That day which I have been dreading for so long.
To say I was scared would be an understatement, to say I was close to a breakdown would be a more accurate analysis.
I didn’t know what to expect and the endless possibilities swamped my head.
All negative of course.
It took us a while to find the place; about three hours to travel there and then an extra half an hour on top trying to find the right building.
Just the perfect amount of time to work yourself into a nervous blithering wreck.
I signed in at reception and was then given a scripted speech by a guy who looked more like a paramedic then a receptionist; ‘This is your tribunal blah blah blah… It’s an independent decision blah blah blah…’
I was then sent to sit in a waiting room that sunshine has never seen. A room with four long greying walls, with chairs that occupied every length.
There was only two other people in there, both lawyers by the looks of their outfits and the ten thousand books piled beside each of them.
God I was scared. Should I have a lawyer with ten thousand books?
I mean seriously what was I letting myself in for? Was it going to be a proper court? Was I going on trial?
After sitting, sweating, trembling, feeling sick, shaking and generally feeling like I was being overwhelmed by every emotion in the book, I was called to follow the paramedic guy through to my tribunal. (I hoped to hell that he more than just looked like a paramedic because I was sure I was going to drop dead at any minute!)
Where was I being led? Was it a court room I was heading to? Or just an office? How many people where going to be in there? What was going to happen? Would I find out the decision today? How long would it be? Would I make it through it alive?
With every step and every breath a new thought (or should I say worry) filled my head.
Finally the paramedic turned and opened a door.
I drew my breath and followed him in.
The first thing I saw? … Chairs.
Chairs lining a wall and all I could think was that I really was being put on trial and that an audience would soon follow in behind me to watch and give me their verdict.
But as I turned further into the room, there was a large table in the middle with a kind-faced woman and a hard-lined man sitting, patiently waiting.
Okay maybe not a court room or a trial, and hopefully no audience soon to follow me in either.
I sat down in front of them and was introduced to the woman, who was the judge (I will admit I was a little disappointed she wasn’t wearing one of those white wigs) and the man, who was a practising doctor with more than thirty years experience.
I relaxed a fraction. Two people sitting at a desk was a lot easier to handle then my imagined court room with an audience and witness stand!
And so my tribunal began.
It was nothing like I was expecting.
They talked to me. Actually talked to me! They wanted to know what had happened to me and what had led to me being the way I am. No mental health point scoring checklist here but an actual conversation, where I could explain and expand on everything, from the past to my current daily living.
I don’t know if I should have, but when I first submitted my evidence I included sections of my blog which all related to the experiences I was having of claiming benefits. I just wanted to give the decision makers a glimpse of what it was like from my point of view, give a kind of personal recorded account.
I forgot about submitting it to be honest, so I was more than a little surprised when the doctor (who had been the most critical throughout the whole thing) handed me a copy of my blog and told me that he had read it all, and that not only had he read it all but he had thoroughly enjoyed it!
He went on to say that my writing was fantastic and that I should take it up as a career… Well, with that I just burst out crying.
The judge then took over and told me all the evidence and blog entries had already won me the tribunal before I had even stepped into the room, they just wanted to meet me in person to tell me I shouldn’t give up hope and that I should seriously consider becoming an author, more so a children’s author because of my vivid imagination and ability to translate it in such a way that it captures people.
They wished me the best and have advised DWP to leave me alone for at least two years so that I can actually focus on trying to get better.
I sobbed and I shuddered and I spluttered my thanks.
It was all finally over.