Search Results for: disability confident

Are you Disability Confident?

downloadYesterday I had the pleasure and privilege to give a short speech at the first Disability Confident regional Roadshow held at the KPMG Birmingham office.

The Government-backed Disability Confident campaign was launched by David Cameron in July when he told 300 business leaders that it is “time to dispel the myths about the complexities of employing disabled people” and there will now be a number of regional road shows leading up to the grand finale in London in March next year. These conferences are primarily for employers and designed to spread awareness about employing people with disabilities and health conditions encouraging them to be more Disability Confident.

It is a fantastic initiative, long overdue and, from what I saw yesterday, will be a great success.

The conference was compered brilliantly by Dawn Milman-Hurst from Equal Approach and the keynote speakers included Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Disabled People and Sophie Christiansen, Paralympics triple gold medallist from London 2012 and one of my all-time favourite sportswomen. I was so excited to meet Sophie in person and she even let me hold her gold medal which she brought with her-amazing.

Me, Sophie and the London 2012  gold medal

Me, Sophie and the London 2012 gold medal

Me and the Minister

Me and the Minister

Following the initial introductions, my KPMG partner-in-crime Richard Day and I delivered our 5-minute speeches. Richard has a neurological condition which affects his walking and his focus was very much on the issues he encounters having a physical disability and the adjustments he has at work to help him deal with these.

I focussed on my depression and M.E both of which are fluctuating and most of the time, invisible, so that the audience got a flavour of the different problems and solutions affecting people with physical conditions and mental illness.

We were followed by Sophie Christiansen who gave a very inspiring speech covering her early childhood, how she first discovered her talent for horse riding, obtaining her First Class Honours degree (and Masters) in Maths and her London 2012 experience. Sophie is not just an inspiration for Disabled People, she is an inspiration and fantastic role model for everyone. Her tenacity, competitiveness and determination are obvious and every day she demonstrates that these qualities are key to her success.

The expert panel members (Dawn Milman-Hurst (Equal Approach), Kate Headley (Clear Company), Amanda Kirby University of Wales), Morgan Lobb (Diversity Jobs), John Beasley (DWP Access to work), John Keeble (DWF)and David Johnson (West Mids Fire Service) then fielded some interesting and thought-provoking questions from the audience.  They ran out of time after 45 minutes but could have continued for hours.

As I Am

The event concluded with a brilliant performance of “As I Am” by Oscar Bell and Jordan Statham.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHRtuiYUFrs

“As I Am is a song written by Oscar Bell and Jordan Statham. The song is about the struggle people with learning and physical difficulties endure every day. ‘As I Am’ embraces the possibilities that one day these people will be treated equally and noticed for the talents they have. The song has recently been used as the anthem for the Awareness of Autism campaign and has been played on numerous radio stations.”

The song is available on i-tunes and I would encourage everyone to buy a copy because it’s a great song and proceeds support a very worthwhile West Midlands Autism charity.

Go on! you know you want to!

MIDLANDSABILITY

“Improving workplace opportunity for those with disabilities”

Once upon a time, a long time ago, two friends and colleagues came up with a great idea.

Although our idea was great, we don’t take credit for the original concept as our lightbulb moment was actually based on an organisation already in existence but only accessible to people living and or working in London. That organisation is WHARFABILITY.

“WharfAbility is a network of networks founded in 2012 by a group of individuals involved with the disability and carer agenda within major firms based in Canary Wharf.  Our mission is to connect businesses and colleagues to share experiences and ideas, enabling them to increase their impact in the work place. We have grown substantially over the past 3 years and now have 27 member organisations, principally from Canary Wharf but also from London generally.”

Our brilliant idea was to replicate the Wharfability network in the Midlands and so the journey began.

My colleague and long-time friend Richard Day has been the driving force behind creating this network as, pretty soon after attending some initial meetings with interested parties, I changed my role at work and began working from home. Reluctantly I bowed out but was more than confident that Richard would take this forward to its conclusion.

Richard and Linzi

Over the past three years, Richard has worked with a number of people also passionate about creating this network. Lorna Gavin; Kate Nash OBE; Graeme Whippey MBE; Karl Edge; Tracey Wright and Becky Brooks to name but a few. The culmination of this collective passion and hard work was the launch of Midlandsability yesterday.

