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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Wobble.

Some may think that posting a blog entry like this is done by blokes who “over share”, are “emotionally incontinent”, “LMF (Lack Moral Fibre)”, “can’t hack it”, “lost their big boy trousers” or “have jumped on the mental health bandwagon”.  They may be right.  I wrote it anyway.


It will be two years ago come January since the wheel fell off.  This blog tells the story of what I remember about the time it all went a bit wrong for me, and I had to admit to myself and others that everything was not “OK thanks”.


It was a life changing event which unfolded over a couple of days.


The previous year had been tough.  It had begun to feel as if the difficulties would never end.  I felt exhausted, isolated, stressed and unappreciated.  A normal day at the office right?  It’s just a police officer’s lot isn’t it?


I don’t want to sound like I believe my life is harder than yours.  We all have a story to tell.  My black cat is not two shades darker than your black cat. I think a lot of people experience financial uncertainties, difficult relationships, unmanageable workloads, failures and guilt.  And I know there are plenty of other coppers and members of the police family who have also taken the odd knock, been unable to stop bad things happening to good people and seen stuff best left unseen.


Anyway, it was about two forty in the afternoon when I put the phone down.  I had spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to resolve a complaint that could have come straight out of the worst daytime telly.  As I stood up I felt what I later described as a “fizz” in the right side of my head and became dizzy.  I had two quick thoughts. First was that I was having a stroke. The second that my wife would be so pissed; I’d ignored her advice about black pudding and bacon for ages.  I looked at my reflection in the window, smiled, raised my arms, recited Peter Piper to myself and decided it probably wasn’t a stroke and if I didn’t tell anyone I’d have got away with it.


I hung on till the end of the shift, went home, thought better of not telling anyone and made a Dr’s appointment for the next day, lay on the settee and went out like a light.


Here it might be useful to explain some of the other more “normal” symptoms I’d also been happily “minimising” over the last couple of months.


There was the teeth grinding and thrashing about whilst sleeping; the waking up tired; feeling grumpy; drinking perhaps a little too much; losing interest in hobbies and exercise and getting fatter.  I said to myself things like “it is simply part of being in The Job”, “It is what it is”, “If you don’t like it, no one is making you stay”, “Fit in, front up or **** off”.


It’s funny really, but I would have never dreamed of saying anything like that to anyone else, and I would tell anyone I heard saying these things to themselves to not be so silly.


As well as these “normal” symptoms I had for a handful of months been experiencing and minimising some “added extra” symptoms.  I noticed the first added extra in the early hours during night shifts when the struggle to stay awake was hardest.  For me that’s usually between 4.30 and 6.00 a.m. I occasionally heard/dreamt/imagined radio transmissions of people boasting about the nasty things they had done, or people screaming for help as nasty things were being done to them.  I thought I was awake, but who knows.  I would check my radio then check the usually dark and empty station, room by room, to make sure it wasn’t a radio on someone’s desk. We often end up left on our own at this time of day.  Then, at all sorts of unexpected times I found myself obsessing about the jobs where it had not gone well for me, or that had ended badly for someone else.  Now these intrusive thoughts really sucked. The real people, places and experiences that had touched my life filled my thoughts until I was totally immersed in analysing my decisions, what I’d missed and what could have been done to change the outcome. I felt also felt the same fear, the same stress, the same anger, the same struggles to take charge of myself.  I once found myself putting my head in my hands trying to remember someone’s name.  When I looked up it was 2 hours later.  I still can’t remember his name.


So it was that I sat in the Dr’s consultation room.  There were student Dr’s with my Dr.  One had been tasked to get my history.  The student Dr opened with, “Tell me why you want to see the Dr today?”  I had rehearsed in my head rationally explaining what was going on with me.  I was about to help the student do a good job, whilst getting in to see the real Dr as soon as possible.  I opened my mouth to say, “I have been experiencing some unusual things” but nothing came out. I tried again. Still nothing.  So I took a breath, calmed myself, closed my eyes and came out with a guttural string of “I I I I I I I I I I’ve”. Then I stopped. I hadn’t stuttered for 41 years.  Then I started to cry, wrenching ugly crying that flushed out more snot than I knew a human being contained.


Like I said. That was nearly two years ago.


I wish I could say it has been a pretty straightforward, if tough road to recovery but it hasn’t. I expected a few weeks on some pills, a couple of sessions where I could blag my way past a psychiatrist wearing half-moon spectacles and holding a note book, two or three weeks de-stressing at home and a couple of good long runs to “shake it off”.  Then back to the fight.


