ptsd

I Won

CN for suicide, self harm, mental health

13 months after my personal independence payments were cut, I won my 2nd tribunal. 13 months of crowdfunding my rent. 13 months of reducing my food intake, buying the cheaper brand, going without, and feeling humiliated but on Friday, a panel ruled in my favour. There was no objection from the DWP representative who, I could have sworn, was even crying at one point. I felt bad for scowling at her after that!

I self harmed 4 times during that period, when I absolutely could not comply with the measures I’ve worked at to protect myself. I dissociated more frequently. I got as far as buying the instruments I would need to end it. Drew up a plan. Resisted writing the suicide note because that would make it final, and only because the people around me pulled through when I shared my invasive thoughts (a thing I was only able to do because I’d been taught, by my first therapist). They reminded me I’d managed to survive this long because people wanted to help me. They made me think about the people who look to me for strength and how my demise would impact on them. I didn’t really care in that split second but when the feverish urges passed I felt a bit sheepish I’ll admit. People do take strength from my courage.

When the DWP cut me off and sent me their decision, they said they were not disputing the fact that I had these disabilities just whether or not I qualified for personal independence payments. 13 months on and I’ve just been told I do. So was it really necessary to put me through this? What is its purpose otherwise? Survival of the fittest? It’s not strictly true anymore though is it? I’m nowhere near the fittest but I have recourse; to advocates, to friends who work in the public sector and health professionals who actually listen. Perhaps this mum didn’t?

Even with all the support I have, I came the closest I ever have to ending it. I didn’t enjoy asking for help, again and again, I was isolated and lonely as a result. I might be an anarcho-communist but I still have the hardwiring of a society that celebrates charity as a virtue but not if you’re on the receiving end. The shame still lingers. I didn’t want to die, I felt I had no other choice.

Recently I read about a young woman called Holly Cowlam who took her own life when she was diagnosed with depression. Holly had been studying psychology and so had some understanding of mental health. I get the sense, because she knew her chances in life would be greatly affected, as they are in a society that demonises mental health, she felt she had no other option. I know what that’s like; the shame and hopelessness. I refused to acknowledge my own mental health for 20 years, telling myself I was stronger than those others who had succumbed. In the end, you can’t really prevent it. I am the sum total of all the violence and treachery inflicted on me but with the right support, and freedom, and protection, I know I can get better.

holly cowlam

What I do not need, and could have really done without, was being treated like I’m making it up. As a repeat victim of sexual and domestic violence, gaslighting is a straight up trigger for my PTSD. Being treated like I am insignificant and somehow asking for more than what is my right, having paid into a system for many years and on an emergency tax code more often than not (I did a lot of temp work because I was sick even then only I wouldn’t admit it) eventually wore me down in a way my mental and physical conditions do not, because I believe I can overcome them (to an extent). I needed time and space to heal not to be hindered by a cruel and abusive process.

Advocates for humanity must ramp up the pressure on this government and demand justice for all those who’ve needlessly died in our country. The architects of social cleansing must be tried for their crimes against our humanity.

You can judge a country by the way it treats its animals/poor/prisoners/women/disabled folk.

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So over the DWP

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It has been almost a full year since my personal independence payments were stopped on the 27th January, a whole year sat around waiting on a tribunal and I still haven’t heard anything. A whole 550 pounds taken off my budget, impacting my recovery in ways that have only become apparent this many months on. I was awarded the higher level, based on my conditions and medical reports. My spine is fusing at L5/S1 following two surgeries to remove a prolapsed disc that had caused marked damage to the nerves in my left foot, leg and buttock. The second op was an emergency and doctors were amazed to discover I wasn’t incontinent considering the position of the disc. A stroke of luck. Adhesions following the surgeries have left me with chronic pain in my lower back and surrounding areas. I also suffer from complex post traumatic stress disorder. Commonly affecting prisoners of war, this condition was inflicted on me. PTSD happens when a life threatening event causes trauma that is still evident more than a month later. Complex PTSD arises when your life has been threatened multiple times. I am due to see a rheumatologist, to find out whether I have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that seems to affect groups affected by white supremacist imperialism, funnily enough.

Of course I would rather have a life filled with new experiences. I would have liked to do a bungee jump. I would have loved to travel the world a bit more, gone to more music festivals, and taken that foodie holiday I used to dream about. A tour of all the foodie heavens; Italy, France, Spain.. I also wanted to go on a walking holiday, Camino de Santiago, even as a non believer, because it sounds delightful and you get to meet lots of people along the way, and I love people, despite all their bullshit. I would have liked to take in the world’s ruins and visited Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. I would eventually settle far away from the rainy fascist island I was birthed on, once I’d got my bearings in the world.

