A bit of a grizzle

I come to you fresh from the glory of telling a room full of hundreds of strangers at the Health and Wellbeing @ Work 2016 conference in Birmingham that I had (have) a huge problem with self harm. Well, I am nothing if not grisly (I call it satisfying) in a chewy sort of a way... You know to bring popcorn to one of my shows, right? 

Alright, so maybe I wrote that last part over 2 weeks ago and then ran out of steam once my adrenaline rush petered out - so let's just pretend we're in the past and none of this has happened yet. I was invited to be on a panel, next to the wonderful warm Lisa Rodrigues, CBE no less! feeling like the proverbial cat among the pigeons as I always do when presented with such situations. I'm the token 'SMI' (that stands for 'Severe Mental Illness', for the uninitiated) in any line up. Somewhere, in the shitstorm of chaos I increasingly keep trapped inside my smaller-than-average skull, is a confident and self-assured speaker with the power to command a room, just dying to get out. But first she'll need to do away with this wretched fool inhabiting her withering old body, or at least convince her to pop out to the shops or something whilst the real work is done. What I'm trying (and likely failing) to convey is that it went pretty-fucking-well-thank-you-very-much. I got up on stage having done very little preparation (other than the 35 years of living my life) and I told my story, which I now have almost perfected. My odd speech impairment tried to scupper me a few times but I got the words out, and I didn't blank once. I even remember that whilst I was talking you could've heard a pin drop in the bits where I usually see people visibly shudder. I got laughs! But that's because this is still a novelty - you don't find many people with good enough luck to stumble into jobs where your illness somehow becomes your USP, and where people actually want to listen to you talking about yourself. I knew I had a calling somewhere. 

There's something magnificent about seeing your name on a tent card next to a jug of water. My first thought when I was shown to my seat was that those glasses were awfully tall and slim and probably very easy to knock over. So I'm sure you can guess what happened as soon as I sat down, triumphant after my speech. The terribly professional-looking black tablecloth turned out to be not so great at soaking up liquid, and instead a river of water was repelled and therefore propelled in a long globule that shot off the front of the panel's, erm, panel. Couldn't just let me have that, eh, universe? 

After the session I met lots of people just as keen as I am to make a difference in the perception and treatment of mental illness - two of whom actually worked in centres dedicated to the treatment specifically of personality disorders, and one of those was looking to get those service users back into employment. It seems I'm no longer the only one trying to fill the gap between unemployable and a flying career. I have to admit I was surprised that such centres even exist, because my view is so tarnished by the embittered memory of my own battle to find anything that could cater for me back in the late nineties. Deemed high risk (i.e. no drugs prescribed in numbers that might be used to fuel the fight against oneself) and likely to 'take on the characteristics of other patients', I was packed off to London where legend had it there was one solitary professor who'd invented a diagnosis for troublemakers who refused to conform to the DSM criteria. I know everything has moved on, but when you compare mental health with other kinds of disability you can clearly see that we're only just beginning to find tools to crack open the nut instead of simply hurling the whole thing away in frustration. There are now places out there that actually consider a person beyond their diagnosis - as someone who has the same right to be a functional member of society and not only contribute, but also get something back.


Popular Posts