Category Archives: Living On Welfare

Moving On!

I have decided to write my way through the next few weeks, as I prepare to move home and move back toLondon.  I wanted to catalogue the things that have to be done and how I believe miracles are going to happen, to move me on.

The past almost 3 years, I have been living in what can only be described as one of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen in my life.  It is stunning.  I used to drive past here 3 times a week on my way to therapy.  I would sit in the traffic every morning looking at this house thinking, God, I would love to live in that house, and now, I sit writing this looking at the passing traffic………..it is amazing.  Little did I know that the people who live here were hoping that somone would rent the property that they would get to know. This was all happening around 2008/2009 and I moved in here on 1st Oct, 2009 after everything had been brought to a head in my old property and I had decided, wth the help of a friend that enough was enough and I had to move out!!

We were made homeless because the council had absolutely nothing to offer me, and private landlords are not happy to have people who are living on Housing Benefit, so we were truely stuck.  My son was moving to London, and I was so mentally unwell I was on my way to re-hab for six months.

I prayed and prayed and had a dream about setting up a company called Addicts4Addicts, at this time I had absolutely no idea what to do about this, but the vision was there.  Today I have a business plan with it in it and am in the process of moving things on, all being well.

We were selling all my jewellery on ebay to buy food, we were scratching around for all we could find and counting the coppers all around the house. Then a friend very kindly offered to give my son and I our deposits so we could move on with our lives, and before I knew it I found a wonderful landlord who had absolutely no problem at all with me being on welfare and who gave me a beautiful home, which has been my refuge for the past 3 years.

Now, we are moving, the house I have been renting is selling and I have decided that I want to take this opportunity to move back to London. I left 26 years ago, to move to Hong Kong, then Portugal then Bristol and then Surrey, where we have been for the past 19 years………….it is time for me to go back, to the place that I call home.

So, this is the situation.  I am currently living on Housing Benefits and Income Support and sickness allowance, due to my Mental ill health, which I am hoping and praying will slowly improve as it has been a really tough year.  I have not heard from the estate agent since I told them I am living on Housing Benefit and so not sure what will come next.

I have been told that most landlords do not like to have people on welfare renting from them because some Councils tell them to stay there, even thought their tenancy has run out, that they can stay there and wait to be evicted………or, as another one told me, we advise people to lie to landlords, otherwise they will not be housed. So, this is my dilema and so I have decided to write about it.

I am 52 years old, I have a degree in film-making, which I absolutely love and I am planning on somehow, as I get better, to work in that field, never give up on your dreams they say!! I am extremely grateful for the welfare, having lived in countries where there is none. I would so appreciate any help with the move back to London.  I need to be out of here by the 29th August. So, lets see what happens. Please pray and keep your ears and eyes open for any opportunity. I almost got caught up in a huge scam last weekend, but I still believe in the good and putting it out there to God and the Universe. I am looking for a beautiful, either one bedroom or large studio appartment in SW London. I am so hoping one day I will be in the position to buy again, it feels wierd going back having lost everything in the 1989 crash.  I have just never managed to date to get back on the ladder.

Last week my main concern was finding another address for my currently rather dormant company and my tax returns and an accountant to do them………within hours this was sorted and we are just waiting for that to tie up. I have done a couple of car boots to get rid of my stuff and made a huge decision when getting rid of a few very important things. I also burnt loads of old bills and paper together with old bank statements………….it felt so good!

I have finally, after 26 years and 11 months, given away the contents of my maternity case.  Boy that was painful………I realise that it is time to let it all go.  I feel better for it. And as I embark on all the rest of it, papers, diaries, address books of people who have moved so many times from there, I realise I have been stuck in the past, distressed and traumatised by many things and now, I am slowly and very painfully letting it go…………and I am grateful.

I was talking with someone yesterday who told me the most beautiful story of her life and how everything has eventually been restored, it has given me so much hope, in the middle of chaos, it is all going to be alright, I just have to keep doing the work, be brave enough to let go and trust God to provide me with so much more than I could ever imagine.

Todays task is finishing my bedroom, so I have all I need in a suit case, the rest into boxes ready to go to storage…….the process is slow, but who knows how much I will eventually keep…….what do I really need and what is actually just ready to be let go of?

On Turning 50 – Recovery and beyond

It is a very odd stage in life, and for me one that has taken me a long, long time to come to terms with, a year to be precise. I am not totally there yet, but it is getting easier. When I told friends last year that I really could not cope with it, that I was grief stricken, mostly they did not get it, comments like ‘Oh Penny don’t worry 50 is the new 40 and on they went, it did not help, it just made me feel even lonelier. The year has been really difficult and I think that maybe that is because I am not where I had hoped and dreamed I would be, which is what I am really struggling with, facing that has been such a hard thing to face, but also so liberating, now I can do something about it.

