The Power of a Poster

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

A painfully Slow Process

I am now at the age whereby I realise that not everything is done instantly. This has come as a bit of a shock to me because as an ex member of the forces I have found that, although life in the forces is somewhat different to ‘civvie street’ life out here is slower and a lot less urgent.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

During the end of my service in the RAF one of my NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) said of me that; if I needed something done, I didn’t care how it was done as long as it was on my desk when I needed it. As a result I have found life as a civilian frustrating and unjustifiably slow. If something needs to be done it does not require a committee or a series of phone-calls to end up back at the beginning to be told I have the wrong number (and so on).

In My Lifetime – Doubt it

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

Alas, it is with a heavy heart when I consider the fact that the changes we urgently need may never be achieved in my life time. However, it was recently brought to my attention that there has been a recent drive highlighting the fact that men are also victims of domestic abuse. Of course, I am delighted that such an issue is starting to be acknowledged but a poster strategically placed still does not address the whole issue. Let me give another example, there would be uproar if 1 in 4 people were diagnosed with cancer but there was no treatment in the modern world for it. To give another analogy, we would never contemplate the idea of a sinking ship having no life boats.

But here rests my point. I am delighted that some form of statement of recognition is now out there but where is the support? Where is the equality in law for equal protection. Or, for that matter where are the refuges for male victims? Where is the access to a safe home on a council waiting list? Where, once the ability to leave the home is the equal parenting rights to our children?

Is that it, just a poster?

You may call me cynical, but as far as I see it the whole poster drive is a tick box exercise. It appeases the police who claim to administer the law equally. It appeases social services who claim to be equal and inclusive and it appeases the health service who claim to offer support and sanctuary. But alas, none of this is the case.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

Many people think of domestic abuse as a physical assault by a man on a woman in their home. But the reality of domestic violence extends much further than that. The Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence has adopted the following Home Office definition: ‘Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.’ (Home Office)

Male Victims Do Not Exist

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

In a document entitled Responding to domestic abuse: a handbook for health professionals – by the Department of Health 2005, states that; Responsibility for domestic abuse always lies with the perpetrator – never with the person who has been abused. At no point does it identify a specific gender as being either the perpetrator or victim yet, within the said document it clearly states on page 4 that it will not acknowledge male victims as; Consequently, this handbook focuses on women’s needs. To date the said office have failed to produce a male equivalent document, thirteen years after the publication of the first booklet mentioned above.

We will probably never know its true extent, because many male cases of domestic abuse go unreported. It is difficult – and often dangerous – for a victim to tell somebody that they are being abused by somebody close to them. But we do know it’s common.

Domestic Abuse Is A Health Issue For Men Too

With the recognition of a social problem must come some form of responsibility. Men are dying at an alarming rate. Okay, it is fair to argue that less men die at the hands of an abusive partner but men are killing themselves because they have reached the end of a dead end road. When there is no other option left but to return to the abusive home and become the perpetual victim to a violent partner that is one thing. But to be rejected by the law makers or to be refused a home based on your gender is another.

It doesn’t take much to type in ‘domestic abuse’ in any search engine to find reams of information aimed at female victims. Pages and pages will offer support and guidance and even direct you to places whereby you can get specialist information about specific things. Yet, in my hour of need there was nothing. Not a dot of information or help. After all, it has always been unacceptable for a male to be a victim either of domestic abuse or depression. And yet the only contribution to date to support a male victim is a poster.

A World Wide Disgrace

Well I don’t wish to make a stir but that poster offers very little in the way of true support. There needs to be an equal drive for supplying refuges or/and protection. Like I have previously said there would be uproar if this lack of provision or funding was found in any other walk of life. This present system is far from adequate and is a world wide disgrace.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

I am aware that for generations men have been discouraged to talk about problems or concerns. Indeed, as a result the numbers of people reporting issues does not reflect the true facts about the issues concerning men. However, times have changed and not only are a younger generation of men stepping forward but we also have a younger generation of violent women making their mark. For generations men have also been discouraged to not discuss depression or moments of ‘weakness’ but the unacceptable rise of male suicides are not being recognised as a social concern.

When I was finally encouraged to come forward and share my story with the authorities it was a big step to take. However, I was under the influence that there would be some form of pay-off. If I openly talked about my experiences and present concerns I would be able to access support, help and advice. Yet, to date I have received next to nothing other than a number of counselling sessions provided by my work. I must therefore, acknowledge that I had been given some form of support but it does not match anything that was offered to my female equivalent. Yet, here I am saying how delighted I am to have witnessed a poster – yes just one poster.

Gender issues

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

Similarly, although much of my writing refers to domestic abuse within heterosexual relationships, it’s important to acknowledge that lesbian and gay relationships are also affected by domestic abuse. Although abuse in same-sex relationships sometimes brings up different issues from those occurring in heterosexual relationships, it merits the same level of concern and the same professional, supportive response. Yet, I have had discussions with gay men who tell me that it is one thing to admit being in a gay relationship, but to admit being the victim of abuse by their partner is another.

Virtually every person in Britain uses the healthcare system at some point. If we create an environment in which men as well as women are likely to feel safe enough to reveal that they are being abused and can therefore access information, it can make a real difference for thousands of men and their families.

What do (all) survivors of domestic abuse want?

• To be safe. It is essential to know that a man has the same protection in law as a woman. A home must be a refuge from not only the outside world but also a haven from the threat of violence.
• To be believed, taken seriously and respected. From my own and many other men’s experiences this has not, and never was the case. The police fail to provide protection or advice to males. Furthermore, although more concealed now than ever before, no male victim of abuse is taken seriously and as a result lacks the respect the victim requires.
• Timely and proactive interventions such as routine enquiry and the provision of information. A safe haven on an equal standing as female victims is essential but lacking.
• Independent advocates (from the voluntary sector, for example) to oversee their case and liaise with the different agencies that provide them with support.
• A single person or agency to get help from so that they don’t have to keep repeating intimate details of their abuse.
• Options based on their circumstances explained to them clearly.
• Contact with other male survivors.
• To be kept informed of developments – such as when an abuser is released from a police station – although females don’t seem to either get arrested or have to explain their actions.
• Support to cope with the effects of abuse on them and their children.
• To have their views incorporated into services that are offered to them. Furthermore, respect and consideration for their plight.

But at least I can now conclude by saying – at least we now have a poster.

Guest Blog – The Recovery Village

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

I was having an open and frank conversation with a senior police officer on the 2nd May and it was during this talk that he asked me if I was aware of any organisations that would have been able to support me during my ‘period of need’. Being as honest as possible I stated ‘no’. Of which of course came as no surprise to him as he was hoping I would prove the opposite of what he already knew. There re no male support groups I would consider even close to be able to use.  

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

However, I was introduced to The Recovery Village who offer support for both domestic and alcohol abuse. Would it be too much to ask for our representatives, so called protectors and policy makers to do a little bit more that the bare minimum they are doing now? Could our English Government and social workers not take a leaf out our American friends book? 

Anyway, I invited them to write a blog primarily aimed at my American readers or certainly to offer food for thought for my home readers. 

 Thank you Amy and Carlos…. 

The Recovery Village 

Domestic violence and substance misuse are viewed by many as separate problems needing to be addressed in the United States. However, the two have a well-documented connection to one another — and in many situations where one is present, so is the other. 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village is part of the integrated behavioral healthcare management company, Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), and includes a network of treatment centers for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Many people who come through the doors of a drug and alcohol rehab facility such as The Recovery Village have also experienced domestic violence, either as the offender or victim. 

 Connection Between Domestic Violence and Substance Misuse 

 Drug and alcohol misuse and domestic violence are extremely prevalent issues in the United States, and nearly half of Americans suffer from either one of or both of these issues. 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 20 million Americans ages 12 and older reported in 2016 that they suffered from a substance use disorder. Around 2.1 million misuses opioids but the largest group was alcohol misuse, with 15.1 million people reporting they were addicted to the substance. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. 

