Thursday, 22 June 2017

Thursday 22nd June 2017 - Self Compassion

 Today I've managed to get out with the dogs for a decent walk. We went for three miles down around Lorton Meadows in Weymouth.

The nature reserve consists of woods, meadows and beautiful wildlife. There are web cams and all sorts of lovely information on the web site, however I'm lucky enough to be able to walk there very quickly and take in the majesty of all it's glorious nature first hand.

Today I played at being a wildlife photographer as it eases my troubles, calms my mind and makes me focus on something other than the rubbish banging about in the empty cavity that is my brain!

If you suffer with depression you have to identify your observant self and tap into what he or she is telling you. Some people like to run, some paint, some make music...basically you find something that will focus your mind and give you pleasure and a sense of self worth.

There are several things I've identified recently that help my depression.

Walking is one but it can be hindered by my Fibromyalgia and how swollen my joints are and how painful.

Taking photographs is another, and of course my dogs.

Woodlands with their dappled sunlight and calming rustling leaves. The shady glens and pockets of peace hidden away from everyone. Its so tranquil to stand still and let your senses be assaulted by the sounds, smells and sights.

Then there is water in its many guises, paddling pool to babbling brook to shimmering sea...they all float my boat. 

The best one probably for me is writing, pour your heart out to the public, or to one person. It matters not but talking about mental health is paramount. Please do not suffer in silence, it makes things worse and like a piece of metal rotting with rust you get further and further away from being healthy. Seek help early do not let it fester...

It's okay not to be okay

So what do you favour? What makes you smile, what swells your heart and lightens your burdens?

Find the sensible observer within yourself, listen to them, or tune in if necessary or if you've muted them in the past please do unmute them for goodness sake. Your observant self could be your salvation, offer you insights into your own psyche. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself the time to indulge your emotions and strengthen your mental health.

Self compassion is something I'm learning about but have a look at the works of Dr Kirsten Neff, there's a link below. She even has an audio book with beautifully narrated meditations and sessions to listen to that make the world of difference. Trust me have a look. (Ignore the demons crowing about soft and fluffy crap being for social workers not cops)

But today I am indulging myself by posting  my creations, the photographs I took at Lorton Meadows today when I was out with the pooches. They're just snaps but in allowing myself the pleasure of taking and sharing them, I am showing myself that I am worthy and I am enough. Just me, raw and rusty, learning how to be a civilian, fighting tooth and nail to get myself healthy.

My therapist said you have to cultivate emotional resilience and that's why I'm trying to use the things I've mentioned above. You need to find what floats your boat?

To be mentally healthy we need to have self esteem and if you're compassionate to yourself and 'feed' your mind the things it loves you can become stronger.

So my fellow sufferers try and be optimistic, use your courage, of which you'll have oodles if you're still plodding through life with that damned black dog. Try and find the hope you need for the future, use your observing self,  look at yourself from the third person perspective. Find something that means something to you and not only will you help yourself physically but you'll bolster your mental health.

So putting my money, or photographs where my mouth is...

Here follows my Wildlife Gallery from 22/6/17!!!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

1140 hours Sunday 18th June 2017

It would appear that summer has arrived in the UK!!

Looks like we will have a 'week' of sunshine! Yea! I will of course eat my hat should we get further prolonged periods of sunshine this year!! (makes mental note to buy edible head wear!)

So a few things to catch up on, 'The Case Conference'... the night before the conference was due to take place my boss emailed me with a jovial, 'is everything okay for tomorrow?'


As I had said to you all, I was already working myself up into a frenzy and found myself firing back a 'no I bloody well ain't' type email before I could take too many breaths!!  I detailed my symptoms and asked him why it was necessary to hold a meeting at a juncture where I was still awaiting a psych. referral and had only two days previously been seen by the FMO. Her report detailed my current state of mind quite eloquently, as 'low'!. They hadn't actually seen the report yet, so I forwarded it on to them as supporting evidence of what I was saying about my mood and the way attending the meeting on top of that was making me feel. The boss then returned fire with short shrift saying it needed to go ahead as there were things he needed to discuss!' I was not amused...

