PIP, anxiety and a microwave

I don’t think that anyone who lives in the UK hasn’t heard of Disability Living Allowancce (DLA) and about the way that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is handling the converion of DLA to Personal Independent Payment (PIP) that is the benefit that is replacing it.

I’ve had a lifetime award of DLA because I’m not expected to get any better – there will be no improvement in my illness and so I was awarded the benefit without having to have an assessment either face to face or over the phone. Similarly with my recent conversion to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) it has been accepted that I’ll never work again and there was no assessment either face to face or on the telephone. I have to hasten to add that this is very unusual. Either the assessors in Bristol are extremely skilled and understanding or somebody up there likes me.

I got the letter this week that my DLA is changing to PIP and that the process has started.I didn’t expect to be as anxious as I became or that it would escalate the way that it did. The DLA is an important part of my income. It means that I can pay to have groceries deliverd or take taxis to places on the days that I can’t face buses or become too stressed to even get on one. My world has become smaller lately and it vital that I have DLA and its successor PIP in order to live in a wider world.

Getting to talk to my GP about a supporting letter was stressful to say the least. The receptionists at the practice I go to are like giant Rotweillers so fiercely do they protect the doctors from the general public. In the end I demanded that I speak to the doctor even though he was half way through his list. He apologised profusely for the lack of urgency that his staff had put on the messages to him and saw me within two hours.

We agreed a short term plan to reduce the ultra anxiety (sleeping pills and diazepam for a few days only) and extra rest. This will be easy to adhere to; I like sleep days.

One of the things that I’ve done to help myself cope with anxiety and mania is to buy a microwave oven. I last had one 20 years ago have used one since the late 80s when I worked in a pub kitchen in North Yorkshire (in those days they were at least £500 a pop).

It means that when I want to eat something I’ve frozen I can eat it that day instead of taking it out of the freezer and seeing if I still feel like eating it the next day. It almost means that I can make microwave chocolate cakes in a mug. I often want cake but just a slice, a large slice but still just a slice.

I think the lesson I’ve learned from the past few days is that bravado doesn’t stop anxiety and it doesn’t heal it or mask it. No matter how much of a wise person people think you are you’re allowed to be a real person and real people have crises and suffer illnesses. Wisdom doesn’t come from leading a life that you sail through it comes  through leading a hard life.

I’ve also learned that it’s okay to lean on friends. It’s not a weakness to love or be loved and it’s certainly not a weaknness to take comfort in that.

The text message and the phone call

Last year, during the second election (which I hoped Labour would win) one of my friends started sharing Britain First posts on her Facebook page and making comments on them. She did this more than once and they were obnoxious to say the least, racist to be more honest.

I couldn’t tolerate such racism on my timeline. When I was a young teenager I witnessed an act of racism aimed at a friend of mine and it both shocked me and scared me.

These posts and their comments came from a woman who goes to church every Sunday and is well known and liked in her community. It was disturbing to think that she would act the way she did. Even though I didn’t know her in real life we’d spoken on the phone more than once and we sent each other texts often.

Instead of challenging her I quietly blocked on her on all the social media platforms that we had interacted on and left it at that. We have one mutual friend and I mentioned it in passing to him.

Today I had an unexpected text message from her asking how I was. I thought about confronting her head on or fudging it then I thought that I’d have a chat to the person who was a mutual friend.

He told me I was overreactiing and that I was judging someone on a couple of posts. His take was that just because you make a few racist comments it does make you a racist.

He and I are on opposite sides of the political centre shall we say. I thought I was much further left that he was right but it turns out not. I always thought that he wasn’t as hard right as he admitted to being and that he was a good man at heart.

But a few racist comments on a Britain First page doesn’t make you a racist according to him and that wasn’t the end of it. He intimated that he thought that it was acceptable for her to voice her opinions but it wasn’t acceptable for me to challenge her and that I should just let it go.

I’ve ignored her text message and, stupidly, deleted it before I could block her number.

The harder decision was realising that I’ve got to let a friend go. I’ve loved this friend for many years, he has been there through some very rough times but I can’t have someone who excuses racism in my life.

It’s not because of politics, it’s not an overrreation or that a friend has made mistakes it’s because, by defending a racist and telling me I’m in the wrong he’s exposed himself both as a racist and a bully.

I’m not going to make a big deal of it, I’m not going to out him, I’m not going to confront him but I am in a position to let us drift apart until one day he’ll look up and find that I’ve disappeared from his life. His loss.

Fecking digitals

I haven’t made a secret that I’ve been at odds with social media, especially Twitter, for some time now. I’ve stopped tweeting, I’ve deleted my account and I’ve restored it.

Twitter is a valuable tool for me. People look for the blog posts from this website and from my food website. During the time I deleted my account I got a feeling of relief but there were people I missed, people I found it hard to get in touch with otherwise and I felt a yearning to go back though I had no intention of doing so.

Then I started getting messages about my websites. People couldn’t find them and missed them so, since this website isn’t purely a vanity project, I returned to Twitter.

I’m still at odds with it. I feel awkward about chatting to people on there even though I know several of them in real life. I feel detached from all of them. Perhaps there’s an element of dissociation in the last bit.

During the last week I’ve been keeping my laptop in the cupboard bor most of the day and when I do take it out to use it I put a timer on it so I don’t used it for more than an hour a day. When I’m not using my iPad it gets switched off, right off.

