Save Clare Dyer – What the Hell?

A month or so ago, Kevin Healey, a campaigner on autism issues who is very active on Twitter, mentioned that a young 20 year old woman with severe autism and challenging behaviour has ended up being separated from her family in Swansea, Wales, and placed in a mental institution in Brighton. Yes, you read that right, in Brighton. Why?

Because the professionals decided that was the best course of action.

Clare Dyer was detained under Section 3 of The Mental Health Act 1983 (c. 2007), on 9th September of last year. Since then, she’d been able to carry on taking part in community and family life in Swansea, her home, and where she felt comfortable and safe, all whilst receiving the care that she needed for her severe autism, which would sometimes cause outbursts when sensory overload took place. The troubles started when her hospital was changed to Northampton, she struggled to cope with the huge change to her routine. Add an incident when she managed to escape from her safety harness on a bus, this caused the professionals to detain her, and not let her out. She hasn’t been out on proper walks since October 2013.

Section 3’s grounds for detaining a patient is on the basis of the severity of the patient’s mental disorder. However, one of the exemptions to the act involves learning difficulties, someone with a learning disability can only be detained under the act if the disability causes ‘abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct, including mental health disorder compulsions alongside the learning disability’. Clare was probably detained under the act on these grounds, due to her challenging behaviour caused by her struggle to survive in the outside world, with a debilitating disability.

To try and combat the professional’s decision to send Clare away, her family took the case to high court. On August 1st of this year, however, the judge overruled their concerns, and Clare was whisked away to Brighton Mental Health Hospital that same day, without giving her family the opportunity to say goodbye. This action was against both Clare and her family, although Clare is severely autistic, she could still use her voice to say ‘no, I want to stay home’.

In Brighton (a five hour drive away from Swansea), Clare is only permitted two hours a week of outsider contact. This is a nightmare for her family, who have to make the drive down just to see their daughter and sister. Forbidden from using her iPad to facetime her deaf sister, as she is only allowed to make phone calls, she cannot communicate with members of her family in a way that is suitable for all parties. Skype is meant to be set up, but as far as the family and campaigners are aware, this hasn’t happened as of yet. She is bored and lonely, in a place that she never wanted to be in, after being promised in February 2013 that she’d be placed in a care home close to home, so she can have regular access with her family.

This is unacceptable. There are notes from the Clare Dyer website, set up by Kevin, that talk about the fact that she was getting better with her family at home, all this move has done is made everything go backwards. More harm than good. Her family even asked for her to be removed from the act, but the professionals refused. Yes, it’s tricky to live with severe autism, and the challenges it brings. But shouldn’t someone be with their family, no matter the circumstances? People made that mistake with me, and I’m not going to sit by and allow this to happen to someone else.

 https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/abertawe-bro-morgannwg-health-board-keep-claire-who-has-autism-and-challenging-behaviour-in-wales-where-she-wants-to-be-close-to-us-her-family

Please sign the petition, and get the professionals to finally listen to Clare and her family and bring her home!

http://www.saveclairedyer.net/#!Our-Story-so-far/c218b/4A466E40-112A-44CC-93AB-80E70A7C26D2

Here’s a link to the website that Kevin has set up. Hoping that things go better from here on in.

Carpri Diem!

It’s been quite some time since I wrote that last post, and I’m so sorry about not keeping this blog as updated as I ought to. A lot has happened in a little while, and I just haven’t given myself the time to write!

Anyway, summer has well and truly kicked off! All of my friends have moved off campus now, and I’ve been given the keys to my new studio flat! I’m sat in it at the moment, writing this. I started moving some bits and pieces over yesterday evening, and slept here for the first time last night. I have my own kitchen, bathroom, dining room, my bed is in the corner of the kitchen, along with my wardrobe, and my desk is in a lovely little conservatory section, which I love when it’s sunnier (the rain has kicked off today, sadly).

Update on the guy, we’re actually now together, as a proper couple! I even met his father the other week, and I’ve been given the thumbs up, apparently! Next week we’ll have been together for two months, scary how the time flies! I’ve never met someone so supportive and understanding about me and my issues, and I often have him behind me every step of the way when I embark on new projects, go off to places and generally follow my dreams. It’s lovely, I feel beautiful when I’m with him, and it’s wonderful.

