Monday, 22 February 2016

Catching Up

It has been noted (by my daughter's friend - hi Beth) that I have not blogged as regularly as I said I was going to.  In other words, I have broken my New Year's Resolution.  So far, so normal. 75% of New Year's resolutions are broken by this time of the year (I just made that statistic up but I don't think it is far off the truth). 

Anyway, my excuse is that I am having a mid-life crisis.  I have been assessing and re-assessing my path in life for a while now and come to no firm conclusions whatsoever.  So, what happened was, I dropped out of the Medical Law Masters soon after I started it last September.  I have been avoiding mentioning that, but it happened, and I had good reasons for dropping out at the time although I have been regretting it recently. 

Basically, I kind of lost confidence in my chances of getting a job at the end of the course.  Everyone else on the course seemed - no, was - so professional, organised, well-presented and just out of my league.  They were all lovely people but I didn't feel like one of them.  Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that after a couple of years of behaving like that sort of person I would probably have been able to wing it.  It would have been a good qualification, enough to get me a professional role and then I would have been a professional for real.

Never mind.  I also had money worries - Paul was really supportive of me doing the course but it was costing a fortune and I stress about money at the best of times.  I started to catastrophise, imagining the worst case scenario, which would be that at the end of the course we would be twelve grand poorer and I wouldn't be able to get a job, or worse, I would decide that I didn't want that sort of a job and then I would feel that I would just have become a liability.

Anyway, it's history now.  I didn't do it.  I dropped out very early on so it didn't cost any money, in case you are wondering.  Now I need to find something else to do instead, because it is becoming increasingly obvious that I need to work, in some capacity.  Which is where I have started to go around in circles.  Initially I was torn between studying to become a solicitor and training to becoming a teacher.  Both are possibilities, if only I can hold my nerve (judging by the Masters course I would need some sort of external support to do that, and I would plan accordingly.  I would arrange regular sessions of counselling or similar for the duration of the course.  It would take a year of study for me to qualify to become a teacher or to start work in a solicitor's office, because I already have a first degree). 

But then, I have also been thinking, perhaps I should do a Masters in creative writing. I can write, I am sure of that.  I am a writer already.  But a Masters course might help me focus, give me contacts, possibly forge the way to a career in academia if I studied really hard and did really well.  Possibly it would just get me writing more regularly and also better than I do now.  The good thing is that the funding situation has changed between last year and this and now, for the first time, postgraduates can get government student loans on the same terms as for undergraduates.  All postgraduates, up to the age of sixty!  That makes me feel positively young.  Potentially, that could open all sorts of doors.  Too many, maybe, for someone like me who is already feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities.  I could study practically anything!

So what do I do?  Try to get a career off the ground?  If so, what career?  I would like to be a solicitor to prove to the world that I could do it.  Plus, I find the law interesting.  Plus, I can't help feeling that if I am going to do a job I might as well get well paid for it.  And have some respect for it - now, that would be a novelty. 

Teaching, on the other hand, might suit me better.  I think I would be a good teacher.  And I would be available to my own kids in the school holidays - a massive bonus.  Everything has been going so well with them all these years, they are growing up so wonderfully.  I don't know what the formula is and I know the likelihood is that we are just lucky but I can't help thinking that me being at home in what is more or less a full-time support role might have something to do with it.  I don't want to blow it at this stage. 

Then there's the writing.  I have not written much recently.  I still know I can write, but if I am not writing much, or not enough, or if the quality of what I write is not meeting my own expectations, then things really need to change in some way.  Plus, I want to contribute financially and the writing is not fulfilling that function at the moment. 

I may have stumbled on the solution today, or rather, a friend of mine might have found it for me.  This friend texted me this morning with information about a local admin job, quite well paid, quite interesting, for just twelve hours a week.  I could fit it in around the other stuff I do.  It wouldn't be too stressful, once I got used to my new duties.  And I might even be able to study for that Creative Writing Masters part-time, probably by distance learning.

The deadline for that job was today, so this afternoon I wrote up my CV and composed a covering letter and drove into town to give these in.  Interviews are being held next week, so I won't have long to wait.   

Anyone who is waiting for the link to the film and Huff Post blog I wrote about last time - sorry!  The post got rejected by the Huff for being too short - I didn't realise that they had a 500 word minimum.  I meant to re-write and re-submit it, but last week was half-term and I barely switched on my computer at all.  I will get around to doing it soon.  WATCH THIS SPACE.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Schizophrenia - or Emotional Distress?

I think this is the fourth blog I have written for the Huff Post this year.  I know I meant to write one a week and am already a little behind…  Anyway, when this one is published I will link to it here, and then hopefully you can follow the link and see the video it mentions.  It doesn't actually mean much or say anything new without the video but unfortunately I have no idea how to add photos or videos to this blog, although I really should learn that one of these days. 

In any case, I hope all of you out there are well and happy.  I am beginning to feel that Spring is in the air – so many things have started to bud out in my garden and although I know the current cold snap will halt them in their progress it still feels positive.  Exciting too, as I can't remember what on earth I planted - I must make a note of what actually grows in my garden this year. 
I do know I have some new raspberry canes - a friend gave them to me last Autumn.  I saw these sticks the other day and nearly pulled them out thinking they were dead plants of some kind but mercifully I remembered what they were just in time.  Reminds me of the time my mother-in-law planted beans for me and I pulled the whole lot up a couple of months later, thinking they were bindweed.  Easy mistake, apparently. 
This is starting to feel like a gardening column.  Back to the case in hand: Huff Post Blog 4.

‘Schizophrenia’ – or Emotional Distress?

Several months ago, I was asked if I would contribute to a video to be made by the mental health charity Mind, about schizophrenia.  I don’t like the term schizophrenia – I was once diagnosed with this condition and although the psychiatrists turned out to be completely wrong and it has been many years since I suffered from any symptoms of mental ill health, the term itself has affected my life in a negative way. 

‘Schizophrenia’ was never intended to be a derogatory term, but after more than one hundred years of misuse and misunderstanding it has become synonymous with madness and danger.  It needs to be modernised, in the same way that manic depression was relabelled as bipolar disorder, some years ago.

Young people are still being labelled schizophrenic, despite much evidence of the harm caused by the diagnosis.  The term has now been eradicated in many forward thinking countries and I live in hope that the UK will follow suit before too much longer.

In any case, I made it clear to Mind that I would be happy to speak about the condition on the video, but that I wanted to make clear my views about the harm done to people by use of the word schizophrenia.  Furthermore, I told them, I wanted to speak about the inhumane way that people who suffer breakdowns are forced to take psychiatric medication both in and out of hospital, sometimes for the rest of their lives, despite its debilitating side effects.  I also wanted to warn young people of the serious risks of cannabis use to their present and future mental health.  There was more.  The girl I spoke with assured me that my views were valid and that it would be good to have them aired.

In the event, though, none of my views about mental health treatment were included on the film, although apparently a podcast will be released in the next few months which will not be so heavily edited.  I am not complaining – Mind is a worthy organisation and they had to produce the film they wanted to show the world – it was not under my control.  And I am sure the film, which shows five of us who have been diagnosed with the condition, will prove useful to the world.  Even though, in my opinion, it could have been a lot more so.

Here’s a link to the film.  Enjoy!