There is information that backs up the link between domestic abuse and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some of the facts that associate the two issues are: 

  •  Adolescents or young adults who were involved in dating violence within the past year are more at risk of having mental health or substance use disorders. 
  • Teens who have suffered from dating violence are more likely than their peers to misuse drugs, contemplate committing suicide or regularly eat unhealthy foods. 
  • Research from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) shows that substance misuse plays a role in around half of violent incidents between intimate partners. 
  • People who were victims of domestic abuse are 70 percent more susceptible to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol than people who have not experienced dating violence. 
  • On days when one or both members of an intimate relationship used drugs or alcohol, a physical altercation was 11 times more likely between intimate partners. 

 How The Recovery Village Helps 

 Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village cares about the mental well-being of its clients, which is why the rehabilitation centers provide treatment for co-occurring disorders, also known as dual-diagnosis. These could be mental health issues such as anxiety disorders or depression, or eating disorders. Through treatment for both addiction and any co-occurring disorders, people who have experienced domestic violence can find support and healing from these tragic events. 

 The Recovery Village understands the struggle of individuals who suffer from domestic violence because of the connection between that tragedy and substance use disorders. Because of that, The Recovery Village provides help for for people who recognize the presence of domestic abuse in their own lives. 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

While many signs of domestic violence might be visible primarily to the victim, there are some symptoms someone on the outside of the abusive relationship can easily notice. The Recovery Village wants to make it as easy as possible to identify these abusive relationships. If a friend, relative or other loved one is suffering from domestic abuse, they might: 

  • Frequently make over-the-top attempts to please their partner 
  • Explain cuts, bruises or other injuries by making up accidental injuries 
  • Receive harassing text messages or telephone calls from their partner 
  • Make excuses for their partner being verbally abusive 
  • Get nervous or have difficulty talking about their relationship 
  • Frequently miss social outings, school or work obligations 
  • Show signs of anxiety or depression, including low self-esteem 
  • Tell stories of times their partner was jealous or possessive 

The Recovery Village’s associates are trained professionals who can help people suffering from not only substance use disorder but also domestic violence. These conversations could enlighten people suffering in these relationships or people who know someone in an abusive relationship, who know someone in an abusive relationship, which could lead to them seeking help for their issues. 

 Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Guest Blog - The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village provides opportunities to open up about domestic violence during the rehabilitation process. One of the most integral parts of The Recovery Village’s addiction treatment process is the inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. Whether it’s during a full-time stay at one of the facilities, or a weekly visit during an outpatient program, people on the path to recovery often receive support during individual and group therapy sessions. In these intimate settings, there are opportunities to discuss negative experiences prior to recovery or talk about any physical altercations with an intimate partner that continue to cause emotional distress. 

 

If you are in need of assistance or just want to talk, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. 

The Armchair Terrorist

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

A few years ago I was on a flight sitting next to a window. As always with flying, although I understand the principles of flight and the science behind it all, I am still in amazement at how such a large aircraft is able to become lighter than air.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

But this particular flight was something different. After spending a while watching the clouds below us and how the reflection of the sun shimmered on the wings I reached forward to read the laminated leaflet about what to do in the event of a crash.

I recall how clinical it all seemed. It didn’t mention anything about the internal feelings associated with death. It also assumed that the fuselage would remain intact upon impact. It was all very presumptuous. But what was equally presuming was the comment made by the stranger sat next to me. I didn’t know him and I wasn’t really interested in entering into a conversation but he said “we are more likely to be killed by terrorists than this aircraft crashing”. Indeed, he was probably right but my demise at the hands of terrorists did not satisfy the knowing of my potential ending.

Crossing the terrorist’s path

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Many years later my world and the concept of terrorism crossed paths again. I read an article about the rise of terrorist groups in the Middle East. It was an interesting article whereby it argued that terrorism plays on peoples fears and as a result can change people patterns and routines. The act of terrorists are beamed directly into our living rooms highlighting what damage they have done to some market square or a member of a high profile family they have killed. However, on the other hand whilst studying political science at University one of my lecturers said that one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Let me be clear here that my politics lecturers was not condoning terrorism but was giving it another perspective.

The 1980 Iranian Embassy Seige

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

I was 8 years old when the Iranian Embassy was stormed by the SAS in 1980 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/may/5/newsid_2510000/2510873.stm). I recall sitting next to my grandfather watching a John Wayne film when it was suddenly stopped. We were redirected to the images on the screen of masked men dressed in black blowing out windows and gun fire could be heard with (what seemed like dubbed) screams in the back ground. For anyone around at the time the images were unforgettable. But what is equally memorable is the confirmation that Britain would never deal or negotiate with terrorists. This stance has still been upheld today with the murders of humanitarian workers at the hands of ISIS.

Martyrdom

Whilst serving in the forces I also discovered that you cannot negotiate with a terrorist who has a bomb strapped to them acting in the belief of their own religion. The power of the terrorist mindset is focused with a specific outcome regardless of the cost to themselves or those of whom are around them at that specific moment of martyrdom.

Forced by fear

However, about five years ago I heard a story about a Mexican father who received a phone call telling him that his daughter was being held to ransom. It was only recently that I discovered that this story was actually true.

The story goes that one afternoon he received a telephone call in his office from an unknown terrorist group. They informed him that they had his daughter and stated that a huge ransom needed to be paid. If not, the daughter would die. By all credible accounts he was heard to say that if they killed his daughter they would be doing him a favour. He further stated that he had ten children and that they had all been a great disappointment to him and his wife. Furthermore, the cost of raising ten children was becoming a massive burden and if they chose to kill her then that was their choice. Within hours the daughter was returned unharmed. What I get from this story is that the terrorist takes a gamble assuming that their actions will form an element of bargaining power to force people to act against their best wishes.

How much do you love me?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

So how does this train of thought fit in to the abusive home? The fear or intention of threats in the home often forces the other to do things against their wishes. I recall a conversation I once heard whereby two late middle aged women were talking about their husbands. One said that if he didn’t do a specific task he would not be getting any sex that evening. It was almost laughable really, but she was using something she had power of to force or negotiate her partner to do something. Although that is one level of duress it can also extend into others.

For example, this method can stretch from the silent treatment forcing a person to question what they have done and endure an awful atmosphere in their homes to stating that if a person didn’t do what they wanted they would leave and take the children (followed by “and there is nothing you can do about it”).

A change in direction

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Once a partner has begun to lose interest there is little that can be done to stop the process developing further. The very break down of communication avoids further irritation and is a form of self-protection. If we look at this a little closer, we can then analyse the actions taken by the home terrorist (I would like to call them from this point onwards as the Armchair terrorist). Like the British government who are resolute on not negotiating, the abuser moves from romanticism to woo you back to ultimately sulking, threats and finally rage. The terrorist partner finally knows that they cannot control the situation anymore and adopt malicious measures to bring their victim down.

Pointless outcomes

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Historically any attempt of gaining an upper hand by the use of terror has always back fired and created a greater resistance against the terrorist philosophy.  If we consider two historical examples whereby the terrorists failed to achieve their objections we must firstly consider the famous Gunpowder plot of 1605. The capture of those involved, and the subsequent trials, led Parliament to consider introducing new anti-Catholic legislation. The event also destroyed all hope that the Spanish would ever secure tolerance of the Catholics in England. In the summer of 1606, laws against recusancy were strengthened; the Popish Recusants Act returned England to the Elizabethan system of fines and restrictions, introduced a sacramental test, and an Oath of Allegiance, requiring Catholics to abjure as a “heresy” the doctrine that “princes excommunicated by the Pope could be deposed or assassinated”. Catholic Emancipation took another 200 years to be realised.

In May 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army who had been briefed and financed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) landed at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv. Once inside the terminal they began firing indiscriminately killing twenty-four and injuring a further seven. Following this act of terrorism, the peace process did not gain any speed. In fact, it only hardened Israeli public opinion against the Palestinian cause.  Ironically, however, it finally transpired that the majority of those killed were not even Israelis but belonged to a group of Puerto Rican Christians who had been on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

But in both of these cases, although with several hundred years apart, the common denominator was that the use of violence was used when dialogue had ceased to produce the results they wanted.

