Benefit Claim Win, Life Fail

A minor modicum of good news amidst the current ocean of thick, virtually un-wade-able, shit. And, indeed, my second post on benefits within a few days; how odd.

I’ve had a brief look through the archives for a contextual post to this, and cannot find one. The best I can do is the review of this session with C – in which an altercation arose over the group of Employment Support Allowance into which I had been placed – but it doesn’t really go into much detail about the overall issue.

Money Money Money

So: context. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the replacement benefit for Incapacity Benefit (although as I understand it, those originally claiming IB still receive that instead). Full details on the nature of the benefit can be found on this site, but here’s a brief run-down anyway.

It’s awarded to people who cannot work due to illness or disability, so long as they no longer receive (or were not eligible to receive) Statutory Sick Pay, which one would get, usually, for the first six months of an absence from one’s job. After an initial 13 week assessment period, claimants are placed into one of two groups: the “work related activity group” or the “support group”. The former is where the majority of applicants are placed, and assumes that although their capacity to work is ‘limited’, there are certain things that they can possibly do to eventually move into employment. To this end, they make you go to tossy interviews and group meetings with Job Centre employees and other claimants to discuss what you can and can’t do. Great if you have social anxiety, obviously.

The support group of ESA does not require such interviews, though one can volunteer to participate in them should one wish to do so. I believe that eventually benefit reassessments to ensure one’s continued eligibility for this group are required, but I am not familiar with the specific timeframes.

Anyhow, the so-called doctor that I saw when assessed as to which ESA group I should be placed in decided that I had “bipolar disorder” that was apparently manageable, within reason. At that point I hadn’t really experienced more overt psychoses such as ‘They’, nor did I have the C-PTSD diagnosis, so obviously I didn’t declare those to him, but as well as having the BPD, bipolar II/clinical depression and anxiety diagnoses, I was having strong dissociative episodes which I did clearly mention.

He did not mention, at any juncture, BPD, major depression, social anxiety or dissociation in his pathetic report. I wrote to the Social Security Agency to complain, citing all of these issues, and requesting a revision of their decision. They wrote back and told me to fuck off. This was last August.

[Fuck. After saying I had no contextual posts above, I have just happened upon this post, which basically details what I’ve already written above. Well. I took the time to write the above, so it stays. It might save you reading the earlier rant anyway.]

Anyway, as I said, this was last August. I went to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to discuss an appeal on the decision, and they prepared a letter to the Social Security Agency (SSA) for me, which was acknowledged a few weeks later. Then…nothing.

Hoping that they’d simply forgotten that I would have to eventually go to these daft work interviews, I didn’t chase it up. Occasionally, over the last 10 months, I mused on what might have become of my case – but I didn’t want to draw attention to things by kicking up a fuss about how slow and incompetent they were, so I continued to keep quiet.

The silence was finally broken by the SSA on Tuesday, when they remarkably and quite out of the blue called my mother (my registered carer). Thankfully they didn’t want to speak to me, but to her; their enquiries related to how often I need to be supervised to make sure I eat, don’t self-harm, don’t try to throw myself off a 40-storey building etc.

My mother responded by informing the caller that such supervision was a daily requirement due to the nature of my mentalism.

“Daily!” the man apparently enthused. “That was the key word missing in her original report!”

This is complete bollocks, according to the legislation under which I was assessed and, in particular, under the section of said legislation under which I was assessed. I can’t be arsed getting into the minutiae of it, but the relevant statute is here if you’re bored so much out of your skull that you’ve never had a skull in the first place. I was only assessed under Part 5, and should also have been assessed under Part 6, where there is a lot of wank about disconnection from reality in the case of mental illnesses. I should have raked up half a billion of their stupid points on this, but daily supervision does not seem to be as key an issue as Mum’s caller had suggested.

Anyway, the bloke told her that, as she had confirmed my need for daily surveillance supervision to ensure my continued existence, that in all probability my appeal would be successful. “In fact,” he continued, “there’s a possibility she won’t even need to go to appeal, what with this new evidence.”

‘Evidence’. If my mother’s testimony is considered ‘evidence‘ by these imbeciles, why didn’t they bloody well ask for it when I first queried the damn thing nearly a year ago? Do you have to have a PhD in Fuckwit to work for these people?

So, to today. A letter arrived for me which I had initially hoped was from Mr Director-Person, who – I note with snide interest – hasn’t bothered his bony backside to respond to my latest letter. He hasn’t even acknowledged it with a two-line paragraph as he has done with previous correspondences, and neither has his Assistant Director acknowledged my application to sit on the ‘service user’ personality disorder panel thingy-ma-bobber. Twats. But, alas, that rant is for another time; the letter was from neither Mr D-P nor his AD. It was from the SSA.