All my coursework is finally complete! All I have to do now is print the last bits off, which I’ll do today, and hand them into the registrar’s office, then I can sit back, and wait for my grades, which I’ll get in September before the new academic year starts. Yikes! As long as I pass, then it’ll be ok, I’ll be aiming higher next year!

Speaking of university, my job as Careleaver Liberation Rep starts properly as of now! Clearing is happening, and young people across the country are finding out if they got into their university of choice. Careleavers are doing this too, and I remember opening my results letter telling me I got into my university, and wondering ‘how is this going to work out?’. So I’ll be on Twitter today, with the hashtag #careleaverlibrep to answer any questions about leaving care and starting up at university as a careleaver. Exciting time to be had by all!

So, on top of everything else, I’ve helped out with the development of an app for careleavers to assist with pathway plans, education/work/training and identity. It’ll be promoted during Careleaver Week, in October half term, so I’ll be promoting it to my students, as well as you guys. Just because you grew up in care, it doesn’t mean that you’re society’s offcast. You still have so much to offer! I promise!

I’ve also started work on a WWI novel for young people, so am hoping to have the first draft completed by the end of the year. In the meantime, I should really start moving some more stuff over…

Foster Care and Me – My Story

I’ve briefly mentioned my care background in past posts, but I never actually sat down and told my story. It’s got some Trigger Warnings, of emotional abuse, child abuse and childhood trauma. It also is a story of determination, grit and hope. It’s about time I told my story, so here goes…

When I was four years old, my mother couldn’t cope with my autism anymore. She was young, had just gone through a divorce, her parents passed away, and she had two daughters, one perfectly normal, healthy happy one, and one that wasn’t talking, and would throw constant temper tantrums and stick to her like superglue. She met a new man (who is now my stepfather), and he nearly left because of my outbursts. My mother was in despair, and decided that the best place for me to be was to be put into care, and adopted out.

Which was what happened.

I flitted from placement to placement for a year, after they realised that I simply wasn’t adoptable, due to the fact that I wasn’t a pretty child, and my autism outbursts grew more and more violent as my life became more unstable. So my care plan was changed, I would be in long term foster care until either my mother could take me back, or I turned eighteen.

After they managed to find me a placement, one that was able to handle my behaviour, things at first looked up. My early childhood in foster care felt alright, as far as I was aware, I’d always been in that family, calling the carers ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, and assuming the other children around me were my biological siblings. My older sister would occasionally come to stay over, and I saw her as this exotic, almost super-human being that I looked up to with awe. We’d also write letters, and I treasured each and every one. Until one day, when I was seven, the foster ‘mother’ sat me down, and dropped the bombshell on me.

“You have an actual mummy on the Isle of Wight, who lives with your sister. She put you into foster care because she couldn’t cope with you, because you’re autistic, which means that you’re not like the other children, and won’t have the same opportunities as them.”

My world came crashing right down, around my ears. I had no idea I was ‘disabled’ or ‘different’ to the other children until this point. And it scared me.

Time went by, and I turned thirteen.

This was when things started to get worse for me.

I was forbidden from taking part in family outings, because I ‘always ruined everything’. I’d be blamed for ruining the other children’s birthdays, because the children actively would pick on me until I lost my temper, and I’d get into trouble as a result. I became a servant in my ‘home’, having a massive list of chores I had to do, long before I was allowed to eat, or head off to school.

Then there was the searches. I’d have to carry up breakfast in bed to the foster ‘mother’ every morning, before I’d have my school bag emptied, and me being patted all over, her hand going up my top to make sure nothing was tucked in my bra, before her telling me what was expected of me for the day, before I was allowed to race down the road to catch the bus for school.

I’d often catch the bus just in time, and I’d get told off by the driver for being late. If only he knew…

So I took to comfort eating, because I’d be given just a sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch, so I’d be hungry, both physically and emotionally. I’d forgotten what it felt like to have a kind word said to me by an adult, or a cuddle/affection of any kind. Quite often, I’d shoplift sweets and chocolate on the way to school to satisfy my cravings. And when I was caught, which was often, I’d be severely punished and humiliated.

