Brexit and consequences…

Paul Bernal's Blog

Yesterday morning I tweeted about Brexit (as I’ve done a fair number of times), and it went just a little bit viral. Here’s the tweet:

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It was an off-the-cuff Tweet, and I had no idea that people would RT it so much, nor that it would provoke quite as many reactions as it has. I’ve replied to a few, but, frankly, it’s not possible to reply to all. The responses, however, have been quite revealing in many ways. As usual, people read Tweets in different ways, and of course this particular Tweet is far from unambiguous. I was asked many times what is the ‘this’ that I’m saying is the fault of the ‘Brexit people’. And who I meant by ‘Brexit people’. I was told I was wrong to lump all Brexit people together. And that we should be looking for unity, not stoking the fires of division.

Some thought…

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Are we OK, you and I, after you voted to destroy my dreams?

This is beautiful.

Andrew Reid Wildman, artist, photographer, writer, teacher

I feel like someone has taken something dear to me, my identity, my connection to my continent, and they have killed it. If you voted Leave, I hope you are prepared to take responsibility for what you have done, and that you do not regret it. It is over to you now, to sort out. Some friends view my reaction as an affront. That I am ‘dissing” them. It is not. It is just that you have killed something that was precious to me. You have created a country around me that I do not recognise, which feels broken and insular. That was your right to do that, you voted the way you thought was best. And you won and I lost. But in so doing you destroyed something. Many of you are now regretting your vote. Save your tears, I do not want to hear them lest I scream…

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Some thoughts on bubbles

Given the 75% of Edinburgh wanted to stay in the EU and that most of the people I know live in Edinburgh it makes it harder to find people who disagree. And as most of the Leave voters I’ve had the misfortune of meeting have been of the racist variety, why on earth would I maintain contact with them? The “bubble” concept troubles me. In my experience the people who go on about me living in a bubble or echo chamber usually have a hell of a lot more privilege than me. Maintaining contact with someone who hates PoC or immigrants or perceived immigrants is not good for my mental health. The same goes for any other minority group. It’s not like we’re hiding away from those views. We can’t. The right wing media is full of them and online comments are full of those bigoted opinions and our coworkers and random people at bus stops come out with them. We know how the rest of the country thinks. We just need to look after ourselves. So before you chastice us for choosing to live in bubbles remember this, many of us do it in order to stay alive. It’s not that we’re not open to opposing viewpoints but when those viewpoints say that we should be afforded the same rights as everyone else or shouldn’t even be allowed to live in this country or live at all then they and the people who espouse them can FUCK RIGHT OFF!

Mental illness is real

All the snide comments about nut allergy warnings not being comparable to “trigger warnings” got me thinking. This is not complete but I had to get it down. Please be kind. I can’t take much at the moment.

0.05 – 2% of the population have experienced anaphylaxis. It has a mortality rate of around 1%. Borderline personality disorder has an incidence of between 1 and 2% in the general population but 10% of us will complete suicide compared with 1% of the general population. 70% of people with BPD have attempted suicide and many of them have made multiple attempts which could result in morbidity. It’s commonly accepted in the psychiatric profession that it can take very little to send someone with BPD into a crisis state where suicide attempts are much more likely to happen. (That’s even part of our diagnostic criteria!)

Knowing all of that, can anyone explain why warnings for things that might be likely to trigger someone with BPD (or any other mental health condition) are so despised? Or should I just assume that people who hate trigger warnings also hate people with mental health conditions?

I’m miserable and I’m tired and I almost wish I understood why some people are so nasty that they’d rather put lives at risk than live with a few extra words in front of some things. There’s part of me that doesn’t want to know because I’m not sure if I can deal with that much hatred.

You cannot serve two masters.. Universal credit and your employer.

The poor side of life

Here are two different cases concerning universal credit and work. Both prove the point extremely well that universal credit and the work conditionionality contract linked with this is completely unworkable. Politicians from all parties are not taking this issue seriously enough. Luckily we are.

