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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Nobody Gets to See the Wizard... (Poem -Original Version).




Nobody gets to see the wizard,
Even if they believe in magic
Like it'll disappear tomorrow.


Nobody gets to see the wizard
Coloured robes or magical eyes,
There won't be a dash of hocus pocus
To make everything all right.


Nobody gets to see the wizard,
Or grow wings and dream of flight,
There is no perfect stream of answers,
Or instant flashes of light.


Nobody gets to see the wizard
Coloured stars to distant places
Because a wizard, though you won't believe it,
Lives within the mirror.






(Image from 'Pinterest' via thesweetesthing.com )


#helenswriting

A 'Meet the Author' Piece -(For 'The Story Reading Ape)'

(This is a piece I wrote for Chris Graham, as part of the Promotion for 'Taking Steps' in 2016). Link at Bottom!




'I have always loved words! As a child, I would flick through the dictionary, and try to learn the meanings of whichever word my little fingers found first.

It may seem like a strange hobby for a little girl, but I had realised very young that I was different from other children.

I was born with Cerebral Palsy, which means I cannot walk or stand unaided. Whilst I did go outside and play in the garden with my sister, (and later cycle around the neighbourhood on my beloved (specially adapted) red trike, there were lots of things I could never be part of so I felt left out, and often lonely.

At age eight I made a small decision to try and raise awareness of disability – to help people understand what it can feel like, to try and turn negative into positive, and to ensure we were treated as equally as we should be.

Of course, being so young there was no way I could understand how much that ‘little decision’ would become even bigger. It was just something I felt I could and should do –and that has stayed with me ever since.

I gave assemblies and talks about my disability, throughout my school years – after my parents moved me from ‘special’ to ‘mainstream’ school. I made friends, but was always aware I was different (in some ways, at least) and there were times when I struggled to accept myself. I still do.

I sought refuge in that love of words. Within them I found a freedom that would become increasingly important as I grew older and began to suffer other ailments -including a lifelong battle with clinical depression, which began after multiple surgeries, and a nearly four month stay in a hospital (over a hundred miles from home), when I was fourteen.




During that time, I had to learn to walk from scratch – undergoing daily, painful physio in a bid to keep me out of full time wheelchair use, for as long as possible.

It was during that long hospital stay, that the idea for (what was eventually to become) ‘Taking Steps’ came to me. I wanted to keep raising awareness of disability in a creative way, but I never wanted it to be JUST about that – and it isn’t!

The idea was to show that there was to be positive and strong, but real at the same time. At this point, I had already been writing poetry for a couple of years, so it became a big part of the book.

As I grew up, the book grew with me – but the idea remained the same. The final version contains a bit of everything from poems, short stories, and some ‘commentary’ type pieces. As such, I guess it is difficult to categorise! One reviewer called it a ‘gutsy miscellany’, and a friend called it ‘Helen, -with a bright pink cover’!

It is. It is everything I am.

I hope it is informative, entertaining, and funny in places. Writing the short stories was the thing I enjoyed most. I think if I had to choose my favourite pieces they would be a short story (written for children) called ‘Christmas is off’. I had great fun writing the dialogue!

Another favourite, (on a much more serious note) is the initial poem of the book. It’s called ‘Please’, and it is very special to me. It was written when I had only been out of hospital for about seven weeks. When I came home I was terribly depressed and overwhelmed by everything. Readjusting to school, keeping up, pain, continued daily physio, loss of friendships

There were times when I was suicidal then, but I’m proud, because even at my worst, I managed to end that piece positively. Later that year, it won a local ‘World Aids Day’ poetry competition.

The book covers many serious issues. Aside from disability (and associated ‘activism’), there are pieces about mental illness, and my continuing struggle to accept childlessness. You’ll find some feminism in there too – but there are also some very light hearted ‘everyday’ observations. Some are in poetry form, some are not.

There have been many drafts of the book over the years, and many attempts to get it ‘out there’. It has become even more important to me since 2010.


People with disabilities and illness are in a far worse situation than we were before then, and. I’m watching the cause I love and believe in, go backwards!

I’m angry…Government have destroyed lives, and not just via cruel and unnecessary social security sanctions which have indirectly (and directly) been responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of disabled and ill people, but through loss of independence and self- esteem.

My own mental health has suffered further as a result of us being labelled ‘scroungers’. We are not ‘scroungers’! We are not just numbers on a page! I think that fact is getting lost, amongst the rhetoric, various lies, and negative media coverage. I hope the book counter-acts a lot of that.

It’s been a long hard slog, (of over twenty years) interrupted by my (continuing) battle against ill health, but it is here now. It’s real and something I can hold in my hand, and say ‘I did that’.

