It wasn’t the letter that I both wanted and dreaded it to be but it was of the brown envelope variety. I get a few of them from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) at this time of year as they say what my state benefits will be from April onwards and the letters are proof of those benefits for the times when I have to jump through hoops to prove that, try as I might, I can’t jump through hoops very much these days.
I’m going through the Employment Support Allowance/Work Capability Assessment (ESA/WCA) process and, difficult as it is, I’m finding the waiting around to get from one part to another most wearing. I’m not a patient person and I’m not good at not being in control so it’s stressful. I’m okay most of the time though, really. I know that worrying and projecting about what may or may not happen isn’t going to help me at all and neither is reading all those dreadful media reports that people are so fond of tweeting and putting on facebook. I know what my illness is capable of doing to me and I don’t need to read about the effects of the process on other people. On the whole I’m good at ignoring media reports but, as I’m human, I do succumb to the temptation from time to time.
What I have become good at is preparing myself without projecting far too much into the future. To put it simply – planning is fine, prophesying isn’t. I am also lucky (though I never thought I would be in a position to admit this) in that all my affairs are under registered Lasting Power of Attorney which means that there are a couple of really good people that I can lean on when I need to. Whilst they can take things out of my hands they’re actually very good at being the guiding hand at the small of my back and are doing so with admirable skill.
I’ve learned that, to protect my mental health, I need to respond to the clues that my mind and body give me. I need to recognise when I need to rest, when I need to do something, the best way to spend my time, what to do with mania, how to tackle depression etc. I have a vicious and incredibly fast changing kind of Bipolar Disorder which spins me round with gay abandon whenever and wherever it feels like it. Being at home gives me the time and space to do this. I’m not so much as not working but keeping on living.
Financially I’ve learned to save as much as I can because no matter how small a nest egg is it’s a cushion should things go wrong. I’ve learned to economise and yet still have the same standard of living that I’ve always had. I suppose I’ve learned that, contrary to popular belief, Bipolar Disorder does not have to mean financial disorder.
As a result of this when I got the letter in the brown envelope this morning I could see it as a positive. It said that I won’t be being assessed for what is now Disability Living Allowance to transfer (hopefully) to Personal Independence Payment until April 2015 at the earliest. This means that I have a guaranteed income for the next 15 months come what may. It means that coupled with my savings, should the worst come to the worst, I will not suffer badly. I’ll still be able to pay my bills and eat properly.
If I believe my peers then I am fighting a series of battles in a war that I will ultimately lose. If I listen to my closest friend then I will undeniably win the war even if I lose a few battles along the way. I hope for the latter and know that pragmatism, common sense and determination have put me in a place where, whatever happens, I am in a position to keep on going.
It’s okay to cope well with the ESA/WCA process. I will not be tricked into guilt by my peers or Atos or DWP for not being frozen by fear by the whole process. There are days when I don’t cope at all, when the fear rises so high I feel that I’m going to drown in my own anxiety but that doesn’t happen everyday. When it does I accept it for what it is and let it happen. I don’t wallow in fear, misery or self pity but I do recognise that they’re all feelings that surface from time to time.
I’m not sailing along without a care in the world – far from it but equally I’m not going to admit to feeling anything other than the way I do. I don’t want to be more scared of my peers and their supporters than I am of DWP, Atos & the Government but, as you can see by my previous post, they seem to want to feel like that.
Support, encouragement & nurturing are giving me the ability to cope. Preparation, planning & friends who are wiser than I am are giving me foundations from which to fight. I am under no illusion that things can go badly wrong in this process but I am also under no illusion that statistics come from somewhere and I just may well be one of the people who actually get the right decision first time. There is always hope.