Personal Review: August 2018

If you’ve been waiting for something interesting to read on my blog, then I’m sorry you’ve had to wait for so long. As mentioned on Twitter – I’ve been busy! But you have it now. Today I can give you the best personal review emerging from my memory. Watching the 2018 World Cup was important to me, but I’ve generally enjoyed my life over the past six weeks or so too.

What I’ll tell you about today is all about myself. But by reading it, you might pick up a bit of advice along the way. The topic of social issues for disabled people arises, and people can find no harm in knowing more about this. I’m choosing to change my life patterns for a variety of reasons as well. If you think it might help you out too, why not change yours?

My Epilepsy, My Stress

Up until about four weeks ago, my seizures kept coming more often – I was having one, or maybe two per week. But then, up until Wednesday night, I went for nearly a month of not having one. After a stressful day of filling out job applications, I lost consciousness as the night began.

To begin with, I thought that my seizures were being activated by alcohol intake more than anything. They’ve often occurred a day or two after having a drink in homes, pubs, bars and occasionally clubs. But now, I think it’s perhaps less to do with alcohol than I initially thought.

On 18 August, my mum (who looks much younger than she is) turned 60. We held a surprise get together during the day on her birthday. Many of her family and friends turned up from as far as Scotland to see her.

Joe and Julie Stevenson Photo

It was a great event. I had plenty to drink throughout the day but enjoyed the experience so much. I knew everybody who was there well, had some great conversations and didn’t have to pay for any of the lovely food and drink that was available.

However, during the three nights after that night ended, I didn’t have a seizure. This was unusual. So often seizures occur around this time after drinking during the weekend with friends. But the one thing that was perhaps absent from my mum’s birthday but not nights out with friends was the feeling of stress.

When I overcame depression in my mid-twenties, I lowered my levels of stress and started having fewer seizures. But everybody gets a little stressed from time to time – especially when they’re job searching and living on the dole.

I can never spend my money with little thought when I’m on a night out – I’ve got monthly bills to pay too. I’m an independent person. I’d much prefer to pay for everything alone and try to stop myself spending too much in the day. But the truth is that it pretty much seems impossible with Universal Credit payments. My mum has bailed me out with hundreds of pounds for over 12 months now, and I can only thank her for her help.

My Planned Changes in Behaviour

But there could be more factors than simply the worry of how much I’m spending that bring on my stress. Today, my socialising skills are much better than they were in my previous years of depression. But they’re not perfect, and could still inflict difficulties upon me when I’m out with friends.

If somebody turns up who I’ve met before, but not many times, then I might well forget their name. The situation makes me feel uncomfortable. It brings on a bit of stress.

In this situation, I think I should take a braver and more honest approach in the social world. If some people don’t like the way I act because of my problems with epilepsy, then so be it! The fact is that barriers in society need to be broken down for disabled people to live normal lives.

My plan now is to immediately ask them “I’m sorry to ask this, but what’s your name again?” if I can’t remember. It’s often not easy to find the friends I know well to quickly remind me of this sort of thing during a social event.

It might seem a little strange to be asked this at first. However, I think it’d be even odder for the listener to choose not to tell me afterwards. When I can give them a name, I’ll then say something along the lines of “OK. I know it was odd to be asked that again. My epilepsy leads to memory loss, that’s all.” After that, I’m sure the strange but minor event will be forgotten, and conversing with them is much more likely.

My Interests

Another problem with my memory is that it holds me back from conversations with friends that I already know. When people start referring to things we’ve done in the past, or films that they’ve seen, then there’s little chance of me joining in with the conversation. My general knowledge is poor because of my memory problems.

But I know that this doesn’t mean that I’m boring. I’ve got a lot of other interests, and I keep myself busy. I watch football, and that’s been a big boost when chatting with some of my family and friends. I love my home city of Manchester, listen to plenty of music, and view artwork in galleries when it seems right.

Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street

I watch and greatly appreciate comedy on TV. I watch a lot of sitcoms and sketch shows, although it’s not uncommon for me to watch what I’ve watched in the past a few times around. It’s difficult not to return to them knowing that I’ve enjoyed them but still can’t remember what happens in every episode.

I know I’m a bit different to most of my friends. I blog a lot, write articles for others, and have got plans made with Disability Central. I take part in another project for the GMCDP too. I meditate and receive reflexology. And obviously, I have to apply for work with a disability. Do many other people I know do those things? I don’t think so.

I’m happy to hold down one-to-one conversations with friends, and have plenty to tell them about when I do. But I can’t simply keep talking to people in that way throughout the night. Sometimes I feel like my time is up, and I’m just lingering around, saying nothing and having a drink.

During those times, I believe there’s one possible action to take that will keep me happier in the long run. Go home. It might sound negative, but if I’m standing around and saying very little because other people are still chatting away, then I’m not feeling positive. I’d say it’s more important to leave any real-life scene with feelings of satisfaction. It doesn’t matter if it’s earlier than others.

