Tuesday, 17 April 2018

And breath.

With my thanks to Leah: Yoga With Leah

After I worked my "back to the floor" shift, which I wrote about last time, I started to find my thoughts drifting back to the family my colleague and I visited.  I wonder if, and hope that they are safe and well.

But I am not the Officer in the Case (OIC) for the crime. I do not work in the Multi Agency Referral Unit (MARU) and I am not a Safeguarding Officer (we just say Safeguarding Officer), so I won't be told and I won't go looking things up to check how they are getting on.  That would be a bad thing to do.

So for this particular job, as with so many other jobs we go to in The Job, there is the potential for unnecessary thoughts and worry.

Until my "wobble" (another thing I wrote about!) I thought I was one of those blokes who was immune to nasty events, who easily blocked out unwanted thoughts when they popped into my head and who simply decided not to worry about stuff.  In the end I did not so much admit to myself the reality, as was ambushed by it.  The reality was, and remains that I am not one of those blokes. I am not immune, can not stop unwanted thoughts and I do worry.

I also realised that it would be good for me to actually do something about the thoughts and worries that I know I will come after some jobs.  And it turns out that some of the stuff that would have been good for me to do, I had been avoiding.  I guess it was a mixture of misplaced machismo and distrust of everything I considered a bit "hippy".

Now I am learning how to do that stuff.  I know it by the name "Wellness".

It was after the recovery counselling and therapies I went through that our outstandingly good Force Medical Officer (FMO), "The Prof" suggested I might like to give it a go.

It would be wrong for me to try and describe the theories and practices I am trying to learn.  I would not do them justice.  Suffice to say I find myself listening to my own breathing, sensing my own body and accepting my thoughts and emotions from where ever they come.

And it came as a very welcome surprise when my education about this type of stuff was enhanced by a really rather terrific couple I met just a few days ago.

They are a friendly, clever and all round lovely married couple I met whilst on holiday.  The bloke is a six foot and a handful of inches tall, 250 pound (I used a calculator work out that is just over seventeen and a half stone) former professional football (the American kind) player and current personal trainer.  His other half is a Yoga instructor. I think that makes her a Yogi. She is very professional, incredibly capable and inspiring when leading a class.

If she ever finds herself in Cornwall (the English one) and we can persuade the College of Policing that Happy Baby is a valid "ground position defensive tactic"  I reckon she would do a cracking job leading one of our officer safety training sessions.

Now, another thing that struck a chord with me was when the former professional football player is also a personal trainer told me that he chooses to take one his wife's classes each week or so.  The class he specifically chooses is one that focuses on breathing and balance.  He tells me he calls it his "reset" time.

I really do wonder if I would have avoided my problems if I had made time for my own "reset" time alongside the more traditional exercises I was happy do.  There really is something to be said for looking after your mental and emotional health alongside burning calories and working on muscle groups.



PS - please drive safely, be kind and be honest.

PPS - I can't help thinking of Saturday morning cartoons from my childhood when I say Yogi in my head - Yogi, Yogi, Yogi, Yogi.............

PPPS - these guys are from Burlington, Ontario (the Canadian one), so it's a bit far to commute for a weekly class at the moment.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Back to the floor.

It was the thought of learning how to use a new piece of kit that was my final hurdle.

For some time, and especially since the burble of an Airwaves radio no longer sent a tickle of cortisol to my chest I have been planning my way back to the streets.  Or more accurately in the case of patrolling rural Cornwall, the streets and dual carriageways, single tracked grass growing country lanes and footpaths.

I had the good fortune to have a "very important meeting" with a colleague I was a Constable with in north Cornwall.  She is now the project officer for the new piece of kit I had to get my head round, and I was her local contact or "getting the message out there" for the users of the said piece of kit.  After the meeting I got a useful tutorial on the piece of kit, and finally had the confidence to switch from "training mode" to "live mode" and set up my very first "shift".  I had become an official user of the Devon and Cornwall MDT, the Mobile Data Terminal.

After a quick check with the duty Sergeants in East Cornwall I joined an experienced, very capable and professional officer for a day shift.  And I am grateful to them and their team.  Hosting a slightly bruised and terribly out of date "boss" is probably not most coppers idea of an ideal shift.

