This is a post I have been dreading because sharing one’s beliefs is scary, people will either disagree strongly and argue or they dismiss you. Rarely do I find that people share my beliefs, so I tend to keep my mouth shut. Perhaps this is a learnt behaviour from arguing with my mother so strongly and passionately about everything to do with everything!
But here goes!
At this moment in time I believe that life is made more complicated for many people by what is set as a ‘norm’. What is socially acceptable. If you fall short of this in any way then you become branded with a generalising stroke of a brush. Having a mental health illness has made this more clear to me than ever before. The so-called ‘professionals’ give you a diagnosis which is ultimately a label and then more or less make it that you have to find the way to get better, if you don’t or are slow in doing so you get accused of not trying, not engaging or giving up. Problems can be dismissed as not serious, or being blown out of proportion. The expectations that you may have for your life get put under a microscope and suddenly you find that you are aiming to high and that you have to lower those expectations.
I recently met a 20-year-old single mum. She lost her father last year and found it hard to deal with her grief. With a 2-year-old son she turned to social services to help her manage whilst she grieved. She suffers with depression and was feeling suicidal, but it was a feeling, not something she planned to carry out. Over the past year she has been threatened with having her son taken away from her. Not because she has done anything wrong, she is a young mum with mental health issues. The label attached to her is unfair and she is fighting a system which has decided that people like her not capable of dealing with things. By all accounts she is an impressive young woman. She holds down a job, doesn’t rely on benefits, the baby’s father is not really in the picture and the support she has is limited. Why does she deserve to lose her child when I, with a diagnosis of personality disorder, 3 kids and unemployed, am of no interest to the social services. I don’t reach any of their thresholds for them to give a shit, yet this girl who is intelligent, a good mum and a hard worker is constantly having to prove herself when all that happened was her father died? It seems unjust.
I hate the unjust society that we live in. I don’t like the fact that some of the best education is only available if you have the money to pay for it, I don’t like the fact that people look down their noses at people who live on council estates. I get angry when those who take drugs and drink are automatically classed as down and outs and criminals. During my placement for the degree I was taking I was working in a methadone programme as a project worker. The people who came to the project came from all walks of life. Some held down powerful jobs within the business sector, had families and big houses and had some how got into taking heroin. There were of course the stereotypical people there too who were homeless or in temporary accommodation. But rather than judging them by their cover, for their circumstances, as you got to know them you realise that many of them had a horrible story behind their drug and alcohol use. None of them willing became addicted, none of them set out to be in this situation. Most had suffered trauma of some kind and a large percentage also had mental health issues and had come to use drugs and alcohol as a way of dealing with their symptoms. This I can strongly relate to. To look at me or listen to me, I am not scruffy, I take care of myself and I am reasonably educated, yet I have suffered traumas, have mental health issues and my way of coping is to take co-codamol, sometimes to drink or self-harming.
Since becoming a service user myself, I have experienced all sorts of treatment by varying people and hit is hard sometimes to manage with the way I have been treated. Having a mental health condition doesn’t mean that I am stupid, that I can be treated like I am shit on the bottom of someone’s shoe or any of the other things that can be experienced.
My beliefs are that people need to stop and think about how they behave towards others. Why should there be football players earning so much when there are other people who carry out important jobs which keep society ticking over who get paid a pittance? Why should having a mental health illness mean that I am not worthy of being spoken to like a human being, or listened to properly with kindness and compassion? Why is it automatically assumed that if you come from a ‘dodgy’ area that you are scum? I lived on a council estate in Feltham many years ago, a dodgy area and not a place I want to live in again. But not because it was dodgy, but because the schools were failing as teachers literally came for a few months and then buggered off, because the recession hit and families found themselves out of work and signing up for benefits and in the meantime they were losing their homes, rent wasn’t getting paid so people there were issues with that too. It’s not the worst place in the world to live, crime does happen, but it can happen in the nicest areas, being made redundant can happen to anyone, having financial worries and losing your home can happen to even those with a great income and education. It’s not just those at the ‘bottom’ who experience this. Yet they are the ones who are frowned upon, I was and am frowned upon.
I don’t believe that life should be about what you have got but about what you give. Material things are all well and good but are you really going to be remembered for having a big house and a fancy car? No! You will be remembered for what you did, what you gave, the lives you touched in a good way. I believe, for me, that I don’t want to have all the riches in the world, I would like to simply be accepted for who I am. A flawed individual who has something to good to give. I am not religious, I have some political views, I believe that we shouldn’t tread all over others to get to some place better. I believe that we should support those in hard times, celebrate the good times and remember that we are all as vulnerable as one another no matter where we come from.