Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Growing up in an increasingly politically correct country we are taught not to judge. Do not assume you know all there is to know about a person, or group, based on one fact; white, black, male, female, blonde, redhead...the list goes on. We all know that our hair colour or skin colour is only one factor in our make-up, that a narrow focus on one feature of a persons physical being will not tell us how kind they are, how smart or funny, the capacity for goodness or greatness within their soul. 

Unless, it seems, that person is disabled.

These days if you have a disability you become public property. Everybody is allowed to have an opinion on you, on every aspect of your life whether it is related to your condition or not. Everybody is allowed to judge you, and the jury are already back, the decision has been made, you are wrong. You are unfit for purpose. Fuelled by the bile-soaked ignorance headlining papers like the Sun* and the Daily Mail, we are learning that regardless of any other thing about us, we are condemned.

Disabled? You must be faking, or in some way deserving of your condition. Judgement; Scrounger.

Disabled? You must not have fun or in any way seek to improve your life. Judgement; Faker.
Disabled? You must tolerate hate language and abuse because, although we won't really come out and say it, you must in some way deserve your pain, your difference. Judgement; You are the problem.

 We don't want to believe it could be us in that situation and so we must distance ourselves from it by any means possible. We are the strong, the Normals, and so we mock you and your perceived weakness. We do nothing to disabuse ourselves of our ignorance, to see you as a person, because that would be like accepting our own fragility, the possibility that one day it might be us, or our loved ones. 
 Who would want to accept that we are, after all, only human? 

All of us, ALL of us, regardless of class, colour, religion or income, intelligence or humanity, can become disabled. It really could be you.
 So how would you feel if your life was pain**. Always pain. And you had the choice to waste away in bed forever, never seeing anybody or playing with your children, or fight it. Even if the fight cost you your strength, your sanity some days. So you fight. And, oh god it hurts, but you do it. You somehow force yourself to become stronger, a little at a time. You hide away on the worst days, the days where you pay for your efforts at normalcy with pain so deep and consuming it becomes a scream inside your body.
 You do all of this, you do your constant best, and you brave the outside world. 

And what do you get for it?

You get tabloids telling you and all the world around you that you are Not Allowed. If you are disabled, they say, you must not have fun. You must not have a family, or even leave the house. You may not try to improve your situation or feel joy or pleasure. If you do, then we have decided that this gives us the right to comment, to judge. We are allowed to call you a scrounger, to decide you are faking it, to challenge you. We can sneer, we can cross the road to avoid you, we can shout and mock and hurt you. We can attack, and we will not be challenged. We will not feel the weight of the law because you are not protected. You are not worthy of any attempt at an existence outside of the prison built for you, you must accept this as just another indignity, another part of your life.

And so think for a moment, how YOU might feel on the receiving end of that abuse. Imagine, just for a moment, that you are in the vulnerable position. Or maybe it isn't you, maybe it is your son or daughter, your brother or sister. Would you then believe they were in some way deserving of this treatment? 

All it would take is a fall. A blood clot. A wonky chromosome. The smallest of things can make the biggest of differences. How do you know that tomorrow it won't be you? And if it was, would you then be proud of yourself for targeting, for bullying, for helping to perpetuate the hate? 

Or would you be locked inside your house, lonely and afraid after being told you have become that which you hated most; disabled. Condemned.


*This morning the Sun has a front page dedicated to destroying the life of a disabled woman who dared have fun by going to a fair.
** I have chosen here to focus on my particular situation and what i have experienced. This is written from my perspective and is on no way a judgement on how other people experience and cope with their own disabilities. Every one is different and how much you fight can have nothing to do with it.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Hello all of you lovely people :D

Call off the search, we are all still alive! We did have a nasty flu type bug for the first week or so after moving in, but i think that was more to do with all the crap we had been breathing in at the old house, and it finally having a chance to work out of our systems.

The older three children are all at their new schools now, the eldest only started today (transfer in 10 working days my foot) and has been a little anxious, but has had a good day. The other two of school-attending age have been going for a couple of weeks now, and while getting the school runs covered is proving a bit of a headache, things seem to be going quite well.