Life dealt me another hand. One full of pain and suffering, of unfulfilled potential. I don’t like asking for my dues. I don’t appreciate having to reel off my trauma history every time my status is called into question. That’s what doctors are there for surely? To confirm the treatment you have been receiving, to give their expert opinions on the state of your health? I asked for a supporting letter to send to the DWP who were insisting I come in for another ESA assessment, a thing I absolutely could not do. They are aware of my mental health, they’ve been advised numerous times. The admin service said a supporting letter would cost £46, approx 1/3 of the emergency rate they have now placed me on (because I failed to provide a GP’s letter). When I explained my circumstances they sent an identical email reiterating the cost and clarifying that supporting letters are considered ‘private work’ and not available on the NHS.

So this is how they’re going to kill us now is it? Make it impossible to jump through the hoops they expect you to jump in exchange for their meagre offerings?

I’ve stopped talking to everyone. I’ve stopped asking the GP for help, stopped bothering the DWP, don’t see any point in talking to my therapist or advocate. I guess I’m resigned, hurtling towards the inevitable. I’m calm, eerily so. I just haven’t enough fight left in me to tackle the system. I haven’t even told my family, because what good would come of it? Nobody is in a position to carry me. I have survived this long only because of the kindness of friends and even strangers. I don’t really have that access any more. I can’t be bothered to do anything about it either.

The British government has wilfuly caused the deaths of many thousands of sick and disabled British citizens. I have seen firsthand how they’ve implemented this, every step of the way. I have only made it this far because of all the support I receive but even that is insufficient now. I truly have no vision for tomorrow. I don’t see how my circumstances will improve and more to the point, I am done trying. This isn’t a statement of intent, just a heads up that I’m sitting down now and I’m not getting up.

Why the truth matters to me

truth

Growing up a stranger in the place of your birth is disorientating. Asides from the challenges one might encounter when starting at a new school, like making friends, children with foreign parents have to overcome additional obstacles in order to fit in. They must learn another language sometimes, as I did, but language is one of those things small children master within a surprisingly short period of time. Other barriers to assimilation are not so easy to tackle and there are so many, it’s no surprise people from ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately with poor mental health.

When you are told you are, but also feel, a member of the underclass, you either buy into the narrative – especially when you’ve not been taught to think critically – or you seek to distance yourself from the perceptions others have of your people. You buy into their hate or your own, in a bid to survive, but to survive well. Self-love just isn’t an option. I was conscious of the lies I needed to tell if I had any hope of accessing the world I wanted to belong to as early as age 6 when I decided I wanted to be called Sam. Even for one so young and innocent I had an inkling Sam was a name they just couldn’t mess with. It was English for a start. I didn’t have to spell it out every time, or have people poke fun at it, whether my peers or teachers (who should have known better). Even at this age I knew I had to change who I was if I was to have a fighting chance in life.

Racism wasn’t the only thing that informed the shaping of an identity that sat at odds with who I was inside. In fact as time went on, it became less of a conscious thing and something I normalised, and believed everyone did. Of course I now know this isn’t true, that many people are born into their identities and have the freedom to express them without the judgmental white gaze waiting for them to slip up.  Or the limitations of a violent home, living your days in fear of attack, never knowing where the next hit was coming from, desperately trying to cover up the evil truth from outsiders, in case they confirmed you did actually deserve the abuse you endured.

I was bubbly and outgoing, smart and organised, my mouth permanently fixed in a smile. I was part of the school council, a class monitor, a straight A student, a member of the quiz team and captain for rounders, netball and cricket. We were the champions of it all. None of the teachers would have guessed the situation at home was escalating, that we were living in fear and self-harming. My personality was split early on, through necessity; I had to be two different people in order to survive. Entering the big wide world as a teen on the run, I had to invent another persona to fit in with all these interesting new London types from all over Europe and beyond. When I left school, I left my world, my friends, my life behind. I had to learn how to speak in a way that didn’t set southerners off in a fit of giggles at my dulcet Brummie drawl. I had to be flexible if I was going to make it, whatever it would take. I lapped up my token status as the one who wasn’t like all the others, as though this was a reflection of my amazingness and not a divisive and racist microagression used by white people to remind you of your place (not so worthy but not so bad either, a reminder to keep doing what it is you’re doing for cookies), and keep you from questioning their problematic views.

Of course I didn’t know then that I didn’t have to be so amenable. I was on the run from a culture I had rejected because of the ways in which it made me a target and was desperate to adopt new ways to help me blend in. I became so many different things to so many people; I forgot who I was and what I wanted. I lived a life where I was manipulated by people who identified this willingness to please and then exploited it. I was used and abused, scapegoated. I was called a liar for keeping secrets I was too afraid to share. A gestalt therapist I accessed through my work noted that I smiled when I spoke of negative things and asked me to consider the incongruence between my words and my body language. I had become so jumbled up in my thoughts I began to dissociate whenever I was afraid. There was drug abuse, promiscuity, domestic abuse in my intimate relationships whilst I struggled to hold down a job as an advocate fighting for victims of domestic abuse. I was my own best example of bad practice though it did have the bonus of making me non-judgmental, however hopeless a situation might have seemed, I believed it was essential they had access to the same support. Cops for eg are less likely to want to help repeat victims, especially those who may have been warned off from being a witness previously (cos it’s all about them and paperwork, not an infectious social disease).