I wasn’t allowed any privacy, anything I wrote had to be read by the foster ‘mother’ first, my diaries, my stories, my poetry, letters to my sister. So I was terrified to pick up my pen to write, unless I on purposely left it in my drawer at school. Often diary entries would be read in front of the other children, with bits being read out loud, bits they knew would embarrass me. I was terrified of having secrets, and bottled everything up.

I was even accused of having sex with a guy I’d walk home from the school bus with when I was fourteen, as we were close friends, and would often hug before I got in the house. It was at a GP appointment, when the doctor asked ‘is she sexually active?’ to the foster mother, who always had to be present. She replied ‘I don’t know, there’s this boy she walks home with, and I do believe she’s slept with him, but she refuses to say anything about it…’ my cheeks burned, I was fourteen years old.

But that year saved me. I missed the school bus one day, because the foster ‘mother’ wouldn’t let me leave until she’d finished her sermon for the day, so instead of allowing my foster ‘father’ take me in the van, (I always thought he was a bit of a creep), I decided to walk all the way to school, a good three or four miles, by myself in the pouring rain. The school panicked, and called my social worker, who called the carers, demanding they go searching for me. They refused, saying it was my own fault, my problem. Also, I could accuse the foster father of molesting me if he went out in search for me alone (genuine words, according to my social worker). In the end, a taxi driver who picked up a girl across the busstop that I’d get on to go to school saw me, took pity and picked me up, and took me in for free. The school reported that I’d been found safe, but needed a dry change of clothes (I was soaked), and the carers refused.

A week later, I was removed from their care. I was placed in emergency respite with the foster mother who would become my permanent  placement until I left foster care. It was wonderful! She bought me new clothes to replace the shabby, threadbare things I used to wear, took me to get my hair cut in a nice style, fed me up, taught me it was ok to argue back sometimes, and instilled in me a love of life again. With her, I had a brief childhood, went on holidays and days out, became a member of a family. I owe her everything, and am still in regular contact with her now. She helped save me from my relationship with my ex, and was very active in helping me get to university. Even now I still call her for advice and guidance, and pop over for a cup of tea and a natter when I need to.

I left care aged 18. I never really wanted to leave, but I knew I had no choice. No one not in care leaves home to stake out alone aged 18, more like 24/5 these days. Luckily they are changing the age to 21 now, but that still isn’t as great.

But what do I know, eh?

 

It’s all OK!

I’m slowly recovering from all the crap that life has been throwing at me.

I say this, because I’m sat in a Starbucks in Bath, tucking into a bagel and planning my study plan for the next month or so (on Tuesday I have exactly a month to get all my assignments in so I don’t fail first year… Such Fun).

Eating has proven to be very difficult for me, as during the time I was dealing with the aftermath of breaking up with my ex, and trying to get my academic life back on track, I started to get really anti-eating. I still hate the idea that I have to put food into my mouth, chew and swallow, but I’m slowly reconciling to the idea that I do have to eat in order to survive. At my worst, I was steadily losing weight, and weighed in at 9 stone (I’m 5’10”, to give you an idea), when I’d started university at 11 stone. After a while, I had to go to the doctor, who told me I had depression, as well as ‘an eating disorder not otherwise specified’ because I don’t purge, have any body dismorphia, but exhibit starving and binging (I try to have 5 starve days to every 3 food days), and gave me medication for it, which I’ve now been taking for a couple of months. I also start CBT next month, so I’ll see how it goes.

I was on my online dating account a little while ago, when a pink icon flashed on my screen. Turns out a guy I’d quite enjoyed talking to the fortnight before, before he didn’t reply for a while, finally got back to me. He asked me on a date! Now, I’d just gotten back from another date that wasn’t so grand, (I’ll write a post about my dating endeavours later), so I was a bit cautious, but then thought ‘capri diem, I guess..’, so agreed. We met for pancakes, he brought flowers, I brought a quaking shy girl with rainbow hair (wait, that’s me!). The pancakes were amazing, the conversation was smooth, and he was alright about my eating issues, and all my disabilities! Huzzah! We’ve been seeing each other every week since, and he stayed over for a night on Friday, before coming with me to Bristol Pride yesterday, and he said he was happy that I’m openly queer! Another Huzzah! He texts me daily to make sure I’m up and about, eating and drinking, and not smoking too much (yes, I picked up smoking, a terrible habit, but I find the ADD subsides when I do). I think I’ve fallen on my feet with this kooky, geeky filmmaker!

