Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rude awakening

6 am this morning in the slumbering midst of phase 1 of my wake up process (Radio 4 gently raises me from the dead, a quarter of an hour later alarm number 1 goes off, followed 15 minutes later by my mobile – even then I am sometimes still asleep!) I am startled by a violently aggressive hammering on my bedroom window.

I awake, confused and flustered. My immediate thought is that I have overslept for something and someone has come round to wake me. I mentally check my day in my head, no nothing, I am right where I am supposed to be; in bed.

Now that the friendly option has been ruled out I am paralysingly struck with fear. Someone is trying to break in and not very subtly either. I pull my duvet over my head, hide, ignore and it will go away. But it doesn’t, it comes back, even harsher than before. They are knocking so hard I think the window will break. Then they ring the door bell.

The fear dispels and anger takes over. ‘For fuck’s sake!’ I mutter out loud. I stumble, glasses-less to the door & pick up the intercom, ‘Hello?’.

‘Home Office’ they growl, ‘we have reason to believe there is someone in this building who is in this country illegally’. As I press the button to let them in two simultaneous thoughts rush through my head. The first is guilt, ‘what have I done?’ The second is suspicion ‘they could be anyone’.

They fall against the door and flood into the hall, 10, 15, big burly, John Reid type thugs. They are ‘the enforcers’, cloned like their boss. They repeat their charge ‘well not in here’ I say, standing bleary eyed in my dressing gown. They throw their faces too close to mine and glare with suspicion. ‘How many other flats are there here?’ they bark. I describe the layout of the house to them and they ask if they can get into the garden. I let 3 of them in, tramping through the flat. They peer over the fence and up at the back of the house. Begrudgingly they apologise ‘sorry to disturb you’ one mutters. ‘It’s ok’ I lie, ‘you just frightened the living daylights out of me’. ‘Sorry about that’ as they march out of the door without looking back.

A woman thrusts a photocopied passport photo in my face. ‘Do you know this man’ she says. He doesn’t look familiar, but I don’t pay much attention to most of my neighbours, I tell her ‘no’.

They stampede up the stairs and I remember the dodgy Columbians who moved out 3 years ago. It could be him. I am tired and pissed off and still shocked from a startled awakening. I decide not to tell them, they can figure it out themselves.

Due to my blurry vision at the aforementioned time I missed a vital detail...according to my upstairs neighbour they were armed. They hammered on his door too, then said 'you're obviously British so sorry to bother you'! As he said, why go to all that effort and expense then not even search people's flats?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

7/7 victim 'unfair dismissal'

I am watching this case with interest....

Top blogs, published soon…

I received a copy of The Blog Digest 2007 on Saturday. It’s a great collection of the best of the year’s blogging, featuring yours truly amongst many other notable characters.

Thanks to The Friday Project and Justin for including my ‘Meeting the Home Boy’ post. I felt a kind of warm glowey pridey sort of a feeling on seeing myself printed and bound inside a proper, grown up, book!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mad, sectioned and black

Alex Linklater is a journalist who focuses on mental health issues. He wrote one of the most intelligent, informative and thought provoking pieces that I have read on the psychological sufferings of some of the victims of 7th July (myself included). He is also the associate Editor of Prospect Magazine.

Today I happened upon a piece he has written with Robert Drummond, a psychiatrist. It looks at the phenomenon of black (mostly) men being incarcerated under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. I dropped him a line as it is a subject which has long fascinated me. Black people in this country, he tells me, are 9 times more likely to be psychotic, whilst south Asian migrants are only twice as likely.

My friend (who has just come out of hospital) is black. The first time I visited him in a secure psychiatric unit, many years ago, I thought it was a ward for black people. It wasn’t.

Every hospital and ward he has stayed in since has been the same. It is a situation that most of us are utterly unaware of, something rarely mentioned in the media, a subject which is tricky and sensitive but needs to be known.

In his article Alex ponders over the reasons, all of which have crossed my mind as I struggled with this troubling statistic.

No one really understands why. Schizophrenic symptoms occur in all ethnic groups. The competing explanations, biological or social, of why some groups experience higher rates are fraught with tension. Perhaps the close family networks of south Asian immigrant groups act as stabilisers in an isolating city, while the more fragmentary family circumstances of Afro-Caribbeans have the reverse effect. Some argue that such findings reveal an inability among researchers to understand black culture; some that a prevalence of cannabis use plays a part in shaping Afro-Caribbean psychosis; others that racism either causes the disorder, or causes white psychiatrists to over-diagnose black patients.

He goes on to say that schizo-affective disorder is “sometimes nicknamed the "Brixton psychosis," because the combination of schizophrenic delusions with mania appears more commonly among Afro-Caribbean patients. Research shows differing rates of mental illness among different ethnic and migrant groups, with the black population suffering less from anxiety disorders but significantly more from psychosis.