I couldn’t find my way out of my living hell. I couldn’t access the support to do so because then people would know my secret; that I was ugly and horrible, and undeserving of love and respect. That I should die. My adult relationships confirmed the self-hatred I had as a small child; nothing I did would ever change the fundamental flaw from within, my low social standing as the daughter of immigrants who never did escape the ghetto or the colonial mind-set (despite the straight As) and respect for hierarchy (within patriarchy). I was a slag before I had even kissed a boy, they must have known what I would grow into I reasoned.

A tragic incident in my personal life provided the catalyst for PTSD. All the feelings I’d ever suppressed bubbled to the surface and consumed me. I existed, and that’s all I can say for my consciousness over the period of a year except that I never want to go back there. With the right support, I was able to identify the pathways responsible for the ‘random’ panic attacks. I sorted the snapshots in my mind onto the correct collages and vowed to trace them back to the first triggers so that I could beat them. In order to do this, I have to be 100% honest with myself and everyone else or the carefully constructed administration of my mental health will fold in on itself.

A huge part of my recovery is about owning my genuine mistakes and experiencing them in a way that doesn’t cripple me with anxiety (the white commentariat can go to hell for the ways in which they hindered my progress, not forgetting the PoC who’ve perpetuated the lies about me).

Don’t lie to (or about) me; I will come at you with the rage of a woman who knows she is being gaslighted, because it triggers a collage of all the people who’ve knowingly put me in harm’s way, by minimising, denying and erasing my experience of things. I always feel a little crazy following a spat with people who lie because it hits me hard in a way you cannot appreciate. Sunny Hundal occupies the same brain space as the mosque teacher who molested me and continued to enjoy the kudos of being a holy man. Helen Lewis triggers the same feelings as the guy who molested me at 15 then said he’d heard I was a slag so thought he’d try his luck. That dude denies to this day that he ever put a finger on me.

If I say something and it seems dishonest to you, run your concerns by me, to my knowledge I am always telling the truth. I do however appreciate the arbitrary nature of most things so if you know better, do tell. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t help if you’re already a friend, coming at me with criticisms, however well intentioned, won’t end well if we’ve barely exchanged a RT, or even the bare minimum of support considering the shitehole the internet can be (and has been towards me).

All that Glinners is not gold

Another shit thing happened today and tedious as it is documenting every twist and turn of this debacle, it is what I am going to do.  I understand it is difficult to have a nuanced conversation on Twitter so I’ll just put my version of events up here. You don’t have to read it.

Last night I found a tweet calling me a ‘vile paki cis cunt’. My initial response was a spike in adrenalin, as always the p word has this kind of effect. I am lucky in that I had my wonderful friends close and so was able to talk through my emotions and recognise them so they didn’t take over. As the rush subsided, I felt like I didn’t want to exist. That’s a common comedown from racial abuse, it’s not something I can do anything about, I can’t paint myself white, I am stuck. When you have complex PTSD these feelings are amplified. Why should I have to feel near suicidal every time a white person controls me in this way? It is control because they KNOW the history of that word. They KNOW they are powerful. They KNOW they can reduce us to an anxious nervous mess because of the history of subjugation that they still maintain today. WE’RE not stupid.

This is serious abuse. Most decent people surely recognise this? So when I tweeted various members of the cis commentariat clan, it was for some recognition that I am subjected to abuse too, especially in light of their ridiculous Twitter silence. It was bitter but rightly so, I cannot understand this double standard they have going on. So imagine my surprise when @Glinner responded “I know! Somehow blame Caitlin Moran!” No acknowledgment of the hateful racism and misogyny, no consideration for what I was actually asking, just another opportunity to prove a point. Firstly, ‘Glinner’, we don’t ‘blame’ Caitlin Moran for things she hasn’t done. It’s not her fault that my bus was late today. However, she does quite often say some horrendous shit that most people of the same generation grew out of before they finished their GCSEs. It’s something I wish ‘comedians’ were more honest about, that somehow saying something outrageous boost the ratings cos they’re so radical and interesting when in fact they are just a bit bigoted. It’s not about being ‘politically correct’. It is treating people with human decency. What puts them above the rest of us?

For an avid supporter of all things Caitlin related and the Twit silence, how we must tackle trolls yadda yadda, I was seriously underwhelmed by his reaction. When I asked for some consistency, this was what I got as a reply.

“I have *nothing* to do with you receiving abuse. Please leave me alone and stop attacking people who are anti-abuse.”

Mate, if you’re so anti-abuse, would it hurt you to condemn the shit I have to deal with every day? Was the sarcasm really necessary? Why is it so difficult for these people to understand what we are demanding? Why is equality such a difficult concept to understand? When white women get death threats, the clan disappear in an arrogant show of white solidarity. I get accused of ‘attacking’ them when they say stupid things.

How is this fair?

Also interesting to note, my white cisters have not responded personally at all. Teh white menz do all of the talking.