I have to face the fact that I will not have any more children, the fact that I have one is a miracle, and I am truely grateful.  I had a fantasy of a wonderful husband, a lovely home and all that and I have to face the fact that I am responsible for screwing that up, because I did not think I was worth it, something else was driving my bus and it has taken me a decade to find it. I have lost most things, including my mind at one stage, mainly due to my mental health and addictions. I am faced with the fact that I still live on welfare and that no matter how hard I try, some days are still hard to cope with, just because.

I feel like I went to sleep at 36 and woke up at 50, wondering what the hell happened and that I have lost so much of my life and I don’t know how or why.  I am sure that for many women this is not what they want to hear but for me it is part of my recovery process. I also know that when I hear of other women who struggle with this it helps me so much so maybe me sharing this will also help others, who knows.  I do know that it always helps me to write my truth.

I turned 51 a few weeks ago and I still feel the loss, the transition is something that I have not been able to take graciously.  Some people say that women over 47 are invisible, no longer attractive, I choose to ignore such negativity, thank goodness.  I do remember hearing older women talking about things when I was much younger, such as you feel so much grumpier, no longer attractive and I could not understand what the hell they were talking about.  Now I kind of get it.

Something inside me, a kind of urgency is now however helping me to decide what I really want in my life, understanding no is a full sentance and that actually, I am the person who is responsible for my happiness, nothing new I know, but there is something really different when you begin to truely realise that you are the person who leads your life. Such a relief.

Middle Classes could be forced to live on the Streets……….according to the Mail online

Wow, I remember something similar years ago now, when the madness of increasing the interest rates, forcing people out of their homes into shelters or to council offices to find housing, only to be put up in another house and be paid far more than the mortage of their old house to stay there………………what!!! It is insane how this works.  This article is facinating. For some reason it is not ok for the Housing Benefit to pay your mortage, but ok for it to pay someone else’s…………how does that work?

The thinking is madness. I am a simple person and sometimes I think that is good, things are not so complicated and it just does not make sense. If someone has a breakdown for example, they can loose their job, then their home, their family everything, then what? Things need to change. Ordinary people, people loose jobs, loose homes, loose everything and then they are treated like shit, instead of sympathy, love and support, compassion to help them along the way.  Very few people actually want to be in the situation, the resources are stretched and surely it would make sense to sort it out at the level of the interest rates? It is not rocket science.

I know from personal experience the horrors of loosing everything and how that erodes the soul, well it did mine, and trying to get out and up again is a battle on a daily basis and one that some just are not capable to take on.

Neil Morrissey – Care Home Kid

I was fortunate enough to catch this moving and for me, heart wrenching account of Neil Morrissey’s life. I always had a soft spot for him, there is something about him that I identified with and now I know what.  He spent a lot of his life lost,  bewildered and not feeling like he belonged.  He put on a great front, was a way-ward person, has abandonment issues and has had a sting of relationships,  deep inside he was troubled.  Now we see the softer, gentler side of a man, who for so long has been haunted by his past.

I spent my life feeling lost, but not knowing that is what it was, it is only now that I am begining to put the pieces together and realising that I never felt really like I belonged. When I did, it didn’t last for long, someone always came along and took it away.  My mother left when I was 3 and a half, but long before that I had been seperated from her she had to work long hours and I had one nanny after another, four in total before I was 9 months old and it had a huge impact on my life and my feeling of belonging and connection, lack of it. My father was married 6 times and my mother was the second wife so I had a succession of step-mothers to contend with.

I felt, and still do sometimes bewildered and just put on a brave front and get on with it, that is getting less and less now and the reality of it all is hitting me, which I am finding pretty painful right now.  Like Neil I was rebellious, had families I went to, to help me through. I have no real connection to my family now, and I still do feel very lost sometimes. There is so much unresolved crap that most of them don’t want to talk about that we just end up in our own little corners, doing our own thing, which I think is pretty sad.

Fortunately I have a son who I am close to and so we are begining again, which I am so grateful for.  The pain and yearning in me is still there for my mother and a family that will be all together, but it is something I have to let go, as painful as it is. I also realise that we are building it for ourselves. That is a great thing to have.

In this moving two part documentary Neil Morrissey explores the reason behind why he was put into care at ten years old because of stealing and how that has effected his entire life.  He visits prison, where 60% of the in-mates in the wing for young offenders have been in care.  He talks to people who were in care and who still are in care and explores the horror stories of abuse that still haunt people’s lives 40 years later.

