This is a disability assessment 

This is a disability assessment
This is for Personal Independence Payment
This is death
This is humiliation 
This is judgement day 
This is the fine line between scrounger and innocent 
This is the difference between food bank or a food shop
This is being able to heat your home
This is the key your freedom 
This is the key your destitution
This is your fate- decided
This is a prompt for a UN enquiry
This is a test 

This is a trial 

This is ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘sometimes’

This is the way the government defines disability
This is wrong 
This needs to stop 
This kills disabled people
When will that be enough?

Image credit: http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/03/29/our-last-good-friday-easter-monday-beginning-of-the-end-for-uk-poor/

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An open letter to myself about Manchester and the university I actually love 💜

I still have my final third year exams to sit on Friday and Tuesday at the university of Manchester, and a concert to go to at the ethiad stadium on the 3rd (it’s Robbie Williams- my mum loves him). 
I’m still attending all of them.
Yes, I will be careful and as safe as I can be.

Some students have asked the university to postpone the exams, and I’m glad they haven’t.

To lock yourselves away, and not go to the things you’ve planned to go to, is to give terrorists and their organisations what they want- for us to be so terrified of them that we don’t live our lives.

I’m still getting my degree, and I’m still going to go enjoy a gig at the ethiad- albeit tainted with some somber thoughts of the attack at Manchester arena- regardless of whether extremists or ISIS or whoever would rather have me cowering in fear at home. 

That’s not to say I’m not a little anxious about going back to Manchester (I’ve been back home to revise) but to not go back is to let fear win.

Manchester is a place I frequently found myself as a young person, with countless gigs, in various venues, some comedians, a good few theatre shows, shopping trips, museum and art gallery outings, and university lectures under my belt at this point. 

Approaching the end of my three years at UOM, I now know the witch way and magic bus routes like the back of my hand. If you asked me in an ordinary week about my university, I’d probably lament how stressed and sleep deprived I am. But I love my university, and the city, all the same.

My first gig was the Take That reunion tour at the Ethiad when I was about 11

My first theatre show was Grease at the palace theatre when I was about 9

Manchester is where the majority of my greatest memories were made.

It was a no brainer when it came to which university I wanted to go to. Either the University of, or Manchester Met. Because either way I was going to my second home in the city.
It makes me angry to think people’s own memory making was ruined or that lives were taken away before they could even have those number of experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have.

The last couple of days, my anxiety has been sky high (as documented in a previous post, I have struggled with my mental health since I was 15) so it’s made trying to focus on my actual exam tough, because all I can think about is it’s location and the “What if?”. What made it most unsettling is that I’m now a disabled person. How do I go on about getting out in a terrorist attack? Which staircase on the 4th floor is the safest? Is the university even a safe place? Will there be police and armed forces personnel hovering around the beloved ‘tin can’ that is University Place?

But, despite all the uncertainty, I have to carry on. To not go back to Manchester would be like never going home again.

University of Manchester- I’m coming home again, one last time before I set off into the big wide world with all the “Knowledge, wisdom, [and] Humanity” I can possibly muster.

Mental health awareness week? Hold my beer…

(I actually prefer cider or amaretto liquor, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it)

So this is my first 100% open documentation of my mental health issues.

I’ve been in and out of some form of talking therapy since I was 15.

My anxiety, and in my early adulthood, my depression have been probably the worst experiences of my life.
My anxiety still rears its ugly head now. Example: talking on the phone, or meeting new people. On really bad days people can just look at me (which happens a lot because I walk with a crutch now) and I just know they were talking about me (they weren’t- sometimes they do coz it’s unusual to see a young person with a walking aid)

It surprises my friends when my family say how quiet I am.

Because once of a day I spent my days hating myself and never leaving the house. Ever.

When I was 15, I actually decided to seek help my anxiety. GCSES we’re approaching, and as far as I was concerned, I was completely and utterly stupid.

[it later transpired in adulthood that I had a learning difficulty]

So I went to knock on the school councellor’s door, ran away and cried to my form tutor that I needed help. I was ashamed. 

So I was talked through some stuff, and taught that if I faked confidence long enough it would become second nature.

Now I’m a pseudo-narsastic comedic arse hole of a young adult, so I suppose it rubbed off the wrong way.
Anyway–

I basically hated high school. Not so much the learning- I love learning new stuff- but the social side of high school was horrible. I was bullied, both in person and cyber bullied, and had friends who actually turned out to want to make my life Hell (and some good friends too) I just didn’t fit in and did not belong. It wasn’t cool to be geeky.

