About me

I’m a social worker in an over 65s community mental health team in England. Previously, I’ve worked in  Community Care Teams, Physical Disabilities Teams and Learning Disabilities settings. I am also an AMHP (Approved Mental Health Professional) and a BIA (Best Interests Assessor).

I am also a foster carer but I don’t really write about that at all except possibly may do in the context of interactions with professionals but it remains something more ‘private’ for reasons of confidentiality.

Some things I write about are based on the work I practice but I change enough of the details to prevent identification.. this is intentional!

If you are wondering about the title of the blog it comes from the follow quotation

‘Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one’ Nietzsche

I think some of the distinctions that we work with are very arbitrary at times as can be the distinction between professional and patient. The monsters I am referring to in the title is mental disorder and illness itself.

I aim to update between 3 – 5 times weekly.

If you find an entry that I’ve made private and want the password, just send me a message through the ‘contact me’ form.

Comment Policy

I just want to clarify the grounds on which I might intervene in the otherwise free commenting on this blog.

I’m not one for censorship and certainly won’t censor on the basis of agreement/disagreement with my position – that would make a less interesting place.

So just to make things clear these are my guidelines

1. No spam

2. No personal attacks.

3. Nothing that (knowingly) breaks copyright

4. No swearing/bad language

5. No relevance to the post

If your comment does not appear and does not fall into one of these categories – please contact me using the contact form.

I reserve the right to block and/or edit comments that I feel may fall into one or other of the above categories or for any other reason that seems appropriate.

I do appreciate comments and interaction as I feel it is an important part of what I am creating.

Thanks

Please feel free to use the contact form if you want to get in touch!

22 thoughts on “About me

  1. Thanks a lot. I added your site because I found it interesting and useful and think others will too! It’s quite good seeing things from an international perspective sometimes :)

  2. I came across your blog through the comment you made in mine.
    It’s a very wonderful blog. I’ll keep it in my list. Keep up the good work!!!

  3. Thanks! I have looked around for more as much as I could and as far as time allows. It’s always good to find more and so thanks for dropping by! I’ll be sure to pop in and see you too!

  4. Thank you very much for the link. I’m from Canada, not the US, though. :)

    I haven’t had time to look over all the archives, but the ones I have read are very interesting. It’s very cool to find this little community of SW bloggers. :)

  5. Lovely blog! I am writing a sort of fiction called the Wellness Papers where I begin to try to re-look at stereotyping and its impact. Below is the latest piece! I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    The Wellness Papers 2

    The Assessment: Social Work and Painting and Decorating

    They could easily be the people labelled and satirised in television documentaries, social services departments, schools, colleges and workplaces across the country.

    The ones cut off from the mainstream by the mainstream and then, expensively, let back in. The ones the police, court, agency representatives and buy to let landlords can make a pensionable living out of, offshore assets from.

    They are the ones unleashed against an unsuspecting public. The sensational story of poverty of opportunity that it is not my place to change.

    But this is wrong. My wellness is my social reward for a particular type of dishonest communication with certain types of people, helping them accept being let down as a way of life.

    The final painting should have looked like this: an oil of a slim, elderly woman sitting in an armchair in her bra and knickers, platinum hair, side parted, eyes alert, cautious, looking across the room, it appears, towards the young sculptor in a back lit corner, as if she is going to tell him off…

    Not because her face was used to public show and her body was not; it wasn’t that. It was somewhere in the way that the light fell, making the skin translucent and it was beautiful. But the sensuality, if there at all, was measured and controlled not by me, but, it seemed, by the subject’s awareness.

    Painting becomes her.

    Although the incandescence of the woman appeared to come from the way light had been used, the way the window behind the figure provided and held light around the trees, that same light, light outside the window, seems opaque, unimportant. Light seems to gather around the woman, tracing a path around her figure, but coming from inside her body, making her skin appear matt, fine, like alabaster but somehow irrelevant.

    She allows the sculptor and me, the artist, into this time, her body pliant, an arm on each arm of the armchair, her frame erect. Time for which we are skilled and commissioned to produce work between a moment, for us, between the initial preparatory photograph and the moment where we recreate that sense that she is not there, that she is always only tentatively describable; but in the moment that I begin to paint, I see that she is willing me to paint myself, to let her go free.

    She draws strength from everything that art pretends to be, conscious that she has allowed light in on the energy that she created. To her, all the paths, lines, repetitions, crossings out of her fifty years in England in this small house, matter, not in an acquisitive sense, but in the sense that she is aware and asks valid questions about everything, not just about the things that affected her, she cares about democracy, about why parliament doesn’t debate the poor as people with aspirations any more.

    She thinks it’s a given that the quality of life of everyone, not just her own family, is important and this pulls me up in a culture that encourages her to know nothing about anything except her own business and to gossip about others.

    At first I hadn’t equated her struggle to be a decent human being
    with what I do. What she saw, felt and experienced were anecdotal. I didn’t see her as a creative person, preparing the ground for this
    moment, to tell me something small but important about her life. Then, she had been a sitter for our assessment, me the older man, the father painter/mentor for a young, creative middle class trainee with a young family on the way.