So why is this happening in our communities? Are the causes social, genetic or racial? Is it that black people are more likely to live in poverty and battle the stresses and strains that this brings? Well plenty of white people do too. Is it the trauma caused by racial taunting and prejudice which brings it on? But Asian’s are as likely (if not more, in this day and age) to experience that too. If either of these were the cause, it seems strange then that Afro-Caribbean’s are less likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, a common reaction to an over stressed life.

Is there something in their genetic make up which means they are more predisposed to psychotic illnesses? Or is it simply that a (and most of them are) white doctor is more likely to section a mad black man, through prejudice or ignorance, than the less threatening (to him) mad white man?

Alex talks in his piece about a young man, named Victor whose “basic problem was his reluctance to stick to his medication”. This was true of my friend, and so many others. Is there a stronger feeling of pride amongst young black men? A machismo which prevents them from admitting that they are ill? Lack of insight is a hard nut to crack (it has taken 3 years of weekly sessions for my friend’s psychiatrist to get there), is it more prevalent amongst black sufferers of mental illness?

Section 3 of the Mental Health Act is perhaps the most authoritarian piece of legislation in the British statute book. It allows doctors to lock up a patient for compulsory treatment for far longer than anti-terror legislation can hold a prisoner without charge.” There is uproar and outrage amongst human rights groups and the black community at the disproportionate number of black youths who are stopped and searched. No one out there, seems to be up in arms about the same situation in our mental health hospitals.

Is it too much for the media to bear? Two taboo and sensitive subjects wrapped up in one. It’s bad enough being black (if you are the Mail) even worse if you are mad, but God help you if you’re unlucky enough to be both.

Friday, November 24, 2006

How did THIS happen?

I am number 76 in the Technoranki charts! HUH?

Chicken Yoghurt, for instance, is only number 185

Something must be wrong!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Kick up the backside

Thanks for the kick up the backside tag Rach. I needed it. I am suffering from a severe case of the 'to blog or not to blog' dilemma. Blogging, for me, over the past year has been both therapeutic and inspirational. It has helped me to share my ups and downs and rants with you all. I have received support and advice which has warmed my heart and strengthened my resolve to keep on keeping on. I have also discovered a love and the joy of putting words together to convey thoughts and feelings and sights and sounds. It is sometimes a struggle but always a satisfaction and having discovered this secret I never want to give it up.

BUT there is a hovering but. I started this blog to help me through the aftermath of the bombs. It has got me through and perhaps given a little strength to others too. I don’t much write about bombs any more, but there are days when I do, when I must, when I need to. I am moving on, traveling forwards and leaving some of the aftermath behind me and writing this blog somehow always takes me back there. I am wondering whether the time has come that it is no longer a positive thing in my life. My mind is constantly racing through words which could be posted, I never want to lose the thrill of writing, but recently it has felt like a burden. Like homework which has been hidden under the bed. I haven’t wanted to write it, but have been nagged by guilt at the same time. ‘Don’t give up, you know you love it says voice number one’. ‘It just takes me back, it’s becoming a chore’ says the opposing voice in my head. I enjoy it once I start and wonder why I’ve been putting it off, but I wonder I wonder, would it be healthier to stop?

Meanwhile, from Rach, top ten things I would never do:

1 – Refuse a drink
2 – Regret anything …ever
3 – Play the Lottery
4 – Trust a politician
5 – Use cheap moisturizer
6 – Cancel a holiday
7 – Give up dancing
8 – Read Harry Potter
9 – Let down my friends
10 – Go pot holing

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Time with myself

Six days alone, completely, on the edge of a cliff. Not only did I survive but I thrived. Apart from shop keepers and fellow walkers I spoke to no-one but myself. And do you know what? I made a discovery, I am pretty bloody good company! I think I may even invite myself on holiday again one day, we had a blast.

I have been away on my own plenty of times before, but have never actually spent so much time alone. I usually meet people, make holiday friends and enjoy being anyone I want. This time it was me and me alone.

I walked and walked, laughed and cried and let my mind wander with me. I traveled miles both by foot and in my head. It was liberating, refreshing and relaxing beyond belief. My face is smiling my eyes are bag-less and my mind is still full of expansive skies and thundering cliffs. I broke through barriers and felt freedom I had never know, I am hanging on to it as hard as I can, fighting off the walls that are slowly closing in and swallowing back the sky.

I was expecting, possibly hoping, to come across life changing realisations. I didn’t. The only resolutions I have made to myself are to do it again and to buy a milk jug. Breakfast in the bay window overlooking the Atlantic was refined by the presence of a blue and white stripy jug in place of the opaquely plastic, green topped, bottle which usually graces my breakfast table. I cooked local fish and knitted. I devoured newspapers, books and dvd's and all too soon it came to an end. But I have dispelled a fear, a fear of alone-ness, which has given me a strength never felt before.

Something, I feel, has changed inside, clicked back into place and made me whole. I am moving on, striding forwards and getting over things that need to be archived in the past.

I am still trying to figure it out, but I noticed something strange. People in ‘the country’ seem to spend an awful lot of time sitting in parked cars.

The Lone Cornish Rambler