Hey you…. Look at us

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

The key points about terrorism and the actions of a domestic abuser is that it is intended to attract attention of either the state or the individual who may no longer be interested in them. They are both a form of psychological warfare with specific goals. For example, the Palestinian cause at Lod Airport, Catholic emancipation in 1605 and to win back the lost affections of a partner within the home.

I love you… but

However, although there are similarities between the armchair terrorist and the regular terrorist there is a distinct difference. The armchair terrorist demands to be loved in the first instance. Indeed, failure to do what is requested in both counts results in violence either by a bomb or shooting to a punch in the face or an attack when sleeping. The resolution and love showed by an abuser is shrouded with guilt. The displays of love and affection are not spontaneous but the actions of someone who feels guilty. As a result, these actions are doomed and will ultimately lead to further disappointment. In their eyes you must love them because you have been forced to.

For the ordinary terrorist they are seeking a one-off concession given to them by the state. Not a perpetual loveless relationship based on the fear that love might be taken away in a moment.  The demand of the armchair terrorist is a falsehood that the love they want is built upon the threat of fear that is imposed. Therefore, it is not spontaneous and thus not the type of love or relationship that anyone wants – including the abuser.

Breach of contract

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Following a terrorists ability to achieve their outcomes negotiations are often made. A form of peace is pursued with an aim to end the hostilities. But for the armchair terrorist each kiss is tainted with the knowledge that it is false and may even be forced upon the other in an unwilling form of contract.

What am I saying?

Well there is a similarity between the terrorists I have mentioned. When the control or ability to communicate has failed the use of violence becomes arbitrary.  The armchair terrorist tries to control a life for their own individual and selfish means. They try and create a state whereby tensions, resentment and fear are what keeps the structure together. However, the ordinary terrorist is born out of a political deadlock. But in both cases the conclusion is the same – it achieves very little except alienation, discredit and hatred.

 

Settling back

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Settling back

I suppose now having returned back to work full time it would be reasonable to reflect on how it has gone so far. Futhermore, and this was good advice given to me, it should be worth considering those of whom are at a point whereby they too are thinking of returning or about to return to work.

Just reflecting

Now I know I have previously written about returning to work when I wrote ‘The Philosophy of Returning to Work’. However, this piece is going to be less philosophy and more reflection. Or, to put it another way an ‘idiots guide’ to returning to work after a long period off.

Great works of fiction

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Settling back

Firstly, lets not be under any illusion when I suggest that you have been the topic of conversation at some point whilst being away. I can consider that I have been lucky in that respect as I was told by a number of friends that I was. However, what I found deeply amusing was that the stories about my absence were wide and to some extent quite entertaining. The reality is that there is only one factual explanation and it is you who has it. As a result I found (and still consider) it best that if people asked me why I had been absent I told them. Almost instantly, with the truth now being out from the’ horses mouth’ (so to speak) the more adventurous elaborations were instantly put to bed.

With this in mind, having returned (appearing unscathed) I generally don’t think people were too bothered about it all. One day I was away and the next I wasn’t. It was that superficial. That simple.

Was you away??

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Settling back

Interestingly I spoke to a colleague whilst sat outside the local Accident and Emergency department doors waiting for a ‘shout’. She raised a point that I have often thought but never really considered beyond the thinking part. She stated that in our line of work we can go for months without seeing specific people and when we do eventually catch up it may have seemed like weeks rather than months of absence. As a result, I suppose old un-concluded conversations are revisited and same old dilemmas are discussed. In effect, nothing if anything has changed. In many ways I had picked up where I had left off.

Hello

When you think about it it’s not just about you returning to work but it is also about allowing other people back into your life. For me the time I had off was a great period of re-evaluation and reflection. I had spent days deciding on what and who matters in my life and daily existence.

However, I had a ping of guilt when I returned and realised there were people I had forgotten about or had not given a second thought of. But the real comfort came when these individuals actively approached me in the corridor, staff room or even in the toilet and said how nice it was to see that I was back. That was a real warm kind feeling. These people of whom I had temporarily put to the back of my mind had put me to the front of theirs. For me this was the kind of welcome I felt grateful for. It was both kind and considerate.

It’s all so familiar

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Settling back

To date I have had no awkward silences or embarrassing avoidances. Indeed people know why I was off (either realistically or not) but either-way they knew I was off and now I was back. Just like before, people are asking for shift swaps or what shift I am on next week etc. In fact those ten months of absence may not have happened for both by colleagues and I. I was back to early starts, searching for a decent vehicle and attending a range of calls with people both new and old to the job. I still have the same dilemmas such as what to have for lunch or the fear of another late finish after a twelve hour shift.

Inwardly however, I am still able to chuckle at the patients who still persistently phone 999 for illnesses or conditions that do not come close to what I or others had suffered. Yes, the frustrations of the job had returned. But it was surprising to note how quickly it had returned yet also felt comfortably familiar.

Different strokes for different folks

It’s not just illness or circumstances that requires people to be away from work for long periods of time. I recall my first day as a qualified teacher after the summer holidays. As a new teacher I was excited about having my first form group and ready and prepared with my stimulating and informative lessons. However, in the classroom opposite was a (shall I say) more seasoned teacher.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Settling back

Whilst standing in the doorway once the bell had rung she said how sick she felt. With concern I asked her if she felt well enough to be at work. In reply she chuckled ‘it is normal for all teachers to feel this way after the summer break’. In fact, she was right. As time progressed I too developed the sickening feel of returning to work after a holiday break.

Better differences

The difference, however, from returning to work after a holiday break and a period of sickness is that following sickness you return when you are well enough to do so. In the teacher scenario you return when it is dictated so.

With this in mind my recent return to work was a better than that of a teacher but I had forgotten that. I was eager to return unlike many teachers who dread that moment.

Phased return

Furthermore, depending upon your job or career path you may get what is known as a phased return. Whoever came up with this concept is a genius. For those not in the know, a phased return is allowing you to return to work on a slow and steady pace. For me I started on a couple of days a week on half a shift. After time both the days and hours increased concluding into a normal shift pattern.

I was placed with a paramedic I knew well and we were able to ‘chew the cud’ and talk openly and frankly about everything. For me it was a positive and welcoming return to work compared to the fears and intrepidation I had felt prior to returning.

What I am saying

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Settling back

I suppose that if you had found this page because you had googled ‘returning to work’ or you know someone who has been through a similar experience and knows they have to return my advice is simple. Just do it. Having a job to go to gives a person a purpose (I have never understood those people who refuse to work). If you fear returning because of what people may say or think the reality is that no one really cares. And the good people will be glad to see you back anyway. Furthermore, if you feel it is okay to do so, be honest about why you were away. It is better to lay those ghosts to rest but also to kill off the wild and fanciful stories that had been circulating prior to your return – regardless how funny they seem.

 

 

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

When it comes to thinking or sharing thoughts, being a paramedic has its advantage. When I am not working alone on a responder car I am scheduled to work on, what we call, a truck which is your regular large ambulance.

It is whilst working on a truck last week that I discussed a certain characteristic I had recently come across. Initially the idea of ‘virtue signalling’ (VS) was mentioned .  However, following further investigation and research I came across a disorder called ‘Histrionic Personality Disorder’ (HPD).

So what was the topic of the conversation?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

I am sure we all know the type of person or at least have met one or two during our lifetime that crave to be the centre of everyone’s attentions. Social media platforms such as facebook, twitter and redditt have brought these people forward. In fact, flick through your home page on facebook (for example) and you will unconsciously read posts by such people.

Craving attention

These people will crave attention by claiming that something has gone wrong (again) and therefore require and revel in the sympathy of those of whom respond. In effect, they like to be the centre of their own little world evoking attention and focus from other people.

This condition does indeed have a sliding scale. At its best it may be low profile with the odd little comment fishing for personal compliments, to its worst it may require the destruction of any potential competition to gain a series of affections and attention. This does indeed have a close relationship with narcissism but demonstrates signs such as people who are; lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious lives.

Centre point

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

Narcissism, however takes a step back as narcissists don’t always wish to be at the centre of everything if in fact everything is going their way. On the other hand, people with HPD insist and structure a system to ensure that all eyes are on them.

