Apologising​ is hard, especially when it’s too yourself

Wednesday 20th Feb

Its been two weeks since going down to the House of Lords to pick up yet another national award, recognition for the Sheffield BBN scheme, we were on a roll, truth be told after being recognised for the past three years running, it wasn’t expected, but was gratefully received. 

Its been a week today since the launch of the 10th year of BBN, the run-up to organizing had been both exciting and stressful and whilst I was really looking forward to the awards night, the ceremony, catching up with colleagues, friends, being able to have a few sherbets at the end of the evening to unwind, but what I was most looking forward to, was the two days annual leave days I had treated myself too. Two whole self indulgent days all to myself, no one would be at home, no kids, no pat, no work, I could potter around the house, catch up on some house work, indulge in some writing and basically take some much over due ME time, however it transpires that my body had other plans in store. The weekend was also looking good, well apart from agreeing to attend my nephews engagement party which I imagined as being a cross between shameless and a morning with the Jeremy Kyle show. I had already planned that I wouldn’t be drinking, so offered to be the designated driver, go for a couple of hours, show my face then retreat back home to relax once more. 

The sore throat started to show itself on the afternoon of the awards, we had been busy prepping tables, going through the running order, I had no time to feel shit, I waqs able to scrounge some paracetamol and get me mate Helen to fetch me some more, just in case.  After that the sore throat didn’t interfere with the evening at all, I had no time to think about me, running around on an adrenaline high and a few beers later on in the evening appeared to numb the pain and served as a perfect distraction. 

I woke up in a haze the Thursday morning and was relieved to have slept in until 10.30am and I wasn’t surprised that my voice now resembled and sounded more like Roy Chubby Brown than my own dulcet tones, but it was ok, including the weekend I had a whole four whole days to recover before returning to work Monday. I made a rookie mistake of checking out the BBN Facebook page, as I had received a few notifications, whilst most of the post was really positive there were a number of comments, well three actually that really peed me off and even though the peoples comments had no substance and I truly believe people are entitled to their opinion they left me reflecting and questioning the project I managed and questioning myself, i tried to not let it get to me and whilst I did feel physically rough, I reasoned #hadawordwimesen that taking regular doses of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol, I’d be or reet, life was good and I did have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday evening soon came around, but during the afternoon my nose had started streaming snot, with the occasional sneeze here and there, but I was ok and whilst I wasn’t looking forward to having get dressed and go out at 7.30pm, (which is far too late for me nowadays, its around this time I’d be in me Pjs) It did feel better being able to leave the confines of the house for a while. Also, truth be told, I didn’t want to let my nephew down, he’s had enough let downs in his life already and I was quite actually looking forward to spending some time with the family, something that doesn’t happen that much. 

So armed with sheets of kitchen roll and me non-alcoholic beers, (just in case the pub didn’t stock em) we arrived at our destination. Everyone was in high spirits, the atmosphere was nice, the only let down was that I felt like fucking shit! I was going through kitchen roll faster than an Andrex puppy and the guy on the TV ads is a f***ing liar — ‘one sheet is not plenty!’ I ended up making umpteen visits to the ladies to restock on dry tissues, my face was starting to feel and look like a baboons ass and I am convinced that I was oozing snot from my eyes too, it was f***ing everywhere. After another visit to the ladies, I also found that I had come on my period too “F***ing Great”! My evening couldn’t be going better!

But it got worse -Later on in the evening, I was introduced to my nephew’s girlfriends mother, who mistook me for my mothers “Partner! Wife” I mean “what the actual F***”, So, ok people have confused me and my mother of being sisters before, but not her f***ing wife! AND I know the short haircut and reluctance to wear a dress may give the impression that I bat for the other team, but this didn’t happen just once and after correcting her in good humour the first time, an hour later she brought over a family member and introduced me again as me mothers bitch AGAIN! (well partner). Much to the amusement of family who will live off that one for years to come, but that’s ok – but it was time to go, time to go home, take me dented pride home with me, get the makeup off, have a shower, sort me monthly torment out, swap me dress for me Pj’s and chill.

Sunday morning came and rather than feeling better, I actually felt worse, my throat felt like it was covered in ulcers and was sore, I was contemplating the walkin centre, until pat pointed out that it would be a waste of tax payers money and the Gps time and that all I had got was a virus, a cold, it was going around. With that in mind I #hadawordwimesen and soldiered on. 

Monday morning came and the thought of work filled me with dread, I didn’t feel any better, this felt more that just a cold and after four days of taking Ibruphen and paracetamol, that only seemed to take the pain off for a couple of couple of hours, opposed to lasting the prescribed four, so I decided I would take me sen off to the doctors, convinced that it might be a mild case of tonsillitis. 

