Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday 30th July 2017 - Panic Attacks

My daughter has been away with her Dad for the last week and during that time I've spoken to very few people face to face. Those that I have spoken with have been medics or strangers.

Aww poor you I hear you thinking, but the reality is that is the way I feel most comfortable. You see for as long as I can recall I have found people and social interaction painfully difficult, which is a tough break bearing in mind I've been a police officer for 28 years! It's probably little wonder that I've ended up the anxious mess I am, having had to interact with people all day every day!

Mind you the police side of things was never quite as bad because when you're wearing a uniform either literally or proverbially there is always a barrier between the person and yourself. A mask if you will, a suit of armour. You can adopt a professional persona and to a certain extent give as much or as little of oneself as you want to.

Socially however, I've always struggled, I feel awkward in the company of friends or strangers, I'm unsure what to say, I second guess what people are thinking about me continually and generally find myself in the corner of the room trying to hide away until a polite enough period of time has elapsed so that I can escape. The odd thing about that is that at the same time that I'm feeling desperate to get away from social events I'm also desperate to be accepted, to feel like I belong and to be cared about. It's positively ridiculous yet I can't fight the feelings of panic, the little voice telling me I'm not welcome and the even larger voice telling me that nobody would miss me anyways.

I wonder when and where this started? Was I always this way?

I think perhaps it's a product of many things. A stern unloving Mother, moving schools too often, ultimately being removed from my secondary school friends as soon as we had finished school to move away yet again?

Whatever the cause the reality of it is here to stay. I desperately crave some love and attention yet in the same breath know that I couldn't cope with the interaction that love and attention would bring. How can these two polar opposite emotions exist in tandem? That's a very cruel twist of fate isn't it?

My daughter returns from her holiday today and in much the same way as described above I'm both desperate to have her back and dreading it in the same breath.

When she's not here there's no conflict, no kids traipsing in and out of my house violating my personal sanctuary. No demands to leave the house and mingle with the rest of the world. When she's away I can merely leave the house to walk the dogs, come straight home, lock the door and be done with the world. Perfection! Yet my young and vibrant daughter wants to be a social butterfly, to do and see things, to fully immerse herself in the world. Of course this means I have to take a very deep breath and some anti-anxiety meds before dipping my toes in the world's waters too.

We've five whole weeks to fill and I know she wants to go here, there and everywhere. This is already causing the panic to rise and my heart to race, even more so I think after a week of solitude. I've to go from one extreme to the other. I reckon I'd be a hermit crab in another existence you know! At least I'd be able to carry my precious home with me!

But get out and about I will, I will not be beaten by the monsters lurking in my subconscious. She deserves to flutter about here and there and I won't have her saddled as I am needing the cloak of home. She needs and deserves people in her life.

Oh to be a social butterfly and enjoy the flitter flutter of society. To feel light and airy. To feel pretty and attractive. To enjoy flitting from one thing to another without a care in the world.

I had a very disturbing dream last night. I was in a production on the stage and it was in a massive venue, we're talking arena proportions! The audience were all arriving, famous people, everyone I knew. I was desperately trying to get to where I knew I should be ready for my cue but could I get there? It feels like I spent all night running here and there, going around and around in circles. I even got caught up in the audience on Louis Walsh's lap?! But I just could not get to where I needed to be. The panic was overwhelming, and of course the more I panicked the less able I was to think clearly and find my way to the dressing room.

I guess that's my subconscious having the same conversation with itself about the forthcoming weeks! My fear of the people, the feeling of panic if I go and make a show of myself, so my subconscious is trying to protect me by keeping me away from getting onto that stage of life!

Anyways enough rambling for now xx

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Anxiety - Do you get 'it' ?

People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes these are called panic attacks.

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that we all experience at times. It is a word often used to describe when we feel 'uptight', 'irritable', 'nervous', 'tense', or 'wound up'. When we are anxious we normally experience a variety of uncomfortable physical sensations. These include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscular tension
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feelings of breathlessness
As well as this, anxiety affects us mentally too. For example, when anxious, we often worry for large periods of time, so much so that our worry can feel out of control. These worries are often about a variety of issues and commonly our mind jumps quickly from one worry to another.