My life isn’t easy. I am in constant pain, suffer chronic insomnia…the list goes on, but I’ve been so lucky in so many ways – and apart from raising awareness of some important issues, I’d like the writing to stand for itself.

Taking Steps has been a ‘labour of love’, and although it probably sounds corny, I hope you love it as much as I do.






Link to original post below:


https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2016/08/27/meet-guest-author-helen-sims/

Thursday, 15 June 2017

IF 'Austerity is Over'... (A Very Mini Blog)

Not that I believe a word Theresa May says,(and it has since been disagreed with by other ministers) but I will say this:


IF 'Austerity is over', we will have our apology now, please!


An apology for every life that has been lost or destroyed.


An apology for every moment of fear and anxiety we have suffered.


An apology for every lie and doctored figure, (uttered and written) to justify cruelty!


An apology for every instance of hate crime and verbal abuse caused by 'scrounger' rhetoric!


It still would NEVER be enough.



Did they cut the 'deficit'? No. They added to it.


Did they achieve any of the goals they told us were 'necessary' ?

No.


It seems it was all for nothing and didn't NEED to happen, but didn't we know that anyway?!










#helenswriting


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Fairytale Enemies... (Poem).

"I won't eat you, I promise" Said the wolf
With a smile of sharp white teeth.
She eyed him doubtfully,
For there were signs of drool beneath!

"I won't eat you, I promise",
he said again,
"Let's put the past behind us, and be friends"!

Miss Riding Hood thought,
'This might be good',
But Grandmother told her,
She never should.

"I'll never eat you, I promise,
Your bones will be too crunchy for me.
These days I prefer something juicy,for my tea".

"I don't believe you,
For you tell lies.
I know that ominous twinkle in your eye".

"Oh well..." Said the wolf,
"I will eat these chocolate bars.
I might have shared them,
If we'd gotten that far".

"Chocolate?
Chocolate, you say.
What type is it?
Tell me, pray"!

"It has cream and caramel,
With chocolate chips.
It would taste good, wouldn't it,
On your lips"?

Thinking for a second,
She stayed where she stood,
Just as Grandma had said she should.

'But a chocolate bar' she thought,
'I could just have one!
If things get out of hand,
I can always run'.

"OK, I agree,"
replied the Hood,
"After all, you did promise,
That you wouldn't eat me".

Holding out a hand,
Hood stepped nearer,
And the wily wolf,
Could see much clearer.

He gave her a bar,
While extending his claws,
Poor Hood forget everything,
She'd been taught before.

She turned her back,
And took another bite,
Suddenly sunlight turned to night.

Poor gullible Hood,
Gave a terrified cry,
And in her last moments,
She asked him why?

"Because wolves are wolves,
And my instinct is true.
I guess I would always eat you."

Fairytale enemies,
Can never be friends,
And Hood was never seen again.


(Image by ~Artylay on deviantART)






#helenswriting

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Suicide is Painful...

I was asked if I have talked to anyone who has been suicidal, as a result of Tory policies, or 'Scrounger' rhetoric?


I would never give details, but yes. Countless times.


Have I ever been so worried about a person, that I've called their local police to do a check?


Yes, and there have been times when I have been bloody glad I did it!


I am not saying this to 'big myself up'. Regular readers will know that I rarely discuss what I do, here.

I am saying this because in all my years of 'activism' and raising awareness, suicidal people were, (thankfully) a rarity.


Since 2010, when Tories returned to power and pushed through the destructive, draconian, life destroying, soul destroying Welfare Reform Bill, it isn't rare.


The early hours of the morning are the worst time.


People reach the end of their tether when it is dark, when they don't know if they will keep their homes, feed their families, or they're so panicked about facing an assessment (and the possibility of losing vital financial support), that they would rather DIE than face it!


Some people might think it is an overreaction, but it isn't.


It's desperation and feeling like there isn't anywhere to turn.


It is years of government (and media) lies and 'scrounger' rhetoric, about Social Security claimants.


There is only so long you can be told you're essentially not worth helping, before it starts to get to you, and you believe it.


Personally, I think it is a conscious and deliberate act.


They know these policies are costing lives, (in more ways than one), and if it was unintentional, these policies would have been stopped at the first suicide.


They haven't been, and it was known that this was likely to happen, even without an 'Impact Assessment', which SHOULD have been done.


Those in power seem to me, to assume that 'broken people, don't fight back'and so they have made life as difficult as they can for people with disabilities and illness, as well as those who are homeless, or on low incomes.


They're wrong though because we DO fight back. Every step of the way!

We can, because there are more of us, than there are of them!


Nobody chooses to be ill or have a disability. I certainly didn't choose my Cerebral Palsy!



Disability or illness, sudden loss of income or an unforeseen change in circumstances, can happen to ANYONE, at any time.