But even the thought of that, filled me with dread! The fear of going and being told my diagnosis was that I was just being a mardy bastard wasn’t appealing, after 38 attempts at getting through to the GP I was informed that were no doctors appointments available so I had to make do with the Nurse, but I double checked that nurses could prescribe antibiotics, otherwise what would be the actual point! I wasn’t walking to the doctors so ordered a taxi, feeling ashamed of the short journey and found myself apologising and assuring the taxi driver I would make it worth his while. I was dreading seeing someone who I might have known in the waiting room, cos I looked like absolute shit! But was lucky to be called after only 10 minutes wait. 

How come when you call the docs, they say they are fully booked but when you get to the surgery there are only about 5 people sat there and they don’t seem pulled out with it at all? – just saying 

The nurse was nice, she asked me about my symptoms and started to check me vitals, temperature ok, blood pressure ok, she then checked me throat and concluded that looked ok? “Fucking great” I thought “I am just a hypochondriac mardy bastard after all” she then inspected my ears and immediately concluded I had a nasty ear infection! Halla fucking hula! I knew it, I fucking knew it I hadn’t been making it up, I wasn’t being a mardy bastard, I would have never thought it was me ears though, after all apart from feeling tender I just put it down to my sore throat! I couldn’t wait to tell pat or any other fucker who thought that I was “just being a mardy bastard” that I was actually ILL. 

Vindicated and armed with me antibiotics I took my sorry ass home, I called work explained my diagnosis and agreed with the prediction from my manager that I ought to be feeling better by the Wednesday after the antibiotics have kicked in to return to work.

Alas, its Wednesday and I am still not back at work, I called in this morning and explained I still wasn’t right, I hated letting work down, in the back of my mind imagined the disappointment from my manager that I still wasn’t coming back to work! 

I agreed that it would be easier for me to cancel the two appointments scheduled in my diary for today. The only one that concerned me was a meeting where I had agreed to brief a group of volunteers from the Red Cross about SPICE use and the Help us Help. However before I could make contact to rearrange I got a call from one of the managers asking more about the training for later that day because the guy had been on the phone double checking I was still on for it. There was confusion with my calendar because there were two meetings scheduled in, one tentatively (put in by me) and another that said I was training until 10pm that evening, transpires that this was actually a calendar invite from the Red Cross that hadn’t been accepted yet. 

Helen my manager explained that she would cover the session on my behalf, but just needed to know more about what I had agreed to cover. Knowing how busy she already was, realising from the calendar invitation that the session didn’t start until 7 AND wasn’t being held in the city centre as I thought it was, made me feel like absolute SHIT! It wasn’t bad enough that I wasn’t in work, now someone had to pick up my shit too on top of their own too! I don’t know whats worse, the physical symptom’s of being unwell or the physiological turmoil, mental torture and torment my brain goes through when I’m not able to deliver on a commitment I had committed too. 

Hence today’s offload, I know I’m not good mentally when I’m feeling physically ill, in fact, I can turn into one of life’s biggest victims. I don’t like this about myself, one of the things that I have learned from writing the book and my early childhood is that I do have an underlying fear of letting people down, including myself. There is no one other person that could beat myself up any more than I can. Its crazy because if the shoe was on the other foot, should a friend be going through the same feelings as me, I would be the first to be saying “let it go and look after you” in fact I was only saying the other day to a colleague who was ill, stressing about having to take time off due to ill health that “nobody died, a meeting can always be rearranged” so then why when it’s me, does it feel harder to do and practice what I preach? and with that in mind, i thought back to a previous post What’s in your filling cabinet?

So today is the first time in three days that I have actually taken some time out and spent it reflecting on me #Havingawordwimesen talking myself down like I would a good friend who might be feeling low. So after a couple of weeks of riding the high, cruising on the crest of an amazing wave, I finally crashed and burned AGAIN. The saying is true“ what goes up must come down” AND I know this to be true, but I also know that when you are entrenched in pity mode, some days its harder to pull yourself out more than others. This time its taken me over three days of self-pity, to then look in the mirror and have a serious f***ing word wi me sen. 

