Archive for the ‘Writer’ Tag

The fear encroaches…

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

We rejoin our heroine on her quest from the land of No Hope and Stress to find peace of mind and satisfaction, and she is pleased, for she is enjoying the mission more than she could e’er have hoped, and though she still faces the adversities of social media and the potholes of complex software, she takes much joy in the sense of purpose this journey provides.

Now the woman turns around, and back along the path she sees a group of people walking behind her. Some of these people she recognises as friends; other she hath ne’ev before set eyes upon. And she feels at once supported by this lowly rabble, for though they lack basic hygiene and smell a bit, they are kind enough to listen to her words and encourage her to continue on her quest, and she takes great comfort and joy in their comments, and in regularly viewing her stats page, and all this feeds her desire to go on, for she cannot believe that sending out a few emails and Facebook messages could create such a wonderous response. And she looks back at the crowd that have gathered, many of whom are wise and carry vast experience of the world, and she is gladdened and gratified by their commendation.

But she also feels the weight of their gaze, for many of them hath knowledge that far outstrips her own, and carry with them linguistic elegance and letters after their names, and she is at once petrified that she will fall and expose her clumsiness and stupidity to those that walk behind her. For she is but a drugs worker, a public servant, and while her experience of depression, deprivation and wound botulism is great, ne’ev before hath she trod the literary path, and she knows not what is expected of her, and it has been many miles since she left her Comfort Zone, and she is scared.

And the traveller fears she will tread the wrong path and take the kindly clan down a road which may not fulfil their needs, their desires, their own quests for knowledge, and she is filled with angst that the track she chooses to follow may become unclear and dull, and that she may fritter away the support which these followers offer or, worse still, she may take them on a path on which they lose the will to live and die of boredom.

But then she has a word with herself and realises that she is being that a dimwitted narcissist, a despicable ignoramus, an unworthy cretin, for these people are not a burden but a joyous blessing, a gift sent to help her, to kick her if she slows, to redirect her if she wanders, and she asks the crowd always to be honest and provide genuine feedback, harsh though it may be, to keep her on the path which she needs to be on. For these are her clients now, since she hath traded the needle for the pen, the script for the script, and when she thinks of those she left behind and how they hung from her so she ne’er before was able to progress, and told her daily how she failed them despite her best efforts (for she hath not a magic wand, and could not turn water into methadone, nor loaves into pregablin), and she compares them with this vibrant cluster who now stand behind her, she is glad for the choices she has made, and she wants not only to take these people with her on her quest, but also to serve them and give them everything their hearts desire.

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The quest begins…

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

The path from drugs worker to writer is ne’er direct, being a path largely untrodden, with only a vague and over-grown trail remaining from the aspirations of naive youth – and, to make matters worse, the path is peppered with potentially fatal trials and pitfalls.

These adversities, set to further demoralise the budding writer on her quest for freedom from the evil clenches of Lord Beaurocracy, do not take the form of trip wires and bear traps – no, because this is a metaphor. The trials of which I speak are in fact those created by man in the hope of smoothing out our paths and joining them together – iPads, software compatibility and social networking.

‘Write’ she thinks, and write she does, and the language doth flow, and with no time she hath eight chapters of her novel completed. But then along comes another traveller – she is not old but is wise, and she tells the public servant that these days, writers need a ‘platform’. ‘What is this platform of which you speak?’ asks the public servant, for her journey has just started and her knowledge is small. ‘Blogging, Twitter and Facebook’ replies the other traveller, she on a journey from teaching to writing (www.suearmenante.co.uk), and she kindly shows the public servant her path to help her along the way.

Now our heroine lacks confidence, but she is brave, and so she follows the advice of the other traveller and sets up a blog (here readeth thee that blog) to broadcast her skills to the world, should anyone care to listen. The road to the blog is hard, she hath ne’er before trod such a path, and to add to her adversities she has an acute case of conjunctivitis and so is blind to the way of the blog (don’t worry, still a metaphor). To aid her journey, she has been given a tool that goeth by the name of iPad, and hence she uses iPad to show her the way. But iPad is not compatible with blogging, and the servant is unable to tag her blogs using her new tool, and has to ringeth a man in Ireland from tech support to find out how to bypass this trap that blocks her way, fearlessly entering her personal details into iPad to enable a download of the WordPress App for iPad.

But before our traveller has time to compose herself, she is faced with Baron Twitter. For many years, she has shunned the advances of Baron Twitter, believing him to be a pointless being, popular with minor celebrities and those desperate to be so themselves, but now she needs the Baron’s help, and she wields iPad and tries to think of a username and password. This is hard task indeed, having had to set up an imposing number of accounts over the last week to find the platform of which her fellow traveller spoke, but this task is especially fraught with difficulty as the rest of the land are already familiar with Baron Twitter, and so available usernames are few and far between.

Now the public servant is tired, she does not know if she has the strength to go on. All the other travellers she has met along the way seem to have gathered so much more knowledge than she, and she is severely discouraged by her inability to master software used by Wayne Rooney and Kerry Katona. She looks back to where her journey began, and in the distance she sees people, grey and thin, reeking of necrosis and limping as a result of deep vein thromboses from femoral injecting – and she knows, without doubt, that she must go on, for ne’er again can she face child protection conferences, or sacrifice her talents to writing pre-sentence reports. And so she faces Baron Twitter, and she takes his hand, and she lets him call her whatever he wants (@servant_public), but in her mind she knows that to her, he will always be Baron McTwatter, and she smiles.