So I saw two councellors in this time and survived.

I went to college. College was worse.

I felt like I was getting no where- everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Except me. My work placements weren’t going well either. I was too quiet and shy, and even stammered while I was there.

“Lacks common sense” was a really lovely example of some of the feedback I received.

In this time, I started to despise being a home, or around anyone. I started seeing the college’s mental health nurse. I saw my GP and got told to ‘Get out more’ but that’s easy to say when it’s only anxiety that drives you to even attend college, nevermind go anywhere else. Eventually I dropped out.

And that’s when I hit rock bottom. 

I stopped caring about myself. I actually hated my life and just wish I didn’t exist anymore. To me, my whole life had been a massive failure. Sometimes I’d try to do myself up a bit, just to walk 15 mins down the road to my grandma’s. I’d stick my key in the front door at home, take the key out and bury myself under my duvet and cry until my ribs hurt, because I just could not face leaving the house, and the Black dog would bark that no one would want me there anyway.

I started CBT and was put onto the antidepressant Flouxitine. I was 17.

After a few sessions I became angry that I hadn’t done well at college, partly because, I felt the support wasn’t there.

So I kept saying to people “yeah I’ve dropped out, but I’m going back” 

I just didn’t know when, or to do what. But at the time I was more concerned with just actually physically feeling happy again, instead of numb to even stuff I used to like doing.

It wasn’t straight sailing,

There were times when my mum would find me rhythmically lightly banging my head against my bedroom wall

The odd occasion where I’d hold a razor blade over my arm and not go through with it because I didn’t want to hurt my family even more than I was by even being here.

If there’s one thing I know people have said they admire about me, it’s my determination.

So after a few months of CBT I started volunteer work, at my mum’s advice, to give me something to do while I figured stuff out. It was once a week for 5 hours. I was quiet there too, but now they can’t shut me up.

And eventually I took myself off the antidepressants. I’d never liked the idea of being pretend-happy via drugs, and when they’ve been offered to me since, I’ve turned them down. But they did help me in the time when I was desperate.

The following year, I wrote a list of pros and cons for college courses I wanted to go on. 

In the end I chose to do my A levels. I didn’t feel clever enough for them at high school but I decided to revisit my old high school subjects would be a welcome leap back into academia (I’m a history nerd, basically) and this time I wasn’t forcing myself down another vocational route.

So off I went. I already had my GCSES so I was offered an unconditional place. It felt so good to be interviewed and have someone actually talk to me beyond just why I wanted to do the course.

So I started again. I was 2 years older than everyone else, but it made the icebreaker sessions (that I still hate) much easier.

Two weeks in I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia. That was a load off my mind

I wasn’t doing too badly. I had really supportive and encouraging tutors, so if I did feel unsure, I was reassured about how bright I was, and how hard I work.

 If I felt my anxiety creep up I went to speak to the mental health nurse who I saw before, and we’d have a quick chat. I’d normally solve my own problem, because despite all the irrational thinking of mental health causes, I’m actually quite the rational problem solver if I really try.

In the second year of my A level studies, my parents seperated. I don’t blame them at all. I went to see the mental health nurse again, because my dad went the day before I was off on a trip to a university fair. I couldn’t see past how I was going to apply for courses and think of the future when I was still trying to deal with the present.
So that’s how I ended up in the councillor’s office. Again. At this point, in our first meeting, I said “can I just point out that I know I don’t like bananas, before you say I should have one because they give you endorphins or whatever?”

So we talked about my dad, and his slight drinking problem, and my mum and sister. And also the one toxic friendship I had developed in college.

With support, I came out the other side of that. I started university.

And then the pain started. Over summer I’d been getting horrible shooting pains in my back and hips. And I got diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome. No cure, just pain relief for now.

Fine.

First year was tougher academically than my A levels- moreso than I expected. For a dyspraxic person, now being given high doses of codiene by the doctor when the pain got bad, trying to stay organised and top of everything at home in halls, and at uni, got too much.

Back to counselling I went, reluctantly this time. Because by this point I’d had 4, and was starting to think there was no point.

The scareiest thing, besides my head banging days, that has ever happened was when the voice inside my head wasn’t my own.

It was a collection of about 5 of them. All saying absolutely horrible things.

Luckily that’s only ever happened once.

My absolute rock throughout my degree, besides my mum has been my learning mentor + (the plus is for mental health) she’s amazing. I could tell her anything that was going on and they’d be no gasp of horror or panic to pack me off to more therapy. We’d simply sit and talk for an hour- if I needed to vent for the full hour, I did.

