On Writing and Depression: My Creative Down-swings

Jason Arnopp @JasonArnopp  (Author, scriptwriter. Doctor Who, Sarah Jane, Friday 13th) is working on a book regarding professional (Fiction) writers and Depression. He asked me to contribute. This is what I had to say…

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On Writing & Depression: Creative Down-swings

A well-meaning new-found long-lost relative decided to comment on my NaNoWriMo 2011 Facebook entry referring to my struggles to participate because of Major Depression: “truth is I’m strategic…” she wrote. “…the goal is achievable you have to trust yourself to make it happen.” Her sentiments are typical of the simple-minded inspiration porn that I am forced to put up with routinely. My response is always that I do what I can, when I can, but unfortunately more often than not it means struggling immensely to do not very much at all. I give myself pep talks and formulate strategies to try and be productive to no avail.

The greatest irony for me as a writer living with Depression has always been that I get my best ideas and am the most prolific when in a severe down-swing. I find that writing fiction, even Harry Potter fan fiction, is therapeutic in a way that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has never been for me. I even managed to put this into one of my stories with a fan fiction-writing protagonist who proposed that “sometimes fiction serves a purpose in enabling people to live out their fantasies, purge their own demons or perhaps set a standard for themselves. It was only when people confused fantasy with reality that there was a problem.”Self-insertion? I won’t deny it. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself and my illness through writing and making use of my own lived experience (especially post-diagnosis in 2009). This in turn informs others including those who live with it – something still sorely needed to combat the stigma of mental illness. I would also agree that I lose myself in the gloriousness of creation process. This is even more pronounced during manic cycles of insomnia. Perhaps that’s why I have so many epic tales that remain unfinished after starting them nearly a decade ago and have failed to live up to the potential I’ve been told that I have. Depression has impacted every aspect of my life for good or ill, and my interests and ambitions as a professional writer are no exception.

Lisa J. Ellwood

@CreativeCrip (Social Justice, Mental Illness, Disability)

https://thecreativecrip.wordpress.com/

@IconicImagery (Professional Writing & Communications account)

http://iconic-imagery.co.uk/

http://iconicimagery.wordpress.com/

http://www.fanfiction.net/u/598860/NativeMoon (Fan Fiction Writing)

Related Articles:

#NaNoWriMo 2011 (#disability #spoonie #mentalhealth) – #amwriting (thecreativecrip.wordpress.com

#NaNoWriMo – Day 2: Not #fitforwork or anything else… (thecreativecrip.wordpress.com

@CreativeCrip in the media: #xmasathome #nyeathome interview GRAZIA Australia (thecreativecrip.wordpress.com

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Some “Claims” about DisRightsUK – the charity behind #HardestHit (AMENDED)

News on @DisRightsUK from Benefits & Work Email last week (originally tweeted via Twitlonger here, here & here).

The email is now publicly available in the B&W News Archive here.

 

DRUK WORKING FOR CAPITA ON PIP
We can also reveal that leading disability charity Disability Rights UK (DRUK) has signed up as a paid sub-contractor to Capita, to help the company carry out personal independence payment medicals in central England and Wales. There is no information on DRUK’s website about the arrangement with Capita.

The deal with Capita was sealed some time prior to 2nd May 2012, since when DRUK continues to claim it is considering bringing a court case to prevent PIP being introduced. The charity also still leads the Hardest Hit campaign against benefits cuts and heads up the Disability Benefits Consortium.

Capita’s bid document quotes DRUK as saying:

“Disability Rights UK is delighted to endorse Capita’s approach to learning, development and continuous improvement.”

Capita make it clear that they are paying DRUK not just to advise them on accessibility issues and to recruit senior disabled staff, but also to pass on information gained from DRUK members. The bid document explains that:

“. . .we have committed to employing a resource within DRUK dedicated to capturing the views and experiences of claimants and those impacted by PIP. DRUK has over 1,000 member organisations which should allow for broad capture of ongoing claimant experiences.”

You can download the successful Capita bid documents for Wales and Central England here:

http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2012-1399/A_Capita_Doc4Part5TenderForm_LOT2.pdf

http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2012-1399/Capita_Doc4Part6Annex2_Lot2.pdf

 

DisRightsUK is headed by the odious Liz Sayce, responsible for the Sayce Review “which was commissioned to look at how the £320m protected budget for disability employment could be used more effectively to support thousands more disabled people into work.”

