7 months is a seriously long time!
After news of the DLA/PIP change, I had been thinking I had been lucky, it had missed me so far…how wrong I was.
28th July 2016, the day had been fantastic, this was the day of my brother’s wedding to my now sister in law, lots of good times, good food and drink. It’s the early hours of the 29th July and I get home to the dreaded brown envelope behind the door. After opening it, my heart sank, I rang my other half and then my mum. This is where the dread and the next 7 months of stress started and it’s not over yet. I have decided to write about my experience and how emotionally and physically draining, it has been.
The first step on this horrible journey is a phone call the DWP for a little phone interview of sorts. Now, anyone who has had to phone the DWP for anything, knows how irritating it can be. You dial the number and then are given what seems like a million options.
‘Press1, for enquiries. Press 2 for new claims, press 3 to be put on hold while someone finishes their pasty. All calls will be recorded for training and our amusement!’
Then despite what option you press you are still put on hold with the hold music more irritating than Amy Childs’ on helium! After what seems like 2 ice ages and the song being repeated a thousand times, you ended up humming it for the rest of the day! Someone finally answers and then proceeds to ask you questions for ‘security’:
Name? I’m good with that one!
Date of Birth? Think this one I can just about manage!
Are you ringing about yourself?? No, I’m ringing about Cilla bloody Black!
The date of Henry VIII’s 5th wife 40th birthday?!?!?!?!? WTF!!!!
After you’ve answered enough security questions, that you should be in line to be the next James Bond, they finally get on to the important part of the phone call, even though you’ve been on the phone for the best part of three days. They start asking questions about yourself (again) just in case your name has changed in the last 2 minutes, or you’ve decided to become 2 or 3 years older. (You know for shits and giggles, which are all good fun until someone giggles and shits!)
After another 3 days on the phone and enough information they could actually become you and start living your life. They say,
‘Well, I’m going to send a form that needs to be filled in with how your disability affects your daily life’
Which makes you wonder what the bloody hell you’ve been doing on the phone for the last 2 hours, what were they typing, the entire works of Shakespeare, a new ground breaking theory of the evolution on man, because it certainly wasn’t what I’ve been telling them if I have to fill in a bloody form with the exact same information!
Finally, I can put the phone down and not a moment too soon as my ear is about to set aflame, and my head is now radioactive, it’s been stuck against the mobile for so long (and before anyone says ‘use the landline’ I don’t have one smart arse!)
The dreaded form arrives and it’s the size of a novel! After reading it, you need a sit down and a cup of tea (or something stronger) I’m sorry but this is where the blog gets serious.
After reading the questions in the form, it all becomes very real and you start to think about the way your disability affects you in ways you would never think because you just get on with it.
The first thing I did was make a phone call to my social worker and she said she would help me to fill the forms in to give me the best chance of getting the money I feel I deserve.
This is where the stress and worry begin. You hear stories on the news of people with severe disabilities being turned down and having to appeal, but I put this to the back of my mind and focussed on telling the truth and hopefully getting justice as it were.
A meeting with my social worker was set and I began thinking about the answers to the questions. I didn’t like to think about this too much, it began to make me very emotional and I found so things very difficult. Meeting with my social worker, I thought would have been a half hour job, boy was I wrong. 3 hours later and we had filled in the forms. I was emotionally drained, at parts I was in tears, it made me realise no matter how much I just carry on day to day, actually I am really ill and can’t do everything I want to do and my Cystic Fibrosis does somewhat rule what I do and it affects me more than I thought! After drying my tears, it was off to collect my brother and sister in law from the airport, I must have looked a mess! Although thankfully my brother gave me a step by step commentary as they got off the plane!
‘Just saying bye to the lady’
Just saying bye to the man’
Picture after picture of the airport (68 in all) …. I wouldn’t have minded but I work at the same bloody airport!
Anyway, this did take my mind off what I had just filled in!
The forms were sent by my social worker with a letter of support. This was the last I heard from the DWP until I got a mandatory reconsideration letter in November. I hear you say, but what about a decision letter or an assessment date?? Well I never received these despites me being told they were sent. Which in the end turned out to be a lie as I was told a number of times by different people from the DWP eventually in December after many phones calls and so many security questions, I should now be running MI5 or in fact be The Queen!
Apparently, I should have attended an assessment, however the appointment never arrived, the first I heard about this was when I phoned the DWP in November after I got a letter from Motability telling me my car needed to go back! The first words that entered my head where ‘What the actual Fuck?’ I had no idea this was coming and it really knocked me for six. Straight on the phone with the DWP and more security questions, only to be told by some bolshie woman on the other end that I had missed an assessment and ignored phone calls. I tried to explain that I hadn’t received any of this stuff but I could tell in her voice she didn’t believe me, I didn’t really care what she thought I knew I was telling the truth. She said she would pass it on to a case manager and she would put me through…then a dead line, she had cut me off!! Back on the phone to a different woman this time who was more sympathetic and checked that it had been passed on to a case manager, this was the first person to tell me a decision letter had never been sent. She also said that she would get on to the decision people and get one sent out that day. This also never happened.