The event was overwhelmingly successful and a testament to everyone’s determination to see this project come to fruition. Everyone involved should be very proud of themselves and everyone else should be very proud of them. I know I am.

Amongst the guests and inspirational speakers were Kate Nash OBE who interviewed the brand-new straight out of the box Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health, Sarah Newton; Graeme Whippy MBE from Channel 4; John Coxon from Disability Confident with the very funny, perceptive and down-to-earth Becky Brooks keeping everyone in line and on time.

Sarah Newton MP and Kate Nash OBE

It was a fabulous event hosted by KPMG in Birmingham and I am looking forward to joining this group on their future journey improving workplace opportunity for those with disabilities.

Well done everyone!

Hello world!

Dear all-what an amazingly busy and fun month I have had and all the time I have been very mindful of over exerting myself to avoid being the victim of fatigue. Apologies that my blog has been one of the things to suffer but I had to be ruthless in my choices. It was  nothing personal but there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to and coincidentally this is starting to get on my nerves. I spend too much time doing things I don’t enjoy so it’s time for a rethink.

In the meantime I can tell you that in the month I have been absent from this forum I have met the amazing and inspiring Simon Weston at a London Disability Confident conference, my colleague Richard and I are in the process of setting up a Midlands Employer Disability Network and I have had the privilege of seeing my niece Pippa married to Dan in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by family and friends. More about these in a separate post.

My son Will has been to Iceland and back and even saw the Northern Lights out of season which is amazing. I don’t think he realises how lucky he is but that will come with age and experience!

Further posts will come shortly but in the meantime I hope you all had a Happy Easter- back soon.

 

Happy, happy, happy birthday to me!

I have always loved my birthday. It is my special day and every year having circumnavigated and conquered whatever life throws at me, I celebrate another year that I remain intact, still here and still sane. I know many people who don’t like to mention their birthdays as they get older, but for me, it is a true and genuine celebration of life. My life and everyone in it and the more birthdays I celebrate, the more successful I have been in fighting the severe bouts of depression which have threatened a number of birthdays over the years.

So here I am at the tender age of 51 with so much to look forward to that it is a joy to be living. It may be wet, grey and drizzly this morning but nothing can dampen my good mood. We took my son to Swansea yesterday to have a look around the University campus and find out more about the geography course he wishes to study. He is a young man who makes me very proud. We also have my gorgeous nieces’ wedding to look forward to in April-that’s approaching too fast! In between, there is  Hen weekend in London, more work to do on the Disability Confident initiative and goodness knows what else to fit in.

Always in the back of my mind however is a little voice telling me to be careful, not to overdo things, rest, relax and enjoy life at the speed of tortoise not hare. I’m trying but it’s hard not to get caught up in all the excitement and activity. So far, apart from the foggy brain, it seems to be working.

I’m off to enjoy my day 🙂

Birthday cake

A “Thank you” is always welcome

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the first Disability Confident Conference which was held in Birmingham. My summary of the day is covered in my previous post “Are you disability Confident?” and you can see from the photos how excited I was to participate.

Yesterday I received a “Thank you” from Mike Penning MP, the Minister of State for Disabled People and I was impressed that he had taken the time to make it a very personal one.

Not only am I disability confident, I’m also confident that Mr Penning is the right man for the job.

1469912_10151864557903823_504594780_n

Payback

christmas_2_cfs_chronic_fatigue_syndrome_card-rda17609b3c8444acb78573d11815bdbb_xvuak_8byvr_324I have had a mixed week of fortunes; It started off last weekend with feeling under-the-weather and spending most of my time resting. Sadly, I felt no better by Monday morning and had also developed a very sore and painful throat so I felt that the sensible thing to do would be to take 1 day off work to recover.

Tuesday I felt much, much better and trotted off to work as normal. I was fine all day and came home in a better frame of mind. Positive that I had done the right thing and headed off the germs before they really took hold.

Wednesday however I had a relapse and started to lose my voice. This was worrying as I was due to speak at the Disability Confident conference in Birmingham on Thursday, a huge privilege and something that my colleague Richard and I had been preparing for all week. I really didn’t want to miss this opportunity and let Richard down so I came home after work, had a whisky, lemon and honey hot toddy and went straight to bed knowing that I had to get up at 04.30am on Thursday.