We don't have a choice about the circumstances we find ourselves in, and nobody knows what could be just around the corner for them.

I hope people make the right choice, rather than continuing to ignore suffering.













(Image via 'Pinterest)'


#Helenswriting


(Please Note: I have respected people's confidentiality by not revealing details and identities, and will be continuing to do so).

Monday, 1 May 2017

We're Fighting For Our Lives! (A Mini Blog).



Three weeks before the General Election, I'll 'celebrate' my twenty eighth anniversary as a campaigner, (albeit in different ways, through my lifetime).


In 2017 none of this still should be necessary, and we definitely should not be fighting for basics, the rights we have lost, and the right to be seen as human beings, rather than 'Scroungers'!


We should not be dying in thousands as a result of government policy, -but it IS happening!


We should not be being vilified and lied about in the press, (in an attempt to justify cruel and unfair cuts to vital support), but we ARE!


We are fighting for our independence, dignity, self-respect, and the right to do the things many take for granted.


Disability and illness are not a choice and no one is immune from the possibility that it could happen to them, so we are fighting for YOUR rights TOO!


Although I know that I don't have the right to tell anyone how to vote, I will tell you that this is reality, now.


When I started campaigning (or raising awareness, as I prefer to call it), I was fighting to make things better. Better access, better inclusion, and positivity.


Now, we fight for our LIVES!






(Image: Google).

#Helenswriting

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Living In Fear -(A Repost).


In light of the Snap Election, I felt it was necessary to repost one of my blogs from 2014.

I feel it illustrates the damage that is STILL being done to the Mental Health, (and the lives) of people with a disability and illness, as a result of government policy.

Thank you for taking the time to read it.







'Sometimes I wish I wasn’t me. It’s hard to fight when you’re tired of fighting.
Living with a disability is exhausting, frustrating, crushing, painful – and endless. There are so many obstacles in my life that I would never have asked for, and sometimes I feel so angry, hurt and frustrated that I don’t know what to do with myself.

Cerebral Palsy is not a choice. I would give anything to be able to stand and walk unaided, get in and out of the bath without help, stand long enough to cook a meal for my husband and myself. Hell, I’d settle for being able to carry a cup of tea across the room!

All I have ever wanted is a ‘normal’ life – to have a job, and be a Mum. None of those options are open to me – and it’s not my fault.

I wish society and this government understood what it is like every single day. The energy (and willpower) it takes to do even the smallest thing. There are some days when I really don’t have that energy, either physically or mentally, and it’s all I can do to get out of bed.

I know I’m luckier than a lot of people – ‘there is always someone worse off than you’ is something I have always be taught. I live by it, I believe it, and I’ve always done my best to care for and help others,despite what I may be going through privately.

I've been a Disability Rights campaigner, at different levels, (and when able), since I was eight years old. (nearly twenty six years), and I'm watching the cause I love, and passionately believe in, being set backwards.

That’s part of why I’m writing this now – it’s why I’ve written many things. If I can make one person understand what it feels like to live with a disability in a society which still doesn’t accept, respect, and properly care for people like me, then I’ve done my job.

Before the coalition came to power in May 2010, I was coming to terms with things. I was more secure, happy, and confident in myself than I’ve ever been in my life.
I still felt bad about the fact I couldn’t manage a job, (I did work once before my mobility, pain and energy levels got worse). I did voluntary work too.

There was a place in society for me. It’s never been an equal place, but we were getting there slowly. At least disabled people were wanted in society. We weren’t viewed with suspicion, or labelled as ‘scroungers’, leaches accused of bleeding the country dry, or targeted for seemingly contributing (largely) to the country’s deficit.

I want those days back so badly. I did not realise how lucky I was – how lucky we all were. We were people then. We are not now, not in the eyes of the government.
We are living in fear of losing our vital benefits and our independence. Independence (what I am able to have of it), is a precious thing to me. I have fought to hold on to it against all the odds.

When I was 14 years old, I had major orthopaedic surgery in a hospital nearly two hundred miles from my home in Somerset. My bones were broken and reset, muscles were cut, and I had to learn to walk from scratch. My family couldn’t stay with me – they had to go to work, and my sister to school.
There were days of agonising physio, crippling loneliness, and the start of my lifelong battle with clinical depression. Now, all these years later, I realise that I had to go through it to keep myself out of a wheelchair, protect my freedom and independence for as long as I can.

I’m terrified that the government will take that from me if my Disability Living Allowance is withdrawn. I dread not qualifying for Personal Independence Payment – even though I fight the daily pain of Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome on top of everything else!

It won’t count under the‘tick box’ computer programme that they use to decide our lives. I fear the Work Compatibility Assessment so much that I have nightmares about it. Waking up sweating and panicking with knots in my stomach is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, so I can’t get the rest I badly need.

