To quote from the Mind page on personalisation and to save me launching into a lengthy explanation of what it’s all about- The Government wants more people who use support services to have ‘choice and control’ in their lives. That is why they have introduced direct payments. I’ll leave the debate about Government, what it actually wants, what this means for mentalists in general to others.
I mentioned in a previous post that I had applied for an assessment of my needs from the local authority in order that I could apply for direct payments. This assessment is on Wednesday the 25th of July. This is not about me having more ‘choice and control’ this is about me actually getting some sort of service. Currently I’m deemed ‘too complex’ for exisiting services, indeed the reason it’s taken so long for a social worker to arrange to do the assessment is because I am ‘so complex’. Whilst I’m relieved that this isn’t because the social worker was too scared to come back after being met with the simmering ball of frustration and hatred I was last time which, in my defence I only was because NHS Fife were still refusing to recognise, diagnose and treat my illness and the last thing I wanted or needed was someone to help with the shopping, I need to say something about my perceived ‘complexity’.
DID is complex, I am not complex, I’m actually very straightforward, all you have to do is listen to me. If you look at me as a disorder then I’ve no doubt what you see can be quite challenging but what anyone tends to be met with is an individual, sure sometimes things go awry and you can be met with several individuals but all you have to do is listen to what they say. My ‘complexity’ is used as a stick to beat me and a reason to treat me differently, it creates barriers. Instead of all those referral letters that begin “Zoë is a very complex….” How about “Zoë is a lovely…..” or “Zoë is a very funny….” or “Congratulations, now you too can experience, first-hand the sheer awesomeness that is Zoë….” Unless perhaps it’s a referral to social services in which case and in the interests of honesty and transparency the letter should probably begin “I’m sorry, Zoë will probably despise you by virtue of your chosen profession, it’s nothing personal as I’m sure you’re lovely but she’s had some very bad experiences with your kind….”
So I’ve been thinking a lot about what my needs are, what kind of things would be helpful, would make life easier. It’s very tricky as I struggle to ask for or accept help, I feel undeserving of help and a lot of the time would deny I needed any. Coping is what we do best, those who have DID or know about DID will know that the perceived level of coping is actually inversely proportional to the mental health of the individual and I know, personally that ‘coping’ is one of my biggest danger-signs and is usually a precursor to crisis. I’m keen to avoid coping so I know I need some things in place to help make things easier, especially as I am soon to return to caring for two children full-time again.
I’ve considered the obvious things, practical support- help with housework and shopping- and ruled them out. Having to deal with people is problematic; bringing a person into my life introduces a whole new set of challenges. In a moment of insight the other night, whilst sitting in my local Chinese takeaway I figured out one of the main reasons people are so triggering, I briefly felt like a genius until I realised that reason was ‘because they move’ I then felt like a persuasive case for euthanasia. At the moment I simply couldn’t stand having someone come into the house to ‘help’ with anything, I’d be constantly on my guard to protect myself and besides they’d have had a quick run-down on DID, and they’d be waiting for me to “do a Sybil”. I’ve never read or watched Sybil so my frame of reference is lacking in detail but I know enough about it to know that for the most part, it’s a very poor portrayal of DID.
I’ve tried to look at my average day to get an idea about what my needs are, I don’t have average days. The only constant running through my days is that they will be fragmented, random and involve some chaos. Today for example involved an early-morning excursion to Tesco for milk. The trip to Tesco was derailed slightly as the store I usually go to and have well-mapped had had a slight re-modelling. I only know this as there is a ‘distress tweet’ from around 6.30am saying this, I’m very sensitive to changes in my surroundings so it may be that Tesco is much the same as it was last time, they may just have adjusted an onion or something. So I came home from Tesco with all the essentials- milk, bread, cat food and three boxes of Fuzzy-Felts (dinosaurs, under the sea and pirates for anyone interested). So I suppose I could argue that having someone to do the shopping would be helpful- but then how would I get Fuzzy-Felts?