I was off sick for nearly six months in the end, having not missed a day for years before or since then.  I have benefitted from six Employee Assistance Programme counselling sessions after which I became better at managing my stammer.  Stanley the stammer is still there and quite possibly will always be just below the surface, but most of the time you wouldn’t know it’s there.    Whilst off work I went to Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprogramming therapy sessions.  I learned lots about bits of the brain and why they started getting their jobs wrong, and about the workings of cortisol, serotonin, melatonin, adrenalin and a bunch of other “ols” and “ins”.  The dose of my Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors gradually crept up in steps of 50mg until they went as high as they go.  It took months to get to a place where the knot of anxiety and churning stomach did not descend on me as soon as I realised I was awake.


In the early days I felt bad for not having my leg in a caste, my arm in a sling or a face like a Picasso painting.  In the past I have gladly accepted others sympathy in when in those situations.  I avoided people in general.  The dogs have never had such regular or long walks.  I discovered uplifting corners of the county I love but had never seen before.  Bird and wildlife watching became an obsession.


Finally I got back to work, but I am still working on getting back as a Critical Incident Manager.


And now?  I rarely stammer, I sleep better, I have an interest in life again and I no longer have auditory illusions, overwhelming guilt or nasty, totally immersive intrusive thoughts.  The stalking fear, a dark cloud that sits just out of sight over my right shoulder is still there, but just as soon as I can get hold of it I will get that sorted too. I am also far more accepting of myself and others who are battling their way back from being temporarily overwhelmed.  I would not be where I am now without my family, my colleagues and friends, patient counsellors, dam fine meds and my faith.  Thank you.


Yours,


Inspector


PS: please drive safe, be kind, don’t steal.

Dedicated to one amazing double glazing saleswoman who wandered into the front counter of a west London police station 30 years ago.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sexual predators; help us stop them.




Sexual predators.1  I wish I had a better term to describe those people who bully, pressurize, bribe and exploit others so they can feel powerful over other them and make them do things they don't want to do. It's not the label I would use for that kind of person, but I hope you know the type of people I am trying to describe.


And as anyone who has seen the headlines in recent years will know, there are nasty sexually motivated offenders out there.  Why? I'm no expert but I see around me that street drugs are ubiquitous, sexualisation of young people is used to sell music and clothes, pornography that normalizes bullying and exploitation is common
There is greed and violence associated with selling street drugs that has spawned whole networks, cuckoo houses and honey pots with an embedded culture of exploitation and lack of respect.
The ever growing World Wide Web has enabled ever more people to find, talk to and connect with people whilst remaining anonymous.  Pornography has almost gone mainstream.  Being less judgmental and having more conversations about healthy sex, experimenting and curiosity are I believe good things.  But I also believe pornography spreads the message that it is ok for sex to be selfish, an entitlement, exploitative and without consequences.


So, helping our kids (especially but not exclusively boys) respond to porn is kind of a parenting requirement in the western world.
But what else can be done?  Well the fight against sexual exploitation has got five messages which come from people who have been targeted by, survived and beaten predators.  This, amongst other things, what they said.




·   I didn't know I was being targeted for sex. I thought we were online friends. To the boys and girls in front of their iDroid Smartphone, XSwitchProStation, Tablet, Laptop and PC - it is ok to be suspicious.  If someone is trying to get to know you better or you are suspicions at all, go for the "kit always on, video chat check or ghost".  If you only know them online and only ever see their avatar, it's just sensible to have a video chat (with their clothes on!!) to prove neither of you are some middle aged bloke.  No cam, connection too slow, not allowed and 'another time' excuses earns a trip straight to the "ghost zone".  And if you are asked to do the same, it's up to you if you chat or take the "ghost" option.  


·  I didn't know my boyfriend wanted me to have sex with his friends. There are some things you need to know.  These are: You are an incredible person. You will do great things, have great friends and work out for yourself who you want to share your body with.  If your "boyfriend" insults, says things to hurt your feelings, insults you in front of his friends or acts like he is "in charge" of you, he is not your boyfriend and you should dump him.  Maybe try to avoid a row. Find an adult you trust, your parent, your doctor, your teacher, any police officer and tell them what has happened.  


