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I'm STILL raring to get started

This discussion was created from comments split from: Hi, I'm Gill, I'm a full-time PSHE Specialist.

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  • ulrichburkeulrichburke Posts: 18Member Connected
    ll keep this short or I go into great wails of 'poor me!' which don't do anyone any Dear Gill.

    I'm disabled. Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephalus, Dyspraxia. No wheelchair. Thing is, the disabilities have left my face looking like a garden gnome and thereby's always hung my problems. People see this gnome coming towards them and either back away in droves (I've had looks of sheer fear from foreign students and they melt away from me like snow in the Sahara!) or think 'Aha! Easy target!' or 'He looks weird, he must BE weird....'

    Over the last 30 years I've been beaten up more times than I care to count, had all my teeth kicked out, been so badly treated in 2 disabled person's colleges I was scared to go into mealtimes, had all my flats burgled so often the police eventually got me moved into a Home for the Mentally Ill on the grounds I obviously couldn't care for myself, which I think is a bit much as the burglaries were happening when I was out shopping, usually, I'd go out, Eyes would be Watching, I'd come back to an empty flat. So I lived in an empty flat, sleeping in a sleepin g bag on the ground, because what the heck was the point of replacing anything when it would only get stolen again. Even in the Sheltered Home I got burgled 3 times, twice by people sent to me by other residents to get their laptops fixed (whilst I was fixing laptops, they were searching drawers and I wasn't noticing because they were clever at doing it)

    I kept applying for jobs (Computing and related, I've got 16 Computing quals) and being turned down, usually because the employers would see this gnome coming towards them and go onto the next guy. I've even had people say 'What the heck could you do for us?' 'Quite a lot if you give me a chance!' But the chance never came. 20 years went by, during which time I had all my teeth kicked out, was given permanent leg burns (permanent ulcers, peeling skin-grafts that didn't take properly, always hurts) was given several knife scars, had more flats burgled (I got out of the Home after awhile) and couldn't even get any voluntary work. There's a glass ceiling. Have a look around and see if you actually see any disabled people working for the charities which are supposed to support them. Chances are you MIGHT see ONE, just so people can say 'Oh, we use disabled people. There he is. Isn't he sweet?' On the whole, those who Help are able-bodied. Those Being Helped are disabled. The thought of a disabled helper tends, to most minds, be an oxymoron.

    So that took me into my 40s. In all those years I've never had friends, never been out with an unsupervised group of people, always been too scared to go out at night incase I get mugged on the way home (it's happened lots of times). BUT - I'm FINALLY out of Hastings. For 5 months I've been living in Brighton and I'm just beginning - nervously - to peer back over the parapet again.

    The thing is, I've not had ANY of the life-skills most take for granted. Do I know how to fit in with a group and make friends? Nope - I've always been too scared of groups to do it. Do I know how to go out and integrate? Nope - I've always been too able-bodied for disabled people, too disabled for able-bodied people, a Quisling in both camps. Do I even know how to have conversations with people on general subjects of interest? Nope, because it's not been something I've ever had a chance to do very often. If I've been in a day centre, I've been huddled in a corner hoping nobody would start picking on me. If I've been in a street, I've been looking out for one of a large bunch of idiots who'd mug me without compunction (other people in the street NEVER help, they just pretend it's not happening, believe.) The only time I've been in others' houses is with Mom or my sister Caroline.

    I'll be honest, Now I'm somewhere where I don't feel I have to be so scared all the time (I hope!) I want to make friends. I want to go out with people (not 'relationship' go out - gave up on having one of those many years ago and yes, I'm straight! Just 'dahn the pub wiv a mate' kind of out) I want to know how to fit in with groups, get people past the disability - think of the movie 'The Elephant Man', I feel I'm in the same position as that guy. EVERYTHING that happened to him in the movie I've had happen to me in real life, including being chased through stations, people being shociked when I actually sounded intelligent to them, everything. But I haven't been unemployed for 20 years through not WANTING work, it's just been GETTING any. Mom and I religiously filled out mountains of applications, first of all I just wasn't getting the starter jobs,. then I wasn't getting other jobs because I didn't have the experience (of course not, nobody was GIVING ME ANY!) then it was because I didn't know the Very Latest Upgrade of Fred's Spreadsheet (Spreadsheets DON'T CHANGE for Gawd's sake, they just become bloatware, the core functions are immortal) then when I got the extra benefits after my teeth got kicked out and legs got burned, I couldn't find a job that paid more than benefits (40hrs x 6 = £240, less £90 for rent = £140, = about £5.00 more than benefits. Less travel expenses, you're worse off!) As I'd get all my disab. benefits taken off me as well, I'd be more worse off. Anyway.