I am ok, i have been a bit up and down but am getting on. I am finding it quite a challenge to keep the house in the shape i'd like, but the pain team have told me that i am not going to cause any further damage by pushing myself. Hard to believe quite a lot of the time.

It is all worth it though. Every day i wake up in a beautiful house which is clean and dry. A simple sentence and a thing which is easy to take for granted but has made an exceptional difference in our quality of life. Through pushing myself hard, juggling my pain relief carefully and not being constantly ill from breathing in mould, i can even get up the stairs, not nearly as often as i'd like, but more than never which is amazing.

I need to thank my friend K (and her children) who helped pack the old house, helped move everything across and then went back the following day and scrubbed the whole place from top to bottom (a kindness which cost her - exposure to the mould and her allergies left her ill for over a fortnight). I have to thank T and his dad who did the heavy work and who, without the use of their vans, we would still be ferrying items on the bus.
 Also i have to thank all of you guys. Anyone who rt'd my original mould post, who read, donated, tweeted, all of you have had a hand in this massive improvement to our lives.
 And not forgetting my twitter friends, you know who you are and i hope you know how loved and appreciated you are by me, without your support, understanding and crazy senses of humour i would never have managed to stay as sane as i am (that is meant to be a compliment).

I owe you all an apology too. As well as being crazy busy trying to settle in here, find a routine and get used to the area i have allowed myself to be chased away from posting by trolls. Anonymous trolls don't bother me, i can ignore them. But these trolls are people i once would have called my friends. People who turned their backs on me when i became disabled, who left me stranded in an abusive relationship, knowing i was housebound, and worse went on to believe the lies that were being perpetuated about me.
 At first i deleted the comments. Then i worried - did it look like i was trying to hide something? Any reply i wrote just seemed to sound like excuses. It got to the point where i couldn't check my blog email for fear of a disqus notification. I'm not exaggerating here either; thudding racing heart, sick feeling in my stomach, shaking. These people have hurt me deeply, i would have liked to believe they knew me well enough to see that i am an honest person. I would have liked to believe they had the intelligence to question the lies they were pedalled (though i have to admit the liar was, and is, very convincing).

 Well stuff them. I am sorry they cannot find it in their hearts to be happy when somebodies circumstances are given a lift to help them out of the mire. I am very sorry that they don't have the intelligence to question the source of their 'information' (and i use the term in the loosest possible sense). But i will not be chased away. I have done nothing to be ashamed of, told no lies. I was offered help and i took it, not for myself but for my children. Who can honestly say they wouldn't do the same?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Has it really been 11 days since i last posted?

It may sound clich├ęd but it has passed so quickly, yesterday i was genuinely convinced it couldn't have been more than a week since i clicked 'publish' on the post about the house. I think i am still in shock to a degree, i still cant believe all this has happened to us!

I have been trying to think of a suitable way to thank everybody for everything they have done so far to help us and im sorry to say i have come up lacking. To be honest, im not sure that even skywriting you each a personal message of thanks could convey the depth of gratitude i feel, nor could it explain how much this has changed our lives, and my own world view with it. I guess a simple thanks will have to do ( i am disappointingly low on pilots, planes and sky writing equipment), so thankyou all, so very much x

Things are on the up! We have found a house, a 4/5 bed in a town near here, i have met with the estate agent and the owner (both of whom are really nice) and have been to see the house. It really is lovely, it has a downstairs bathroom (Goodbye you awful toilet chair!) and a separate dining room which can be my bedroom until i can move upstairs. The owner needs to get it let to someone who wants to be a long term tenant and is fine with Housing Benefit paying the rent while i am unable to work. I told the estate agent and the owner all about you guys, i think it is safe to say they are almost as stunned as i am!
  And thanks to the incredible generosity of everyone who donated financially, we have now got just enough (after the site have taken their 5%) to pay the estate agents fees, the security deposit and the up-front rent! So we will soon be moving house. In fact, very soon! The initial 6 month tenancy will begin on the 9th of Jan, so i have three weeks to get us organised and packed! Eeep! (Anyone who has ever moved house feel free to offer advice in the comments, i am sure i will forget to do something very important!)