Anxiety also influences how we behave. For instance, when we feel anxious, we often avoid doing things that we want to because we are worried about how they will turn out. Although short experiences of anxiety are part and parcel of daily life, it becomes challenging when anxiety begins to follow people around and is a regular feature in their lives.

I personally suffer with anxiety and depression and to me it often feels like those that profess to care about us most, our nearest and dearest don't get 'it', even when they're trying their hardest to help and understand us.

They don't always get 'it' though do they? Not in my world anyway.

It often feels to me much like when English people raise their voices towards foreigners hoping they'll understand us! Of course, they don't, they try to help, they offer whatever they think you need, but ultimately, they don't understand what the hell you're going on about. I feel like that's how it is with anxiety and depression, no matter how loudly I shout some people just do not understand, they offer help but sometimes you just want to know someone gets 'it'. Otherwise it's a lonely place feeling desperate and misunderstood. It's even more crushing when you've been a functioning anxiety sufferer when you come to a point in life where you're not to be able to snap out of it anymore, not able to wade through the anxiety to get to work or social functions because you're crippled with self-doubt and self-loathing.

When you look in the mirror... what do you see?

For a very long time when I looked in a mirror I saw something that I didn't like, in fact I often used to repeat the same mantra to myself over and over   'gee you sure is ugly'. There was nothing about my reflection I wanted to see, looking was a necessity for social compliance, to allow me to fit societies mould.

I have always had my ups and downs. Good times and bad. I have learnt over the years to see when things are sliding down hill and that's exactly what happened seven months ago. I slid all the way to the bottom and have spent the last few months trying to climb back up the slippery slope of life.

At my worst, I am tearful have a banging headache and aching joints. At my best, I can be positive but believe me it’s always a fight and let no one tell you any different, you literally have to fight anxiety as there are no quick fixes.

People often ask me how does anxiety feel?

Well I often feel like I'm in that moment just before you trip over when you're still upright but know full well you're likely headed for the deck. That secret second of time when you know your future before anyone else. You know something bad is going to happen and you're just waiting for it to come to pass.
It's often like that moment when you've sent a text message, a 'shitogram' expecting it to go to your best mate who you've been remonstrating with about whoever it is that has actually pissed you off... Then shock horror you realise you've just sent that text message straight to the very person you've been nasty about by mistake! In that moment, the world stops and your stomach feels like its dropping out of your bottom! You flush with embarrassment, your heart pounds, your pulse thunders in your ears, your throat tightens and the panic sets in. That's how anxiety feels just going grocery shopping or doing the school run, like the end of the world.

Our world can feel like a very lonely place as anxiety makes us fear a fall constantly, makes us panic that our world is about to crash around our ears over the stupidest little things.

Yet ever the reflective type I have often pondered how other people are meant to get 'it'. Let’s face it, life is full of unique experiences and we all tread our own paths, so how can our friends and family possibly be expected to know how it feels or find the empathy over and over to match any given situation?

When I get to a really wobbly stage its generally because of a combination of problems. Much like the start of a game of Jenga I can be strong tower, a force to reckon with, but start to chip away at me and I'll start to wobble. That said even a wobbling Jenga game can remain standing, ...right? I have in the past stood tall for too long, fighting my demons, trying to steady myself when maybe I should have gotten help sooner and not tried to stand tall for so long, maybe things might not have gotten to the really bad stage they did?

I know it must be difficult for those non-anxious folks amongst you to accept that we, the anxious, generally only turn down social events because of our mental illness. It does seem like such a stretch I'm sure for you guys to grasp, but believe me when I say it’s nothing personal.  I have often been treated with contempt and hostility for bailing out of functions which seems unfair because if someone said they couldn’t attend a gathering because they’d broken a bone or had the flu there would be gushing compassion and sincere wishes to get well soon. However, mention mental illness or anxiety and firstly it gets glossed over, ignored, but long term it can be taken as an indication that you are untrustworthy, a useless friend even, one who should perhaps be excluded from future social functions as a punishment.
That's how it feels but perhaps this is just my paranoia kicking in? There was a time when I lied about why I couldn’t make social functions. There was always that distant relative who needed attention, or a friend who needed my help or I had some mystery illness that was sweeping the town. However, since this my worst ever bout of depression, I feel compelled to be true to myself. This is the first time in my life that I actually admitted to myself that I have a real illness, I have finally given myself some credit for not being that selfish stand-offish bitch who allegedly hates people, but instead I can now recognise that I am someone who has a genuine illness.