Neil describes how the way he coped with the situation of suddenly being taken from his family was he just got on with it and was never really encouraged to discuss his feelings, never explored what was going on for him, and that is how he has lived his life.  On visiting a children’s home in Scotland, Lothian Villa, Neil finds a supportive environment for children in care, a far cry from most of the ones he is visiting and hearing about. The way they help people at Lothian Villa is to encourage the children to deal with their feelings of ingrained hurt, anger and distress so that they will no longer remain mad with the world, because they will unless the feelings are dealt with. He credits a lot of his fortunate experience in the children’s home to a house mother who was loving, firm and kind. However he did not learn to deal with his feelings, he says he ignored difficult feelings and made the best of it. He was one of the lucky ones by all accounts.

Most of the people he interviewed and indeed himself came to the conclusion that being in care had, in one way or another, had a devastating impact on their lives.  Neil was put into care because his parents did not properly care for their children and he was caught stealing on a regular basis and he and his brothers were left to run wild, with few boundaries and were often left alone to fend for themselves at night with no parents there for them. How his mother could barely cope with the housework and how his father spent time at the working man’s club because his home was so dirty.

The people who suffer are the children, one way or another, from neglect, abuse or just that feeling of being unloved and without love and support it is so hard to make it in the world.  I was a single-parent and often found it hard to cope, it was very hard. We lived on welfare and I was terrified to ask for help because I always thought that they would take my child away, because that is generally what they did if you were not coping as a single-parent.  I knew that there were many women out there who were also not coping being a mother but they had husbands and family to support them, I did not.

I struggled on and it was only when I finished my degree I felt less vulnerable, for some reason I thought that if I was a single parent with an education they would look more favourably on me.  Little did I know, I had depression which I was self medicating with alcohol, I had a mental illness which was at this point un-diagnosed and it was of course effecting me and how I was parenting.  I was desperate for help.  I now have such a clear insight into so many of the problems, people need love, support and encouragement, not punitive treatment, if parents are not coping they need support to help them cope.  Taking children away from their family and their parents can leave long term damage and worse. If we were to look at things differently and support instead of punish struggling parents, we would be supporting the parents and the children and healing lives. I stongly believe that if you support the parents, you support the child, it is not rocket science.

Recently I spoke with two friends of mine, one from Africa and another from Turkey, interestingly they could not get their heads around the concept of adoption or children’s homes, for them, they had a community and a family who would help out so that if the mother was not coping or on her own for whatever reason, they would all chip in.  It seems that this is a very British thing to do and it raises the question for me, why? Sadly I do not have the answer, but it is such a relief to know that this is as abnormal in other countries as it feels to me, it feels like an insane thing to even consider.

I read a great article by Andrew Mosley that about sums it up really, this is not the Neil Morrissey we have all come to know.  I have to say, I am so grateful to see this side of  him, it gives me hope. Hope that once you face the pain of your past you begin to heal. He has done a lot of good and spoken out for thousands of people who are still suffering, what a great way to use your fame.

He is also now in a committed relationship with his lawyer girlfriend Emma and says that he does not believe in dwelling on his past, and when he was in the children’s homes he always had a dream for a better life.  I personally believe we have to go back and face our pasts and the pain that is there in order to move on, I am in the process of doing that myself and am looking forward to the life the other side.

Fear To Faith

The last few nights I have been lying awake worried about money, as I am not working at the moment due to my repeated breakdowns and  living on welfare and housing benefit, which I am very grateful for. Fortunately I also have some help from a friend and a brother, but it is rapidly disappearing and I panic.  Bills have gone up, petrol has increased and the cost of food has gone through the roof, without their support it would be impossible for me to survive. I have realised that this level of stress contributes to my depression and before I know it I am crippled with fear.

Coupled with this I am still waiting to see the Psychologist, it has been well over 2 months now.  I went to the doctors to ask about things and to see what could be done and was told that the waiting lists at the moment are very long.  For her to put me forward to the Horizon Center where people have long term therapy for abuse and trauma the list is about 6 months and for the CMHT it is similar.  For anyone to see a counsellor it can be up to 5 months and then it may just be 12 sessions……………in the meantime I am encouraged to take the antidepressants and wait.  Apparently they help with anxiety, which they are a bit it has to be said. If I also increase the dose they help more with the depression.  As a writer I am loathed to do this as I don’t want to feel so monged out I don’t feel anything anymore.