The day of the conference dawned and my joints were so swollen and seized that in order to get out of my bed I had to roll myself out and off before then needing to bum shuffle down the stairs as my knees wouldn't bend well enough or hold sturdy enough for me to safely descend in the normal manner. In fact, I was a quivering wreck.

I decided to take the dogs out prior to getting washed and brushed up for said conference, when lo and behold I had another email. This time my boss capitulated, he had found some compassion, and offered to have a telephone conference instead of dragging me into a police building. I felt such relief. He also luckily gave me a specific time that he'd ring to alleviate any further strain and I insisted on my fed rep being with him in his office throughout the conversation. I still got worked up as I hate phones, but sometimes its a question of accepting the lesser of two evils isn't it?

The email summary of the conversation is detailed below...

Good morning Leasa

I hope you are well It was good to speak yesterday.

To confirm what was agreed during our conversation:

·         We discussed your recent consultation with FMO
·         You confirmed that you would continue to receive full pay for 3 more months.
·         You informed me that you are finding the ongoing treatment through ‘Save our Soldiers’ (via Safer Horizons) beneficial

Psychiatric Assessment

We had considerable discussion around this and the fact that you were frustrated that it had not yet happened
The following summarises the discussion and how we would progress

·         Welfare has requested that a referral for a psychiatric assessment is made
·         You have agreed that it would be good for you
·         FMO has recommended the referral is made psychiatric assessment

I informed you:
·         That the force would fund the referral
·         That Welfare had tried to make the referral but had not been able to because Occupational Health were awaiting written consent from you.

You stated that you had not been provided with a written consent form and we agreed that you would write me a letter consenting to the referral.

Supportive Management Action (SMA)

·         We discussed the previous arrangements agreed in March
·         I informed you that UAP would not be considered at this stage but will be discussed in 3 months time
·         We agreed that you were not fit for work at this time and you updated me with the fact that your that your current ‘Fit Note’ expires on 8 July 2017
·         When asked about what supportive measures would help your main concern was the psychiatric assessment referred to above.

Actions agreed:

·         I would maintain regular contact with you – every 2 weeks – where I would text you and, if you are feeling well enough have a telephone conversation.
·         You will maintain regular contact and attend appointments and treatment as advised
·         You will send in a consent form re Psychiatric Assessment (DONE) which I will forward to Welfare to facilitate the referral (DONE)
·         Welfare will ensure, via Occupational Health, that the referral is made.

So there you go that's where we are currently up to!

Moving swiftly on from such depressing things!

Over the last couple of days I have found that being near water seems to quieten my mind and bring about some peaceful feelings. I have gotten baby bear's paddling pool out to lounge about in! But it isn't quite the same as the pool in Turkey!! What do you think? I've considered painting the Turkey view on my back fence but I'm not sure I'm skilled enough!!

The last twenty four hours have been lovely as baby bear has been with her dad and I could just look after myself. Very selfish I know but the space to breathe seems to make a world of difference to me.

I'm dreading a couple of things this week... Have a meeting tomorrow at the school as to whether the Year 6 Leavers, Baby Bear included,  should continue with their plans to spend a week in London the week after next. Trip as been planned for over a year and paid out £350 for it. People have demanded a meeting and lots of kids parents have already pulled them out saying it is not safe for them to go!

Whilst I know I'll worry all week about the 'what if's' I do feel that I cannot let her learn this early in life that giving into these people, no these terrorist losers', is the way forward. It is not a message I want her to take to heart. at 11 years old.  I've therefore decided that if the school do go ahead as planned then she should go with them. With less kids it'll be more fun anyways!! So that decision is at the school is tomorrow at 5pm ...

Then on Wednesday afternoon, 1315 hours, it is school sports day. Two hours of trying to stand around, being in pain, being near people and also... being near that foul woman and her family who I fell out with. She has a large family around her wherever she goes versus little old broken me plus they are school governors, on the PTFA etc. and they all glower at me for having 'upset' their poor daughter, wife, mother etc. just because I admitted my #mentalhealth issues to her whilst we were having a heated discussion! She said they were irrelevant to her and I lost interest from there onwards.

Right I'm off to catch some rays....