My Job Search

Paid employment searching has continued. I’m currently gathering help from the Work and Health Programme. Jobs I’ve come across seem very interesting, and I’m sure I’ll have a job soon.

On 31 August I’m due to see local MP Graham Brady. He’s a Tory politician who tries to take care of the Altrincham and Sale West area in Trafford. More than anything I’ve wanted to talk to him about the difficulty in finding employment with a disability.

I feel that I’ve not had a satisfying, well paid job for over 12 months now. I did charity fundraising, but that sort of job more often earns money for students and teenagers. Although I worked as hard as I could and made good friendships during my time there, it only earned me double what I was receiving on the dole for a single month.

Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people in the UK. Why don’t disabled people in Trafford have higher rights to obtain employment in my region? How hard can it be to tell large-firm employers they need to employ a certain percentage of disabled people?

This nation is still searching for equality, and I’m sure there will be many people who read this that know how tricky it can be to find paid employment in the UK.

Despite doing a vast amount of volunteer work, it took me two and a half years to find my first paid job after university. That was temporary, and I was let go with around 30 members of no longer needed staff in June 2017. Nevertheless, I gathered two and a half years of paid work experience. Since then I’ve been searching for work that currently feels appropriate for me.

Online Job Search Utility

Many jobs have appeared that sound very suitable for myself. When looking back at when I switch to Universal Credit in February 2018, it seems I’ve applied for 78 jobs in total. And you know how many interviews I’ve received? Three.

The work that earns me money isn’t the sort of work that I stick with forever. I’ve still got my heart set on starting up Disability Central, that will give people with disabilities equal rights and respect from others within society. But to concentrate on that, I’d much prefer to deal with the stress caused when trying to find employment.

Applying for jobs can be a long and daunting experience, especially when you’re filling in an application form with memory loss. Searching for work, attending the Job Centre and attending the Work & Health Programme takes up a lot of my time too.

My Projects

My plans to start uniting people with disabilities in my local area maybe put on hold for a while. However, Disability Central certainly hasn’t been scrapped. To find out more about the project’s general plans for the future, take a trip to this part of my blog.

Disability Central Logo and Name

A slight change when it comes to the project’s construction might make the plan a little more practical though. I think making an initial informative website before more meetings take place will give me time to network with others and make plans locally too. It could take two or three months to build, but I’ve already got wordpress.org ready with a URL bought as well.

As mentioned, I’ve also got a short-term project that’s occurring in around one week – my meeting with my local MP Graham Brady, who is part of the Conservative party. I don’t fly right-wing, and am going to work as hard as I can do to get my point across to the Tory in Altrincham.

He’s likely to give what might sound like large sums of money that they’ve contributed towards disabled people. But considering the tens of thousands of people that live in the local area, it won’t be a reasonable amount. The Conservative Party have tried to stand their ground and claim to be working hard for disability. But other groups such as the United Nations have made it clear; the truth is that the UK government is doing a terrible job.

The GMCDP

If you don’t know, the GMCDP is the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People. I became a member a few weeks ago and since then have started to take part in Shaping Our Inclusion, a project hosted by the organisation.

The project aims to find people aged between 18 and 30 who wish to make a difference for disabled people in Greater Manchester. People involved are provided with training and development opportunities throughout the year. As time continues, the GMCDP is looking to recruit young people who will become the future of the organisation.

The personal interests and experience of the participants shape the area in which they get involved. These areas include the likes of campaigning, leadership, journalism, governance, social media, film making, writing articles – the list goes on.

I only started to join others in the project this month, and it only takes place once every two weeks. I believe I’ll often have enough free time to take part in it, even if I find paid employment in the not so distant future. There’s no doubt that I see it being beneficial for my long-term career plans.

Spiritual Changes

By spiritual changes, I’m only referring to an activity that many spiritual people put in to place to declare their commitment. I’m becoming a vegetarian.

Vegetarian Turtle

This action might surprise my friends who know me well. I’m not massively overweight, but I’ve enjoyed my food over the years and have eaten more than I’ve needed to on plenty of occasions. But I’ve recently cut red meat from my diet and will cut white meat out soon enough too. By being spiritual, I also feel that showing more respect to animals is something I’m willing to do.

Conclusion

Well, the time has passed by, and I could well have work duly waiting for me around the corner. I do hope so; I’ve come across a position that sounds so suitable for myself and feel I deserve it too.

Of course, it isn’t going to stop me writing my blog or building a new website for Disability Central! Because of my epilepsy leading me to fatigue, I only apply for part-time positions. These will pay well enough to stop me from borrowing money from my mother. They’ll also help keep connected to my followers on Twitter and any other epilepsy and disability advocates.

I hope the story of how I plan to improve my social side can help others too. Is there anything you could do to make yourself less stressed? Stress is such an enemy in life. I know we can’t all float on a cloud when we’re living on planet Earth, but there are ways to feel much more relaxed in life as well.

I do recommend thinking about it. Take care.

Vegetarian by Alexander Cahlenstein / Manchester Art Gallery by Les Chatfield
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