·  I didn't know that texting a naked selfie would end up on the internet forever.  This applies to text messages and all your other tech.  If you haven't gone "kit off" then probably best you don't.  Every text, video chat or photo on any app can be recovered. People will show and share photos and videos, you know they will.  They will still exist on the internet when you find someone you want to get serious with.  They will be there when you go to university.  They will still be there when you apply for..........you get the message.  If you have already gone kit off, you will be fine but you may want some help if your photos are shared. We can help.  Oh and if you think about sharing, texting or forwarding something to your besties or mates - that is a criminal offence.




·  I didn't know that my daughter was being sexually exploited - I thought she was out with her friends.  For all the families of all types out there, please keep talking to each other. Be honest with each other. Don't judge. Do listen, help and support.  There is so much to cope with as you grow up and it's not easy.  Being able to help someone stop a bad decision becoming a really nasty situation is what it's all about.  Oh, and this more "do what I say" advice.  I am on a life long course learning how to talk to my family.  Just when I think I've got it sorted, the instructions change.



·  I didn't know if I had concerns about exploitation I could call the police.  You can. We want you to.  By email to 101@dc.police.uk or phoning 101, or online reporting at our website, or picking up the blue phone at a station, or Crime Stoppers Crime Stoppers Website .  Please do to tell us what is worrying you.




Yours


Inspector



PS - may the people around you be kind to you and each other, drive carefully and look after everyone's stuff.

1. I don't really like the term.   It suggests the abuser is some sort of a "stalking hunter" which in my experience is giving them way more status than they deserve. The converse is that there is some sort of "prey" which does not do justice to the bravery, dignity and ability to fight I have seen in survivors.

















Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sometimes I love this job!



Talk about a varied job.  In a single shift, whilst I have been sat at my comfy desk bravely picking my way through the mysteries and perils of Excel spreadsheets (who knew COUNTIF could do that!) and Power Point Presentations, my colleagues have been calming angry motorists, investigating sexual offences, interviewing bullies who have threatened their neighbours, searching for missing people and, well just being the police.  And when we are just being the police we get up to all sorts of stuff.

I really wanted to tell you about some of the stuff I have been neglecting to share with the fans of this blog, both of you. (Thanks Dad).  So armed with a cheap plastic pen and a bunch of sticky notes (sadly not Post-it notes, but a non branded generic sticky") I interrupted those colleagues I could find in the station to find out what interesting stuff they had been dealing with.

It turns out it was this lot.
I don't mean to suggest everyone had been dealing with snakes.  Just two of them.  Two officers that is, and three incidents each with their own snake. The first officer was on foot patrol when he saw a small crowd blocking traffic on what is a pretty busy thoroughfare. As he approached he was saw a "four foot long red and white snake curled up in the middle of the road" and was immediately elected by the crowd as snake catcher in chief.  As he put it, "It must have been my snake catcher uniform that gave it away".  The said officer tried to drag the snake out of the road by the tail. Apparently it tried to bite him. In the end a local "snake enthusiast" came to the rescue by wrapping the said snake around his arm and promising to look after the snake until it's true home was discovered.  I don't know if the snake is still there, or if wrapping strange snakes around your arm is a common practice amongst snake enthusiasts.  It certainly is not amongst police officers.

The other officer went to two serpent related incidents in the same week, totally unrelated incidents too.  The first was to a California King snake in the garden of a house on the outskirts of a small market town.  California King is a great sounding name for a very snaky looking snake of unknown provinence, especially one that had wrapped itself around a lady's flower pot.  It didn't look at all friendly so the lady did the obvious thing.  Again, the best snake catcher the lady could think of was the police.

And it was just a couple of days after that the same officer was called upon to exercise his snake catching skills once more.  This time it was to catch a Corn Snake.  I really don't know, or want to know much about Corn Snakes.  Having had a very brief peek at Wikipedia they look like the sort of animal people should avoid, unless you are Bear Grylls in which case they would probably make a handy mid morning snack.  Anyway, my mental image of the Great Corn Snake Chase is set to the theme tune from Benny Hill and involves a single file, police lead team of intrepid locals snaking through the village after the snake.  Sadly the reality was less amusing and the officer happened to have a dog pole (the sort that allows you to keep outside of biting range whilst placing a rope loop around the dog's neck) which did the job just fine.

I also managed to jot down some tales about mysterious whit rabbits, stubborn sheep, angry horses and indestructible deer,

I'll keep them for another time.

Yours

 Inspector


PS - please take care when driving, be kind and leave other's stuff alone.