After a great night’s sleep, I felt better and although my voice was still a little gruff it was intact so off I went ready to speak. With the help of some anaesthetic throat spray, I gave my speech at the conference and then spent lunchtime networking with the attendees. I had a few coughing fits which stopped me in my tracks for short periods but I was definitely on a high and thoroughly enjoying myself. I should have known that like “bad” stress, “good” stress can also lay me low and I need to control my energy and emotions better. “Emotional shocks” or new/novel situations when I am out of routine are all big triggers for me and I came home like a demented Tigger. It took me a while to calm down before I collapsed into bed.

During the night however I started to cough badly and was sick several times. This carried on into the morning so that whilst initially I felt able to work from home, it soon became clear that this was not an option. I had no choice but to take another day off work. You can’t focus on work whilst coughing continuously and being sick but I still felt anxious and guilty about staying away. This is the problem about being poorly. I really don’t like it. No one does but after such a great day yesterday it frustrates me that I can be laid so low so quickly. Maybe I was fighting off the worst of the symptoms earlier in the week with excitement and adrenalin and once the event was over, my body relented and the bugs took over in force. I am hoping that this is the case, as it is far preferable than thinking that yesterday directly caused the relapse.

Today has definitely been a “duvet” day. In bed, drinking tea and eating toast supplied by my attentive hubby and sleeping away a good part of the day away. I have done a little writing which has kept me occupied during the periods I was awake but I still have no voice. Hubby knows I have no voice but still keeps asking me questions. Old habits die hard but we are getting quite competent at our own version of sign language. It takes a lot to stop me talking as most people will attest to so this must be some kind of super bug. to lay me so low so quickly.

So, another weekend of rest and recuperation to “look forward” to 😦

It’s very frustrating but let’s hope that this is just a difficult period and that when recovered I will have a prolonged spell of being well.

chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfids-cfs-me-mcs-awareness-the-positive-pear

Lifting the lid on depression-my personal story

“Lifting the lid on depression” was an event put on jointly by KPMG and Citigroup in Canary Wharf last Thursday. As the title suggests, the aim of the evening was to raise the issue of depression as a topic that can be discussed openly and to provide a forum of support and information for anyone touched by this illness.

The event was well attended, we had to close the registration process 2 days before the seminar, and was a huge success. I will publish a write up of the evening and it’s content, format and impact soon as other organisations may wish to follow suit and provide this sort of evening for their employees and management. In the meantime, here is a short version of my speech, my personal story, which I know from emails I have already received resonated with so many and encouraged them to take their first steps to recovery.

I could have said a lot more about how I actually deal with my depression on a day to day basis now, the meds I take, the impact it has on friends and family but I wanted to focus on the more positive aspects of my experience. That doesn’t mean that I am not open to questions.

Lifting the lid on depression 10 March 2011-My personal story

Here we are today 150 of us lifting the lid on depression.

This is fantastic and I hope that with your help and more importantly with your participation this afternoon we do just that for everyone here. Whether you have depression yourself, have a friend or relative with depression or have to manage and support someone at work let’s deal with this illness.

Before I go any further I just want to say a few words about my depression and how I feel today.

This time last week I wasn’t bouncing around like Tigger on speed which can often be the case but life was OK.

This week however it’s a very different story. Low mood and despair hit me like a train at the weekend and now I feel more like Eeyore; Glum and pessimistic at best and downright miserable at worst. Monday morning I went into meltdown. I withdrew from my family and colleagues and it was only with the support provided by my best buddy that I was able to carry on and get through the day. He deserves a 10/10 for effort, persistence and the encouragement that he gave me. Thank you. I wouldn’t be here today without it.

But that’s what depression does to a person and today, instead of feeling confident and assured I am finding this experience quite overwhelming and worrying. At times like this, I can get tearful and a little shaky so if I have to stop for a while and take a few deep breaths to compose myself please bear with me.

I’m happy to be here talking about my experiences and hope that I will get through the next 5 minutes or so without the tears. But if it happens, it happens. That’s just how it is and I imagine that many of you out there will know how it feels.

Up until last year I made sure that I kept my depression well and truly hidden. I did this for thirty years.

Why did I do this?

Mainly because I was ashamed of myself and the perceived weakness associated with this illness and because of the stigma and discrimination I thought would adversely affect my career. That has all changed for me now, but I will come on to that later.

I grew up as a young child in a household where depression was a beast. My mother was a depressive and was admitted as in-patient to a local psychiatric hospital. I’m sure that some of you here today are wondering how to deal with depression and what, when and how to tell children about it.

