Wednesday, 24 April 2019

'I have sadness in me. I have anger in me. I have heartbreak in me.' Ellen Degeneres

At my appointment a few weeks ago, I was asked if I could describe what being happy felt like.

I told the CPN I couldn’t, as I didn’t actually know.

I explained that Turtle, Gruffy, Jakey, Coley and Obi were a definition of happiness, but that I couldn’t say how I was made to feel about being with them, only that it felt right. I feel love, profound, deep, soul resonating love for Kelly; she is my sun, moon and stars and until the day I die, there is nowhere I wish to be other than beside and with her. Kelly makes me a better man, simply by default. My beautiful boys make me proud every, single day and are my legacy of something I will have done right in my life. I try to give them the attention, support, guidance, and love that I never had from my father.  

So, my family around me, feels that it is the way life should be, but does it stir anything in me emotionally? 

That, I know, should make me feel sad, but it makes me feel nothing other than correctness. Maybe that is what happiness is? After all, who’s to say what it is or is not – everyone would define it differently, so maybe my impression of content is happiness for me. I know there is nowhere else I would rather be, ever, so perhaps that is enough. But my most recent appointment made me think a lot about my mental health, what may or may not have led me to the place I now find myself and about the profound impact my experience in the hospital had on me.

I still spend hours ruminating over what happened and how the people I thought were friends and cared about me could do what they did. From buying me little Star Wars gifts for my birthday, because they knew me so well, to thanking me for checking in on them when they were ill or having surgery, to sharing baby items between us for our respective partners and daughters, to having personal details shared with me by my manager on a weekend shift because she trusted me enough to be so honest… to being so proud and humbled that I was a small part of the bigger picture that they presented to the organisation… I felt correctness then, too. Not in a sense it was bigger than my sense for my family, but that it was the one, other thing in my life that felt as it should… it felt right.

Kelly knew this, as she felt similarly about her place of work. Kelly was and is a fantastic nurse. I know I would say that, but honestly I never heard a bad word about her even before we met and never have I met someone so diligent at their job and attentive to detail. Yet, she got the shaft to by the same organisation. Same dance, different tune. Colleagues she genuinely thought were friends told lies, just because they were offended that she would go into work when feeling unwell, and they would not. Kelly would never judge nor comment; like me, she has a solid work ethic, and you go into work unless you are physically unable or have the dreaded sickness and diarrhoea! But you never consider that someone else has not with the same symptoms. You just get on with it and think nothing else about it.

But those people; Kelly’s colleagues and mine, take umbrage at this fact, because, to them, you are making them look bad. You aren’t doing it deliberately, nor does it even factor as an issue to you. But, to them, because you carry on and they decide they don’t feel up to it, they believe that you are showing them up.

Prime example – following several staff leaving the team to join pastures new, we were left short. Four nurses, and me, with a newly introduced 7-day service. Now, as mentioned in a previous blog piece (I see Bullied People; They Don’t Know They’re Being Bullied Part 2), one team member was made exempt to altering their hours and working as part of the 7-day service, much to the chagrin of other colleagues. One, in particular, made sure everyone knew how upset and annoyed she was about it. Of course, when it came time to remove me from my post, it was me who had complained and them who were the voice of reason when I was ‘kicking off’ as they put it.
But, I digress. So, short staffed and still have a seven-day service to cover. All staff asked during a meeting; no one volunteers. Don’t blame them. Who wishes to work more hours for minimal reward? It had gone from working one weekend day every eight/nine weeks to suggesting they work a day every two weeks.

Being the lead nurse, I offered to do it on-call, as I didn’t mind taking calls while at home on the weekend. To be fair, I rarely actually received any. But, someone had to do it. I would have never forced anyone and felt it was my responsibility to make sure it continued.
One of my colleagues didn’t like that (the same one who started the whole sorry mess). She frequently told me that I was making them all look bad and why did I have to offer to do it? What was I supposed to do? The old double-edged sword scenario. 

Do it; a friend and colleague are offended. Don’t do it and I look like someone who doesn’t care about his job. 

But then, them not wishing to do it doesn’t mean they don’t care either; they were amongst some of the best nurses I had ever had the pleasure to know and work with, and they had a valid point that the organisation had no contingency for such a situation.