DRUK & their partners are clearly working to a specific #fitforwork ideology given their shafting of Remploy – and this latest action as a so-called ally of disabled people shows just how twisted the Hardest Hit Campaign & Disability Benefits Consortium are also.

 

EDIT:

Disability Rights UK have updated their website to disavow havuing a contract with Capita, stating:

We are shocked that anyone could think Disability Rights UK would get involved in any way in delivering PIP assessments. We oppose the cut which will mean 500,000 disabled people are made ineligible for support. (A private competitor has claimed Disability Rights UK is seeking a role in delivering PIP assessments. This is incorrect).

Our only role is to ensure that disabled people have access to the best possible, independent information and advice on our rights, which we hope to provide for free. We are not sub-contracted by Capita. We advised Capita on how to ensure people got good advice on their rights. We are not capturing disabled people’s views or doing anything relating to Capita’s delivery – we recently turned down an invitation to be part of their reference group.

We did have discussions with Capita – but decided we would not work with any PIP contractors other than in our core role as providing rights based information and advice to disabled people. There is no contract.

 

Interesting that ATOS is lying re DPAC and DRUK claims same re Capita.

Note (1):  the PDFs that Benefits & Work included in their story regarding DisRightsUK & Capita are no longer available via the specified URLs.

Note (2): A couple of the PDFs referred to by Benefits & Work are accessible via Google Cache:

Thank you to @boycottwokfare for the tip. Both files can be saved to Google Docs and downloaded via Google Drive.

See also:

Tender documents for the delivery of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Assessments [redacted]. 75 docs.

PQ 119481, PQ 119482, PQ 119483, PQ 119484 and PQ 119485

 

Thank you to johnny Void for the tip.

 

ADDENDUM: Changed “Facts” to “Claims” in title in a cynical bid to calm down Poverty Pimp defenders.

 

Related Information:

Meanwhile back at the ranch… CreativeCrip 8 Months #AfterESA

Regular readers of this blog and followers of the related @CreativeCrip Twitter account might recall in February of this year I rashly pulled myself out of ESA hell in favour of being self-employed. Being honest – I knew at the time that I still wasn’t ready to make such a move. Atos phoning me at home about another WCA was the catalyst. I literally could not face having to deal with them again and was so desperate that taking myself off the merry-go-round seemed like the only thing that would bring some relief.

It’s been touch-and-go ever since, largely because of the appalling lack of support from my old GPs & CMHT Psych Team. As I’ve said before, being a Native American merely Permanently Resident in the UK is not without problems. Every inquiry and appointment turns into an immigration interview – which is not only unnecessary it is quite inappropriate. One of the things that I constantly struggle with in trying to get help is that the professionals I am meant to be dealing with don’t leave their politics and prejudices at home. It’s much the same dealing with engineers from telephone companies, supermarket delivery drivers and neighbours. Everyone has really strong opinions on immigration, benefits and disability and there is no hesitation in imparting their wisdom to me no matter how malicious and ill-informed.

I’ve had to make even more changes in the aftermath of dropping my ESA claim.

