Where’s the Compassion?

It’s not often I digress from book reviews on here but last night I experienced something quite unnerving and this morning I’m disgusted by people’s reactions to it. I live in a block of flats in a so called “trendy” area in Manchester. You need a card to scan into the gated car park and to get in the building, through the doors and to use the lifts. There’s also 24 hour concierge. There’s CCTV around, it’s pretty secure!

Last night there was a young guy in his mid-20s who found his way into the car park. He was screaming and sounded in a lot of anguish and mental pain. He was lying on the floor between the cars and crying and holding his head. He punched a couple of the cars and kicked them. He was having conversations with people who weren’t there. It was distressing to see and witness. I believe he was under the influence of drugs but more than that I think he was having a mental breakdown. Eventually the police arrived and calmed him down and took him away.

I don’t know who he was, or what’s come of him, though I hope he is receiving the care and help he needs. As someone who has anxiety and depression and has been suicidal in the past, my main concern was not for the cars in the car park, but the for guys safety. It was incredibly upsetting to see someone so detached and unaware of his surroundings. As it is with most things these days, the building I live in has a facebook group where people usually ask about parking spaces or advertise cleaning services etc. Someone posted in there asking if they knew who the guy was and generally people were concerned for him and showing compassion. But as with everything there are people who made sweeping comments and judgements and had little to no compassion.

As a side note, the building I live in is surrounded by other buildings that provide the standard “swanky” white box city living most places offer now, but just behind us is a council estate. The same place where some of the apartments surrounding mine now stand, once had houses both private and council owned. In short the area is a picture postcard of gentrification personified.

One guy in this group took umbrage to those of us who was worried about the young guy and said “yeah lets have sympathy for the guy who woke everyone up and smashed up cars in the car park” now I must say here at no point did the guy smash anything, yes he punched a couple of cars and kicked them but no damage (no denting or windows smashed) happened to any of the vehicles inside the car park. I responded saying that mentally the guy was in a vulnerable and volatile state and appearing to be under the influence of drugs was confused, scared and angry. This guy’s response was “Considering the people that live just behind us. I’d wager he’s a scumbag off his face on drugs.” And in that statement he summed up what is so very wrong in most of today’s society.

I don’t know anything about this guy, but his level of ignorance absolutely dumbfounded me. For starters he’s implying that the very people who have lived in the area BEFORE these apartments were built are nothing other than scum bags who use drugs and smash up other people’s property. Yet if you look around the estate a lot of these houses are kept wonderfully, most of them with nice front gardens and you’ll often see the neighbours chatting to one another. He countered my response with how many times the local bakery and bar has been broken into and muggings that have happened. Once again implying that it is likely the people who live “just behind us” who are responsible and it just made me see red. For starters, break-ins and muggings happen every day, it’s not exclusive to the area where we live. It also seems to escape his attention that the people doing these break-ins and muggings don’t necessarily live around the corner. I had my phone pick-pocketed last year and it ended up in Rochdale, which is a good 15 miles from where I live and where it happened.

Another thing that irked me is he’s making judgements about someone in such a vulnerable state mentally and showing no compassion. But it was the fact he made the sweeping assumption that this person must have been from the estate. I take umbrage with this for multiple reasons. For starters, I grew up in a council house on a council estate; all my life I’ve had people making comments at me because of where I’m from because they have an idea in their mind of what people who live on council estates are like. I also suffer from anxiety and depression and have been suicidal in the past and close to a mental breakdown. This guy has a sense of unprecedented self-importance because he somehow thinks that because he lives in this swanky apartment that those in the surrounding area are beneath him. Actually it is those very people who were kicked out of their homes to allow gentrification to happen, so that people like him could live in a “nice” apartment in an “up and coming area” and be a yuppie. The only reason I live in these apartments is because my mum died quite suddenly, and I had two weeks to find somewhere to live. I share a 2 bedroom apartment with 2 other people and only just about get by.  I don’t forget where I come from, nor am I ignorant enough to claim that there aren’t some bad eggs who go out and vandalise for fun, but it is the sweeping statement and the wording that really rubbed me up the wrong way.

