The End.

So, we lost. We all lost. I can see this, but all I see around me are people desperately trying to find positives, of which there are many, rather than admit that we lost and that we now face five more years of cruel Tory imposed poverty and cuts to vital public services.

For me, this is the end of the line. The very end of the line. I have suffered for decades with mental health issues, arising from abuse in childhood and repeatedly been misdiagnosed and as a result mistreated. This has recently been acknowledged and they’ve told me to get off the medication that I’ve been pumped with for years as it isn’t doing me any good. Well fucking Duh! I’ve been telling you that for years and you’ve been denying me the psychiatric help that you now, finally, admit I need.

So, it looked like I’d fallen onto the right track, after decades of begging for the right help.

Then the general election happened. The Tories won and the National Health Service, mental health services in particular, will be facing yet more cuts. I am fucked.

After living a reasonably normal life, by most of society’s standards, you know, having a home, luckily having a well paid job. Relationships, children. I find myself alone, with severe depression and anxiety in the third hostel environment and seventh sleeping environment, uncluding homelessness / rough sleeping, since near the end of April. No support, other than the “nothing has changed yet, hang in there…” updates from the mental health crisis team.

And remember. The Tories won. Five more years of this shit and worse. I need help and it is scarce as it is, before the Tories and DUP got their power, back in the case of the Tories. Things are going to regress. Things are going to get worse.

I cannot take this any longer. Hope is lost. Eternal darkness is the preferred destination.

Let this be a legacy of the state of this country. Of the depserate need for change. It might come in what would have been my lifetime, but my observations of society in recent years suggests that is still a long way off yet. Way too late for me. The pain has to stop now.

I wish I could say that it’s been a blast. However, it has been a horribly painful existence with very few happy periods. I welcome eternal peace, free from pain, free from cruelty.


Thank you, it has been a blast

Thank you, it has been a blast

It’s less than half an hour to go until the polls close on the 2017 UK General Election, as I begin to write this piece.

I am exhausted. Feel deflated. The tank’s empty and I’ve been running on fumes for some time. I get the feeling that there are plenty of others who are experiencing the same thing as I, all over the country. People have mustered their all to do what they can to bring about positive change in this country, by getting the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party into government. Many of these people had precious little to give. Financially, mentally, physically and in spirit, we are already at the harsh end of Tory Britain and debilitated by the harsh conditions that we are made to exist in. We’ve dragged ourselves up and screamed in every way we can. Online activism has gone through the roof. Volunteers out door knocking in numbers not seen for years.

It’s not just us who are fighting for our very existence who have been promoting the Labour cause. People with no other reason to connect with politics have become engaged and have learned the truth about how our society and economy is operating. They’re not happy with what they finding out. So many people have woken up in recent years, to how tightly controlled our lives are by a very select few, to our detriment and their financial advantage. People are getting angry.

The question is, are there enough people in this country who have actually woken up? How many are still in the semi-conscious state that our mainstream media have carefully held us in for decades? Are we ready to see the real world, as a populace?

These questions will be answered over the coming hours. Anxiety and uncertainty is at dangerous levels, both for individuals and whole demographics in this country. We can only wait.

My own experience of this campaign has been hugely significant in my life. Some will have read about my own hellish journey through mental health and emergency housing services, both in Labour Bristol and Tory Wiltshire. On the flipside to this, which has been circumstantial and only coincidental to the politics of the time, I have also seen a side of humanity that I thought was becoming extinct.

I started making use of my long dormant twitter account again, in early February 2017. If memory serves correctly, I had around 70-80 followers and had tweeted a few hundred times, maybe. As I write this, those figure have risen to over 3,100 and over 32,000 respectively. The growth has been purely organic, no attempts to buy or use apps or follow groups and hashtags to artificially grow. Connections with genuine, decent people have been plenty and I’ve seen genuine concern and thoughtfulness from like-minded people. When I first became homeless and before I was getting benefits, I received a total of £500 from online donations. This enabled me to eat and keep my phone going, for the all important mental health crisis team and benefits related calls that needed to be made and received. For a few days, while in Wiltshire, it enabled me to eat and also got me the train fare back from Chippenham to Bristol when Tory Wiltshire County Council sent me packing, mental health issues and all.

I’ve seen people devote themselves to promoting the Labour cause in highly innovative, creative and passionate ways. People have shone online in their determination to get the truth out there. To educate people. Then we see the huge crowd that are attending the Labour and Jeremy Corbyn rallies around the country. It is breathtaking. The efforts of volunteers in all areas of the campaign has been inspirational and the learn on the job, campaign work performed by the various Momentum groups has been heartening, to say the least.

People power has brought people together and I hope that those connections endure whatever is to come. We have become a family of sorts. Let’s keep it that way. We could well be needing it. Thank you people. Thank you the whole Labour team, supporters, friends. You have all been amazing! I have been inspired and utterly blown away by you people. My faith in humanity has gone up a few notches, even as times have become darker.

I can’t even bring myself to do any more than wish us all luck. Let’s hope for the result that we’ve all worked to very hard for.

Pour? It’s been an effing monsoon!

