Wednesday, 16 December 2015

having to look for paid work

Although 63 and an unwaged carer I am having to look for paid work, full-time otherwise it wouldn't be worth it financially.  I'd prefer to keep doing voluntary work in mental health as an activist and campaigner but I'm on a basic state pension, less even than I should be getting (according to @paullewismoney in his blog post Women will get less than men from the new State Pension)

I live in a village in NE Fife which has buses but they go past Stratheden psychiatric hospital into Cupar, one every hour, and in the other direction it takes over an hour to get to Glenrothes.  It isn't easy to be continually reminded of the £4.4million new build unit for mental patients at Stratheden, money from Scottish Government, awarded after my son's psychiatric abuse in the old unit and my whistleblowing, resulting in a successful Ombudsman decision end of September 2014.

Until recently I wasn't able to use buses due to physical health issues which I don't want to go into detail about at this stage.  However since the summer and a serious health scare I have reduced my food intake, lost weight, taken up swimming and fitness, which means I can now go on buses for long distances and have done so to Glasgow, 2 and a half hours at a go.  

NHS Fife got £4.4 million and we got nothing for exposing the abusive treatment of psychiatric patients in Stratheden Hospital which has been going on for decades.  This year in March I received my pension, at 62 and a half, and lost the Carers' Allowance of £61/week for 24/7 support of my son who lives in the same house as me.  I am not surprised that I became unwell in the summer.  The unfairness and injustice no doubt had an impact on my health, physically and mentally.  I am glad to have survived the experience with support from family and friends.

In 2012 I had many meetings with my MSP Roderick Campbell to discuss the issues at Stratheden, even before this, many Emails exchanged, and I had asked him to help us with getting a council house in Dundee because I wanted to move out of the area, not be living so close to the hospital where my son was abused and where I was coercively drugged in 2002.  I got a letter from my GP and put my name on the Dundee council housing list but Mr Campbell said he could not help me with this request.  There are hundreds of people before me on the list.  I also tried to get a council house exchange but with no success.  I did consider private rented accommodation in Dundee but did not want to give up a secure council tenancy and be at risk of homelessness.  This would not have been good for my son's mental health.  Or for mine.

So we were stuck in the village next to Stratheden Hospital where many workers live, ancillary staff mostly, nursing assistants, catering and cleaning operatives, the lower paid.  And if we had to get the bus then passing the psychiatric hospital was a constant reminder of abusive treatment.  No escape.  Therefore I knuckled down and kept up the campaign for justice.  Continuing to be involved in various initiatives, including the clinical psychology service user and carer groups at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities.  The latter took 7 hours of travel in a day to be involved, mostly trains, at meetings or workshops on CBT or IPT.  At the same time being a carer for my son at home and another son in Dundee who is a mental health service user.

Since the summer and the health scare I have taken a break to some extent from mental health campaigning although still keeping an eye on what's happening.  However I am continually reminded of the human rights issues in psychiatric treatment by fellow campaigners and by local people who bear the scars, disabled and marginalised, scapegoated because they feel the pain of life and express it externally as mental distress.  Rather than internalise it and have physical health issues which are more respectable, better funded and don't carry the stigma and discrimination of the badge of mental illness.

But the scapegoated mentally ill also have physical health complaints due to the forced or voluntary drug treatment.  Doubly disadvantaged and disabled.

I have lived in Fife for over 25 years and 20 of those years have involved supporting family members in and out of Stratheden psychiatric hospital and mental health services.  Myself included.  A long haul.  All of us with psychiatric labels in "notes".  All of us coercively treated with psychiatric drugs.  Forced to take the pills or injections of antipsychotics.  Recovery and tapering of drugs undertaken by ourselves, with or without the support of psychiatrists.  

I never accepted the labels or diagnoses and wouldn't apply for DLA or let the system disable me.  On principle.  I was lucky.  And escaped with a 6 inch Titanium plate on my right fibula, following 3 fractures when walking down a stair in 2005 after a Cupar Library job interview.  I didn't fall, wasn't pushed.  My leg just fractured on its own.  Likely due to maximum doses of Venlafaxine over a year or so, 2002/3, when I was in my 50's.  Bone loss.  The antidepressant didn't work, in terms of making me happy.  It made me flat.  The antipsychotics had depressed me.  I could only get mood balance and equilibrium by coming off the drugs completely, and did so myself by 2004.  Going against the advice of the psychiatrist regarding having to be lifelong on Lithium.  No I didn't need to be on it.  So I came off it.  Tapered 200mgs a month, from 800mgs a day to zero.  And got back on with my life.

And so I have started to apply for full-time jobs.  Starting another career at my age.  Needs must.  I've got the energy for it.  Fortunately.  I don't want to work independently and prefer to be in a team or collective.  I like engaging with people and have missed this in the virtual world of social networking, blogging and Emailing.  My recent visits to swimming pools have been enjoyable for the engagements even although I've had to speak out and challenge when finding poor and even bad management in Fife leisure centres.  Aggressive swimmers and dodgy mixed gender changing rooms, close up showers with strange men.  Staff behaving inappropriately.  Like a TV soap but not as entertaining.

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London Olympic pool
walking up stairs to London Olympic pool for a swim, going the long way round
Leith Victoria swimming pool visit
swimming at Tollcross Glasgow commonwealth pool

Beacon centre Burntisland pool swim
visiting Balhousie Castle, Perth














leaving Black Watch museum, going towards North Inch, Perth, my home town


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