You see my needs are unique and whilst I’m sure one box would have sufficed I can argue that Fuzzy-Felts, particularly the dinosaur ones are an essential part of my care. Similarly I could argue that I should be given black Converse free on prescription. Confusion is a major feature of DID, black Converse are the ultimate, dynamic, age-appropriate footwear- they are shoes for everyone. In situations where it’s likely switching can be rapid and chaotic, making sure everyone is wearing shoes that make them feel safe is essential. I could also make a good case for being given stationery on prescription. Post-its are an essential part of my selves-management; notes to selves are a mainstay of internal communication. The “whiteboard of madness” which hangs on the bedroom wall is crucial in ensuring that the days hang together in some way, important things don’t get forgotten and needs, wants, fears and desires can be communicated. So I could add whiteboard markers to that prescription. Some internal communication is done through drawing so colouring pencils, felt-tips, crayons and paper are also much-needed items. Now that I’m no longer unnecessarily drugged into a nice easy to-manage zombie-like state and have freed up 70% of NHS Fife’s budget by becoming a free-range mentalist, I’m considering approaching the GP with my prescription requests. After all 99% of the time I would claim not to exist in a physical sense, have no body and therefore never experience physical illness so I’m hardly a huge burden as patients go. This may or may not be related to the fact that the GP is still on the long list of “THINGS THAT ARE WAY TOO TRIGGERING”.
I’ve thought about my ‘social needs’ I do have them but again I’m constrained by my current, somewhat fragile state. I adore people but I fear them too and so, my social needs are best met in a virtual way and this suits me. In fact I suspect I spend more time with friends than most as I can do it in a way that’s comfortable, controlled and safe for me. So I could ask for help to pay for my broadband service? I can justify this request if necessary but I can’t see the local authority understanding. Similarly I could make a good case for having my mobile phone contract costs met by the local authority. The phone is essential in helping me keep track, avoiding confusion. Whether this be a photograph of a person/situation/place that later helps remind me where I’ve been, what’s happened and who with or a tweet that discloses my mood or location or a text to a friend to let them know I’ve been attacked by the ‘silencing mentals’ and not to worry as I’ll eventually be back, the phone helps me communicate and more importantly, communicate in a way that leaves a written record so that it can be accessed again later. Since the Paris trip I’ve also undergone a comprehensive self-led training course in Google maps and navigation so having the phone with me is an extra guard against getting lost.
I’ve considered my recreational needs; I do have some as I have multiple hobbies. I enjoy the very occasional film though am still limited to watching films I’ve seen before and therefore have a fair idea of the potential triggers and can guard against them, those of you who know me elsewhere may remember the harrowing emotional rollercoaster that was my first and last viewing of Disney’s Up, I remain in two minds about balloons to this day they bring me right back to that film. I have a small team of film reviewers on twitter who have a good understanding of my needs but sadly, we’re still at the stage where the conclusion is usually “it was good but not for you yet” so I can’t go to the cinema and I don’t really need DVDs (DID and films/TV is another one of those book topics I mentioned in a previous post). I adore music, my tastes are ‘eclectic’ music is essential and again, DID and music is a potential book topic. I could argue that there is a need for my music supply costs to be met by the local authority but as I ‘purchase’ all my music from isoHunt I suspect I’d be fighting a losing battle.
So I’m a little stuck, I know I need something but I don’t know what that something is. On paper I’m an ideal candidate for self-directed care, I’m intelligent (another attribute used as a stick to beat me, MH services prefer their mentals to be stupid) I’m articulate, have a good understanding of my condition and am keen to make progress but in practise trying to define the support I need is just another cause of confusion for me and another thing that makes me feel different.
The other problem I have is that I am more than capable of doing everything myself. I have no doubt that eventually after a few weeks, maybe months this would cause complete de-stabilisation and a spiral into crisis but I can do it, I can do it all. I’m trying to convince myselves that just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should or that we have to. It’s not easy. Self-sufficiency can be a very good thing but can also be incredibly self-defeating when it becomes more about control, lack of trust, fear and keeping everyone away than confidence, empowerment and choices.
So I’m still none the wiser as to what I should be asking this social worker for, I intend to give the matter my full attention over the next few day, in between playing with my new Fuzzy-Felts.