It’s all about me

To make this more tangible the example I will give is commonplace within HPD. I have met (mainly women) who have flirted outrageously to gain the attention of men. Within a moment they will then complain that these said men are being exploitative and making sexual comments or references. As a result, they will revel in the sympathy produced from her accusations.  This of course has negative consequences upon the men she is accusing. For this matter, the accuser will not care. The outcome they have craved has been achieved and the consequences are negligible in comparison to the achieved awards.

Mental condition

According to Seligman, Martin E.P. (1984). “Chapter 11”. Abnormal Psychology. W.W. Norton & Company. It is estimated that HPD is diagnosed four times as frequently in women as men. It affects 2–3% of the general population and 10–15% in inpatient and outpatient mental health institutions.

With HPD being diagnosed as a disorder it therefore owns certain characteristics. Personality disorders are often rigid, inflexible and maladaptive, causing impairment in functioning or internal distress. A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time and leads to distress or impairment.

Me, me, me

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic personality disorder, put simply, is characterized by constant attention-seeking, emotional overreaction, and suggestibility. A person with this condition tends to over-dramatize situations, which may impair relationships and lead to depression.

Experience

For any person who has experienced abuse from a partner can draw a comparison with HPD and false accusers.

I have found that individuals with histrionic personality disorder exhibit excessive emotionality and as a result have a tendency to regard things in an emotional manner. This makes them, in effect, attention seekers. People with this disorder are uncomfortable when they are not the centre of attention.

When I consider the behaviour of my abusive ex she met a great many of the characteristics evident within this condition. Amongst my friends and family (especially around my father) she was constantly seeking approval or attention. Furthermore, her use of her sexuality in inappropriate situations became a matter of concern. Within social situations she was considered as lively and was able to charm those of whom she made contact with.

Such a nice person…not

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

For many people this may have seemed delightful or even charming. Yet she was equally able to  embarrass me with excessive public displays of emotion, such as having temper tantrums to finally, accusing me of a crime that didn’t happen to seek attention from the police and her family. Unfortunately for her, it became apparent that she had a history of doing this to other men who had attempted to have a relationship with her.

Hey, give me a minute

When I think about it I can recall times when she would send me a text message apologising for something she may have said or done earlier in the day. If I was unable to reply instantly (probably because I was at work) she would send me another text saying how awful I was and that I deserved what she did. Instantly re-texting to apologise – and so it continued throughout the night. This whole process was illogical of which, it transpires, is also a common feature of HPD.

Extreme

I think it is both fair and honest to state that we would all like to be seen as desired or attractive, yet people with HPD seem to take this to the extreme. My ex would dress inappropriately or seem invasive within people’s conversations. Her discussions were often exaggerated or flavoured with stories of woe and drama with the sole purpose of getting people to talk about her and how ‘amazing’ she has been.

However, the reality was not often met by her stories. As a classroom assistant she would claim to be a teacher. As a divorcee she would claim to be a victim and to live the life she wanted she tried to get me into debt – of which she was already in.

Rewards

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

Of course, reflection is a good thing. And I can now see that these character traits explained why she tended to see things from a highly emotional perspective. In short, she craved attention and the emotional “reward” that she gained from it. Furthermore, she obviously felt uncomfortable when she wasn’t the centre of attention. Although she was often seen as lively and energetic she equally became greatly distressed when she was not capturing the attention of others (especially work colleagues or other males). I suppose by calling her a “drama queen” would best fit her characteristic.

PRAISE ME

Whilst reading around the subject I came across a mnemonic that has sometimes been used to describe the criteria for histrionic personality disorder. Ironically it is labelled as “PRAISE ME”:

P – provocative (or seductive) behaviour

R – relationships, considered more intimate than they are

A – attention, must be at centre of

I – influenced easily

S – speech (style) – wants to impress, lacks detail

E – emotional liability, shallowness

 

M – make-up – physical appearance used to draw attention to self

E – exaggerated emotions – theatrical

Negative and positive

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

Regardless of how it is seen I discovered that people who suffer from HPD are often just as interested in attracting negative attention, including shock, anger, outrage, shame, guilt and remorse. And all of this fits in the persona of someone who makes false allegations to win favour from those of whom she shares the story with.

Roots

Although the roots of modern histrionic personality can be traced back to Freud’s description of “hysterical neuroses” (Sperry, 2003 Handbook of Diagnosis and Treatment of DSM-IV-TR Personality Disorders. New York: Bruner-Routledge;), personality was already a matter of attention before.

In the mid-19th century, Ernst von Feuchtersleben, (1765–1834) who wrote the Textbook of Medical Psychology (1845) made the first psychosocial description of what would become the histrionic personality. He described hysterical women as being sexually heightened, selfish and “overprivileged with satiety and boredom” (Millon, 2011 Disorders of Personality: Introducing a DSM/ICD Spectrum from Normal to Abnormal, 3rd Edn. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons).

Several theorists studied the particular traits of HPD including histrionic’s impressionist cognitive style and inattention to detail. In his book, “Hysterical Personality Style and the Histrionic Personality Disorder,” Horowitz (1991), focused on the connection between perception and behaviour in HPD. Horowitz argued that it was based on a disturbed mental representation of the self. On the other hand, according to the biosocial-learning model, proposed by Theodore Millon and other authors, this personality type may arise from unconscious patterns of reinforcement provided by parents and others. According to these authors, their core beliefs include “I am inadequate and unable to handle the life on my own” and “It is necessary to be loved by everyone, all the time.”

So what do I know?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Histrionic Personality Disorder

Although beyond A level psychology I cannot consider myself to be a psychologist. However, I have found many of the above characteristics in many people. By them seeing themselves as the centre of attention they believe that so many other people believe in them and support their accusations. Yet I have given consideration to the point that HPD is in fact a medical condition greatly hidden. Although I am not stating that these people are dangerous in a physical sense they are extremely dangerous to fall out with. They have an expertise in manipulation and playing the victim when the evidence does not exist beyond their own claims.

People with HPD are both dangerous and manipulative and yet also fail to accept their own problems. Like any other mental health condition, they do indeed require medical assistance if only to save them from themselves and other being pulled into their viciousness and manipulation.

Stereotypes feed into injustice

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

With the advantage of social media and the ability to be able to spread ideas and thoughts further than ever before, certain topics become more visible.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

For several months I have followed (from a distance) the rise and calling out of injustice. From the start of time educated people have known that injustices have happened. We can identify with the scapegoating of the people who lived outside of social norms to be labelled as witches and treated as such with burning and hangings. Furthermore, we can identify with more modern events such as the holocaust of the 1930s and 40s. Again this injustice has been allowed to repeat in countries such as (formally) Yugoslavia, states in Africa and so on.

Two sides of the same coin

But is the idea of justice and injustice two sides of the same coin? Is it that injustice is simply a lack of justice?  If we expect to balance injustice then we need to address what we know to be justice. And this can be a difficult event to deal with when your idea of justice has been diluted and abused by those of whom should have done the right thing in the first place.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

The rules of injustice are difficult to comprehend to a law abiding society. From an early age a sense of justice and injustice is indoctrinated into us. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that even babies have a sense of injustice and dislike having it violated, even when they witness events that do not directly effect them (Maia Szalavitz (20th February 2012). “Even Babies Can Recognize What’s Fair: Babies as young as 19 months are affronted when they see displays of injustice”. Time Magazine).

Religious texts

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

It is even found within religious texts, for example, in the book of Deuteronomy, it explains that the godly person;

‘shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water… and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but are like chaff which the wind driveth away’.

Devastation

To be precise about this matter a feeling of injustice, on a personal level is devastating. A sense of injustice is a feeling that the rules of justice have been violated. These are rules which dictate that if we are honourable, we will be rewarded and that if we are bad, we will be punished.

Absurd

If in life we act correctly but still suffer at the hands of those who don’t we feel excluded from the rights of justice and therefore, vulnerable in every other walk of life. The whole world in which we have lived in seems absurd and unrecognisable.

Thinking on two fronts

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

It becomes expected that the victim of this nightmare thinks on two fronts. Firstly, you may think that you had done wrong without knowing and this is why you are being punished. Or, alternatively, you know that you have not done anything wrong and that you have fallen victim to a catastrophic failure in the administration of justice.