It's taken me years of looking in that blasted mirror to accept that depression and anxiety are going to be a lifelong issue for me and it’ll never just be a case of getting better. There are good days and bad days, but admitting it to myself was a big deal.  So, if I’m asked why I am not going somewhere these days I am honest about it, whether that makes people feel uncomfortable or not and I'm sorry to say that I think it does still make some people feel squirmy and awkward.
In the Victorian era, us, the mentally ill, or the insane, as we were once referred to, were locked away from society, placed in mental institutions or work houses, segregated and scorned. I do wonder whether that depth of stigma still resonates in people’s minds, because there is still a stigma attached to mental illness.

I 've been making it a habit of mine to say it out loud these days, although you can end up feeling a bit like the elephant in the room when you do.  People almost want to physically shift away from you, to put some distance between themselves and you. Perhaps there is an automatic assumption you’re an axe murderer, or is it just an inherent discomfort that someone would admit that sort of shameful secret out loud? Or is it more likely to be the fact that many people face similar battles of their own but have yet to see the light in their own mirror, to accept their own truths?

Social media, twitter and my blog have been an enormous help to me. There is a large supportive community of people that do get 'it' out there waiting for you and trust me when I say feeling accepted for who you are is immensely cathartic.
I have deviated from my point. I do not want to be ashamed of my mental illness.  I want to be proud of myself for working through my anxiety, for getting up on those mornings when all I want to do is cry and hide under the dining room table. For continuing to drive to social functions even when there are tears of panic and stress rolling down my cheeks, for getting back up every time life’s bowling ball knocks me down.
So, to you the non-anxious folk out there if people like me are shouting about their anxiety from the rooftops please know it helps us cope and move forwards. Be kind and compassionate, maybe just buy yourself some ear plugs!
If a friend or colleague confides in you that they’re struggling or don’t feel able to do something because of their anxiety or depression then just say ‘okay that’s fine I understand.’ Give them the space they need and do invite them out again and again.

Do not take it personally; it’s about them not you. They’re not trying to insult you; in fact, if they confide the truth in you then they’re paying you a compliment in trusting you, making the assumption that you might just understand them and the struggles they’re living with. Just know that they’re literally putting their heart into your hands so be very gentle with it.

To you the anxiety sufferers I say trust in people, tell them your story honestly. Look in your mirror and see yourself for who you truly are.

Ways forward that I've tried...

It is important to find time to relax. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind.
Relaxation should involve doing something that you enjoy even just being by yourself.  Try to choose something that you will look forward to and that will give you a break from your day to day grind.

Doing this activity will also give you less time to spend worrying! Here are a list of activities that I find help me to relax.

  • Do some exercise (e.g. walking the dog)
  • Reading a book
  • Watching a favourite TV show
  • Doing something creative (e.g. I find writing helps) 
  • Having a bath
  • Gardening

Consider visiting your general practitioner if you haven't already, they may discuss with you possible medications that might help you deal with your depression and anxiety.

Some people find something called mindfulness really helpful. It's quite a complex topic so I won't elaborate other than to say it revolves around paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – it really can improve your mental wellbeing so it might be well worth looking in to.

Breathing techniques can also really can help. Again there are a variety of choices out there. I use something called 7-11 breathing that a therapist taught me.
  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly.
  • On the breath in count steadily from one to seven. (You may not be able to reach seven at first.) 
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let your breath flow out again really gently, this time counting to eleven. 
  • Keep doing this for three to five minutes
As I said you may not manage these figures straight away but as long as you breathe out for longer than you breathe in the technique will work for you.

You could also experiment with meditation, there are many apps out there to help with this, again it is such a wide topic I'll let you research that for yourself.

