A few weeks ago I got a letter through the door telling me I was due for an ESA reassessment. Part of me dreaded looking at the form and so I didn’t for a few days and allowed myself to feel panicked and because I allowed that feeling it passed. When I looked at it I was reminded that it was actually far simpler form than I remembered it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a difficult form to fill in because you have to spill your guts out on to the pages but the form, to me at least, is simple. Or maybe that’s because way back in the day when I worked for DHSS you needed a degree just to open the envelope let alone fill it in.
I talked to my doctor about the supporting letter that I’d need and gave him photocopies of the pages of the form that I’d filled in. (I’ve now posted it and as I write this I’m panicking in case I’ve missed something important out – like my name and address and yes, I have just checked my copy to make sure that I have put it on there.) I digress.
I read the supporting letter that my GP wrote for me this morning before I had it copied and it had me in tears from the the first few lines. I choose the words I used to describe the effects that bipolar disorder has upon me and my life but I cannot choose the words that my GP chooses and it’s those that bring the stark reality of my illness and life into far too a sharp focus.
“She is significantly disabled by her condition.”
“When I first knew her she was particularly unstable, and I had real worries that she would commit suicide…with extremely vivid suicidal fantasies and a degree of derealisation and impulsivity.”
“She experiences very marked irritability that she manages by avoiding interaction with others unless it is very carefully planned and time limited.”
“She is certainly very intelligent, resourceful and insightful however, she copes only by carefully controlling the scope of her life and by reducing as far as she can activities that could result in loss of choice or control.”
“I continue to see her once or twice a month as she always teeters on the edge of instability. Her regular contact with the surgery has been helpful but it does also demonstrate how fragile she is.”
“She only just manages to cope with the necessary activities of daily living.”
“I would strongly recommend that she is not pushed in the direction of work, and that she is allowed to maintain the freedom necessary to make the hour by hour choices that enable her to cope with what is a very unpredictable and exhausting illness.”
Forms are simple, letters are easy to write but coping with the way it spells out your painful life letter isn’t.
So let’s stop with the Time to Change, Time to Talk, Heads Together fuckwitted mentality and really learn what life is really like for those who cope with the kind of shit that I live with every single bloody day. Instead of harping on about how you’d like to help ask somebody to show you what they have put on the form to prove that they’re in the grip of a mental illness that they can’t escape from. Perhaps then things may change, people may really talk and, miracle of miracles, they may even begin to listen.