I am Martin Upfold and I am a father, husband, army veteran, student of photography and citizen journalist. Dealing with bipolar and depression, tackling it head on. What I do to cope with my situation is to do photography and occasionally blog about it.
This is one of the hardest blogs I have ever written.
As I write there are tears welling in my eyes. The reason as you read will become apparent.
My family, Sarah, Brendan and Kieran in happier times
For those who don’t know Kieran, our eldest son, has Aspergers Syndrome which is on the Autistic Spectrum [AS]. We; Sarah, Brendan (Kierans younger brother) and myself have coped with Kierans lack of a social filter, testing behaviour and all those difficulties associated with having a child with additional needs for many years.
Usually he is a happy go lucky, friendly and chatty 13 year old who listens to loud music and plays strange video games.
This is the Kieran we love, know and want back. Playing happily with his little brother Brendan.
Believe it or not we get praise from other parents, family and friends saying we make parenting for an AS child look easy. I wish that was true. Oh my life I so wish that it was true. If sleepless nights, arguments with Sarah, constant stress and ceaseless worry, dreading the phone calls from the school because Kieran has had a moment is “making it look easy” then Sarah and I are due a medal the size of a frying pan.
In all honesty I do not know anyone, any parent, who in their right mind thinks; You know what – I want to volunteer to be the parent of an autistic child.
I’m not knocking Kieran. No I am not. It’s not his fault at all. We love Kieran with all our hearts and then some. However it’s the hand fate has dealt Sarah and I. All we can do is smile warily and just get on with it. We have no choice.
Over the last few weeks life with Kieran has taken a dark, disturbing and distressing turn. About mid November our Kieran had to be taken to A&E as he was in severe mental distress. He was complaining of dark thoughts and was hurting himself. We had to see a mental health specialist, and soon as possible.
Luckily there was someone from the Mental Health Crisis Team in the hospital to see Kieran. Kieran seemed to calm down after speaking to them. Listening to Kieran talk about his dark thoughts and try to hurt himself was distressing and took its toll on us.
In fact such a toll that I went to work the following morning bright and early as always. I went to speak to my manager and simply burst in to tears right in front of them through a combination of fatigue and shock.
Now I do not do crying. It’s a personal thing, not machismo, I don’t hold it against anyone who gets emotional. Crying is a perfectly natural and healthy thing to do, like an emotional pressure valve. It just not for me.
My manager had little choice but to send me home with instructions to get some sleep.
The day did not get any better. A while later we got a call from the school. There was one of the Teaching Assistants [TA] on the phone. The sound of distress in their voice said everything which they could not say. Kieran was saying things that disturbed and upset them and he had tried to self harm at school.
He had to come home….
In the proceeding days we had meetings with mental health practitioners, social workers and teachers. All trying to solve and fix a problem like Kieran. Unfortunately this is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no easy fixes here. No simple solutions. No magic to be worked.
It’s going to take all of us- social workers, doctors, teachers, teaching assistants, family and us to help Kieran.
It’s a difficult thing as a parent to experience. We had a meeting with a Clinical Psychologist [CP]. Just Kieran, Sarah and myself.
The hardest thing to I have done is to just sit there, do nothing, say nothing and just hear your beloved and cherished child vent their darkest thoughts, frustrations and talk about suicide, self harm and pain. But you have to say nothing; just sit and listen. Letting them release the bile that has been building up inside him. It’s a helpless and numbing feeling. Knowing there is little to nothing in your power you can do. To know all the soothing words, loving hugs and gentle kisses in the world will not ease your child’s mental distress.
Personally, I have had my share of mental health issues with having Bipolar, anxiety and depression. Sarah says I should have more comprehension, empathy and understanding than many others. But this is the sad fact- just because I have a front row seat to how mental health issues play out doesn’t necessarily mean my understanding is any deeper or greater. In fact I think it’s much harder.
It’s only natural that you want to wrap your arms around your child, be they typical or additional needs, and hold them tight to protect them against all the horrors, terrors and darkness that this world has both outside and within.
Then at the weekend things came to a head whilst I was at a works party;
Sarah had to return to A&E with Kieran.