Finally there is counselling/therapy. This can be accessed via your GP, you can pay privately or in some cases there are various charities that offer help. Some employers, the police service included, offer access to private services. I accessed private therapy via a charity.

In summary...

First and foremost, take those first steps towards self-acceptance. Seeing your truth will put you on the right path towards learning self-compassion for yourself and finding a method of healing that suits you.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The truth about psychiatry revealed...

After my disastrous consultation with that psychiatrist I got chatting to my amazing therapist Debbie Banks and she opened my eyes to a world that I was unaware existed. A world where notable, clever, informed psychologists and Doctors are challenging the world of psychiatry and psychiatrists. I was blissfully unaware, or perhaps just hadn't given it the rightful consideration that psychiatrists are purely work from a perspective of 'their opinion'. They have little actual proof of their diagnosis unlike medical doctors do. Blood tests, x-rays, etc do not come into psychiatry do they? Instead they rely on their own opinions as guided by a book commonly referred to as the DSM.

The DSM, or  the American Psychiatry Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. classifies mental disorders. For example, in the current fifth edition of the book, the first new edition for two decades, it classifies manifestations of grief, temper tantrums and worrying about physical ill-health as the mental illnesses of major depressive disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and somatic symptom disorder, respectively.

The British Psychological Society's division of clinical psychology (DCP) has in the past issued statements declaring that, given the lack of evidence, it is time for a "paradigm shift" in how the issues of mental health are understood. Their statements have effectively cast doubt on psychiatry's predominantly biomedical model of mental distress – the idea that people are suffering from illnesses that are treatable by doctors using drugs.

Dr Lucy Johnstone, who is a consultant clinical psychologist supports the DCP and says it is unhelpful to see mental health issues as illnesses with biological causes.

"On the contrary, there is now overwhelming evidence that people break down as a result of a complex mix of social and psychological circumstances – bereavement and loss, poverty and discrimination, trauma and abuse,"

Some of the fifth edition of the DSM's omissions are just as controversial as the manual's inclusions. The term "Asperger's disorder"does not appear in the  manual, instead its symptoms now come under the newly added "autism spectrum disorder".

The DSM is used in a number of countries to varying degrees. Britain does use an alternative manual, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) published by the World Health Organisation, but the DSM is still hugely influential – and controversial.

This perspective came as a bit of a revelation to me after I had endured Mr Psychiatrist labelling me as an alcohol dependant individual after I admitted drinking alcohol to him most evenings over the last six months. I have argued my case with him that I take drugs every day, co-codamol and antidepressants,  therefore am I a drug addict? He never answered that question. But based on my responses to several very closed questions he concluded I was alcohol dependant.

I being indoctrinated, like a lot of you I'm sure, felt that someone of his standing and qualifications must know what they are talking about and I even started to doubt myself. Was I alcohol dependant? On the basis I haven't drunk since, (now 2 weeks) I sincerely doubt it but it did bring me around to thinking that if he can jump to that conclusion based on very little evidence then what other warped presumptuous conclusions can and do these so called professionals jump to?

I have to of course remember my psychiatrist was employed by the police service, at £350 an hour, to prepare a report for them as to my current mental health. Do we think he has therefore been entirely unbiased? Would his opinion do better to suit his employer or me I wonder? For instance he has concluded I have PTSD symptoms? I have asked for him to expand upon this and his answer was as follows,

" I feel that you have “PTSD symptoms (she may have historically suffered from the disorder but is improved but still has residual symptoms.)” I feel you have improved and thus the whole disorder is not currently present."

Now call me cynical but if I have PTSD symptoms do I not have a diagnosis of PTSD? I mean if I had chicken pox symptoms I would have chicken pox! If I was paying him I suspect he would have diagnosed PTSD but as the police service would prefer for me not to have that diagnosis he can skirt around it because he's an expert and only has to rely on his opinions.

As a cop this whole concept of being able to rely on opinion seems utterly bemusing. Can you imagine if each cop could arrest people based on their own opinions of what was right and wrong! We have the law and legal precedents what do the world of psychiatry have? The DSM?! A book which listed being homosexual as a mental disorder up until 1987?!

