Saturday, 9 February 2013

Luck.

I don't believe in luck, I think the idea is a way for people to avoid responsibility or the facing up to the reality of their situation. But I don't know how else to express the way I'm feeling, but to say that I really am very lucky. I'm lucky to be British, to have been brought up in a country where healthcare is a right so fundamental that even if you don't believe you need it, you can be forced to accept it. It's not often that you'll hear me say I'm lucky, thankful even, to be forced to accept the help I don't think I deserve. In fact, before today I don't think I've ever considered the way my life could have turned out, if I'd even been born in the same circumstances that I was- to a single mother already with a toddler, who had little money and so had to turn to council housing, available due to Britain's safety net- had I been, say, American. I know there are far worse places in the world to be born into; I studied African politics for a year at university, and I've worked for minimum wage in a warehouse alongside eastern Europeans with PhDs who were earning a real wage worth more than their distinguished position in the east would have allowed. The reason I pick America as a comparison is due to the fact that most Brits see in America a Britain with a president and no queen, my thoughts triggered by a friend linking to this series of pictures, on Facebook.

I'm extremely knowledgable of the American domestic situation. I know that sounds somewhat arrogant, but I've done a lot of studying and socialising to be able to say this to you. I first studied the American political system when I was 18, in my second year of college. Right at the beginning of the year, my teacher told us that the thing we had to remember was that America is a foreign country. We all scoffed because we were 18 and thought we knew everything, we thought this was an obvious fact. We Brits have a tendency to watch Friends, Sex and the City, Big Bang, How I Met Your Mother et al, whilst constantly being bombarded with Hollywood's glamour and the big voices of America on the television and radio, and to think that because we share a common language, we must also share common ideals, values and culture. It's so untrue though. If you clicked on the link I posted, you'll see rows and columns of tiny photos. Click on one and you'll see the horrors of addiction. Read the story of a woman, click on another and another and read the same story repeated by most of the women- they almost all come from a history of poverty, addiction, abuse. They turn to needles like I have turned to pills, vomitting and starvation. But while my history, apart from when my physical or mental health has been so bad I've required hospitalisation, like now, has not stood in my way, their common background has pushed them to whoring and a lifetime on the streets.

They are not me and I am not them. I'm not saying that being born an American citizen would have led me down that path, that every American from that background is destined to end up that way, or that there isn't poverty, addiction and prostitution in this country. What I am saying is that the financial situation of my mother has not prevented me getting treatment, it hasn't prevented me getting a good education and should I find myself in the same situation she was 22 year ago, there is no reason why my children can't grow up to be anything. You'll always see America portrayed as a vast land of opportunity, where anyone with drive can become a millionaire or president, with only the lazy living life on the fringes. When you see America portrayed in that way, remember the forgotten faces of addiction, of how it could have been us. Think of where Paris Hilton would be without her rich surname. You'll know I've had years in and out of hospital and take a vast array of medications to keep me stable, with therapy in between times, enabled because they've not cost, nor will they cost, me or my family a thing. I'm about to go to another treatment centre, my third in a row with no time at home, one that my mental health team believe could be a turning point, against my will and without costing my mum a penny for the 12-18 month, on average, programme, because healthcare is a right undisputed in this country. 

I don't mean to lecture, just to admit my faults in never realising my advantage. Do I want this treatment, or that treatment, or any treatment at all? Could I afford even one session of one of the therapies I've had over the years, or an hour even in a unit? The answers are irrelevant, because what I want or what I could afford is viewed as different from what I need. If- when- if I come through this, it will be because of having treatment forced on me to begin with, stopping a decline that would certainly end, or have ended long before now as a matter of fact, with death. Heroin shouldn't be cheaper and more readily available than healthcare. Addiction in any form- drug, eating disorder, alcohol, whatever- is a disease, a parasite to the person, and I'm so fucking lucky that my addictions have not and will not kill me or lead me down further into the depths of hell. I'm lucky that healthcare in my country isn't a commodity to be purchased by the rich, but a right given to every citizen, including those of us with no money and a mental condition preventing us from accepting freely the help available. I'm lucky that the government of my country provide me with money, despite me not being able to work. Poverty and abuse have held me back greatly in triggering my current condition, but leading me to a hospital room is a damn sight different to leading me to working the streets or shooting up because heroin, not healthcare, is the cheaper, easier, option.

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