On top of this, my friends have been amazing, especially B and L. They are two of the bestest friends I could ever ask for, they come over to make sure I eat something, and encourage my crazy ideas and pursuits (I run a mixology blog with B now, liquorishgirls.wordpress.uk if you wanna check it out!). They were there when my ex sent abusive Facebook messages to me, and helped me deal with that, they assisted with collecting my belongings, and held me whilst I cried.    Obviously my other friends have been pretty darn wonderful to, even if it’s to listen to me whinge, or grumble, share a cigarette and a cocktail with me, and generally make my life so much more enriched and joyful for it.

The university have been lovely as well, I still see my mentor and study tutor from DSA, and will continue to do so until my assignments are complete for the year. I also see my support worker from Student Support as well, and she’s been a rock to me in recent times. Yes, I get chided for drinking and smoking, and attempting my English Literature essay whilst under the influence, but I still adore them all the same.

My foster mother was also pretty awesome when everything blew up, texting me to make sure I was OK, and also assisting me with my ex. She will always be a person I’ll love like I would a mother, and the one I’ll go to if I need an opinion on something, or if I just need a tea and a natter when I’m in Hampshire. Her character radar will always wow me, so quite often I run potential partners by her to see what she recons, and I’ll always respect her opinion and often follow the amazing advice she gives. It’s thanks to her that I’m the determined, stubborn woman I am today, and I hope I’ll make her proud one day.

Without all these people, I don’t know how I would of survived or coped with the past few months. I’m thankful for all of them, and will love them all forever. When you become mentally ill, for whatever reason, you do find out who actually care about you. And that’s freaking awesome!

This coming week is going to be crazy! Today I need to start an assignment, begin getting ideas for a screenplay that could become a film that I work on with my guy (we’ve decided to team up with some filmmakers in Bath that he is good friends with to make a film!), do more in the way of laundry, travel to Leister and back for a job with the Care Leaver’s Association (more about that in a post next week, so stay tuned), go to Bristol for the ADHD Clinic (I’ll update you all on how that goes!) and generally be a good writer/mixologist/student.

Until then!

 

Summer Blues

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I started this post sat in the beautiful grounds of Bath Spa, overlooking the lake, whilst sipping my blackberry liquor and soda water, listening to a cute guy and his friend writing a song to an acoustic guitar. Now I’m typing on a bus, where there is free wif fi, with the drizzle and a Starbucks take-out.  I never really liked summer, but now I recon I do. This summer has already changed my life forever, and I know that it will continue to change.

I’m not performing in this, as I didn’t get selected into the cast, but The Idle Playthings are going to Edinburgh Fringe Festival! They are writing a blog about their adventures, http://ctrlaltsketch.wordpress.com/ so check it out, and if possible, donate a little bit of cash, as they need every penny they can get so they can get up to Fringe, and stay there for the duration of the festival. Every little helps :)

I also did my hair, so it is now a lovely rainbow colour! I decided on the radical makeover because I wanted to show off who I truly am inside, this crazy, multi-coloured soul who isn’t afraid of being out there any more. And it looks pretty wonderful, if I say so myself! I’m really proud of it, and intend to keep it this way for as long as possible.

Solstice was wonderful! We drank cocktails, played Cards Against Humanity, before heading out to the amphitheatre to show off talents. I performed some of my poetry, whilst my friend V performed some original songs and a stunning cover of ‘Wherever You Will Go’. After that, we went to the summer house by the lake, set up our altar, and burned paper with things we wanted to get rid of written on them. It felt really good to see the paper smolder and burn into ashes. Drinking mead, watching the stars was also amazing, and we headed back to the amphitheatre to watch the sunrise. All I can say is that I was so glad to have my closest friends with me to celebrate my freedom, and to welcome in a new season, a fresh start for everyone, especially me.