Yes you heard right until 1987!

Prior to seeing this psychiatrist I had a notion that he would be a paragon of mental health virtue, compassionate, unstigmatised and truly understanding. What I got was a bully with a fist class degree in 'I know better than you', pompous, arrogant and very quick to make assumptions based on limited information. How concerning is this when these so called professionals are dealing with the most vulnerable people in our society? I left his office feeling, ashamed, guilty and extremely low if not quite desperate. I have pulled through it and risen above his nonsense, but some people surely will not, some will accept his labelling of them as gospel and to what further cost to their health?

Even I felt like I was taking on a giant when I challenged his opinions of me,  he did however soon back down and altered what he was planning to say about me, which begs the question as to its validity in the first place surely?

Dr Thomas Szasz's is an American doctor who is an advocate for the idea that psychiatry is currently way off the mark and that human behaviour has reasons, not causes.

Dr Szasz says:

"Myth of mental illness." Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease). The word "disease" denotes a demonstrable biological process that affects the bodies of living organisms (plants, animals, and humans). The term "mental illness" refers to the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons. Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying the whale as a fish. As the whale is not a fish, mental illness is not a disease. Individuals with brain diseases (bad brains) or kidney diseases (bad kidneys) are literally sick. Individuals with mental diseases (bad behaviors), like societies with economic diseases (bad fiscal policies), are metaphorically sick. The classification of (mis)behavior as illness provides an ideological justification for state-sponsored social control as medical treatment. 

"If you talk to God, you are praying;
If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia."

(Quote from Dr Szasz)

Dr Szasz believes that in recent decades, American medicine has become increasingly politicised and politics has become increasingly medicalised. Behaviours' previously seen as virtuous or wicked, wise or unwise are now dealt with as healthy or sick--unwanted behaviours' to be controlled as if they were health issues. The modern penchant for transforming human problems into diseases and judicial sanctions into treatments, replacing the rule of law with the rule of medical discretion, leads to the creation of a type of government that Dr Szasz calls pharmacracy. Medicalising troublesome behaviours and social problems is tempting to voters and politicians alike: it panders to the people by promising to satisfy their needs for dependence on medical authority. Dr Szasz believes people thus gain a convenient scapegoat, enabling them to avoid personal responsibility for their behaviour.

The government in turn gains a rationale for endless and politically expedient wars against social problems defined as public health emergencies. The health care system gains prestige, funding, and bureaucratic power that only an alliance with the political system can provide. However, Dr Szasz warns, the creeping substitution of pharmacracy for democracy--private medical concerns increasingly perceived as requiring a political response--inexorably erodes personal freedom and dignity. Pharmacracy a word created by Dr Szasz to encapsulate his beliefs:

"In as much as we have words to describe medicine as a healing art,
but have none to describe it as a method of social control or political rule,
we must first give it a name. I propose that we call it pharmacracy, from the
Greek roots pharmakon, for ‘medicine' or ‘drug,' and kratein, for ‘to rule' or
‘to control.' ... As theocracy is rule by God or priests, and democracy is rule
by the people or the majority, so pharmacracy is rule by medicine or physicians."

This concept that psychiatry is therefore a tool for the state to control people makes a lot of sense to me. Had you asked me several weeks ago I would have laughed at you, but after the significant experience I had. I would have to say the psychiatrist I visited was clearly used to controlling people  regardless of the evidence. What a worrying concept.

Another advocate of this way of thinking is a Dr Terry Lynch who has over 30 years experience as a medical doctor; 15 years as a psychotherapist; 15 years as the provider of a recovery-oriented mental health service; and is the author of three books on mental health, including one bestseller.

Over the years he states:

"I have learned that the prevailing understanding of depression is seriously misguided, seriously flawed"

Dr Lynch states that there is much myth, mystery and misinformation surrounding what we have come to call “depression”.

He says that there are facts not commonly understood in relation to depression and that this is primarily due to the fact that misinformation has regrettably been regularly churned out regarding depression for over 40 years, and he feels this is a pattern that needs to stop.

