Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Unfathomable Evil #ManchesterAttack

I suspect much like the rest of the population I have been left trying to fathom out why such evil manifests itself amongst us. The conclusion of course is that evil knows no logic and therefore we will never ever be able to make sense of it.

Yet we will still wrestle with the thoughts of 'what if' or more tragically 'why us' when we consider the unimaginable horror of the events in Manchester yesterday evening, the 22nd May 2017.

We torment ourselves through various guises...

Myself, there has been 'what if that were me?' , or 'what if that were my daughter?'

But we all fulfil various roles in our communities, so for myself as a police officer there has also been, 'what if I had responded to that emergency call?' alongside thoughts for the emergency services family as a whole who did, and have responded to pleas for help and salvation.

My mind is plagued by the atrocity today, as I am sure many others of you are too.

I have found myself considering the many thousands of people who live with war on their doorsteps on a day to day basis and have to face these questions cruelly tormenting us today on an almost on a daily basis.

Inevitably there have been those 'know it all' celebrities bumping their gums about 'how they could do a better job' or 'how we should do ours' and to them all I would say is 'come on down', grab a uniform, put your money where your celebrity mouth is or shut the hell up.

As to the question of evil... there has always been, and always will be evil.
Evil people who seek to trample the ideals of peace and free will by using death and destruction. Inevitably they do always fail as good triumphs over evil but not before many innocent people lose their lives first. Sometimes it does take an eternity good will prevail.

In the meantime we must hold our heads up high and carry on regardless. This is the British way...

Bullies are the weak and insecure of our societies and no religion I am aware of condones or promotes killing people let alone innocent children.

My 11 year old daughter asked me two questions this morning watching the news unfold before school...

1. Will we still go to our concert at The O2 in London? 

Of course I replied. Concerts, tourist attractions, trains, buses, beaches... the list of terrorist targets is never ending. So do we stop living? Do we cower away at home? Let's face it, the heating boiler could blow up and kill us if it's our time to go. She pondered my answer... So we carry on?

'Yes we carry on'

2. What is a suicide bomber? Somebody who straps a bomb to themselves, detonates it,  killing themselves and those around them. In her innocence she answered for us all...

'What's the point in that?'

To the families bereft, grieving, searching for loved ones...my heart goes out to you, may you and your loved ones find peace.

To my colleagues in the emergency services, thank you, stay safe and please look after your #mentalhealth such incidents will unquestionably take their toll.

To the evil out there seeking to subdue us...whomsoever we are, whatever colour our skin is, whichever Gods we worship, we stand together against you.

We are united in grief. We are united in our resolution. We will carry on regardless.

You will not win and we will not be subdued

Monday, 15 May 2017

My story to date....

I am a police officer with 28 years service although I had a five year career break so effectively I actually have 23 years served.  I find myself on long term sick leave for the second time in three years. I've been diagnosed with Depression, Anxiety and Fibromyalgia and I am medicated for these things. I had a short period of sick leave with stress in 2002.

After I returned to work two years ago after a six month absence with depression nothing in my workplace really changed barring one risk assessment that was done, albeit half heartedly and with tongue in cheek. The same supervisor annoyingly expressed surprise that I still had depression and was taking tablets a few weeks before this my second breakdown at Christmas 2016.

After reporting sick this Christmas just gone I was immediately referred by the force to the Occupational Health Nurse, interestingly this does not happen with physical illnesses, yet within a week there I was crying uncontrollably. Forty Five minutes passed with questions about when I would be fit for work and what was I doing to help myself get back into the work place etc.. The nurse did tell me as I was wearing make-up which apparently was a good sign that I wasn't that depressed, she also said that everything I said would be reported back to my supervisors.  I didn't say a lot after that.

A month later they sent me back to her again, this time the force had stated in their referral paperwork that I was being uncooperative and distrustful of force policies and sick procedures. She was bemused by this, as was I at the time, but it did upset me greatly.

In March 2017 I self referred to Safe Horizons UK who in turn passed me along to Save Our Soldier and Debbie Banks was thankfully sent my way.

At the beginning of April 2017, I was contacted for the first time by my welfare department,  oddly enough this came two days before I was due to attend a case conference about my sickness absence at a police building! Call me cynical but....?!!

