24 November 2015
This is a fictional account of a real story!
These times were sent to test us! Should I fail my conscience, I will forever know that I did what I could, to stop the enduring pain that now engulfs my memories, all my thoughts and reside permanently in a place, I never want to revisit, until my final few hours on this Earth. These words are words that will never be spoken of again. They are difficult sentences to write and even more difficult to recall. Recall them I will. Every night, I close my eyes, the darkness that spreads through my whole existence, will descend upon my dreams, a recurring nightmare, that has haunted me every day that a try and rest my broken mind. To reconcile the terrible, unbearable, incomprehensible series of events, that now dominate my life, with the aspirations of the child I once was, with hopes and ambitions that will always cause a wound that will never be healed. Changed forever, emotionally destroyed and wrestling with pain, that will never go away. Rejected by friends and family, never understood by most, accepted by a few, but the pure truth, the words on my heart, chizzled on the grave stone, that will sit as a reminder, of just what happened to myself and others, who did no more than help others who needed to be empowered to do all the things I thought I would. The biggest, uneasy realization of my life now and forever!
I was always so full of ambition. There was so much I wanted to do. As a young boy, I was focused and knew where I wanted to go. Not one of us believes we will ever end up, in a situation, so obscure and heinous that a drama, could never pay justice to it. This is the first day I am able to sit quietly, put words on a page and really accept, that what I am seeing is true. Until today, my thoughts were so jumbled and misunderstood, even I doubted them. To place doubt in oneself, is an awful thing. For others, perpetuating that doubt, even worse. This Sunday, after five days of understanding, I can now piece together the scraps of evidence that only I could have collected. Not on paper, but in my mind, that, although tired, will always be lucid enough to recall these events. After all, they have been with me, for what seems a life time, yet in reality, they have only been confirmed within my soul for six months. I have spent this time, searching for the truth, explanations and closure. Today, at least, I can close this last open door, behind which the reality of my situation lies.
In 2008, after suffering, from what I thought was depression, something clicked inside of me. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to experience a level of self respect the years had crumbled away. I applied for a job within the church, as a Librarian. I loved books The touch and feel, the smell, the words of people, many people, now gone, but the books a reminder of who they once were, a living memory of lives, no longer there. Books telling stories, of bravery, love, anger and pain, books with a past and permanent future that we can always dip in and out from, at will. Taking a little bit of someone we never knew, with us, on our journey through life.
I had no expectations. If anything, I believed it would be the first of many applications, before I could achieve my goal of working again. I had a chequered history, where work was concerned, always achieving and failing at the same rates. No middle ground, just muddle and confusion over another failure in life, when I so wanted to succeed. I just wanted to do something in my life that I was finally a success at. I wanted to prove to myself and others, that I could be an achiever and not that constant failure, I was always reminded I was by others!
It was a hot day, the interview was in Pimlico, above that dusty old church in the High Street. I remember entering the room. It had a strange shape window, a bit like that house in Amityville. I always loved that film. The truth behind it scared me beyond my years. I was interviewed by Susan and Rachel, two genuinely wonderful people, who I respect, over and above anyone, I have ever worked with since. They had there own stories to tell, battles they fought, but both with so much love for those who worked with them, it was humbling. True spiritual and dedicated individuals, who were there to help others, including myself, without any ulterior motives.
I hadn't had an interview in a while, so assessing how well it went, or not, was difficult. I just remembered thinking, what great people they would be to work for. I actually enjoyed speaking to both of them, they were open and receptive and that always helps to put any candidate at ease. It was a boiling hot day, I was wearing a suit and was sweating. I hate sweating at the best of times, but in an interview, it just made me more anxious and annoyed me tremendously. On leaving the church, I kicked myself, thinking, they were probably instantly put off, by this sweaty mess in front of them. I convinced myself, the job was not for me and left!
I received a call shortly afterwards, from Susan. She was a cheerful, happy and uplifting Lady, who I adored. I had got the job. They believed I was the right person for the position and it was mine. For someone like me, who had gradually set my expectations lower, the more failures I experienced, it was an achievement, unmatched. It was my dream job and I was working with people I thought were great. On top of this I was working for the church, making money for good causes. I could not be happier!