I’ve been on a few more dates, after the guy I was seeing turned out to be rubbish, and I’ve realised that maybe this way f finding love… Isn’t for me. It’s nice to take a few hours out of your day to meet a new person, be bought coffee and cocktails, talk sweet nothings until I’m blue in the face. But, that’s really not who I am, if I’m perfectly honest. I’m back to square one, and, you know what? I’m cool with that. For the first time in a long time, I’m comfortable being… Me. Me is a pretty alright person to be, to be defined by my talents, skills and personality, not for the person she has on her arm. Those days are over for me, and I’ve realised that I’m in no hurry at all to run back that way. I do like someone from back home, and I’m keeping my eye out, but what will be, will be.

Arthur is at a tiny bit of a block right now, as I’m juggling coursework with my personal situation, but hopefully I should get back into a proper routine with the novel soon. However, I’ve been writing an awful lot of poetry, mostly about matters of the heart. Maybe I’ll share a few with you all at some point or other.

But, in the meantime, I’ve started up another hobby. You see, I’m working on becoming a mixologist. Yes, a person specialising in the making of cocktails. I’ve started collecting the equipment, buying in the basic ingredients/spirits required, as well as cocktail recipe books. On top of that, I’ve started inventing my own cocktail recipes. At some point, when I perfect them, I’ll share them with you.

The last post I wrote turned out to be my 200th! A bit dark, I know, but that’s the way things go. I’ve had a lot of support from my friends and even people who I’ve never met before, and that means so much to me. I only hope that one day, young people won’t be afraid to turn round and say ‘no’ to an abusive partner. That when they cry for help, they’ll be listened to, and supported, without question. How can someone lie about being attacked, or controlled, manipulated or raped? How does that even work? Grrr, it makes me angry!

So, on that note, thanks for sticking around for 200 posts. Here’s to another 200!

Relationship Abuse: Why No Young Person Should Go Through It

(TW, Abusive relationships, rape, emotional abuse, physical abuse)

I’m going to be brutally honest.

I am a Survivor.

Why do I say this?

I’ve been in quite a few abusive relationships. And I’m only twenty years old.

I’m not the only girl in this position. So many young women under the age of 20 go through all sorts of domestic violence every year. I have friends who admit to being raped by boyfriends, emotionally manipulated by partners and their families, beaten by those who they thought would love and protect them. By telling my story, I hope that I can get more young people saved from violence, manipulation and abuse.

It all started when I was fifteen. I was young, vulnerable and impressionable. I met a guy at the new school I’d started at. We started dating. He wanted to touch my breasts, my crotch. I didn’t like it, but I’d heard that’s what girlfriends allow their boyfriends to do, so I gritted my teeth, and allowed it. Because I said yes’, it was assumed that I’d consented. Therefore it wouldn’t be seen as assault every time he touched me, pawed at me. I allowed him to tell me what makeup I was/wasn’t allowed to wear, how short my skirts were allowed to be. I wasn’t to eat too many sweets because ‘I could get fat’. Even the books I read had to be approved, as did the friends I spent time with. After a while, I turned seventeen. We’d ‘broken up’ because there was a weird thing with me bouncing between this guy and another one. But we went to prom together, and agreed to start ‘seeing’ each other. We’d meet up for secret ‘dates’ at the beach near where we both lived. Usually it would be fine, we’d kiss, hold hands, etc.

But one afternoon, it all changed.

We were in a field, walking his dog, holding hands, like any other young teenage couple, nothing out of the ordinary.

Until he spun me round. He grabbed me, and I could feel him grinding against me, thrusting his hand down my shirt, I could feel the erection through our clothes. I felt frightened, rigid to the spot, as he carried on snogging me, grinding, grinding.

I didn’t realise this was sexual assault until I turned nineteen, and started university.

I was seventeen, and got with the guy I’d been on-off with for a few years. I lost my virginity to him. I remember screaming in pain, as I wasn’t ready deep down, I remember being told that if I didn’t have sex, then he’d leave me to be alone. That I wasn’t even beautiful anyway.

I didn’t realise it was rape until today.

And I’m twenty.

I got with my ex fiancé not long into my first year of college.

I remember the night I got with him.

A lot of alcohol had been drunk. I had only recently turned eighteen, and didn’t have very much experience with alcohol before this point. A lot of people, his family, his friends, told me that he liked me, that I really should go out with him, etc. And, after all the pressure, and because I was drunk, I agreed, and we kissed as the clock struck midnight.

That kiss sealed my fate for the next two years of my life.

