Liz Bentley feeling the grief and extra happy to see the smile from the ever more important Tesco delivery man (or occasionally woman)

White, ginger Tesco Delivery Man standing in a front doorway giving thumbs up as a white blonde woman smiles next to a piano.

I really didn’t know what to write about today. I asked my friend, and before she could answer, I said “Grief’, loss”, that’s it. That really is the only sense I have right now, two deaths that are closer to me this week, one from cancer, one from CV, and the new knowledge of CV deaths at the college I work for. I feel very much in the front line of grief this week.

Another direct personal loss was my MS nurse who has supported me for the last 8 years. I received a phone call from another nurse who needed to ‘tick boxes’ on her new register. I asked where my usual MS nurse was? The new nurse mumbled something about her being ill and not coming back, but then retracted and said she didn’t know her at all. I said I was sad and that I wanted to say goodbye, to thank her for all the support she had given me.

Eight years ago, when I had to give up my beloved job in the NHS, my nurse was there for me, she listened, and supported me in taking the next steps in my life’s journey. I sent an email to the new nurse to pass on my letter of thanks but I doubt she will ever receive my thanks. Has she died? I don’t know and no one can or will tell me. That’s just how it is, my new nurse knows nothing about me, and was distracted by her barking dogs.  She told me that from here on things were changing, consultations would likely be by phone or through the screen.

It reminded me of when I had to leave my NHS job, taking with me years and years of knowledge about patients I had been looking after, IAPT weren’t interested in my findings, my stats, my concerns, and how I’d done a successful job.

We are numbers, only to be seen through a screen or through a mask.  As a psychotherapist, working for decades to get rid of my mask, my ‘false’ self (as Donald Winnicott would say) only to find the universe is requesting I put one back on. And to be a number, I must be jabbed, marked somehow.

Below the photo is a poem I wrote, inspired by the ‘The Wing Assignment’ arts project. As Rachel Pantechnicon poet would say, ‘life is partly nice, partly nasty’. I was admiring the poppies at Peckham Rye then stepped in dog shit.

Photograph of an urban park, with poppies and trees and a block of flats in the distance

Bingo Wings Flapping in the Sun (Everyone has Bingo Wings)

M wings are over 5.5 decades old

In over 5.5 weeks of lockdown

The slow metabolism of carrying weight

As the wait of uncertainty

Begins to create

The worldwide break

Down of life, as my wings knew it

My bingo wings flap

 

What goes up

Must come down

40,50,60,70, lengths of the Pioneer pool

Will not change time

I stretch my arms up and down

And down and up

The wings still hang, wise and weary

 

Writhing in the snake pit below

As the divide strengthens, to conquer

I look up at the sun

Soaking in the vitamin D

That will conquer CV

Eros, equated with the sun

Breathes the spirit of life

The erotic, the creative, and in the psychoanalytical world, it is sometimes said ‘you live your life in the same way you experience sexual intercourse’

 

My bingo wings, flapping in the sun

Over cum ing, Cummings

And his dread of death

 

The voices behind the WHO (not of the Roger Daltrey kind)

Have clipped my wings

The little boy in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ screams

“It is the soil, not the germ”

As we learn

My bingo wings WILL keep flapping in the sun

 

Thoughts on how I would pick myself up now while waiting for the Tesco Deliveryman

Tesco delivery man and Liz

I love Ken Loach, I really, really love him. I’ve seen ‘Sorry We Missed You’ and ‘I Daniel Blake’ and last week I saw him on a chat show talking with a council tenant about the squalid accommodation and homelessness in our country. A man on the ‘phone-in’ to Ken said “20 years ago I had social issues and became homeless, through council housing, help with benefits and working at £5 a week, I eventually got a job £21,000 a year, if I hadn’t had social housing and help I would not have been able to pick myself up.”