It sickens me to think that he’s more concerned with the idea of a car being damaged than he is about the safety and mental state of a human being. Now I am in no way saying its right that the guy was punching and kicking and cars, but honestly if you could have heard the pain in his screams you would know that this guy wasn’t just some guy looking to intimidate and try and rob/wreck a car. He was under the influence of drugs and was also in an extremely vulnerable state of mind. He was screaming at people who weren’t there and crying and holding his head. It was heart breaking to see and hear but it really sickens me more that people are more concerned about things than people.

This is what’s wrong with society. We live in a world where more stock and importance is put into what you have as opposed to who you are on a day to day basis and how you are with other people. There is a very definite class divide in most areas now, especially where I am currently living. The people who rent these apartments look at the people from the estate with a mix of humour and disgust, as though they’re something to be tolerated and mocked. Something that should be pushed out because they don’t belong, completely ignorant to the fact that generations of the same family have lived in the same area for decades. They look down their nose at the addicts who go to the surgery nearby and I’ve even seen them walk past homeless people hurriedly in case they talk to them.

People like this guy, want to live in a world that is “instagrammable” and only wants to see the aesthetically pleasing sides of life. He wants to live in a fancy apartment, where he expects to be treated like a king (he was one of the people who once complained in the group about the concierge not phoning him and telling him his friends had arrived) where everyone should think it’s “funny” to show no compassion to someone who is mentally ill and in a vulnerable state. In short, he wants to go through life with a belief that a person’s worth is measured by their bank account and how many likes they have on their carefully censored Instagram profile. When I was arguing back and forth with him he said I had an agenda. But my only agenda is to try and make people a little more understanding and considerate.

I really dread to think what would happen if anyone he loved or cared about found themselves in that situation. I’d dread to think what would happen in the future if he fell on hard times and had to turn to theft to feed his family (something I have witnessed in Aldi a couple of times and it kills me to see) It seems he’s ignorant to what is happening in the world around him. Families with jobs are living in working poverty and having to go to food banks to feed their children, male suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and there’s a spice epidemic happening in the city centre. Homeless people taking a drug that turns them into living zombies because it passes a day of no food or shelter and makes it seem like 10 seconds. It gets them through a day.

My “agenda” is nothing more than having concern about someone who seemed scared and in pain. Material objects can be replaced, a human being cannot. It’s not hard to grasp or fathom is it? People are more important than things.  People are sentient beings, things are not. Perhaps if people took a step back and thought for a second instead of being quick to judge or jump to conclusions, the way we live could change.  I know there’s bad in the world, and I know some people do harm on purpose, but not everyone.  I know it might seem easier sometimes to judge people, but for a second put yourself in their shoes. Everyone has a history, some people have darker and more trying ones than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be compassionate because you lack understanding. Because it is through listening and trying to understand that compassion can be born in people.

Some of the kindest and most giving people I know live in council houses on council estates. There wasn’t a year that went by when money wasn’t raised for a family who couldn’t afford anything for Christmas, or a food hamper was put together and given to a family who had less…Even when my mum died and my brother and I were struggling to raise money to pay for my mum’s funeral, the people on the estate rallied round and raised some cash to help us pay for it. Yet these very people are looked down upon because they live one street over. It disgusts me. I’d like to say this guy saw sense but he didn’t. He just laugh reacted to most of what I saying and has decided to be ignorant. They say ignorant is bliss so I hope he sleeps well at night with his lack of compassion and understanding. Me, I’d rather lose sleep worrying than be like him.