    You see I was only thinking about myself.

    Until I made this final painting, I had not seen that a deeper connection existed out there, between ordinary people and social artists like me: a relationship where the people I studied were, at the same time studying me, were willing me to find the connection between their hopes and my work. Underprivileged people if you like, but I realise now that vision and aspiration can only come from a genuine humility, a willingness to see what’s important to them.

    Underprivilege affects everyone, from all walks of life.

    People privilege me with their desire to know art, to show me that they made meaning and sense in the same way I, in this privileged role, make meaning and sense.

    The first assessment was thorough we thought: A Triptych of interrelationships: the grandmother: the grandmother and the son
    and the sculptor, blacks, whites, greys and yellows: the extraordinary luxury of line without boundary: photographic certainty without giving anything away. The kind of image that could be used as evidence but again, the kind of image that I realise now, cries out for proper explanation.

    The paintings were always in my head, the lines, the colours, the squalor of the way they live now. I’d made a comfortable living out of them until now that I realise that what I’d made were caricatures, social satires.

    A middle aged man sitting at a computer at the end of a room which looks untidy, bookcase full to bulging, papers over every surface.

    The man sits at the computer screen, hypnotised, stuck, if you like, although he is an adult, although he is working, to my eyes, then, he is about five years old and he is sitting at the end of the room with a plastic steering wheel, pretending to drive a car.

    He is playing working because this is the way I saw him, conjuror,
    joker, sleight of hand artist, hiding behind a cruel moment of light that he is trying to control.

    I had assumed that this was my light. If I’m honest, he’d frustrated me with his obsequiousness. He wanted something, I thought, and began to search the littered, overwhelming space for a way out.

    He had given me his friendship, instantly, and I had rejected it.

    He wanted to show me things as they were, the pressure he feels, the workload, the corners he has to cut to balance the attention he wants to give to all of his clients and the love he has for his mother. Something he developed out of nothing, here, in this small house, in difficult circumstances, without network or family privilege, he wanted to show it as it is.

    And I misread him: disorganised, chaotic, weak, undisciplined.
    I had made an assessment A con, I thought, too much of the nod, nod, wink, wink, pretend school, hiding something, I thought and then, I could see nothing beautiful in his way of life because, instead of looking, I listened to what I thought was his need to produce an alibi.

    Everyone is always hiding something.

    So that’s what I painted. All the lines of the papers worked up around him, distorting his relation to every thing, blocking who he is out of the viewer’s perception, cutting the connection between the man and his life as he sees it.

    I made her look out absently as if she needed to be rescued, as if she was being abused or demented in some way. In the picture I considered the mother’s story at the expense of her son. My painting of their relationship has no complexity. I was so certain of the truth of my observations that I worked the surfaces of objects to make them obstacles: computer, TV, table, walking frame and the piles and piles of white papers into a distractive shield against any possible understanding of communication between them so that, at first glance, you don’t see that there’s someone else in the
    picture, until, following the light, you notice the glimmer of a
    walking frame.

    Your eyes wander along its contours and you find the same woman from the final painting, sitting in the same chair. Only now the white cover has gone and the light has gone from her body. She is wearing any old cardigan and looks outward towards the television screen. Blank.

    I am wrong.

    My painting, I realise now, echoed the outside, the exterior version of their story that punishes them daily and intimidates them. My painting was really ‘I am the Carer’ and makes them both victims of a negative surveillance that I contributed to.

    Because he fights, every day for a balanced connection to this home, to the people he works for, to a decent world he feels is slipping away. Wanting the truth.

    We live our lives…as though we have evolved from a highly plural
    and diverse society in Nottingham but then we go out into and come back from St Ann’s, Radford, Hyson Green, Top Valley, like Dr Livingstone, having met the people who lived in strange land outside the professional middle class called ‘Chaos’.

    I was threatened by his trust in me.

  6. Thanks!

    I think the style is a bit pompous but it’s probably because I need to get into writing more of these ‘fictions’ so I can see the bigger picture.

    Early days!

    Kind regards

  7. I don’t know, maybe you’re being too hard on yourself! I didn’t think it was necessarily pompous! And I think the best way of improving writing (although I’m far from an expert) is just practising more and more..

  8. good vibes from this blog – helping those who struggle to help themselves. And while Nietzsche was a magnet for controversy, he also spoke much truth about the nature of human existence.

    keep up the good fight!

    ggw

  9. amazing reading iv been to hell and back i have a mental health and learning dissability 43 year old daughter the system stinks

  10. Thank you for this site!
    As a student SW in my final year, and just about to complete a placement in mental health, i found your site really helpful….. how you find the time to write such detailed blogs i’ll never know!

  11. Hi, really interesting and informative blog. Cant believe I have not found you before now. Just starting my Social Work degree, so your views and opinions are insightful. Thank you:)

  12. Hi, I’m just coming back to SW after 5 years out so finding this v informative! Looking forward to past and upcoming posts!

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