I woke up this morning and realised that the reverse of FEAR is FAITH, that it is vital for me to get back into a positve way of thinking, all will be well, it has been before and it will be again.  I am asking for help.  I am writing, I am in the process of organising a documentary to discuss the gaps in the support system and see what suggestions there are.  We are now shooting in 6 weeks due to various factors and I am applying for funding.

I get good days and bad days, and some days are better than others.  Because a friend is helping me I have been able to see a therapist privately who has reduced her rate so she can support me until I get to see the CMHT team, thank goodness I am because without this I would be in a real state. The cost of this is over £200.00 per month and it is rapidly eating into the support and again leads to my worry that I will not be able to stay with the therapist for very much longer.

I went for an assessment at RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling) it took them over a month to be able to see me for an assessment,due to their lack of funding. When I did get one they said I would have to wait another 4 months before I could see a therapist and then, they would only be able to offer me 12 sessions to see if they could help me because they were not sure they were equipt to deal with all my issues.  I was so shocked by this, they wondered if I would need to be hospitalised again if they triggered too much………where does it end?

How am I going to get well? In the meantime, I wait.  The treatment center I have recently left said they could not even begin to deal with the trauma I have had, all they could possibly aim to do was to help me to be more contained.  I find it all really difficult to take in and so hard to hold myself somedays.  The lack of funding for people like me who need long term care is just not there.  I am hoping and praying that the funds will come and I, along with many others will begin to get the continued help we need.

In the meantime, I will practise moving from fear to faith and trust God knows what is going on. Thanks for listening.

Penny

My Mental Health This Week

This week has been amazing.  It started with me still feeling pretty groggy from a cold and stressed with some family stuff that has been going on.  I went to London on Tuesday to visit my son and some friends, we had a great time with them, but I felt sad.

It really hit me that 25 years ago, I owned my own flat, I was living in London, if things had gone well I would be mortage free this year and here we are walking miles and miles because we are needing to find a restaurant that we can afford. Past some restaurants that at one time I would not have thought twice about going into. It is not what I had in mind for when I turned 50.  I was grateful to have the talks I did with my son, to have the closeness that he wants to share his world with me and to ask for my support emotionally.  I am grateful to get on so well with his visitors and it really touched me to feel so comfortable with these people.

The sadness I feel is grief, some call it self pity, but for me it is a process I have to go through, I know that my mental illness stole a lot of my life and that makes me feel very very sad. It also makes me very very angry that I did not get the help I needed when I needed it, because that made me worse.

Now I have to do something about it.  I still get bad days, so does my son and we are having to face a huge truth about his father, he does not want to know. This is a truth my son is really struggling with and I am powerless to do anything about, as much as I want to, or am I?

I walked along Notting Hill and remembered how I love being there, I long to live in London again, it is a case of how.  So I keep writing, praying and moving forward. I felt a failure actually, a complete and utter failure that I had not been able to provide in the way I wanted to. Thank goodness that out of this we are close, money cannot buy that. I feel sad that at the age of 50 I am on welfare, still signed off sick.  The impact of mental health on my whole life cannot be underestimated, together with the impact on my sons life. I am changing things slowly and I need a lot of support.

Two other things have happened to confirm my mental state this week, one past, one present.  I was helping a friend move today and we went to visit a place he used to work and I was a client of approx 12 years ago, Creative Response. The man who worked there when I was there came up and said I recognise you, were you at college with me.  I said no I was one of the clients when you were at the other place and he was really shocked.  He asked if I liked it and I said no, I found it really distressing, and as we talked he remembered me.  He told me they felt unable to help me because I was so distressed, how he tried to get me to focus and draw, how I told them I needed someone to sit with me and they just did not have the funding to help me in a way I needed to be helped.  He told me they were all really concerned about me and often talked about me, because I was so fragile.

I have to say I felt really sad, again, because I did not think anyone could see me or understand me, I was obviously in a bad way. I used to walk past him in the street and really resent him for not being able to help me, I felt so scared and lost and I wanted some help not to just get on with it, I was so shut down I needed someone to help me get in touch with my feelings and for some reason it didn’t happen for me.  Nowadays they have more funding and it is better, but it just shows how vital it is for people to get the help.

I also went for an assessment at Oakleaf Enterprises.  The man was amazing, he has had several breakdowns himself, commented on the psychiatrists writing being illegible and was able to see that he had commented on my state as fragile, which I was surprised with but also relieved.  We went on to talk about experiences with mental illness and how their funding is being cut, how they cannot provide as much as they would like due to it.  Most people there are on benefits and they are now restricted as to what they can do as they now have to pay their own travel there and also pay £5.00 per session, which makes it very difficult for some.

