And I’ve been found not fit for work. What’s more, they’ve put me in the support group, so I shouldn’t get hassled by the job center. Seven months after my initial application, and I’ve finally got my answer, it’s such a relief to know now instead of being in limbo. The constant trips to the doctors have been exhausting, I’ll only need to go when my condition worsens from now on, or for unrelated problems. I got the first notification, from the job center actually, rather than the official ESA notification letter, last Saturday. I’ve been waiting to make sure everything was confirmed before I passed on the news.
The really irritating thing about depression, and mental health conditions in general, is that sometimes they’re unevenly distributed. At this moment in time I’m on a fairly even keel, yesterday I was fine too. A week ago I wanted to cry all day, and next week? Who knows. So, convincing the assessor that I have a problem was always going to be an uphill battle, or so I thought, but it looks like the evidence we presented was enough.
I get a modest increase in my benefit now that I’ve been assessed, and as I should have been assessed within thirteen weeks of my claim and wasn’t, I received an arrears payment too. I have a months rent and a bit extra in the savings, which I find a massive relief, since I was down to nothing in my savings or current account. I did some calculations and from now on I should be able to pay my bills and buy food.
I haven’t been able to do that for months. I’ve been relying on my mum and sister for shopping money, my other sister for occasional meals, and my dad sometimes brings me food. It has not been fun; I don’t recommend it to anybody.
More importantly, I can do a limited amount of work on my benefit, which means I can put my wages away in the savings – I never manage more than 20 hours a month on average anyway, but every bit helps – and if I get really ill again, I’ll still have an income without going through the stress and difficulty of applying for ESA again. It’s not fun spending an hour on the phone giving personal details to a stranger when you’re terrified of phones, struggle to talk to people and can’t understand to accompanying paperwork.
I’m lucky, my sisters help with a lot of it, and we’re all fairly well educated. One of my sisters also works in the benefits system, so she is an expert in the interpretation of DWP forms and letters, which helps when filling them in. I have great sympathy for those who don’t have the experience of filling in DWP forms, or maybe the education to interpret what is being asked for. If anything, I think it’s cruel to make sick and disabled people, already in difficult circumstances, fill in deliberately complex forms. The only advice I can give is to get someone to go through the paperwork with you, if you’re in those circumstances, for instance a friend or professional, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.
And now I’ve shared my news, I’m going to bed, I had sewing club this afternoon and being around people has worn me out.