The voice of the majority

Time after time I have witnessed people coming forward to highlight the failings of the judicial service who still continue to deny that there is a problem. Yet in a supposedly democratic society the voice of the majority is being ignored by those of whom are in power not by selection but by privilege. How on earth can one value have a higher value that a principle of protection from an injustice. And here lies the fact that this is the case.

Burden

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

Injustice can be seen as the poor man’s burden. As previously stated in my blog entitled Legal (F)aid ,access to resources to fight injustice is somewhat limited. From that angle we can see that those at the bottom of the social ladder are left to fend for themselves.  So the ultimate realization of Social Darwinism is a real modern day problem. The weak will be left behind with the burden of injustice.

Profit and loss

I would like to think that human nature tries to avoid a world that is unjust, but alas, this is not so. With a justice system comes a profit and loss ideal. For example, like so many other false accusers they intend to gain from another person’s loss, be it either power over that person (as in the case of my ex), financial gain or out of just trying to save face following their own trial of lies. It is only social structures and organisations that choose justice for us. Hence, only an agent such as the legal system can be held accountable as it either supports the false accuser or not. This fact does indeed rest with (in the UK) the Crown Prosecution Service. To date, will all of the people I know who have found injustice not one of them have received an apology for their wrong doing (coming back to the point of doing good means nothing). It only happens when their errors have been made public and the CPS has nowhere to hide.

Ethical poison

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

It seems that the ethical injustice must derive from some ethical poison in the judgement of the hearer. From different points in history one might draw on many depressing examples of prejudices obviously relevant to the context of credibility judgement, such as the idea that women are irrational, blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, the working classes are the moral inferiors of the upper classes, and men are violent within relationships.  With this level of brainwashing it is little wonder that injustice is allowed to continue unabated. The suggestion I am heading for is that the ethical poison in question is that of prejudice.

Literature

But in order to furnish the readers imagination, let us turn to an example from literature that provides us with a historically truthful fiction.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

The example is from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The year is 1935, and the scene is set in a courtroom in Maycomb County, Alabama. The defendant is a young black man named Tom Robinson. He is charged with raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, whose family’s rundown house he passes every day on his way to work, situated as it is on the outskirts of town in the borderlands that divide where whites and black live.

From the outset it is obvious that Tom Robinson is entirely innocent. His defence lawyer, Atticus Finch, has proven beyond doubt that Robinson could not have beaten the Ewell girl so as to cause the sort of cuts and bruises she sustained that day, since whoever gave her the beating led with his left fist, whereas Tom Robinson’s left arm is disabled, having been injured in a machinery accident when he was a boy. The trial proceedings enact a straightforward struggle between the power of evidence and the power of racial prejudice, with the all-white jury’s judgement ultimately succumbing to the latter.

Presumption is a pre-requisite

But the psychology is subtle, and there is a great complexity of social meanings at work in determining the jury’s perception of Tom Robinson as a speaker. In a showdown between the word of a black man and that of a poor white girl, the courtroom air is thick with the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of racial politics. And yet, like so many other injustices the word of a small blue eyed female (my ex) carries more weight than the word of an innocent man. The presumption is made and the idea of guilt needs to be disproved.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

This example of injustice carries on through the discursive moments of the book. When Mayella grabbed Tom Robinson he was at a loss already. If he pushed her away, then he would have been found to have assaulted her; yet if he is passive, he will equally be found to have assaulted her. So, he does the most neutral thing he can, which is to run, though knowing all the while that this action too will be taken as a sign of guilt.  The interrogation of Tom is suffused with the idea that his running away implies culpability:

‘…why did you run so fast?’

‘I says I was scared, suh.’

 ‘If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?’

Domestic stereotype ideals

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

Even with all of the evidence to support Tom Robinson’s innocents he is still found guilty. It is perhaps worth remarking that even the most hateful prejudicial ideologies may be sustained not only by explicitly hateful thought and talk but also by more domestic stereotypical ideas that are almost cosy in comparison. For these types of people an alternative truth to their own ideas is largely unthinkable. And so, the ignorance is allowed to continue.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

By selecting an individual to a specific group (for example, if all men are violent abusers then an individual man is an abuser too) this becomes a form of ‘identity’ prejudice.  So, the influence of identity prejudice in a hearer’s credibility judgement is an operation of identity power. Thus, in such a case the influence of identity prejudice is a matter of one party or parties effectively controlling what another party does, says or thinks. So, a view of guilt depends upon collective conceptions of the social identities in play.

In our Mockingbird example, racial identity power is exercised in this way by members of the (white) jury as they make their deflated credibility judgements of Tom Robinson, with the result that he is unable to convey to them the knowledge he has of what happened at the Ewells’ place. This is the essential exercise of identity power in the courtroom that seals Tom’s fate.

Selection is ingrained

From these examples and thoughts it shows that your view of your position in a society that implies it protects the innocent is an irrelevant lie. For many our lives have been selected and chosen before we have even left the womb. Yet regardless of how we try to fight these prejudices they have become so ingrained within the social psyche that justice or injustice becomes irrelevant. It is your gender, sexuality, colour, religion and so on that predetermines the outcomes.

More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

The recent opportunities given to me to spend time researching has opened many educational, philosophical and social pathways.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

I am often amazed to discover facts that seem to pass us by without us either knowing or wanting to know. But today, I came across a revelation that got me thinking. I discovered that more people die each year from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts.

By their own hands

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC)‘Suicide in the United States’ (2000) found that more people die by their own hand than are killed by others. In fact, by their own statistics there were 1.7 times more suicides than homicides.

Furthermore, in the UK the Office for National Statistics (Non-fatal suicidal behaviour [March 2002]) showed that nearly one in six adults had considered suicide at some point in their lives. The study also found that over 4% of people between 16 and 74 had attempted suicide.

Biggest cause of death for 15-35 year olds

The World health Organisation (WHO) have discovered that suicide rates have grown by 60% worldwide in the past 45 years. With the statistic provided by WHO who state that in 2000 alone 1 million people died from suicide it is now the biggest cause of death among people aged 15 to 35 worldwide.

Not just a western problem

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

Furthermore, it is not just a Western problem as I have heard mentioned so many times before. Former Soviet states such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Lithuania have all showed alarming rates of suicide. Also areas such as Uganda and Pakistan have shown a marked increase in people showing ‘depressive disorders’ and suicide (N. Hussain et al. ‘Depression and social stress in Pakistan’ (2000). Psychological Medicine).

Early records

I have also heard it said that depression is a modern phenomenon based on the rise of leisure time. However, again I have found a contradiction to this so-called fact. Depression was once referred to as ‘melancholia’ and the earliest records of such a condition can be found back in the 5th century BC. Philosophers such as Hippocrates and Arateus both described symptoms that sound all too familiar with what we would now describe as ‘depression’. Arateus described melancholia as ‘…the patients become dull or stern, dejected or unreasonably torpid… they also became peeving, dispirited and start up from a disturbed sleep’ (Matthews ‘How did pre-twentieth century theories of the aetiology of depression develop’).

Doubled

Since 1950 suicide rates in men aged 45 or under in England and Wales have doubled. I consider that a change in family circles and a rising lack of security in work may have contributed to this. Could it also be worth considering that there is a rise in drug and alcohol use since the 1950s?

Men and women

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

As a paramedic I can argue with the fact that more women attempt suicide but more men likely to fulfil their actions. This has also been supported by The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) ‘Suicide in the United States’ (2000). In fact, CDC have made it known that males are more than four times as likely to die than their female counterparts. Yet as we know, men are less likely to admit to depression and so it can difficult to diagnose. And here, in my opinion, rests the connection. I would suggest that as a result of men not seeking help they are more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs and perhaps, as in my own case, work longer hours.

Elderly

Another shocking fact that I found out was that the elderly are at the highest risk of all. In fact, according to www.suicidology.org white men over the age of 85 are at the highest risk of all with a suicide risk more than six times that of the general population.  But what, in my opinion, is a truly sad fact is that only a small percentage (two to four percent) have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Time and again, I have witnessed our older generation being dismissed as ‘just getting older’ rather than seeking true and professional treatment.