After moving to London, then escaping from my heroin addict boyfriend’s flat (where we sub-rented a flat on the 15th floor of one of those blocks in Gunnersbury, near to the Steam museum, the ones used in the comedy ‘People do Nothing’, they stand out when you’re driving out of London and onto the M4), I ended up sleeping on a friend’s living room floor. Going back to my home town in Essex wasn’t an option, I had just started in therapy and was beginning to make sense of my childhood in relation to the ‘wild’ Liz I’d turned out to be. I was at the time desperate to keep my new job as a clinic assistant at a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in the West End, they were funding my counselling training, however wild I was, I was good at listening.

I slept on the floor at my friend’s flat for 9 months, it was very kind of her to let me do this, I was jeopardising her tenancy agreement, but it wasn’t just the floor that was hard. I had MS symptoms and rheumatic pains, I was under the Lupus clinic at St Thomas’s and the Neurology and Rheumatology clinics at Guy’s. Everything was painful and uncomfortable, inside and out. It was my new, very wonderful psychotherapist who had taken me on as a low-cost patient, who helped me write a letter to Southwark housing. Three months later I was offered a one-bedroom flat in Bermondsey, a hard to let flat on a troubled estate, but it was home and from then on, I was able to transfer, and like Ken’s caller, my career took off and I was able to get a mortgage when my first child was born, with a deposit (courtesy of a friend who had died age 53 I’d met through the MS society). Having been able to receive this help at this time in my life, I was on the housing ladder, and truly grateful, I am very fortunate.

Now, now?  Now, sadly, my story would be very different.

Tower Blocks

I wanted to live in a tower block

A buzzer instead of a knock

As a child I envied Mary, Mungo and Midge (1960’s cartoons)

I wondered that if people lived in closer proximity

They may share more intimacy

In London I moved in with my Scots carpenter whose beauty deteriorated as his heroin addiction was built upon

Jokingly, he picked me up one day and dangled me out of the window of the 15thfloor tower block

This was not the intimacy I had been longing for

But my psychotherapist taught me there was more

Extended thoughts about the Joker, while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man

We all have a ‘Joker’ within us, I know mine and it isn’t nearly as severe as the ‘Joker’s’ in the film, but it is plenty enough to gain understanding in my work as a psychotherapist. In Primary Care where I worked for 12 years, one of my old patients came to mind while I was watching the film, I saw him around the time the Maudesly psychiatric 24 hour emergency clinic closed down because of the cuts, of course, I hated that time, I hate that word CUTS. (The more I hear about CUTS in our community the more in my work I see our young people’s scars from their cutting, that is another story).

Liz with Joker card and Tesco Delivery ManIn the film the Joker says to his social worker “You never listen to what I am saying. You always ask me the same questions.” I didn’t ask my patient the same questions, I just did what I do best, I listened to everything he said, intently. It was no surprise he’d had an extraordinarily abusive mother and his father’s presence came in the form of a creased black and white photo his mother had given him before she died. Sometimes my patient came into the surgery with bruises where he’d self-harmed and/or had been in a fight, he’d self-medicate with anything/everything he could get his hands on and he was usually in trouble with the police. Of course he was angry, very, very, angry, underneath his anxiety and depression was that human rage that has to be expressed somewhere somehow. (I know about this, I discovered during my own therapy that my rage can be found in the form of my MS symptoms.)

I began to care deeply for this young man as we built a relationship over some years, he, me and his GP worked together, beginning the process of psychologically ‘re-parenting’ him. He soon became dependant on me, he bought me flowers one session and arrived drunk the next, he would fall asleep or be angry with me for not sorting out his problems fast enough. During those years I set up a small group for men who were feeling suicidal, this patient was then valued for helping another and the group observed that how he treated me and how his mother had treated him was alive in the room at all times, but we all managed it, learning to make sense of it. There was a spark of love in those sessions as I provided a safe empathic container.

