Is This Me?
Ever since my teenage years friends have been few. I go for quality not quantity, and not many people can cope with my mood swings. I promised to do this post so that I could get to grips with my illness and maybe help others with similar symptoms. This isn’t easy for me to do, in fact this is the 15th time I’ve started writing this post from scratch and I’m not sure how often I edited the previous versions.
When I was given the push from a job I loved doing, with people I could relate to, for managers no-one liked, in early 2009 just as the credit crunch was beginning to bite, I couldn’t have known this would start a huge landslide downhill to my darkest recesses. I had been working as a temp since 2003 (6 years my friends and you dear reader). The company decided to dismiss the entire Temporary workforce (70% of the Help Desk staff). I was in my late 50’s so thought it wouldn’t take too long to find another job, how stupid was I? Every day, almost, the news was full of businesses closing down and thousands more joining the unemployment queue. As if this wasn’t bad enough my wife had been on long term sick since an operation late the previous year. The mortgage company had allowed us to make half payments for 3 months prior to me being “let go”. This meant we had neither the means nor the inclination to make up the shortfall when the 3 months were up. My wife had been told it would be another 6 weeks before she would be well enough to return to work. I applied to the local council for housing as a matter of urgency, sought legal advice from the local Citizens Advice Bureau and told the council we would be homeless within 3 months.
They found a flat after 2 months but when we called round to the office to arrange a visit the flat had been broken into and wouldn’t be ready for another 8 weeks. However, they had a vacant flat available which was due to be given to asylum seekers but since our need was greater it was offered to us. When we went round to see it the flat had just been refurbished, new kitchen, new bathroom and painted throughout. We took it and signed on the dotted line. Social Services had been involved with my step-son and after we had had to drop him back into the system (he was my step-son from a previous marriage not my current one). I won’t go into the issues and trouble he caused, but Social Services received reports from my son’s mother about mistreatment, of course she was 800 miles away so wouldn’t have known if this was true or not, just stirring the pot. Anyway, the upshot was we had been allocated a Social Worker who was working solely with me as my wife has a mistrust of Social Workers.
Losing the family home meant they were unhappy with the way things were turning out for us all, but more so my son. Within 3 months of losing my job, the house we were buying had been repossessed, I was fighting with 3,000 others for every position being advertised (not many of these anyway). I was in Social Housing with my wife and son but the arguments were continuing big time (lack of money, Social Workers involvement, school, work (or lack of it) and even more that I won’t go into). Anyway, all of this was affecting my sleep, behaviour and temperament so it was no surprise to me when I ended up going to the GP and asking to be signed off so I didn’t have to waste my time applying for jobs I had no chance of getting.
I rang the Joke Centre (my name for the B’roo, more commonly known as the Job Centre). They told me it was ok they could cover me for two weeks but any longer and I’d have to change my benefit claim. Of course, I rang Social Services and told them, thinking they would back off. They didn’t, they started calling round every week instead. Then a year later they called round and I’d just taken my 10th dose of tramadol that day, anyone who has ever OD’d knows how easy it is to do, Because these were pills, and I’d only popped two at a time, I think that saved me from dying (the first dose was 6a.m. and the 10th just before 5p.m.) but meant I was out of my tree when the Social Worker called round. She waited while her boss was ringing round for an emergency placement for my son and when the call came back I didn’t care that my son was being removed and put with a foster family.
Needless to say when my wife got in from work she went ballistic and the fallout didn’t even phase me. She told me that “This is why I don’t trust Social Worker’s they always look for the worst when there’s nothing there and when there is something wrong the child is left to die with the parents”. Needless to say I didn’t argue with her or the Social Worker’s when I was told I should seek legal advice before things went too far and Mike was made a ward of court with no chance of getting him back. That was my rock bottom, as anyone with a history of depression knows though, it takes time and a lot of help to get back from the depths. My GP referred me to a counsellor and this helped while the sessions lasted, afterwards I forgot what I was supposed to do, or not do. I moved to a privately rented flat in a nicer neighbourhood, with my wife. Of course moving wasn’t the right thing to do, the arguments kept on getting worse and more frequent until it got to the point where I’d had enough and moved out. A few weeks later, the landlord got in touch asking if I wanted to move back as Ada, my wife, couldn’t afford the rent and had moved out herself. I wished I hadn’t bothered as my initial application for housing benefit failed due to my wife having applied before moving out. However, I managed to get housing benefit approved for most of the rent so stayed there. My wife was still having mail delivered to that address so I met with my youngest step-daughter when there was enough mail to pass on. I was still down but trying desperately to get out of the hole, when I called round to the pub where my step-daughter, Katharine, was working her boss told me he wanted to let the flat above the pub for security reasons and he would only be looking for £300 per month (this was less than the £375 I was paying at the time) so I told him I was very interested. Within 2 months the deal was done and I handed in notice with my current landlord. A month later the pub landlord wanted to hand the keys back to the brewery and he’d moved me in with a 12 month lease to try to secure his manager got the pub. The pub told me that as my tenancy was illegal I’d have to leave straight away. I was told this had been agreed with the landlord and the manager of the pub so they could move their manager straight in that day. One step forward twenty steps backwards, but I had enough nous to ring my solicitor and ask for legal advice. I was told that I should hold out and stay where I was for the time being as they had to give me notice of at least 28 days, even if the tenancy was illegal. Further steps would have to be taken and I could probably hold out for a further 2 or 3 months before bailiffs could be called to physically remove me from the premises. I then rang my current landlord (the manager of the pub) and asked him to call up to the flat so I could tell him what I’d learned.
