Archive for October, 2014


My journey to a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome begins sometime in 2007. I had always felt there was something different about me and I also felt that I was missing out on something in life but I could not put my finger on it. People would say I was weird, strange and displayed inappropriate behaviour at times but nothing concrete I could actually tie down and say this is me and why I am the way I am. I had looked at various mental health conditions and whilst I felt I displayed some of the traits it did not cover the whole spectrum of emotions and behaviour I felt I had.

It was a friend of mine who suggested I might have Asperger’s Syndrome. She had read the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night’ and felt that I displayed many of the characteristics that the main character showed. I researched Asperger’s Syndrome on the internet and immediately felt that this was me, this was who I am and these were the answers I had been looking for all my life. I booked an appointment with my doctor mistakenly thinking he would show compassion and understanding and organise an appointment for me to see a suitably qualified psychologist. How wrong I was!

My first appointment with my doctor consisted entirely of me explaining to him what Asperger’s Syndrome was and why I felt I had the condition. I will not use the term ‘suffer’ as I feel that this gives the wrong impression. People with Asperger’s Syndrome do not suffer from it. They suffer from the ignorance of others who believe mistakenly they have little or no value to society. Unfortunately this view is shared by some members of the medical profession and immediately creates the first obstacle a patient needs to overcome, that is, the very person you go to for help and guidance sees you as a burden on the medical system rather than someone who needs compassion and understanding.

My doctor flatly refused to believe I had Asperger’s Syndrome and made it clear that he didn’t believe me and thought I was making the condition fit me rather than me fitting the condition. Reluctantly he agreed for me to see a psychologist for depression and a request for an appointment was sent off. What was most distressing for me about the behaviour of my doctor towards me was his outright refusal to believe anything I said about myself! He showed a complete disregard for me and my feelings and instead wanted to impose his own beliefs about my personality and behaviour on me.

 

This left me feeling extremely confused. Was I right in believing what I was feeling about myself or was I imagining everything! Because of this I decided to write down how I felt and why I felt that way and leave it to the psychologist to decide. Consequently on the day of my appointment I was prepared mentally and went in feeling confident which is crucial in a situation such as this. On many occasions it is very easy to forget important details about something, such as a medical condition, and very often these details can make all the difference. As a consequence I was able to leave the psychologist I saw with a valuable document for him to read in-depth at his leisure and make a considered opinion based on this rather than based on memory and a brief discussion.

After a number of weeks I received a letter from the psychologist stating that he felt I had Asperger’s Syndrome and that it would be beneficial for me to attend an assessment for Asperger’s Syndrome at Sheffield Asperger’s Service Centre. I made an appointment to see my doctor to organise an appointment again assuming it would be a straightforward appointment and the relevant paperwork would be sent off to Sheffield and I would wait for a date for my assessment. Again I was wrong. All my doctor was concerned about was the cost of the assessment and who was going to pay for it. There was no compassion shown whatsoever for my mental state or for my emotions and feelings. The rest of my life would come down to cost and a faceless committee who would decide if I was worth the price of the assessment and if my life would be suitably enhanced enough to justify the cost.

This shows up another flaw in the medical system. Whilst one person may make a recommendation based on their professional opinion it may come down to another, disconnected medical professional to decide if the person gets the treatment they need. This can lead to confusion and delays and merely add to the persons problems rather than help them. Luckily for me the situation was taken out of my doctors hands as the psychologist I had seen had referred my case to his boss a consultant psychologist unbeknown to me and he had the authority to authorise the assessment without the need for it to go before a committee. Again this shows a severe lack of communication and a lack of knowledge of procedures between medical professionals. This is something that needs addressing as it can cause friction and confusion between medical professionals and patients when so many mixed messages are being sent and received.

My assessment for Asperger’s Syndrome went smoothly and it was confirmed that I did indeed have Asperger’s Syndrome and I had the diagnosis I so desperately needed. My only issue after diagnosis was again on the subject of cost when I told my doctor that I was receiving six sessions of counselling and his face dropped at this news. It was only when I told him that it was already included in with the cost of the assessment that his face began to regain some colour!

 

This is obviously a very serious subject and in summary it has to be said that a doctor in practice needs to believe the patient whatever his or her own personal feelings towards them and support them in their journey to diagnosis, not belittle and confuse them which only adds to the considerable stress and anxiety that the patient is already going through. Without this initial support the patient runs the risk of any other conditions they may have such as depression and anxiety becoming much worse and developing into self-harm or suicide because the patient feels that no-one believes them and there is support available for them.