Case one.
A housing association in Leeds are dealing with a tenant in Leeds who was unable to pay his rent after loosing his job with his employer. This is their story.
The person in question was employed by a company working between 16 and 17 hours a week. On his contract it stated that they were not allowed to apply for extra jobs with other companies. But their jobcentre advisor told them that they must and he was advised to apply for a job with a rival company.
As you can imagine this didn’t go down too well, and the company that they worked for…

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On grief and empty trite phrases.

Please read my post in it’s entirety before leaving a comment that disagrees with the article.

I discovered this article today.

What You Say To Someone Who’s Grieving Vs. What They Hear

It really resonated with me, so much so that I almost wonder if the writer looked inside my head at some point. I deliberately read some of the comments because I wanted to hear the flip side and try to understand why this was the case. The “pessimistic”, “Eeyore psychology” comments were useless but they did help me figure it out. It all comes down to validation. When everything’s going to hell and you say, “This too shall pass,” I know you’re lying. This crisis might pass but I’ll still have my underlying condition and there will be many more crises in my future. This puts my back up and means I treat anything else you say with suspicion. If instead you say something like, “Fucking hell, that’s awful. Would you like a hug/cup of tea/mountain of chocolate?” I’ll love you forever. That phrase tells me that I’m not a failure or being oversensitive or unreasonable. I shouldn’t need permission to be emotional but because of my life experiences I actually do.

The comment about the writer of the article being one of the “offended by everything generation” helped me work something else out. I’ve realised that people who use terms like “the offended by everything generation” are actually part of the “wish we could go back to a time when we didn’t have to think before opening our mouths.” Which is odd because that generation are ones who taught me that I should think before speaking. They seem to have forgotten their own values.

I realise that this isn’t a one size fits all and that some people prefer those trite, empty phrases but I’m not one of them and it’s such a relief to discover others like me.

It was also nice to see so many different people being represented in the drawings.

Will you be affected by the new ESA payment cuts?

Will you be affected by the weekly ESA payment cuts?
Yes, when they decide to include people on ESA prior to April 2017. And you know they will.

How will the reduction impact your household finances?
The extra £30 is used to pay for a variety of things. It often gets spent on antiseptic liquid, dressings, micropore tape, cottonwool and scalpels. I’m not eligible for treatment where I live so I self harm in order to keep myself alive. If that outlet was taken away from me there would probably be many more suicide attempts or more infections as I would be unable to afford to keep my injuries clean. I spend about 70% of my waking hours fighting thoughts of suicide and self harm. There is a waiting list for very heavily subsidised therapy as I’m not eligible for any of the NHS treatment in my area. The £30 would help towards making a contribution towards that.
It also helps with increased bills because I find it so hard to leave the house. Most people spend a chunk of time at work or school or university but I’m often stuck in my own house using my own gas and electricity. It also gets used on a takeaway or very, very convenient food if I am too exhausted from fighting my illness to cook. Other times it might cover a taxi if I need to get home as quickly as possible because I’ve become too unwell to be outside the house.
It’s a lifeline to me. When I didn’t get it my finances were a complete mess. I had a massive overdraft as well as a huge credit card debt. Gradually I’ve gotten that mostly under control. If I lose that £30 I’d lose control on my finances and it and my mental health would spiral completely out of control again. I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve forgotten to mention. My illness combined with the stress of all these cuts is seriously interfering with my memory and concentration. I now struggle to get dressed properly and have frequent panic attacks as I think, “Did I put my shoes on?,” or “Am I outside in my pyjama bottoms?” or “Did I take my medication?” or “Did I lock the door?” That might seem like a little thing but it’s several times a day. I’m exhausted and sleep doesn’t help because of all the anxiety dreams and nightmares which leave me afraid to go to sleep.