And…

I HAVE WON! Yes! I AM VICTORIOUS. Hahahahahaha! Mwhahaha!

They are not sending the matter to appeal because the decision has been changed in my favour: I have now been placed in the ESA support group instead of the stupid work group. Result! (Eventually).

Financially speaking, this means only £5 more per week in my bank account (plus a good bit of backpay for the year I’ve not received it) – but it was never about the money. It’s mainly been an issue of principle – why should seriously ill people be fucked over like this simply because there’s a few scroungers in the system? – though a secondary concern has always been that I wouldn’t be able to deal with the silly work-focused interview required in the work group, never mind work itself. This belated but satisfactory result also means that I don’t have to go through the inevitable trauma of a social security appeal, which I understand can be utterly gruelling and ghastly.

Apparently, I will still have to attend a medical, which of course is rather gruelling and ghastly in itself. But Tuesday’s Bloke appeared to suggest to my mother that this would be a mere formality, being as he is satisfied that I am actually mental. I will make sure she is with me this time, though, not to mention a hefty dose of Diazepam (though maybe not? Seeming vaguely sane might not be a good thing?).

It’s timely, given that I am about to try and renew my DLA claim and given the DLA proposals of Tuesday’s budgets. I also read on Tuesday that Kate from A Tangle of Weeds had been placed in the ESA support group, and whilst I was obviously pleased that her ESA ordeal was over, with what seems to have been the result she needed, I felt a wisp of regret that I had been denied that same thing, which I clearly need too. But no longer 🙂

However

As Kate noted in the afore-referenced post, there is a downside to all this. I mean, I’m glad of the result of course – grateful, indeed – but it must mean that I am really, really, really mental. I read somewhere recently that only about 10% of claimants are put into the support group.

Sometimes I think I’m one of the most fucked-up people alive. I write very candidly here, but there are things I haven’t, and probably never will, share(d). Dark things, disturbing things – stuff that I think could shock the un-shockable. On other days, whilst fully recognising that I struggle with mental illness, I think I’m just on the right side of cope – mad, certainly, but not necessarily at the most extreme end of the wellness-illness spectrum.

The support group decision supports the former view. Said view is my more default position, indeed, but knowing that other people agree really drives the point home.

Still, I shouldn’t – and from now on won’t – grumble on this point. I can now avoid having to worry about being forced back to work before I am ready for same, and have a quiet satisfaction in knowing that my point of principle has been upheld.

That’s nice. But how are you, Pan?

Not fucking good. Not fucking good at all. For the first time since I met him in February 2009, I cancelled a session with C today. Admittedly, I’m physically unwell (my yearly bout of hateful tonsillitis would appear to have finally arrived), but I’m in the worst frame of mind I have been since January / February (when, if you recall, things were beyond rock bottom, resulting in a pathetic suicide attempt). The cancellation is a measurement of my utter despair.

The visceral compulsion to self-harm is so strong that it alone is driving me into minor dissociative episodes, though amazingly I have managed to fight the urges nevertheless. I really, genuinely don’t know how I managed to pull that off. Visions of my scalpel dangle seductively in front of my eyes. It reminds me of Macbeth’s infamous line, Is this a dagger which I see before me? (Act II, Scene I, Line XXXIII). Not that Macbeth stabbed himself with the dagger, of course – but he saw it and kind of lusted after it, just like I do. I want it so much, and I want to watch my own dark krovvy spurt gracefully out of me, taking my entire self with it.

So yeah – you might ergo assume that I am strongly suicidal as things stand, and you’d be right. Don’t want to exist, don’t want to be here…just want nothing. Sweet, beautiful, empty nothing. Permanent delicious unconsciousness.

It’s almost as if I feel some sort of spiritual enlightenment as regards fixating upon death. It’s like when you look at a stunning piece of art, architecture or scenery; the apparently perfect crafting and overpowering beauty is so profound that you find yourself moved to silent tears of awe.

I (kind of) face death and so, overcome by how exquisite it seems, awe is what I feel. I hate the word ’empowering’, but that’s what it is: knowing that none of this has to continue beyond a point of my choosing is hugely empowering. And, indeed, beautiful.

Time to deviate from such laughably ornate prose. I’m also having vicious, extreme nightmares – on the occasions on which I actually fucking sleep. I can’t bear the abject desolation of insomnia (see here), but I really don’t know if such epically troubled sleep as these nightmares produce is any better. They mainly relate to severe sexual abuse, though not at the hands of Paedo, nor anyone I know. This morning I got sectioned after a severely disturbing gang rape, wherein I’d been placed in an open coffin and forced to fellate four men, who then proceeded to pour acid over me. I was actually genuinely shocked when I awoke and found myself in my bedroom, and not in the psychiatric hospital of the dream (which was another vision of complete horror, though obviously in a different way to the rape). It was an intensely vivid, video-like little film of unconsciousness, with which I am sure Dr Freud would have had a field day.

