Thoughts on how would I ‘pick myself up’ now? While waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man (or occasionally Woman)

I love Ken Loach, I really, really love him. I’ve seen ‘Sorry We Missed You’ and ‘I Daniel Blake’ and last week I saw him on a chat show talking with a council tenant about the squalid accommodation and homelessness in our country. A man on the ‘phone-in’ to Ken said “20 years ago I had social issues and became homeless, through council housing, help with benefits and working at £5 a week, I eventually got a job £21,000 a year, if I hadn’t had social housing and help I would not have been able to pick myself up.”

After moving to London, then escaping from my heroin addict boyfriend’s flat (where we sub-rented a flat on the 15th floor of one of those blocks in Gunnersbury, near to the Steam museum, the ones used in the comedy ‘People do Nothing’, they stand out when you’re driving out of London and onto the M4), I ended up sleeping on a friend’s living room floor. Going back to my home town in Essex wasn’t an option, I had just started in therapy and was beginning to make sense of my childhood in relation to the ‘wild’ Liz I’d turned out to be. I was at the time desperate to keep my new job as a clinic assistant at a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in the West End, they were funding my counselling training, however wild I was, I was good at listening.

I slept on the floor at my friend’s flat for 9 months, it was very kind of her to let me do this, I was jeopardising her tenancy agreement, but it wasn’t just the floor that was hard. I had MS symptoms and rheumatic pains, I was under the Lupus clinic at St Thomas’s and the Neurology and Rheumatology clinics at Guy’s. Everything was painful and uncomfortable, inside and out. It was my new, very wonderful psychotherapist who had taken me on as a low-cost patient, who helped me write a letter to Southwark housing. Three months later I was offered a one-bedroom flat in Bermondsey, a hard to let flat on a troubled estate, but it was home and from then on, I was able to transfer, and like Ken’s caller, my career took off and I was able to get a mortgage when my first child was born, with a deposit (courtesy of a friend who had died age 53 I’d met through the MS society). Having been able to receive this help at this time in my life, I was on the housing ladder, and truly grateful, I am very fortunate.

Now, now?  Now, sadly, my story would be very different.

Tower Blocks

I wanted to live in a tower block

A buzzer instead of a knock

As a child I envied Mary, Mungo and Midge (1960’s cartoons)

I wondered that if people lived in closer proximity

They may share more intimacy

In London I moved in with my Scots carpenter whose beauty deteriorated as his heroin addiction was built upon

Jokingly, he picked me up one day and dangled me out of the window of the 15thfloor tower block

This was not the intimacy I had been longing for

But my psychotherapist taught me there was more

Thoughts on the #Joker while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man – Happy #Halloween .. this will frighten the life out of you ….

We all have a ‘Joker’ within us, I know mine and it isn’t nearly as severe as the ‘Joker’s’ in the film, but it is plenty enough to gain understanding in my work as a psychotherapist. In Primary Care where I worked for 12 years, one of my old patients came to mind while I was watching the film, I saw him around the time the Maudesly psychiatric 24 hour emergency clinic closed down because of the cuts, of course, I hated that time, I hate that word CUTS. (The more I hear about CUTS in our community the more in my work I see our young people’s scars from their cutting, that is another story).

In the film the Joker says to his social worker “You never listen to what I am saying. You always ask me the same questions.” I didn’t ask my patient the same questions, I just did what I do best, I listened to everything he said, intently. It was no surprise he’d had an extraordinarily abusive mother and his father’s presence came in the form of a creased black and white photo his mother had given him before she died. Sometimes my patient came into the surgery with bruises where he’d self-harmed and/or had been in a fight, he’d self-medicate with anything/everything he could get his hands on and he was usually in trouble with the police. Of course he was angry, very, very, angry, underneath his anxiety and depression was that human rage that has to be expressed somewhere somehow. (I know about this, I discovered during my own therapy that my rage can be found in the form of my MS symptoms.)

I began to care deeply for this young man as we built a relationship over some years, he, me and his GP worked together, beginning the process of psychologically ‘re-parenting’ him. He soon became dependant on me, he bought me flowers one session and arrived drunk the next, he would fall asleep or be angry with me for not sorting out his problems fast enough. During those years I set up a small group for men who were feeling suicidal, this patient was then valued for helping another and the group observed that how he treated me and how his mother had treated him was alive in the room at all times, but we all managed it, learning to make sense of it. There was a spark of love in those sessions as I provided a safe empathic container.

In the film, the Joker’s social worker ends their relationship by saying “They don’t care about people like you, or me.” I had to bite my tongue not to say those words to my patients, as the cuts came and my clinical supervision was cut and then my job was cut in favour of a more computer-based ‘thought’ changing – you guessed it, Cock and Ball Torture CBT.

My patient left the surgery soon after I left, he got kicked out. He was rude to reception staff on more than one occasion, apparently, but it wasn’t their fault, they weren’t trained to understand (just like the Joker on the bus when he is trying to communicate with the child and the mother just doesn’t get it). My patient had to leave the surgery, our staff had to be safe, but the measuring of ‘safe guarding’ is appallingly inaccurate (that is another story).

In my clinical supervision, after my final session with my client I said. “I am devastated. I believe there are only two ways this will end, he will kill himself or someone else. I was working on this and now I can’t, and now there is nowhere for him to go. There’ll be a photo of him up on the board with a BEWARE sign over him.”