Anyhow, with rank badges off I joined them for briefing.  In terms of numbers of officers working we were pretty well off.  Covering one market town, two small coastal towns, a handful of villages and a bucketful of hamlets and farms we had a Sergeant, three patrol Constables, one Neighbourhood Constable and a Police Community Support Officer. And me.

For the first time in the longest time I went through briefing as if I meant it, noting registration numbers and crime numbers, colours and types of vehicles, primary taskings, offender management plans, MISPERS by which I mean missing persons and then recent crimes.  My crew mate seemed much more relaxed than me.

The first task of the day was to do some door knocking around an address where a suspect for domestic assault was arrested the night before.  The partner did not want to give a statement and the children swore blind they had seen nothing; using almost exactly the same words. So at an hour when people were likely to be awake and actually feel inclined to let a copper into their house to take a statement we went door knocking.

My first customer was a chatty older lady who invited me into her sitting room and spoke over her loud TV to let me know her daughter could tell me all about it.  As is the way, I had to piece that together from a list of first names, explanations of friendships and relationships and graphic descriptions of who did what to whom whilst trying to work out what was hearsay and what she had actually seen, which was nothing at all.

We tried again but the victim herself still refused to tell us anything.  But my colleague got to have a private word with the kids whilst I talked to the victim.  We are doing what we can.

After a statement where I passively shared half a pack of cheap cigarettes, fumbled with my plug in keyboard and MDT I admitted ignorance and sought help from the local Constable to download the statement and get it to the officer from the Sexual Offences and Domestic Abuse Interview Team who was "dealing with" the arrested suspect. He was waiting in his cell.  Apart from making grammatical and spelling errors that would embarrass an eleven year old, and referring to my colleague as "my daughter" when talking to the witness I did OK.

Then it was to a "silent 999" we thought came from a remote house, which looked more like a mansion when we arrived.  It would have worked well as a location for a hammer house of horrors movie.  It turns out the owner was very understanding and the 999 call had actually been dialled in the pocket of a bloke at the Eden Project. That is nowhere near the mansion.  Go figure.

After that my crew mate drove us back though lanes not quite wide enough for our car to a roundabout to keep observations for a suspect car that had been on briefing and was circulated on our radio channel.  As an advanced driver who has completed some pretty technical courses I trusted her judgement on the right place be to be.  And it was.  After spotting a car of the right make, model and colour we followed and stopped it only to find an extremely polite older couple who may never before in their life have spoken to the police.  I do hope we left them with a positive customer experience.

We parked up again and joked about buses and such, then the actual suspect car drove past.  Well that was it.  We wiggled around the country lanes to close up on the subject vehicle, no lights or sirens.  It took an unnecessary right turn which was pretty much the give away he had seen us.  But he hadn't made of yet. So, with traffic light and plenty of places to stop we lit up the blues and twos and indicated for the car to pull over.  Guess what happened?

Anyway, after the car had sped off we stopped, switched off the lights, siren and applied the handbrake.  Lots of cars came to look for him, and one the Neighbourhood Constable very nearly stopped him until the naughty car pushed the police car out of the way. The tinker.

And so, after checking if anymore paperwork or forms were needed (Electronic PNB entries, Unifi Crimes to update, Storm logs to update, DASH forms, VIST forms, NCRF forms, use of force forms, Section 9 statements, COMPACT tasks to update, Unify UNIFI custody records, UNIFY Enquiry tasks to update or a bunch of stuff I couldn't remember the name of) I was assured by the Sergeant he would sort out anything I'd forgotten.

Gratefully I said my thank yous and went home to walk the dogs.

Next time I try some back to the floor training, I will try and remember how to be a Sergeant.



PS - there was a crash, someone was assaulted and a thief got away.  If only.

Monday, 19 March 2018

I still hear voices. Thank you.

"Ear worms".

What a great combination of words.

I know they are often used to refer to those catchy little ditties we hear on daytime radio shows, and which wiggle their way deep into our consciousness. And I am so sorry if "The Birdie Song" has unexpectedly popped in to your otherwise well ordered thoughts.

However, "ear worm" has a different connotation for me and quite possibly others too. I hear my ear worms on Airwave police radio speakers or the secret service style ear buds that I wedge in my ears.  I used to use chunky headsets with cotton covers that made my ear sweat.  Not anymore.

I wanted to write about ear worms because this week is the first week for a long time when part of my daily routine will not involve swallowing a bitter tasting Sertraline pill.  I was rather concerned that the "not real" voices I used to hear in the dark old days would come back.  They haven't.