In the film, the Joker’s social worker ends their relationship by saying “They don’t care about people like you, or me.” I had to bite my tongue not to say those words to my patients, as the cuts came and my clinical supervision was cut and then my job was cut in favour of a more computer-based ‘thought’ changing – you guessed it, Cock and Ball Torture CBT.

My patient left the surgery soon after I left, he got kicked out. He was rude to reception staff on more than one occasion, apparently, but it wasn’t their fault, they weren’t trained to understand (just like the Joker on the bus when he is trying to communicate with the child and the mother just doesn’t get it). My patient had to leave the surgery, our staff had to be safe, but the measuring of ‘safe guarding’ is appallingly inaccurate (that is another story).

In my clinical supervision, after my final session with my client I said. “I am devastated. I believe there are only two ways this will end, he will kill himself or someone else. I was working on this and now I can’t, and now there is nowhere for him to go. There’ll be a photo of him up on the board with a BEWARE sign over him.”

As the Red Rebels of Extinction Rebellion rebel against climate change, they look the police in the eye and sometimes make them cry because they know, that they know, that I know, that we know. THEY don’t care.

As student services are cut in colleges and mental health services cut and cut (and don’t be fooled about all this money the government are saying that’s being pumped in, it’s not real therapy, it’s questions, the same questions, and computer-based everything) Joker’s are rife and will riot. Kindness prevails over all, the Red Rebels gestures have got it right. If everyone had been kind to the Joker there’d be no story, no Batman. Watch out world, we are living in the age of what I call ‘The Return of the Repressed’. Stay safe on Halloween.

Here is a song I have written for 31st October about Brexit, it’s called ‘INS’, which is short for Inverted Nipple Syndrome (a taboo common condition that can affect all human beings).

I N V E R T E D N I P P L E S
I N V E R T E D N I P P L E S
Will it stay in? Will it come out?
Will it be hard? Will it be soft?
If it stays in, if it stays out
It could be C A N C E R O U S

Why waiting is an issue for Liz Bentley while waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man, (or occasionally woman)

A ration book

It is normal to have presents on Christmas morning but my parents made us wait until 3pm. We had to eat dinner (which I began throwing up age 16), wash up, walk the dog and then we’d sit down in the cold front room and Dad would put the Christmas lights on the tree, each year one less bulb worked. Presents were passed around our small family, one at a time, with breaks to ponder over each gift. I should feel grateful that I got presents at all, but watching my friends playing in the street, showing off their new toys and bikes was excruciating.

My mother was quick to get rid of the boxes of our Easter eggs. She’d break them up into small pieces and store them in a glass jar high up somewhere in the kitchen. Each weekend she tore off a smaller piece and gave it to my sister and I to share. Our Easter eggs lasted until Whitsun. I should feel grateful that I got eggs at all, but watching my friends in the street scoffing their chocolate on Easter Sunday was excruciating.

How has this affected me? Here is one of the more positive examples:

My husband bought me some rather lovely spa shower gel and body lotion for Christmas. I placed the gift, still in its box, on my dressing table and admired it, lovingly. A few weeks later, when my husband was wondering whether I even liked his gift, I took the items out of the box and pondered on how and when to use them. I decided they would be treats for when I showered after swimming.

White woman standing with black tesco delivery man

By February the items were in my swim bag. Now the products are coming to their end and are back on my dressing table. I intend for them to be there until next Christmas (possibly to avoid feelings of loss) when I will hope to receive a new gift.