Kieran, our poor Kieran
This is our Kieran. At his most distressed. Suffice to say I dropped everything and went to the hospital. This photo pretty much says more than all the words I can possibly muster.
There is one person we haven’t mentioned in all this melee – Brendan.
Brendan seems to be unaffected by all this chaos and anxiety just accepting it as “normal”. However I think this is an illusion. Friday night Brendan was basically bundled off to his grandparents whilst we focused on getting Kieran the help he needed. In all this stuff that goes on with Kieran it’s easy to forget that Brendans there too. I just hope to the universe that he doesn’t grow up to resent me, Sarah or his brother.
Well, today the clinical psychologist visited Sarah whilst I was at work. The CP has the working hypothesis that Kieran possibly has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [OCD]. I went to see my Team Leader and basically broke down emotionally in tears. I was in such a state that they sent me home again. I wasn’t even in a fit state to ride my bicycle.
I’m supposed to be a tough former soldier so I am unaccustomed to being an emotional wreck. But Kierans our boy, my son.
I think I will leave things at that. I would love feedback from any and everyone. Thank you from me, Sarah, Brendan and Kieran.
I have chased the rainbow and at the end of it I have done the seemingly impossible for someone who has bipolar and depression – I’ve found and secured a permanent and stable job with a decent wage.
It’s working in a call centre helping people. However due to the nature of the job I am reticent to say exactly what it is.
To be honest it has left me mentally tired but that’s because I’ve only just started the job. The first three weeks was intensive and comprehensive training on the in’s and out’s of the job and the forth week going live in the training area with the coaching staff. Now I’m dealing with real live and breathing people.
It’s fairly unpredictable as you never know what is going know what the next call will bring. The people I help are often in dire straits with the situation they find themselves in. My job is simple- People ring in with a problem and I help them by solving it. Some of the problems that people have must be dealt with carefully with empathy and compassion.
There is a satisfaction to be had at that.
Being in permanent and stable work is taking a bit of adjustment for me and my family. The wages are decent. I won’t be a rich man but at least it’s paying the rent and keeping food on the table. Besides the wage it has given me something just as important; pride, self-respect and hope for the future.
However I am mindful of my mental health and I am in a good place at the moment- I am in that bland, boring and beige place. That is where I like to be; stable.
For anyone who’s thinking: I’ll never get a job. Guess what, there are employers out there and they are willing to give you a chance. It is just finding them. It seems that attitudes towards those with or have had mental illness are changing and for the better.
Mental health is no longer the bar it was.
Well I’m going to finish now. Any questions feel free to ask.
Things are moving forward at a pace in life. After much trying I finally secured a more permanent and secure job working in Hull city centre. Unfortunately I cannot say too much at the moment as things are still being finalised but watch this space.
The old adage about it being easier to find other work whilst being in work seems to hold true.
And having the issues that I do have in respect to my bipolar, anxiety and depression does not seem to have put my prospective employers off. So the stigma about mental health is steadily being lifted. Unfortunately there is still a long way to go as those who have read my blog on discrimination can testify to (click here for link).
Was interviewed on the Friday and offered the job on the Monday has amazed me. I have applied for so many jobs in the last few months I’ve actually lost count.
Having a job is great. Being in the world of work is great. Work is great therapy. Work has given me my self-respect, my pride and the simple fact that I am not relying on benefits to get by. That I am paying my way. Work distracts me from wallowing in misery and self-pity which is probably what I would be doing otherwise.
However I think it has been a difficult adjustment all around. By virtue of having a job I am not as available to my wife Sarah and our boys as much as I would like to be. In the morning I am often up and out to work before Sarah is awake. Things like seeing the boys off to school has gone by the by. Sacrifices like missing sports days and school events, especially since both our boys go to different schools, for the first time was a bitter pill.
It also means I do not have time to do things like my photography which is a something I also find difficult to contend with. As anyone who knows me, knows I always have a camera to hand. It’s how I express myself and a form of therapy within its self.
Well this was only a short blog. Message me with any questions or suggestions as to what issues I can speak on are welcome.
It’s been at least 3 months or so since I last blogged. My last blog was about how I was discriminated by a potential employer. That situation has still left a bitter taste in my mouth.