Doctors and other medical professionals also need to communicate situations better and inform each other of the procedures that are available for a pathway to diagnosis in order that the patient isn’t lost and confused by the whole situation. I also believe that doctors and other healthcare professionals need not just more training but better training too. This training needs to replicate the full spectrum of the autistic condition and the differences between children, adolescences and adults. By doing this the whole medical profession will be in a far better position to offer care that is focused on a particular person and the blanket coverage that can occur today. By doing this and looking beyond the short term savings, long term health and wellbeing can be better monitored and maintained and in the long run savings will be made across the board because autistic individual’s health and wellbeing will be at the centre of the plan and over time it is quite possible that less will need to be done to maintain this level of health and wellbeing at the initial level of intervention.

The most important issue though is to remember that patients are human beings with real emotions, feelings and beliefs and if they are reduced to a cost then they are also being reduced to the same status as a broken down car that can be left in a scrapyard to slowly rot and not as a valuable member of society which they all are.


purplepersuasion

I often wonder if the developers of Facebook and Twitter ever foresaw just how much of their traffic would be made up of inspirational quotes. Day in day out, social media users are bombarded with quotes attributed to the Dalai Lama, twelve step recovery aphorisms and ersatz Native American wisdom. Of course there’s a special market in mental health maxims about how we are strong at our broken places, about how the darkest hour is always before the dawn, about how pain is going to teach us patience. I know from Twitter conversations that I’m not alone in finding many of these little bundles of advice irksome rather than supportive but now I’m in crisis I’m finding them unbearably trite. There are so many I could have chosen, but since I imagine you’ve better things to do that read a dissertation on inspiration, here are my top peeves.

1) This…

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Creativity

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Andy Smith, creative, quote
Tags: , , , ,

You cannot be creative when you want to be. You are creative when that side of you wants to be.


ponderwomandotcom

As a child our family couldn’t afford a car.  My dad had to borrow the works van on summer weekends when it was available. So, we became a family that went on day trips instead of holidays. Mind you, my dad, John, always said he already paid rent 52 weeks of the year so why would he voluntarily pay double one week just so he could sit in a bed and breakfast in Rhyll looking out onto a wall and sharing a toilet with 33 strangers and an unreliable flush mechanism? He was blessed with true northern logic.

Anyway, here is a little story about a much more recent day trip failure and my dear sister, Christine.

Scottish Retail Therapy

My sister Christine loves a spot of retail therapy.  She gets withdrawal symptoms if she is away from shops for more than a day or two. When we go on…

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A way with words

Posted: October 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s all about the maps……………..

The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb

mappa mundi

A few years ago, someone on ‘Desert Island Discs’ chose OS maps for his ‘book’…not just one, and not just the whole of England, Wales and Scotland, but a notional set of the whole world. And I thought: ‘Yes!’ I knew just what he meant. I love OS maps. The first time I flew in a plane (1981, Manchester to Belfast. Not the best time to go to Northern Ireland) I was spellbound a) by the fact of flying. Actually flying. The way you could leave the ground and stay up; b) by seeing that the maps were right. That what you could see out of the window was actually what the maps said you should see. I still haven’t got over it. Or over the fact that the maps were drawn without flying. How do they do that? Nothing short of miraculous.

Before I had new hips fitted, there…

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This week I’ve changed the title of my blog slightly to better reflect the content. As some of you will have noticed parts of my blog are about life at uni, whereas other parts are about anything on my mind!

This week has been a largely uneventful week at uni for me. I missed the ‘Film and Cinema’ lecture on Monday morning because I was poorly. Tuesday I didn’t have a lecture so my first trip to uni was Thursday afternoon for ‘Men, Masculinity and Crime’. The lecture this week consisted of watching the film ‘Fightclub’ and analysing the film. For me the film was all about finding your identity and that applies equally to males and females and the rejection of the consumerist society we live in. the film went back to a more basic way of living where it seems it was easier to create an identity for yourself because you had less fingers pointing at you from all directions and corners of society telling you what you had to wear, what to watch, what sport to play and on and on and on, in order to be considered a woman or a man. The film seemed to go back to the caveman era and showed the base emotions of society as the foundation for the building and maintaining of an identity. I feel that many films are like ‘Fightclub’ in that there is often a hidden message underneath the plotline and it is up to the individual to find that message, make sense of it and reflect on how they live their lives in comparison. Quite often I think many people watch a film purely for entertainment without looking deeper and finding the meaning and message in the film. They watch the film for pleasure noticing only the car chases, fights and explosions without seeing the life messages behind them.

Which leads me neatly onto my next ‘the media’ as studied in the lecture ‘Representing the Social’. This module gets you thinking about the world we all inhabit and looking at it differently. This week was about one of my favourite subjects the media. The media affects all of us whether we like it or not. From the traditional forms of media such as books, newspapers, radio and television to the new forms such as Facebook, Twitter and the internet itself we are constantly surrounded by the media and therefore media representations of life, society and the world. The main question for many academics is ‘does the media represent or construct society’?