I’m going to enquire tonight to see if there’s any news on the young guy. I really hope he’s getting love and support and guidance, he seemed to be in so much anguish and suffering. We all come into the world the same way and go out the same way, you’re no better than anyone else because of your postcode. Likewise, you’re not untouchable to mental health because of where you live. It can effect anyone at any point in life. I hope the guy is ok…But above all I hope that there are more people out there who show compassion. Don’t be “that” guy, don’t be a dick!

G.
x

Advertisements

Without Her…

It’s been a long time since I put pen to paper or fingers to keys if you’re feeling pedantic.  But my life has changed so much in the time since I last wrote here.

I took my first trip to America in September with a close friend, who is more like my adopted sister, and we went to Riot Fest in Chicago. It was incredible. I fell in love with that place so much. The skyline’s are like nothing I have ever seen before and it helped give me a lot of clarity and space to think about the things that have happened over the past few years. I came back full of confidence, drive and clear about what I wanted to do and how I was going to make it happen.

But then life dealt me the hardest blow I’ve ever had to suffer. It’s hard for me to write about because it’s all still very clear in my head. In the early hours of Wednesday 3rd October I found my mum on the living room floor, she wasn’t breathing or responding to me saying her name. I don’t know how I did it but I rolled her on her back, cleared her airways and started chest compression’s whilst dialing 999. I had to do this for 5 minutes, whilst the woman helped me count and kept me up to date with where the ambulance was, I felt something crack and panicked but the woman on the other end of the phone said that was normal. And then when they arrived, I was told there was nothing they could do. I begged them to use the defibrillator but they told me it wouldn’t do anything.

It’s hard to say how I felt in that moment. I held my dad’s hand as he took his last breath and left, but I never in a million years thought my mum would die. I never thought she’d leave me. It felt like I was falling but nothing was there to catch me. Everything suddenly seemed so far away and unrealistic but what I felt inside made it very clear that it was very much real. Just hours before we had sat and talked whilst eating our tea. We’d laughed and hugged and now she was gone. I couldn’t and still can’t get my head around it. Losing someone you love is never easy, but to lose her just broke me. She was my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader…She gave me hope on my darkest days.

meandmum

The days following blurred into one long day, of beating myself up that I should have checked on her sooner, I should have tried harder with the CPR. I kept checking my phone waiting for her to text or call me. This has probably been the hardest thing to adjust to. In the 33 years of my life there hadn’t been a day where I hadn’t spoken to my mum either in a text, on the phone or in person. I suddenly realised how alone I was. Don’t get me wrong I have a lovely and amazing brother, who took charge of planning the funeral and I have amazing friends and extended family. But the truth is, when my marriage broke down, my mum and I became a family again. And now she’s gone, I feel like a jigsaw piece that doesn’t really fit in anywhere.

It was hard enough having to take each day but what it made it worse was the fact that I now also found myself potentially homeless. I reached out to my ex who I’d overpaid by £2.5k and asked for the money back or a 10month break so that I could help pay for the funeral and wouldn’t be homeless. But was greeted with a response that just hurt and made me feel worse. My brother and I had to start going through the house and selling what we could to pay for the funeral. None of us really had time to grieve.

Because there was no obvious cause of death, it also meant delays to when my mother could be released from the Coroner and consequently meant that we only had one day to visit my mum at the Chapel of rest. All I could think about all that time was how she was alone and cold and I know she would have hated that. I picked out her favourite jumper and jeans because she liked being cosy and warm. I kissed her on the forehead and stroked her hand and we put some sentimental things in the coffin with her. I hated leaving her there, knowing that would be the last time I would physically see her.

mandm2
The funeral was the hardest day I’ve ever had to live through. And I don’t think there are any words in the English language that convey how hard that was. My heart broke saying goodbye to her and I still have moments where I feel like I will wake up and it will all have been some terrible nightmare. I feel lost. I lost so much in a short space of time, my mum, my home and my childhood house. Even now it’s hard to wonder why I wake up each day. A couple of weeks after I had my phone stolen, which had voicemail messages from my mum on it. Luckily, I had photos etc. backed up but I’ve lost all the text messages she sent and the voicemail messages. Another of life’s cruel jokes sent to test me I guess.