As the Red Rebels of Extinction Rebellion rebel against climate change, they look the police in the eye and sometimes make them cry because they know, that they know, that I know, that we know. THEY don’t care.

As student services are cut in colleges and mental health services cut and cut (and don’t be fooled about all this money the government are saying that’s being pumped in, it’s not real therapy, it’s questions, the same questions, and computer-based everything) Joker’s are rife and will riot. Kindness prevails over all, the Red Rebels gestures have got it right. If everyone had been kind to the Joker there’d be no story, no Batman. Watch out world, we are living in the age of what I call ‘The Return of the Repressed’. Stay safe on Halloween.

Here is a song I have written for 31st October about Brexit, it’s called ‘INS’, which is short for Inverted Nipple Syndrome (a taboo common condition that can affect all human beings).

I N V E R T E D N I P P L E S
I N V E R T E D N I P P L E S
Will it stay in? Will it come out?
Will it be hard? Will it be soft?
If it stays in, if it stays out
It could be C A N C E R O U S

Mental Health Day and London Cocktail Week

To celebrate World Mental Health Day, Julie Andrews helped me with my Tesco delivery and we got out of the house and went to see Alice Cooper and the Stranglers at O2. To celebrate London Cocktail week I had a cocktail with Julie at the O2 while watching Alice Cooper and the Stranglers. Julie Andrews and I go back a long way, we both worked at Marie Stopes abortion clinic, we both trained as counsellors and we both did our Masters degree at Goldsmiths age 43. We both had a child in the year 2000 and we both got married within the last 4 years. She changed her name so I don’t feel I can ask her to sing “The Hills are Alive” so frequently, even though I know she wouldn’t mind.

My favourite Alice Cooper lyric isn’t “Only Women Bleed”, despite our world bleeding to death, depicted by the Red Rebels of Extinction Rebellion who have been demonstrating admirably all week, but it is the lyric “Even my shadow has lice”. In the depths of my mental distress, I have felt like my shadow had lice or at least that my bed bugs had greater importance on the planet than me. Here is my Bed Bug song, possibly inspired by the great Alice Cooper and the bed bugs I had in the squat I lived in Bermondsey in the late 1980’s with Uncle Pervious.

Keeping a live Bed Bug – Staying Alive

Lay down flat, on the mattress
No sex tonight, we’re out to get bite
By the bed bugs

Little tiny white ones, hungry baby white ones
Ah, bless ’em

Snuggle down, under the eiderdown
Sort of rhymes but not true
Really a du
…. vet

Glistening shiny pink ones
Don’t splatter those ones, might be carrying baby ones
Ah, bless ’em

Uh uh uh uh staying in bed, staying in bed (to the tune of The Bee Gees)
Uh uh uh uh staying in bed

Deep sleep, nightmares creep
Wake up and leap out of bed,
Light on, oh what fun inspecting
Bed bugs

Big dark daddy red ones
Juicy juicy fat ones
Ah, bless ’em

Put them in the cigarette tin
Keep them alive for a day or so
Wash out the stains on the sheet if you can
Or die them red, passion for the
Bed bugs

Itchy, but nice, er than lice

And the bed bugs sing-
We don’t fear death just excites us more
We like to grieve for our cousins
So, don’t worry

We make good pets
We’re easy to keep
We don’t affect your sleep and you are
Never ever, ever lonely

So don’t worry about us, we like to die
And you have much more in your life to worry about

And the coloured bed bugs sing (to that Lou Reed tune)
Do, do do, do do do do do do do do do do etc. (fade)

Continue reading “Mental Health Day and London Cocktail Week”

Why waiting is an issue for Liz Bentley

It is normal to have presents on Christmas morning but my parents made us wait until 3pm. We had to eat dinner (which I began throwing up age 16), wash up, walk the dog and then we’d sit down in the cold front room and Dad would put the Christmas lights on the tree, each year one less bulb worked. Presents were passed around our small family, one at a time, with breaks to ponder over each gift. I should feel grateful that I got presents at all, but watching my friends playing in the street, showing off their new toys and bikes was excruciating.

My mother was quick to get rid of the boxes of our Easter eggs. She’d break them up into small pieces and store them in a glass jar high up somewhere in the kitchen. Each weekend she tore off a smaller piece and gave it to my sister and I to share. Our Easter eggs lasted until Whitsun. I should feel grateful that I got eggs at all, but watching my friends in the street scoffing their chocolate on Easter Sunday was excruciating.

How this has affected me? Here is one of the more positive examples:

My husband bought me some rather lovely spa shower gel and body lotion for Christmas. I placed the gift, still in its box, on my dressing table and admired it, lovingly. A few weeks later, when my husband was wondering whether I even liked his gift, I took the items out of the box and pondered on how and when to use them. I decided they would be treats for when I showered after swimming. By February the items were in my swim bag. Now the products are coming to their end and are back on my dressing table. I intend for them to be there until next Christmas (possibly to avoid feelings of loss) when I will hope to receive a new gift.

Delayed gratification
Of my parents wartime generation
Passed down to me
So I can see
Bars and bars of 85% Green and Blacks chocolate in my fridge
And eat just one square a night
I’m not tight
I buy bars and bars from Tesco when on offer
This chocolate is very expensive but I’ve included it as a treat in my MS recovery diet

(Do not try this at home unless all eating disorder related symptoms have been analysed away)

My father’s ration book 1953-1954

Tesco Delivery Man, me and my chocolate