Thursday, 15 June 2017

0909 hrs Thursday 15/6/17

So I find myself very apprehensive today. Stomach churning, blinding headache. Joints all seized to the extent I couldn't get out of bed without rolling off the mattress this morning, followed by having to bum shuffle down the stairs. For those of you that do not understand Fibromyalgia, when I am put under psychological stress my body reacts with seizing up and extreme pain. It's almost like the brain is trying to stop me going anywhere in full awareness of the negative impact the days plans will have on me. In a warped way it's my body trying to protect me and yet it just bloody hurts and makes me feel really disabled.

Of course for those twitter followers that know my story, today is case conference day, no 2, for my sickness absence from the police service as a result of depression, anxiety and Fibromyalgia. Now approaching six months.

That's this afternoon at 1330 hours so I suspect I'll write another chunk later. For now my headache is making typing difficult as it's not just any old headache. My head hurts from the neck upwards, its sore to turn my head and stiff to even look down at the keyboard, and my forehead feels like there is someone inside with a pick axe mining for something....brain maybe!

I also need to contact the IODPA very soon, the Injury On Duty Pensioners Association. They might be able to shine a light into my darkness as to the likelihood of ill health retirement and whether I might ever be a candidate. So that's on my 'to do' list for today as well.

Right off to have some breakfast, watch some Jeremy Kyle (hides head in shame!) then dog walk, bath and ready for my appointment .....

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

0936 hours Wednesday 14/6/17

So as of today I have decided to adopt a diary format for my blog.

I have for years kept a written diary that recorded my thoughts and feelings as time went by. Up until this juncture in regards this blog I have found a topic that is bothering me or that I wanted to explore, then sat down and let my fingers do the talking. However of late I have found that style has been hampering my ability to write effectively as I have felt I had covered 'all' the topics that would interest a stranger, so have written less and less blogs.

As of today I intend to sit and write a lot more regularly using all the detritus that is floating about my vacant head space at any given point in time.

As I sit writing this I am watching the horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire, the tower block in London, still unfolding to the nation via Good Morning Britain. I am not shamed to say that I have shed a tear or two watching the horrific images of people waving things at windows as they tried to attract the attention of the emergency services in what we now know was probably a vain attempt to attract rescue. I cannot help but look to the future and find myself considering the #mentalhealth of personnel who have and still are entering those 'houses of horror'.

Yesterday I had another day's worth of help from Save Our Soldier the charity that to date have already provided me with upwards of thirty hours of therapy to tackle what they believe to be my PTSD symptoms from 28 years worth of police service. In my last blog I looked at my feelings of negativity and the belief that I was not making any progress towards recovery, so yesterday we looked in depth at cultivating emotional resilience to allow me to find a life of wellbeing. We spent time exploring the concept that we can all step back from ourselves and observe ourselves in almost the third person. I need to accept that life in my future may never ever be the same again and that I need to find a way of accepting that, a way of understanding that  'I am enough'.

Fibromyalgia is a long term condition that will not just go away. It creates extreme pain in various areas of my body all of which I can say without any doubt get a lot, lot worse when I am under psychological pressure. I have to come to an understanding whereby I almost have to allow myself the permission to plan ahead and take life a lot more carefully. I need to stop battling with myself. What became clear to me yesterday is that I have been beating myself up because I can get back to being my 'old' self. I cannot just plough on through anything and everything expecting my body and brain to keep up. I may never ever have those same abilities again but that does not make me the failure I thought it did. I do not have to feel guilty or ashamed because I fear never being able to don a uniform again,  to be able to go about strenuous physical or psychological activities. There is no shame there. I am enough.

What I need to do is find my self esteem, locate the hope for my future, develop a curiosity for my life and discover a positive attitude towards my life. I need to develop psychological flexibility, an ability to accept who I am now, not what or who I have been, not who I thought I had to get back to being but who I am now and what I can achieve as the me of today. I felt shame. I felt guilt. I thought I had to get back to somebody I used to be. But my body is unwilling, my brain has been battling the notion for many months. Yesterday I realised that I can exist without my past self, I can wrap my arms around the person I find myself to be today and offer myself self compassion. There is a future without my past self, I can let her go in peace. I can stop trying to be something I am not. I am enough.

