I think I'm having a breakdown. Sounds dramatic doesn't it? To be frank, it feels rather dramatic too. I'm physically disabled and usually, aside from the psychological issues commonly found amongst those misdiagnosed as malingering attention seekers I don't usually have any significant mental health problems. But at the moment I do.
I started to get more sick than usual a few weeks ago. Mid The Broken Of Britain launch I was hugely optimistic that for me personally, things were coming together on the work front and that the prospect of being able to work from home was a realistic one. A week of putting in the equivalent of full time hours, all work done either from my bed or lying on the sofa made it very obvious that it wasn't a realistic plan, although I am still hopeful about working part time from home. Fortunately I figured this out for myself before my friends had to intervene, but I've still had several stern lectures about how working from bed is not resting and one friend quite firmly informed me that if I did not stop he would be coming round and removing my laptop to enforce rest. I stopped. Vomiting and diaorrhea are difficult enough for all of us to deal with, but D&V for hours all night, every night tipped me over the edge. I could see the shock on my GP's face when I saw him last week even before he expressed his concern about the amounts of facial weakness and general rubbishness I was exhibiting. I have gastritis again, connective tissue disorders being one of the trigger causes.
Despite tripling the dose of omeprazole I take the D&V has continued. So has the excruiciating upper abdominal pain. On the upside I do now have a really pretty collection of empty Gaviscon bottles, I'm swigging it straight from the bottle like a low class alcoholic and waiting to hear back from my GP about what to do next. I've had gastritis before and it's pretty horrible, but the additional impact of stress upon it is not pretty.
It would all be much easier without having to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense hidden from healthy people. The stress of my DLA reapplication is still hanging over me, my current award expires at the end of this month. This morning I phoned the DWP to see how things were progressing, as if the award is not renewed in time all my other benefits will be dramatically reduced until it is. DWP staff get a terrible press, but apart from 2 incidents which spring to mind I've always been treated kindly and respectfully in my dealings with them. I'd particularly like to thank Gemma for taking the time to check my claim this morning and to reassure me that it is with the decision maker so likely to be decided upon before my current award ends. She was also able to reassure me that there has been no request for additional information as I provided statements from my physiotherapist, my carer and my policeman friend as well as my GP's part of the form so a decision is likely to be made without my needing a medical.
I've had to avoid the continuing news about cuts to benefits, but yesterday it finally dawned on me that the reduction in Local Housing Allowance from 50% of average area rent to 30% of average area rent will put me at higher risk for homelessness than I'd previously thought. I'm very fortunate, I am educated and privileged and have friends who will not allow me to end up on the streets. Even with that security blanket I'm terrified. My current Local Housing Allowance is paid at £90.90 per week, and leaves me with approximately £80 rent shortfall to make up each month from my other benefits. If my calculations are correct, which I cannot bear to check as I want to believe I'm wrong, then my LHA will drop to £54.30 a week when the rate is changed to 30% of local rent. That will mean my rent shortfall increases from approximately £80 per month to nearly £250 per month. My need to be wrong on this is preventing me from confirming these details and I become hysterical every time I see Grant Shapps on TV insisting that it is wrong to pay £21, 000 a year in Housing Benefit.Whether or not it is wrong to do so is being used as a smokescreen to hide the true impact of the cuts to Housing Benefit.
Over the weekend I received a letter from 'Choose and Book' reminding me to make an appointment. Unfortunately I haven't received the first letter from C&B with a password and details so entered into one of those Kafkaesque bureaucratic nonsenses when I tried to phone for an appointment this morning. I spoke to C&B who informed me that without a password they couldn't make any appointment. I begged them to find a way around this, or to ask for an appointment to be made directly through my local hospital, but neither was possible. The only way I can make an appointment is to phone my GP's practice and they will have to provide the details of the password taking up their time and mine. Then I have to phone C&B back and will be able to make an appointment. Hopefully. As last time I tried to use C&B there were no available appointments, clinics or doctors and so I just gave up and threw the referral away. I'm tempted to do the same now but have no rheumatologist and desperately need specialist input as does my GP to deal with the current health problems. So, having already phoned my GP practice this morning to try and make an appointment I will have to waste more of their time chasing up this issue. The phone call with C&B left me shaking and exhausted. Were I elderly, or perhaps not diagnosed with anything and unsure if I really needed to see a specialist I would have given up and not bothered.
I have abandoned any hope of getting an appropriate wheelchair from the NHS. It is too difficult and a battle I have no energy to fight. Fortunately a fellow blogger is kindly putting together an application to the Motability Trust to see if I can get a power wheelchair or scooter from their charity. It feels like begging, and as my considerate friend applying for me knows only too well, I would never have been able to write such an application for myself.
Things are so dire that I have found myself considering approaching Social Services to ask for a support package. I was already terrified of Social Services having personal experience that there is no situation Social Services can't make vastly worse, so it is indicative of my current desperation that I would even consider it. I lost my care package when the local authority rationed care to critical and substantial only under the previous Labour government and given that care is set to be even more tightly rationed I know that even if I could deal with the trauma and stress that goes hand in hand with being assessed by Social Services I will not qualify for any support.
Of course, an appropriate wheelchair, a care package and less hassle in aquiring support from the NHS would all combine to make it more likely I could work from home. But, in this austere climate of cuts none of those things will happen, and like many disabled people who long to work I am pushed further away from that aspiration.
If assisted suicide were available in the UK I would be seriously considering that as an option. Not because I want to die, or because my medical condition is so disabling I can't bear to live with it, neither of which could be further from the truth. But purely and simply because the stress and fear of navigating the system during the Coalition's bonfire of the benefits is more than I can bear.
NB: For health reasons I am still not able to check/respond to my email properly. Apologies for the delay in replying. If anyone wishes to reproduce this post elsewhere please feel free to do so so long as there is a proper link back to this original blog.