And the mere sound of chatter on an Airwave police radio that had started to make my chest chill with anxiety, well that has returned to an almost comforting noise.  It makes me feel part of something, again.

The familiar voices that make the chatter have returned to being my ear worms; ear worms I understand and know how to live with.  No matter what I am doing, If I hear Airwaves chatter it touches my ear drum and gets instantaneously conducted to whichever part of my consciousness and unconsciousness that is trying to keep track of where everyone is, what they are doing, what nasties are out there and what I should be doing etc etc etc.

So, I still hear voices, but they are technologically as opposed to psychologically conjured out of thin air. That's good.

And now to say thank you; thank you to a really rather amazing group of people.  These are the people who are there with you during every painstakingly dull moment of a long shift, working with you in every rushed and confused journey to an incident when information is flying around like a flock of startled birds, whose spirit is alongside you every time it has well and truly hit the fan and they are working magic to make sure you are not the only one it is flying towards.  Some people call them "Gold".

These are the Radio Dispatch Officers(1) and Control Room Staff who spend their shifts in one of the most incredibly high stake, multi screen, non-role playing strategy "games" I have ever seen.  And do you know the most amazing thing?  Well, actually there are two amazing things.  The first is that they sound phenomenally calm and controlled under the inhuman levels of stress.  The second is that they keep doing it; keep coming in to work; keep guiding "the blue line" to where it is needed and doing their very best to keep those on the line as safe as they can be.



PS - the snow makes the little winding lanes even more slippery, and also makes it even more important to look after each other and each other's property.

(1) - the computer calls them Resource Deployment Officers, but what does the computer know!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Show me yours first.

I really don't know why I didn't mention these guys earlier.  Well, actually I do know.  It's because I didn't realize they were out there when I wrote the piece from which the paragraph below is an extract.

That is not to say I had never read something about them, been briefed about them or seen some cunningly crafted awareness raising materials. After all they have been around since 2010. But if I had, it hadn't stuck.

Hopefully you will have more luck.

These guys are the "Internet Watch Foundation" or IWF for those in the know, and they have a logo that reminds me of the telly programmes Panorama and Joe 90.

The Internet Watch Foundation will do their very best to get rid of pictures and videos that have ended up on the internet, and which really should not be there.  They will help young people who have had live streams recorded, shared pictures and sent videos of themselves with their kit off  or getting "explicit".  If you, or someone you might know want to get hold of them, they are here Internet Watch Foundation
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 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.
And just so you know, these people also work incredibly hard to bring down the live streams, the shared pictures and videos of child abuse, often of the vilest sort.  So I'd like to say "thank you" to anyone who works or volunteers there and happens to read this.
PS.  When I was small(er) I was told that driving a car is safe until you forget that it's not, that it's never ok to fight just because you are angry and that I should leave other people's stuff alone.  © My Dad

PPS. If you Google IWF and find yourself looking at people lifting up really heavy looking stuff, you are on the wrong page.

PPS. If you are under 25 and sometimes think the pre-internet generation don't get it, find one of them and ask them what the title makes them think of; honestly.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Harsh words.


"Critica" by Julio Ruelas (1870 - 1907) – Painter (Mexican)Born in Zacatecas.

A discussion, a debate, a lecturing, a telling off, a vent; criticism.  There is, absolutely rightly a lot directed at the police.  I like being in a country where we can do that.  I also like to think that we, the police are professional and thick skinned enough to pick out and adopt the pearls of wisdom from the criticism with good grace. It's how we have grown in to the UK's police forces we are today.  But it can sometimes feel as if there are no pearls; just moans and venting surrounding even more "directions and recommendations" that show a less than brilliant grasp what we face in the situations we are called on to deal with.  It can start to feel like being the employee of a mildly abusive employer who likes to publicly criticize your best efforts.  Perhaps my skin has just been worn a bit thin, and as in so many other situations I have been distracted by the language used.