If you ask anyone who is connected to the media they will tell you that they are merely reflecting on what goes on in society and the audience can pick and choose what it watches or reads and therefore make reasoned choice about what it believes. However another very different school of thought believes the media construct the society we live in by altering the images they show us, telling a story in a particular way or reporting on one story and not another. By doing this the media can have an immense influence on how we perceive the world around us and change the way we see society.

One way of doing this is to buy three different newspapers on the same day and look at them in detail and how they are constructed. Say for instance there had been a march against austerity the day before or a murder or someone’s human right’s had been violated, do the newspaper’s report on these stories in the same way? Do they occur on the same page in-between the same stories? Are the same words used for the stories? Is the same political slant given to the stories? The simple answer is no. Different newspaper’s will report a story in different ways. One story might have the victim’s story first, another, the perpetrator. One story might have a right-wing slant, another a left-wing slant, another newspaper might not give the story much space or not even report it at all. By doing this you can see how the media in its different forms constructs a view of the world from their perspective and because the reader may only read that particular story it will influence the readers view of the world around them.

This is especially important in today’s information saturated world we live in. How do we know what is and is not real? Who do we believe? How do we know if an event happened as it has been reported or if it has been altered in some way to reflect the views of the newspaper? The answer is we don’t but if there is a story that holds your interest, gets you thinking and asking questions it is worth getting three or four different perspectives of the same story and seeing which parts are reported similarly and which are reported differently. Research the background of the story makers. What political affiliations do they have? Which people do they consider important? Who are their friends? All of this information will tell you a lot about the background to the story, why they consider it important and the world they are trying to construct for you to live in and believe in.

There is a lot more I could write about the media but I don’t have the space in this blog. The main thing to think about next time your reading a newspaper or the internet or watching the news is that the main reason the media exists is to sell stories and make money for their owners. It’s not to tell you the truth as it happened but to tell you a story that makes you want to buy that particular newspaper over another newspaper. And never be afraid to question what you read and are told. Question the motives of those behind the story, question why they think it is important and question yourself too. Why is it important to you? Why do you care about this story and not another one? Always question.

Otherwise it’s been a normal week for me. Friday was a very long day with four hours of lectures and then a trip to Hebden Bridge for a special Shindig hosted by the amazing Winston Plowes. If you don’t know a Shindig is a spoken word event which features one or two guest performers and an open mic session. I performed a couple of old favourites and a new poem which went down very well. The highlight for me though was an old lady telling the main guest he was ‘rubbish’ and should ‘get off the stage’. It was one of those moments when you shouldn’t laugh but can’t help it.

Saturday was spent watching my local amateur rugby league team Queensbury play out a tough 18-18 draw with local rivals Illingworth, the game wasn’t the most skilful but was a tough game of rugby played mainly in the forwards by two teams refusing to give an inch, a very tough game emphasised by the sound of flesh slamming into flesh, blood on faces and sweat pouring into the pitch from said players. These young lads play the game for pleasure yet still face the same pitfalls as professional players in the form of aching limbs and injuries. The main difference is that these lads have to get up for work on Monday morning with their legs still aching from chasing the opposition, bruises all over their bodies, black eyes, missing teeth and the odd broken limb. It is a tough, uncompromising sport just as much at the amateur level as it is at the professional level.

Thanks for reading and take care.

poem-sacrifice

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

Shawn L. Bird

An Argyll and Sutherland Highlander’s

simple service:

honour guard,

in respectful silence, stand proud

beneath a towering arch,

the bronze visages of

the nation’s memorial to those

fallen in foreign wars,

Keeping faith at the tomb

of the unknown soldier,

Clad in kilt  and jacket,

green as the fields of France,

red and white stockings over

shining white spats,

bronze warriors towering above

wept

as one of Princess Louise’s Highlanders

fell.

.

.

.

This poem references the powerful political cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon drawn in the aftermath of the shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo (a reservist with the Argylls and Sutherland Highlanders) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, October 22, 2014:

Here is Corp Cirillo guarding the national war memorial:

The Argylls and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada on parade.

(I thought I was just posting links to original sites, but the images are showing up. Copyright remains with original sources).