Dr Lynch makes ten assertions about depression in this regard which I find wholly fascinating:

1. Depression DOES NOT meet standard medical criteria for a disease. 

The criteria for and the definitions of disease which have been employed by the medical profession for decades are well established. Depression does not meet these standard medical criteria for a disease.   

2. Depression IS NOT a known brain disorder. 
A number of sites include comprehensive lists of all known brain disorders. One such example is the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a US government-backed Institute, an institute within the umbrella US National Institutes of Health. Their list of neurological disorders is so extensive that it includes many disorders I have never encountered in more than thirty years as a medical doctor. Depression is not included in this comprehensive list of all known brain and neurological disorders. Other sites that contain lists and overviews of all brain and neurological disorders include The Brain Foundation (Australia) and WedMD. Depression is not included as a brain disorder on these sites either. 
3. Depression IS NOT a chemical imbalance. 
Contrary to the common understanding, no pre-existing brain chemical imbalances has ever been reliably identified in depression. It follows that antidepressants cannot – and should not – truthfully be claimed to work by correcting brain chemical imbalances. Some people report being helped by these substances. But not by balancing brain chemicals.

4. Depression IS NOT a known genetic disorder. 
Within the medical profession, the acid test by which a disease or disorder is concluded to be known to be genetic is the reliable laboratory identification of a genetic abnormality. No such abnormalities have been reliably identified in depression.

5. Depression IS NOT a medical illness just like diabetes.
A common perception about depression is that is a medical illness just like diabetes. Actually, from a scientific perspective, diabetes and depression are poles apart. To give you just one example of why this is the truth; while diabetes is never diagnosed without laboratory investigations that confirm the diagnosis, depression is always diagnosed without laboratory investigations that confirm the diagnosis.

6. The experiences and behaviours that become labelled as “depression” are very real.
The five facts about depression I have listed above do not in any way imply that the experiences and behaviours that become labelled as depression are not real. They are very real. These experiences are often excruciating.

7. Depression can be understood through understanding how six important themes occur and interlink with each other. 
These themes are:- wounding; shock; distress in many forms; defence mechanisms and coping strategies; choices and decision-making; and trauma.

8. Trauma is often a core feature of depression.
There is a strong link between psychological trauma and depression. Because the importance of psychological trauma is regularly underestimated, the frequency and extent of psychological trauma and its relationship to depression is frequently missed or underestimated.

9. Some features of depression are coping strategies.
Although not commonly recognised as such, many of the experiences and behaviours that come under the umbrella term “depression” are defence mechanisms and coping strategies. Shutting down and disconnecting, for example, can be understood as a person’s attempt at what they see as their best and most trusted available solution.

10. A reduced sense of self is a regular feature of depression. 
Throughout the fifteen years in which I have provided a recovery-oriented mental health service and even in the years before that when I worked as a GP (general practitioner/family physician), I have consistently noticed that people who become depressed and diagnoses with depression generally have a reduced sense of self. They tend to have an often greatly reduced sense of self-empowerment; self generated security (I use this term to describe our ability to make ourselves feel safe and secure in the various situations we encounter); self-expression; self-belief; self confidence; self-worth; self-belonging. Another related consistent finding is patterns of feeling, expressing and dealing with emotions that are frequently the person’s best solution as they see it, but that often cause considerable difficulties and distress for them in their lives.

In summary then :-

I guess what all these experts are saying is that depression and it's symptoms are wholly real but are more likely the bodies response to trauma than they are as a result of any specific medical illness.

So by that reckoning we as a society in the west are currently medicating more and more people for depression which is probably becoming a self fulfilling prophecy isn't it? If we try throwing anti-biotics at infections constantly they cease to be effective and the body loses the ability to fight such infections on its own. By over using antidepressants our bodies and our emotions will never learn how to be at peace with themselves. Our current world is clearly traumatising us, our style of living is actually triggering our flight or fight response to such an extent that we are losing the ability to regulate ourselves.

So short of escaping to a desert island we all have to learn how to process traumatic events, or even accept the basic concept, especially us cops, that trauma needs decompressing somehow. Left alone trauma becomes like an infected wound festering in the brain causing no end of issues such as depression and PTSD.

