Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

A lot happened this week, but I have neither the time nor inclination to discuss it in detail. Perhaps next week. In summary: I saw Paul on Tuesday for our first ‘proper’ therapy session of the new stint. A bit of a weird dynamic was present – I babbled relentlessly, flitting from one random tangent to another rather than discussing anything remotely meaningful. Not that he agreed, of course; he opined, as he always does, that anything that runs through my mind (aside, perhaps, from “oh, look, the sun’s out” – though could that be read as an example of avoidance?) is worthy of raising in the therapeutic setting, and can give insights into my psyche. That said, he did admit at the end of the appointment that things had been a bit up in the air (I forget his specific terminology), and said we’d get down to some proper work next week. I await it with interest – but not at all without trepidation.

Last weekend I decided I was going to turn a corner of the kitchen into an office. I don’t think I can do much about it right now, but I think if I have a future, then I ought to have something to aim for – and I’ve decided that this will be professional writing. My dream: to register as a sole trader business, and make at least a part-time income from writing – and no longer have to claim at least some of my welfare benefits (I would like to think I could keep my Disability Living Allowance, on the grounds that the disability remains, but that in having my own workplace I don’t have to engage with general office tradition, which would exacerbate my illnesses). I know I’m capable of professional writing now – or, at least, I know other people think I’m capable, and that matters much more in this arena than my own self-assessments – and I’m building a few contacts. For now, that is all it is – a dream. A few commissions here or there doesn’t really mean much, but I’ve narcissistically (why is that not a word, spellcheck? Incidentally, why is spellcheck not a word when it’s the precise term WordPress uses to refer to this utility?) got it into my head now that I can achieve this if I don’t do myself in any time soon. When I mentioned the proposed office to A, he suggested that instead of setting it up in the kitchen, I actually reconvert our former study – lately, since the advent of The Everythinger, nothing more than a place for dumping stuff we can’t be bothered to sort out.

It seemed more palatable than the kitchen, admittedly: for one, it’s fucking cold in the kitchen no matter how long the heat stays on. Secondly, as I am not wont to be in the former study much, with a bit of re-configuration, it will feel more like an office than part of this house. Currently I do all my work sitting on the sofa with the laptop on my knee – but I do all my fucking about in this fashion too, and ergo it is difficult to associate the environment with work specifically. The study in many ways resembles – or will resemble, when I have it sorted – my office in my last job: small, but with everything necessary to get on with the task at hand. As such, I feel that I can ‘trick’ my brain into thinking that the proposed office will actually be a workspace, rather than a mere spare room.

We ordered a new desk, which arrived on Wednesday. I sat down to it last night and, aside from a few side panels that A had fitted, built the entire thing from scratch. It is (optionally) an ‘L’ shape, and has ample surface area, meaning that aside from the PC and laptop, I’ll have plenty of room to write by hand, consult the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, or study the professional writing course materials I bought several years ago.

All of that, particularly my suggestion about setting my writing projects up as a business, is a long way off – because right now I’m not a professional writer, but a professional mental. I even get paid for it! Though for how much longer?

As you may have gathered from the last couple of posts, things are dreadful. It’s at the point now where people are noticing: when I can no longer maintain a fa├žade, then I know things are bad. My mother has even realised that the excrement has been liberally sprayed in the general direction of the thermantidote, and that is a tremendously dangerous sign, since I have always attempted to muster every last atom of energy my mind and body possess into convincing her that everything is fine (the reason being that she shouldn’t have to worry about me all the time).

As if things were not bad enough, therefore, when I got up yesterday morning and found an ESA50* form waiting for me, I thought I was literally going to have a heart attack – I hyperventilated so fucking much that I could see no way that my heart could continue to pump blood around my not-insubstantial body.

