Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Deathwalk - The Movie

 

It's been a rough few months. After six plus weeks of voice loss and being too floppy to function I'm more than a bit fed up, a state of mind not helped by the DWP's continuing and blatant spin war against benefit claimants. When you can't get out for weeks on end, can't find the energy to get washed, dressed or even swallow properly, life becomes narrow and focused on nothing but existing. Memories of happy times are more precious than anything - snapshots to hang onto until the weather and health once again improve.

This past year I've acheived alot, something it can be hard to remember when I'm vomiting out of the back door at 6am or swigging Oramorph like it's lemonade. But, one day stands out above all others; a day when somehow, miraculously the gods of hormones, floppy muscles, sunshine and corsets managed to combine into a pinnacle of acheivement. A day in which I walked almost a mile.

A MILE!!

All the physio, all the deathwalking practice, all the medications on this one day paid off and it was glorious. Even the rowconstructive discussion with my boyfriend about how it was time to get in that damn wheelchair and rest before I keeled over couldn't spoil it.

A MILE!!

It's the furthest I've walked in years. Despite the pain I felt amazing when I was doing it and during these past weeks I have fantasised back to that day more often than is probably healthy. It wasn't just the distance, but that for those few hours I felt in control of my body, like it remembered how to work properly.

A MILE!!

But the fear of being accused of benefit fraud intruded on that incredible day. Whilst we were walking, despite the fact I was accompanied, despite the fact we had my wheelchair with us, both of us were incredibly conscious that if someone snapped a photo or videoed me on their mobile phone and sent it to the DWP it would trigger an investigation into my benefits. Despite the fact that I was still dislocating while I walked, despite the oramorph and other medications I'd taken to enable me to do that, despite that fact that it's further than I've been able to walk in years, that I haven't been able to repeat it since, I was afraid. Afraid to celebrate this massive acheivement, afraid to share my joy, afraid to be accused.

Just for one rare, special, oh so precious day.

And this is the direct consequence of the government's  continued demonisation of sick and disabled people in the name of austerity measures, welfare cuts and protecting the most vulnerable. People whose lives are already difficult, people who 99.9% of the public would happily agree should be supported from their taxes, people who have committed no crime other than to become sick or disabled in a society which demonises dependency having their acheivements and happiness sullied by the fear of false accusation.

No-one hates benefit fraud more than sick and/or disabled people relying upon those benefits. Each gloating tabloid report of benefit fraudsters being caught doing outrageous things makes us more scared, more angry and less able to enjoy our lives on the days we can.

The memory of walking that mile, the sunshine, the sparkling sea, the company, the utter joy of completing a personal marathon will forever be sullied by the fear that on those magical days someone, somewhere might decide to report me for 'faking it'.

The video footage was shot in early November. The weather still extremely mild, but the walking extremely tough going. Almost 25 minutes of footage as wobbly as the walker have been edited down for this snapshot of a deathwalk approximately 100 meters long. An averagely 'not brilliant but not the worst' deathwalk day. An insight into how my life is usually lived, but for that one, magical, mile long day. And how 'looking fine' can be anything but.

To coin a corrupted cliche: "They can take away our lives, our benefits which enable us to live them independently, but they can never prevent our ability to soar free"



21 comments:

Planet Aspie said...

Congratulations on your mile, and for being able to (quote rightly) smile about it too. Your smile puts the rest of us to shame!

And if the DWP expect you to cry about such an achievement (just to prove you're still in pain), shame on them too ~:o(

Stonehead said...

You should move to Scotland. The final few seconds of the video, from 3.20, show you've mastered the famous Scottish dance known as the Glasgae one-step. Only the truly talented can manage it without the aid of large quantities of Vino Collapso!

Seriously, congratulations on making the mile and I'm glad the sun shone for you.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic and inspirational! xxxx

Anonymous said...

i think you need to do a sponsered walk. that mile is the equivalent to most peoples 25 miles.

:)

WendyCarole said...

congratulations on your mile and the smile while you did it.

I will think of you when I start to grumble about my aches and pains and all you have achieved

:) :)

Charlie said...

"People whose lives are already difficult, people who 99.9% of the public would happily agree should be supported from their taxes, people who have committed no crime other than to become sick or disabled in a society which demonises dependency having their acheivements and happiness sullied by the fear of false accusation."

My fear is that may not be true. I would suggest there are a large number of people who have no experience of disability - or can't imagine themselves ever needing assistance who don't give a ****.

Read Ayn Rand and get back to me!

Having said that: well done for not letting the b******* grind you down.

Lisa said...

I'm impressed you still use a syringe for oramorph. I gave up ages ago and just glug from the bottle.

MRadclyffe said...