  • My finances were in such a dire state that I had to borrow money to be able to move house and secure it by paying six months up front. There is no feeling of failure quite like crying to your mother at the ripe old age of 46 and having her cash in some of her pension to bail you out.
  • Instead of the accessible ground floor flat that cost £650/mo (downgraded from another ground floor flat that was £800/mo) in Cardiff, I am now living in an old split-level miner’s cottage in the Valleys that is nowhere near being disabled-friendly. It only costs £375/mo – great for someone with very low income. Accessible bungalows and ground floor flats come at a premium I simply cannot afford having already exhausted my redundancy on paying the mortgages of other people.
  • I need to find a new GP and essentially start all over again, hoping that I’ll get the support and referrals I need to manage my complex health needs. I haven’t found the courage to actually get myself out of the house to do this – and October marks three months living here.
  • When I moved house this past July I hadn’t seen my old GPs in over a year – our relationship was *that* adversarial. I just couldn’t cope with having to deal with them again knowing that, quite frankly, they really didn’t give a shit what happened to me as reflected in their attitude every step of the way.
  • The meds I need I haven’t had for some time now so of course my mood and manner are more down than slightly down (I’ve never been an “up” person and never will be). Having said that – there is a difference between Clinical Depression and just being in a foul mood. I am at least astute enough to recognise which is which in myself., but of course not having effective treatment for the Clinical Depression doesn’t help. I had been on 200gm of Sertraline a day but hypersomnia won out. The fact is that the Clinical Depression *is* really kicking my tail in every way, shape and form.
  • It seems that I may be an undiagnosed Aspie (and the results of Simon Baron Cohen’s online test support this along with some others) – but unfortunately before anything could be explored on that basis the old CMHT changed Psychiatrists, which they did every few months it seemed. I also missed a lot of appointments because I could not make them for physical or financial reasons or both. Making appointments three months in advance was never going to work. I also begged the CMHT to allow me to have phone conferences. This was laughed at…why I don’t know.
  • I have now been on a list to see a spinal surgeon for over two years. Every time I contacted the hospital they were annoyed and told me they would get back to me. Now that I’ve moved house I will have to get a new referral.
  • I am also overdue for knee surgery and this has severely impacted my mobility. Again I will have to get a new referral thanks to the house move.
  • I am angry about my situation and who I am because of it all the time… and no matter what I try it just doesn’t subside. As I’ve said before, all I’ve ever asked for is the help and support I need to get back to having a somewhat productive life. I’m not the only one in such a predicament but it astounds me still that politicians from all three major UK parties have strong opinions about disabled people and work, yet they seem to go out of their way to make things as difficult and inhumane as possible for us. Everything from Disability Living Allowance to Access To Work to Working Tax Credits is such a nightmare to navigate and especially for anyone who is completely alone.

Some people say that I have to “fake it until it’s real” and other similar Mindfulness pearls of wisdom along admonishments to “play the game” – both of which go down like a lead-weighted balloon. Being fake just does not compute. I am who I am and what I am is tired… just so very tired of the never-ending fighting for absolutely everything in every part of my life. And I am acutely aware that for every person who might *get* what I’m saying there will be a number of detractors. That’s fine… I can only ever tell the truth – my truth. It’s the same for all of us.

So here I am carrying on doing everything that I am told to do and hoping against all reasonable hope that things will get better.

 

 

Musings: Lifestyle Change vs. Political Change and Disability

Just replied to a comment on my blog from a disability campaigner now owning that his focus is on “lifestyle change rather than political change” (I’m one of more than a few people with criticism of the BioPsychoSocial mantras being rammed down our throats).

This is my response:

“Again – lifestyle change for disabled people not born into privilege will not happen without political change.”

I still don’t want to live this life – the real world 2 months #afterESA

Today marks the point of no return for many disabled and ill people. An estimated 40,000 – 100,000 of those in our community who have worked will lose our Contributory Employment Support Allowance (ESA)  thanks to the new one year time limit railroaded through Parliament as part of the recent welfare reforms.

I’m one of them. Continue reading

#ATOSuni update no. 5: Derby U. sleight of hand

The Masters of the Universe running French IT firm Atos Origin are quite an ambitious lot. Continue reading

Smoke and Mirrors: Remploy & Access to Work

REMPLOY bills itself as the UK’s leading provider of employment services for people with disabilities.  In the wake of government cuts to funding, the company is closing its contested Factories is re-establishing itself as yet another support mechanism for both Jobseekers and potential employers alike. They claim to have supported more than 20,000 people to find, and remain in, employment in 2010/11Note the emphasis on “finding” work and “remaining in” employment (which works well given the catastrophic failures of A4E doing similar work as a Provider of outsourced government unemployment support).

Many Disability Campaigners, myself included, and various segments of the media have accused the government of diverting funds that should go into keeping open Remploy factories. The culprit has been named and shamed as the Department of Pensions  “Access to Work” programme for disabled people returning to work (aka “welfare to work”).

Access to Work is yet another government programme under the auspices of the DWP’s JobCentre Plus. 