However despite this I have accomplished the seemingly impossible-
I got a job.
It’s tedious, repetitive and laborious but it has meant I have come off benefits and I have something I have not had in the six years since I was last in a job- my personal pride and self respect through an earned wage.
But here is the rub. I have not told my employer about my situation with my mental health. Usually I am very honest about my bipolar and how it affects myself, my family and our situation. I sincerely hope that my lack of clarity does not come to bite me in the arse.
Thing to remember is simply this and it is something that I have taken a long time to realise-
I am NOT defined by my mental health issues; how I live with and deal with my bipolar is what defines me. My opening gambit is not “Hi, I’m Martin and I have bipolar.”
Today, right now, if you stuck me in a room full of people who are not affected by mental health issues and asked someone who had just walked in to choose the person with a mental health issue would they pick me? I doubt it. Honestly, I do doubt it.
It’s not as if I’m the living cliche of someone with mental health issues rocking back and forth, dribbling away, mumbling nonsense in a straight jacket now.
The job is only a temporary thing but it’s a start.
Actively I am for a permanent job. I apply for jobs and time to time I get a response. Usually it’s a rejection but you get that unfortunately, It is their loss really showing a lack of imagination at the possibilities I could bring.
But as in everything you got to remain positive and move forward. Keep going.
Any and all comments are welcome.
I wish you all good mental health. Remember – KEEP GOING!
It’s been a time of big decisions for me. One decision I’ve made is that I am going to attempt to return to the world of work, whether I am ready is a matter of discussion. I feel ready but until I actually return to work I do not know.
My work experience with the Hull Daily Mail shows that I am capable of getting up and going to a place of work.
To be honest the prospect of work excites me and scares me in equal measure. The fact I haven’t worked for close to 5 years may not work in my favour. Mental health issues not withstanding, it’s a long time not to be in a paid job. It’s not as if I’ve been idle – I have been active. Active as in my photography, education courses and volunteering.
Being in the benefits is a trap. One that is difficult to escape.
The pros are I would get my dignity back and to be honest there is no greater therapy for people like me with bipolar, depression and anxiety then that of activity of work.
The cons are I would lose the benefits I have come to rely on. One of the benefits I would lose would be no more free medicine. But in the same breath, and this is contradictory, I want to pay. I want to pay into the system that has helped (and hindered) me and my family.
To this end I have applied for jobs online. 4 jobs so far, not a lot but small and vital steps. One at a supermarket, one working on the trains, one in security and one in a call centre. One rejected almost straight away (the security job), I am still to hear about the from the supermarket and train jobs but the call centre job I heard from almost immediately (I will come to that later.)
Whilst I am job hunting I have decided to apply for the return of my Category “D” driving license or Bus / Coach driving license to the rest of the world.
I decided to telephone the DVLA and ask what the chances of getting my bus license was. Their answer was simple – I could apply for it (doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get it though).
All I have to do is fill in the correct forms, have a medical examination and a eye test. The medical will cost approximately £80 and the eye test £15. On the scale of the world £95 is not a lot of money, but it is if you haven’t got £95 to spare however I am getting help with these costs. I do not expect it to be a smooth or easy process. I have to prove with evidence from the doctors that I am psychologically stable. I am confident and optimistic that I will get my license back. I have to be.
Well back to the call centre job. I am not naming the company for reasons of etiquette and legality (I don’t want this blog to come back to haunt me). I will say they are a company local to Hull.
I saw the advert for the job on a job search website late on Sunday night, read the criteria for the job and what was expected of me. I read it and thought to myself – I could do that but I have doubts. Noted the telephone number and rang them Monday morning. They were as keen as mustard to speak to me and interview me. This felt a little rushed to me, I said I’d forward my CV (resume) to the email address supplied.
With in hours they rang up and asked me if I’d like to do an interview over the phone. Which I did. I did point out that I had bipolar, which didn’t seem to phase them. I was asked if I could come in for a group interview on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Knowing I would need time to physically (ironed shirt, polished shoes and clean myself up) and psychologically (anxiety can be debilitating) I elected for Thursday.