Delayed gratification
Of my parents wartime generation
Passed down to me
So I can see
Bars and bars of 85% Green and Blacks chocolate in my fridge
And eat just one square a night
I’m not tight
I buy bars and bars from Tesco when on offer
This chocolate is very expensive but I’ve included it as a treat in my MS recovery diet

(Do not try this at home unless all eating disorder-related symptoms have been analysed away)

#Brexit and an #InnerChild #GreatBritishBakeOff

My parents had been arguing constantly, I was an observer of daily passive aggression. One day while we were watching ‘The Great British Bake Off’ they asked me and my older twin brothers whether we thought they should separate. I said “no way” and imagined our family as the ingredients of a big cake, wondering how my parents (the eggs) would extract themselves from the mix, whilst still delivering something remotely palatable. My brothers however had been fighting and were distracted with twin competitiveness, they said “Yes, divorce, we’re sick of you.”
During the 2 year divorce proceedings my parents went to mediation and various solicitors. They began to realise the effect it would have on us – we wouldn’t get to see dad , we may have to move, and we would all be financially worse off.
During those two years we were stressed, anxious and my dad lost his job. I was diagnosed with ADHD, my brother got sick and my other brother started smoking skunk.
Then my parents began holding hands again and said :
“We’ve decided we don’t want to divorce after all,” they looked at each other and said “the grass was greener..” They laughed and kissed.
One of my brothers had gone to uni so was absent to react , the other said “ You’re disgusting, you made a promise, and now you’ve broken it” and I said
“You are irresponsible. You gave us a choice that you hadn’t thought about. Bad parenting you fuckers , I wish I could disown you.”

Tesco delivery man in the heat and preparing my blog for World #MultipleSclerosisDay

It’s World #MultipleSclerosis Day on Wednesday 30th May, coincidently, the next Boyfriend (No. 43)  of my book/blog  fromessextolondonin101boyfriends  is set in 1987 when I was diagnosed with MS, that’s nearly 31 years ago.  My diagnosis is referenced in my blog re boyfriend No. 43, so only befitting to publish it on Wednesday to celebrate, rather than today, when I would normally post the next boyfriend.  Sorry to keep you waiting ….

To catch up with boyfriends No.1 to No. 42 thus far scroll down on fromessextolondonin101boyfriends.com

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#Tesco delivery man, meal deal’s and customer services

One is penalised if one buys the meal deal online and not all of the items are available. A jobs worth at customer services will tick you off as you didn’t go through the whole caboodle with the delivery man and send back the other 3 items (i.e. the incomplete meal deal stuff). This is discriminatory as if one were able to go in a Tesco it would be clear the items were unavailable therefore one wouldn’t be in the situation in the first place unless for example they were inebriated whilst shopping.  In my experience sometimes one will encounter a non jobsworth customer services person  who will apologize and refund immediately.  How different one’s experience of incomplete meal deals can be. This is  a poem I wrote when I went shopping once.

The Meal Deal

Can I have the cloudy apple juice?
Is that in it?
Can I have the rhubarb smoothie?
Is that in it?
Oh well, I’ll have the orange juice

Can I have the root vegetable crisps with beetroot in?
Are they in it?
Can I have the sweet chilli crisps?
Are they in it?
Ah, nevermind, I’ll have the cheese and onion

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#MS, Vitamin D and Pets

I found this book  and shall read whilst away next week getting my Vit D …I’ve always believed Vit d was a key and would spend summers in the 1980’s/90’s on Pelekas nudist beach.  Arriving with symptoms, leaving with none.

I’ve joined a me too kind of facebook group for women with MS … tonight the group are posting photos of their pets, I only have access to my daughters gold fish that won’t die, the tank is murky but I hope the group like it.  I wonder if there is a status re women with MS and pets

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TK Maxx, Multiple Sclerosis and going off the rail

There is no link to Ebay, this bikini is no longer for sale.  Being disabled with MS limits my clothes shopping offline, bikini’s are tricky to buy online.  Last year I endured Primark twice in Peckham, one visit to TK Maxx in New Cross and one trip to find Helen Mirren in Bromley.

This year I have just been to TK Maxx and was fortunate to find one size 8 bikini on the rack which I took the opportunity to purchase.  Blue, stripes and flowers aren’t usually my cup of tea but I think it looks great on.

Vitamin D is not far away ……. img_0838