My ma immediately said, “we’ll take it to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.” Reasonable advice, to be sure, but she’d missed the point; the point was that, re-fucking-gardless of how competent the CAB may have been in the completion of the bloody thing, I would almost certainly still have to attend a medical examination with the fuckwitted social security agency. I know I’ve written in passing about one of my previous exposures to this immense trauma…where?…ah yes, here it is. (*This post also explains a bit about ESA ((which stands for Employment and Support Allowance)) to those of you outside the UK. Basically, it’s a disability/illness benefit – but it has two components that complicate it, which the aforelinked posts discusses). After that experience – and even regardless of it – I genuinely don’t think that I can go through another assessment of this ilk (or of any, come to that). Not any time soon; pipedreams or not, I’m still really ill. I told my mother that if I had to go through such an encounter, that I would end my life.

Fortuitously, I had an appointment with Christine in the early afternoon. Since the hospital in which I see her is close to the CAB, I took the form with me. I went in, sat down, when asked reported that since our last encounter everything was still appalling, uncopably (new word) terrible, and that “the icing on the fucking cake” had just arrived, at which point I pulled the ESA50 out of my handbag.

She shook her head in frustration – “everyone’s getting those bloody things!” – and I repeated my promise that if I was called to a medical I would commit suicide.

Christine said, “I’ll complete it for you. At least that will be a weight off your mind.”

“That would be brilliant, thank you,” I replied, “but won’t they still send for me anyway?”

She told me that she is getting the impression that the Social Securitcunts have been sending out the forms to weed out the few “scroungers” that exist in the system, and also to catch out those with a mild to moderate illness, who they (quite possibly erroneously) perceive as being able to work. She exemplified by telling me about a patient of her’s that has mild, borderline moderate, depression. “She’s been found fit for work,” Christine explained, “but honestly, Pandora, there are things she could do. Not everyone’s in that boat, and in fact most of my patients haven’t even been called to a medical, and these forms have been arriving through their letterboxes since the start of January.”

“Are you saying that you think I won’t have to go to an examination?” I checked.

“I’d make an educated guess that when I’ve finished with this” – she nodded with contempt at the form – “it’s highly unlikely.”

She smiled conspiratorially at me, but I pressed on with my concerns. She wasn’t saying definitively that I’d not have to go to the fucking thing, after all.

Eventually she said, when I had finished yet another monologue of social security-driven angsty misery, that if they did call me to an examination, that she and NewVCB would write to the bastards advising them that I would be unable to attend, as to do so would be “severely and dangerously detrimental to my mental health.”

I stared at my CPN in something akin to wonder. “Really?” I murmured in a small voice laden with disbelief.

“Yes,” she said definitely. “So don’t worry. I’ll deal with this, send it off to them, give you a photocopy at our next appointment – and if an ‘invitation’ letter turns up at your door, contact me, and we’ll make it go away.”

“Thank you,” I almost-sobbed. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

Christine dismissed my gratitude – not in an unappreciative way, just in the sense that she was happy to provide the service and information that she had – as part of her job. Then she said, “you’ll be horrified when you read what I’ve written. Try not to be. They need to hear the very worst aspects of your illness; yeah, some people could accuse me of extending the truth, but I don’t think that’s the case. The case is that all of what I am going to write has happened and even though you’re taking measures to control these things, the unfortunate truth is that they also have the potential to happen again…possibly at any point.”

“Why would I be ‘horrified’ that you accurately explained the most severe symptoms of my illnesses?”

She sighed. “The voices tried to get you to kill yourself. They tried to get you to kill your baby cousin. Cameras follow you wherever you go and GCHQ are obsessed by you. You’re endlessly suspicious of people, and are cripplingly anxious when you’re forced to be in any proximity to them. Some days you can’t get out of bed due to overwhelming depression. You have, at times, to be watched to make sure you don’t harm yourself. There will be occasions on which people have to remind you to take your tablets – or even make you do so.”

She paused, flicking through the form, then added that one of the key parts of the mental health section of the ESA50 was about interaction with other human beings. “Given the aforementioned symptoms, that’s not…er…well, it wouldn’t really work for you, would it?” Ah, the sweet scent of diplomacy.