In the meantime Sarah and I discussed the pros and cons of working there. Sarah was concerned that it was a busy, pressurised, target driven sales environment that I might not be mentally resilient enough to cope.
That the basic wage of £17,000 would not be enough to sustain us financially and keep the roof over our heads. The fact we have the bare minimum of savings to rely on until those wages should I take the job finally be paid.
I pointed out that it was just an interview, nothing more. If nothing I would get valuable experience and practice of being in an interview.
Thursday came and I arrived an hour early in town. I get anxious about being late to the point of it almost being a phobia. It’s a hang over from being in the military. Always 5-10 minutes early for a parade, always!
I got to reception twenty minutes early and joined six others there to be interviewed. There was so many of us in the reception that they had to move us to the canteen to wait. The interviewers finally arrived and took us to a training room as opposed to the interview room that they usually use as it was being used for a meeting. Çe la vie.
In the group we had to introduce ourselves and give some background on ourselves. Then we were given a laminated piece of card with a random item pictured on it. I had a black and gold watch. We had to give a sales pitch for the item. So proving one can think on their feet.
Then I was taken on my real test- the call centre floor. It was busy, crowded and noisy. A true test of me and how I deal with my anxieties and the methods I have put in place to deal with them. I was put with a young lady to listen in on the sales calls. Lets just say – I coped.
After which I was asked if I could do a one to one interview with one of the managers. I was asked how my mental health issues would affect me working in the call centre. I was open and honest with them. I said I had things in place in my mind to help me cope with the demands placed on me.
They seemed happy with that answer, usually I get a glass eyed look.
They said they would be in contact the next day. With that experience behind me I left with a positive step in my stride. I had not cracked or crumbled in the face of a difficult and testing environment.
The next day I got the call- I did not get the job.
They didn’t think I was suited for sales but I would be more suited to customer services for which they had no placements. My name would be kept on file.
Am I disappointed? I am a little as I had put effort in to the task at hand but from every negative you must draw a positive.
The positives are I went to an interview early, clean shaven, smiling and I presented myself at my most confident and able light.
Now this proves to me and hopefully to you the reader that having mental health issues is not something that can hold you back if you apply yourself.
Well if you think this has been any help drop me a line or two. Follow my journey on twitter at @lash1978. Thanks for reading if you got this far. Have good mental health.
There are many things I am unaccustomed to. A few of those things is an overwhelming sense and feeling of anger, frustration and injustice.
I have been discriminated against on mental health grounds.
It does not matter if you are of a different race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, creed, gender or as in my case having mental health issues. Discrimination is a horrible and bitter thing to happen to ones self.
For many, many months I have worked hard to prove to the Driving & Vehicle Licensing Agency [DVLA] that I am fit and well enough to have my Bus and Coach license returned to me. Continually proving I am stable, steady and well enough to earn my driving licenses. Spending, actually investing is a better term, money I do not have and having to find the patience to wait and wait and wait for things to happen. Well after 2 medicals (the first was botched by the doctor but thats another story) and jumping through proverbial fiery hoops I have finally been re-issued what is called my vocational licenses thus proving to myself and the wider world that I am indeed fit, well and ready to return to work in the transport industry.
When I received the news from the DVLA I was so happy I very nearly cried. It was out of frustration and relief. The thought that entered my mind was I can finally earn my keep in the world, I can put back in to the system instead of relying on the system to exist.
With this I put an application in to who I shall call my Preferred Employer or simply the Company and the reason why I’ve called them that is
(1) for legal reasons I CANNOT name the company and give them ammunition against me for libel or prejudice any legal proceedings that may occur.
(2) It’s exceedingly poor taste no matter how much it would feel good to name and shame the business in question.
I put in to my preferred employer immediately on the advice of a friend. For 6 or 7 weeks I called every week to see how my application was progressing. Then finally last week I got the news I was hoping for, they invited me in to their offices for an assessment. I sat the various tests set out before me- tests of english, maths, logic and driver theory. Standard stuff.
Then this week I received an email. Sorry, but you can not proceed, good luck in your endeavours.
This is not a problem, when looking for work expect knock backs – I’m not the brightest person, I’d be the first to admit that. So I let my support worker at the Veterans Job Club know and then they suggested I call my preferred employer and ask for feedback.
