On Monday I was due for my Employment and Support Allowance medical, which meant I spent most of my Sunday thinking about the ordeal about to come.
I hate the medicals.
They are a load of rubbish! I don’t see how they are allowed to call it a medical examination!? All they do is ask you questions off a computer screen, and if you don’t fit into their idyllic description of a disabled person, literally someone with neither legs of arms, well then, your buggered.
The Monday came and I was so worked up. I’ve been every year since I was first diagnosed and every time it is awful.
You have the wait / run up to the medical, you then have to endure the impersonal medical, then you usually have to wait 2 months to just find out if you have ‘passed’ that medical. Which for the first time last year I didn’t pass and it was, I would say, one of the worst things I have been through.
For someone like me I couldn’t handle it. I got a brown envelope letter saying I was classed as fit for work, would no longer receive any income and if I did need an income I would have to sign on to Job Seekers Allowance and start applying for work.
Now for someone with agoraphobia, who finds it difficult leaving their own home, even when accompanied, this is pretty much the worst possible news you could get. The pressure I felt was unbelievable.
After getting that letter I spent about two weeks crying.
Thank goodness for my partner and my Mum, that is all I can say.
With their help and encouragement I appealed the decision.
I had 6 weeks with no income at all. Luckily we had Glen’s wages to fall back on, but even then it wasn’t enough. By the time they instated an appeal rate income of £50 a week, we had £10 left for food shopping and were racking up some nice size debts just to pay the bills.
We lived on pretty much nothing for three more months, then I finally got a letter saying they were changing their decision. They were going to stop the appeal from going any further (to tribunal) and would reinstate my benefits, whilst also granting me a back payment to cover all those weeks we lived on so little.
So it is easy to understand why I was so nervous about going again.
By time the train pulled into the station it’s clear to say my anxiety levels where sky-high. I felt paranoid, like I was being watched. I became weary of CCTV cameras and everyone around me.
The town was so busy that I just clung to Glen. I couldn’t bare to lift my head up. I felt there were spies in the crowds and that if I was to make eye contact with anyone, they would report me and deem me fit for work.
I know it makes no sense, trust me I tried reasoning with myself, but when you get to that stage of panic and terror, all thoughts become irrational.
When we got to the centre we had to sit and wait for 45 minutes before being seen, not good for someone who’s brain has lost all reason and is in full panic driven mode.
When we went in to see the ‘healthcare professional’ all I felt was fear. My palms where sweating, I felt extremely tired and I didn’t want to talk to this person at all.
As soon as she started asking me questions I knew she didn’t give a crap, she couldn’t care less and was one of those people who see mental health as a myth. Great.
We went through the compulsory questions…
‘What’s your motivation levels?’
‘Can you clean yourself?’
‘How is your day-to-day living?’
Then came the nitty-gritty questions…
‘Have you self harmed?’
So in answer to this I tell her I use to but don’t any more. Sometimes I do pull my hair and bite myself but what was the point in telling her that when all she can do is put yes or no on her computer.
Then she asked the biggie…
‘Have you ever tried taking your life?’
Always a touchy subject but I answer honestly saying I did two years ago and haven’t tried since.
To which I am asked, ‘why haven’t you killed yourself already?’
OH YES! I KID YOU NOT! THIS WAS HER RESPONSE!
She wanted to know why I hadn’t gone through with it, what stopped me and what’s stopping me now.
At this point my mood plunged five hundred and fifty degrees north.
I felt like total and utter shit.
Even Glen was in shock.
I actually think we both sat there, stared at her, with our mouths open for a few good minutes before we realised she was being serious and wanted answers.
All I could say was my family.
With that being the biggest question I thought it would be over but she also wanted to know when I last worked.
‘Three years, that’s a long time to be on benefits.’
In other words she is one of those people that don’t believe you should get help from the government.
The meeting soon ended with her saying that a letter would be sent out and that I can then request a copy of the report if I liked.
In other words, she wasn’t going to vote in my favour.