If you’ve been following this blog, or my tweets on twitter, you’ll know that it has been a rough ride, for some time, up until the last blog post. That post described me basically getting back onto my feet. You may notice that I’ve not updated this blog for nearly 3 weeks. It’s been a horrendous 3 weeks.

So, I left the hostel in Bristol, to go stay with my brother, his disabled wife and her daughter. Her father was also staying there, as his wife was having severe irrational and allegedly violent episodes, sounding very much to me like dementia. This had him highly agitated, along with bombshells of infidelity. So he was generally stomping around the place, effing and blinding. I appreciate he was suffering, I know that he needed to vent, but the aggression was really affecting me, pushing me deeper into my shell. On top of that, he was chopping and changing as to where he was sleeping  each night, which saw me shunted from sofa to camp bed and back again several times.

I got myself registered at the local GP, on the housing register for Homes4Wiltshire and under their equivalent of the Mental Health crisis team, the Intensive Support team. Once the shock and turmoil of the Bristol inner-city hostel subsided, everything started to crash in on me. It hit me hard, just how much I’ve lost. My home, the love of my life, the dog and her youngest daughters, who are all still very special to me. Away from almost everything I own, in a strange place. Now, my brother suffers from bi-polar disorder and it was a concern I raised before he collected me from Bristol. I noticed the additional strain my presence and all the upheaval in his home and to his carefully curated life was putting on him. I was slipping downwards and under questioning by one of the Intensive Support workers, I had my third major meltdown in as many days. This triggered my brother, who became verbally aggressive and I had the urge for “flight”. I wandered around the outskirts of Trowbridge and found a derelict farm with sheltered, dry outbuildings, for the night, in Hilperton.

The following morning, I tried making my way back to Trowbridge, but got lost. Sat on a roadside bench, exhausted and was found by the police, who held me under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, until an ambulance took me to Green Lane hospital in Devizes for assessment. There I was looked after by a HCA who told me she had prepared a room for me and that I’d be able to go there to wash and sleep if I needed to. Then a consultant psychiatrist, the ward psychiatrist, some student psychiatrists and a social worker turned up to assess me.

We discussed things as they were, my risks, my history and my plans. They go off to discuss things among themselves. On their return, they tell me that they felt I would find it more distressing to stay in a separate room on the ward, than to get back to Trowbridge and return to my brother’s house, even after I explained how the environment was affecting myself and my brother. They then threw in that I wasn’t an acute enough case and justified it by saying how I had eloquently expressed myself. They offered to call me a taxi back to Trowbridge and I left telling them I had no money to pay for it. I didn’t realise at the time that they were also going to pay for the taxi.

On my walk back from Devizes to Trowbridge, I was destroyed, all hope lost, all faith in any help arriving, gone. Then I started getting texts from my brother saying that I should stay away from his house. I told him I needed my stuff and was told he’d leave it outside the house. Things escalated from there and there were threats of violence against me, requests for my laptop password, so it could be sold to help cover my funeral expenses and finally that I’d better hurry up as “people are eyeing up your things”. His bipolar disorder was really in overdrive. I’m not applying blame to him, this was always a risk.

Eventually I had to lay down on a verge at the side of the road, exhausted. It transpired I’d made it about two thirds the way from Devizes to Trowbridge. At some point, a paramedic pulled up. Gave me water, as I hadn’t eaten or drank for 3 days, and got me chatting. He called it in, informed the authorities, pulled up into a layby and basically befriended me for about 4 hours. The guy, Paul I think his names was, became a pillar to lean on. He liaised with the police who through EDS?? found me emergency accommodation for the night at a local Travel Lodge hotel. Prior to arriving at the hotel, Paul pulled into a petrol station, returning with a large lemon flavoured mineral water, a packet of fruit shorties and a packet of Jaffa cakes. Insisting I have them. He even helped carried my bags to the room. THAT is a shining star of the NHS. Thank you Paul, you were amazing.

The following morning, I got a call from the hospital to go see them at 2.30pm. I left my bags with reception, as I had to check out by midday. I got back to the hospital and waited until 2.30 to be told the exact same thing that I had been told the day before, with emphasis on “you’re not an acute enough case”. I fell apart. I remember crying, groaning and fighting off panic attacks. I was informally advised to go and present as homeless at the Devizes council office, which wasn’t far from the hospital. Devizes town centre was suitably intimidating and scary in my highly anxious, near panic attack state, but some how, I found my way to the library, where I spoke with a clerk, who used some internal messaging system to contact somebody in Wiltshire Council who would call me back. All this was the correct process, apparently. Library clerks now double up as receptionists for homeless enquiries, in Wiltshire. I left the library and went to sit on a nearby bench.

Around 4.30pm I got a call from the housing guy to hear my case and was told I’d get a call back soon. While I was waiting for that call, the police pulled up. Apparently the hospital had reported me as a risk to myself. I am struggling to reconcile how I wasn’t deemed suitable for admission but was enough of a risk to myself, to warrant them calling the police on my departure. Anyway, the Council guy calls back and I let him talk with the police on my behalf, I was frazzled. The police then took me to a local Police station, via the hotel to collect my things and sat me in their canteen with a cup of tea, while they made a lot of inquiries into emergency housing for me.