Which I did. However there was nobody available to talk to me. Strange I thought, so I contacted someone I could name in the company. A while later I received a call from a manager and he told me the reason why I did not get the job. The reason left me dumbfounded and my jaw on the floor.
The reason had been because I had been ill with mental health issues – namely Bipolar Disorder – from 6 years previously.
I pointed out that the company was discriminating against me. Their reply was just –
No, we’re not.
I was apoplectic with rage. Absolutely fuming with incandescent anger. How dare this company use my medical history of mental health issues from the distant past to discriminate against me. What are they expecting? a two-headed fire breathing monster? the incredible hulk? or a hostage situation? No on all counts. I really had to bite my tongue.
So I sort counsel of friends who knew about this type of discrimination. And I was advised me to contact Acas, the employment conciliator. Who in turn advised me of what I could do and the process I could take against this company.
First step is to write a letter of grievance. I got help and guidance from the Citizens Advice Bureau to draft it. Next step, if I’m not happy or satisfied with their reply then Acas can appoint a conciliator. The final step is a Tribunal. I don’t want it to go that far if I can help it.
The lady who helped draft it said something very interesting- I not just doing this for me. I was fighting for all the people who couldn’t fight.
I even contacted the Disability Legal Service who after briefing them of what had occurred and they said it was a case “direct discrimination” but they couldn’t represent me if it went to tribunal due to budgetary restrictions.
When the Grievance letter was ready I dispatched them and I made sure it went to certain places or certain personalities with in the company-
The Company Director
The Company Chair
There was a strange satisfaction at sending those letters, I don’t know exactly why but it felt good to be taking action. It must be the army veteran in me wanting to take action. Now all I can do is wait 14 calendar days for their response to the letter.
Unfortunately I don’t think me or the company in question will come out in this senecio with any glory. Any victory I attain will be a hollow one. I’ll still be unemployed and I’ll still have been discriminated against for my mental health.
It’s a bitter thing to discriminated against over something you have little or no control over like mental health issues.
As always I set myself a day or some time to my photography. As always I have difficulty deciding where to go. Thought of going out of Hull. However a friend on social media suggested I go inside the Lord Line Building at St. Andrews Quay.
Sat there and thought about it. The iconic Lord Line building (below, pictured in the summer), I’ve been passed it many times but I’ve never actually been inside the massive building. Nowadays in the plateau and clarity that I experience with my stable bipolar I am somewhat averse to risk. Sometimes though it is good to come out of your comfortable safe zone.
Has been derelict for decades. Sadly it is one of the first major buildings you enter Hull off the A63 dual carriageway. It is a mecca for urban explorers, photographers, graffiti artists and bored teenagers.
The years of entropy of the building has left its mark. The vast halls of the Lord Line Building show years of neglect, decay and vandalism.
Inside the floor is littered with glass from shattered windows, broken furniture and the walls are covered in graffiti from the sublime to the random thoughts of an adolescent mind scribbled on the walls with spray paint.
The interior of the building is dirty, dark and dangerous. You have to be careful as there hazards such as large black holes in the floor that plummet several feet. Urban exploration of derelict buildings is not for the unwary or careless.
There was strangeness to behold too. The sight of barbed wire wrapped around an empty window frame seemed eerily beautiful in the cool light of a winters morning.
There were holes in the wall enticing you to look in to what lay beyond them asking you to explore.
Some parts of the complex looked frozen in time like this lift mechanism rusted still holding the lift that hasn’t moved in decades. Wonder if the lift is still there?
The view from the roof top was spectacular with views of the docks
A view of the empty plot on St. Andrews Quay
And a view of the also derelict building on the Bulls Nose and entrance to the quays old harbour.
In conclusion- It was a challenging little excursion. I’ve never been, or dared to go in a derelict building. It took me out of my comfort zone to be sure. But the risk was worth it to get the photographs I did. I will probably return in the future to get images again. There is a micro world to explore.
Well, the end of year is here and it has been a year to leave behind. 2016- a year you want to forget.
That said it hasn’t been all bad. I’m settled in myself and I feel that it is time to return to the work place. However the question is what do I do. It’s not as if I am inactive.