Q. Is it just me? – A. no its not, you are not well 

Q. Do I over think? –  A. you might have a tendancy to! but at least you do think?

Q. Do I care to much? – A. yes, but is that a bad thing?

Q. Do I expect too much of myself? – A. possibly but at least you are working on it!

So that’s enough of the self-berating and self-pity shit it only serves to make you feel even worse, so my next dilemma is to focus on being nicer to myself and taking time to look after me for a change… So on that note, I am going to download myself a new memoir to read, to help inspire and take my mind off being a mardy cow and stop apologiesing for being ill


Be a fisherman

I haven’t written for a while, so have been searching for inspiration to help me out. I have been reading a book called your story, which talks and goes through the pitfalls of writing and offers some great advice about writing your own story. One of the questions are “why are you writing it?” goood question eh?

I want to be able to demonstrate how navigating this one life we get can be hard and very challenging. This book is as much about my learning, about me and what I have learned throughout my 48 years. I fundamentally believe that if we’re all honest with ourselves deep down we all are searching and want to know what the meaning of our lives are. For some the meaning of life might consist of chasing and achieving dreams, for others it might be being a doing for others but for me, its more about being happy in my own skin, learning to accept and come to terms with the fact that life can be pretty shit at times, and be ok with it? We all carry some sort of varying invisible pain, possessed by invisible demons, you know the ones? the dark shadows that follow us on our journey that can keep us awake at night? the ones that only you can see or feel.

So my story consist of five parts. 

The first part is my childhood, early childhood then the journey to adolescence, it is a journey that we all have to go through in order to get to adulthood, no one can skip that part! I want to explore the challenges I faced, dealt with, using my immature that only a child possesses, how hi saw life through my childlike eyes and how my relationship with dad and how he influenced my perception of the world.

The second is the transition from being a teenager and my transformation into a young adult being a grown up, (whatever the fuck that means) what that looked and felt like for me, a child having a child, becoming a parent, being a partner and trying to make sense of the on going, tomenting diagloge that would torture my mind “Is this it? is this my lot?”

The third part is about what I would describe as being my personal rebirth, overcoming a crisis in my life that could have quite frankly taken me down a completely different path, journey that I am on now and about the learning that took place, how I found the new adult version of me. 

The fourth part is about Dad coming back into my life, about how our relationship had changed because I had changed. The personal struggles and challenges of being metnally and demotionally swept back to a time in my life when I felt confused and vulnerable, a time where I felt I owed dad everything, but owed him nothing struggling to find the new version of me whilst trying my best to stay afloat and care for him at his time of need, when he’d never been there in mine. 

The fifth part is basically summarising all the lessons learned, my observations on not just me own life, but life in general, the coping strategies that I adopted, which acted as a lifejacket in my time of great need, it about the many people who threw me the lifejacket when I was at the verge of drowning. 

But ultimately the key message and Moral of the story is that we can all make mistakes, but we often only realise that we have made a mistake after the event. The decisions we make in our life are often based on our environment and how we think and feel at that particular moment in time and our thoughts, feelings and ultimately this dictates our actions and reactions. 

Throughout life, we gather so many untrue and limiting beliefs about ourselves, I would describe life as being like the trawler fisherman who goes out to sea, in search for rich pickings the prized cod, he prepares his net, then tosses it out to see and waits patiently before reeling in his catch. Now a good, moral fisherman will then sieve through his catch, in search for the prized cod and toss the unwanted fish back into the ocean, Its time consuming but it’s important after all his other catch serves no purpose, it has no financial value, and it may well serve someone else but not him. I am just a mear fisherman in search of my prized cod, trawling through all the limiting beliefs about myself and throwing them back into the ocean, let someone else have them! they don’t serve a purpose for me.

Like a  fisherman’s can never guarantee to catch his prized cod and neither can we, like us, like life, he has had to learn to navigate, search for the places where the desired cod hides, hiding amongst the shawls of other fish, he has to follow and track them down, take a risk that the place where he lowers his ankor that will be the spot where the cod is. Never knowing if this is going to be the BIG one the BIG catch?

He goes out all weathers facing elements that are out of his control, wind, rain or relentless waves, taking a risk with his life and fellow fisherman, but that doesn’t stop him fishing, they all know the risk involved, but in order to survive back on shore, they need that catch to take home, to survive, feed not only themselves but their loved ones too.

Apparently, a Fisherman’s job is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but so is ours, we should never underestimate our own journeys, underestimate our own strengths, but we should always be in search for our own prized cod, well that is if we want too? I want to and want to be my own fisherman, dictating my own journey, throwing my net out wide never knowing what the results are, but also knowing that whatever the catch I can save or disregard the parts that don’t serve me and throw them back into the ocean.

Right, I am back on track, for now anyway! I have a free weekend, our old man is away, I have the house and keyboard all to myself and I will be spending it fishing and if I find any cod, I might share some with you….