This was found and I was then taken to a hostel in Chippenham. Initially I was placed in a dormitory room with two other guys. One had two black eyes and generally looked like he’d been used as a punch bag. The other seemed to be suffering from severe substance abuse and self harm, from what I could make out in my hyper-vigilant state. When the hostel guy came back to check on me, he could see I was struggling and tried to reassure me. He invited me up to the office for a chat. It was then that they decided to bend the rules and allow me to stay in a room on my own, with a set of bunk beds in it.

The following morning, I woke up and had a meltdown at the prospect of making my way to the council offices in Chippenham, to present there as homeless. I was looking around for something to cut myself with. I had had enough and couldn’t take any more. A couple of members of staff then came to me and calmed me down, then took me to the council offices. I explained my case, gave permission for the housing officer to talk to, and the details for, my brother and the Devizes Intensive Support team and was told he’d take around half an hour or so. I went to sit alone outside and ended up calling the Samaritans and sobbing down the phone at them. I remember a couple of ladies asked me if I was okay and guide me back inside and having a word with reception about me. I just lay down on the seating, out of the way, and stared into space.

The council guy came back saying he’d spoken to Intensive Support, my brother and looked at my Homes4Wiltshire housing application. As my brother didn’t want me to go back to his place, understandably and I wasn’t keen on it either, I no longer had a local connection and so Wiltshire Council were not obliged to help me. He told me in no uncertain terms that I should return to Bristol, “where you have already paid into the system” (eh? I thought I’d paid in through the Income Tax and National Insurance system). He told me there was a railway station nearby and that it was about eight and a half pounds for the fare. I left there and was angry now. This was an absolutely, stone-cold, heartless insult. The bastards!

So I made my way back to the hostel to collect my things. I had to jettison two big chunky jumpers as I couldn’t carry them and a member of staff found me a strong bag for life that I managed to squeeze the remainder of my things into that wouldn’t fit into my backpack or large holdall. I was also advised in private and completely off the record, in a hushed tone, to “Rock up at A&E and throw a proper wobbler. A right shit storm.”

I then headed back through Chippenham centre and the anger started to wear off, to be replaced by the anxiety of being out in public, in this state, stereotypically homeless in a very visual way and being me, there, alone, close to panic. At that point I made eye contact with a squaddie and blurted out, “train station?” He gave me simple directions, and as I headed off, he called out to me. “Excuse me, can I help you with that?” Bless him, another shining star lands beside me.

He said to his girlfriend that he’d see her in about quarter of an hour somewhere nearby, took the heaviest of my stuff and led the way at a leisurely pace, with his own backpack and stuff as well as mine. We chatted a bit, he asked what the score was with me and I gave him the recap of the council office. He was pretty unhappy to learn of it. He then waited as I got my ticket, then walked over the stairs and bridge to the right platform. I’d learned that he’d just arrived by train, home on leave and met his girlfriend in town. He’d unselfishly put that moment aside to help a complete stranger and apparently his girlfriend was cool with it too. A young couple. Hopefully an example of their generation that we’ll see more of.

So, I get back to Bristol and luckily the council offices are close to Temple Meads station. I presented again as homeless. This initially started off very badly. Firstly it was said that it was very late in the day, why hadn’t I come earlier. That took a bit of time to explain that I’d just got back after being sent packing by Wiltshire council. Through the first hoop. I then explained that I’d registered about 5-6 weeks before as homeless, had gone via the hostel, to my brother’s in Trowbridge, ended up at the council offices in Chippenham and had been told to go back to Bristol. I was initially told that because I had left the first hostel of my own accord, when I went to my brother’s, I had come off the list to be found new accommodation and that they no longer had an obligation to help. I tried to argue the case and he told me that I would have been told that when I left. I can categorically say I had not been. Eventually I was told that I’d been given the benefit of the doubt and was provided with an address in Easton, another inner city area that I’d usually avoid as a Bristolian.

Now I had to walk about a mile and a half to two miles, I think, laden with all my stuff, to a place that I was terrified at the prospect of arriving in. Thankfully I had somebody from the Bristol Crisis Team that I’d been under before, on the phone for about 15 minutes of the journey, reassuring me. I am in a right state at this point. Eventually I arrive here and am greeted by a larger than life Lithuanian woman, who pretty much put me at ease by some kind of silent command with her straight-up but calming presence. She booked me in, showed me where I needed to know and showed me to my room.  It is, I guess, a half-way house. A stepping stone near the start of the process.

It has been a revelation. I was first greeted by a petite Somalian woman, who instantly kicked into reassurance mode after seeing my eyes. Then I sat alone with my thoughts and along came a young lad with Borderline Personality Disorder who, after taking a look at me, sat down to make conversation. He clearly suffers badly, but had that empathy and understanding, to see how I was and what would help. I’ve since found he and his girlfriend to be good company for an hour or so in the garden. There are some tragic stories here, the most galling of which is a single dad with 3 young sons who has been badly let down after the landlord turfed them out of the ONE bedroom flat they’d been staying in for FIVE years. The most noticable thing about him, was his obvious focus on his sons and what really nice kids they were. This is a man who is doing a great job of raising his kids after having to give up work to take them on full time, when their mother turned to using heroin. He’s doing it on his own and the system is failing him horribly. There’s three women here fleeing domestic violence and a few I haven’t seen as they don’t come out of their rooms when anybody’s about. That was me at the first hostel, a few weeks ago.

