not fail. No matter how long it took, I would be a published author.

65 literary agent rejections later, I succeeded.

If you believe something and get in tune with it, it starts to happen for you.

You don't have to understand how it works, any more than you have to understand how gravity works, you just have to appreciate that it does.

In psychology, it is called your locus of control. Calling it the law of attraction doesn't make it magically, just less technical.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a perfect example. From Austria, thick accent and skinny, he said he wanted to become a bodybuilder, win Mr Universe and become an actor.

Everyone scoffed and said, "With a name like that that you can't pronounce, no one is going to see your films.' 'You're too skinny, you'll never win Mr Universe.'

We all know the rest. Why did he do it? Because he was determined to do so.

Believe you can do a thing and opportunities will open up for you because you are striving for them and wish them to.

It isn't magic if I say to myself I want to get ripped then I will make certain I do. So, I go to the gym, eat healthily, train hard with the correct exercises and, hey presto, I'm ripped! (I'm not. Fatter, bulkier - not ripped but you get my drift!).

Kelly and I inherited an amazing publishing house from the amazing Murielle Maupoint, alongside all the talented authors who came with it. We will make it a success, for them and for us, because we believe it. It is already getting there and has a ways to go, but we are determined to make it work for everyone. 

I know it will happen... one day.

Sitting at home, dreaming won't do it, you have to decide to attain it. And once you have made that decision, you can if you stay the course.

Magic not included.

It's the same with bullies. Bullying attracts bullying because they see likeminded individuals with the same sensibility.

When we’re dealing with adult bullying situations, and this has always been my thoughts on the circumstances of my situation, the bully almost always suffers from some sort of feeling of inadequacy and they’re afraid that their shortcomings are going to be “found out”. 

The person being bullied is usually someone very competent and capable, but who inwardly may question their abilities or who is desperately afraid of losing their job for whatever reason.
These energies then align to form a situation where the bully feels threatened by this very capable person who could make her look bad, so the bully flips into attack mode to try and make herself feel better by making the other person feel worse. The focal point of their angst, who is already giving out the energy of worry or fear, finds themselves in yet another situation where they are forced to feel those feelings even more.

Before I even acknowledged my issues, I have previously mentioned I had quite a nihilistic outlook on life. No reflection on my ability to do my job - I adored my job, ward-based, otherwise and beyond and particularly adored my previous post. No, this outlook on life, in my humble opinion, made my ultimate antagonist feel secure because it kind of reflected her own attitude to things.
If a situation is to change, the individual has to shift the vibration they’re in before the outside circumstances can shift. And since the bully generally has less incentive and less insight into this problem, it’s almost always others that are left to do the energy work and make the changes. But that’s OK – because the one who understands how this stuff works and puts it to use will be able to use it to their benefit in every other aspect of their life, too.

And that is what I am trying, every day, to do. Understand my own mental health, be a better person, a better friend, husband and father, use my experience of my failings and my experiences to help others, to show that everything can and will be okay if you only believe it will be and strive for it. 

Is it easy? Hell, no. and no doubt this piece will have its fair share of detractors. But that is okay too. 

I have been honest about the things I did wrong at work. I deserved to be told off, remonstrated with, sanctioned, whatever word you wish to use. 

But being dismissed because I challenged a bully and raised concerns about bullying in my place of employment - that wasn't the right way to handle it.

Anyone who decides that the best way to deal with the truth is to try and stop it being told, speaks volumes about those trying to cover it up.

Anyone who thinks that karma isn't a bitch is deluding themselves.

The bill always comes due. Always.

Three things cannot remain hidden forever - the sun, the moon and the truth.

So, make your decision on what you want. I wanted to ensure my voice was heard so others could be encouraged to come forward and share their experiences.

They have.

Make certain you strive for it without hurting others. I hurt my wife and children before I accepted I had a problem with my mental health. I was a pain to work with (often I imagine!) because I refused to accept I had a problem with my mental health (remember that anxiety controlling thing I mentioned earlier?). But like a radio station, I had two competing signals coming in and chose to tune the other one out.

It's difficult to free yourself from doubt and fear and you will try an combat it, but be resolute on what you want, for yourself and others.

And this is where opening up to the possibilities comes in, as you can only do that if you accept your fears and doubts. Remember back to negative things that happened in your life and try and see patterns that led to those things. On the flip side, think of the great things in your life and hope you dreamed, hoped and aspired for them and they came into your life.

It's not being boastful. It's acknowledging that positive thinking makes you do positive things that lead to more positive things and so on and so forth.

Then, finally, experience the reality of your desires and by that, I mean, let go of inhibitions and live what you want as much as possible. Get in your car and say out loud, "I will find that perfect parking spot today, just right for me!"

You will somewhere great to park.

If you wish to lose weight, buy clothes that are the size you wish to be, and you can find a focal point for your desires to lose weight.

Align life with your desires. Be nice and people will be nice in return.

Smile and people smile back, right? Same principle on a small scale.

It won't happen overnight (it took me five years to finish Hellbound!). We all have our own hurdles to overcome, and fear and doubt will start to creep back in but go back to the beginning and look at why and start again. Make it your mantra until it becomes a reality.

It's difficult to get into that mindset, and I wouldn't wish my experiences on anyone for them to get to this place. 

All I can offer is my gratitude, forever, to everyone who has stood by me all this time. I can never truly express what you mean to mean... you know who you are.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out so far and shared their painful stories, whether trust board members, nurses, domestics, porters, healthcare assistants, physiotherapists, radiologists and so many more - I will make you proud and your honesty worthwhile.

I will spend every day making your belief and support for me worth your effort.

I promise.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Prevalent, ignored and therefore, condoned - Bullying and the NHS Afterword

I was reflecting on a few things over this past week.