I went to the conference with my federation representative, there was a panel of my boss, a Human Resources representative and the welfare department guy. A further question and answer session went on for 45 minutes throughout which I again cried hysterically! I managed to answer some questions,   I was quizzed about my use of social media and questioned as to why I had been spreading about that I was not getting any help from the force when it was me that had told them not to contact me?
I told them that I had approached a charity for help which seemed to unsettle them, they said they'd need to check how credible they were?!
I then asked them to explain their comments on the latest referral to the OH dept.  I'll summarise their replies... apparently my use of social media had been picked up by them when monitoring my blog and twitter feed. The fact that I had asked that a certain 'bully boy' supervisor not to contact me for my statutory 'weekly' calls, was being taken as me asking them not to contact me, plus they said that I had not been wholly open in my first OH session, so taking all these things together equalled me being uncooperative and distrustful.

"We've read your blog and it's obvious from that how mistrustful you are!! "

I managed through wracking sobs and hyper ventilation to explain my current phone phobia and dislike of answering or making calls as it tends to cause panic attacks. They agreed to email me in the future. The conference rounded up by deciding I should see a psychologist or a psychiatrist but they were not sure which.

The following day I had an email from the welfare department with the name of a psychologist and a telephone number to call to make myself an appointment! Oh how ironic I thought!

I have now had three whole days help from Debbie Banks via Save Our Soldier and the force have changed their minds about the psychologist referral, asking that I now see a psychiatrist instead but I've yet to get an appointment through the post.

I visited the FMO/OH again last week supposedly to top and tail the psych. referral but she apparently should have gotten my written consent and didn't. I have since done that.

I have now been off sick for 6 months. Luckily my half pay date of 20th June 2017 has been extended by the Chief by three months until 20th September 2017.

I have also had a letter through telling me my job has been abolished through restructuring and when I return I'll need to find a new role.

In 2002 I was in a DS post investigating Operation Ore and child abuse images, a CID post when my CI started sexually harassing me. As a result of 'Ore' we were having to spend a lot of time together and his harassment together with the material we were dealing with pushed me over the edge. I put in a complaint about the CI and the force settled outside of an IT accepting it had all happened. I received a financial pay out.
I would love to see the files on this and my statement etc as my memory of it all is pretty poor. I seemed to have erased a lot of it. Speaking up sabotaged my CID career and I never worked on the dept. again. I was side-lined into uniform briefly and then CID training.

In 2005 upon the birth of my daughter I took a five year career break returning in 2010 to a uniform post before being posted to HQ to work on Complaints & Misconduct from where I am now 'technically' sick.

In 2011 I attended my personal safety training whereby a 'new' technique was being trialled unofficially. The backwards fall manoeuvre led to me smashing my head on the floor and getting a whiplash injury that perpetuated in awful headaches for two years. The federation pursued the force for this incident as several officers were injured at the same time and we all received a pay-out for that too.

I want to leave on ill health but my fed rep thinks it too difficult to achieve before my possible 25 year retirement marker in May 2019. My 30 year marker would be May 2024.

Debbie and I concur that returning to the police would be utterly toxic to my mental health and the knock on to my Fibromyalgia cannot be underestimated.

So here I am as of 19/6/17 awaiting a psychiatrist appointment.

...to be continued...

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

'Compassion for Cops' - #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

I'm actually quite shocked looking at how long ago it is since I last wrote a blog post.

Over a month?

I have been aware of a hesitation to sit and write, because I have been feeling a little lost, a little unsure what the point of my voice is, in such a loud over populated environment.

Mental Health is all of a sudden the buzz phrase, taking centre stage, in the spotlight and all power to that, but as a consequence I have felt a little disconnected. That combined with my therapy sessions (detailed previously) and a very close friend dying have all come together to result in me feeling just a bit numb, in fact I'm a little unsure what I am meant to be feeling right about now!

This morning I made a comment on another post that seemed to spark emotion in others so I am going to concentrate on that for today and who knows it may light a fire under my own backside!

PC Dave Wise @CopThatCooks posted:

'Chances are that one of your shift mates is struggling with mental health. Be there for them. Be a friend.'

He made the post under the hashtag of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

I responded,

'How very, very true. let's ditch the bullshite bravado fellow cops and find our compassion for one another'

This response to these posts seemed well received and it got me thinking that we really do need to make a huge push to empower our colleagues to understand that

'Compassion for Cops' is hugely important.