The therapist and I looked at 'What if's'

Our brains need to ponder, to pull thoughts apart. To mull things over. If left unattended it will mull over the negatives. What if I die. What if I cannot be a police officer ever again' What if I have a terminal illness being masked by Fibromyalgia's symptoms. However we can give our brains positive 'What if's' instead. Debbie called them juicy fodder for the brain. So we worked on finding positive 'what if's' for me. They are listed on the board photographed below.

Debbie identified that I have been feeling like a bird in a cage being stalked by a cat. She wants me to get to a position whereby I feel like that cat. A cat that always lands on it's feet as opposed to the trapped bird who is fearful of the world and life itself.

I am enough.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I can't be bothered!

Since returning from holiday last week I've been in one of those deep pits of despair that only fellow depression sufferers will know. Floods of tears about goodness knows what whereby anything and everything seem to trigger some snot or other.

The day before yesterday I had my first encounter with the NHS, chronic pain service and my first impressions weren't great but then they could be somewhat tainted by the embarrassment of having cried on and off for an hour or more in front of a complete stranger! I think I expected some 'expert' input into my #Fibromyalgia alongside some guidance on appropriate meds. However neither was forthcoming as the service concentrates on pain management through methods other than medication so I think I felt a little misguided by my GP.

Then yesterday I had another appointment with the GP. I took along suggestions from the pain clinic nurse for him having specifically asked her she'd relented and given me 'off the record' advice on meds! The GP ignored it all with a flippant comment 'those pain clinics have some odd ideas' remark. In fact he then proceeded to remove the only #Fibro medicine I was on (gabapentin) after I asked to be swapped over to another before lecturing me as to the fact that Duloxetine wasn't even registered for pain relief, despite it's widespread use for Fibro by other patients! He then also decided for the second time in as many months to change my antidepressants overnight. This time to Mirtazapine, casting aside Sertraline the same way as Citalopram went not so long ago!
As I sat crying in front of him I couldn't help reflecting how humiliating it is to be out of control, especially as that is the second time in two days I've blubbed in public. He must dread me darkening his door!
I have painful shoulder joints due to calcium build ups on the tendons and he wanted to refer me for steroid injections and physiotherapy, I declined which seemed to leave him perplexed, 'why not?' he asked and the only answer I could find was 'I can't be bothered'
Which pretty much sums up the way I am feeling about most things this week, 'I can't be bothered', God help the Occupational Health woman on Friday if she starts with me, assuming I can see through the snot and tears. I'm bloody miserable and moody!
The GP asked me what I was going to do about work as he categorically thinks I'm not fit for any form of duties and look unlikely to be for some time. What can I say? I shrugged my shoulders despondently and told him there was another work case conference looming next week where they'd be asking the same damn question. What do I say?
Then he signed me off again until the 8th July and packed me off. That will take me over the half pay marker that's been set for the 20th June 2017.

I do know I'm feeling disappointment in myself that I don't feel like I am making any progress towards being healthier. I'm feeling guilty for 'dragging' it out if that's what I'm doing. I also worry about peoples tolerance for my continuing low mood, compassion fatigue must be on the horizon. Goodness knows I'm bloody bored of it myself, let alone anyone else!

That overwhelming feeling that there is no point in anything is back leaving me wondering as to why bother in the first place! That dragging misery getting out of bed in the morning knowing you're just going to have to do all the same shite again and that equally miserable business of trying to get to sleep in the first place and that's before trying to stay asleep. One thing I can guarantee is that I'll be comfortably asleep around the time I need to get up though!

I was drinking a lot of spirits last week on holiday, alongside the odd beer and I'm missing the sense dulling warmth that Jack Daniels brought to me, I drank a litre bottle in a week and that's not good is it?

I feel guilty for feeling so down when there are so many people with 'real' problems out there in the world especially after the horrific terror attacks.  How can I be wallowing in self pity when so many are being so strong?

The clawing, suffocating vacuum that is despair.

I stare into space unseeingly, unable to achieve an awful lot really.  The days trundle by with me managing the bare minimum of household chores necessary, whilst I waste time doing god knows what? In fact I'm surprised I'm typing this really as I shouldn't really be bothered! I need a tattoo for my forehead 'can't be arsed' !