I’m not particularly prone to nightmares in general, despite my unpleasant history. I have of course had them – haven’t we all – but they’re not normally that frequent. That I have had so many powerful ones this week indicates to me that this is part of my adjustment to my increased dose of Venlafaxine. It’s compounded, also, by an unintentional decrease in Quetiapine: I have loads of 300mg tablets from an old script, but have been unable for several days to collect one for my current dose of 400mg. My mother was meant to collect it today – but naturally forgot. Hmm. It’s my responsibility, I know, but then she did offer…

Anyway, ‘today’ is now ‘tomorrow’ and what was meant to be about 500 words is now over four times that, so I shall bid you adieu.

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19 thoughts on “Benefit Claim Win, Life Fail

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  8. Hi. V interesting post. V glad you managed to get into support group, although I can totally understand the flip side of that as well. Venlafaxine also gave me horrendous rape murder chasing type dreams. It was completely exhausting, and made waking up a relief, if a depressing disorientating relief. Take care of yourself. xx

  9. Sorry you are feeling so badly!
    I am so sorry sleep is not an escape from your pain as it is for myself. Its a good substitute
    for me for wishing to not be here when I feel that way.
    Pan-this is the first reply I ever left. Your blog asks for a name and email (required) not up on ettiquette of such things. I have a fake name and email that I left not knowing if it gets published or not or do we choose a user name (such as, did mindinflux, above, tyep “mindinflux” in the “NAME (required)” line.

    not as internet saavy as some. It reflects my age…

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  11. I’m thinking of you, honey. I think you’re doing so well to have resisted the self harm triggers thus far. Deeply impressed. I hope this passes soon. *Hugs*

  12. It would seem that i am approaching the same boat that you are in with my DLA renewal needing to be completed. Benefits always bring about a real anxiety to myself. Do i deserve what i am getting, what about when i am feeling better and able to cope more do i deserve them still. ALl these questions. It would seem that i am lucky as the description of the new incapacity benefit sounds like a whole host of hurdles to jump to get throught the hoop. Well done on achieving this tho. xx

  13. I am so so sorry that you feel this way, Pan.
    I had cPTSD dx the first time when a therapist emotionally left me (she basically withdrew emotionally because I directed anger at her too much, no matter how much I appoligised) so I would have to leave. It sent me into an attachment-disordered spiral of dispair.
    When very close people (people I am emotionally intimate with, including very close friends) AND therapists emotionally withdraw or leave, I feel abandonned and my urge to hurt myself or quit on myself or give up on myself (fuckitall, I think) surges. I use that schema like therapy trick (have you heard of Family Systems therapy? we have parts inside ourselves…very similar) of finding my best self inside myself and trying to talk to my parts. Particularly the howling wounded child. Sometimes it works.

  14. so sorry that people in need in the thick of it all have to fight for what they truly need…the same people who have little fight in them, who might easily second guess their worthiness anyway…Hey wait, same thing’s happening to me somewhat!

    I admire your fight and your perseverence, Pan, especially with your emotional and physical energy drained there is a part of you that sees so clearly how screwy it all is and what anyone in your shoes diserves and fights for you.

    You are right to do this. You totally deserve to see YOUR therapist as long as required to work thru what you are in the middle of. Anyone would.

    I get in trouble advocating for myself …marked as the ‘difficult patient’ when I persist in trying to get what I need it seems. Yet I was very successful as a volunteer advocate for others. I guess people think your motives are not pure if you advocate for self.

    your situation has me in knots, Pan. It is so unfair. I am in the US and have national plan for disabled people..they can’t cut you off like that. BUT, the reimburse docs at such a low rate that you can’t get a very experienced one thats amazing like C. So, I have been thru a ton of therapists with no match. Best therapists work privately don’t take my insurance. so i wouldn’t be cut off like you all can in the UK but I woulnd’t be able to START with what I need. I dont’ think i am as smart as you are (I can tell) but I am pretty intelligent and thats been a problem for me with therapists. So you have been really validating of my situation as I have wondered “am I being arrogant here?” No.

  15. I’m glad you got placed in the support group. I had the same feelings about it. That wondering that “am I really that batshit?!” I felt guilty too that I’d got placed in the support group when so many others have to go to appeal, even though at the time in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right decision.

  16. Sometimes the highly intelligent’s intelligence obscures the basics – you want to cut yourself, sometimes. Or feel a compulsion to. Nothing romantic or beautiful about this, I feel.

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