Public servant craves freedom

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

So, my first attempt at a blog, where to start..

We all come to crossroads in our lives as part of the privileged world of choices we exist in, and yes, I fully accept that choosing one’s career path is a luxury which the majority of the world’s population do not enjoy, and so I don’t want to get too whimsical or self-pitying here. However, it has to be said, my choice of career was one which left my school teachers and lecturers scratching their heads and asking ‘why?’ and telling me ‘there isn’t much money in it, you know’, both of which, at the time, as a fresh-faced, political, optimistic young woman, meant nothing to me. I thought I could change the world – not the whole world, but the individual worlds of people who were struggling, which is all one ever really wants as a psychologist. Maybe it was a desire to make a difference, maybe it was the result of teenage years spent unwittingly wrangling with low mood, maybe it was the values of a socialist, fierce but compassionate mother, maybe, as a boyfriend put it, my need to take on a caring role was a form of self-validation, or maybe it was just middle-class guilt. Whatever the reason, I launched myself into drugs work like a dwarfed Wonder Woman out of a cannon. And I loved it.

Back then, drug users were a genuinely socially excluded group. They didn’t access healthcare because doctor’s surgeries wouldn’t accept them as patients, and if they did make it through the door, they would cope with health complications rather than go back to be treated like sub-humans. Only people with an address could register with health centres, and people presenting with a bedraggled or unkempt appearance were considered unfit to be seated in waiting rooms with ‘normal’ patients. Women especially did not present asking for help or treatment because the party line was that drug users were not fit to be parents, the substance use instead of the parenting was assessed, the failings instead of the need recorded, and so people struggled on alone, quietly, rather than put themselves up to be judged, criticised, and risk losing their families.

It was a great job, back then, being a drugs worker. You had battles with GPs about the definition of the word ‘healthcare’, you compiled evidence-based arguments to challenge psychiatry’s refusal to treat drug-users, quoting research about the co-morbidity of substance use and mental health issues, you waved the flag of the vulnerable and battered down doors until people listened to the plight (or just got sick of hearing you banging on) and agreed to let you in. It was hard, but god was it rewarding, and the clients were just grateful that for once someone was listening to them and was on their side.

Flash forward eleven years… A Labour Government has been in place, social equality has been a priority, times have been affluent, public sector wages are brought into line with the private sector, and drug users have been given recognition as a vulnerable group – no longer perceived as waster layabouts, some have addressed their issues and gone on to successful careers, breaking down prejudices and presuppositions about substance users, while the others are acknowledged as probably having had experienced childhood abuse and have therefore developed poor coping strategies, needing intensive rehabilitation if they are to address their issues, and so are sympathetically cradled by the system.

But hang on, there’s a global recession, funds are being cut, and the luxurious ten years of the Drug Strategy seem long behind us. So now drugs services start pitching themselves against each other for funding, long-existing relationships become strained, GPs start to wonder if it’s really worth having this type of patient in their surgeries if the money is drying up..

But worst, by far the worst, change to the landscape of the role of a drugs worker comes from the client group themselves, the very people you went into this role to help. They too have had a few comfortable years – now not only able to access healthcare, training opportunities, support with parenting, housing and finances, but with an ever-growing, burning sense of entitlement. They’ve had their legal aid, they know their rights, they’ve learned to exploit every loophole in every system, and they are used to being fast-tracked to the front of every queue because they are IN NEED. And they see ME, their drugs worker, their advocate, their bodyguard against inequity, as their root to a happy life, their guarantee that never again will they be poor, homeless, badly-treated or in need.

Now the twenty year old me might have been willing to attempt to fulfil that impossible role – but by now I have faced my own fair share of adversity, been on my arse a few times as we all are as humans, and learned to pick myself up, dust myself down, and get on with what needs to be done. And so regular attempts at emotional black-mail to the cry of ‘if you don’t get me some benzos so I can sleep / sort out my rent arrears so I don’t get evicted / tell Social Services I’ve stopped using so I don’t lose my kids / have me a new prescription at the pharmacy by 12 with an increase to my methadone dose, it’s YOUR fault I’m going to use’ wore thin and, frankly, I started to find the lack of personal responsibility and dependence of the State tedious, irritating and, at times, downright infuriating.

And so here I am, stuck in a miserable, unrewarding, emotionally-exhausting job, wondering where the last eleven years have gone, unsure if I have the skills to transfer to another profession which, likely as not, will also be subject to cut-backs and job losses, and really much preferring the idea of disappearing up a mountain alone, never again to address humankind. You don’t see the best in life, working as a drugs worker, and I don’t want to keep seeing the world like the big pile of shit I have been for so many years. I used to be an optimist, for god’s sake! Now it seems I am unshockable, unscarable, and have the emotional range of Oscar the Grouch.

The English language was always my first love, sadly neglected over the years of personal austerity, and life events and puzzles started taking me back to it during periods of lone reflection. And I thought to myself – I’ve paid my dues, I’ve done my time, and I’ve got enough material to start writing now and never stop.. And so here begineth the attempted transformation from drugs worker to writer…

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