@ITVLauraK - Remploy

Tweet from ITV Reporter Laura Kuenssberg

source: @ITVLaura 

 

What few of us had yet to realise is that in December of 2011, Remploy was awarded the tender for a new UK-wide Access To Work programme to support those of us with mental health conditions back into work.

 

DWP confirm REMPLOY Tender

DWP confirm REMPLOY Tender - Dec'11: mental health support in Access to Work Programme

source: DWP

 

 

REMPLOY confirm DWP Access to Work Tender.

REMPLOY confirm DWP Access to Work Tender same day as DWP announcemen. 5th tDec'11

source: REMPLOY (pls click to review all details not included in screenshot)

 

I only discovered this in the last two weeks myself, after my public meltdown after being forced off ESA (a saga itself and the aftermath of which are worthy of their own posts). I am now an Access to Work “customer” forced to deal with a number of Third Party Service Providers of which REMPLOY is only one and the experience is not dissimilar to those under A4E and other external providers whilst receiving Employment Support Allowance and /or Jobseeker’s Allowance.  Whenever I mention the factories closing, #REMPLOY staff always claim to know nothing about it & mention the new #mhuk contract.

According to the DWP Access to Work is available to anyone who is:

  • in a paid job
  • unemployed and about to start a job
  • unemployed and about to start a Work Trial
  • self-employed

and your disability or health condition stops you from being able to do parts of your job.

Your disability or health condition may not have a big effect on what you do each day, but may have a long-term effect on how well you can do your job.

So that Employers don’t suffer too much inconvenience or  financial hardship the programme will cover the cost of suitable adaptations for their workplace.

Your employer’s responsibilities

Once your adviser has decided on the package of support they feel is appropriate, they will seek formal approval of their recommendations from Jobcentre Plus. You and your employer will then receive a letter informing you of the approved level of support and the grant available.

It is the responsibility of your employer – or you, if you are self-employed – to arrange the agreed support and buy the necessary equipment. Your employer can then claim repayment of the approved costs from Access to Work.

 

Access to Work details on Direct Gov

Access to Work details on DirectGov

source: DirectGov (pls click to review all details not included in screenshot)

For those in the Employers’ Forum on Disability who welcomed government implementation of the Sayce Review and complained that REMPLOY Factories were just another form of social and professional isolation for disabled people, it seems that this new Mental Health Support service within the already established Access to Work framework  is the panacea to those particular ills. This new REMPLOY contract with Access to Work was most likely the sweetener that made it very easy for the REMPLOY Board to propose closing of 36 of its 54 factories thereby putting 1,700 disabled people out of work – and into the power of JobCentre Plus. After all, the 18 months of “support” for ex-REMPLOY employees that Disability Minister Maria Miller and other politicians continue to over-sell is the same that made the likes of A4E’s Emma Harrison a millionairess with a Stately Home, in spite of fraud accusations and a service that didn’t deliver on it’s “Benefits Buster” promises.

The DWP have killed two birds with one Sayce Review stone – Liz Sayce had called for more funding  to be put into Access to Work and for REMPLOY to be modernised.  Forcing disabled people into mainstream employment, regardless of suitability albeit with “support”  for our own good, is quite a progressive neo-liberal move indeed.

Related information:

 

ATOS Meltdown Continued: Dark Night of the Soul (#DWPPressOffice #workfare #ESA #disabilityUK #ukmh #mhuk #a4e)

 

 

 

Sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand and mentor you through things.

This is one of those times.

Continue reading

ATOS Meltdown Continued: Dark Night of the Soul

Steinem-Truth
Image Source: “Gloria Steinem Quote.” Image. Ephemera-Inc.com 01 Jun. 2011..

NEW POST at thecreativecrip.com:

Sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand and mentor you through things.

This is one of those times.

Read the full article here:  http://thecreativecrip.com/2012/02/atos-meltdown-continued-dark-night-of-the-soul/

Media: “Technical Difficulties” with Tim Abbott – 24 Feb 2012


Resonance FM
Image via Wikipedia (CC “Fair Use”)

 

 

Today marked my first foray into radio.

I was a guest on Tim Abbott’s “Technical Difficulties” radio show on Resonance FM.

You can listen to the Podcast at http://podcasts.resonancefm.com/archives/8452

Continue reading