So, just like in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, I was in a Kobayashi Maru situation – the no-win scenario. 
Needless to say, my actions were twisted slightly by my manager and others who would say I always made out I was better than them.

But, despite that and everything else (and of course, my colleagues who stood by me are not a part of this musing, aside from the fact that they stood by me!), I still miss being with them and having them in my life. Losing them in the manner I did left a hole in me that I have never been able to fill.
This is separate to Kelly, the boys, my Mum, Alan, my Auntie Angela and Uncle Michael, my family… work was such a part of my life; nursing and infection control was such a part of my life as they are for so many (well, the nursing part; most nurses roll their eyes at the mention of IPC!) that, when it was gone, I didn’t know how to fill it.
I still feel humiliated that I didn’t realise how much dislike they ultimately had for me. I still want to slice away at parts of my body so that I look as disfigured on the outside as I feel on the inside. I still consider walking until my hat floats and feel shame that I could even consider leaving my beautiful Turtle and boys.

And it is all because of bullying.

have always acknowledged the part my former manager played in helping me when I first realised I was unwell. She saved me in so many ways. Kelly loved me, cared for me, guided me and caressed my soul at the beginning and every day since, but my boss got me to accept something I refused to see. That I had a problem.

The loss and lies of those people still hurts as much as it did on 16th December 2016. I cannot imagine it ever going, though time does accommodate. Still, I lost my brother last year, and in some ways, that whole experience hurt more. Maybe because John didn’t have a choice in what happened; it was just one of those things. They had a choice and chose the path they did. Kelly’s colleagues did the same. They later recanted their lies, and the whole issue was dropped, but the damage had been done to my beautiful Turtle and now the very thought of bumping into someone from work or even going back makes her have terrible anxiety attacks, and she becomes upset. 

No one asks about her. No one bothers. No matron who was in charge of that area, no manager, no former friend. 

None of them knows about Cole. Not her former colleagues and not the majority of mine. To them, he doesn’t exist.

Yet we so wished we could have shared his being in the world with them.

That is perhaps the saddest part of all. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

I see bullied people... they don't know they're being bullied. Part Two

The first part in this short series was my sharing the story of an individual called 'Diane' who I once worked with and who ended up socialising, not only with the individuals who were responsible for my termination from nursing, but who also made a point of bullying her behind her back. The sad truth is that she never suspected or knew. I could never tell her, as it would have seemed like sour grapes given my own situation.

The second example concerns 'Vicky'. I mentioned in the previous post that Vicky and I, though we didn't have a great relationship, it was a professional one. I always got the impression that she didn't think very highly of me; I ended up in a position she once occupied, had very different views on how to take our role forward and disagreed with a number of my decisions. And, as I have mentioned before, I was given my position and never had to interview for it. I never considered it at the time, but in hindsight, it must have been a huge kick in the teeth for nurses with more experience and longer qualified than I. I never actually wanted the position, but could never get out of it as no one else wanted it either!

But I had so much respect for Vicky. She was a fascinating person, had lived an amazing life and was the most knowledgable of nurses. I learnt so much from her during her time there and missed her when she left. She provided a stabilising influence and motherly quality that was unique to her and her alone.

Vicky, I was led to believe by former colleagues in their statements, was also greatly responsible for the false accusations levied at me. I never heard it from her personally, nor saw anything in writing, but others all stated that she had said things against me to support their, eventually debunked and proven to be lies, accusations of bullying.

But once again, there is a huge, sad sense of irony about her 'alleged' claims of bullying towards me. Though we spoke often and never did Vicky once say anything to me that was remotely negative, even replying to an email I sent before she left, wishing me the best of luck for the future, I was told after my suspension that she had left solely because of me.

This is a nurse with over 40 years experience, who had lived through some of the most troubled times in British history and seen nursing changed multiple times during the course of her career, yet she gave it all up, allegedly, because of me and never told a soul why. In her exit interview, there was no mention of me; discussion of health reasons and retirement plans, but nothing about anyone at work. Then, more than six months later, it is all because of me and, as I was told, was not mentioned as she could be bothered with the hassle.

