Daily Archives: August 13, 2012

Life in the Fast Lane

The first cycle lane in the U.K. was opened in 1934.  It was opened by the Minister for Transport, Mr Hore Belisha, and it ran two and a half miles from Hangar Road to Greenford Road in London.  It was 8ft 6 inches wide.  At the opening ceremony – captured on a Pathe newsreel – one Oliver Deitrich can be seen using the path on his Penny farthing smoking a cigar.

We’ve come a long way since then.  For a start where I live the average width of a dedicated cycle lane is less than a metre.  For those that are deemed ‘shared use’ (with cars) this is usually half that.

When that first cycle lane was opened it was compared by its supporters as being the equivalent of a pavement for pedestrians.  Who could argue with that? The Cycle Touring Club certainly did.  The basic point they made then, and still make today is that by removing cyclists from the road motorists become less conscious of them – and cycle paths are fragmentary meaning that cyclists inevitably have to re-join the flow of traffic at points that are often risky. Shared cycle lanes present particular risks when weaving between parked cars sharing the lane. This means that cyclists appear and disappear from view, making this more difficult for motorists to keep track of cyclists.

Pedestrians’ awareness of cycle lanes also presents risks. Many is the time that I have had call out warnings to pedestrians who are oblivious to my approach on a cycle lane.  Shared cycle/pedestrian lanes are a particularly risky route to take.  What is the difference between this kind of cycle lane and cyclist riding along the pavement?

All this brings to mind the direction mental health services have taken in the U.K. since the NHS and Community Care Act 1990.  This legislation meant that patients in large (often out-of-town) psychiatric hospitals had to move into independent accommodation ‘in the community’.  While it is true that for many this meant a richer, more fulfilling life, for many long – stay patients the transition was often traumatic as institutions which had been home for decades closed.

Today the vast majority of mentally ill people – including those who suffer from severe enduring conditions – like me - live independently in the community.  Do we need separate lanes, too?

I have written about the issues surrounding the visibility of mental illness - or lack of it – before.  As a cyclist I am used to wearing high visibility clothing  – the ‘banana jacket’ – as I like to call it.  But what about the ‘visibility’ of people like me who go about their business in the full glare of the head lamps of society?  Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not shy about talking about mental health issues in general, or my own  health in particular.  It came up the other day at a lunch at my Rabbi’s house.  I was sitting next to a guest from out of town who I had never met before and we got chatting.  The usual sort of banter: ‘where are you from?  What do you do?’  So I mentioned that I am a mental health worker.  Not expecting the conversation to go any further in that direction.  The person I was talking to came from one of the ultra orthodox communities in London – ones not known for their openness on such topics, no matter that like all other communities they are not exempt from these types of problems themselves.  So, imagine my surprise when he asked me to explain more about my work.  In no time we were swapping notes on the pills we take.  Talking to the converted?  I guess so.  But for the others sitting at the table acting like nothing out of the ordinary was happening?  We were having a normal conversation…about mental health.

In a recent conversation with someone he argued that why would someone with mental health problems disclose this in the work place if they were fit enough to work what was the relevance?  Maybe none, I had to agree.  Although, it is important to know that the law (The Disability Discrimination Act) protects people in the work place who have mental health problems.  The point that I made was that having a conversation about one’s mental health at work helps to erode the taboo of talking openly about such things.  Doing so helps to make the topic common place, and much easier to raise when concerns do arise.  What I’m saying is that having low-key discussions about these issues – as we were doing at that lunch recently – shows that it is possible to cope with these things and function perfectly effectively.

Saturday Morning

Everyone who made love the night before

was  walking around with flashing red lights

on top of their heads – a white – haired old gentleman,

a red – faced schoolboy, a pregnant woman

who smiled at me from across the street

and gave a little secret shrug,

as if the flashing red light on her head

was a small price to pay for what she knew.

Hugo Williams (1942 – )

Feel Like Making Whine

As silly as it might sound, every time I vent here, which is generally a healthy way to go about it, I feel incredibly whiny. I sit on a lot more than I probably should because I don’t want to risk drama with anyone, which yanno… keeps things bottled up. But I guess I’m overly aware of the consequences that actions can have, and so my head runs away with the what-ifs and ‘don’t want that to happens’ and prevents me from trying to work some things out that would be good to work out.

I mentioned last night that a patch of ‘Surprise, rage!’ came to visit last night, but I didn’t dissect one of the bigger parts of it. That is, of course, my birth family. Now, one of the things I like about this modern age is that people are on the whole more honest about the fact that their families don’t resemble Leave it to Beaver in the slightest. I know for myself, I identified more with the Bundys of Married with Children; we might have been dysfunctional as could be, but we had family pride. Or at least, it was instilled in me in such a heavy-handed way that I let it be a handle on me for much too long. It makes sense, seeing how I was told as early as age four that I needed to be a grown-up and help raise my three siblings; I just didn’t expect to get raising my parents as a bonus.

Now, don’t get me wrong — they are both freakishly intelligent, inquisitive, and socially delightful people. I fully understand why friends who have met them think I am ungrateful and hateful when I express that I have problems with them. From the outside, they do look like some pretty kick-ass parents. But from the inside? One has tried to live vicariously through me and be my BFF since I was a kid (and then not understanding why I don’t respond well to being parented at), and the other is balls insane and more emotionally needy than a fleet of daycares. So when a friend reminded me that my parents hadn’t done something that I’d requested for preparation of my trip to the States, it snuck in through a gap in my mental defenses and pushed me to full-out rage. Mom is the one I usually deal with because, in spite of her ‘misuse’ of me, she is the one that I get along with best. But she is horribly forgetful and flighty and high-strung and it stresses me out very badly to have to drag her down to earth to get things through her head. I suspect she is bipolar like me in addition to the ADHD she’s diagnosed herself with, so there’s definitely a nest of vipers there. My (step)father, on the other hand, is a huge ball of sunshine with no more desire in his heart but to help his loved ones as quickly and efficiently as possible. He would be ideal to deal with except for one thing — the aforementioned emotional neediness. I don’t know about you guys, but someone chirping, ‘I love you!’ at every single opportunity is distressingly needy; it puts pressure on me to reciprocate when I do not feel comfortable doing such. And lest you think I’m exaggerating — I used to count every day growing up, and he would say it on average 20-30 times a day to me. While he might just feel that much love, I can only hope that people would agree that is disturbingly excessive. There’s also a person reason tied into a childhood event that also makes me less inclined to reciprocate those three words… but that’s a tale for another time.

Now, if I can manage to leave this up without freaking out and trying to hide my feelings (because part of my upbringing was that my feelings were invalid — Mom isn’t allowed to feel, yanno (and I know, I’ve applied that to my own mother too, creating a vicious cycle)). I hope I manage to, because it should serve to remind me that my feelings and experiences are valid.



Reblogged from A Canvas Of The Minds: I think we all compartmentalize our lives and identities to some degree. Most …

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