Hopefully next week I'll be walking on the sunny side of the street again hey?! It's odd though to still have a sense of humour alongside the heavy suffocating feelings of misery. You'd kind of expect that to evaporate but oddly it seems fairly stable.

School pick up in an hour so there's another day gone and what have I achieved? A dog walk! Wow! I'm a zombie, I look like me but the insides of my head must have been hollowed out like a Halloween pumpkin and filled with expanding foam instead. I expect even if someone ever does try to put my brains back into my skull now they won't all go will they?! Let's face it when you scrape out potato skins they never all fit back in do they?!!

Anyway I reckon I've reached my ultimate level of concentration for one day, like a Buckaroo game that's about to trigger I'm feeling enough is enough. I certainly don't want to kick anyone!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Unfathomable Evil #ManchesterAttack

I suspect much like the rest of the population I have been left trying to fathom out why such evil manifests itself amongst us. The conclusion of course is that evil knows no logic and therefore we will never ever be able to make sense of it.

Yet we will still wrestle with the thoughts of 'what if' or more tragically 'why us' when we consider the unimaginable horror of the events in Manchester yesterday evening, the 22nd May 2017.

We torment ourselves through various guises...

Myself, there has been 'what if that were me?' , or 'what if that were my daughter?'

But we all fulfil various roles in our communities, so for myself as a police officer there has also been, 'what if I had responded to that emergency call?' alongside thoughts for the emergency services family as a whole who did, and have responded to pleas for help and salvation.

My mind is plagued by the atrocity today, as I am sure many others of you are too.

I have found myself considering the many thousands of people who live with war on their doorsteps on a day to day basis and have to face these questions cruelly tormenting us today on an almost on a daily basis.

Inevitably there have been those 'know it all' celebrities bumping their gums about 'how they could do a better job' or 'how we should do ours' and to them all I would say is 'come on down', grab a uniform, put your money where your celebrity mouth is or shut the hell up.

As to the question of evil... there has always been, and always will be evil.
Evil people who seek to trample the ideals of peace and free will by using death and destruction. Inevitably they do always fail as good triumphs over evil but not before many innocent people lose their lives first. Sometimes it does take an eternity good will prevail.

In the meantime we must hold our heads up high and carry on regardless. This is the British way...

Bullies are the weak and insecure of our societies and no religion I am aware of condones or promotes killing people let alone innocent children.

My 11 year old daughter asked me two questions this morning watching the news unfold before school...

1. Will we still go to our concert at The O2 in London? 

Of course I replied. Concerts, tourist attractions, trains, buses, beaches... the list of terrorist targets is never ending. So do we stop living? Do we cower away at home? Let's face it, the heating boiler could blow up and kill us if it's our time to go. She pondered my answer... So we carry on?

'Yes we carry on'

2. What is a suicide bomber? Somebody who straps a bomb to themselves, detonates it,  killing themselves and those around them. In her innocence she answered for us all...

'What's the point in that?'

To the families bereft, grieving, searching for loved heart goes out to you, may you and your loved ones find peace.

To my colleagues in the emergency services, thank you, stay safe and please look after your #mentalhealth such incidents will unquestionably take their toll.

To the evil out there seeking to subdue us...whomsoever we are, whatever colour our skin is, whichever Gods we worship, we stand together against you.

We are united in grief. We are united in our resolution. We will carry on regardless.

You will not win and we will not be subdued

Monday, 15 May 2017

My story to date....

I am a police officer with 28 years service although I had a five year career break so effectively I actually have 23 years served.  I find myself on long term sick leave for the second time in three years. I've been diagnosed with Depression, Anxiety and Fibromyalgia and I am medicated for these things. I had a short period of sick leave with stress in 2002.

After I returned to work two years ago after a six month absence with depression nothing in my workplace really changed barring one risk assessment that was done, albeit half heartedly and with tongue in cheek. The same supervisor annoyingly expressed surprise that I still had depression and was taking tablets a few weeks before this my second breakdown at Christmas 2016.