    Do you know anywhere in the Brighton area I could go where I could learn how to be with groups, how to have general conversations without sitting there looking like a dummy with nobody to shove their hand up his back and do the talking for him, how to get people past the 'Awww, the poor 'ickle spazmo' Sympathetic Look and take me seriously (for once?) I'm 49, I'm STILL raring to get started - but I'm beginning to run outta years a bit.

    I don't want to get old before I've ever known what it's like to live a little. I don't want my only memories to be those of fear and constantly looking over my shoulder, and not having the courage to go anywhere because of always being scared I'd be mugged/beaten up. I couldn't even make myself go to any of the Brighton Festival events because I'd've been on my own and I was too scared of putting my foot in it with others at the events to go to them.

    But I'd love to feel more confident in going out/being able to participate/not being turned down all the time. Can you help, or do you know someone who can? Don't feel you have to 'words of one syllable' me because I'm a spazz, my disability bothers others far more than it does me I assure you. It's just they're in the majority, it's like saying the rest of the army's outta step.

    And I've turned this thing into the epic I didn't want it to be! If you're still awake - thanks. IF you've got any ideas - I'll take them and use them, I promise you. I've never not tried out an idea in my life and I've got the scars to prove it.

    Yours hopefully

    Chris.
  • PSHEexpertPSHEexpert Posts: 168Volunteer community adviser Pioneering
    Hi Chris

    Firstly let me apologise for being so slow with my reply – I have been offline for a few days as I’ve been moving office and so missed the launch of the new site and getting set up (and thus the notification that I’d had a post). So, first things first – really sorry for that.

    Reading your post – I am hearing you loud and clear. Looking different shouldn’t make a difference, should it…and I’m just so disappointed and frustrated to hear about the dreadful experiences you have had. Nobody should go through that.
    Something that does come through loud and clear though in your writing – incidentally I was not sorry it was a long post! – is your incredible resilience. I can only say how much I respect your desire to get on and live your life without letting any of your past experiences stop you.

    That said: Brighton. I am currently based in the Midlands, near Birmingham, and Brighton isn’t my stamping ground. However, I will make enquiries with my contacts and see what we can see. I also wonder if you’ve encountered Outsiders? Emma – would you mind putting Chris and I in touch privately so we can continue this discussion please?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    - Gill 
  • ulrichburkeulrichburke Posts: 18Member Connected
    Dear Gill.

    Thank you so much for replying, it means a lot to me. And you're a Northern lass - they're the best kind. I went to Portland Training college - that's one of the ones I was scared of the other disabled people all the time in - and I got the bulk of my qualifications there - I didn't fail any of the exams they put me into. And I got so I could type faster than the typing teacher - still can - I'm 90wpm. Always thought of that as my USP, thought if all else failed my typing speed would carry me through data input jobs etc., but that didn't happen, never got one! Which surprised me as, TBH, the girls I saw typing when I went for the interviews - and I know this'll sound egotistical but I can prove it - weren't as fast as me. They kept their jobs, I didn't get any. Never mind!

    Even though the disableds in the college weren't giving me a fair chance, the Northern people were the best I've ever encountered. Warm, friendly, I lived near Mansfield then and used to go to the Mason's Arms. Nobody liked talking about that pub because it won all the pub games prizes with monotonous regularity. I made the pool team and had some great times, including being cheered on to sink the black in a deciding frame in a big local tournament. I honestly can't remember how I had the courage to lift the cue up, let alone sink the ball! But they took a picture of me holding the Cup after I sank it, with them all standing behind me, and I kept that for ages. Dunno what happened to it.

    Then I came back to Hastings and everything started up again. Thing is, at schools, it was just the same as at College. The Northern people were a brief time of release from it all, but far too brief. I'll always say you can't beat a Northern lass - they take no nonsense, they galvanise their menfolk into action and, despite what the males might say, we're secretly grateful!

    I've got a feeling you're gonna galvanise me, too, and I'm more than willing to try anything you give me to do. Just don't want Brighton to end up the same as Hastings!

    Yours respectfully

    Chris.
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