I have received so much support, kind words and belief in what I am trying to do, it is quite overwhelming. But, more importantly, I have had shared with me so many stories and experiences of bullying in the NHS; others institutions to be sure, but mostly the NHS.

To those who have already come forward and those who are yet to do so, thank you. Truly, thank you.

However, the reason for this piece is related to something I heard numerous times yesterday and relates more to my advocacy of mental health.

I heard, once again, the only example that has ever been mentioned about my behaviour throughout the entirety of my suspension and beyond. No evidence has ever been presented, no notes were ever made, no one else was ever aware and its retelling was infused with creative storytelling.

However, it reinforced something I have long believed and now feel even more strongly for.

So few, if anyone, in the NHS, particularly in my experience, understands mental health.

As an adult and child of the world, you are brought up to be responsible for your own behaviour. That is without question. If you speak a certain way, behave a certain way, do certain things... you have to be accountable and responsible.

That is something I have always tried to live by and try to instil in my children. Making mistakes is one thing; owning up to them is another and something that we must all be prepared and comfortable to do.

However, and this is where the 'not understanding' mental health aspect comes into play, the fact is that many people who suffer from anxiety, depression or a variation and combination thereof, display certain behaviours because of their mental health.

Using myself as an example as I cannot speak for others, for more than twenty years, I had built up a suit of armour for want of a better word, to protect myself. Though my experiences growing up with my father, bullying at school etc, are in no way comparable or even anywhere some of the horrors some children suffer on a daily basis, it is all relative.

This 'suit' was designed by me and honed over years to stop me from ever feeling hurt again - both physically and mentally. Moreso the latter.

This is all well and good, choosing not to feel as opposed to not feeling, seemed an easier path for me to take. I could still, in those dark moments at night when there is only you and your thoughts, tap into those feelings of love, loss, guilt, longing, but they were compartmentalised enough that they wouldn't interfere with the day-to-day running of my brain.

However, such insulation from emotions comes with a price. My mind steadily began to feel like a lump of clay; solid and immovable. I always felt tense and wound up to the point of unravelling. My therapist used to say "imagine a jug of water. You should wake up with it empty and experiences throughout your day fill it slowly. It would take a great event to cause it to overflow and spill over the top. You wake up with a jug already full, so it only takes someone to slightly to it up before it spills over the side and all Hell breaks loose in your head."

Now when I wake up, my jug is pretty much empty. A few dregs in the bottom perhaps, but mostly, nada, zilch, zero liquid in my mental jug.

But back to that price when you create a suit of armour. Mental health and, in particular, anxiety, is all based on control. You need to control as much as you can in your little world so you don't become anxious. And therein lies the rub as Shakespeare would have said.

These controlling behaviours - manipulative if you wish - do not come from anywhere evil, or hateful, or negative - they come from somewhere where you are trying to keep yourself alive and mentally stable in a world that affords little in that department. You need things to remain as within your circle of influence as possible, otherwise, you will become anxious, and all emotions associated with it.

If it sounds selfish, it 100% is! You want things to be your way, as they make you feel less anxious and thereby, better. However, and this is the terrible part, you are not consciously aware of the effects that has on other people.

To be honest, in that place, you are not bothered. Again, not because you don't care, but because you have chosen not to care. This is certainly where my place of employment struggle to understand mental health, something made evident yesterday.

Of course, when you are seeking help, have realised you need help (as we know, the hardest part of all), are medicated... whatever path you have chosen (and there is no wrong one; whatever works for you), you have a huge readjustment period where everything old is new again.

I had all these emotions I had locked away for years, slowly manifesting themselves. And I had no idea what to do with them!

I was accused of behaving erratically. Well, I probably was! But is that something you should be punished for when others are aware you are struggling? Should we not offer those individuals support?

I wasn't offered anything of the sort. After the initial intervention which I mentioned in a previous piece, I was simply thrown under the bus as no one understood, wanted to understand, could be bothered to understand and so on and so forth.

Should I still have been considered not suitable for my current position? Perhaps. Not my banding, but my role. I made no secret that I struggled with it and perhaps it wasn't for me. Leading people? I bearly understood myself, so how could I be expected to understand others. But when everyone one around you is telling you what a good job you are doing, you have made such a difference, you are the best person for the job, you begin to take their word for it. It provides you with a false reassurance that you are doing okay. I would have had more respect if someone had pulled me aside and said I wasn't, perhaps, the right choice for the job. That would have been professional.

You have worked with most of these people for ten years; they all know you inside and out in some cases, but no one, when it is claimed you behaved 'erratically' offered you help or support. they just concocted false accusations and lied about you in order to make themselves feel better.

In addition, people cut side deals to make statements with the assurance I would never get to see them.

That's right.

I was dismissed based on statements that I have never seen because individuals said they would only give them if I never saw them.

Makes you wonder what they said that they didn't want me to see.

Makes you wonder what they were thinking or what kind of a representative of humanity they wish to present themselves as?

That is known to them and them alone.

In the end, they did what they did to control their own anxieties, guilt and potential failures as a manager, as a friend, as colleagues... as a human being.

And everything comes full circle.

I heard yesterday only ignorance from two individuals. And the sad thing is, they don't even know they are ignorant.

I was ignorant once about mental health. I fought for twenty years against the acceptance. Someone who I respected and cared about so much as a friend and who threw me under the bus in 2016, saved my life by showing me the way.

I am learning to be a better person. I want to be because I want to help others. I can do better and apply what I have learnt and experienced in other circumstances and arenas and, maybe, be some help to someone else.

Those who stood by me saw me. The others needed to look with better eyes. Because if what they think they saw is all they saw, then they didn't see me.

They couldn't see me.