This is an extract from an open letter one of our Chief Officers wrote when working their last tour of duty in the police. 
“I need to share with you that I have found myself frustrated, angry and disappointed when I see and read others, at a local and national level, being too quick to criticise policing without first taking the time to understand and engage with those delivering the service. These detractors and critics would do well to remember that much more is achieved with a smile, politeness and appreciation than is achieved through criticism and sharp words. It is easy to criticise others when you do not tread the same footprints and experience the same challenges as those you choose to attack.
The balance to this is of course the public confidence we enjoy, our local communities are not aligned to the national newspapers views or those within the regulation or inspection regimes. They have a much more intimate relationship with us and it is our public that we need to invest our energies focussing on serving and building relationships with them. In the villages, towns and cities of Devon and Cornwall we enjoy great support and people who believe in us and want us to succeed. This is, and always has been, the bedrock of British policing and I am grateful to have shared this most special profession and my journey within it with all of you.”
Thanks for the letter Boss.

I have not picked out examples of the headlines, the every day sniping and ridicule officers face. You will have seen them.  I have found my best way to deal with them is to stop reading them, or just change the channel (I'm not allowed to throw bricks through the telly screen).

But I will share this link, just for balance: Thanks Russell for the video.
PS – And as ever, I ask that you please take care on our roads, be considerate of others and honest in all things.”

Monday, 22 January 2018

Would you believe it!


Whilst I am still in the mood to “swing the lamp” I thought I would share just one more story from days gone by.


This one is not mine but my colleague swears up and down that it is true.  It all happened in a distant police force where many of the officers still have British accents but the weather is much warmer.


“The Incident”


A frighteningly keen officer whom we shall call “Rich Tea” was on foot patrol one night.  It was a dark warm night and it was in that part of town where the street lights and made up roads give way to darkness and dirt tracks.  Rich Tea saw two men, dressed in flip flops and colourful shirts turn down a deserted, dead end side road. He decided to follow them.  (I interrupted the original story teller here to see if our hero had anything more than a radio and if it was in the days before stab vests were worn. He did and it was.) The two men stopped a short distance ahead and Rich Tea hid in the bushes to keep observations on the pair.  After a muffled conversation, the exchange of something and some fist bumping and back slapping they went and got into a nearby car.


As the car turned and started to head out of the side road our man stepped out of the shadows and with a crisp number one stop sign brought the car to a standstill.  Rich Tea walked round to the driver’s door, opened it, smelt alcohol and then told the driver to get out of the car because he was being arrested on suspicion of driving a car whilst incapable through alcohol.  I was surprised for the second time in the story to hear that the driver, and his friend did actually get out of the car.


Events followed the natural course of things.  The driver and his friend started to beat the living daylights out of Rich Tea.  Just before Rich Tea fell into unconsciousness he heard a conversation about whether to cut his eyes out to stop him identifying his attackers at a later date.


Apparently a passing taxi driver stopped to help; help Rich Tea that is, not the two attackers.  He persuaded the two that the sorry looking bundle on the floor had had enough and that they should leave.  They did.


Rich tea woke the next day still with his eyes in his sockets.


“The Investigation”


The two were known to the taxi driver and quickly located and arrested. There was no forensic evidence tying them to the scene. No knife was found but one of them had a decent stash of drugs in his car.  But with an eye witness and a damming collection of previous convictions they were remanded in custody by the police and at the bail hearing.  Simples.


“The Collapse”


A trial date was set.  Rich Tea’s bumps and lumps started to heal and he felt confident.


The taxi driver withdrew his statement.  Rich Tea’s bruises had started to fade and he felt less confident. 


On the day of the trial Rich Tea discovered the defendants had secured the services of a defence barrister known as “The Beast”.  Rich Tea was the picture of health and was nervous.


Rich Tea took to the stand and the prosecution guided him through a re-telling of his story, sparing none of the colourful details.  Then The Beast stood.


The exchange between The Beast and Rich Tea, I am told went like this.


“Officer, do you consider yourself a professional member of the police service?”


“Yes your honour”. (Slightly insulted expression.)


“Officer, I know it is your force’s policy that you carry your pocket notebook at all times when on duty.  Do you adhere to that policy?”


“Yes your honour.” (Straight answer to a straight question.)


“Officer, let me take you back to the events of that night.  You have given an extremely detailed account in your testimony haven’t you?”


“Yes your honour”. (Slight tenseness in the answer.)


“And you say in your statement that this was because you referred to your notes whilst writing that statement. Further, here you say made those notes of the incident at the “first available opportunity”.  As a professional officer who carries his notebook I am guessing you made those notes in your pocket notebook? Did you?”


(Pause and a “weighing up my options” look.)


