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.

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