Brown Letter No.2 Day

Well. They don’t hang about, the DWP.
No sooner had the licked gum dried on Brown Envelope No.1, than No.2 arrives with an appointment at the JobCentre to see what ‘support’ they can offer me. I suspect they do not mean finding someone to collect my prescriptions from Boots.

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It’s possibly a small thing that you ‘normal’ people out there would not see as any sort of problem. However, for someone such as I, it is a ratcheting up of the pressure, a mountain like Snowdon when all you have on is a pair of carpet slippers, a dark whirlpool which threatens to drag you down into the cold, obsidian depths.

All in all, a bit of a bugger.
And, it comes with a date that is slap bang in the middle of the only holiday my wife and I shall probably have this year, a week away camping in Notts. The letter comes with dire warnings of benefit reduction if you do not attend, or do not have a valid reason not to do so. The whole thing reads like the acronym ‘VAT’. First they hit you with the exciting ‘Value’, then they ramp up the excitement by adding the word ‘Added’, before crashing you down to a sudden ‘Tax’.
The letter promises ‘support’, gives a friendly ‘first name’ contact, then hits you with the ‘musts’ and the dire penalties for non-compliance.

For anyone with mental health problems, this is mega. It knocked me sideways, looked for a moment, then kicked me in the kidneys.
I am one of the lucky ones; I have a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse, which the powers that be want to change to a ‘care coordinator’) who is, as many are, the salt of the earth, and who made contact – something I was quite unable to do – with the JobCentre and got them to change the appointment date.

These nurses, along with many psychiatrists and wonderful receptionists should be lauded from the rooftops. They toil away, with ever increasing duties, for the benefit of their patients ( I abhor the word ‘client’ or ‘service user’ – we are as ill as an arthritic, and I refuse to be called anything but patient ).

Drama that will leave me as drained as a sink after a good seeing-to by Mr.Muscle drain unblocker. Well into the evening. Then I must start again to pull it all together; a life made that much more difficult by unreasonable and anti-medical diagnosis by ordeal by the hated ATOS system.
There’s fight in me yet. Just not enough to engage in more pugilism for a number of hours.

Until the next time,

R.

 

PS  356 days to go.

 

 

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Chip Paper

Sometimes, when everyone has gone home, it seems like the protest is diminished, washed away by the dark.

Yet, far from being tomorrow’s chip paper, it can light a candle that shall not be consumed.

My poem, Chip Paper, read by me.

©2012 R Wright Unauthorised Use Prhohibited. Please write for distribution authorisation. Thanks.👍

When Dried Frog Pills Is All There Is Available

    So, the first helicopter of the day passed over about 9 am.  it didn’t hover, just went straight over the house, and into the distance.  Panic scale was about a 5, and spent the next 10 minutes breathing – almost normally, if you are a bull-frog with asthma -and a further 5 minutes listening for any cars pulling up outside my house.  I want to be ready when they kick the door down.

    OK, so already, you are thinking: nut job, loony, fruitcake, ding-a-ling, nutter, goober, psycho, crackpot.

    I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes, I shout such epithets at myself, as I am a reasonably intelligent (not clever; if I was clever, I would be rich), ordinary chap with 6 ‘O’-levels and a tent.  I am no more scary than a cheese sandwich (mild cheddar, no sauce).  Yet, I have a mind that simply does not work properly in relation to certain triggers; and I’ve a mind that, whether I tell it to desist or no, feels free to make up its own mind when to drop into deep despair, or sail to happy unsustainable heights.  Even though I understand the world outside is quite a non-threatening place for the innocent, I do not like to venture out into it; even though I am a gregarious type, a crowd gives me the heebeegeebies. If I am trapped in a supermarket checkout queue, my breathing sounds positively pervy. It comes, as the old joke goes, like a young lad: in short pants.

    So I get quite angry at myself.

    I remember, in the days of my fast-receding youth (a property, I am glad to say, that my hair does not seem inclined to share), being very, very drunk, and, standing in front of a mirror, told myself to stop swaying from side to side.  I knew I could do it, nearly  anyone can stop swaying: but my brain, addled in this instance by copious amounts of Mitchell and Butler’s Mild Ale, refused to comply.

    So does my brain fail to comply, without alcoholic prompting, to instructions to stop viewing the tourist-with-a-camera as a spy, cataloguing my daily movements.

    I mention all this because in all other respects, I am depressingly ‘normal’ – insofar as someone who thinks Cholmondley St.John-Bartholomew is a good name for his (now, sadly, expired) bushbaby is ‘normal’.  As such, you may wish to unfollow me on twitter, unfriend me on facebook, and never come within a good barge-pole’s length of this blog again. I shall understand, because it is something I would consider if I were not me, if you follow.

    So, fair warning given, I would opine.  Further epistles might well be less of me, and more of general Tory bothersomeness; incredulity may be stretched, but not broken, and, like the smoking flax of old, I may be given to smoking, but will never be truly blown out.