I can only say from my experience as a mature and intelligent child that I believe that more honesty and openness would have helped me cope much better with the implications of depressive illness not just as a child but as a teenager and adult. That said, I also appreciate the difficulties that need to be considered and every case will be different.

Like much about depression, it’s debatable.

Roll-back to last year and lifting the lid on my depression.

I was fed up, tired and totally drained after 30 years of pretending everything was “Ok”, “Fine” and “Hunky Dory”  when I decided that the time was right to lift the lid on my depression and admit to my family, friends and colleagues that I have repeated and often very debilitating bouts of depression.

Most people were totally unaware of my continued battle against this illness and that depression was the reason behind frequent and sometimes prolonged absences from work. You could regularly find me camping out in my bedroom with only my TV, kettle and toaster for company weeks on end. I waited to do my shopping until the middle of the night at the 24 hour Tesco round the corner to make sure I didn’t meet anyone who might talk to me and even now I can find myself full of envy for grizzly bears that can hibernate without recrimination for months on end. How lovely that must be.

I was determined to put an end to the pretence and deception I felt I was inflicting on myself and others and so on the 26th May 2010 I sent what was to become a bombshell of an email to 30 of my friends and colleagues telling them my story.

This was not a spur of the moment action. It was a considered decision on my part and it felt the right thing to do at the time.

I was fully prepared for the consequences.

Or so I thought.

I actually got it very wrong. I completely misjudged the reaction of every single person. Whereas I had in fact geared myself up for negative responses and reproach what I received instead without exception were many words of support, understanding and kindness.

This very positive response took me completely by surprise and I found it totally overwhelming. These are just a few of the comments I received that day.

A very brave step indeed to publicly ‘out’ yourself, but well done for doing so.  If no ones does, there will be no improvements!

I think depression is hugely misunderstood and I think its great that it gets a no-nonsense representative like you!

Well done Caroline, what an incredibly positive thing you are doing xx”

Your insight and honesty is going to resonate with so many and give them comfort 🙂

It’s my pleasure to support the fight against the stigma towards mental illness

It’s like Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” so with more people like you around we’ll get there.”

The Depression Alliance’s motto is “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I think that my own personal journey began with a giant leap into the unknown but I have no regrets so far.

What followed on from my email has been nothing short of astonishing and my day to day life has changed dramatically as a result. These are just a few of the things that I have been involved in.

June 2010- I was featured in the Financial Times article called No Room for Gloom written by Clive Cookson.

I was invited to sit on the KPMG Disability Steering group as champion for mental health and I am now in a position to help and advise KPMG on a number of initiatives which will benefit our employees.

Emer from the Depression Alliance who is here today  kindly invited me to the House of Commons launch of the report Depression, Disability and Employment compiled jointly by the Depression Alliance & RADAR and sponsored by the Priory Clinics.

Professor Chris Thompson from The Priory is here on our panel today. Together with Jonathan from Stand to Reason, these people are at the cutting edge of depression and its impact upon individuals, friends and family. Try and get to speak with them if you can. You will learn a lot.

I am a registered Rethink activist and Time to Change campaigner.

I also write a daily Blog which provides others with my personal insight on living with depression, and includes handy tips and importantly acts as a forum for others struggling with depression to come together and feel they are not alone with this illness.

What is in store for 2011 and beyond?

My focus for this year centres very much on the stigma associated with depression and issues like;

Why should people with mental illness and depression be pilloried and discriminated against because of their illness?

Why are there still so many un-busted myths about depression and anxiety?

What can we all do to help eradicate the stigma?

I’m no longer ashamed of my illness. It is part of me and who I am and I believe that I am a better person for the experience. One of the most humbling lessons in life that having depression has taught me is to never judge a person. There is a saying.

“To write a person off as worthless is an act of great violence-Don’t do it.”

2011-My Mission

This year I am on a mission and my aim is to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and depression in particular.

Because?

Because everyone deserves a chance.

Why should you and I care?

You and I should care because depression is non-discriminatory and unpredictable. Tomorrow it could descend on you or someone you care about.

To help me in my quest I have a call to action for you:

Going away from here today I would like everyone here to start talking openly and honestly about mental health issues and your experiences of depression. Only in this way will we effect change.

I’m not saying its going to be easy but I am telling you it will be worth it.

Thank you for listening.