On the whole, it is calm here. There’s no chronic substance abuse going on. We’re all genuine people in really dire straits, landed into the same house together. There’s empathy and understanding in droves, because we’re all living it together. Trust is still a big issue for me and I’m not going to allow myself to be vulnerable to some of the few crafty tricks I see floating around. But these people are generally calmer than I’ve had around me in recent weeks and in the same situation as me, through no apparent fault of their own.

The whole experience has been really traumatic and has so very nearly finished me off completely. I’ve been at the sharp end of the cold heartlessness that the things meant to protect the most vulnerable in society can inflict upon them. However, I have also encountered some genuine, kind, compassionate people along the way. These people have shone out brightly, which is maybe a sad indictment of how society has lost its widespread compassion it was once famed for. I hope I’m wrong on that and that it is merely my perspective from a dark and difficult place. The kindness and consideration I have been shown by some of the Bristol crisis team people, Bristol City Council housing, my brother – initially, police, paramedics/ambulance staff, HCAs, hostel staff, a squaddie just back on leave, people on twitter reaching out to me in direct messages and public tweets and people in a similar position to myself here where I currently am, has been breathtaking now that I think back on it.

Just need to wait for the weekend to be over to hopefully get the promised medication review underway, which I so desperately need and to see what needs to be done housing wise and what support I can get, in my totally frazzled and disconcerted state, to navigate these systems.

As always, updates may arrive as things develop.

Is that a light up ahead?

So, just got off the phone with my hero kid brother. He’s insisting that I go stay with them in Trowbridge, while we sort out housing. It makes sense, as this place is making me worse on the anxiety and depression side of things. I do have some reservations though. My brother suffers from bi-polar disorder and his wife has various physical ailments. I’m currently a wreck and I am really concerned about adding to their burden. It sounds like I will be using a camp bed in the lounge, so that will have an effect on their personal space and their free usage of it.

Going to need to get everything changed over to that address and start looking at what I can get moved into  storage down there. I’ve mentioned on here before that getting away from the city life will likely do me the world of good. I prefer that slower pace, the more laid back outlook. I experienced the slower lifestyle when I lived in Thornbury, north of Bristol. As long as I have electricity and internet connection, it doesn’t really bother me being away from conveniences and amenities.

So, a big step. The first in what looks like a permanent move away from my city of birth. Getting registered under a different mental health setup, which my brother has high praise for. Hoping that the lower demand for mental health services and also for social housing, in that area will be of benefit to me in getting myself settled in a secure tenancy and that would be welcomed after many years of private renting.

The main thing to this move is to be near a helpful support network. That I will have, being near my brother who has suffered mental health issues himself, so has that genuine empathy. I have no real support network in Bristol and there is nothing but bad memories for me, regarding the place, at this moment in time.

I’ll be updating this post as a kind of journal to the activities over the coming few days.

Update 31/5/2017

Heartbreakingly, my brother and I have had a major falling out. I had a feeling it might happen and did warn him of it. He suffers from bipolar disorder and I think the strain of having me around triggered him off. It culminated in him putting all of my belongings in his front garden and telling me on a regular basis that people were “eyeing up your stuff”. A paramedic had picked me up as I’d collapsed at the side of the road en-route from Devizes to Trowbridge. He took me to my brother’s to collect my things.

I was put into a Travel Lodge last night, courtesy of “EDS”?? Today I was told that I should have presented myself to Wiltshire council as homeless and that I would have been told this last night. That didn’t happen. I’ve now been moved to a hostel in Chippenham.

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Pour? It’s been an effing monsoon!

It’s a hostel life for us

You may have been following this blog and read the path that has led me here. If not, you can start from the very beginning, here.

If this is a next installment for you, then where were we? Ah yes, right here, where I am now. In a Salvation Hostel “crash pad”,  where I have been since 26th April.

How is that going?

Well, firstly I have to give credit to the staff who, on the whole, have been brilliant within and in some cases beyond their restrictions. My fellow residents are a very eclectic bunch. I see some people who I think should really be in a nursing home. A couple of frail old men, who really shouldn’t be here. Then there’s just a big old mix of the aftermath of various forms of substance abuse. Among them are numerous of those who are on their way to aftermath, developing or having already acquired crack, smack and spice habits. There’s like a little micro-economy to be observed, where each knows each other’s benefits payment day. I’m learning it quite easily. A given person’s benefits payment day is usually the day they first disappear for two or three days. I’m learning the ways, always learning.

A big hindrance at the moment is the aforementioned crash pad situation. A crash pad is a very temporary-term accommodation, here at the hostel. I’m not formally booked in as a resident, but am being given emergency accommodation. While I’m in this state of limbo, I don’t get assigned a support worker, so there is little that any of the staff can formally do for me. So far, I have had to try to navigate the benefits process unaided. Although I’m of a working background usually requiring a decent intelligence, my current state makes this a hugely daunting and confusing task. I have to give credit where it is due – and I’m amazed I can say this – but the guy I dealt with at the DWP to initiate the claim was just superb. He navigated me through the system for just over an hour and all I’ve had to do was get sick notes, showing my current severely depressed state.