So! Now i am trying to pack and sort and de-clutter as much as i can without pushing myself too hard, but i am impressed with what i have got done on my own. And the children are excited and want to help too. I think we will get there, a few kind friends have offered to help me, and i know a man with a van who has said he is happy to move bits over there on the day. My best friend is already bringing empty boxes from her work for me to start filling up, so despite my being convinced otherwise, this really must all be real!
 I am also keeping my eye out for any second hand furniture i can get for the new place, am joining freecycle groups and so on. The town we are moving to has a few charity shops which could also be an option. I have three beds and a sofa to find but if all else fails we will camp on our mattresses and sit on dining chairs!

What else? We are all ok mostly, aside from the ill effects of the mould. The baby seems to be faring worst at the moment, it makes me so angry and sad to see him so poorly. I am counting seconds until we are out of here!

Oh yes, i met with a very lovely housing solicitor on Tuesday. Despite his sat-nav he managed to find his way here and i have to say it was good to meet him. He has taken our case on, but i don't expect to hear much for a while as it is so close to Christmas. The poor man, he sat and let me waffle on at him for what must have felt like hours, and was very polite.
 Talk about timing, but who should show up (unannounced) while the solicitor was here, but a man from the council?! I didn't catch his name, but i thought he said he was from the company that fitted the vents initially (that could have been me mishearing him though). Anyway, he looked at the vent in the kitchen and at the front wall from the inside and outside, blamed me for having the front garden paved (i didn't, it was like that when i moved in and i told him so) and then left, telling me he would be in touch.

With all that i am a little surprised that i haven't met myself coming backwards yet!

There is more i would like to say, but things being as they are (the blog has now had over 23,000 views) it probably wouldn't be wise, it is fairly safe to say that is it is no longer just my close friends* reading my brain sludge on the page.

I will update as often as i can, i wish you all a properly fantastic Christmas and a brilliant new year!
Broken Single Mum xx

* On this note, i would like to address the unsavoury comments which have appeared on the mould post over the last couple of days. As i have said before, i am happy to answer questions (and to that effect i have changed the blog slightly so that i can now respond to individual comments) and i remain happy to do so. However, i will not tolerate ill-informed (and in places clearly fabricated) accusations and name calling. If you wish to use the anonymity of the internet to vent your spleen please feel free to start your own blog, i can personally recommend blogger as a platform, i have found it quite straightforward to use. However, before publishing anything which you choose to state as fact, i strongly suggest you check your source. It may prove to be no more than idle gossip or fairy tales.
 Also, if you have nothing better to do with your time than seek out good, well meaning people and try to bring them down, would you consider perhaps finding a hobby so that something more positive may come of your spare time and energy? I am sure there are plenty of charities around who need volunteers, or you could take up a craft? Knit hats and booties for premature babies? Collect litter from public areas?  Feel free to come up with your own, but there are lots of worthy causes to choose from. Whatever you decide to do though, please know that any future spiteful comments you leave will be removed, as have your first ones.
 Thankyou for reading, i hope your day is a very pleasant one x

Friday, 9 December 2011

Questions and answers.

I have received a lot of questions in the comments section of the blog and i want to reply but i cant figure out how to do so directly (or if blogger even has that option). So i will go through the questions and answer as much as i can here x

liveotherwise said...
Is it worth getting in touch with your MP? Or local paper?

I am in contact with my MP, so far i have had two letters from them, one confirming they got my email, the other letting me know they had forwarded it on.
RE talking to papers, i really wasn't expecting such a reaction, and was a bit thrown by the idea of media type stuff. But having had time to think and having spoken to a very lovely PR lady (who contacted me through Twitter) i have decided to go ahead with it. There will be something sent out on Monday to test the waters and i will see how it goes from there. You guys will be informed if anything comes of it.