    I’m off to try and Google the ‘registered nurse’ who considers I will be all but cured in 359 days (and counting) by the miracle that is Atosness.  I might then try and find out if she has only worked in a chiropody outpatient department for the last 35 years, and thus is more than competent in the DWP’s eyes to pontificate on my illness.  It won’t help, but it might make me feel better to know that her hands still bear the faint odour of toenail fungus, despite her scrubbing with perfumed oils and soaps until her hands go raw.

    Wish me luck.  And keep taking the Dried Frog Pills (with thanks to Mr Pratchett for the tin).

    Until next time

    R.

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Brown Envelope Day

The day the brown envelope struggled under an admittedly undersized letterbox flap, I was expecting nothing worse than a credit-card statement, or a wad of spam that was addressed to The Householder, or simply yet another menu for a hard pressed ethnic takeaway.

What I was not expecting was a highly personal, four page communication that triumphantly proclaimed that in 365 days’ time, I would be fitter than a ferret on speed.

That is, Fit For Work.

I have always disliked window envelopes. Any shade.  I work on the assumption that anybody writing to you with good intent would only ever buy good, solid envelopes without window, and write neatly your name and address on the front. And, should it be a personal letter, mostly with a stamp affixed.  A portrait of the queen is a sign of security and stolid Britishness.  This particular envelope should have, being a somewhat dour manila, coarse grained and accusing, alerted me to impending bothersomness; but, alas, I had been lured into a false sense of security, the last two such envelopes having brought joyous details of a 5% increase in my Incapacity Benefit and Disabled Living Allowance.  The shock, therefore, was all the greater to find out that I had been, somehow, miraculously selected for a long-distance, miracle healing at the hands of the DWP and their über-agents, ATOS.

For it stated that I should, in the next 365 days, become Fit For Work.  During such time, I should have calls to attend JobCentre assessments, and possible medical assessments, in order to ease me into the world of work.  The benefit that they were paying me would transmogrify from the accurately named Incapacity Benefit to a much more proactive and menacing Employment and Support Allowance.  I was no longer incapacitated; I no longer was to receive a benefit in respect of a life of work’s contributions, but I was to receive an allowance, like Bunter of old.  I was to be allowed – for a maximum of 365 days, no more – to receive, by some state beneficence reserved for folks like me, a payment of funds from the hard-pressed, hard working taxpayers who were not scroungers like me.

The very language had changed.  As had my world.

A request for the medical raison d’ètre brought forth another envelope, this time mysteriously white and non-windowed.  It contained the report which a ‘registered nurse’ had compiled – presumably with the aid of heartless software – that opined I would be fit for work ‘in the next year’. 

My wife is a nurse. I trained to be a nurse.  I had never heard of a training module that gave such amazing powers of prescience in the medical world; had I done so, I would of course have enrolled myself speedily, in order to predict six whole integers between one and forty-nine on a Saturday afternoon. 

It is not, to be honest, about the money.  Of course, things like the car may have to go, and belts tightened. That’s a given.

What troubles me is the newspeak that demotes my illness to a nothingness, postpones it, marginalises it, places it in some official State-sponsored limbo – or, more accurately, purgatory, where I am destined to atone for my sin of being disabled through healing fire and excoriating pain.  I shall no longer be considered ill, therefore I shall not be ill – a sleight of words that cleverly renounces all need for the State to either Employ or Support me.  I am become a new creation, I am born again, by the power of the prescient Nurse; as worthy a trick as the faith healer in his Revival Tent, the demagogue State now pronounces me clean, and banishes all previous uncleanliness to the nothingness that is prepared for it.

Mental illness is a nasty, spiteful kick in the kidneys; at once a socially demeaning, isolating condition, and a pain that can only be viewed internally by the sufferer themself; being a disease of the id, the inner consciousness that no-one but the unfortunate self can comprehend.  A missing portion of logic that stops the soul from believing rational explanation, makes at one moment depressed to the exclusion of life-supporting activity, and at another a nervous, hyperactive embodiment of activity and panic.  It hides deep; it is mostly invisible to the onlooker, even if the sufferer has not chosen to mask it through fear of social derision or isolation, of violence or abuse.  It is occult, buried, and often – oh! so often! – a fatal disease that numbs and invades the lives of those left behind.

I, and those who suffer likewise, those whose illness is a more physical one too, can do without the additional stigmatizing, pigeonholing and judgementalism that disease and disability provokes in the general public, urged on by a mostly baying media; but when the State, whose duty it is to protect, serve, and aid its citizens, turns into the enemy, at once abusing the sufferer, and in the same breath denying their suffering exists, then the burden is increased, day to day, exponentially.  And this is no asymptote of fear and pressure; this is a curve that drives inexorably for the axis, that will not be stayed by a mathematical nicety, but hurtles toward a collision between life and death, from which few return.

That they cut services to those who are ill, make lives more painful, more difficult, is bad enough; to degrade and deny the suffering of those who are the target of their dogmatic State Wrath is ofttimes the final straw.

It is now 360 days and counting, before my rebirth (shades of Logan’s Run) into the world of the well, the able, the employable.

I’ll be telling it like it is until then.

Until the next time

R.

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