We talked about other stuff. Paul. Writing. Mum’s cancer scare. Rhona’s operation (with which there were no complications but lots of pain followed by a hook-up to morphine, which was removed five days after the procedure and even then caused quite significant withdrawal symptoms). An increase in Lamictal to help me with this current vault of depression (she’s going to discuss this with NewVCB on Monday). The exact nature of how low I felt, not that I could quantify it in words. I was acutely aware that I was acting very differently around her from my norm; regardless of how I’m feeling, I usually witter on and on and on, engaging with her non-verbally too – often it belies the reality of my mental (ill) health, but it seems to come naturally around her anyway. This was completely different. I steadfastly avoided eye contact, one of their favourite observations, and apart from issues surrounding the ESA50, I didn’t speak much at all. In fact, to my abject horror and disgust, at one point I believed I looked like I was close to tears. I didn’t cry, thank fuck – I can’t imagine the shame that would have been wedded to that – but I suspect that Christine thought I was on the verge of it.

Anyway, she was brilliant. My current episode continues, and no doubt will not abate for quite a while – either more Lamictal will help, or the vileness of the low will end itself in some sort of cyclical fashion, or I’ll off myself before any improvement manifests. But for now, what would have been one of the most serious stressors this year – as if there have not been enough already – has been removed from my responsibility. I didn’t thank her enough, because I can’t thank her enough.

The only downside to her brilliance is that it makes me even more sad and distressed that thanks to non-sensical bureaucratic bullshit I may well lose her. Good mental health professionals like her, ones that actually seem to care about you, are sadly uncommon :(

I’m in a rush so haven’t proof-read this, for which my apologies are due to you. Please forgive the probable multitude of errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling in the foregoing. Thanks x

13 thoughts on “Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

  1. Making a devoted space for work that isn’t in the middle of “everyday” activities is a good move. Personalize it and make it comfortable if you plan to spend significant time there (which you should schedule if at all possible – it helps!) I’ve been writing about 8 hours a day for a few months now, so I speak from some experience with this. :)

    So glad you have Christine to look after things and make sure you’re managing as well as possible. I wish I had someone like that on my side, and really hope you don’t lose her.

  2. Christine sounds like a most excellent CPN. I think good member of a CMHT (and to some extent all medical professions) have that innate ability to make the patient feel comfortable and willing to open up and spill everything they have to say. I know I have pissed and moaned at times about my lot, but in my last CPA I spoke more in the thirty minutes I was in with them than I had to anyone else in a week.

    I really hope you start to pick up soon and that the Lamictal helps.. small mercy’s sometimes come in small increments.

    I’ll be thinking of you

    Paul

    P.S WordPress spell check is a misnomer all of it own making… in fact all spell checks are governed by a small clique of maniacal spelling anti Nazi’s who just want to mess with peoples heads. Every spell check I have ever used has decided that the word “Movie” isn’t a real word.. bugs me no end.

  3. I love having my own space to work and study…. currently it is the spare tiny bedroom, big desk and a pile of boxes with things in storage. I actually have plans in the next month or so to give it a coat of paint, I am so bored with cream and move the large bookcase I have from the living room into here as well as add some more storage ideas and hopefully a decent floor. I have given up on the idea of moving!

    Sounds like Christine is indeed a handy CPN to have, it is great she is getting the form from you and will fill it out. I shall be totally honest I have taken little notice in the benefit changes to scared to, but more and more of my friends seem to be getting the letters, I am dreading that brown envelope dropping through the mailbox.

  4. Pan I am _so_ pleased that Christine is tackling the form and potential medical for you, you really didn’t need all the stress of that esp after all that’s happened in the last few months- must’ve been stressful to even see it though, I really feel for you :o(

    So hope you dont lose her, she sounds great.

    Glad to hear you are back with Paul though and hope it all goes really well and that its as helpful as the last time.

    You are an excellent writer and I have no doubt you can make a career from that. Even though things are crap right now the fact you have this goal in mind is very encouraging :o)

    Easy for me to say Pan but don’t let the bastards get you down, everyone with half a brain loves you.