Susan was my Manager for a short while, followed by Rachel, for about two years. This was a happy and productive time for me. I worked long hours, over and above what was expected, but I did not care. It was about proving to myself and others that I had integrity and what it takes to be successful. I loved the Library and the large number of volunteers who worked with me. True, selfless people, who gave up their time for nothing, to help me, the church and the causes it championed. People who were happy to go to work and loved what they were doing. The atmosphere was always happy. We all worked together as a team and results showed. Church donations from the Library were rising.
I also decided to do an NVQ, off my own back, encouraging my Deputy at the time, Paul, to join me. We worked well together and I was experiencing new and exciting opportunities each and everyday. Successful times, growing numbers of volunteers, and above all encouragement and motivation. Rachel would come to my shop as often as she could, weekly in the main. He would take me to conferences, ask me to help him with various projects, meetings and plans and I was given the utmost respect, as I always did for Rachel.
In 2010, Rachel left, she was retiring. She was a big loss for me. She was everything I would have loved to have been. I looked up to her, admired her character and found her a true Lady, in every respect. She pushed me ever onwards and was an asset to the church and those who worked in it. She deserved a happy and successful retirement.
My new boss was Alison. She was middle aged, at the time approachable, a bit dowdy and terribly interested in me and strangely my life, in all aspects. This was unusual for me, as I was only used to a Business relationship. At first I was unsure what to make of her approach, but accepted it was her Management style and we became close working colleagues.
I saw less of Alison than Rachel, which for me at the time, showed she had confidence in my abilities as Head Librarian and did not question her motives, why would I? I hardly knew her, but like most people gave her the benefit of the doubt. She was difficult to track down at times. Rachel always produced a monthly diary, which she would sent to his Managers, so we knew where he was and was easily contactable. Alison said it would not be her way of doing things. It made everyone's job harder, but I accepted it.
This was a time, when I began to see less and less of Alison, less than I felt was necessary, to provide me with the motivational, inspirational and appropriate help I needed to continue with success. For the first time Volunteers didn't see my superior, they did not know her name, indeed who she was. I am really not sure why a Manager would think it proper to distance themselves from those who essentially kept the church the success it was, but what could I do. Management styles were always different, this one was just one I had never experienced before. I didn't like it or approve of her ways and it was alien to me, but she did show herself now and again, so as a shop we continued doing what we did best, 'Making The Lords Voice Heard'!
This was also a time where my responsibility as a Manager was changing. Donations was slipping. There was constant change in the Library, as we tried to find out the factors behind decline. Alison remained aloof from the church and I began to take on more and more responsibility. At first I was happy to do this. I was helping St Edmunds and able to broaden my knowledge and experience.
Alison was also changing. I was expressing concern and was asking for help in finding solutions to problematic areas. She was not forthcoming. She told me things were fine. They were not and I knew it, the volunteers knew it and the congregation were well aware of the issues surrounding their Community Library, but she was not. Her only reaction to falling income was to take on more responsibility as Head Librarian, to justify my salary. I agreed and this was the first time, I began to fear for the shop itself, my position and failing health. I had to do it, to protect myself, my shop and the ideals of volunteers and St Edmunds. There was a huge amount of pressure on me, but with the help of my new Deputy, we would get through these times, until income began to pick up again.
I was always a positive person, I had to be. After the turmoil in my life, I had to look beyond current situations and beyond to the future. Depression had turned into Bipolar, my health was slipping ever further, but I would get through it, I was strong and my team were dedicated, now all I needed was more support from Alison. How could she refuse?
I was confronted by Alison at a meeting with local Clergy, after a series of messages from one of my volunteers expressing concern about myself and my illness. She had been liaising with him on a regular basis. My medical condition was disclosed and most hurtfully and disturbingly a suicide attempt. A series of statements were made about me. Drugs and alcohol were also being discussed openly between the two of them and I was horrified. Accusations were being made about me, which were untrue or had nothing to do with my position at the church. I was shattered by the whole experience.
I had tried to commit suicide. The lack of support at work and resulting, faltering relationship was becoming and issue and I felt I had no other option. I took around a hundred pills and had made peace with myself. I wanted to leave this life, it was the end for me and I had accepted that. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, born of neglect, failure and lack of support. With a bipolar diagnosis under my belt, I felt my long term partner would be better off without me.
As I laid on the sofa in our lounge, tears rolling down my face, I knew this was the end. My eyes closed and the next thing I saw was something I shall never forget until my dying day. I was flying above green fields, full of beautiful technicolour flowers. I could smell the air, the blooming colour and the fresh blue sky. It was peaceful and quiet, just a few birds singing. I felt relaxed and happy. Suddenly I saw a familiar face, it was my partner. I tried to reach out to him, but he was gone. Then, just as quickly I saw more faces, a bit like a camera roll, flashing before my very eyes. Everyone was alive. I just remember trying to grab hold of each one. I just could not quite do it. I was scared. Had no idea what was happening and just wanted it to stop. Then a tunnel, just a tunnel, no light at the end, just a dark endless tunnel. I knew what was happening. This was the end of my life. This was finality, the end of everything. It was the most traumatic thing I had ever experienced and I was truly dying.
I was awoken by a friend. From the corner of my eyes, I could see the mayhem surrounding me. I wanted to go back. This was not how it was supposed to be. I wanted to be dead and I wasn't. Sally, dear Sally had saved my life. I was ushered into an ambulance and taken to Hospital. I must have passed out again, although I believe my airway had collapsed in the Ambulance. Apparently the blue lights came on and they got me to A&E as quick as possible. Sally said afterwards, making me smile, how terribly important she felt as those lights switched on. The traffic seemed to zoom past the ambulance, ever quicker as they tried to save my life. Thanks to Sally I am here today. Another memory that will live with me forever.
I don't remember much about the meeting with Alison, accept, I was distressed. I had just survived a suicide attempt and now my whole life was being thrown into question. I remember one of the clergy saying her Aunty had Bipolar, so he totally understood what was happening with my health issues. Alison said very little. She was cold and emotionless. I was not understanding this massive sea change in my boss, she was not what I had ever expected and she was becoming less and less recognisable as time moved on. Deflated, emotional and shocked I went back to the Library, more depressed than ever.
The following eighteen months, can only be described as degeneration and shocking neglect. These months I saw Alison so little I was concerned. She had taken my Deputy from me. He felt pressured into at first accepting an unpaid role, telling me on numerous occasions how much he hated the job. This was also the first time he had expressed concern about Alison as a Manager. He felt intimidated and bullied by her. There was no trust and an inability to offer support.
My partner was also working for church at this time, having been offered a Wardens role. He was so happy to have a job, that also meant something to him. He had been going through a rough time in his previous job and felt he had now achieved something he had always wanted. He also became close to Alison. He had no family left, my family were unable to offer the bonds he needed and Alison seemed interested in him as a person. He was able to talk to her about subjects, that as a rule, only close family and friends were there for. I found this a little strange and totally unprofessional on her part, but knew he needed someone to talk too. I was more concerned about just how long she would be there for him, based on previous experience. I accepted that it was helping him at a difficult time.
As my health continued to falter, so did that of my former Deputy. I expressed concerns for his Health to Alison, asked for help in the Library, expressed fears for my depression and all the time took on more and more responsibility, as income continued to fall. There was no help forthcoming, and I felt more and more isolated. My Deputy's health was now becoming of great concern for me. Alison was his line Manager, yet he could not speak to her. She was a bully, offered no empathy and was increasing his work load more and more. He was a shell of his former self. He needed help and she wasn't their for him. Again and again I expressed my concerns along with my new Deputy Manager. We had real fears for his welfare. Still nothing was done.
He resigned shortly afterwards. He gave me his resignation. He was in tears. When I told Alison, she tried to make him resign with immediate effect. This seemed odd, since he had been signed off sick. I told him not too, he followed my advice. She seemed angry at this, but He was my concern, not her.
There was another suicide attempt. I could not get any help from Alison at all. My life was collapsing around my eyes and I had reached another low point. A friend was once again there for me saved my life. On this occasion I walked out of Hospital before assessment. I have no idea how I got home, but I was woken up at 3am by the Police, breaking into my house. They had a duty of care to preserve my life and had been searching for me around the Hospital grounds. I spent four hours with Police and Doctors coming in and out of my house, assessing whether I was fit and of sound mind, to make a decision about my own health.
During the last months in situ as Head Librarian, things got dramatically worse. An altercation between myself and another Manager and the resulting dismissal of events by Alison caused a complete Bipolar Relapse. I was arrested in the Easter of 2015, after trying to take my own life once again. On release, I was charged into the care of my partner and heavily sedated. I don't really remember the next few months, but they were most distressing for all concerned. For that I am truly sorry.
Since these events, my partner has been signed off sick from St Edmunds, after a series of bullying and events I can only describe as disgusting, using language and untruths I am still in shock about today. His health has deteriorated rapidly and he is now heavily medicated. We both continue to experience horrendous anonymous phone calls from those who seek to destroy us.
My health collapsed further over the last six months, as I was left unmedicated and experienced mental illness in its full unrelenting glory. Rapid Cycling Mixed State Bipolar, severe head pain, Post Traumatic Stress and isolation. An illness left to fend for itself and a complete reluctance by Alison to admit responsibility.
Both myself and my partner are going through a grievance process as part of the shocking and shameful incidents, neglect, lack of safeguards and brutality we went through. It has been so strung out, that we just continue to get worse. My partner is also suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. He is a shell. It destroys me inside to watch him like this, but we are helpless.
Other church goers, volunteers, staff and family in our region continue to suffer bullying and harassment, more grievance procedures, further isolation, lies, so many lies are being told and people are walking out, yet those responsible are sill in post. It is the most disgusting set of events I have ever been witness too. My health, my partners, my relapse my suicides, all as a result of one woman's sick desire for power and control. A bully, at the very least, as we now believe, left in charge of good, God fearing, dedicated people.
Lack of care. Peoples lives at risk, disregard for human dignity and contempt for homosexuals, mental illness and those more vulnerable.
YES THIS IS THE CHURCH, The church I loved and devoted my life too, and for what? A bully to be allowed to run riot over my life!
This is me today, broken, ill, bullied and vulnerable!
Reflections - 11 November 2017
The story above was based on my life; it was written using different names and removing any references to Oxfam, the organisation I was working for at the time. In this update today, I don't want to go over the adaptation above. I have spoken about my experiences many times before. What I want to discuss is the reasons for changing names and writing in the way I have. Today I am quite open about the distasteful nature of Oxfam, what they did to me and others, and will openly discuss the difficulties I faced. Two years ago, things were very different. I was in the middle of a process to force my ex boss Veronica Raymond and my employer Oxfam, to admit their role in a string of bullying allegations. I was unable to mention names publicly and could not discuss issues with anyone, let alone publish my thoughts on an online blog.
Today I write under the pseudonym Luke Martin-Jones, which is how many people know me in Gran Alacant. Before I left for Spain, Darrell and I made the decision, not to use our real names online, after what happened to us. Writing under a pseudonym allows me to write freely about mine and Darrell's time at Oxfam, making references to those responsible for bullying and cover up. It is common knowledge that both Darrell and I worked for the biggest charity in the World, suffering discrimination, intimidation, lies, attacks and cover ups by those at the top of the charity tree. Both of us went through a process, to try and bring the perpetrators of these dreadful acts to justice; in fact we were actively encouraged to do so. Our determination and that of others, who also suffered, fell on deaf ears and Oxfam covered up what happened to all of us, closing ranks and protecting the bullies.
In the end, Darrell signed a compromise agreement, which prevented him from talking about what happened. Oxfam had a lot to hide and this was their way of trying to protect themselves. I signed no such agreement, preferring to write about my experiences, choosing my principals over money. As a writer I believe in the words I write, I don't lie or embellish the truth, I tell a story about what really happened; using my ordeal, as a way of helping others get through their own difficulties; helping those in greatest need is important for me now. Oxfam refused to protect its staff and volunteers; I want to do my best, to help those, especially from the Oxfam ranks, who are still suffering abuses, everyday!
My name is Darren Vranjes formally Light, who just happens to write under the name, Luke Martin-Jones, as the Real Truth Blogger. A pseudonym is the perfect way of expressing myself, without it reflecting on words you may have written, under another name in the past. My pen name, allows me to write about my life in 'Spanish Views,' without cross referencing other published writing in the UK. I am able to express my feelings without fear of tainting previous articles, blogs and stories. Writing under the name Luke Martin-Jones, allowed me to start my writing career from the beginning again, putting all other expression to one side.
The decision to write under an assumed name, was born from adverse times, giving me the freedom to express thoughts without the fear of reprisals. Today, I am happy for people to call me Luke, Darren or whatever they like, it makes no difference to me. I will continue to write under the name Luke, because that is how my readers know me in Spain. Like the entry above, from 24 November 2015, there will always be times, where one has to use discretion, my pseudonym Luke, is the 'get out clause' which allows me to fully detail and document arduous times, whilst writing my newest blog, 'Spanish Views!'
46 year old Expat, writer and columnist, living and working in Gran Alacant on the Costa Blanca.