Global burden

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

For those of you who dismiss the idea of ever having or will ever have depression it is time to wake up. It has been predicted by WHO that by 2020 depression will be the second largest contributor to the global burden of disease. And by then . there will be 1.5 million deaths per year by suicide (quoted in ‘Stigma Ties’ Guardian 11 September 2002).

In my opinion these facts show a serious public health risk. Although I have noticed recent attempts to bring depression to the fore front of peoples minds there still carries a stigma. There is also a question on how public health bodies should tackle what is, in effect, an individuals choice. If a person has made a rational choice to die (say after being diagnosed with a terminal illness) then how can society justify in intervening?

Tools of the trade

I fully accept that the state and public health bodies are always operating within the ‘best interest’ policy. When the UK moved away from supplying household gas from lethal coke gas to a less toxic form, the suicide rates dropped. Yet in the US it is estimated that there are some 200 million firearms in private hands, yet it is the only country in the world where self-inflicted shootings is the most common method of suicide (A. Solomon, The Noonday Demon’ [2001]). Would it not, therefore, be a sensible idea that to take away the means to make an impulsive decisions, then suicide levels may drop?

Stigma

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression More people die from suicide than in all of the worlds conflicts

I believe that the crucial question rests with the fact that there needs to be a move away from the stigma associated with mental illness. In England alone, 5000 people killed themselves in 2010, yet only 1,200 had sought help or had had contact with the mental health services prior to their deaths (www.ohn.gov.uk).

I conclude with the on-going debate that more needs to be done. Time and again I have found that, even with the best of intentions, medical staff still struggle to find the best provisions for emergency mental health patients. As I have stated, this problem isn’t going away and it appears to be increasing at an alarming rate. We, or our loved ones could, may and perhaps will be a victim of this disease therefore, it is everyone’s problem.

The philosophy of returning to work

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

I should have written this blog three days ago as I returned to work following my period of absence. My initial feelings of anxiety had diminished as I had wanted to return to work several months previously. However, I think my anxiety had turned into trepidation.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

I found it very strange that after entering through the doorway how everything was the same but felt equally different. There were new faces who looked at me with some form of inquisitiveness and there were faces I knew but carrying 10 months’ worth of stress and other work/home related problems. I was also surprised at the amount of people who were presently working their resignation. Indeed, it was a sad realisation of how much the job had changed for so many people.

Reflecting

I spent the previous day or so thinking and reflecting upon the events of the past few months and on how my outlook and views had changed. Initially I was both cross and disappointed with myself that I had not found another job. I had a realisation of how much my chosen career path had taken out of me to the expense of my health and family/social life. However, it is easy to reflect on that when the reality was that I was too ill to consider a new job.

Page or chapter?

I also considered how my worldly outlook has also changed. By returning to work I suppose a new page or chapter had begun and so reflecting on these new findings was right.

Conciliation of philosophy

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

It was during my time at university that I was introduced to philosophy. Admittedly it was political philosophy but I had caught the ‘interest’ bug and carried on reading all sorts of philosophical genre. As a result (and I am not selling it here) I came to realise that no matter what our thoughts or feelings are, someone somewhere has also thought the same things. I have found it to be both comforting and, if you like, an endorsement of my views when I have come across another thinker with the same opinions. I suppose it can be considered as a form of conciliation.

Feeling like a fraud

As I grew older I discovered that hitting rock bottom had different levels. To put this simply some bad days were better than others or lasted longer than previous feelings of hopelessness. Because of its irregularity I could not see the point or purpose of seeing anyone about it. Furthermore, the idea of an appointment system often let me down because by the time I had managed to make an appointment I had started to feel better. It made me feel like a bit of a fraud. In effect my health had literally gone awry.

CBT wasn’t for me

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

Time and again CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) had been suggested as a form of treatment. It came highly recommended and so I gave it a go but for me it didn’t work. However, whilst searching the internet I discovered that the psychologist who had invented it, Albert Ellis, had got the idea directly from ancient philosophy (Greek to be exact). Since reading about Ellis’s ideas I found that it matched up with Epictetus (AD 55 – 135) view of human weakness. Epictetus suggested that…

“Men are disturbed not by events but by their opinion about events.”

Personal values

Perhaps my views of the world like Epictetus, had considered that our emotions always involve beliefs or interpretations of the world we live in. Perhaps, therefore, our interpretations may often be inaccurate, irrational or just simply wrong. And as a result, will make us emotionally ill or devoid of the things around us. Whilst I write this perhaps I can consider that I had a value system that put a huge emphasis on working and behaving to the best of my abilities. Perhaps I can now consider that this flawed belief system has put too much pressure on my simple and narrow shoulders. It is ok to be human and say; ‘I’m just not managing and want a second consideration’.  I can now say that this is what I would happily except from others, so why not myself?

Habits

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

I am not finding or looking for a reason or excuse but perhaps our beliefs are ingrained from an early age and so become habitual. Would it be fair to consider that our, actions become so regular and habitual that they become comfortable or unseen in our day to day activities? Perhaps this is why people are generally uncomfortable about changing their life patterns or regularity. Taking a leap if you like. For example, people may not be able to cope after the pattern of a long-term relationship comes to an end. I know some of you may be screaming at me right now saying that this is what CBT encourages us to consider. But for me I was uncomfortable talking about this in front of people sitting in a circle. My main concern at that time was to just get out of there with my integrity intact.  This is why I renewed my love for philosophy. Or to be precise my re-reading of philosophy.

It has often been suggested that our capacity to choose our paths in life is constrained by a great many things (genes, childhood, circumstances, wealth [or lack of], education and so on). But to a degree we can widen the paths we have selected by considering views different to our own. This ability can make us improve ‘our lot’ and open up our ideas and views with the resources we have to hand.

Epictetus put this simply by dividing life into two categories: the things we control and the things we don’t. We don’t control the weather, other people, our reputation, our even own bodies and health. But he considered that although we can influence these things, we don’t have complete control over them. The only thing we do have control over is our own thoughts and beliefs.

Control

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

I would like to suggest that emotional problems arise when we try to gain control over something external – something out of our control. When I had hit rock bottom and felt destitute, I rested all my self-esteem on others’ views of me. This, of course, made me feel helpless, depressed and finally anxious.

My enlightened moment came one day whilst walking in the park. The end to this self-enslavement was to stop trying to manage other people opinion and views of me. Instead I decided to focus on controlling my own thoughts and beliefs. I knew my good and bad points and I also knew the facts behind a false allegation. I won’t say it was an instant relief, but it had given me the strength to return to work with a ‘do or be damned’ attitude.

Alas, I must confess that this makes it sound so simple. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. The problem is that humans are incredibly forgetful creatures. We might read a book or hear a revelation on the radio or TV and have a light-bulb moment, but then a few days later we forget and go back to our old way of seeing and doing things. We are creatures of habits. In fact Aristotle (384–322 BC) wrote:

“It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference.”

Ethics

Every day, we have a choice to either reinforce a habit, or challenge it. The Greeks understood the importance of habits to the good life. Their word “ethics” comes from “ethos”, meaning habit and they developed some great techniques for habit-formation.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

One technique the ancient Greeks liked to use is the idea of ‘maxim’. A maxim is the compression of an idea into a short, memorisable phrase, like “everything in moderation” or “look before you leap” and so on. Ancient Greek students would repeat these maxims over and over, even sing them, until they became neural habits, thus became expectations.

So how has this helped me?

Well the ancient philosophers enjoyed and encouraged other thinkers to keep a journal. As you know (if you are a regular reader) my blog became my journal. It outlined and tracked my progress. When I read many of my blogs back to myself I can witness the growing of my strength and understanding. This of course, has also been endorsed by other bloggers and readers who have also encountered their own difficulties and problems. It is not a measuring tool to compare our woes, but it has become a support structure for others to say ‘yes I get that, I’ve been there too’. Epictetus would have embraced this as he once stated; “count the days when you were not angry”.  To be able to do this you need to keep a journal of some kind. A blog is now the ideal medium of which to do this in modern times.