Yes we all have our own shite going on, yes we all have bad days, but is there someone close to you at work who is over reacting at jobs, maybe getting really angry really quickly. Losing their temper where once before they would have laughed. Or like me, permanently tearful, be nice to me I welled up, shout at me I welled up, leave me alone I cried from loneliness. Being overwhelmed by our emotions, unable to hide behind our normal level of camouflage is a danger sign for depression sufferers. Some of us higher functioning anxiety sufferers can keep on going, juggling life's detritus but it can often only take one or two extra things to knock us and unlike others with a degree of resilience we have none and our worlds come tumbling down super quickly.

I talk from experience, I used to drive to work in tears, compose myself to walk up to my office from the car, start crying again as my heart pounded and I approached the office. Compose my self again and then enter the office head pounding, eyesight blurring, feeling nauseous and so exhausted it felt like bed time. There I would sit doing what was quite a stressful job, plodding along keeping a heavy workload moving until someone would say or do the slightest silliest thing and all of a sudden I would feel overwhelmed, like a wave had engulfed me in a strong sea and instantly I would feel vulnerable and afraid.

It's at times like this that force's will come to know and appreciate the benefits of a peer support group. When I was suffering there was nothing, no port to hide in during my personal storms. The toilets were my respite, a cubicle was a good place to sit, regain ones composure knowing you're safe and not going to be disturbed.

The triggers for us depression and anxiety sufferers' may seem like the most inconsequential events to others however it's just as the saying goes 'the straw that broke the camel's back'
Often it's not about the particular event in question at all, it's often something else, something darker, more personal and the trigger event is just a sign of an overflowing emotional reservoir.

If you know your crew mates you'll know if their behaviour has changed and I'd ask you to show them compassion not cynicism. Love not logic. Support not sniping. You don't actually have to do much. Just show them support, trust someone who knows, just knowing someone is trying to 'get' it, trying to understand and has your back is a milestone enough.

You are not expected to solve this situation. Digest that statement fully!!

Cops expect to bring order where once before chaos reigned. We're programmed to sort things out, make decisions, mend situations. As such we shy away from colleagues with mental health problems for two reasons, one because we secretly see them as a weak link which breaks our unwritten mantra of  'I've got your back' and secondly because we don't know how to mend them, or bring about order, we feel the need to find a way to quieten their inner chaos.

Nobody is expecting you to know how to mend them though! You really do not have to solve this problem!

I'm five months into sick leave, working with therapy and I still don't know how to mend myself!!

But compassion does goes a very long way. Balls to bravado people, us cops need compassion for one another and ourselves.

Compassions counts on a personal level too you see. Once you accept we are all imperfect human beings who make mistakes and that there is not one person alive that has not ballsed up at some point from your Chief to the new probationer you will be in a better place to live a happy and healthy life. Humans are fallible. What sets people apart is how they deal with their adversities. Making mistakes is what life is all about.

I'm currently trying to learn that if  I face my mistakes, accept them head on, live with them a while, process what's happened logically, no self blame, then choose to move on I'll be all the better for it. But burying crap, hiding it, carrying it around in your personal rucksack of burden for years becomes exhausting! This I do know from experience! If only we were all compassionate to ourselves and others the world would be a better place.

Listen people suffering with depression and anxiety look just like everybody else....that's because we are everybody else!! Seriously though we become experts at masking the pain that lurks just below the surface. we smile, we laugh, sometimes we even make ourselves the centre of attention for people to laugh at, because that way we get to affirm the feelings we feel inside that tell us people are laughing at us behind our backs. Trust me lots of sad very depressed people become/are clowns.
(Robin Williams was a classic incarnation of this as was Kenneth Williams, or even Peter Sellers)
I always used to try and put myself down before others did, gave me a feeling of control some how.

Anyway if a colleague approaches you or confides something in you feel proud, not panicked. Just feel good that they love and trust you enough to do so. Remember they are not looking for answers or solutions, they are looking for your compassion. A smile and an accepting nod will be a good start. A few kind words if you can find them.  You could in time work with them to find help, but mostly they'll just want your support, that smile and your compassion and understanding.

So you cops trust me it's not rocket science, and it's not scary. It's also not the appropriate subject of parade room banter, and it's not unusual to be discussed in public.  If you think the opposite then get with the times dude as you are sadly in the wrong decade.

The other little secret I'll leave you with,  is that whenever the depression sufferer tells you was when they first realised they had a problem that will be a lie, double the time frame suggested and add another year!!

We try to minimise, we try to pretend it's a new phenomena! Partially we believe ourselves, but its a protective white lie to test the reactions we get, but when we start trusting people, we start being wholly honest and then you'll come to know when the black dog first made contact with us.