Wednesday, 7 October 2015

On My Soap Box: The Sickness of wrestling or the Sickness of life?

I have been reading In the Pit with Piper, Rowdy Roddy Piper's autobiography. I have to admit that its a very good read I have pretty much finished it with only a few pages left to go. The one thing that was always true about Piper was that he always told it like it was and this book is no exception. This makes it an incredibly interesting and readable book even if he he doesn't go into much detail about his WWF days after Wrestlemania 2 and almost ignores his time in WCW. I am not really here to review the book though, more to talk about some of the things Piper mentions in it. Now you might think that a man who smashed himself in the head with a bottle just to get heat for a match, a man who made his living wrestling and who took risks he didn't need too is not a smart man but I actually think that Piper was very clever. He knew how to sell himself he knew how to keep making himself relevant, how to fight the system and how to make sure that he never got completely swallowed up by all the craziness.

Piper talks in his book about what he calls the ''sickness'' something about the wrestling business which made wrestlers go too far, do too much and take incredible risks and put tremendous strain on both there minds and there bodies just to do a good job, just to put food on there tables to feed there wives and there children, he talks about how many of his fellow wrestlers either committed suicide or died before there time because of this and how certain deaths really hit him hard.Piper argues that wrestling is the only industry he knows in which this kind of thing happens. Now on the one hand I have to agree with Roddy Piper, I believe that the sickness exists, but I don't believe it is limited to wrestling in fact I believe I have felt its pull myself. I used to work for a well known Pub/Bar company, I am sure it wouldn't take many guesses to work out which one but I wont say obviously for legal reasons. I definitely had the sickness while working there, this sickness was an urge to do whatever I had to do to be successful there, to get as high up and prominent as I could while taking all of the shots I had to in order to honour both the pub I worked for and the company name in general.

So what makes me want to talk about this now what made me take a small part of everything that Roddy said in his book and focus on it. Well we sit at a point where the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that tax credit cuts would motivate Britons to work as hard as people in China and that this was a good thing. Add on to this we have people like Alan Sugar from the Apprentice saying that no one in England is poor because we all have mobile phones and microwaves and there is suddenly this image being painted that a large number of us in the UK are lazy and should do more work and earn more money. Now if you look at the statistics around this the UK actually has on average the longest working week in Europe and our productivity is in the middle, this information has been published in several journals and papers including the Guardian. As things stand now about a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain. So with this true people want us to work more and harder? So this politician is telling us we should as individuals work harder, we should do more and if benefits are lowered basically we should do this for less while Members of Parliament have huge wage rises and expense accounts which cause scandals sounds wonderful doesn't it?

So back to the sickness. I grew up being told that a Man was what he did, that to be a man you had to work hard and try to make the biggest impact on the world as you could, that nothing was more important than this. So I ended up working from 48 to 70 hours a week trying to not only build myself up as something of importance but also to make the branch I worked for come across as the best it could be, and to try and push the brand name of the company I worked for. What did I get for my trouble? I got frequently punched, I had my arm dislocated by a blow from a wooden bar stool when I tried to stop a drunken jerk from hitting an eighty year old man with it, I had someone attempt to glass me, but worst of all I got my head smashed open by a gang of robbers with crowbars and to pour insult on top of this I also got punched in the mouth and had some of my teeth shattered for standing up to one of the robbers who decided he just might mid robbery want to rape one of my female colleagues. During all of this I worked myself up from barman up to basically the deputy manager of this place, I often did the stock for the place, the rota's, disciplinary proceedings, and I gave it my all. I never really got a real thank you for any of it, I just had more and more demanded from me while my boss did less and less and tried to pass her responsibilities off on to other people. The only good thing about any of this was the bond I shared with some of my close co-workers, a bond that was forged in the fire of workload, a bond forged by the fact we all had to face being sworn at and spat at and attacked while those above us tried to get more and more out of us. What can you call putting up with this and actually trying to do more and more than a sickness?

So how did all of this end? Well the beginning of the end was when I ended up in a hospital room, my throat had closed and my body was covered in rashes and welts. I sat there as a Doctor told me and my father that my body was shutting down from stress and that if I didn't change things pronto then I would most likely be dead in six months. You would think this would be the end. You would think I hung up my work shoes and went on sick or got a less demanding job wouldn't you? Well the truth is I tried to ask my boss about less hours or a demotion and I got told do your job or leave. So what I did was continue to do my job. Why you might ask? Well I wanted the best for my daughter I wanted her to have the things I hadn't had and I quiet bluntly didn't really care if I died if that got her what she needed. If I had died the mortgage would have been paid off and as far as I knew at the time she would have been OK and I would have gone out in a blaze of glory at the top of my game. What actually happened was very different though. A few months went by and then I found that I kept seeing, hearing and feeling the robbery again and again, I could feel the crowbars hit my head, I could hear my ears ringing and I could feel the panic that I might die or that something worse might happen. This was too much PTSD (which I was later diagnosed with) and work stressed combined gave me what can best be described as a nervous breakdown. I ended up on sick-pay attending trauma therapy and trying to put my life back together, again I asked about returning to less hours or to a demotion and got told ''Come back and do the job your employed for or don't come back at all'' what is worse is that despite the PTSD was as a direct result of what I suffered while at that job, during the robbery my employer fired me while off sick, this was after a heck of a lot of messing me around I believe in an effort to make me quit. I still for a time wanted to go back, to work hard and to try and get my own Pub, and to go even higher up the chain, wanting that even for an instant despite all of what had happened to me cant be described as anything but a sickness. Add to this the fact I was with someone who didn't support me emotionally, someone who didn't care that I might die only that I had stopped bringing in the money she could enjoy buying things to please herself with.

This is what certain people in the government and idiots like Alan Sugar seem to be wanting from my point of view, people who will push themselves harder and harder till they either make it or fall apart at the seams and they want this even knowing that it will leave people in pieces unable to cope. Still from the conservative point of view if someone ties a noose around there neck and ends it all then they are no longer a burden on the system. This is wrong, there are people out there who cant work, or who cant work as much and as hard as they are pushing for due to illness both physical and mental, this whole system and the pressure it creates makes them feel like less than nothing and that is wrong.

So where do I find myself now? I live a very different life, I work as much as I need to in order to get by, I make sure to concentrate as much on myself, my dreams and my hobbies as much if not more so than the work I do. I might be poorer but I am a lot happier. I have plenty of illnesses, I am an epileptic for one but I no longer have the sickness, I have learned the word ''NO'' and I have learned to be more than just a job, I have learned to be a person. I have also learned to make sure that the lady in my life is a supportive person who loves me for who I am and not for financial reasons or for what I can get her. 

What can I say Piper was more than just a wrestler or a motor mouth I think he was a very honest man who said it how he saw it, there are not enough people like this in the world. You are being Missed already Roddy. RIP

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