Mademoiselle Poirot said...
...BTW, just a thought: If you do need furniture, have you tried your local Freecycle group? People give away all sorts of things there including furniture...

I have had suggestions of Freecycle etc, yes, and this is a really fab idea. Unfortunately if i was to get another sofa it would likely end up with the same problem as this one - the mould would get in it. So i will keep this in mind if and when i do get to move, because there will be a few things i will need to find then x

Anonymous said...

I would like you to do three things for me;

1. Try and establish why you have damp. Is it rising because there is no damp proof course (usually a line of rubber 3 bricks up from the ground) or because the walls are thin and there is no cavity. Is it in a particular spot where something - soil, a wall, is bridging the damp proof course.

I have addressed this in the post itself, the damp started because there is insufficient drainage in the front garden.

2. Write to your MP pointing out the cause of your damp, how you should be a priority and nothing seems to be happening. Can you include a letter from your Dr confirming the effect this is having on yours / your children's health. I would also badger Citizen's Advice with the above, they usually have a housing team who will act on your behalf.

MP - done, well, it is being dealt with.
Doc - less easy, i have on the phone appts as i cant get into the doctors surgery. And many of the health problems we have faced which i know believe are because of the mould, i have previously just put down to being 'one of those things' or a bug going around, or just plain bad luck with our health.
Citizens Advice - i have an appt with a housing solicitor a week Tues, am thinking this will cancel out the need for CAB?

3. Have a look and see if you can bid for any houses that aren't quite your ideal. The most popular houses always have everyone bidding for them so you might have a better chance if you compromise on one or two elements. Try and spot the gems that others may have overlooked.

If i bid for a house i have no intention of moving in to is that not wasting everybody's time? Literally all i am looking for in a house is 4 beds and a separate dining room i could use as a bedroom. Not much there i can compromise on, though i can see where you might have thought i was wishing for the moon on a plate if you had just read my description of the house we missed.

flashsays.com said...
Sounds horrid. But is there a reason you cant get a grant from the council for a stairlift in the immediate future - while still looking for somewhere better?

Anonymous said...
is your children's father providing any support at all? Financial or otherwise? Surely he should be the one wielding the paintbrush to keep his children healthy. It is terrible that he isn't helping when internet strangers are :(
Christina, Wicklow said...
... I tried to send you an email but your link goes to google's home page. Is it brokensinglemum@gmail.com? ...

The link isn't a link hun (or it isn't meant to be), it is just the email address for this blog 'brokensinglemum@mail.com' just copy and paste it into the address bar in your email x
... Can I get your address where to send some a donation? ...

Very kind of you to ask, but in the interest of being up front and above board i have set up a GoFundMe account, you can find a donate button on the blog itself now. Thankyou very much for your kind offer x

...Oh and this is a bit random but are you a knitter, spinner, weaver or crafter of any kind?...

Funnily enough i am, or i was (will be again some day). I am big into felting, quilting, cross stitch etc, and that was what my proposed business would have been. Just you wait, once i am recovered enough to sit at my sewing machine again there will be no stopping me!  I also plan to learn to knit and crotchet.

Hopeless, helpless and getting Angry.

Last night i called the previous tenant of this property (for the sake of my wrists, we'll call them PT). I know the woman in particular has had some quite serious health problems since living here and i wondered, i had to find out if it could have been related to the mould.

So i explained about the blog post, told her how things were going and asked the all important question...
BSM - "Was there ever any sign of the mould when you lived here?"

PT - "Oh yes, when we moved in there was mould all behind the wood panelling on the stairs. In fact it was in the utility room and the floors in two of the bedrooms actually"

BSM - "So, did you speak to the council about it then? I mean, did they repair it or try to deal with it?"

PT - "Yes, of course. They came out and removed the floor in the two smaller bedrooms, they replaced that. I cant remember whether they fixed the utility room but i guess they must have done. They gave us money for paint too, so we could re paint over the worst of it once we had cleaned it all"

So they knew. The council KNEW before i even moved in that there was an existing mould problem in this house. They have let us live here, let me bring home tiny newborn babies to this place KNOWING that we would be breathing mould. 