In the time between Vicky leaving and my suspension, many colleagues complained about her. They complained vocally about why she had been allowed to work her original hours and not move to the modified ones that better suited the service. They complained vocally about why she didn't have to work weekends on-call when they were expected to. They complained when I suggested we wait on a morning for handover so we were all present, their complaint being in would push everything else they had to planned backwards. Two individuals complained about her using sickness during her planned retirement as an excuse for more money.

Yet, these very individuals, are individuals that I am aware Vicky still socialises with. Why? Because she never knew about their behaviour - bullying behaviour - in her absence and when she was not present. And I never told her.

As with Diane, I never knew how to go about it, as it would have been 'telling tales' or, after my suspension, the aforementioned sour grapes. I was supposed to lead, support and encourage, so causing discontent amongst others was something I actively avoided. I did address concerns regarding the bullying of a colleague previously, speaking to many individuals in turn and, ultimately, raising my concerns to the bully themselves. I long ago accepted I didn't do enough. Having done more would have perhaps stopped others from suffering in my absence.

I have always felt that, inadvertently, I became a bystander in relation to the bullying of others. Aware that colleagues were being abusive and critical towards another, yet not addressing it when I should have. Ultimately, I resolved to no longer be a 'bystander' and raised my concerns to a senior member of staff... and, well, if you have read previous blog entries, you know what happened next.

And, just like Diane, I have always felt guilty about it. Knowing that people you once knew are still communicating with those who were betraying them behind their back is the worst feeling. Saying anything now would be redundant. I would never be believed. Because that is what bullies do in order to convince others they are not.

They claim solidarity towards the very individuals they have, behind their backs and closed doors, been criticising, humiliating and bullying. Whilst calling them in secret, they then support them in public, ensuring that misdirection is fully implemented and thereby ensuring the focus is shifted, not to their actual harassers, but towards another who couldn't be further from a bully.

A perfect human being? Absolutely not.

I have admitted before to making many mistakes, both consciously and, due to my mental health problems, unconsciously. but accepting of responsibility for them all, I 100% am.

Yet individuals such as Vicky will continue to go through life, not realising that the very people who bullied them behind their backs are the very ones they call friends.

A heartbreaking truth that will be replicated in many organisations, many work environments, around the world.

"I have met the enemy and they are us."

The bullying nurse will never give thought to being kinder. But we can promise that we will focus on helping those who suffer whilst caring for others.

In the end, it is all we can do but I believe that it will ultimately lead to the actualisation of that most precious of motivatios for a nurse.

That of doing no harm.


Tuesday, 4 December 2018

I see bullied people... they don't know they're being bullied. Part One

'Do No Harm' was an opportunity to tell the stories of others. To give a voice to those who had been denied one, or felt that they wouldn't be listened to, or simply those who didn't know how to go about telling their story.

It was an honour and a privilege, a path I never expected to be taking but one I am so very glad that I did. Oddly, my experiences regarding bullying were amongst the best that ever happened to me (I know, weird, right?).

To that end, I have a second book being developed as we speak. I had many stories that weren't able to be included in 'Do No Harm' for one reason or another, so the second book is not only a great place to share them, but also add in a number of new reflective pieces I have had shared with me since the release of DNH. All powerful, all sad, all told be courageous individuals who, despite the fact that they are anonymised, have taken a brave step to speak to me as either a friend, colleague or complete stranger in some cases.

Thank you to you all. This work is nothing without you.

I also have other stories to tell. Not about me (Enough already, I hear you cry! We're sick of hearing about you.) Heard you I have. I do, however, have more stories concerning other individuals I have known throughout my life and career.

They will be shared in 'It Doesn't Happen Everywhere; It Shouldn't Happen Anywhere', the second book in the series of raising awareness of the toxic culture within the NHS. 

I will be sharing a few of them here in a new series of blog pieces. 

Here is a sample.

Diane's Story

It was one thing experiencing the things I did during my time as a nurse and the bullying and harassment that cost me my career. 

As it turns out, those individuals gave me a bestselling book in the US, a hit new release in the UK and, most importantly, the opportunity to provide those who had suffered and were suffering, a voice. They gave me a place where I could tell the stories of others, allowing their voices to be heard, albeit anonymously, and offer support to so many colleagues, strangers and individuals who haven't been able to share the details of their suffering at the hands of individuals in the NHS.