I volunteer for the Hull Veterans to give me a sense of belonging.
I volunteer for Fare share to give me a sense of purpose.
I am active with my wife and children to feel loved
I do my adult acting class to help exorcise my demons.
and I do my photography as it is my passion.
My social life though not great is improving.
I do all these things so I can keep the black dog at bay and on its lease in the kennel.
The question is what job or career do I do? With the job hunting it feels at times like I have a blindfold on, throwing darts with corks on the tips at a dart board that it constantly moving.
In the last six months I’ve one job interview. ONE. The jobs page in the local paper can give ones self a sense of hopelessness. Either not qualified enough, not experienced enough, too few hours or not paid enough to sustain us financially.
It’s so easy to get disheartened with everything.
People have suggested I look at going self employed as a photographer, which I’d love to do but it’s a terrifying prospect as I have no financially safety net.
Relatives want me to exercise caution when it comes to finding a job. It’s not a case of any just old job. It’s finding the right job that will maintain my interest, give me incentive to come in and not send my mental health in to a tailspin again.
I do not want my mental health problems to become an issue or hold me back when seeking work. My bipolar and depression are a part of me- nothing can change that. Thing is prospective employers need to see my potential as an employee and not just as a risk. I want them to see me as an asset.
At the moment I’m still waiting on things to happen. I’m either waiting for prospective employers to call my phone or for a letter in the post or that email in my inbox.
At the moment I’m waiting for the DVLA to either say yes or no to me having my Bus License back. Unfortunately it’s not the DVLA that’s dragging it heels but my GPs surgery. Their bureaucracy moves with all the urgency of a glacier during an ice age. Leaving me twisting in the wind, waiting. All I want is a definitive answer as to where I stand. No or Yes. (I’m hoping for the latter)
Well I’m going to finish. Follow my good self on twitter at @lash1978 or drop me a message.
It’s been a while since I’ve typed anything. So here goes.
This week I decided to get out of the house as I’ve been kicking my heels with boredom. staring at the four walls is never good or healthy for someone with mental health issues. The thing about Hull, the city I call home is it is pretty much a central location. There are cities like Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield to the west and the Yorkshire coast to the east. With most places being over an hours journey time be it by train, bus or car which ever is best or convenient.
Usually I set one day a week aside for me to do a bit of photography. Be it a bit of urban exploration or to do landscape.
The thing you’ve got to remember is that planning and preparation is so very important. You have to decide is…
1) What you are going to do? Is it landscape, street, urban, documentary etc.
2) Where you are going to it? Is it Leeds city centre or the Yorkshire coast like Spurn Point
3) What equipment will you need? It’s not just which camera be it a professional spec compact for street photography or a big full frame D-SLR (Digital- Single Lens Reflector) for landscapes. It could be what clothing to wear. It’s not much point going to Spurn Point where the wind gets very cold, it rains a lot and you’re not carrying a wind/water proof jacket. Plan for everything.
4) How are you going to get there? Car, bus, train or walk? If you’re going to drive where will you park that isn’t going to cost a fortune or how much fuel will you use? Small things that add up.
5) Travel Time- Getting there to make the most of the time you have there. If you’re doing a sunrise on the coast it’d be a good idea to know when sunrise actually is and how long it’ll take to get to your chosen location.
6) The weather- Which weather will add to the image. If you want a bright sunrise it’s not much point going if it pouring with rain. So check the weather forecast.
Over the last month I have travelled to places like Leeds, Hornsea and Spurn Point with each of these points in mind.
Sunrise over the North sea at Spurn Point-
Me, standing on the beach at Spurn Point waiting of the sunrise
For this I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning (yes, there is a 4 o’clock in the morning) to get out of the house for 4.45am to travel the hour or so. When I go there it was 5.45am-6.00am and still dark.
When I got to Spurn point I then trekked for over a mile through the darkness to a point I could set up my camera on a tripod to take images of the sunrise. All told I took nearly 50 photographs to get that one image. Which is the one below.
Sunrise at Spurn Point over the North Sea
It was cold, windy but satisfying to get that one image which says everything.