After reporting sick this Christmas just gone I was immediately referred by the force to the Occupational Health Nurse, interestingly this does not happen with physical illnesses, yet within a week there I was crying uncontrollably. Forty Five minutes passed with questions about when I would be fit for work and what was I doing to help myself get back into the work place etc.. The nurse did tell me as I was wearing make-up which apparently was a good sign that I wasn't that depressed, she also said that everything I said would be reported back to my supervisors.  I didn't say a lot after that.

A month later they sent me back to her again, this time the force had stated in their referral paperwork that I was being uncooperative and distrustful of force policies and sick procedures. She was bemused by this, as was I at the time, but it did upset me greatly.

In March 2017 I self referred to Safe Horizons UK who in turn passed me along to Save Our Soldier and Debbie Banks was thankfully sent my way.

At the beginning of April 2017, I was contacted for the first time by my welfare department,  oddly enough this came two days before I was due to attend a case conference about my sickness absence at a police building! Call me cynical but....?!!

I went to the conference with my federation representative, there was a panel of my boss, a Human Resources representative and the welfare department guy. A further question and answer session went on for 45 minutes throughout which I again cried hysterically! I managed to answer some questions,   I was quizzed about my use of social media and questioned as to why I had been spreading about that I was not getting any help from the force when it was me that had told them not to contact me?
I told them that I had approached a charity for help which seemed to unsettle them, they said they'd need to check how credible they were?!
I then asked them to explain their comments on the latest referral to the OH dept.  I'll summarise their replies... apparently my use of social media had been picked up by them when monitoring my blog and twitter feed. The fact that I had asked that a certain 'bully boy' supervisor not to contact me for my statutory 'weekly' calls, was being taken as me asking them not to contact me, plus they said that I had not been wholly open in my first OH session, so taking all these things together equalled me being uncooperative and distrustful.

"We've read your blog and it's obvious from that how mistrustful you are!! "

I managed through wracking sobs and hyper ventilation to explain my current phone phobia and dislike of answering or making calls as it tends to cause panic attacks. They agreed to email me in the future. The conference rounded up by deciding I should see a psychologist or a psychiatrist but they were not sure which.

The following day I had an email from the welfare department with the name of a psychologist and a telephone number to call to make myself an appointment! Oh how ironic I thought!

I have now had three whole days help from Debbie Banks via Save Our Soldier and the force have changed their minds about the psychologist referral, asking that I now see a psychiatrist instead but I've yet to get an appointment through the post.

I visited the FMO/OH again last week supposedly to top and tail the psych. referral but she apparently should have gotten my written consent and didn't. I have since done that.

I have now been off sick for 6 months. Luckily my half pay date of 20th June 2017 has been extended by the Chief by three months until 20th September 2017.

I have also had a letter through telling me my job has been abolished through restructuring and when I return I'll need to find a new role.

In 2002 I was in a DS post investigating Operation Ore and child abuse images, a CID post when my CI started sexually harassing me. As a result of 'Ore' we were having to spend a lot of time together and his harassment together with the material we were dealing with pushed me over the edge. I put in a complaint about the CI and the force settled outside of an IT accepting it had all happened. I received a financial pay out.
I would love to see the files on this and my statement etc as my memory of it all is pretty poor. I seemed to have erased a lot of it. Speaking up sabotaged my CID career and I never worked on the dept. again. I was side-lined into uniform briefly and then CID training.

In 2005 upon the birth of my daughter I took a five year career break returning in 2010 to a uniform post before being posted to HQ to work on Complaints & Misconduct from where I am now 'technically' sick.

In 2011 I attended my personal safety training whereby a 'new' technique was being trialled unofficially. The backwards fall manoeuvre led to me smashing my head on the floor and getting a whiplash injury that perpetuated in awful headaches for two years. The federation pursued the force for this incident as several officers were injured at the same time and we all received a pay-out for that too.

I want to leave on ill health but my fed rep thinks it too difficult to achieve before my possible 25 year retirement marker in May 2019. My 30 year marker would be May 2024.

Debbie and I concur that returning to the police would be utterly toxic to my mental health and the knock on to my Fibromyalgia cannot be underestimated.

So here I am as of 19/6/17 awaiting a psychiatrist appointment. be continued...