That is the exact amount of days I have been waiting to hear about my medical examination results from ATOS in regards to my benefits.
The wait has been long and torturous but finally after 120 days of waiting, I know.
As mentioned in ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff Retold’ I have been waiting to find out if I will be able to cross the bridge or if I will be taken down by the troll…
It’s the troll.
So after 120 days of waiting how did I find out? Did I get the dreaded phone call? Or the hated brown enveloped letter? I’ve been avoiding both forms of communication for months now, but no, I found out by neither of these means. I found out via a very inconsiderate and poor mannered man named Paul.
Paul called me last week to arrange a compulsory advice session. He told me it was nothing to worry about, just some friendly advice and help to see what the Job Centre can do for me, any courses or training etc.
On the day of the appointment, I walked to the Job Centre clinging to Glen’s arm, begging my legs to stay strong. We walked in, to be greeted by some oaf in a white shirt, blue trousers, wearing a name tag saying ‘John – SECURITY’. Husky voice, narrowed bushy caterpillar eyebrows, unkempt greasy looking hair and a general impression that would send anyone running.
(Imagine a voice crossed between Marge’s Sisters Patty and Selma from the Simpsons, then cross it with the Panda’s voice from the Fox’s biscuits advert.)
‘Can I help you..?’
So now, not am I only petrified by the forth coming advice session, but I’m now quaking in my boots because John the security guard / Mafia gangster wants to ‘help’ me! In what must have been a jumbled squeak of a sentence I tell him I have an appointment.
‘Go to that security guard over there, he will then lead you to where you will have to wait, as you are five minutes early.’
I wait my time out by picking skin from fingers and staring at the ceiling. I’m called over and told to sit in front of a glass screen… so now it feel like I’m in a Mafia bank!
This is when I meet Paul, a ratty weasel looking man, with a very broad nose, long thin fingers and a smile that will set your stomach churning. He asks the usual questions, to confirm my name, address and date of birth. He finds me on the system then looks at me with a puzzled face.
‘Are you not claiming Employment and Support Allowance any more?’ He asks.
I sit and look at him. All of a sudden my heart kicks my ribs and pounds until I can feel it in the back of my throat.
‘No, I’m still defiantly claiming, I’m due to receive a payment in two days’ I say.
‘Ah, well, I don’t wish to worry you but the system is saying you are no longer in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance as you did not pass the medical examination. It says here that you didn’t score enough points. They tried calling once yesterday but could not reach you so have sent a letter out in the post.’
I feel my face draining, the tears welling up in my eyes and my heart pounding in my chest. That’s it. The answer I have been waiting 120 days for. It’s not the answer I was after but it’s an answer. Hooray! I finally know where I stand!
But hang on, I’m meant to get paid in two days. I’ve got bills due out, food that needs buying and debts that need repaying. How am I going to pay for everything!?
My head now goes into over drive, calculating prices, working out debts, panicking about money, worrying about the future, fretting about my house.
I’m going to loose everything. They are going to make me sign on and look for full time work. How can I do this? How will I cope? I’m not ready for work. No where near ready. What am I going to do!?
I start to cry.
Paul looks at me, like a dog when it hears a funny sound.
‘Will you be appealing or signing on to Job Seekers?’
How am I meant to know. I need time to think. My head feels like it is going to burst!
Confused I splutter, ‘Erm, I will probably appeal?’
My head is swimming.
I grip my hands in an attempt to stop myself from tearing my skin off in frustration. The tears flow freely and I feel high from all the mixed emotions. My eyes blur and I stare at the ground. My hearing fuzzes. I hear static. Glen looks at me concerned, then turns his attention to Paul. I follow his gaze.
My hearing comes back in quick snaps.
‘Sign you up to this……… length of two years……… course……… one to one……… job searching……… compulsory attendance………’
I stare at him. Is he seriously unaware of how distressed I am right now? I look at Glen in astonishment. This Paul fellow is totally ignoring me, reading a script off the computer whilst occasionally glancing at Glen. AT GLEN!!
He stops talking and looks between us, says something about getting a photocopy of the form and scurries off.
Glen grips my hand and sends me a reassuring look. We sit in silence.
Paul comes back with a bit of paper and pops it under the glass screen, asking me to sign it. I’m still crying and totally disoriented. I sign it without a second thought. I don’t care. I want to hold my hands up in surrender and forget everything.
I leave the ‘friendly advice session’ without a word. I get out into the fresh air and rage bubbles inside of me. It’s not focused at Paul, or the Job Centre or even ATOS though, but me.
I want to kick and punch myself.
Scream and pull my hair out.
Anything to stop my head from being so fogged and clouded. I freeze suddenly having a brilliant idea! I’ll throw myself in front of that lorry coming down the road and just end it all! Ha! I laugh like a loon. What’s the point of it all. I’m sick of it. I’ll just skip into the road and not have to worry or panic any more.
But reality grips my arm and holds me steady. It’s Glen.
Oh my god I didn’t even consider Glen.
In all my times of being at the bottom of a pit and considering the ‘easy option’ my family and friends always flash up within an instant and remind me of what I have to live for. But they didn’t this time.
That scared me.
I had one foot off the curb, poised, ready to jump.
I stepped back onto the path and let Glen lead me home.
When we get in we have a hug, a little cry and a talk together. I call the Employment and Support Allowance enquiry line and ask them to confirm that my money has been stopped. It has.
I talk to the adviser and ask why, they tell me I didn’t score enough points.
I ask for the appeal paper work to be sent out.