I no longer have social media sites as my home page and so I have to physically type the name of them in. It doesn’t sound much but it amounts to quite a bit. 

Like many people, I have more than one device and whilst once they enhanced my life it feels that now they’ve taken over and so it’s time I showed them who was boss.

I think if I could go and live off grid I would because I think my disenchantment with fecking digitals and social networks is part of a desire to escape from the city and live in the back of beyond.

If you fancy making a documentary about a *coughs* year old woman who gives up material possessions for.the good life then let me know because I really would like to be unsociable again.

Musing about muses

I have recently become aware that I had a muse missing in my life. I have had three for a long time but it felt unbalanced and while I sought to put it right it the solution moved away from me.

First let me clarify that what I mean by muse is someone who inspires me in any area of my life. I’m not arrogant enough to think that I need four guardian angels just to write these blogs or the few newspaper I pieces I written in the past.

The first is the finest German writer of his generation and has been since I was 23. Those of you know me will know instantly who he is and those of you who know your writers will  also know who he is.

He lived in tough times and his most famous work is always misunderstood. It is an analogy of the political situation in the country in which he lived and the attention his father feared he would attract to the family by pursuing his heritage. In the end the authorities took his family and wiped them out but after his death and after his uncompleted work was seized by the authorities. I hope against hope that one day they’ll be found and the world will be able to read more of his fine words.

It’s not just his writing that I found inspiring or the pains he took over it. His novels went unfinished because he tried to make them perfect yet doubted he could reach the levels of perfection he demanded.

His writing is thought to be dark and hopeless but it isn’t. If you read it, and his diaries, carefully you can see his sense of humour and fun in his life. He was also a bit of a lad and made the best of what was on offer in his part of the world when he was well (both mentally and physically) to enjoy it.

He inspires me because in spite, or may to despite, the depressions that drove him to the point of suicide he kept on going. He preferred the semicolon over the full stop no matter how much it hurt.

When a physical illness that was killing him became too much he choose to die by assisted suicide; an incredible act of bravery.

The second is a friend who can be loud and bawdy but who is also full of common sense. What he lacks in spontaneity (though I have corrupted him at times) he makes up for in reliability and stolidity. His is the hand at the small of my back that guides me to the right places and when it is absolutely necessary the arm that sits around my shoulders while I wail because the pain and storms inside my head wreck me and drive me to sit with the means to opt out of living.

He is brash but he is beautiful just don’t tell him I said that.

Number three is the calmest person I know. They’re a little old fashioned and I shock them a fair bit I think but we talk the most wonderful talks. There is no subject that either of us find difficult to broach and speak honestly. It is a life time friendship and we both believe that it’s unbreakable.

I can, as the saying goes, talk the hind legs off a donkey. I don’t chat to fill voids I’m just that irritatingly person who wakes up talking and doesn’t shut up until they are asleep.

He has taught me that silence is good and worth chasing. Through him I have realised that the time that I was happiest was when I was living in a school attached to a monastery. I always had fun with the monks that I knew but I would also wake ridiculously early to attend matins. The poetry of the short service would carry through my day just like porridge carries me physically from breakfast time to lunch.

Although I use mindfulness through the day I rarely sit and meditate anymore and I think that it’s time I set aside time to make a silent space on a regular basis.

The fourth person is somebody who has let me know what is lacking in my life. I met him a few years ago. He is calm, confident and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. No matter the provocation he doesn’t rise to it and defends anybody who is at the wrong end of abuse.

I need to be more like him. I need to rein myself in on political agitation, baiting people who don’t agree with me or causing arguments by alleging that I’m defending those who can’t defend themselves and concentrate on the goodness that change can make. I need to stop reacting and start acting – a difficult change for me to make.

I’m really good at shooting my mouth and it has got me into trouble so many times I’ve stopped counting. The thing that I always seem to miss is that by shouting and reacting I’m no better than the people I’m railing at.

Change is difficult and more so when you live alone and have nobody to rein in your eccentricities and sense of self importance. I love living on my own but I really have to remember that it doesn’t make me god-like.

The silence I hope to learn doesn’t not have to be a negative emptiness, it can be a positive lack of noise.

Decisions, decisions…

When I deactivated my Twitter account last week I had no idea of how it would impact on this website.

Over the past week I have been blogging more but, to be honest, it has been bad writing and those posts are going to be deleted. I was translating a series of tweets into blog posts and it just doesn’t work. Tweets have their merit, blog posts have theirs.

The number of people reading the blogs has, thankfully, fallen but that has made me think also. I started to link Twitter to my blog years ago and I have often had people saying to me that I just totally get what goes on inside their heads. To do that is amazing as I’ve rarely found someone who writes in a way that I get.

It’s not vanity (okay, just a little) that makes me want to increase the hits on my blog site again, it is genuinely wanting to reach out. I need to reach out as much as other people do. I’m not sure if this is making a lot of sense but some of you will get this.

Tweeting to the ether is one thing because you don’t really expect people to reply but writing a blog and really wanting to help and be helped doesn’t work if you’re just publishing to an empty sky.

So the dilemma is this – do I restart my Twitter account or not? I’ve actually already reactivated it but I think I have to start again with followers and followees. I’m already beginning to feel foolish for not thinking that through.

I left primarily because of the mob mentality but, to a certain extent at least, that wouldn’t happen quite so often if I didn’t fly off the handle or ignore the attempts of people to inflame situations.

So, what do I do?