I then went down to see the brewery people and advised them what my legal advice had been, I told them that if they gave me time to get somewhere else arranged then I would leave as quickly as possible, in the meantime I was prepared to share the flat with their manager not realising what this could mean for me legally. The upshot was they told the landlord they couldn’t accept the keys to the pub as there was an illegal tenancy occupation of the flat above. Anyway, he moved me to another pub he controlled until I could move into my friends flat at the end of October 2011. All this stress meant my depression was getting worse and more out of control. I was still regularly overdosing the pain killers. I was also scratching my arms, feet and head until they started to bleed. (This has proved more in depth than I was originally intending so I will stop now and continue the remainder of my fall in another post).
Anyway, in November 2013, after a prolonged bout of illness from her cancer, my mother-in-law passed. My wife and I found comfort in each others company, then in January 2014 my GP recommended I see a qualified psychotherapist, My appeal against the decision to stop my Employment Support Allowance failed so I was signing on every other week and had to prove I was applying for a minimum of 10 jobs a week. As anyone can testify, applications do not guarantee jobs and some weeks I was applying for 30 or more but getting no interviews meant it was impossible to get work. The interim period was spent talking to the therapist, going out more even if just around the block and talking to family and friends more. In May I had an interview with Hewlett Packard, started panicking thinking about what to wear, none of my friends could lend me a tie, my suit was ruined and I only had one pair of decent trousers so I rang the HR person and was told not to worry, they had a relaxed dress code and all I needed was to look presentable. To cut another long story short, the interview was conducted by two smart business casual dressed managers. I soon relaxed as I thought I’d nothing to lose since I was too old being 60. Four weeks later in June I received a call and asked if I would accept a position with the company on “£18k to start”. Of course I said yes, when I came off the call panic really set in. I scratched my arms till they bled, stomach in knots I sent my wife a text asking if she would mind calling in after work and I’d get takeaway for us. I didn’t tell her why (even writing this now some 15 months later is starting my head itching, stomach churning and panic is setting in).
Anyway, my friends were happy when I gave them the news and told me to make the most of it as I still had 4 weeks and a lot could happen in that time. I was called by the HR department in Newcastle and asked to fill in some forms and take some documents in for them to rush my security clearance through. It was around this time I started talking more to my brother and his wife, Paul and Leslie, with them visiting and inviting us to theirs more. All of this helped calm me down, having someone interested enough to offer me a job was also a positive thing to counteract all the negativity in my head. However, it took a month for my security clearance to come through after I started which meant the training I should have been doing was a non-starter, a month after that I had a meeting booked with my manager who was going to have to let me go (I’m not stupid so had worked this out for myself). Fate stepped in that morning and a request from Cambridge University Hospitals HP support management meant that an extra 6 bodies were required to help out with the pre-work for Epic and there was a possibility of this continuing beyond the end of February for some of us. I was told that if I didn’t want to take this offer then it would be a case of goodbye and if it didn’t continue beyond February that was still a possibility. I think everything, good or bad, happens for a reason and I’m just pleased that I have had that opportunity to show what I’m capable of.
Without friends to help me come to terms with the fear of the unknown, things happening for my continued employment, and family to support me I could so easily have fallen back into my depression and not been able to cope with everything the world has thrown up to test me over the last few months. On 7 September I will be moving over to another account and hope I can prove my worth to the team-members already there. If anyone would like to ask me anything or make any comments please feel free. If you have managed to read all the way to the end then I thank you from the heart of my bottom.