With the police service in it's current state of decline, command teams around the country need to understand that without better mental health provisions the current epidemic of anxiety and depression will only increase.

De-moralised, depleted officers cannot and will not stay healthy for very long.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Is leaving the police service for another job a viable option? 

The question was raised today whether leaving the police service for another job was a viable option?

When I joined the service in the late 80's it was recognised as a career for life,  you joined for the 30 year stretch. You made a life long commitment and I for one felt proud and compelled to make it. I never for one minute doubted my choice despite being thrust into a turbulent unknown world from my humble middle class background. I was na├»ve in the ways of the world and I embarked on a learning curve enviable by some of the worlds biggest roller coasters.

I wore a skirt, a white stiff collared shirt, a tie, a tunic and the stipulated Marks & Spencer's barely black tights! I was issued with a black long mac, a black anorak, a thin black V neck jumper to wear under my tunic if it were to get cold. Then there was the obligatory ladies hand bag, a pair of metal hand cuffs, their leather pouch, oh yes and a black belt! Plus epaulettes, chrome numbers and the pins to secure them.

I wonder what I would have made back then of what the service has become in the last 28 years?

When I joined the 'old sweats' were still bleating on about that damned new legislation called PACE and lamenting for their familiar judges rules!

My very first piece of PPE other than the cuffs came about 18 months into my service when I got issued with a mini wooden baton, (half the size of the men's)  In time I then watched the long 'Arnold' baton come and go before the issue of extendable batons called ASPs. I've watched utility belts arrive only to be replaced by 'tac' vests. I saw the introduction of rigid cuffs to the exclusion of the old chain versions. I've watched stab proof vests be introduced as a station resource, before then becoming personal issue. There were NATO jumpers that appeared as tunics became relegated to stalwarts of the court room before ultimately being ditched altogether in some places.  CS gas arrived and was then replaced by pepper spray. From no computers at all,  to the basic ones with a dot matrix printer, to the high tech internet beasts of today.

There were canteens with friendly staff looking after officers and police bars a plenty. Heading to the bar to let of steam after a late shift was common practice. There were meals and teas/coffees provided when on courses, all these little extra financial compensations have all evaporated.

I started with a basic Motorola UHF pack set radio, with VHF sets in the cars.

Image result for motorola police radio

I recall being the first on the shift to have a mobile phone and being laughed at that they wouldn't catch on!

Then came trousers for us women, they were those itchy woollen goddamn awful things but they were trousers. Now of course the military like combat trouser is king.

So many, many changes over the years. But the biggest change of all?

The loss of morale and the loss of feeling like you were part of a large family that got through the shite together, on or off duty. There was a feeling back then that the bosses had our backs, generally speaking politics had no place in policing and that the job was about locking up the bad guys. 

Back in those dark ages the public respected their police service and the media didn't seem to jump so quickly and avidly to stamp their disapproval upon us at every turn. We felt valued and that made the most enormous difference.

The police service of 2017 is depleted, under resourced and vilified by the press. Politics is at the forefront of policing and catching the bad guys has to be done to fit a political agenda!  God forbid we upset a crook!

What is to become of this changed police service?

Officers are leaving in droves to find work elsewhere regardless of the pay drops they are taking. What price peace of mind they must be thinking. If you can see your family more than one weekend a month, escape the horrific pressures, the dangers and regain your mental health why not? Life is for the living surely? Officers are expected to work so many unsocial shifts, so many cancelled rest days, lose their hard earned leave and for what?... a wage that is in real terms falling? Why would anyone want to work in that sort of environment?

Career chasers' can be heard talking the leavers down, uttering abusive insults about flipping burgers and the like but I can't help but feel they've used these hard working officers backs to climb up to the lofty heights of their high horses, grinding them down and breaking their spirits in the process. We need more than lip service, we need more than someone saying they're supportive of their troops. We need evidence of that support. There is no use talking the talk without walking the walk otherwise it only serves to be an exercise in ticking the boxes of their ridiculous policy books.

Perhaps the governments ultimate aim is to drive us all out before they employ a private company like G4S?