Congratulations indeed! I only manage about 880ft to the local store & back whereas I used to think nothing of walking 6 miles home. Like you and I suspect many, many others who have similar fears that when they are in public, they are under the scrutiny of people who make wild assumptions based on what they've read in the papers. A recent report showed two-thirds of people said they avoid disabled people and another claimed that of those polled, they put the number of those cheating the system at 7 out of every 10 claims. Walking around in plain view with canes and crutches, rolling along in wheelchairs, driving those free cars around, it's all fodder for the suspiciously minded.
I've been trying to film my trip out. Maybe others should too if they can and post them to a BoB channel or hashtag deathwalk (with your permission) or something?

mike10613 said...

Well done. they can't take away your memory of that day or your dreams of doing it again; or something even better. Never give up!

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Anonymous said...

I admire you completely and Congratulate your achievement, Well done.
My mother has been house bound for 10 years now, she is in pain everyday. She gave up the will for wanting to achieve anything active not only because of the pain but because of the fight she had to do to get benefits to survive. I only wish she never lost the spirit that you show so she could enjoy the time with her grandsons when we visit.

You are truly inspirational x

misspiggy said...

Do you think you can get this post, or a version, into the Guardian? It says everything that people need to hear, so clearly.

Free Online Dating said...

Thank you so much for this post.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can see that your video is of a disabled person who is doing something miraculous. It bears no relation to the surveillance footage of fraudsters who are running around playing/reffing football matches, working at physically demanding jobs or walking briskly to the local pub on a daily basis.

I realise that this must be a worrying time for those who depend on state benefits, but I think in your case it's obvious that you are genuinely ill and need support.

Would you prefer that these fraudsters are just allowed to get away with it and nobody is ever investigated?

Sorry, but this country just can't afford to fund those who are taking the pee out of the system.

That's just my opinion of course.

Thanks for an interesting blog, but please don't assume that the general public think all on benefits are frauds and scumbags.

Anonymous said...

great post and video.
I share your fear of others misinterpreting my successes as fakery. It is a choice i make- challenge myself to walk a block without my cane, risking public doubt or don't challenge myself, letting my disease progress at a faster rate to avoid the stress of inquisition. i am not always successful in standing up, let alone standing up for myself, but I celebrate every victory I earn.

britishroses said...

Congratulations!Keep up the good work!

SunshineMeadows said...

~thumbs up~ for both the blog item and the video. I added it to a thread over on OuchToo and included a link to here.
:-)

Strange Attractor said...

Well done. It was touching and painful to watch this. It's hard to think that some people, just through chance, have such challenges to face.

Some people don't think about disability because it's too painful. I agree with the poster above, that it would be great if your work was shown more widely. You're good at explaining it and very positive; need more like you!

Helen said...

Blimey,nyiu make me tired just watching you!

Almost makes me miss walking... Almost! When I laughed during physio sessions when I was walking (just for exercise) I used to jack-knife alarmingly!

Good on ya, darlin.

Dray said...

Thank you.

I've been effectively housebound for years, and depend on someone else being with me if I want to go out.

I have superb neighbours who have even called the police if I try and go out alone ("Dray mate sir, back seat. Now.") They mean well.

Apparently, because I'm unsteady on my feet (I'm a Strokie) Quote. I'm 'a danger to myself and others.' Unquote. Tsk.

On the few occasions I do get out accompanied and supported there's always the worry that it only takes one disgruntled tabloid reader who wants to have ago. Even that wouldn't bother me too much if this wasn't the age of video editing.

So you aren't alone ducks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this, and congratulations on that mile! I'm trying to work out how long it is since I walked that far. Ten years, perhaps? It's severe ME in my case. I'm housebound most of the time, find it exhausting to take a taxi to a friend's or have someone push me in the wheelchair occasionally, and on the rare occasions I manage to walk a short distance (with a stick on on side and boyfriend on the other), am also terrified that I'll be "caught", and more likely, that I'll collapse and end up in hospital again.

I had a landlord once who turned out to have eavesdropped on my DLA medical (during which the doctor reduced me to tears by forcing me to tell him that I have PTSD because of being raped - I haven't been able to handle a benefits medical since, and I'm talking hospital trips and a suicide attempt after a doctor tried to force his way into my home) and started screaming abuse at me about how I'd supposedly "told such terrible lies", threatening to report me for benefit fraud, and threatening to evict me. Which they were also doing because I wasn't always doing every bit of the washing up within minutes of finishing cooking (I'm talking tantrums over a teaspoon left out of place), so I stopped cooking and lost a lot of weight. The whole thing was absolutely terrifying. The one time I'd walked a short distance after forgetting to take my stick (I was a lot less ill in those days) was thrown back at me as if it was a crime.