I have also been well looked after by the Central Bristol Mental Health Crisis team. They’ve been very supportive in numerous ways, a little more on that in a bit. A piece of good news is that my mental health concerns are getting a bit of a fast tracking, at long last. Hopefully there is light at the end of this, so far, 30 year long tunnel.  I’ve had an assessment already. They’ve given their view which actually does mirror how I feel, how life has been. I have some faith that I am finally on the right path to recovery or at least good management of it all. I’m finally on the path to getting some long term talking therapy and they’re looking to phase me off the medication path that I’ve been on, on and off, for 15 or so of the last 25 years.

Housing is the concern at the moment. Being at the hostel isn’t helping with my already highly anxious state. It’s not exactly a calm environment most of the time. I’m also a bit “frightened of my own shadow” at the moment, so leaving the room is a challenge that I tend to try to set for when I know there is least corridor traffic. It’s as much about me as it is about my perception of them. On the whole the others here are downtrodden blokes with all hope sucked out of them. Some are in desperate positions, health wise, money wise, street wise. I’ve not seen any physical violence as yet and the only death since I’ve been here was a heart failure. But it feels volatile. I’ve seen the magnifying effects of a bit of excitement, positive or negative, soon builds an exponential pressure around it, taking everyone before it as fuel until everybody is part of an inferno. It isn’t a pleasant experience, but was quite an insight into another life. It isn’t all totally negative and hostile though. There’s times that I can clearly feel the unspoken “it’s tough going, isn’t it?” that seems to telepathically pass between me and random people I see about the place.

I’m looking to get out of this environment as soon as possible, for obvious reasons. The plan, as it stands, will be to try to move to Wiltshire, to be nearer to my brother. He’s been a genuine rock in recent weeks and is the base of a sizable support network that can be available to me. Moving out of the city is also likely to have a positive effect on me, in the longer term. I found this when I lived out of the city, in Thornbury.

So, I’m currently waiting to hear from the Mental Health Recovery Team, to learn what the long term plan is going to be for my support and therapy. I have been quite impressed with the mental health services, now that it has gotten to this stage. It would have been better, especially for me and those affected by my mental health, if this level of care and support had been available to me at any point when I have pleaded and begged for it. Rant over, I am acutely aware of the strains and limitations that they are under. Government cuts on health and social care have almost destroyed these vital services.

It looks like my benefit claim is now under way, so that is a relief. I’ll be able to eat. That has been a major part of the last few days. Let me expand on that a little. I spoke with my key / support worker and said that the emergency money I had been issued by Bristol City Council was going to run out or expire very soon. He went off and sorted something out and said he would come round to see me the following day.

Welcome to the foodbank

The crisis team guy came around in the middle of the afternoon to take me to a foodbank. Obviously, if you follow me on twitter, I am all too aware of the existence of foodbanks, I protest a bit against the reasons for their existence, to say the least.

This protesting is quite different to the realities of actually having to use one. I found it to be a breathtaking experience. The physical feelings that hit me during this experience took about a day and a half to wear off. The gut wrenching, chest tightening shame, sadness and indignity of what life is like right now.

So the guy from the crisis team takes me for a drive. We pull up near a pub I have sat outside of, having summer beers in happier times. Just past that I start seeing the foodbank vans coming and going. I am led into the hall, as in functions hall, into a sombre, almost morbidly hushed atmosphere. It felt sad and as the lovely little old ladies flitted around getting me a hot drink and some biscuits, it hit me, hard. It has come to this. I am about to be given food as a charitable hand out, in order to stop me starving. In a fairly major city, in the United Kingdom, in 2017, this is happening to me.

My stomach churned, my heart sank and I swear it tried its best to be swallowed up by my churning gut. The crisis team guy did pick up on this, knew what was going through my head and all he could really do was acknowledge it with me. It must be hard for these people, seeing this every shift, wanting to do more but not being able to, due to cuts and lack of resource from above. Fair play, he just made sure that I knew he was there with and for me and just silently acknowledged that yes, this was happening and NO, this was not right.

My eyes were welling up, my spirit felt broken. I glanced over at another guy who was there, on his own, but clearly going through the same emotions as me. I wanted to nod, to acknowledge that I felt his pain, but we were probably both too close to cracking point by then, that we both held firm in avoiding eye contact. It was a sad moment and one that I will hope to forget, in time.

I filled two and a half carrier bags with food. They’d picked tins that had ring pulls to get around my lack of tin opener and ensured that everything was microwaveable if it needed cooking. They didn’t hover around me, but were there as soon as they could see a question forming. Proper lovable old ladies wanting to do their bit to help those who need it. They know the indignity that people are going through. They are good at respecting that and not poking it further. I appreciated it.