    Take care

    Best wishes
    Kate

  5. Oh hun, i wish I could take your pain away and make everything better. Where’s my bloody magic wand? I’m glad you’re seeing Paul again although I know how bloody stressful it is and Christine sounds like altogether a good thing.

    Take care xxxxx

  6. christine sounds amazing, I’m so glad she’s taken that pressure away from you.
    I’m going to keep hoping for you that by some amazing luck, you don’t lose them both, it’s so unfair!
    Hugs, Alice x x x

  7. Oh I’m so pleased that you’ve got such a good CPN in Christine! You really deserve some useful professionals on your side, especially considering the crap you’ve had from them in the past! Scuse my language.

    I’d definitely advocate a dedicated working space, a lot of self-employed people or those who work from home from time to time would agree. It gets you in the mindset to work and means you’re not running around everywhere trying to get your things together and wasting time. Unless you’re just untidy like I am :)

    Hope you are bearing up okay, Pan, keep on keepin’ on.

    outwardly x

  8. My CPN helped me with my ESA50. I got a letter today saying that I dont need a medical. A big thank you to both Christine and Lynn.

  9. How odd that you and I are in similar situations Pan even though I’m in the U.S. I too have to have my disability reviewed after being on it for three years and I definitely remember the exam by the Social Security doctor. I was practically catatonic and then had a huge meltdown afterwards. It’s torture.

    I’m so glad she’s handling the form for you! That’s very kind and I love her for it.

    Hang in there please. I know it’s so terrible when you don’t know when these “episodes” are going to end.

    *safe hugs Pan* And I definitely think you should write professionally. That’s a goal that you’ve shown you can do.

  10. I am glad that Christine was some help to you. I read your posts all the time , have been lurking for at least a year or so. Thought I’d risk a comment.

  11. I haven’t checked in in a long while (my own trials, nothing to compare with the depth of yours) and am so sorry to hear how much suffering you are undergoing right now.
    Glad your mental health people see your pain and that you actually have a team who know you care about you and are competent. A rare combination! I hope/pray you don’t loose Christine, and that these bad times blow over with the help of everyone including your new work with Paul. You deserve that, as does everybody.
    Glad you are ‘hedging your bets” and making tentative plans for the future (with the office, desk etc) even in your state. That seems different…like your mood, if you can suffer through it, might lift into better things. I am so sorry you are so afflicted…please hold onto that it will end. And not with you ending it! It WILL end because your mental illness is caused by things (i’ve read your entire blog). They are still poisoning you. The only way out, as they say, is through and it sucks that apparently this may be the path…I hope chemically they can find a way to ease it for you, if you don’t mind my saying. You so need relief from this state.
    When I have been my most depressed, I was not suicidal but I did not want to be concious. I could not stand to be awake…the pain was so acute I didn’t want to be there. For some reason, I had hope that it was not a permanant state. Perhaps because I had not always felt that bad, I reasoned it was temporary and of unknown length but somehow I remembered that there were pleasures in life to be occasionally had and if I did a permanent act (ie suicide) to ease the pain I’d never find out what was on the other side or know what I was missing. What if my depression would have lifted a few months later? I’d have wasted my chance. I endured the pain by sleeping through it. I guess I wasn’t worn down by depression for long enough to have lost hope that it’d ever get better. I have a physical injury that is like that…medical peolpe are all hopeful and think it’s temporary but I haven’ t been able to walk well or far in 3 years so have NO TRUST that it’ll get better. My viewpoint is when it gets better temporarily I don’t even trust it will be permanant, it’s jerked me around so much. maybe that’s what it’s like for you.
    it sucks for you. i am sorry it’s so bad, and I hope I haven’t said anything to make it worse. I think that you are amazing given the degree of suffereing your illness causes you. One wonderful think your blog does is it portrays to people who may not know how it feels to be mentally ill and how hard even daily functioning can be.
    hugs to you xo

  12. DON’T READ THAT POST PAN
    in the state you (were) in it was too long and too much, perhaps presumptive. I tried to erase it and can’t.
    I am glad you have support and hope things are a bit better, or at least you can endure until they have.

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