“Officer, to have that much detail in a statement you must have taken notes. Did you record those notes in your pocket note book?”


“Yes your honour”. (An expression of intense concentration.)


Rich Tea can be seen to sink up to his chest in the evidence box in the manner of a bad mime artist doing the comedy elevator move.


“Have you still got that notebook?”


(Rich Tea can be seen by the whole court, chin level with the top of the witness box, to be reaching for something in his back pocket whilst keeping his eyes fixed directly ahead).


“Ummmm, no your honour.”


Rapidly following this answer Rich Tea pointed with his left hand at something in front of him, exclaiming “What’s that?”  At the same moment he threw a police issue pocket notebook behind him out of the witness box.


“Officer, why have you thrown your notebook away?”


“I haven’t.”


“Yes you have officer, the whole court room saw you.”


“No I haven’t”.


The Beast didn’t get to ask any more questions. Rich Tea, in a magnificently John Cleese turn of events swooned in the witness box and collapsed dramatically on the floor.  He could not be roused from his “feint” until well clear of the courtroom.


The case was dismissed.


I did not find out what happened to Rich Tea.



PS - please drive safely, be kind, respect property.

PPS - there was an armed robbery in Truro a few days ago.  Our thoughts and support go out to those affected.  Baddies have been caught.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Well that was Christmas.

They are petering out now; the "How was your Christmas?" and "Happy New Year and all that" greetings from colleagues and friends.   I am not sure how I feel about that.

Part of me is definitely disappointed to be leaving behind the jolly, self indulgent days with people I love.

Part of me is relieved to be leaving behind the jolly, self indulgent days with people I love.

And I have to admit that yet another part of me feels disappointed that I didn't spend a more challenging Christmas with my other family, trying to keep the peace and help people.

There were just over 2200 crimes and some truly awful traffic accidents in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in December.  I know of two officers recently assaulted and injured on duty.  There were probably more scuffs and scrapes that went unreported.  One of the officers described the incident to a friend as "...a little hairy.  He didn't want to accompany us to our en suite facilities...".  I admire the humour the officer showed; nice one.

So just in case you are like me and have mixed feelings about last Christmas, or are pretty sure you had a pants Christmas, here is a little collection of the "police humour" from colleagues in the dim and very distant past that has made me stifle inappropriate sniggers.

To "Danny", a former boxer and regular beggar who cut off his toes on one foot to maximize the sympathy donations to his methylated spirits fundraising campaign.  A colleague retrieved one size 10 left boot and one size 6 right boot from lost property going in the bin and popped them in Danny's collecting cap.

To the suicidal drunk on the wrong side of the safety barriers and threatening to jump off a bridge, an opening line of, "If you're there to paint the bridge, I hate to break it to you but you forgot your brush."

To the prisoner being driven to custody and threatening to burn down an officer's house with his family inside, the officer said, "Sorry mate, it's an igloo. That's where I live.".  The prisoner replied, "I know where that is, it's on the Piccadilly line."

My tutor constable to me after I pulled most of a long deceased person out of the Grand Union Canal, "You do know it's the probationer that has to do the mouth to mouth don't you."  He relented after the look of horror on my face.  The tinker.

My colleague who at a National Front march in East London that had started chanting "Kill the pig, kill the pig" who marched straight up the shaven headed, five foot tall, 16 stone cheer leader wearing 16 hole Doc Martin boots.  My colleague stepped in front of the cheer leader and faced the chanting crowd, spread his arms and said over his shoulder, "Ma'am, I'll try and protect you but it sounds like the crowd wants to kill you."

So, keep smiling and may we all keep a sense of humour through 2018.



PS - My New Year's Resolution is to encourage safe driving, kindness to each other and respect for property.

PPS - All of the above ended relatively well, all things considered.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Gets you right there.

This morning there was a thank you card over in the office where Patrol,  Neighbourhood,  Crime Management and Licensing officers hang out.  It was from a really strong person and it made my heart swell when I read it.    Four or five officers with different jobs and in different departments were mentioned by name with a short paragraph describing how they had helped at the scene,  at hospital,  giving support and simply being kind.  The closing paragraph said something very similar to,  "What you did had such an impact on my life.  I genuinely believe that without your help I would not be alive today".  That's it; all I wanted to say.



PS - I wish you a peaceful Christmas with no RTCs,  no aggro and where nothing gets pinched.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


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.



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.