But there are many aspects of my career in nursing that I never shared, one of which was that of others being bullied and never even realising.

I had three colleagues during my time as a nurse; let's call them Diana, Vicky and Pam. 

Diana, I had known for many years, a nurse, knowledgeable and devoted individual.

Vicky, I thought highly of and was someone who I learnt a great deal from. We didn't particularly see eye to eye on many things, but I still felt there was healthy respect between us.

Pam, I didn't know at all and didn't know me. That didn't stop her from jumping on the 'stick the boot in' bandwagon. 

Each of these individuals has a part to play in my bullying experiences, but one they most likely do not realise as it involved my being privy to their being bullied when they were not even aware.

At the time, to have said something would have been telling tales, being a rat, snitching, being unprofessional, stirring the pot... whichever euphemism you wish to assign to it. Hopefully, as I write and you read this, it may become clear as to why.

Diane, a nurse who I once worked with, was away from work for a period of time. As a friend, I visited her on several occasions at her home, messaged her regularly and would phone her, all to see if she was okay, keep her in the loop with work stuff and generally just let her know I was there for her.

I assumed (I know, you should never assume anything) everyone else was too. They sent the requisite flowers and card, saying how much they hoped they got well soon, how much they missed them and the usual shallow platitudes (not all were false sentiments; many honestly did care for Diane). When the time was right, she returned to work. 

All well and good, I hear you cry. But it wasn't ya see, because when Diane returned to work, I would be criticised regularly about why as an individual I spent so much time making sure she was okay, why I was always asking how she had been and if she was okay, and that I spent more time looking out for her than I did anyone else and so on. 

This was disappointing to hear from colleagues who you expected and had thought would be a little more caring and thoughtful, but I was hardly going to tell Diane what they were saying about her (hence the above telling tales proposal) so I just did what I could, when I could.

When I left nursing, I was astonished to learn that an accusation had been made against me for favouritism. 

Favouritism, as it turned out, towards Diane. 

Yup, you read it right, Diane was used against me by those accusing me of bullying to support their claims that I was a terrible individual. 

Here is something from Thee Who Shall Not Be Named about Diane - 

'xxx xxxxx xxxx has xxx xxxxx xxx and Diane one, but a larger workload. I feel that DM picked up a lot of her work. xxx xxxxxx xxxxx twice told me she felt that Diane was doing less than her.' 

The most shocking event came in the form of my learning that TWSNBN had a plan to line-manage Diane out of her job as she felt she was not up to it and was a liability. I felt strongly that this was not only unfair but immoral and begged her to reconsider once I learnt of this consideration. The following day, I was informed that my words had resonated and that it had been decided to postpone this plan for the immediate future. 

This is as it should be. Another fantastic nurse whom I met during my career and someone I always thought was amazing; one of many who taught me much about how the education and practical aspects worked hand-in-hand. I held her in high esteem and still do. 

But this is proving to be the case more and more within the NHS, not only regarding the book I wrote but in the news. As recently as November, the CQC identified a 'culture of bullying and harassment' in a Shropshire hospital, citing a 'culture of defensiveness from the executive team, staff fearful of raising concerns or issues, low morale among staff, high levels of stress and staff being undervalued'.

A month earlier, the Telegraph published reports that bullying, and harassment could be costing the NHS more than £2 billion per year in England alone, stating that 'although policymakers increasingly regard reducing levels of bullying and harassment in the NHS as a priority, it is an ongoing issue, with little change in the reported levels of bullying for the past three years.'

The story of Vicky's unwittingly being bullied will be in the next part of this three series piece. 

Unwittingly, I think that such a situation which can occur, where an individual is being laughed, joked and criticised behind their back, is worse than being aware you are being bullied. 

In my naivety, I didn't do enough with what I knew though I did what I was aware I could. My shame and guilt are that hindsight allows me to realise I should have done more, raised it further. That is my cross to bear and something which has targeted my reflection on how to be better as an individual.  

I always hope that Diane somehow knew how much I fought for her and tried to protect her.

In the end, our failures are more important lessons than our successes. 

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'.


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.


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.

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.

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."


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.

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.


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.