So, second year pretty much went by (it was stressful because my pain intensified, and second year is though for any university student) and I could feel myself sinking into familiar patterns.

My mobility had/has become restricted by pain. So, this time the depression wasn’t keeping me in. But each time I went out, it felt more scary. And then it got to the point where I grieved for my old life and all it’s wasted opportunity. If I’d have just said yes to going to x, y, z or made more an effort with a, b, c. I was also growing tired of people suggesting pseudo-miracle cures for what was now fibromyalgia and joint hypermobility.

So I got pretty depressed again. It was too late by the time I’d noticed, how many friends I’d isolated. I went to my usual pain clinic appointment, and- with gritted teeth- I asked to see a clinical psychiatrist.

We went through everything- everything I’ve pretty much written here, we talked about. Right from my painfully shy childhood to present. Including the bits in between college. I told him I didn’t want to talk about it, explaining that my very rock bottom contains memories I hate to revisit. So when I came back the following week, after a long think, I decided it was time I talked about my first long walk with the black dog.

I was discharged from psychiatry a few months ago. And with all the, I suppose trauma, mental health caused in my life addressed, this year’s mental health awareness week is a very poignant one for me.
I’m still not without days when I have to battle through- the fibro and my anxiety are definitely here to stay. But if I hadn’t have been through what I have, I don’t actually think I’d have ever dreamed of having a future as bright as I do now.
#mentalhealthawarnessweek
*hits publish and gets super anxious about being judged- I can’t help it*

 

I know you didn’t want a pole dance 🌚

If there’s one thing that pisses me off about my dyspraxia it’s the physical aspects of balance and trying not to be as clumsy as fuck.

Over the years, I’ve developed a good few coping strategies to deal with my Dory-from-finding-Nemo memory that it’s not too bad

* Also when I forget I’ve ordered something cute from Topshop and it turns up- that’s always a plus! *

And yeah sometimes it’s frustrating, but the clumsiness and balance is something else.

Take buses for example.

Easy task right? 

You get on the bus.

You sit down (if possible)

Or you stand gracefully, managing to stand your ground right?

Hahahaha- not if you’re dyspraxic.

I recall one occasion quite vividly when, standing, clinging to a pole, I accidentally gave an old lady an involuntary pole dance neither she or I had planned for, or wanted. Here’s hoping she didn’t die of shock and horror shortly afterwards.

Or that time I knocked a friend’s drink over with my elbow.

Or the time I dropped a full on bucket of water, all down myself

Or when I take what feels like about six billion years to come down one flight of steps. With tuts from the people behind me (sorry not sorry)

Forgetfulness is more acceptable, as my friends and family are very forgiving and I can say ‘oh sorry! I completely forgot!’ Which is fine

A lack of coordination makes for many an embarrassing moment. Sometimes even humiliating by the stares I get. It makes room for more judgement.

And that in turn only makes me less and less confident.

But I just wish people would give it a second thought.

Rather than just staring like ‘what the fuck?’

Help someone out.

Some things are better left unsaid?

I’ve lost count in the last couple of years, since I started using a crutch, that people have asked outright, just blurting it out ‘what’s wrong with you?’

So I’d like to address those people:

Hi (good place to start)

My name is Rebecca 

I’m 23

I’m a student studying history and sociology at a decent university 

I have a cat called George

I have 1 sibling- a sister

I am single 

I am also dyspraxic, but you can’t see that

As you can see I have a walking aid- 1 bog standard, NHS crutch

Aren’t you observant?

No-

  1. I haven’t broken anything
  2. I haven’t been fighting
  3. This isn’t a football injury
  4. I don’t know ‘what the other one looks like’

Today, I was asked the same thing in a very different way- and it made all the difference.

I sat down next to a Middle Aged Asian man on the bus.

He helped me sit down (bus had set off as I reached my seat, and it was me, with a backpack on, my crutch, and a suitcase with a very wonky wheel)

I thanked him (I’m polite)

He paused and I waited for the same sentence I was so tired of hearing…

Just the day before, I was discussing potential responses with a friend ranging from:

“I’ve been fighting dragons”

To “My boyfriend forgot the safe word” (90% of suggestions were sexual tbh)

And then he said 

“What happened?”

Now, it might not sound like much, but he asked in a very gentle way, that didn’t immediately label that there was something wrong with me, announcing to the whole bus that they’d asked me by how loud their voice was like the usual crowd

I explained I had dodgy joints

And again I was taken aback by the response

“Oh” he paused “My best wishes to you”

Normally, in situation A with the ‘what’s wrong?’ Crowd I get ‘oh is there not any treatment?’