Some people say things like “I’m sorry.” Ask how you are or say things they intend to make you feel better like “At least they’re at peace.” Or “She’s with your dad now.” I’m not criticising the people who have said this to me. It’s nice they want to offer words of comfort and send their love. But the truth is…It doesn’t make you feel better, you’re really not ok and there’s no need to say sorry for something you didn’t do or had no control over.

It’s getting closer to Christmas, again a time of year I have spent with my mum with the exception of one and I’m finding it so hard. She’s always been an integral and loving part of this time of year and her presence is going to be missed even more. Since my mum passed, two friends have lost parents. And my heart goes out to them. I won’t say sorry etc. but I will let them know to go through the motions, that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and that I am here if they need someone to talk to or a distraction. Because that’s the truth.

My life changed so much in the space of a few hours, and I feel the loss of my mama every single second of every single day. So it’s nice sometimes to have someone willing to distract you or treat you normal when your life is anything but normal. I struggle each day and weirdly, even though it’s the thing I long to hear the most, I cannot watch a video of her playing with my niece because hearing her voice breaks me. It’s been a weird month or so…And I still have a lot to go through. But I hope I have the courage to face each day just like my mama did. I hope I can make her proud. And to all those people out there, who are facing their futures and Christmas without a loved one, please know you’re not alone in this pain. Please don’t struggle in silence. Please don’t give up.

All my love..

G.
x

Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Book That Made You Cry’

Book Number One – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

10891972_10152673390443650_2249498461129559912_n

It is just a normal day in Kingsbridge when Harold Fry receives a letter from a long, lost friend. He hasn’t seen or spoken to Queenie Hennessey for almost 20 years so when she writes to thank him and say goodbye, Harold feels that his letter in response just won’t be enough. So without any planning, and unbeknownst to his wife, he decides to walk to Queenie, who is terminally ill with Cancer and on the other side of the country, in the hope that it will keep her alive.

Along the way Harold has time to reflect on his childhood, one that was filled with abandonment and lacked any kind of affection, he also reflects on his own relationship with his son David and wonders why he and his wife have felt like two strangers passing one another for so many years.

During his walk Harold begins to meet many people, each with their own story to tell, some are having secret affairs, some are waiting for a loved one to return and others are hoping the day will come when they build up enough confidence to leave their small hometowns and see the world. With each person he meets Harold begins to realise that everyone looks so normal, but each of us harbours our own secrets, regrets and pain. When people hear of Harold’s unlikely pilgrimage, they open up their hearts to him, and although a fair few think that what he is doing is a little crazy, it inspires them and fills them with hope and in return encourages Harold to continue on his soul searching journey.

Back home in Knightsbridge, Harold’s wife Maureen slowly begins to realise how her life would be without her husband, and uses the time he is walking to reflect on her life, her marriage and her passions and hobbies that seem to have been ignored for a long time.

One thing Rachel Joyce perfectly captured was the disjointed way in which memories, even those particularly difficult or painful, come back when you least want them to, and how they often won’t be ignored. Her manner of writing is filled with so much warmth and description that it almost feels poetic. But the thing I perhaps loved the most about this book was how it really stops and makes you think.

The last five chapters of the book were incredibly touching and as soon as I felt that tell tale lump in my throat, I knew it was only a matter of time before I felt warm tears slide down my face. The subtle way she deals with the chapter that looks at things from Queenie’s perspective, really took my breath away. The tears fell from my eyes with no forced effort. This was a truly wonderful novel and I’d recommend this to everyone. It makes you want to make the most of life; it fills you with hope and reminds you how important it is to tell those that matter that you love them.

holding-hands1

Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘Nobody is so frightening once you stop and listen, Maureen.’

 

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

x