Don’t need no super heroes
Don’t need no movie stars
Don’t need no politicians
In big black shiny cars.
Don’t need no preacher whose church is my TV.
Being an American who has lived in Great Britain for the past 32 years, I am often asked the question, “Don’t you miss America?” The straight forward answer is “No.” However, there are things I do miss about my native country. I often joke about it but I do miss not being able to get Cap’n Crunch cereal and that is the first thing I buy whenever I go back to the States. Tastykake fruit pies is another one. But it’s not all about food, which is cheaper in the US, so are clothes. Whenever I am trying to park my car into a tight parking space, I do wish they did the diagonal and larger car park spaces like they do in America. The internet age has made it easier to watch American Football or ice hockey games without having to wait for a video of the game to be sent to me. For the most part, though, I don’t miss living in America.
One thing which many teachers who ask me that question are in agreement with is when I respond, that when I go into a UK classroom as a substitute (supply) teacher, the chances of me getting shot are virtually nil. I know the chances of it happening in the US are still slim, despite all the media hype, but I am much more likely to get shot in an American school as opposed to a British one.
This is the extreme, there are other reasons why I like living in the UK. For years, I have been afraid to sing the praises of Britain’s National Health Service. This was mainly down to my own Asperger’s fed paranoia that if I did, the more politically conservative British types would brand me a “health tourist” and those who fanatically believe everything they read in The Sun newspaper would happily jump on the bandwagon and say the same about me. These people would need to get their facts right. I can safely say that my National Insurance contributions over the past 30+ years are more than what the NHS has spent on my personal healthcare. I am NOT a health tourist and it’s ignorant to think of me as such. On the other hand, had it not been for the National Health Service, I believe that I could have been a two time widower or at the very least, paying astronomical health insurance premiums if not paying sky high doctor bills. The health service saved the lives of my wife and my ex-wife. In spite of what a few American rednecks have tried to tell me online, the NHS works!
Life in Great Britain hasn’t all been peaches and cream, I have had challenges. I honestly believe that in the first few years that I lived in the UK, there were times when I was genuinely discriminated against when going for jobs. It may sound stupid to many Brits, especially those who view race issues through rose coloured glasses, but I learned quickly that no one is going to cry racism for a white American. Not just jobs either, the reality of it all came down when, many years ago, I was accused of lying when I was off sick from work on July 4. I appealed to the Racial Equality Commission for help and was told that white Americans don’t come under the Racial Equality Act. Furthermore, I have heard many ‘jokes’ aimed at Americans where had the same joke been said about another nationality, the teller of the joke would have been branded a ‘racist.’ At times, I have found this very frustrating and I have also found the response, “Don’t let it get to you,” patronizing. With my Asperger’s/DAMP soaked mind, it does get to me and I sometimes wish it would be taken more seriously. And I take little comfort in people who try to console me by saying, “If you weren’t white, it would be racism.” While that’s probably true, it doesn’t help and the person who says it is being racist themselves. What I have done is to not let it spoil my fondness for my adopted country. I like it here.
One thing I was guilty of when I first came to Britain is stereotyping. Yes, I hate it when I am stereotyped with all Americans so now I know better. Originally, I came to the UK to attend university for one year. When I arrived, my politics were left of centre even in British politics. (In America, I was thought of as a Communist.) Also, I was very angry at America at the time, so I thought that my left wing anti-American views would make me the cool guy at the college because I thought that British students all shared my views. Many did but many didn’t not. Some looked with utter confusion when they saw me reading Socialist Worker. When asked why would an American be reading such a paper, there was mixed reactions to my response, “I’m just taking advantage of the fact I’m in a free country where I can read things like this.” So, contrary to what Americans might think, not all British students are loony left Marxists. Nowadays, while I’m still left of centre, I have issues with the far left which I will share in a future post.
What the main point I’m trying to get off my chest is that I love living in Britain. Not just for the NHS but many other reasons. Most are socially more tolerant than my country of birth. This is especially true in regards to my mental health issues although the US is improving on that, which is good. Nothing against the US, I still love the country I was born in but I am much more suited to life in the UK.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537873672&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird
This may be the hardest post I ever write. While some may already be congratulating me for being brave in coming forward to admit I am self-harming, I am wary that it may be brushed aside as many will not consider it serious. In some people’s definition of the term, my self-harming isn’t anything that might cause serious injury. I’m not cutting or burning myself, although the other evening, I did think about slamming my finger in a door. And that brings me to my point, I am self harming.