Love Fordy x

Dealing with change and learning to accept it

Change is always inevitable, like it or not shit is going to happen in life that can leave you feeling pissed off, down hearted and low.  This ultimately can influence and flip any positive thoughts, we may have into having negative and defeatist thoughts in a nano second

I have always questioned, I have always been inquisitive, but I mainly questioned stuff on the outside for example  “Why are some people twats? Why didn’t something go my way? Why didn’t I get the outcome I wanted? Why? Why? Why? Why? And all the what ifs?” Fuck me I come to realise that I have spent far to much time and energy of the last 48 years asking the same old fucking questions?  Rather than learning to accept that sometimes you may never get the answers you are desperate for?

We are complex being us humans, we are all each unique and our beliefs and values have all been shaped by our own personal experiences and life journeys. I see a lot of people who never challenge their own belief and values, and yet many of their beliefs and values are unfounded, old, stale, no longer serving a purpose but yet they still carry them around like an old friend. 

Our experiences from the past cannot ever be changed but how you see and view those experiences can. Making the time to self reflect, #Haveawordwitheesen, to recharge your own batteries, to explore, question or even challenges some of your own limiting assumptions and values in the longer term will help free you of the constant self doubt and help you come to terms with the fact that you will never get some all of your questions answered. 

Whilst having a relationships with loved ones is important learning to have a relationship with yourself is more important. Relationships with others come and go, but you will always be present, you don’t go away apart from the times when you might get off your nut, pissed to forget who you are, but the reality is that as soon as you sober up, your there again, present, with the same uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

There are those who are afraid to check themselves out or unwilling to question themselves, the ones who will never accept that they might be wrong, but this doesn’t mean they are right? And it doesn’t mean you have to be one of those people neither! 

Learning to accept and understand that I have my own faults, I will never be perfect, that I cannot control everything, that I may not always get the outcome I desire helps frees me from all those limiting assumptions that in the past has left me feeling low, depressed, down hearted when the reality is #shithappens but whats more important is to recognise how you deal with ya shit! 

We all have choices in life you can allow shit situations, circumstance shape you as a person OR you can accept #shit things happen and learn to live with it?

The End

Just be fucking nice

I have been busy delivering briefing sessions to front line staff including Housing, DWP, University security teams who in their day to day work come into contact with people on the street, begging, rough sleeping, intoxicated or causing anti-social behavior. The aim of the briefings is to not just raise awareness about what support provision is available in Sheffield, I have focused it more about trying to educate, help people understand WHY someone who they have come across may not be engaging in services, why someone might be refusing the help offered, why someone might be uncooperative or even aggressive! Here are some of the questions that have frequently that have come up during the sessions…

“Why would someone continue to take drugs even though you can see it is clearly killing them slowly?”

“I have offered, arranged support even taken them to support, but yet there is no change?”

“Why someone would sleep out on the streets, risking hypothermia and still refuse help?”

“They won’t do anything to help themselves”

“I have done all this! tried that! to help support someone, but none of it works – why?”

 The other Friday morning I had agreed to go visit a Broomhall breakfast club that operates just on the outskirts of the city center, the club has been operating for the past 18+ years, my plan was to go there for 8 am stay for a while then go deliver a briefing session to University of Sheffield security staff, just up the road at 9.30am.

Walking down the street, looking for the church, I saw a guy who assumed was going to the same place, my assumptions were founded by the fact he looked street homeless, he was carrying a black sack and a Sainsbury’s carrier bag for life, and looked like he hadn’t washed or shaved for weeks. I asked him if he was going to the same breakfast club and offered to help carry one of his bags for him, turns out he was going to the same place,  he declined my offer to carry one of his bags, but he did recognize me which took me back a little. Because as I looked more closely I realized that I knew him too, only he looked a lot different to how he did the last time I’d seen him. (to protect his privacy I am using a different name)

You see the last time I had seen Tom, had been at one of the Recovery Support groups that from one of the larger homeless support projects in the city center, he had been a regular attendee to the groups, he was rather a shy guy but was always polite and when he shared his story he would always capture my attention, he was very articulate, calm, a self-deprecating person who was well aware of his own weaknesses and shortcomings and wasn’t afraid to point them out. He had his own place, was stable on a script and was generally finding his own way on his recovery journey.