We came back to the hostel and he brought me around through the staff entrance, so I didn’t have to walk past everybody with my carrier bags. There’s a couple of reasons for this. One it doesn’t pay to be seen as recently fortunate, or being in possession of stuff. Also, I just didn’t need the indignity of it. Eye contact is hard enough for me around here as it is.

So, as the days go by I’m hoping that I may be moved into something a little more permanent, so I qualify for the support that I really think I need in navigating the housing process. Just waiting on whatever, a decision, a vacancy, I don’t know.

I’ve been lucky not to have run out of money, by the generosity of social media users who have gifted donations to help me, while benefits are being sorted. This enabled me to buy food and other essentials. I’ve even got somebody sending me a hair/face grooming kit, so I can have a proper shave and sort my unruly hair out. Going to need to do-it-myself for a while, I think, to keep costs down. I’ll update on this when it arrives. A lovely gesture from a nice human being. There are more about than the news would have us think, it seems.

So, the anxiety is pretty high, but I can lock myself away in my small room and distract myself by ranting on about the state of the country, on twitter. I’d be lost without it at the moment, to be fair. Gotta have a focus and my political rants and raves give me that.

Hoping to get something moving soon on the housing side of things. Everything else appears to be ticking along as well as I could hope at this stage of things. For somebody who worked with large IT networks for a living, life seems to have become very complicated and confusing, all of a sudden. It’s a whole new world to me and I’m only taking it in at a blur.

So, in a nutshell. I’m safe, but not really appropriately accommodated for somebody in my condition. I accept that this is the way it is and am just grateful to be indoors, safe.

I’ll update further as and when things happen and turn up.

Thanks for your support. Much love.

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Is that a light up ahead?

Kept off the streets by Bristol City Council and the Salvation Army

Next time you hear about the Salvation Army and think about religion, marching bands and small bags and envelopes through your door, spare a thought for what they actually do. As some followers of this blog will be aware, I have had a torrid time over the last couple of years and this has had an awful effect on my mental health. It recently reached the point where my partner reached the point where she couldn’t cope with it any longer and gave me the ultimatum. “Sort yourself out, get a job or get out!” I won’t criticise her too heavily for her decision. The strain that my condition has put on our relationship has been unbearable for us both and neither of us seemed truly happy.

With no money, quite the inverse in the form of a maxed out overdraft because I’ve still been paying the bills while not earning for the last few months, I am left in a dire situation. I have nowhere to go, at present, no money and do not have the strength to survive on the streets in my deeply depressed state. I’ve gone from earning around £30k pa in various IT roles, to destitute in around 4 months. Thankfully I had already been referred to the Bristol Mental Health crisis team, yesterday, by the Police as a result of a brother calling them with concerns for my safety. I have been feeling suicidal for some weeks now.

Today I attended the Bristol City Council citizen service offices, or whatever the. overall office calls itself. The staff there have been immensely helpful and compassionate. I arrived in something of a daze, but the team have guided me through the process of getting some crisis money to feed myself, have ensured that I am sheltered for the night and given me a plan to work to. They have done all the form-filling, asked the right questions and applied my answers to the system. I have been amazed by them, to be honest.

Tomorrow I will need to start the application process for some kind of benefits, likely ESA or something. I am not able to work at the moment and will need some extensive mental health assistance to get me back to a place where I will be fit for work. Thankfully the Mental Health Crisis team have got the ball rolling for me. I still feel bitter that if the NHS and its Mental Health services were properly funded, I may have been successfully treated a long time ago. This would have been humane for me and cost effective, in the long run, for the government.

I hope that on Friday I can get myself onto the housing lists, to be eligible for Council / Housing association accommodation. The strain of paying private rental fees in the past has been quite debilitating during stressful times, such as when facing redundancy. My soul needs some housing stability. Privately renting, as I have for several years, has been expensive and very unstable as rented properties were sold by their owners.

I don’t have much of a support network in Bristol, to be fair. I have actually come to dislike the City and its grime (as in filth, dirt, pollution) and divisions. I know there will be no social housing in Bristol, I’ve already been told that. So I may explore the option of asking to be considered for Trowbridge and surrounding areas, as I have a younger brother there who has also suffered mental health issues and to his credit has come through some incredibly tough times, a lot better than I am. He has offered me that branch of support and is encouraging me to move there.

Although being in the environment that surrounds this hostel is actually pretty distressing to me, I am grateful for the assistance that everybody involved today have given me. I know I would have taken a drastic step earlier today, if it wasn’t for them. I still face a huge uphill struggle, even to reach a place where I can start to focus on my mental health recovery and hopefully effective treatment. All along though, I will continue to shout out for people in this position.  I REALLY do know what it is like now.

When I started my blog and before that, my twitter account, with the name “It Could Be You”, it was with the view that anybody could end up suffering from depression, for one reason or another.

The moniker has expanded itself, with my own life experiences. Having stable, well paid jobs in the past, afforded me the luxury of knowing it was highly unlikely that I would find myself in the position that I currently do. Oh wow, have my eyes been opened. Once I have the strength, energy and capacity to do so, I will be finding ways that I can make real differences for people in this position and maybe even try to help avoid it happening in the first place.