At first, I decided that I’d allow things to just take its course. Perhaps it would get better. Make the most out of a bad situation, right? But as time went on, things didn’t get much better.

It started when I wore shorts on a hot day to college. I remember it, because he said to me ‘Are they not too short?’. The time I first wore red lipstick ‘I don’t like it, it’s messy and you look bad in it’. Anything I wore had to pass a test of approval. He preferred me to buy clothes either he or his sister preferred.

And then his temper.

I never thought that I’d be in a relationship where I would fear for my own safety.

But the day he first slapped me, I feared for my life.

It sounds dramatic, but that’s the god-honest truth. We were having yet another row, when, without warning, he backhanded me across the face. I knew it wasn’t the usual playfighting that we used to enjoy. It wasn’t spoken of again, he apologised.

But the threats started.

Every time I dared to irritate him, he’d threaten to throw the nearest heavy thing at my head, or to throw me out of the top floor window. He’d tell me that he’d slap me, punch me in the head, if I carried on irritating him.

His family took control of most of my life, guising it as ‘support’ because of my autism. My finances, posessions, fashion, diet, everything was controlled, my alcohol intake was something to be commented about. The people I befriended had to be approved by being ‘friends’ with my ex as well, which made it hard to have friends outside of his preferences. And even when I was with those friends, he would attach himself to me, making sure it was made crystal clear that I was his, and no one else could ever have ‘dibs’ on me. I was no longer a person, more a possession. And it sucked.

I was only able to leave because…

I have a male best friend, who I fell in love with whilst at university. I’d talk with him often about my life, and the way I felt. He realised I was unhappy, and would give me a lot of advice. One morning, after a night watching the stars and falling asleep at his room, we slept together, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I told my ex, and promptly left him as a result. He saved my life, and I am grateful. He’s now with one of my other best friends, and I’m glad for that, even though I still love him with all my being.

However, during the break up, my ex started to get even more abusive, messaging me accusing me of turning our ‘mutual’ friends against him, telling ‘mutual’ friends that I was a lying, manipulative and abusive bitch in order to make me out to be the bad person, and generally attempting to mess things up among my friendships. I’m lucky that my friends all saw right through him, and stuck by my side. During that time, he reminded me of things he told me during my relationship.

“You leave me, you’ll always be alone”  

“You’ll never find anyone else like me”

“You’re lucky to have me, because no one else will want you”

“Once you leave me, you won’t have a family anymore, we’ve given you everything.”

I’m lucky to have made sure that I had friends not involving him, or if they know him, that I was friends with them in their own right.

So, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with other young people.

Young people are not properly taught about abuse in relationships, in schools, or by parents/caregivers. People don’t know about dating abuse, and how it can affect young people. One of my friends was raped by her first boyfriend, and her friends and family still don’t believe that she was attacked. Another male friend of mine was sexually assaulted by a woman, and no one believed him, as men can’t get abused by women, surely?

It’s stupid, and needs to stop.

Young people need to be educated about relationship abuse, dating violence. You try to look up stats about abuse in teenage relationships, and there isn’t much in the way of reliable information.

This isn’t good enough. Young people deserve the same protection from abuse as adults do. I’m a disabled young adult, so I’m more vulnerable than others in my situation, as (like my ex and his family) my disability can be taken advantage of as an excuse for control and manipulation as much as my age and experience. So I dread to think what it could be like for someone who is just young and impressionable.

I’ve never told my story before online. I only hope, by doing so, that I can encourage someone to seek help, to leave an abusive relationship, or to even decide to think about taking the steps needed to get out. It’s hard when you’re being told that if you leave them, you’ll be completely alone. Which is bullshit, by the way. You have family, friends, me. I’ll always be a click away. That much I can promise you.

No one should ever go through abuse in relationships. No matter age, gender, race or sexuality. It’s time more young people spoke out about dating and relationship abuse. They need to know that there are more types of abuse than just being raped and slapped about. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will always cut deeper than any other weapon.

Abuse is prevalent in our society, culture. It’s in our music, our films, even our magazines. The families of those young people who have survived still don’t believe them. It’s seen to be OK for someone to be emotionally manipulated by their partner, or to be raped, because it was in a relationship/dating scenario. It’s wrong. And has to stop.

I no longer see myself as a victim.

I am a survivor.