Theory/practice

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The philosophy of returning to work

As I write this I consider that our new-found philosophy needs to be more than theory, it needs to be practice too. Time and again I have found myself to be confident in the classroom, but a miserable shipwreck when it comes to practice. To put this simply you cannot get over your anxiety by holding a new view in the safety of your living room. I learnt that you need to go out and practise. For me it was important to take small steps first, like walking in the park, then the shops and finally back in to work. Can I therefore, suggest that every situation we’re in can be an opportunity to practise our new philosophy. Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), put it better when he said; “The Stoic sees all adversity as training.”

I have now realised that philosophy through CBT can heal suffering and perhaps save many lives. But it’s not the last word and it is not a wonder pill to be taken once a day. To use another maxim “no man is an island” I would suggest or even dictate to male suffers of anxiety and depression to get those tablets and embrace counselling. The offensive term of ‘manning up’ is not a philosophy. It is a dangerous, small minded point of view that has killed more than it has saved.  Being a good person is the acceptance that sharing your pain or recovery process for the benefit of others is perhaps the best gift you can give.

Stages of truth

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

 

Formula

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

It is amazing how often complicated things can become simple once you get an understanding of its concepts, flows or for that matter, formulas.

I remember a time whilst at school I was very distressed by the fact I could not get to grips with the concept of fractions. This fact was not helped by the poor and incapability of the specific teacher who appeared to take great pleasure in highlighting my inadequacies to the rest of the class. I can recall, with a great level of distress how he would make me stand up to answer fraction questions he would fire at me.

Well, I took the time one evening to sit with my adopted father who went to great lengths to explain, demonstrate and show the practice and understanding of fractions. The following day I attended the usual maths lesson, this time fully armed and equipped with my fraction formula.  Much to the teacher’s frustration and I suppose humiliation I was able to answer his quick fire fraction questions with ease.

At the end of the said lesson the teacher asked me how I had ‘cracked it’ so quickly. I replied with the answer ‘I spent some time with someone who did what you were paid to do’. From that day forward, it was evident that both he and I never really liked each other much. I heard many years later that the said teacher eventually died from alcoholism. Let me make this very clear, it was not my fraction revelations that drove him to drink as I am sure (whilst I reflect on it now) that he had some form of drink problem way back then. The point I am making here is that his failure needed to be projected to some other place than his own. Perhaps alcoholism was his way of admitting to himself that he was poor at his job.

So how does the truth create hostility?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

Throughout human history there has been a constant dialogue of struggles in one way or another. Even in our own life times we can identify some disruption or other based on the failing of minds meeting.

But, I wish to reveal a three-stage step to the discovery of truth. I recently came across a quote that seemed to offer a formula to understanding in the face of hostility

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

For me this revelation seems to fit with every stage that I have challenged recently.

Three stages

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

When I discussed the fact that men are also victims of female violence or men suffer with depression, I met three stages.

Firstly, there is an element of ridicule – “man up” or “don’t be so stupid”

Secondly, I have experienced hostile opposition – “how dare a male victim attempt to violate female territory of victim status”

And finally, acceptance as a reality – Letters of apology from specific organisations.

Historical example – Galileo

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

If I give the historical example of Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) you will see and understand that the modern approach to the truth has had a historical precedence.

In the Christian world prior to Galileo’s conflict with the Church, the majority of educated people subscribed to the Aristotelian view that the earth was the centre of the universe and that all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth.

Galileo decided to challenge these perceived views and argued that the earth was not the centre pin of it all (heliocentrism). Opposition to Galileo’s writings combined religious and scientific objections.

Galileo – Ridicule

Religious opposition to heliocentrism arose from Biblical references such as Psalm 93:1, 96:10, and  Chronicles 16:30 which included texts stating that “the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.” In the same manner, Psalm 104:5 says, “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that “And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.”

Biblical challenge

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

Galileo defended heliocentrism based on his own tried and tested observations of 1609. In December 1613, the Grand Duchess Christina of Florence argued against Galileo’s theories with biblical objections to the motion of the earth. Prompted by this incident, Galileo wrote a letter in which he argued that heliocentrism was actually not contrary to biblical texts, and that the bible was an authority on faith and morals, not on science.

Inquisition

By 1615, Galileo’s writings on heliocentrism had been submitted to the Roman Inquisition by Father Niccolo Lorini, who claimed that Galileo and his followers were attempting to reinterpret the Bible, which was seen as a violation of the Council of Trent and looked dangerously like Protestantism. Galileo went to Rome to defend himself and his ideas. In February 1616, an Inquisitorial commission declared heliocentrism to be;

“…foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.”

The Inquisition found that the idea of the Earth’s movement… “receives the same judgement in philosophy and… in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith”.

Galileo – opposition

Pope Paul V instructed Cardinal Bellarmine to deliver this finding to Galileo, and to order him to abandon the opinion that heliocentrism was physically true. On 26 February, Galileo was called to Bellarmine’s residence and ordered:

… to abandon completely… the opinion that the sun stands still at the centre of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.

Silenced to no longer question

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

In essence, Galileo was publicly silenced by the authorities for speaking his view of the truth at the risk of imprisonment or death for holding heretical opinions.

Although Galileo attempted to abide by his restraints he could not resist speaking directly to his challengers in the form of writing. As a result, the Pope called Galileo to Rome to defend his writings. He finally arrived in February 1633 and was brought before inquisitor Vincenzo Maculani to be charged. Throughout his trial, Galileo steadfastly maintained that since 1616 he had faithfully kept his promise not to hold any of the condemned opinions, and initially he denied even defending them. However, he was eventually persuaded to admit that, contrary to his true intention, a reader of his Dialogue could well have obtained the impression that it was intended to be a defence of heliocentrism.

Galileo – suppression

The sentence of the Inquisition was essentially in three parts:

Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions.

He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition. On the following day, this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.

His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.

Galileo – Self Evident

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

I suppose with our modern outlook of the world backed up with scientific facts we now readily accept the fact that the earth moves around the sun. However, we forget that to have established this truth an individual had to endure so much for what we now take for granted.

How does this fit with modern problems?

When I decided to write about my own experiences it came with some form of ‘shock and awe’. As I have stated so many times, there was and is very little published works of which I could compare my experiences with. This was as a direct result of social expectations. To clarify this, it was expected that to be a male you had to endure certain inequalities. Speaking out against this would ensure ridicule and hostility.

Seeking help

For example, when I asked for refuge against my violent ex I was faced with a brick wall of confusion. There was/is no emergency homes available for men because the perceived fact that male victims do not exist. By requesting help I was considered as troublesome because it flew in the face of established facts – of which are built on presumptions and not evidence.

I now know that I was not the only one to have experienced such negativity. The problem rested with the fact that victims were and are too scared to speak up. This created a feeling of isolation and vulnerability in a world that had collapsed within a moment.

Testing times

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

It is only now by stating that I am recovering and survived that can I see the true cost of seeking the truth. It is expensive in more ways that financial. It tests your resolve, sanity and faith in everything you have understood to be right. By seeking the truth I  was also searching  for self respect and self worth. This is important because you need to know that you have a stake in a society of which you contribute to.

For me writing was my avenue of seeking these things. I have had to ask and look for answers and trust the judgements of those of whom matter. It is easy to say that I know there are so many other people out there seeking their own truths and understandings but it is a journey of seeking, fighting and accepting. Or to put it another way, ridicule, hostility and finally acceptance.

Every fight is worth fighting for if you know the truth is being suppressed and worked against you.

Depressive shame

Talking about depression was also not perceived as being a manly occupation. Time and again I have heard other men talk about the concept of ‘manning up’. This in my view is a personal attack on the victims. It is wrong to refuse or accept the concept or fact that men also suffer with this debilitating illness. Just because men are not (and perhaps still not) encouraged to talk about it does not lesson the pain.