What I am doing is whenever I make what I call a ‘stupid mistake,’ I respond by punching myself in the head. My logic being I did something stupid, I deserve a punch. When I’m typing on the computer, I slap my hand when I make too many typing mistakes. As for the finger in the door thought, I wanted to do that because I opened a spam email when I wanted to delete it. On the grand scale of things, I know that this isn’t serious to most people nor is it life threatening. However, under the definition, what I am doing is self harm.
Now you may be asking, “Why don’t you just not punch yourself in the head?” I wish it was that easy. The punches to the head usually come from out of nowhere, I’m not actually thinking of doing it, it comes as a reaction from the perceived stupid mistake I just made. What adds more fuel to the fire is that my Asperger’s mind is overloaded because of my mistake and it getting in the way of what I’m trying to accomplish. Therefore, any inward voice telling me not to punch myself is muted. I just simply am not thinking rationally at that second due to mental overload.
Naturally, I want to stop this behaviour, especially as there has been a sharp increase in the number of occurrences in the past year. Some might say I am being ridiculous here but I can’t help thinking that if I continue to self harm in this manner for more years, I will eventually end up like Muhammad Ali. That might be the far extreme but what I do know is that this self-harming isn’t good for me and I need to stop it. Saying just don’t do it doesn’t work. I need some other types of advice to get me to stop.
Shameless plug for “He Was Weird:” When writing the story, I did toy with the idea of making Mark a self-harmer but it didn’t fit into the story. Besides, I didn’t self harm that much when I was younger. Furthermore, in the reality of the time, if Mark did self harm in the story, his bullies would have tormented him more so they could watch him do it.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537212231&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird
In respect to my previous post and yesterday being Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, I thought these lyrics would be appropriate.
Ain’t no way to take a blow
When every cheek’s been turned.
I can’t show another side
When every side’s been burned.
I’m helpless, can’t fight a raging heart
And I got no use for being torn apart.
And the world seems to have no use for me
Cause you’re given nothing and nothing isn’t free.
Today’s title is what many people, sometimes myself included, call suicide. They claim if a person wants to kill themselves, they are taking the coward’s way out. However, I also believe that this is just a lazy label from persons who don’t want to deal with the subject. It is unfair to say that a person who wishes to end it all is simply taking the coward’s way out because no one, other than that person themselves, knows what’s going on in his or her head and that things have become so bad for them that they see there’s no other way out.
I’ve been here myself. The first time was when I was nine and one occasion, I actually did stab myself. Fortunately for me at the time, my sister had brought me a butter knife, which couldn’t do the job properly, actually, not at all. Looking back, my mother and then step father saw the whole thing as funny and told me not to be so stupid by wanting to stab myself. Back then, we’re going back nearly half a century, mental health was something to be embarrassed about, especially in the middle class suburban neighbourhood I was living in at the time. Therefore, I wasn’t given the help I most likely needed.
Over the years since, there have been other times when I thought of or threatened to commit suicide. Looking back at those situations, those were probably cries for help or attempts to elicit sympathy. I got to be careful here because I know that this isn’t the case for everybody. The irony here is that during the three years of bullying hell which inspired me to write “He Was Weird,” I never thought of committing suicide. It could have been that I thought someday, I would move out of that town, which I eventually did. Seeing another way out definitely removes any thoughts of ending it all.
In our millennial year, that all changed. My world came crumbling down all around me in several ways and I believed it was all down to me. I thought that I simply screwed everything up and maybe the world was better off if I wasn’t around to wreck things. Besides, people around me seemed to be getting on fine without me and that gave me even more incentive to end it all. Nobody wanted me around anyway so maybe I should make it that I wasn’t. I had even chosen the method, hooking up a hose to my car’s exhaust and killing myself with carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, I vetoed my idea of having music playing in the car at the time because I didn’t want anyone to say that music caused my suicide. What made me hesitate, however, was my belief that I would be taking the coward’s way out. That hesitation made it possible to get a last minute phone call from the person who I thought had pushed me over the edge and it was that call which brought me back. I don’t think that person ever realized it but they might have actually saved my life.
Not everything was peaches and cream after though. It was a struggle but fortunately, I had a network which provided short term help and sound advice which benefited me greatly. That is why when similar feelings came around again a few years later, I recognized it and that time, I ignored certain stereotypes and put myself into counselling. Probably one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life!
My conclusion from all of this is that while the notion that suicide is taking the coward’s way out might have saved my life, it isn’t a true notion for everyone. Some might argue that a person who wants to take their own life is actually brave by carrying out. That’s not my point. We can’t see into another person’s mind nor truly feel the anguish they might be experiencing at the moment or what events from their past might have contributed to their decision. What everyone needs to be is more supportive and understanding and take mental health much more seriously.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536566786&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird