4 December 2015
Back to work
Jason has just mentioned the Lady we had dinner with, and called her wholesome. I had to think for a bit, what he meant by wholesome, but understand what he is getting at. Good, honest, true. Three words to describe her. Three words we should all aspire too!
She cooked Italian and we spent a good five hours chatting about everything. It isn't until you sit down with someone, that you discover the real truth, the real person and their real purpose. In all honesty, so many people have said their bit and had their say, that sometimes, the facts get skewed and that has been a major problem all along the line.
It was a wonderful, relaxing and enjoyable evening, spent with someone who has a heart of gold and truly made us feel welcome, as ever. When you go into someones house, there are occasions when you feel uncomfortable, this was nothing but. We had a lovely time and will reciprocate as soon as we are able!
4 December 2015
In this rehash of my second blog, Forever Enduring Cycles, I refer to Darrell as Jason, his birth name. We both changed our titles, when we left for Spain after taking legal advice. Writing about ones old employer, after the injustices they committed would have been impossible, using our real identities; a pseudonym was the answer. Three years have passed since I began blogging; although I still write under the name Luke Martin-Jones, I am no longer afraid to reference my partner and I in the correct manner! In time, as Oxfam are finally brought to account, I will once again be able to speak freely, without fear of reprisals!
Reflections - 24 March 2018
In the first part of this blog entry, entitled 'Burning ones Bridges,' first written on 4 December 2015, Darrell and I spent an evening at a friends house; dinner and conversation flowed late into the night.
Both of us were invited to a work colleagues home, another Manager who was based in Eastleigh. Since the person in question no longer works for Oxfam, I am happily allowed to refer to her by name; Hilary. Like us, Hilary had become a victim in Oxfam's games; bullied, sidelined and abused by a Manager who had no thought for her staff. Hilary was still working for them at the time we paid a visit; this period at Oxfam was a strained affair and not one she looks back on with fondness and who can blame her.
We had a wonderful relaxing night, spent in the company of a dear close friend, who remains in contact today, exchanging correspondence frequently. The three of us had much to talk about. I was returning to work at the very time Hilary was leaving. She couldn't take the harassment any longer. Like Darrell and I, her health had suffered dramatically and it was the right time for her to take a final bow.
Without people like Hilary my life would have been far more difficult. She was a great source of advice and comfort at the time and was there when no one else was. We all shared our problems often, it helped us come to terms with what was going on. It is sad that other Managers didn't offer support us at such a crucial time, but looking back I can understand why. Most had no idea what was going on and others had seen it all before, not wanting to become Veronica Raymond's latest victim. We three were the lucky ones, getting out when we could. It is painful giving up a career, you have dedicated your life to, but in the long run, sat here writing today, it was the best thing that could have happened.
The second half of this entry refers to the night we finally began to go through decades of paperwork. Our impending move to Spain, was becoming a reality, so we both felt it was time to start destroying a lifetime of documents. This was a difficult process; even after being together over twenty years, we both had to keep everything, that proved our partnership. The Foreign Office could demand access to our files at anytime, in order to verify we are still together; we kept the most important files and burnt the rest.
It's funny really, now we both live in Spain, we have no need to keep any of these papers. We have lived outside of the United Kingdom too long now, so Darrell's entitlement to live and work in Britain, is no longer an option. He would have to go through a process of settlement once again, as he did twenty years ago. Since neither of us intend returning, our life in the UK has come to an abrupt end and we can finally rid ourselves of all references to our time together living in Southampton. As a hoarder and collector, I doubt I will get rid of these memories anytime soon!
1 December 2015
Had an appointment at the Auctioneers today, still getting rid of stuff and trimming down life. It's actually a very therapeutic thing to do once in a while; clearing out the cobwebs and trashing the dead wood, now isn't it about time we all did that!
The end to a perfect day, sat here on the sofa, watching my favourite, feel good comedy, 'Rat Race.' It actually cracks me up, haven't stopped laughing, no matter how many times I watch it!
Peace and Love, always!
Reflections - 30 December 2017
Two years ago, I was busy packing, selling the family silver and offloading items; many of which, had been in my life twenty years or more. I found the whole process liberating, yes, but also an emotional roller coaster. When you make the decision to move abroad, nothing can prepare you for the difficulties you face, parting with personal items, not necessarily of value, but objects you have a deeply personal attachment to. On 1 December 2015, Darrell and I had a rare day out, away from all the commotion in our life, visiting local bars and restaurants in the Portswood area of Southampton.
Looking at this entry I am immediately back in my old student stomping ground. I was a regular visitor to this part of the City, always enjoying my time here. One can not help but get a little nostalgic for ones home town, especially when looking back at photo's, as I am now, writing about this day. The one aspect of life I miss, living in Spain, is the nightlife in Southampton; always buzzing and full of energy. Last night as I walked home from work, I was struck by how quiet it was, so different to the life I left behind.
Darrell has just said to me, he isn't sure if all this reminiscing about the past is healthy and doing me any good and he is probably right, but it is something I need to do, to understand where I have come from and recall just what we went through back then. I need to keep the memories of what happened alive, otherwise I would allow the bullies at Oxfam to get away with what they did. This entry illustrates perfectly, the turmoil my life was in. Reading between the lines, I can see just how vulnerable I was at the time, trying to hold on to an existence, that was slowly slipping away. A meal in a restaurant, that we used to enjoy regularly, had turned into a trip down memory lane.
I still heard from my volunteers at Oxfam, despite not being in-situ through illness. A card congratulating us on our recent Wedding meant the World to me, at a time when my World was literally crumbling before my eyes. Volunteers are the life force of any charitable enterprise; like me they were victims of a trust that had no value for them or those they were supposed to be helping. Even today, most of the volunteers I worked with, on a daily basis have no idea what really happened to myself, Darrell and others, caught up in a dangerous sociopathic game. They would have been told some untruth about our departure, as they had been in the past. Oxfam are masters at cover ups and have been doing it to protect themselves, probably since their inception in 1948. Recently I was lucky enough to speak to one of my colleagues, who had informed me, that many of those I used to employ are once again working, after a shop I was responsible for, closed down; doing what they do best, working to help others, making poverty history!
26 November 2015
Happy Birthday to my partner Jason. Here's hoping that 2016 will be better than the last. Remember one thing, you have always had right on your side!
All my love Darren x
Reflections - 15 December 2017
I remember my partners Birthday in 2015; it wasn't the usual happy affair, it had been in the past. Even at a time when we both should have been relaxing and enjoying the day, just a little bit more than normal, we couldn't. The stress of what was going on around us, was still very much at the forefront of our minds.
Both of us were still questioning, whether or not we had done the right thing, in bringing Veronica Raymond's bulling activities to the the attention of Oxfam. I was personally in no doubt, this woman had to be stopped; my partner less so, believing we were being used to do the work of others, a scapegoat if you like. He was probably right; no one else, above our grade were willing to stand up and be counted; they were too scared to confront this poor excuse for a human being, allowing her to continue down her destructive path. It was no wonder we both questioned our situation and at times had to reassure each other, that we were doing the right thing. Looking at ourselves and analysing our circumstances was commonplace, we did it nearly everyday. Although Oxfam encouraged us to complain against Veronica, there was no back up or support, to get us through this difficult process; they had left us to deal with everything alone.
At the time I wrote this entry, we had both made our decision to move to Spain, where we are both settled and happy today. As I look through my lounge door, towards the garden room; the sun streaming through the windows on this warm December day, I am amazed that I never moved to Spain earlier. At the end of 2015 I was hoping for a much better year ahead; my final year in the UK had been truly dreadful. All I could do was look forward optimistically. If anything 2016 was more difficult than the previous year. We were both away from the sociopaths that stalked Oxfam, but we were restarting our life in a new Country; lack of employment, a return to Australia, illness and difficulties in acclimatising to the Spanish sun were all factors that prevented us moving forwards faster than we would have liked. We may well be closer to where we want to be now, but there is still work we need to do, in order to enjoy the security and lifestyle, we both desire for the future. A positive outlook and attitude, will most certainly see us through, we have come a long way since November 2015!
25 November 2015
Reflections - 8 December 2017
It has been a long time since April 2015, when I was taken out of work because of the behaviour of my boss. At the time I wrote this entry, it had been seven months and I was approaching the end of a process, to try and bring Veronica Raymond to book, for her bullying, harassment, homophobia and sociopathic behaviour. It had been a long road; I had suffered terribly but so to had others. I was lucky, having been signed off sick, other colleagues were still working for this woman, agonizing every single day; at least I was away from her.
This is the first time, I have reread any of these entries from that traumatic period; it can be difficult, putting oneself back in the shoes I was wearing at the time. Equally it is hard recalling events but surprising, how quickly these memories come flooding back. Even from this short entry, I am able to discover much about what was happening at the time, Reading between the lines, I do sound very bitter don't I? I had become extremely cynical about people, their motives and nature; I was only thinking about myself, as it should be after such awful times.
When I look back to November 2015, a few months after mine and Darrell's wedding and eight weeks before we left for Spain, I am struck by my ability to keep fighting. Many people in my position, working for Oxfam and other organisations, would have given up a long time ago. There were many times I wanted to walk away from this disciplinary process, but kept on going, because I believed in justice. As I know now, it was a thankless task. Veronica Raymond was never held accountable for her actions and she still remains in situ.
Today, approaching 2018, I remain angry about my treatment, also about the abuses of others. The statement above is as true today, as it was then. I don't take any nonsense from anyone anymore, avoid the worst elements and am well aware of the danger signs to look out for. Oxfam are indeed a dreadful group, but all of those individuals I had contact with during my final months there, taught me much about people. I am able to survive today, because I observed the worst characters I have ever met. Their characteristics, lies, cover ups and manipulation instilled within me a sense of knowing; understanding just how bad others can be!
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!'
22 November 2015
OK, I wasn't going to blog tonight, because in reality, I don't feel very well, For a change I am angry, not emotional. I don't have emotions anymore, nor will I ever have them again. No one, is ever going to get the chance of manipulating me or Jason again. It isn't until you suffer at the hands of your worst nightmare, that you will ever understand the nature of what we have had to deal with. Not only a bad person, but also a process that has made it worse and a refusal to deal with their like again. If I was ever forced to do that, that would make me no better than them. Even at this late hour, you still have the chance to do the right thing, You have to live with this. Morality and ethics should be the only choice.
I always knew this week was going to be hard, it is what we are used too, but why so many had to suffer, is something others will have to answer for, they never will of course. Something this bad, is life changing, because it has to be. The need to erase the dirt is so important, nothing matters, but that. When you are all finally judged, you will finally understand what you put us through!
I heard from a dear friend, this week, that she could no longer take what was happening to her, nor should she. I want to say a few words about a special lady, because she is a true lady in every sense of the word.
This is a person who runs her own charity and who's late husband wanted her to dedicate her life to a cause she held dear. Today that is in tatters and it makes me sick to my stomach. Lies are the issue. Good, upstanding and honest people, can not work with liars. it would make us no better. It bought tears to my eyes when I heard her say how she had suffered. Yes, I do have empathy for others, unlike those who did this.
Like her, we are exhausted. I am penniless, because I did the right thing. Well that's a price I will pay, but I am proud of what she and me and many others have done. We are good people, remember that. I have no regrets and will take this as far as I have too.
I had a meeting this week and by god I told them how it was. It was the biggest weight off my chest. Thank you once again to Mind, for all they have done. The absence of my Union, shows another aspect that has to be addressed. I will never join a Union again.
This week, really is the start of closure, you know me, if it is written, who am I to change fate. The most disturbing aspect of the last eight months was the appearance of a mysterious force, who claimed she was a psychic and was communicating with my dead Grandmother. A lie, used to manipulate me, when I was terribly ill. She had other roles, or rather claimed too, now confirmed to be lies. This person is sick, caused further relapses and used her influence to destroy my health further.
I am ashamed I trusted her, but vulnerable people have to trust someone and she knew it. As I became well again, I finally began to question everything and I handed transcrips of conversations, over to a bullying charity. I never expected their conclusions to be so resolute.
This person had a hidden agenda. She was bullying, controlling and made my suffering much worse. She created a World where she was Queen and I should only speak to her to get to those I needed to speak too. She told me to leave Jason to her and I believed her. Jason had more belief, I trusted his judgement, but he was duped as well and more destroyed than ever. She is then biggest regret, the worst liar and the biggest bully.
I was told to rid myself of her, as I have now done, too late as per usual. What sort of person does that, an evil person and she nearly won. Just how many bullies should an ill person have to deal with. I wish I knew. That person has to explain who the hell they are and why they did this, but clearly they wont. More disgusting behaviour. She even tried to make me believe that the one person who genuinely cared for me, Jay Greaves, was evil. Isolate and control. A classic case, so I am told. Luckily Jay, still lives with us and cares
This year Christmas is cancelled for Jason and I. Now if you know me at all, you understand just what Christmas means to me, so it was a hard choice. Being dragged out the house by Chris and Sharna was a godsend. As a bonus, Sharna was switching on her Christmas lights and adores the festive season as much as me. It was good to experience, at least a bit of what I used to love, which like so much, has been wrenched from us. It is their first Christmas together and that's special. You will both always remember it. Thank you to you both. Much love x
This is the true nature of charity. Well done Chris. You overcame your circumstances to become the success you deserve. We can only use you as an example!
I am currently banned from facebook for telling the truth. That will not stop me. It's a mission at the moment. No more control. This is about myself and Jason and getting what is due. The more you put us through, the stronger we get, so for once DO THE RIGHT THING!
Reflections - 3 November 2017
Some of these old posts are easier to read than others. This particular day is harder than most. I had reached the end of a grueling period in my life, having taken my manager, Veronica Raymond through a grievance process, for her neglect of Health and Safety issues, bullying of staff, including me and at least three other Managers, probably more, as well as vulnerable volunteers, who were being humiliated by Ms Raymonds lack of concern for their wellbeing. Oxfam in their wisdom, closed ranks, protecting the perpetrator of these criminal acts; they would rather safeguard their reputation, than the lives and dignity of those who worked within their ranks. Veronica Raymonds behaviour was reprehensible, beyond anything I had ever witnessed before, but Oxfam was far worse. A charity I once respected ignoring the plight of those they employed, because of a sociopathic Area Manager. I am still upset and shocked by them today and will never get over what happened to me and others, until they are brought to account!
Not only were we dealing with a bullying Manager, but we were also having to come to terms with the fact, that the person put in charge of helping us through this stressful time, was also a bully and a likely sociopath. I will not be mentioning her name on here, because of threats made against us by her in the past. She literally came into my life claiming to be a psychic in contact with my dead Grandmother. This was just a ploy, to gain my confidence; we invited her into our home, only to be used as a pawn in her game, with the full knowledge of Oxfam and those who allowed her to continue her rampage though our lives. Of course many others were also victims of hers and never even knew it. At the time of writing this reflective entry, two years later, nearly all those I used to work with have left or been forced out of their positions within our region. Veronica like Helen was there to sabotage and disregard, leaving a decimated area behind, then Oxfam could begin mopping up the mess, however it thought fit!
Just when we were suffering most, we were lucky enough to have some great friends around us. Chris and Sharna became close towards the end of our time in Southampton and were there during challenging circumstances; we are of course grateful for that. Jay Greaves was also mentioned; sadly today we remain estranged, understandable under the circumstances. Jay also worked for Oxfam, as well as living with us; he also suffered at the hands of Veronica. He remained at our side and was with us at the worst moments. In order for him and us to move on, it was necessary to go forwards without each other. As the memories fade and Oxfam becomes but a distant memory, it will be easier to talk. I have no idea whether or not that will happen, only time will tell; untill then we all have our lives to rebuild.
As for Natalee, well she is still living just down the road from us in Gran Alacant, Spain. We have had our ups and downs, but I am happy she is here. Natalee was a big part of my life in 2015 and remains so now. It is kind of comforting having her about and whether she ends up staying like us for good, or goes back to the UK eventually, I know we will at least always have a friendship. Friendships got us through the mayhem then and will be our saving grace now!
11 November 2015
I have had a purely selfish, me kind of day today. The weather of late has been awful, so getting out the house has been near on impossible, not that you would want to on a cold, rainy November day, when you could be tucked up under a warm duvet writing thoughts down, that at times only I can understand. Still words keep me occupied and help pass the time of day.
Currently I am listening to some uplifting music, always a good sign for me in the Bipolar stakes. It means my mind is focused on happy and uplifting thoughts. Music is a key factor to my well being as they say. The happier the music, the more positive I am in mind and spirit, In fact if I put a sad song on now, I would only continue to radiate good thoughts. The fact that I am writing at all, is a good thing of course. I do find the easier the words flow, the more at peace I am. Some days words just seem to fall out of my head. No stopping the flow of writing, even at the worst of times, when I should be doing something I had been putting off for an age, or in the early hours of the morning, when I should be sleeping. Strangely for me, these are the most inspirational times. I enjoy the silence of the early hours, often sat in the garden, in all weathers, just watching the sun come up. It really does feel like you are the only person left alive. Being alone with ones thoughts is important for me. It allows me to process the deepest dreams and write down memories, that in the past I have avoided. We all avoid facing up to stuff, that we would rather forget, but when I am in a particularly good place, it is the ideal time. Even the darkest of memories, can be seen as healing and a favourable slant can often be attributed to even the worst situation.
When I look back at the bad times, as I am beginning to now, the pain I felt then, although heart felt at the time, can only have served to teach me much, about what was going on then. The darker the period, the more I have learned. These are not always easy lessons to learn, they are the key moments, that define a period in ones life when there was no hope, little action and massive mountains to climb. It is funny to see those mountains become hills and those deep chasms become easy obstacles to over come. The fact that I am here today, writing this blog is a testimony to barriers that are either no longer there, or have become a lot less important to me in recent times.
Feeling positive, is natural for most people, as is the negative side of ourselves, but for those of us who suffer with Bipolar, the degree to which these thoughts are processed becomes the danger. Bipolar is of course about extremes, at both ends of the scale and both offer dangers, that only we can really understand. Lets take my last relapse, forgetting why it happened for a moment, at the point of physical collapse and receiving care at Her Majesties Pleasure, I was as manic and high as I could possibly be. Thinking back to how serious the situation was, for me, for Jason and us as a couple, for our future and the consequences that could have unraveled, had Jason not got me the help I needed, I am gobsmacked that I got through it in one piece.
Can you really imagine being so manic, that what ever serious situation surfaced, my sense of unreality would just deal with it, in the most ludicrous, unfathomable, way possible. I was so happy to just walk out of my front door, wearing a pair of shorts, on a cold night and head towards my destiny. Not destiny in the true sense of the word, a moment of destiny, defined by a rapidly deteriorating, manic cycle, that allowed me to find the idea of jumping off a bridge, as a happy, exhilarating and wonderful act of release, where I would survive, yes survive. Nothing was unachievable, no bridge too high, no mountain insurmountable. In all honesty, I had never contemplated taking my own life, under such skewed circumstances, certainly not during a manic episode, that I am aware of.
The level of detachment from ones self must have been overwhelming. Even my wildest imagination could not contemplate such destructive thoughts as a rule. It is these occasions, when I was at my most destructive, without concern or even a need to pull myself in, that I have to come to terms with and understand in complete non glossy terms. There really is no good side to anything like that, except the absurdity of a situation, that could have been fatal, yet a willingness to play it out to its final conclusion, without a second thought. That is quite scary, looking back. It is only now I can look back at that brief period and laugh. What the hell was I thinking?
There have been other, equally disturbing circumstances, which I can't begin to think about and analyse in their entirety. Throwing ones head into icy cold water to stop the rapid cycling and head pain, bought on by unregulated Bipolar, after the most traumatic of circumstances. I know now, this could have been changed, if only others were more aware of the changes taking place in me, as I am fully acquainted with now, through the absolutely marvelous Advocacy and advice given by 'Solent Mind', all it would have required, from day one, was just a common consensus approach to what turned into an extremely serious situation for me, because nobody would sit down and discuss my welfare. As a lay person, I had no idea any other formality or legality existed to protect me. That makes me sad, that only now am I learning the truth, after so many months.
I would like to express my thanks to Oxfam, at this point, for allowing me this period to recover. They are good people, who I have always been happy to work for. They believe in the things I do. Empowerment, Accountability and Inclusiveness. Their ethical policies are second to none. Most of the people I have worked with have been exceptional, especially my dedicated Volunteer Team. I am still unable to go into too much detail, but something happened along the way, to cause great harm to me, make me reassess my life and above all come up with some ideas for changing it for the better. So in a round about sort of way, my employer has made me contemplate the worst and the decisions I finally make are still not made, but whilst I deal with with Jason's continual decline and precarious financial situation, I am at least clearing my old home, Gay Capri, for whatever renewal process happens in due course.
It has been a strange day to be honest, This afternoon I was reading a colleagues blog, 'HR - Without ticking boxes.' I had read extracts before, but never the entire blog itself. Although her words were written 2-3 years ago, you could have equally been reading a chapter in my life now. I have much respect for this person and will include a link to her site on here. I know for sure, if she thinks it is inappropriate to include a reference to the work she has achieved, on my site, she will tell me to remove it. Much of what she expressed in her words are just so true for myself and Jason, that it is truly scary. In fact I would recommend to any one of you, who read Bipolarcoaster and Forever Enduring Cycles, to take a look for yourself.
I bet you get the feeling, I am about to end this entry with a moral, well you would be right. The moral I write now, could have only been written at this time and thank god I am writing it on a positive note!
Reflections 27 October 2017
Wow, it felt a little strange reading this entry. In fact I remember writing it well, sat outside on a cold winters morning. It had taken me seven months to actually start reflecting over what had happened to me in the April of 2015, seven months of anguish and lies. Although this entry praises Oxfam and those who worked there, I was still unaware of their complicity in what transpired in my life. Even at that late stage, after everything that had happened, I was still blind from the truth.
I was aware that my Manager, Veronica Raymond, was responsible for my current state of mind, but I wasn't enlightened as to Oxfam's role in a bullying scandal that continued to rock our region. Oxfam were there to protect themselves, not me or my colleagues, a fact I still can not understand; terrible deeds from the Worlds biggest charity.
The best aspect of my life two years ago, was the time I had to think. I am a philosopher, a bit of a dreamer if you like and I used all the hours I had, at my disposal well, well enough to write my thoughts down, on a daily basis. Today, I am actually quite appalled by some of the mistakes in this blog entry, of 11 November 2015, but it does show where my mind was on this day; often wondering, always alert and full of vision for the future. I miss the times I had to think; today I don't have such luxury!
This is an entry about coming in from the fog; the beginning of discernment and understanding; shaking away the haze of confusion; the calm before the storm!
9 November 2015
Following on from the success of Bipolarcoaster, showing the pain, mania, cycles and stumbling blocks to recovery, 'Forever Enduring Cycles', will begin where Bipolarcoaster left off. Recovery has been hard, but strength has been born from hardship. When you are diagnosed with a condition, that will last a life time, you hear the words, you understand, at its most basic level, what you have, but really, you have no idea of the consequences, that follow a diagnosis, that took years to achieve and a developing illness that changes direction all the time. You can of course make yourself aware of what to expect and have a rough idea where your life will travel, but in reality, until you truly experience the onslaught, that Manic Depression throws your way, you can never have a real concept as to the reality that is Bipolar.
Mental Illness is in itself a difficult and challenging concept to get your head around and unless you have the right Doctors and Consultants in place to help you through a process that is unpredictable and forever changing, then you really do feel alone and at the mercy of a condition, that many claim to have, few offer explanations and even fewer experience, in its pure unrelenting form. Bipolarcoaster documented a very difficult period in my life, when a life time of anguish and pain reached a head and the resulting mayhem is clearly documented for everyone to see, not in a clinical sense, but in a deeply personal blog from myself, as I tried to explore what was going on, the different cycles that rocked my world and the changes that remain stamped on my heart as a permanent reminder of some of the strangest and difficult times, that were not only destructive for me and those around me, but also a time of laughter, extremes and a longing for a new, as yet untried future.
I never realised, just how powerful the written word can be. When I started blogging, it was really a way for me to work out what was going on in my mind. Each person who suffers with Bipolar, copes in their own unique way. I believe Bipolar to be, not only a burden, but also something to cherish and explore. Like myself, those who suffer, also have some wonderfully creative, expressive and life enhancing periods in their lives. Most are highly imaginative and innovative. We can have highly intelligent minds that sometimes tend to work against us, which can of course be a challenge to overcome. Circumstances, surrounding each one of us, who suffer from Bipolar, to an extent dictate how successful or not we are in dealing with each change in cycle. The one thing I have learned from Bipolarcoaster, is really, do not become complacent and know the signs of change. It is important to be fully aware of any triggers to collapse and work with yourself and others to try and eliminate any possibility of spiraling out of control at either end of the Bipolar spectrum. Awareness of extremes is an important technique for survival and is something I teach myself to do each and everyday.
'Forever Enduring Cycles', is in itself another cycle. It is a positive sign of transferring negative energy, built up over the last eight months and channeling my thought processes and writing into what I regard as a new favourable dawn of understanding, just what my life may have install for me. Of course as an individual we are all self aware and are the architects of our own destiny, but for those of us living with a chemical imbalance, we inevitably succumb to the power of our condition. Blogging is a great way of monitoring my progress over a period of time and allows many of us the opportunity to understand what we have, what our limitations are and the journey we are currently on.
This is the first new blog entry in a new online diary, looking from a very different perspective. Yes it is more positive, but it is now far more aware of the challenges ahead and a lot more focused on the outcomes for a brighter and better future. I will still experience depressive periods, periods of inertia and instability as well as times of heightened senses, happy, funny and deeply creative cycles. This is all part of the course, part of who I am and love it or not, part of my future.
Medication is the key for most of us who suffer the extremes that Bipolar conjure up. Like all medication, for any condition, it does have its time limits and eventually effectiveness can be a problem. Regular consultations with Mental Health Practitioners and a family friendly, understanding GP is essential for stability. A network of friends and family who understand the difficulties associated with Manic Depressive illness is also a great source of help. Understanding employers and those you have a professional relationship with, is a must and most importantly, if you are in a loving relationship, an extremely understanding partner is the key to long term happiness. It is a sad fact of life, that most people with Bipolar, do not enjoy relationships in the same way as those without the condition. Many spend a lifetime alone, after going through broken relationships and find the one true love of their life can be just too hard to contemplate and even harder to sustain over a long period of time.
I married my long term partner of twenty years on 22 September 2015, twenty years to the day, we began our relationship together, under circumstances that were not the best for success, but since those early days, the battles we fought to varying degrees of success, we have shown our commitment to each other, our love for one another and our belief and trust that we do everything we can to be everything and more to each other. I am one of the rare sufferers from Bipolar, who has a successful relationship. The battles we fought along side each other at the beginning cemented our love and instilled in us a sense of moral duty to one another, to move forward together as one, even under the most difficult circumstances.
I hope this new blog will be as successful as the first, but for very different reasons. It was important to end Bipolarcoaster, in order to draw a line under that most grueling of times. I will return to it from time to time, as necessary, add to its contents and refer to its entries. Thank you to everyone for their continued support and I look forward to all of your future comments, appreciation, anger and controversial points, you have all so eloquently made in the past and I know you will make again.
Please keep reading Bipolarcoaster. Please do keep commenting, as I know you will and be assured it will remain alive and kicking for as long as I am. foreverenduringcycles, is a new chapter for me. As my life changes, together with my partner and our friends and family, I will try and document the trials and tribulations that come with any mental illness. As the Bare Naked Truth Blogger, I will always be accurate and no matter what I am blogging about, always speak the truth. The truth is part of my journey and it remains integral to my outlook on life, the people in it, the experiences we share and the path I will always follow, in order to realise my dreams, ambitions and above all contentment with my life, whatever the circumstances!
Reflections 26 October 2017
My first new blog entry on 9th November 2015, nearly two years ago. Here I am reflecting, after a relapse bought about predominantly because of a corrupt, bullying employer. I have come out the other side and survived terrible times. When I read this entry earlier, I was struck by the language used. OK, so I have Bipolar, but the reliance I had then on medication, Doctors and consultants was horrifying. Today, I have no access to medication and rely on no one; just myself. My health is so much better, without having this label above my head. I am able to finally forge a life, without the need for constant help and care.
Just before I left for Spain, I was told I could live a full life without the need for medication. A change of environment, thinking and focus could be the therapy I needed. I can confirm the person who gave me that advice was correct. I am happy, secure and living a life I always wanted. Sometimes we can get trapped in a vicious cycle because of external factors; people, circumstances and environment all contribute towards failures, failures one would have blamed on professionals in the past; today, I am the only one responsible for my direction. This was the entry that truly signified a new life ahead!
Forever Enduring Cycles was my second blog, written between November 2015 and January 2016. It documents my recovery from a Bipolar Relapse and the final few months living in Britain, before our departure for Spain. They were difficult times for me and I have only now started to reread my blog entries from this time. Looking back at a period I would rather forget is hard; as I read through the entries, I hope to assess their validity and connect the words, with my life today.
While writing this introduction, many memories have come flooding back, I am mindful of what I was going through towards the end of 2015. The writing is at times rambling; raw, written from the heart, which can reflect negatively. The honest thing for me to state now, is the severe pressure and strain I was under, exacerbated by circumstances, recovery and realisation; a frightening existence, one I never thought I would see the end of. Not only was I dealing with a breakdown, I was also trying to survive bullying in the work place, at Oxfam and the pain of leaving the Country I loved, moving to Spain. My words reflect my feelings, from an altogether different time.
In this section of my blog, 'Spanish Views' I aim to relive those moments, reproducing 'Forever Enduring Cycles' here for a new readership to enjoy. The words will be the same, untouched, the dates will mirror those when they were written, but I will add any footnotes, I consider relevant today. 'Forever Enduring Cycles' the original blog will remain published, but will also sit quite happily in this, its own section of 'Spanish Views,' as a reminder of those frantic few months, before we left for our new life in Spain!
46 year old Expat, writer and columnist, living and working in Gran Alacant on the Costa Blanca.