Rewarding bad behaviour

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I think Ant & Dec are great and I enjoy their Saturday Night Takeaway, (it’s got the same vibe and elements as Noel’s House Party which I enjoyed growing up) but there’s a recurring issue I am having with it – rewarding bad and dishonest behaviour.

On Saturday’s show they had a woman on who had done things to family, friends and employer which were not very nice at all. She exchanged a very expensive gift from a friend and had them lost the replacement item, had thrown out her partner’s favourite clothes, and had faked an injury to take time off work and it became a laughing matter apparently. If you were told this by someone how would you react? Ant, Dec and their production team seem to think that this terrible woman deserved a prize of a trip on a luxury cruise.

This is not the first time that they have done this type of thing. Grab someone from the audience, reveal that they have been a poor friend/husband/wife/employee and then give them a treat for taking the mickey out of them. I’m sure in every audience there will be dozens of decent hardworking people who are trying to make ends meet and would love to be given a holiday or other prize – so why are we rewarding bad behaviour and what message does it send out?

Saturday Night Takeaway is not alone in this practice – several shows on TV now appear to celebrate bad behaviour: Geordie Shore, Jeremy Kyle and anything with Gordon Ramsey for example. I don’t want to be a miserable git about this but why can’t we have more positive and upbeat shows that reward skills, abilities, being a good person? There are so many carers, charity workers & fundraisers, nurses, teachers, paramedics, fire fighters that would love a break, a prize or something nice to happen to them rather than watch a liar be made a fuss of on prime time Saturday night TV.

We see the same things in schools where the worst behaved are often taken out of school and rewarded for “Behaving” as if it were a serious achievement rather than a norm. I know there are exceptions for those with specific needs or disabilities, but in general some kids are rewarded for next to nothing. I always got annoyed that the kids in the middle who weren’t average academically and behaved were ignored – where was their reward for doing what was expected of them?

We live in a strange society that seems to celebrate the wrong things. Competition in school sports and awards is frowned upon and becomes a homogenized mass of celebrating everyone rather than holding up the real role models and achievements. So we have those who achieve not allowed to be celebrated, those in the middle ignored and the people who cause trouble are rewarded.

I’m more than aware that they do give gifts and prizes to very deserving people as well so it’s not one-sided. Last week’s surprise for the young lady who had been travelling with her boyfriend was funny, heartwarming and entertaining. I’m in no way saying that Ant & Dec are solely responsible for it, but to promote that type of idea on a family show just seemed wrong and misjudged. I can thing of dozens of people who would be deserving of a nice cruise or holiday but instead a woman who lied to her boss, faked an injury for months and laughed about it with the cast of Corrie and Ant & Dec is packing her bags.

Let’s see the Geordie Duo leading the charge in celebrating those who truly deserve it and not the worst type of people.

JD

All Questions; No Answers

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I forgot to take my tablet last night before I went to bed. I did wonder why I couldn’t sleep when looking at the alarm clock showing 01:47am – the penny dropped, I went downstairs and took it so I got off to sleep around 02:30 so five hours was had in the end. What this proves to me is that I just can’t function without the meds.

I wonder if it’s because I’m taking them daily and it would need time to get into normal patterns of sleep and behaviour again or if it is black and white? I know nothing is black and white but again I wonder who I would be without the chemicals being put through my body each day. Ironically I wonder if I’d be happier overall. If I had more of the highs of the Manic Depression I might actually feel like I was getting a better deal out of the illness.

I’ve spoken to several people with Depression – including a doctor – who wish they had the Manic phase, but they confuse mania with happiness. I think I may be doing the same. Mistaking out of control, free-thinking & speaking at a rate of knots for happy is possibly where I am deluding myself over being happy. Was I ever happy or was I just ill? I don’t remember what I was like before the first set of tablets but I’ve built it up as some kind of fantasy in my mind.

What I’m forgetting is that I felt the need to go to the doctor in the first place because of how I felt. I was miserable. I am miserable today but I can’t compare to what it was like all those years ago because the other variable is that I could be more ill now than I was then. You don’t know how severe the illness is at any point. The tablets do dampen the mood swings and lift the lows up out of their lowest point. I don’t know if I am more ill now and the meds just need to be increased or alternatively I do not have an honest perspective of where I am because of meds.

It’s all questions and the answers are so difficult because with most mental illnesses there is a bit of guess-work involved in the diagnosis. Part of you wants to be free of the medication – to just exist as you are, no limits but we need to conform to social norms and fit in to work and family life in certain parameters. I know it would be dangerous – I’ve just stopped once before because I ran out of tablets and felt okay. Of course I felt okay, I was medicated. The likelihood of me living without the bonus chemicals is low – I’ve been told that I’ll need some form of medication for the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll never spend another day as “me” in my life.

So therein lies the biggest question of all – who am I? Who is this person and how do they fit in? I’m no longer JD, I’m an “improved” version – perhaps with each medication I get an upgrade so now I’d be JD 4.0. Is JD 1.0 still in there and if so will he ever be in charge again?