I worked as a support worker in the learning disabilities and autism fields, to give something back, several years ago.  I could not survive on the salary, so I moved back into my usual IT fields, but in the same social care sector. I hope that when I’m well enough, I might find a path into another much needed part of the social care sector. Homelessness and protection of society’s vulnerable. Just the sort of person that I am now.

We need to change the system in the UK. We need a socialist Labour government. Read more on my political views in this blog post.

Recommended next article:

It’s a hostel life for us
Life in a hostel and updates on the attempt to get life back on track.

It never rains but it pours

Before reading this article, you might want to read the two following articles to get a better understanding of what I’d already been up against and experienced, prior to the events described in this article.

The story so far
This is an explanation of the environmental issues that I currently understand to have “made me the way I am”.

The hand of help is slipping further away
How the scarcity of services and the mutilation of the NHS as a whole, by this government, is making those who most need mental health services feel.

The gates of hell swung open…

Now I need to write about a particularly painful period of my life which stretched over almost two years, but was at its worst for around 6 months or so. I say I need to do this and that is the right word. Wanting to do this just doesn’t come into it. The first five paragraphs are the build up, with the real meat of this piece starting after that. I hope that this will be the final piece of the outpouring and that subsequent posts will be more about the experiences of the formal diagnosis and hopeful recovery.

In late 2015 I was made redundant from the best job I have ever had in my life. It was working in various technical roles for a fairly large – £60m+ reducing to £50m+ annual turnover, charity based, social care provider in the field of learning disabilities and autism. I had been there for 6 years in all, but was made redundant as a result of their need to reduce overheads thanks to the harsh cuts imposed by the Tory government. Most distressingly, I was told and repeatedly told for almost a year leading up to the actual redundancy, that I should get another job because mine was not going to exist for too much longer as almost all IT functions were going to be out-sourced. Perversely, I carried out the work in simplifying the network WAN infrastructure that was to negate the need for my role in supporting, maintaining and managing that WAN. I enjoyed that work and I felt I left a small legacy behind me for them, but it was a bitter-sweet pill to swallow.

After my redundancy, I was lucky enough to walk into a new job almost straight away. However, the previous year or so had taken a heavy toll on my mental health, affecting concentration and energy levels, as depression has a tendency to do. I didn’t make it past probation in the new role, as I wasn’t performing to my best. I was told that I wasn’t what they were looking for after all. This messed me up even more, shattering any self confidence that I had, which was very little in any case.

I wasn’t so lucky in the jobs market and my redundancy payout dwindled heavily, being a private rent tenant and having to pay the school fees of my son from my second marriage. It has never been my choice to send my son to a private school. Their mother made that decision. When I raised concerns about the costs of also sending my daughter there, she stopped me seeing them.  She told me bluntly that she’d handle it and that neither of them want me in their lives. Not surprising that she can as her father owns the house she and the kids live in, along with several others around Bristol. A true benificiary of Thatcher’s “right to buy” council house scheme. Meanwhile, I had to give up my flat and move out. I could only see myself being homeless, as a single man in his forties with no dependents living with him gets no housing help, mental health problems or not, regardless of the financial contribution to society in the form of income tax and National Insurance that they’ve paid.

I was very lucky that good friends had a spare room to put me up in for a while and I could put all my furniture and belongings into storage. This helped immeasurably. As it happened, a few days after giving my notice on the flat, I got a new job working as a Support Engineer for a company that produces and sells a software product used in server environments. I won’t name them for obvious reasons.

On the first weekend that I was staying with my friends, my mother died, very unexpectedly after having to be put into a medically induced coma. I never got to speak to her after the onset of the initial illness. Certainly not once it was clear that she wasn’t going to make it. Bear in mind that I had been estranged from her for around 10 years, which you’ll understand if you’ve read the other posts in this blog, so this was particularly mind blowing for me and stirred up a lot of emotions. On the day of her funeral, one of my younger brothers almost died after swallowing his tongue during convulsive fits. We were able to pull his tongue back up and he was even able to attend the funeral, but not be a pall bearer, after an assessment by the paramedics.

I took a week off work as compassionate leave, to stay with my bereaved step father for a few days, intending to begin my own grieving after the funeral, in private. I was only a couple of weeks into my probationary period in the new job and after the last probationary period ended badly, I didn’t want to take any more time off than absolutely necessary. I soldiered on, still struggling, but working hard at learning the new technology. A couple of weeks after the funeral, my younger brother who had had the convulsions died unexpectedly in his sleep, apparently from a perforated ulcer. He had been drinking heavily for a long time and basically drank himself to death. My world crumbled around me.

As there was nobody else to do it, another of my younger brothers and I took to organising things. My brother did most of that and I was and still am incredibly proud of him and how he carried himself during that period. We had to try to find a way of giving him a suitable send off and managed to arrange it to the tune of just under £3,000, without a plot or headstone. Luckily family on by deceased brother’s ex-partner’s side ran a JustGiving campaign to raise funds and almost half of the total amount was covered for us, by the immense generosity of those who knew my brother. This was an incredible thing to have happened and I am eternally grateful for it.

So, another funeral to go through and it was painfully tough for all involved, but went with immense dignity for a bunch of rough necked reprobates from the council estates of Bristol. I salute us all.