I'm sad, I grieve for what was. I don't feel I have any place in the shambles the service is becoming. It's broken me, it's taken away my spirit and like any bully it just laughs at me for it and denies all responsibility. I'm not alone, there will be many more like myself that are broken irreparably by their service to our country. The pressure, the dangers, the thankless task it has become.

So, the question raised today was whether leaving the police service for another job was a viable option? I'd have to say that's a big fat yes wouldn't you?

Friday, 14 July 2017

Friday 14th July 2017

Its that time of year where change is in the air isn't it?

Summer holidays for the kids, change of routines all around for those affected families as a consequence. Seaside towns like the one I live in becoming inundated by some of those families looking for some well deserved rest and relaxation. Whilst at the same time we look forward with some trepidation to the new school year and what that will bring. I'm feeling the winds of change too, I'm not sure I can put my finger on precisely why but I can feel a shift.

Since the last blog I wrote and left posted... I've had a bit of a roller-coaster ride with my emotions. A week ago today I visited a psychiatrist at the request of my force. They say to establish what treatment I should be receiving but I have my doubts that their grounds were quite that compassionate! Especially as they've not been the source of any treatment to date over the last seven months!

The encounter was not a pleasant one and the professional was overbearing, jumped to conclusions and put words into my mouth. I was so distraught throughout the consultation that I was continually crying and at times incapable of being coherent. The consultation was an hour in total and cost the force £350. There was about ten minutes of administration, thirty minutes of very closed questioning which was then stunted further by him contemporaneously recording everything I said. Then he used the last twenty minutes of the session to dictate his letter about me! He says he does it that way so that people know what he will be saying but I have to say it felt more like a time saving exercise to me!

I left the appointment feeling very low and ashamed as he'd made some wild assumptions that I felt stained my character and I spent the next two days feeling really quite distraught about the whole experience. Quite a joke really bearing in mind he is meant to be a mental health specialist and advocate!

After forty eight hours of feeling terribly downtrodden and utterly beaten by the system I had an epiphany. I recalled him saying to me that I could withdraw my consent for him to share his findings with the force at anytime. So I did! This resulted in some squirming, an apology and the letter he'd so hastily dictated being re-written to better reflect my case based on the facts as opposed to his snap assumptions. I have now reinstated my consent for him to share it with the Occupational health department and in turn my force.

Anyway what I have found in the last week is that I have been through a whole array of emotions. From the down trodden beaten feelings of despair to the incensed fire to stand up for myself. Now I'm feeling that I'm almost grateful he treated me so badly as it lit a fire under my butt and forced me to confront the issues head on if you'll excuse the pun!

The psychiatrist reached the following diagnosis for me in his letter:

1. Moderate depressive disorder
2. Generalised anxiety disorder
3. PTSD symptoms

I've had to email him back again and ask if No 3 is a PTSD diagnosis or if just having symptoms isn't quite going that far? Or does it take longer than thirty minutes in a one off session to reach that sort of conclusive diagnosis?

As an aside, he quotes a passage from the force's referral to him in his letter. Apparently they made the following statement "she is reluctant to return to work"? Now I read that as she's swinging the lead or can't be arsed to come to work as opposed to she's unable to return to work or she's too poorly to return to work. What do you think? Have to say it got under my skin somewhat. In his letter he refers to it as a poor prognostic factor!

Another odd comment in his letter is this one;

"perhaps either contributing or perhaps clouding diagnostically is her fibromyalgia"

How does it cloud things? If he knows his stuff and one is assuming he should, it's well documented that PTSD and Fibromyalgia often go hand in hand, in fact my last blog looked at just this area so why does he feel my Fibromyalgia clouds a diagnosis?

Anyway that letter will be winging its way to the OH department, as to what benefit it'll have for me I'm unsure! Does it take me any further forwards? I'm not sure. Was it worth £350?? Probably not! Any decent detective could have taken a far better, all encompassing witness statement from me gathering much greater detail. He could definitely learn a thing or two about listening and compassion because the way he went about things was seriously flawed. Plus detectives don't earn £350 an hour! It certainly brings it home how professional we are as a service for what essentially is peanuts in comparison to what that monkey is earning!