Morning at Hornsea
On another day I decided to take images at the seaside town of Hornsea on the East Yorkshire coast.
With these images I wanted to show the emptiness and quietness of Hornsea when the town is out of season and free from tourists. During the summer season the beach, chip shops and seafront cafes are full of tourists and day-trippers from all over the county escaping the town and city.
The closed chip shop
There is a strange disquiet at seeing chip shops and seafront cafes that only a matter of weeks previous were all hustle and bustle filled with patrons are now closed and quiet almost as if their in a hibernated state waiting for the seasons to change and summer to return and then and only then do they wake up for summers business
The closed seafront cafe at Hornsea
The beach was also empty bar a few hardy dog walkers. During the summer time the beaches are usually full of day trippers making the best of the fickle Yorkshire summer.
Where the sea meets the sky at Hornsea
The beach at Hornsea
Leeds City Centre
Just to do something different I decided to get out of my comfort zone and travel to the city of Leeds to do some street photography / urban photography. To this I set off at 8am to travel the hour or so to a park and ride to travel into Leeds itself
Being bipolar I usually shy away from situations that make me uncomfortable but from a creative point of view that is not always good. So I go to places that are new, different and uncomfortable.
Busy street in Leeds
Street photography always takes me out of my comfort zone due to the fact I’m not entirely comfortable or confident with singling out interesting individuals and capturing images due to the chance that people can be confrontational. Lets face it you can’t get into an argument with a landscape.
Busker in Leeds
However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t interesting things to behold as you can see by the next few images.
After the reasonable success of my last blog about Kieran I want to talk about my relationship with Kieran and how we basically live together.
Kieran and mines relationship is far from ideal.
It is a relationship full of love, anger, compassion, frustration, hope and strain.
Having my own issues regards my mental health is bad enough but adding Kieran’s autism makes things worse. Kieran does not understand why I can lose my temper and get angry so easily and quickly. This coming from a man who was described in the Army as “notoriously patient”
My issues are complex and so are Kieran’s. He is not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a smart, funny and intelligent boy when he applies himself. He makes insightful observations of life and people. Unfortunately he doesn’t think it but says it out loud.
There have been so many incidents where he has said something about someone and I’ve wanted to vanish in to thin air because of it. One incident was when we were walking to school past a transgender person when Kieran pointed and shouted “Look! A man-woman”
You have to make allowances for Kieran and children like him. My family and friends do it all the time. Unfortunately other people who don’t know Kieran and autism, understand Kieran and autism or have the most basic elements of compassion towards children like Kieran and autism. You know the type- the type that sees Kieran flapping his arms, hear him talking a little too loudly or have the misfortune to witness him having an autistic meltdown, give you that look and “tut”. The type who freely offer unsolicited, unwanted and unwelcome child rearing advice with out a clue as to what is actually happening. The ones you smile at, grit your teeth and you think-
“you can fuck off.”
Kieran’s many traits deeply frustrate me and it’s that feeling of frustration and helplessness that angers me. Kieran will do something daft and I snap at him. Sometimes it will be at something where he has put himself or someone else at risk. Most of the time it because I’ve had to repeat myself endlessly to do something like put his shoes and coat on as we have to go somewhere. Other times it’s because he damaged or destroyed something then it’s frustrated anger. Sarah is constantly reminding me to breath and calm down. Easier said then done.
I am ashamed to say I get very cross with Kieran at times and he genuinely gets scared. In fact he runs and hides. It’s not his fault. I don’t know if it’s the toxic combination of my bipolar and medication grating with his autism. However I put it to a much simpler explanation-
I’m a man, a flawed human.
A friend asked how I cope with this frustration- it’s again really simple, I remove myself from the situation and catch my breathe.
The one person, no wait two people I haven’t mentioned in all this is my wife Sarah and our youngest son Brendan. Both are witnesses to mine and Kieran’s fire and ice situation. Sarah has to mediate between Kieran and I. As for Brendan, he asks questions of me and accepts Kieran’s behaviour as situation normal.
Don’t get me wrong I love Kieran with all my heart, soul and being but I am so frustrated by him too.
Well I’ve said enough. Please feel free to ask questions of me and Sarah by messaging us.
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