I don't think angry and disgusted can even come close to how i feel.
All the headaches, the random unexplained illnesses we have suffered, i put it down to 'one of those things' and thought perhaps we were just unlucky with our health. Not so, it seems. God, we HAVE to get out of here, now, yesterday.

So, having established that yet again there are no suitable properties on the bidding list, i turned to private rentals. I'm not keen, i have had friends who have had some really awful experiences with private landlords but what are my choices? I can't just stay here, sit here on my mouldy sofa waiting for us to get sicker and sicker.

I find a place, it has not only a separate dining room i could have as a temporary bedroom but also a downstairs bathroom AND it is within the max limit for housing benefit (though it is the ONLY one in the county that i can find, thanks for that rental cap Cameron). Great, brilliant, but how do i deal with the deposit? Twitter to the rescue once more, @jaimelicious tells me that some councils do a deposit bond scheme. I have a quick look and lo and behold, they do do it! I'm trying not to get excited, but it does feel like maybe things are lining up a bit.
 Next step, check that the landlord accepts housing benefit, yes, they do (which in itself is nothing short of a miracle). Haha! Ok, then time to phone the council, see if i can get into this bond scheme thing.


That was me, hitting a brick wall.
"I'm sorry, we don't do bonds for people who are already in a council property, because you are secure in your tenancy there and a landlord could make you homeless in six months time. I do appreciate the situation you are in, and i will ask my manager but it's unlikely. I can put you through to Environmental Health though?"*

So, that is it. Environmental health will be in touch before the 23rd. And once again my attempts to lift my family out of this situation are scuppered, squashed, shot down in flames.

What am i supposed to do?


* I am paraphrasing, but this is as close to the actual conversation as i can remember.

Edited to add, after many kind offers of financial donations i have opened a 'fund me' account. Initially i will be trying to raise enough to use as a deposit to get out of here. If there is anything over that, it will be held in the account until i can move and then will be used to buy furniture for myself and the children.
Here is the link https://service.mail.com/dereferrer/?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gofundme.com%2Fb40ls&lang=en thankyou guys xx

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Confidence, mental health, responsibility.

 I can do a great impression of confidence.
Long before i needed to hide my physical pain from my children, i figured out that i needed to hide my insecurities from the world, to put on a mask. In a way, pretending things are ok has actually helped me. For the benefit of the children i have taught myself to focus on the positive, to search out the silver lining, to think more about how my actions and words could make other people feel. I like to think i am a better person for my experiences in the dark pit of mental ill-health, perhaps even a better parent than i would have been without it. Most days i even believe i am a pretty good person, a good parent, a good friend. The mask can sometimes stick, and those days, most days it's pretty good.
When i wrote the blog post, the big one about this house, i had that mask on. Powered by frustration and despair i hammered out a rant about the unfairness of the situation i have found myself in. And the response has been dizzying. At one point i literally couldn't keep up with all the tweets and emails and i was giddy with  the positivity and support pouring from my screen.
But tonight, with the pain so bad it is a scream inside my head again (after going to see toddler in her playschool nativity) my mask has vanished. I am alone with my insecurities and doubts once more. 
 I sit here now, crying, absolutely certain that i don't deserve a single thought, word or gesture of kindness that i have received over the last two days. I sit here, completely convinced that i don't deserve these children, these amazing people who i have been so blessed to grow with and learn from. The shadow of self doubt and depression, ever present, has won for a little while. 
Children are gifts you see, and you are supposed to take care of gifts. And looking around myself now at the children sleeping on this sofa next to me, a sofa i know has mould in it but i cant afford to replace (hell, it isn't even paid for technically) i feel like i have failed them.
 Yes, i never asked to become disabled. Yes, i never expected to be on my own with 5 children. But that doesn't mean that i do not feel responsible for us being here. It doesn't mean i am not mentally beating myself up every day for not being able to provide the things that are so important. 

Who do i hold to account for all of this? 

Does that mean i have to accept 'my lot in life'?
Does that mean i should just sit back and be quiet and not make a fuss, as i have spent so much of my life doing?