The government claims it will incentivise a return to work, but is this argument justified?
In my personal experience no, it won’t incentivise me to return to work. It will demoralise me and make me feel like I’m completely worthless. £30 a week is nothing to MPs but everything to someone as ill as me. They say I don’t deserve it. Taking that lifeline away is not going to magically make me better or make me suddenly eligible for treatment. (Although, as one of the ways to get treatment is to be in the criminal justice system they might have a point albeit not quite the way they wanted so scratch that.) I won’t get better without treatment and even then it’s only effective in 50% of people who are deemed suitable so not 50% of people with this condition. I don’t know what the final percentage is. I would love the opportunity to get treatment even if it doesn’t work because then at least I’d know and could try to move on with my life. Right now I’m stuck in limbo. Depriving me of £30 a week will not change this situation. In fact it will make me less able to get better and therefore even less able to work. I already struggle with finances because of aspects of my condition. Financial insecurity and welfare reform wreak havoc on my mental wellbeing. All this £30 cut will do is exacerbate many of worst aspects of my condition. My anxiety which was already horrible is now even worse and I didn’t think that was possible. I’m terrified of the post arriving. Opening letters that resemble the DWP brown envelope is a truly traumatic experience. I worry about being reassessed for ESA again and failing to get it. It’s now hard than ever to get. And my paranoia is out of control. Every sound I hear is a mouse and I have to get someone to check the room for me or if I’m alone I lose hours doing it myself whilst freaking out and shaking and crying uncontrollably. This is becoming more and more frequent recently. It’s now almost every day. Every dark speck of anything is a spider and I jump and my heart rate spikes and I have a panic attack. And that happens about 10 times a day at the moment. It’s exhausting. It makes relationships with friends and family harder to maintain especially when I misinterpret every word or gesture they use because my anxiety and paranoia are running riot. It’s even worse with strangers. That’s not what employers want in an employee.
I don’t feel safe at all any more and I don’t know how much more I can take.
ESA was meant to help us but the way it has been implemented by the DWP is only making me, my partner and many of my friends much, much worse.

A crabby post about Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb our new Welfare secretary replacing Iain Duncan Smith posted this on Facebook two days before his appointment. There was a glaring error in his post. He, like IDS and DWP in so many of their press releases, conflated the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with people who are Fit For Work. In reality people in the WRAG are considered Unfit For Work but may be able to work in the future with support or treatment or something. Now whether this was deliberate in an attempt to make people agree with the scrapping of the WRAG, which means the loss of £30 a week for many disabled people, or plain ignorance I really don’t know. However I would expect a government minister to have done his homework before posting to Facebook. Unfortunately IDS and the DWP have set such a bad example that I think he’s doomed to repeat all their crappiness.

Anyway, I emailed him about his error. This is what I sent.

“Being in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA is not the same as being able to work. I’m astonished by how many people are unable to understand this. People in the WRAG are currently unable to work but may, with support and/or treatment, be able to work in the future.
Our Citizens Advice Bureau spells it out here unless you think their information is inaccurate. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/…/about-the-esa-groups/
I’m in the WRAG despite spending about 70% of my waking hours fighting thoughts of suicide. Right now I really want to through myself under a fast moving vehicle. This has been my life for as long as I can remember. Trying not to act on these urges is exhausting and combined with all my other symptoms makes me an incredibly volatile person in terms of affect and behaviour. Anyone who knows anything about me thinks the idea that I’m “fit for work” is ludicrous. I go from happy to suicidal in the time it takes someone else to frown. And a simple frown can be a trigger.
As for support, I barely get any. I get no treatment. I’m not eligible. Please stop spreading lies about people who are in the WRAG. Writing this email has been so difficult that I need to self harm again.”

He has since edited his post to correct the glaring error. Now if only they could correct that cut. I won’t be holding my breath.

Much More Than A Label – A Resource for people with Personality Disorder

In 2011 a small Lothian-based mental health independent advocacy charity, CAPS Independent Advocacy received funding to do a collective advocacy project around the diagnosis of personality disorder. This resulted in a number of outcomes:
– an advocacy group who meet regularly
– a steering group
– a two day training course which aims to educate people about Borderline Personality Disorder, teach ways of working with people who have BPD and reduce the stigma surrounding it
– a huge resource pack.

I can’t serve up the groups or the training here so here’s all nine sections of the resource pack instead.

You can download them from the CAPS personality disorder project webpage or from the links below.

(Note – On the CAPS page the second section actually links to the ninth section. I have contacted them so hopefully it will be fixed soon. I’ve posted the correct link below.)

A Resource About Personality Disorder By People With Lived Experience

1. Introduction
2. How does it feel…?
3. Diagnosis
4. Language and Labels
5. Support and Treatment
6. Attitudes
7. Living Your Life
8. Local Information
9. General Information