As I have stated in my previous blogs that if I tried to speak out or open up it was often suppressed or directly challenged. What made it worse was that it was not challenged by other men but by (certain) women who had claimed to be victims themselves. And here lie the similarities that Galilieo faced. He talked about a fact based on knowledge (and perhaps experience) and was suppressed by those of whom would lose their monopoly of power. I wanted and needed refuge in my hour of need. But because I did not fit into social expectations of victim status I was dismissed. In fact I am still awaiting domestic abuse support from the police six months after being promised.

The process of time

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

When being challenged with suppressive actions it can become exhaustive. Each minute can feel like a day but you only start to heal when know you are being listened to. Therefore, minutes no longer feel like days but finally feel like the sixty seconds it should do. This is not a quick process, like the formula states, but a time consuming, up hill struggle that feels as if you are stepping in uncharted territory. The fact is you are not, it is just that you have not met the other searchers yet.

#metoo – really?

I am all in favour of victims speaking out. In fact I encourage it. However, the recent explosion of victim status via the public arena of #metoo has completely missed the point.

A suppressed section of society is not allowed the privilege of being heard. Yet, so many victims are jumping on the bandwagon of victim status. I actually question how many of these ‘shouters’ as I should call them were actually victims in the first place. Yet, suppression has not allowed male victims to shout out about their victimisation for fear of ridicule or reprisals.

Self-evident

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

I hope that society will eventually mature enough to recognise that to be a victim does not require you to meet certain characteristics.

A self-evident society will and should accept that a victim is a person who has been subjected to an action or event contrary to their expected human right. Or a person that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment. There should be no pre-requisite of gender, sexuality, race or colour before you can claim victim status.

Like my maths teacher, he lost the upper hand when I worked out the formula. And here I have argued that the formula of truth does indeed come in the three stages as previously stated (ridicule, opposition and finally it is accepted as being self-evident).

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stages of truth

This should be the Galileo status of it all making sense in the end. A victim (of anything) does not consider their status or position when they are taking a beating or being robbed etc. The future should now rid its self of the shameful act of ridicule and suppression. It is now time to embrace the fact that we are all responsible for the protection of each other.

 

The Art of Staying Quiet

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

I used to enjoy art at school. I must confess that I could never have claimed to be good at it but then by modern standards I could have been considered the producer of master pieces.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

Even today as a middle-aged man I like to do the odd doodle, visit art galleries, buy nice prints when I can and so on. I even have Lempika’s iconic picture ‘The Woman in The Green Dress’ tattooed on my upper left arm. I’ve probably had it for about 8 years now and I still look at it with a sense of pride.

But what is art?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

Well this is actually difficult to pin down. There are loose explanations around that still don’t make it clear.

I have often visited galleries, art shops or exhibitions and asked myself ‘how on earth did this ever get past the critic?’  Furthermore, how can a piece I consider to be poor demand such a high price when my GCSE masterpiece only made me a ‘B’?

When I do see something I consider to be ‘poor’ I develop a nagging concern that I am not educated or qualified enough to evaluate the work and so be unable to justify its worth.  Of course, we all know that the interpretation of art is subjective, and this is why I cannot identify what is good art.

Denying questions is ignorance

The idea that the artist defines the artwork reduces the viewer’s involvement with the artwork and eroded the authority of the viewer’s perspective. In this belief system, the artist has the ultimate trump card: “you don’t understand.” Therefore, the conversation is over, the viewer hushed and finally shamed into silence.

In my view life is a subjective experience. And yet, we still trust in the ability of people to evaluate and share their perceptions in journalism, history, law, science and so on. It is the responsibility of the artist, the scientist, the lawyer (including the police and CPS) and the historian to convey an individual’s window on the world. Art is not a one-sided conversation, and it doesn’t help to continue acting like it is.

The art of words

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

If a piece of art genuinely moves only one person, it is still good art. The same can be applied to the art of conversation or the ability to write. If it moves many people, it might be great art. If it moves you only because you think that it ought to, then it is time to start thinking about why. This does involve an element of  expectation of self-awareness and belief in the ability to people to be confident in their own perspectives. At the very least, it requires thoughtfulness.

So how does this fit here?

I have loosely touch upon this when I suggested that the art of conversation is still an art.

When I studied A level Law many years ago a key statement my tutor made was that ‘the law and its principles is open to interpretation’. The art is being able to understand, decipher and communicate back.

It is not an art to ridcule

Unlike the ‘expert’ artist, I feel it is immoral, wrong and dangerous to ridicule someone’s interpretation of what has been said or implied.

Like so many victims I have met the process of recovery is not just living day to day but to be listened to. The art for the listener is to pay attention, interpret and attempt to understand. It is not their role to criticise, ridicule or use it for harm.

Wittgenstein and the limitation of words

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

For many people (or survivors) their words are restricted by the Wittgenstein principle.

Wittgenstein’s work (Tractatus) considered the relationship between language and the world. He argued that the logical structure of language provides the limits of meaning. The limits of language, for Wittgenstein, are the limits of thought or the sharing of ideas or principle (aka philosophy).

There just doesn’t seem to be any logic

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

When I reflect on capabilities, why are footballers (or soccer to my American readers) paid massive sums of money to just kick a piece of leather around. Yet my Ambulance colleagues, who save lives on a regular basis, have to threaten strike action just to keep up with the cost of living? How is the value of their skills measured correctly? Is saving a life less of an art than kicking a ball?

I recently endured a series of programmes that awarded celebrities for being, well – celebrities. I witnessed how the artists were categorized and judged. In my view the winners were imposed upon the audience (who are very often culture obsessed) with deciding who is worthy and who is not. We watch people walk down the red carpet and listen to commentators judge their appearances and beauty.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

I once fell into a similar trap many years ago. I was watching some award programme for authors and their books. The programme raved and shouted loudly about how brilliant a certain book was. Well with that kind of praise I rushed out the following day and bought a copy. Well, it was without doubt, one of the worst books I have ever read. To be honest with you I never finished it. As a result I have learnt to ignore these so called experts and develop my own thoughts and considerations about what I perceive to be right or good.

How is being quiet an art?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

The art of being quiet is to allow the talker to create their own problems. These past few months I have come into contact with so many so called ‘professionals’.

During these many conversations I witnessed their art is one of self-indulgence and above all arrogance. Many of these talkers have spouted false statistics believing them to be gospel or as flawless facts. Yet, when challenged they see it as a personal attack and treat it as such. If a true believer has faith in what they have to say then they shouldn’t have to revert to personal attacks.

Just sit back and watch it all happen

The art of being quiet is to sit back and watch them dig themselves deeper. To give this an example, I have recently dealt with the CPS about how they consider every case on a case by case basis. I asked them to supply policies and precedence to show this. To begin with i did not question or criticise their statements. I didn’t need to because by their own words I found so many contradictions that it has now become impossible to ignore.

If you recall I used this same principle with social services which resulted in the sacking of one of their own.

I have discovered that if you remain quiet and let the fakers continue to talk they eventually get caught up in their own contradictions. Their ultimate shame is shown when they cannot criticise you anymore due to the recognition that they have been caught out.

He or she who shouts the loudest has the most to hide

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art of Staying Quiet

Maybe the reason the abusers continue to talk when they know they are being caught out sheds light on a deeper human truth. Perhaps they overstate their arguments and lie to fill a void of unworthiness. Maybe we need to define abusers as the “other,” the lesser, the unworthy because we know following our own experiences that there is a definitive right and wrong, good and bad, and very often the weaker listeners fall on the latter side to believe the one shouting the loudest.

By definition, and my personal belief, the art of being quiet is just the ability to let the wrong doers express their interpretations wrongly. Often it warrants a greatness and appreciation for the beauty of staying quiet and buying your time rather than lowering yourself to their level resulting in a public argument. This allows you to own the power of their own downfall, either for the fake accusers, their departments or the subsequent offenders and abusers.

Remaining quiet does not feed their flames – They do it themselves

The art of staying quiet is the ability to step back and buy yourself some time whilst the accusers and their supporters dig their own graves. The real skill is to buy your time and choosing your moment correctly rather than feed their ego by counter arguing. Of course, it feels right to defend yourself the instant an accusation has been made. But if the abuser continues upon their own path to destruction it rewards you by witnessing the creation of their own endings.