You are probably thinking that this is most self-absorbed thing you’ve read – some kind of amateur meta psychology – but this is what runs round your head in the early hours of the morning when you realise that you need a tablet to do a simple thing like sleep.

Another to not break down in tears; help you get out of bed; try to drag your carcass around and have a life.

A third to stop the fluctuation of moods from swinging violently and to extremes.

So where does the medicine stop and the human start? That’s the question I seem to be asking a lot at the moment and thinking of yourself as an intruder in your own head is not a comfortable place to be.

JD

 

Broken

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Last week I watched a few of the programmes on the BBC in their “In the Mind” strand. They were fascinating but it felt strange watching the one on Bipolar ten years on. I vividly remember watching Stephen Fry on that show and him speaking to all those other people who also lived with Manic Depression and realising that I was probably living with depression. The way people described it and their experiences was difficult to watch as it was reflecting me back on myself at this point in my life.

It made me look at my condition slightly differently and just what an impact it has had on my life since I was first diagnosed seven years ago. I do sometimes wonder if the knowledge and labels make things worse in some ways. Depression and Anxiety was my initial label and it made sense at the time – three years ago it became Bipolar disorder and ever since then I’ve tried to come to terms with what it actually means. One thing I know for sure is that the condition is ever-changing – perhaps increasing in speed, reducing gaps between “episodes” – and I will live this for the rest of my life.

And there’s the difficulty I face. However long I live, I will be shadowed by this mental illness and I don’t know how I feel about that. In just the last two years I have had instances where it has had a serious impact on my life and the life of my family. I feel trapped – I’m a broken human and I don’t know where I fit in anymore. Some days the only thing that gets me through is the love of my family; an amazingly strong wife and three beautiful children alongside my wider family circle. But what if there’s a day when that’s not enough anymore? Will this illness not only define my life, but also the way I shuffle off this mortal coil?

Where I once looked at the world as a series of opportunities I now see barriers that the condition has put in the way. A fear that it will stop me from achieving and developing a career and other long-held ambitions. I worry about how I won’t be able to move on in life as I would want to. Watching the show on TV last week, many on it spoke about sharing their story – as I do on here – but instead of being a positive thing I only saw the negatives magnified. My confidence levels are a fraction of what they used to be and instead of taking the “second chance at life” I felt after coming through Cancer ten years ago, I now feel only as strong as I did in childhood.

As a kid I had the external signs of being a confident outgoing person while inside struggling with social interactions, bullying, peer pressure, isolating myself from others in case they realized I had a weakness. Even as a youngster I knew there was a crack in my being – which over time I started to push down and fight against. I found confidence in music and a group of friends who I genuinely could “let in” to the real me. No more pushing away or being the “big character” just to survive. I feel now I’m back at square one with the crack in my personality/mind/psyche more pronounced than ever. While it may not be fully visible from outside, it lives with me and does have an impact on who I am.

Many of us walk around with a mask on, trying to be a certain version of ourselves in specific situations. I don’t know how that works anymore. I’m worried about getting hurt and damaged further by the world around me – how do I deflect and reflect the world around me now? Do I revert to the young JD who was loud, rambunctious and ultimately annoying or give in and walk around exposed and vulnerable? The saddest thing for me writing this is that I have to consider this type of thing at all. My friends and family are always going to be there for me and I don’t need to change for them – they accept me for who I am.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well there are more possible changes afoot in my life and I will have to prepare myself for experiences that put me back in situations where I may have to find a comfortable mask to wear again and I worry that it’s not enough to “be myself”. Also a change of medications have solved one problem with my sleep patterns, but for the first time in a couple of years I’m now noticing the mania creeping back into the mix.

With a slow release sleeping medication I was knocked out all night, getting a solid night’s sleep every single night, but the side effect was for an hour or two first thing in the morning I really struggled to be fully awake. Often I couldn’t physically get out of bed because of the impact. Now I’m on the normal version of the tablets – which knock me out initially but won’t continue to work all night – I will wake up more, I’m dreaming again for the first time in months, (something that almost completely stopped on the slow release tablets), and the length of sleep is not as long as it had been. During a manic phase I need to sleep to keep it at bay. That’s not happening now.

I’m aware of both the dips and the highs again. I’m broken and I don’t know how to manage it apart from even more medication which makes me worry I’m disappearing as a person. It changes who you are being on mood stabilizers and antidepressants and to add more into the mix means I become more diluted and lost within myself. There’s a balance between being JD and being able to function and I worry that parts of me will disappear – leaving gaps where I used to be. And as the illness often worsens with age will I worry that I need more and more medication to maintain functioning as a human being.

Who we are as human beings usually relies on our genes and the environments we live in – nature and nurture – but with more of us living with Mental Illness, and being medicated for it, is there a third element to consider when defining who we are? Are we being nurtured or are we being negated? For my own sake and the benefit of those around me, maybe I should just accept that I can’t function naturally I have to give in to this alternative me that is both acceptable in society and safe for all concerned.

The only thing I know at this point in time is that I’m broken. The “fix” is the hardest thing to accept and understand.

JD