I’m not alone. Thousands of disabled and ill people across the country are living with the fear everyday. I jump at the sound of the letter box, just in case it’s my turn.

I don’t trust what they say about dates, regulations and criteria for benefits anymore, because it’s been changed so often, and those changes have been allowed to slip under the radar – and so have the deaths of sick and disabled people who have wrongfully been found ‘fit for work.

A growing number of sick and disabled people are dying prematurely after being found ‘fit for work’. Either their conditions have deteriorated or they have chosen to end their own lives; simply unable to face either the assessment itself or a life of poverty and hardship without benefits.

Yes, you can appeal the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision, but, due to a backlog at the DWP, as well as changes to legal aid (and who can qualify for it), it will take ages, and for many, life will become even more impossible – and even if it isn’t, it will feel it.

I’m lucky to have my husband and his pension to rely on so my situation is nowhere near as dire as it will be for some who have been let down by inhumane system. Even so, I am actually considering signing of Disability Living Allowance, because I simply cannot live with the fear any longer.

I will have to close my bank account and be completely reliant on my husband financially – just like I’m reliant on him for so many other things already. I’ll hate that, because I already feel like a burden, even though he assures me I’m not.

My precious independence will be gone – but at least I’ll be able to sleep again, and I will not have to fear being judged and told I am not worth supporting.

The ‘scrounger rhetoric’ and negative media coverage has attacked what self esteem I have been able to get for myself. I used to feel proud. I was a wife, daughter, sister, writer and disability rights campaigner. My benefits were secure and I all I had to worry about was finding the energy to get through the day.

Now, my old demon of not being able to work is back, and compounded, because the ‘aspiring’ ‘achieving’ nation (and its government) hates benefit claimants – no matter how justified we are. They do not seem to care about the affect their policies are having upon vulnerable people in society. It doesn’t seem to matter as long as people like us aren’t taking ‘honest, hardworking taxpayers money’. We work hard just to get through the day!

Fighting for myself and others is now more important than ever before. We are fighting for our lives, against Bedroom Tax, the Housing Benefit cap, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, cuts in social care and so many other vital services.

Why is it that the cuts have to come down hardest on those that need the most help? How can you call this a fair society when we are struggling, largely unseen and uncared for when the rich bankers (the very people who caused this mess) get bonuses and tax breaks!

Disabled and vulnerable people should not be used as scapegoats. It makes me sick to my stomach that we are being punished simply for being too ill or disabled to work, no matter how much we might want to! Blame the people who are really at fault – the tax avoiders, the bankers and our governments for letting this happen.

I will spend everyday, for the rest of my life, fighting against this if I have to – but I shouldn’t have to. None of us should!

The Bedroom Tax will fall disproportionately upon sick and disabled people. Whilst there have been exemptions made for families with disabled children, those that need overnight carers, people with adult children serving in the forces who still need a room at home, and a few other things, disabled adults are still not exempt.

I am one of the lucky ones, because this particular punishment for being on benefits (that’s essentially what many of these policies are) will not impact on me. I am so thankful for that, because I do not think I could stand having to leave my home. I can only imagine what thousands of others like me are going through. They know they have to pay up or move out of a home they may have lived in, loved, and felt safe in for years.
Where do they go? There is a national shortage of social housing as a whole – not just the one and bedroom accommodation that many people will need to downsize. Homelessness is bound to rise as people cannot afford to stay (a claimant loses 14% of Housing Benefit for the first spare bedroom, and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms) but have nowhere to go.

Each council will offer a ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ to try and help those they consider to be the most in need. Personally I would like to know who will make that decision and how? It is important to realise that the pot of money allocated to help those hit by Bedroom Tax, is nowhere near the amount needed. People who need help will suffer even more than they already are. I also feel that these Discretionary Housing Payments have been severely under-publicised.

I’ll say it once again. It is not fair to make the weakest and most vulnerable in society pay for the mistakes and greed of the rich.

Stripping disabled people of our rights, independence and self respect is the coldest and most callous of things any government can do and I have to pinch myself sometimes to even believe that it’s happening in a so called compassionate, caring society.

I just wish it would stop. What this government has done to us is psychological torture. We are told we are worthless, scrounging, and lazy, day in and day out. On top of that the fear of the Work Compatibility Assessment is hanging over us like the sword of Damocles!

It is not fair for anyone to live like this, and I keep thinking ‘please, somebody stop them, before anybody else feels like they cannot carry on’ – but nobody does. I just want a chance to live as normal a life as I can. I’m not asking for much, just to keep what independence I have and to get my self respect back. Haven’t I been through enough already? Haven't all of us?! If I was face to face with you right now, I would ask you only one question – How would you feel if this was happening to you'?







#helenswriting