This letter obviously started me worrying about losing my money and my car. The DWP were so insensitive. I phoned them many times. They treated the fact I rang about not receiving an appointment as I wanted a mandatory reconsideration. I received this letter in November. Still no original decision letter. 2nd of December and I had to give my car back. How was I going to manage with no car and still having to get to work? Luckily my amazing mother in law lent me the money to get a new car of my own (my first car technically, that was mine) so car bought and insurance paid and tax paid, I was ready to go.
Next I got a letter from HMRC about my working tax credits, and surprise surprise, they are going to stop as well and not only that I now owe them £800 in overpayment due to this error by the DWP.
December 31st is my last payment of working tax credit. Now I was on my own no help apart from my wages. £92 a week is a lot of money to lose but I was determined to carry on and not let them win. I managed this successfully for about 2 weeks. Money was slowly running out and bills were stacking up. Not only that trying to keep a high calorie, high fat diet is not easier without money, 5000 calories amount to quite a bit of money a week. I knew my health was suffering and my weight was dropping but there was very little I could do about it. I have suffered from depression on and off for years and I have severe anxiety. My losing weight and added cough, meant my anxiety was returning with full force. It’s hard to describe, I don’t have acrophobia, I love the outdoors, but I don’t like meeting people, it fills me with dread. Imagine you are standing in a room full of people, some people love being centre of attention, others shy in to the background. Me, I just don’t want to be there, I start to panic, what if I have a coughing fit? What will people think of me being so thin Will they think I’m anorexic? Will they ask questions?
All these questions go through my head, usually before I go anywhere, this can be either to a party with my partner, going seeing my granny with my mum or even just going to Morrison’s with my partner to do a shop. I even get these thoughts when going to work. Gong to work is very difficult. I have panic attacks quite frequently. It takes a lot for me to go to work, I have panic attacks on the way to work, which isn’t great while driving. I have to get to work and then do some deep breathing and think that if I don’t go to work, then I’m letting them win and I won’t have the money and it will make things worse.
Over the last few months, I have become a bit of a recluse and I only go out if I’m with my mum or my partner and they have to coax me otherwise I would just sit in and play The Sims and watch TV and sleep. I don’t meet with my friends if we do make plans, I cancel them because I just can’t face people. This anxiety also stems to social media, I don’t talk to my CF friends on social media s much anymore, I won’t send the first message, I feel like I am bugging them, this is also the same for texting my partner, He is the best thing that has ever happened to me and in February 2017, he agreed to become my husband. Even though this has happened, I still worry about texting him while he is at work or not with me as I feel I am annoying him and stopping him working. I know deep down he doesn’t mind but I still refrain from sending texts sometimes. I know all this sounds stupid but to me it makes perfect sense.
Since my money has stopped I have been living on my wages and struggling with money to a massive extent, i.e. having to take a day’s holiday from work because I didn’t have the petrol money to get to work, and living without gas and a phone for 5 days because you have no money to top them up. This seems silly and as a 27-year-old ‘adult’ I should be able to budget, but budgeting is incredibly hard when there is hardly anything to budget. These things have hit me hard with my depression, most days recently I have just feltlike staying in bed and not wanting to face the world. In my bed, I feel safe and I don’t need gas or a phone or petrol. I can stay in bed and be fine! My health has taken a hit this year and I’m surprised I’ve managed to stay out of hospital which is a bonus. Maybe hospital would have been handy as it would have eased the money worries, but would it, no wages for 2 weeks but nothing to spend out either.
Being totally honest, my depression has hit severe lows during the last few months, to the point I have thought would it not be easier to drive off Barton Bridge or off the moors and just end it all! It seems like the only option sometimes but I stop myself because with my mum and my fiancé I have too much to live for! I won’t let the bastards at the DWP win!! Depression is a horrible condition, it consumes your every waking thought and is very difficult to shake. There were days I just wanted to give up and not go to work and stay in bed! If it wasn’t for the fantastic support from my family, I can certainly say I wouldn’t be here to tell this story. I think the depression would have taken over and I would have lost complete control.
I have finally had my assessment which was just as difficult as filling out the forms, they ask exactly the same questions in the assessment as is written on the forms, I know this is to clarify what has been put but it is still horrible. My anxiety was focused on more than anything and she asked about suicide. This was difficult to answer, I have never really spoken about it in a serious way, especially in front of my fiancé, I think it was hard for him to hear that I had thought about it. It is emotionally draining and after I had it done, I just wanted to go to bed and cry, maybe this was relief that after 6 months of shite, it is nearly over…Fingers Crossed, hopefully I am awarded something and don’t have to go to tribunal.
I have written this not for sympathy but to show the impact things like this can have on a person.