As we walked together towards the breakfast club, Tom told me how he was currently sleeping rough, up by the university, the very same one I would be delivering training too later that morning. As we reached the doors to the project and Tom, bid me fair well and went to order his breakfast before finding a table, notibly a table where no one else was sitting, I sensed he wanted to be alone and didn’t much feel like talking, so I went to meet the manager and the other staff to find out more about the project, whilst all the time observing Tom from my position the serving hatch. I was intent on going over to sit with him, once I had been told the ropes, but just as I was about to walk over, one of the other volunteers, a lady had beaten me to it, so I bided my time. Half an hour later I saw Tom, start to gather his belongings to leave, as he headed for the door to leave, I made my excuses from my conversation and followed Tom outside.

Tom seemed embarrassed, ashamed and slightly reluctant to chat, knowing he was back on the streets sleeping rough, I asked if he wanted me to call Framework? but he politely declined my offer, I asked if he was still getting his script to which he replied no, he said he hated having to go the Fitzwilliam Centre,  being around other people, hence why he’d stopped going to the Archer project and was keeping a low profile. My gut wanted to jump into rescue mode, get on the phone call the rough sleeper service, get on the phone to Fitz, get him an appointment sorted, but my instinct told me that he wasn’t ready for that. As the conversation flowed, so did the tears he shared how he felt he didn’t have another attempt of recovery in him, he was fed up with his lot and just wanted out! and truth be told, my gut instinct was right, he was defeated, he felt he was a failure, it was literally heartbreaking.

One not to give up, I remembered Addaction’s new breakfast club that was running, it wasn’t Archer project, it wasn’t Fitz, there would be no pressure or expectations laid upon him, he could just go there and socialize, eat and relax and get some respite from the streets and it ran 5 days a week. Tom was aware of the project as he had previously been required to attend as part of a court order. I told him about an amazing worker down there, who I thought he would get along with, some who I think he would have really connected with, someone who was great at working at the client’s pace, who himself has been where Tom was now and had the scars from years of digging into his veins to prove it. He said he would consider going and I wrote down the workers name for him and encouraged him to make contact when he was ready!

Tom was restless, you could tell he was ready to leave, I gave him a big hug and wished him well, as he turned the corner I got onto the phone to the worker I had mentioned and explained Tom’s circumstances to him, totally unfazed the worker was more than happy to see Tom and agreed that he would inform the reception staff that should Tom access the service or ask to speak to him, to inform him straight away. The only thing I can do now is hope that Tom makes that first move.  It was heartbreaking to see Tom, a shell of his former self, defeated almost.

There is a little model/framework, called stages of change or Cycle of change that I use when presenting or delivering briefings about what treatment and support are available in Sheffield (see diagram below) I strongly believe it is as important to try and get workers/staff to understand that by simply knowing where to refer or send someone into treatment and support, isn’t enough. My belief is that if staff understand where and why someone may be acting irrationally or “not normal” (whatever the fuck “Normal” means,) that they can try and be understanding and less judgmental and that if someone refuses help, not to take it personally, its just could be that they might not be ready, or more likely scared to take those steps to change.

The last time I saw Tom, he was clearly in Action mode, making attempts to take his addiction, seeking support, was in receipt of a script he was attending groups, he had a flat. Today when I saw Tom, he had slipped back into contemplation mode, he knew he had a problem, he knew what he needed to do, he knew where he could go for help, he knew it all, BUT he didn’t have the psychological or emotional capacity to consider the work required to move him back to where he was the last time I saw him.

Later on, that morning in the training I used Tom as the case study, it transpires that the security staff knew of Tom already, the regarded him as being a nice polite guy, who actually didn’t cause them any issues, but after the briefings, at least they had the knowledge to know where they could signpost him to support, should he be receptive to the offer of support.

In today’s society, addiction, mental health is more prevalent more visible, it’s not like breaking a leg, where you can go to a GP, get an x-ray, get a cast, rest up for a while until its fixed and carry on with life… It’s no wonder some front line services, workers who work in a system struggling to understand why they can get frustrated and deflated if they identify a problem, offer a solution but don’t get the desired outcome.

The point I am trying to make is you don’t have to be an expert in addiction, nor a therapist to recognize that us humans are complex and unique you may never get to know or understand someone’s journey, where it started, where they have been, how long they have been traveling, where or what their final destination will look like, BUT you CAN be nice or kind, after all, you may never know if your kindness that day might just be the one thing that influenced that persons change in direction.

I do not yet know if Tom has taken the advice, or gone to the service, but what I do know is that I treated Tom with dignity and respect, I didn’t push, nor judge, I just listened, I was there for him for those few minutes, being there for him. One thing that i have learned about myself and others is that if someone isn’t ready for change, regardless of the reasons, you cannot force people to change, that change has to come from within. So even if you cannot help someone, you can always help or make someone’s day, or journey by just being fucking nice!