And when I explain more about my condition than an NHS choices page, the next thing on the crowd’s agenda is some spiel about how I’m inspirational, and it’s good that I keep going (dunno what I’m supposed to do otherwise, I’m travelling home)

But this man on the bus gave me his best wishes, smiled on me thanking him, and did not continue to interrogate me into yet another depressing reminder that I will be this way forever, and that I should somehow automatically qualify as being ‘inspirational’ ?

I’m a single 20-something with a cat too 🐱

And that man on the bus gave me his best wishes, regardless of – most importantly- my condition, it’s affects, time span or manifestations

My best wishes to you too, man on the bus ❤️

Job hunting: computer says no

So I haven’t posted in a while because I was lacking phone memory for the WordPress app.
I’ve applied for a new job tonight, and I’ve been almost instantly rejected.
I spent 2 and a half hours filling out the CV section- all well and good.
✔️ Educated.
✔️ Plenty of experience in that area
✔️ Decent human being.
And then I got to the screening test section.
It asked me some weirdly worded questions, with 3 multiple choice options, for what I’d do in each scenario.
So I filled it out, and that’s when my instant rejection came.

I had the experience, I had the qualifications, and I am a nice person.

But that wasn’t enough.
My CV wasn’t even going to be looked at, because a computer said no.
Consideration in exams is a given when a person has a diagnosed, documented, learning difficulty.
I have dyspraxia (Developmental Coordination Disorder)
So, this means I get extra time, and examiners are asked to consider my dyspraxia when marking my responses.
But there was no learning difficulty/disability friendly version if the test.
I can appreciate, of course, what technology can do for a person with learning difficulties and additional needs.
But the idea that my application was not going to be considered at all, because of a generic computer test (which I’m pretty sure the company would have trained me about anyway) is ridiculous!
Hey ho- back to the drawing board 😅

Chronic pain: what I’ve learnt

So yeah, on top of dyspraxia, a nervous-anxiety-riddled-disposition, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness roughly 2 and a half years ago now.

I had a flare up of pain in my knee and my back when I reached about 16 (I was just coming to the end of highschool) and it went within a few days. Odd. Then it happened a few more times. So I saw my GP, and was packed off to Physio. He told me I was hypermobile, I said, ok whatever.
Then, as I started college for the second time, taking A levels in history, sociology, religion and philosophy, and ICT,  aged 19 (long story for another post, maybe- there was a lengthy battle with my mental health inbetween) I started with awful pain in my lower back and knees. A lot worse than the time before.
A year later, in the time I was supposed to be preparing for university, I was crawling up the stairs at home to reach my room.
So I went to my GP.
Again.

And again.

And again.
Then I sat my exams, with difficulty to sit in the 2 hour exam without shuffling round on my seat in a great deal of pain.
I went back to my doctor.

I was informed it was growing pains. At this point I was 21 years old, a pretty lanky, slim built young woman who filled out and had plenty of growth spurts by then.

I went to collect my exam results in the August, I’d got into my first choice university. A Russel group, all singing, all dancing one. A ‘posh’ uni as my friends put it who were going to polytechnics. So I was moving out the following month to start my degree in History and Sociology.

I went back to my doctors once more, because before I went anywhere, I needed to know what was going on with my body.

By chance, it was a locum doctor on shift that day, who agreed with me that the pain needed more investigation, and I was sent to a rhumetologist.

At the rhumetolgist appointment, I was diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome.

In lay men’s terms, it’s a chronic condition where the joints have a wider range of movement than they should (that’s the ‘hyper mobility part- it’s being double jointed) and having that wide range means that soft tissues and ligaments become damaged and painful, which then becomes widespread (as painful as fuck, might I add)
Fast forward 2 years later, and my life basically consists of uni and hospital appointments, because I don’t have the energy for much else.

I’m determined to finish my studies, but my God, there are days where I just want to give up.

I sometimes get really upset that I now can’t remember what it feels like to wake up and not feel pain everyday.

But in other ways, the condition has made me a lot stronger.

I’m a very determined, very strong willed,  and I’ve developed empathy on a level I didn’t realise existed.

I’m also a lot more forthcoming- if I don’t like you, you know about it.

I’ve lost a ‘friend’ in these two years.

But I’ve also become closer to others,  who really will me to carry on and not give up!

A true test of character really does come, when life really throws you a curveball in the form of a chronic illness- and it’s a real test of friendship too.