Again, I had taken a week of compassionate leave for the arrangements and the initial shock. I returned to work, but really wasn’t ready. My immediate line manager was very supportive of me over this, an EU immigrant I might add for the UKIP and Brexit lot out there. I was allowed a further two weeks of compassionate leave. I returned after that, again not feeling quite ready, but also feeling that the clock was ticking on my probationary period. I kept training myself on the software and related infrastructure elements and eventually passed my probationary period. What a relief! Well, I thought so at the time.

During the remainder of my probationary period, the only really good thing of 2016 happened to me. My first wife – the true love of my life – and I crossed paths and knew from the outset that the flame was very much still there. We’ve both changed an awful lot in the 15 years that we’ve been apart and she has had a lot of experience of mental health issues in that time. However, this did invlove moving again and sorting out all my furniture and such like. Credit to her, I honestly don’t think I would have made it through the last 6 to 8 months without her support. She is strong and stubborn and I need that as my modus operandi often sees me pushing and testing a partner in any serious relationship. Another blatant symptom of C-PTSD. She has been and continues to be a rock to me and she is helping to build a trust and sense of settlement and security within me that I’ve never had before. I get lots of hugs and cuddles from her, as well as the ever so funny Husky, who I swear was human in a former life. I feel like I’ve truly come home.

Back to work. Completion of the probationary period saw me put onto the standard rota, and extra on my salary to take it up to £30k pa. This is the sort of wage bracket that my skill-set puts me into, so I am quite fortunate on the national earnings scale. The flip-side to this, was the standard rota which involved being on call, one week in four. That was the beginning of the end. You see, being on call meant working from 11 am to midnight, Monday to Friday and responding to the on call mobile from midnight to 8 am. It would also mean responding to that mobile throughout the weekend. So, that’s a minimum 65 hour week stuck in front of a screen, plus being at the mercy of that mobile phone and having to get it absolutely right every time or the customer loses a hell of a lot of data and production time. I was quite unlucky during my on call periods and would almost invariably be woken up 3-4 times, for 2-3 hours at a time each on call week. I even spent 14 hours dealing with a customer on my first Saturday of being on call from 6 am. We were allowed to off-set on call cases against the standard working day, so if I was woken up and working for 2 hours in the small hours, I wouldn’t have to be in the office until 1 pm that day. However, no concession was made for the time getting back to sleep or the effects of the broken sleep. Add to that the fact that I was back in on the Monday morning after the on call week, through to the Friday, on 9-5 and it made it a 12 day stint, beginning with a hellish 7 days. I’d find myself almost getting back up to strength from that lot, just as the next on call week came around.

Here’s the kicker for me. When I queried the hours, which weren’t strictly necessary given the team structure, I was told that it was modeled on the NHS shift patterns so it was okay. “Really?” I stammered, “because you never hear of people being overworked into exhaustion in the NHS, do you?” Then I was told, if you don’t like it, find another job. Pure and simple is the cold-hearted IT industry. Then the supportive environment crumbled and so did I. Nothing could be done to alleviate the problems for me and I confessed that I was suffering from depression. I hadn’t wanted to admit to my long term depressive illness issues, so to them I put it down to the two bereavements. I had issues with my medication not quite being up to the job during these extreme times and eventually I had no choice but to hand in my notice. I formally finished that job in mid January of this year.

My new GP has been very understanding of my mental health issues and the added effects of the recent past on this, but at this stage cannot really do any more for me. I have had suicidal thoughts and feelings of great hopelessness, coupled with severe feelings of panic and anxiety for a few weeks now. I’m currently waiting for an appointment that I have arranged, in which I plan to ask and if necessary plead to be put forward for screening of the C-PTSD that it looks extremely likely that I suffer from and is almost definitely the true root cause of my recurring episodes of depressive illness over the last 30+ years. I only hope it and the appropriate treatments are available in the East Bristol area. If I can get that formal confirmation and result, then I hope to finally get on the correct path to recovery.

Wish me luck!

Update 23rd April 2017

After asking my GP for a mental health referral, I was given a leaflet for Bristol Wellbeing services. At the end of the call  we were both quite upset at the inappopriate decision of my GP to put me on to them and not refer me to Adult Mental Healh services. Apparently I’m an acute case. I’ve been screaming this for years.

My anxiety levels are now at a record high and my energy levels at a record low. The toll this has taken on my personal relationships has left me with the threat of homelessness, as my partner is no longer willing to tolerate me. The ultimatum of get a job within two weeks or get out, has been delivered. So now I am broke, jobless, not getting the help I so desperately need and about to become homeless. I really can’t take any more of this and have no hope of any help or any way out of this, other than ending it. Why am I so cut adrift after paying my taxes all my working my life, into middle age? Was it all worth it?

Update 26th April 2017

I have become homeless. Thanks to intervention from the Avon and Somerset Police and the Bristol Mental Health crisis team, along with Bristol County Council, I am not on the streets. I’m currently in a Salvation Army hostel. It is battering at my anxiety being in this environment, but I know it could be worse.

I wrote about it here, it is the recommended next article:

Kept off the streets by Bristol City Council and the Salvation Army