If i don't speak up, what is going to change? If i don't make a fuss how will anybody know what is going on? Doing nothing will change nothing. I owe it to these children, and even a little bit to myself to make something happen. I wont just sit and feel sorry for myself (though i cant lie, its likely that will happen at some point), i will shout, i will badger, i will pursue every option available to me to claw our way out of this frightful mess. I will go without the things i need in order to pay the bills, i will make a polite nuisance of myself to anybody who will listen, not just because *this* isn't good enough, but because that is what you do as a parent and as a parent, you keep fighting for what is right and you put the consideration of your children before yourself.

These children are my responsibility. You only get one childhood and it is up to me to make sure that theirs is the very best one i can give them. I want to be able to turn to them when they are older and know that i did everything i could to give them the childhood they deserve. No missed opportunities, no regrets. Ending a very unhealthy relationship wasn't the first step and it wont be the last. Tomorrow when we get up i will be the same smiling face they saw this morning and the morning before and the morning before that. I will continue to do all the things i can do every day to make them feel valued and appreciated and loved. And while they are sleeping, while they are at school, i will fight for them. I wont accept that this is as good as it will ever get. I won't stop trying and I wont give up hope.


Monday, 5 December 2011

Wow has this been a crazy twenty four hours!

When i sent my blog post out into the great wide world of Twitter i kind of hoped for a bit of advice and maybe empathy, at the very most i hoped somehow the universe would take a bit of notice and maybe sling a bit of good luck our way.

As i said, wow.
I have been totally floored by the warmth and kindness of the responses i have had. Offers of legal help, advice, even offers to purchase furniture for us have poured in, much to my surprise! I never expected such a rush of love and understanding. Last night, trying to catch up with all the tweets, DM's and emails i found my self actually shaking, such was the depth of the reaction i received and how much your words of encouragement have affected me.

I would like to point out here, just for the more cynical of those reading, that financial gain, furniture and so on, was never the motivation behind posting my struggle. My ambition was nothing more than a hope for advice, and maybe help, to get my children and myself out from this mould-ridden house, and to get the council to live up to their responsibilities in repairing this place before making another family go through all of this.
 I still don't know if i will achieve my goal, but i feel i have to try my best and explore every avenue available to me. In that vein..
I have also had some offers to help my cause through publicity. I have had to think this over a bit, i am not the most confident or eloquent of people in real life, but i am desperate to get our housing situation improved. And maybe hearing about my experiences might in some way help others who are having a hard time living in unsuitable housing.

So, i guess we just see how things go from here, if anything comes of this you guys will know as soon as i can get to the laptop.

Right now though, I am trying to think of a way to organise all the offers of help with cleaning off the mould and repainting the house. I figure if i can get everyone together at the same time we could really make a big difference in the minimum amount of time. I doubt i'll be much practical use, but i am totally down with making tea, coffee, sandwiches and biscuits as needed! My blog email is Brokensinglemum@mail.com if anybody would like to add their voice to the crew, or help me arrange this all!

In the mean time i am still pursuing help from my mp (Nick Gibb), i am writing an email for him outlining the issues i have had with this property/council and what i hope to achieve from all this (unexpectedly sleepy toddler and baby giving me laptop time FTW!).
 I am also hoping to speak to a solicitor tomorrow (i hope he doesn't call while i am at my toddlers Christmas play!) and while i have him on the phone i will ask him what is the best course of action with regard to the offers of financial help you have so generously sent me - i am concerned that any donations be all above board and used for their purpose and i want to make sure that anything that is sent to help us isn't swallowed up by a subsequent deduction to my current income. Confusing, but i hope you guys understand where i am coming from, i really wasn't prepared for all this, it never occurred to me that people might want to donate to help us!

Really, though, above and beyond anything else i want to say Thankyou all, so very much.

 Please keep sending out links to this blog, help me get as many people behind me as possible, and help raise awareness for other people struggling with landlords who aren't fulfilling their obligations xx

Thankyou xx
Betty Broken x