When we were talking about our states of mind he said how difficult it is when you are having a breakdown and you believe what you believe is real and that nobody can convince you otherwise, I found his way of being so open and sharing a real comfort.  I know that feeling so well but I had not known it so clearly as all being part of the breakdown if that makes sense.  The loss of reality is something I am only really begining to come to terms with.

Raising Questions

Raising Questions About Mental Illness

When I first heard about Raoul Moat running around shooting people, I must say I didn’t really know what was going on or take that much interest.  I had my own stuff going on and I was absorbed in that. A friend of mine, Sherry, called me up and we started talking about it. She mentioned that there was talk of him having asked for psychiatric help and not getting it. I asked her to send me any links and here they are, have a look and see what you think. http://www.itv.com/news/exclusive-moats-anger25784/

Slowly information filtered through and someone mentioned a bit more to me. I said I felt sorry for Moat, that he must be in a lot of pain to be doing what he was doing and what is being done to help him and those around him? Not a lot by all accounts.  The more awareness that is being raised about the lack of facilities for people with psychiatric, mental health isues, the better. The Raoul Moat story highlights what can happen when someone is not taken seriously. It is a tragic loss for everyone. I found this article very insightful  http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=154126009

Little did I know the extent of his psychological problems and that he had been asking for help for a long time and not getting it.  He has been described as aggressive and in a way it is understandable.  I am not for one moment saying what he did was right, far from it, he clearly lost the plot. However,  I do want to respond to the distress suffered by so many people at the lack of support available when in dia need. How many people do loose the plot under such extreme stress and it is at high cost to themselves, their families and society. People can get so lost and so far gone they cannot see a way out and something just snaps.

I have also come across a website of a book by James Bartholomew who has written about this same subject, commenting on the fact that Raoul Moats last words were ‘I’ve not got a Dad, no-one cares about me’.  Here Bartholomew raises the question that Moat was abandoned by his father and then his mother met and married another man, leaving him alone and feeling unwanted.  I will be writing more about this subject for myself in a later blog, it is a subject very close to my heart.

I have been out of re-hab now since the 19th April.  Have been to see a psychiatrist who assessed me, then told me to come back a month later with no offer of support in the meantime, then telling me there is a community psychiatric nurse who can help me at which I freaked out, I had had one of them before 14 years ago and know they cannot help with assessing me, giving me therapy and moving me forward in that area. I was then offered lithium incase I had borderline personality disorder or bi-polar……I am still waiting for help.  I was told I was aggressive, I was asked to calm down, I was scared and there were no answers for me……….I then went to see my doctor who suggested I tried anti-depressants to see if there is infact a chemical inbalance in my brain, so I am trying them.  I feel wierd, tired, distant, a bit zoned out..apparently it takes a while to kick in, and I am still waiting to see what the community mental health team are going to do. I have been referred to a Psychologist, with only one in the area, there is a big waiting list, in the meantime, I wait.

There are hundreds of people out there who are being left to rot, drugged up to the eye balls with no way of getting help.  I would be one of them if it had not been for some help from a friend so I can get to see someone. I was desperate and I needed help.

In the next few months I will be starting a series of interviews to highlight this exact problem, what can be done.  It isn’t ok scapegoating people saying they are aggressive. When people need help and cannot get it,  ask for it, knowing there is a problem, it is sometimes little wonder they feel frustrated.  I know I felt very scared indeed.

In Search of My Mental Health

I am so excited…….it has been a really emotional week, one way and another.  In the midst of it all, it has all started to come together. The hope of a documentary with two Addictions Therapists talking about service provision, or rather lack of it, for people like me with no private health care and little funds to pay a therapist, has finally come to fruition.

I have got a production company on board and we are shooting on 13th August, it will be on this website asap after that. We are not commissioned, we are all doing it for free because we believe it is a very important thing to be doing.

It is my  passion to use my journey, (battling with Mental Health, Addictions, Eating Disorders and Co-Dependency, to name but a few of the Addictions I have), to highlight the gaps in the provision available to people like me, and just what a huge impact that has on mine and others lives.

The jury is still out on my diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder/Bi-polar, the Psychiatrist has now passed me over to a Psychologist and hopefully I will get to see her before the end of August.  Thank God I am not as unwell as I was even a few weeks ago, this waiting and having to go over what is going on, over and over again really does my head in……!

I once saw a huge bill-board on the way out of Waterloo Station which said, ‘If Britain was a person it would be sectioned……’ I do truely wonder if it is not the people but what we are expected to tolerate that compounds the state of our minds, it certainly feels like that to me.

The series is entitled In Search of My Mental Health.  I will keep you posted.