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one more drag on the tab

as it flickers and fades

into the cool sea mist

never to taste his breathe again

as the sea stumbles

onto the wet tongue of tarmac

free at last to pleasure itself

with the shop windows

swinging pub signs

alternating neon lights

those are all that remain

of the holiday makers

caravan movers

and summer shakers

have left for another year

leaving behind dreams of

love lost, love found, love unrequited

in the echoes of the shells that

creep slowly over grains of sand

that cling to each other as the

seaweed crawls over them

hoping to reach the neon lights

that glint off the beach

that can breathe again now

it is free of the pounding of feet

the slams of bodies

the digging of castles

and he watches through eyes

washed by the mist of the sea

as the signs sing in the breeze

to a promenade where nobody walks

except for the sea

and the darkness filters in

sharpen the edges of a

town that slumbers

and he lights another cigarette and

tastes the sea salt on his lips

as the gulls sing one last song


A great blog again from John Foggin about a good friend of mine Simon Zonenblick who is a very talented writer as you will see when you read the blog.

The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb

M62_StottHallFarm_gb12028

There’s lots of roads that I like in Britain. I like the one along the Tay , through Dundee to Broughty Ferry….two great bridges as a bonus; I love bridges. I like the great sculptural sweep of the M74 up to and beyond Beattock summit. I like the single track from the Gaellic College over the hill to Achnacloich on Skye. I like the Newbury bypass and Beacon Hill. But there’s a special place in my heart for this stretch of the M62, the dam on the left, the farmhouse islanded between the two carriageways because the farmer wouldn’t budge when they built the motorway, the great single arch of the bridge by Scammonden where the motorway runs along the top of the dam wall. I love it specially at night, preferably in winter, with frost on the whaleback moors, a misted moon, and hundreds of small bright lights in…

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Another good week at university. The main focus this week has been the dreaded dissertation. I must admit I have been very worried about it as most students are and with good reason. Doing your dissertation is one of the most daunting experiences you can face at university. It’s your final year and you have the choice of what to do for your dissertation. There is so much choice in what to do and then so many other parts of it to think about such as your research methods, ethical considerations and how you are actually going to write it up it can be very overwhelming and take over your life.

But somehow I have managed to navigate all of this successfully so far. What I have done is to think small and focus on just one small part of a larger structure. I am doing my dissertation on disability but I am focusing my research on contemporary attitudes to people with a physical disability post 2012 Paralympics. By doing this I have a focal point from which I can start from and end and an area I can breakdown into its various component parts and decide which part I am going to concentrate on.

Attitudes to disability, is a very important area to many people and for society in general because it can affect a person’s quality of life and how they view others around them. If people with disabilities are treated fairly their outlook and attitude to life will improve and have an effect on their overall wellbeing. If however they are treated badly this can destroy a person’s confidence and have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. This is why attitudes to disability is so important to me.

The reason I’m doing physical disabilities is because I feel it is an easier area to research because it is more in the open than mental health issues and hopefully I will get more responses for me to draw my conclusions from. Also whilst 9,000 words sounds a lot in practice it isn’t that many when you take into consideration I have to do sections on my abstract, introduction, research methods, ethics and conclusion. All of these sections eat up the word count and for that reason I feel it is vitally important to focus on one small area of a much larger picture and stay focus on it or you run the risk of going over your word count and more crucially not getting your point across and losing marks.

Not a lot has happened this week on the poetry front. The open mic sessions are usually one a week but last week was an exception with two in one week followed by none. I did go to a workshop run by the renowned and immensely talented Kim Moore. The subject was the body and Kim had some great exercises for us all to get our minds thinking about how we use our bodies and all the stresses we put them thorough. It was a time of reflection for something we take for granted and only notice when something goes wrong, we break a bone or have an infection. It’s always lovely to hear what everybody else has written from the same prompts and everybody writes something very different. Another writing friend of mine Keith Hutson writes some very funny and witty material and always makes everybody laugh. Keith has a gift for taking a serious subject and finding the humour in it without devaluing or demeaning the subject in any way.

 

Afterwards I went for a walk around Ilkley with my follow Igniting the Spark writer Louella Ramsden and ended up buying Ted Hughes Collected Poems and Simon Armitage Paper Aeroplane. Something for me to read when I’m not doing my university work. It’s always good to have a distraction from the pressure of a degree.

This upcoming week is very busy. On Wednesday I visit the eye doctor to see what damage has been done to my right eye. I will admit I’m not looking forward to it but these things come along in life and we have to face up to them and see what the outcome is. Hopefully the news won’t be too bad and all I’ll need is a stronger prescription!

Tuesday I’m back at Igniting the Spark for one night only as I have no lecture this week at that time and I’m looking forward to catching up with everybody there and seeing what Gaia has in store for us to get our imaginations working. I’m looking forward to Friday immensely as there is a special event at Hebden Bridge Town Hall celebrating the poetry of Ted Hughes and a special open mic Shindig where as long as I get a spot I will be reading some of my favourite Ted Hughes poetry. If your around Hebden Bridge on Friday night get yourselves to the town hall for what promises to be a great evening of poetry.

Have a great week everybody and take care.