I feel an appeal coming on…

I had a telephone call from a man yesterday who didn’t seem to know very much. He was calling from the DWP to tell me that I am no longer eligible for ESA following my recent medical assessment. Apparently, you have to score 15 points to be eligible and I scored zero! I find this a little bizarre as I had medical evidence showing that my mental health had declined from last year and he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer any of the questions I had, didn’t offer any advice, just kept on telling me that my benefit claim has been closed. I sort of appreciate this “personal” touch of them ringing people up rather than sending a bog standard letter but I would rather have the letter turn up as it at least tells me what I can do next whereas the man on the phone didn’t offer any options up. He did eventually tell me that tomorrow’s payment will turn up as normal and that I can appeal against the decision but I had to drag that out of him. I  used to have to give this information to people face to face when I worked in a job centre and I am sure that I used to advise them a lot better than I was advised!

So, I am now waiting for a letter to turn up, stressed about how everything will go and how long the appeal will take, will it affect my other benefits etc…not a great thing to lump on someone with depression really! Thankfully, I have my first assessment appointment with my mental health team this afternoon, I think I know how that will go already!

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A little can mean a lot

As an update to my recent posts about my sofa and the assistance from the Disabled Student’s Allowance, I thought I’d post something less light-hearted than my usual posts. I am not doing this in a woe is me style or in a bouncy, excited look how lucky I am way. I am doing this in the hope that someone else going through some of the things I am going through can be reassured that there are people that can and, hopefully will, help you.

The charity that I approached enabled me to sit comfortably in my living room and, for the first time, to have a brand new sofa. I love it now that I have worn it in and am looking forward to my first overnight guest so I can get use out of the sofa bed. As I now have a smaller sofa than I used to, I have now got space to put my dining table in the living room rather than down in my bedroom. I have really missed being able to eat at a table and it’s ideal for my revision as I am closer to the kitchen cupboards and the kettle. I have still got a little bit of rearranging to do but am leaving that until after my exam.

So, some stuff at home is getting sorted and so is university. I haven’t had the best attendance in the last term so I’ve missed a lot and have had to apply for concessions from the exam board as a result. Mostly, it was my own fault, I was struggling and took too long asking for help. I realise this now of course, which I’d noticed at the time! Anyway, I have had my meeting with a disability advisor at university who has taken into account everything written in my DSA report and what i was telling her and together, we have written my individual learning plan. This plan applies to all lectures, seminars and other learning activities. Unfortunately, this year’s exam instructions have been written too late for this year. However, from next year, I am going to be allowed extra time and will be taking my exams in a smaller room. I’ve said to anyone that will listen that knowing I am about to receive all the help that it makes everything seem less scary. It is a relief to know that I am being taken seriously and that both the DSA funding body and the University are going to do everything in the power to keep me attending and get me through my degree. Being believed is a huge thing when you are suffering with a mental health problem and particularly depression. You can see people thinking that you are faking it and a lot of people don’t understand how you can be depressed but laugh at jokes or have fun. 

The university have arranged for me to have a mentor, I am meeting her for the first time next week and she has an awesome name, Sarah, of course! I am being funded for an hour a week, term time. I don’t know yet exactly what happens with this, I’ve never had a mentor before. 

In addition to this and my ILP, I am getting a fair amount of equipment and software which I was tentatively told on the phone this week. I am getting software that will read any documents scanned into it out loud to me, software that will type up my spoken words, a new laptop, laptop stand, keyboard and mouse, recording device and a few other bits and bobs that I can’t recall right now. I had never, in a million years expected that I would be eligible for help like that. I am still blown away by it and am not sure I really believe it even though I have been reassured by others that I am. I can’t wait for the confirmation letter to arrive! Once it does, I know for sure then that the equipment and other support will be well and truly in place by the start of the next academic year and it has fuelled my enthusiasm for getting back into it more than I would have believed. 

The moral of this long ramble is don’t be afraid to ask help. You may need to do a little bit of work to find out who can help you but believe me, it is worth it. I was considering giving up my studies as I felt unable to cope with everything but now I know that although it won’t be easy instantly, I have enough support in place to make the journey easier than it felt. If you are feeling like you are paddling round in a bucket of porridge, get help as soon as you can. Don’t ignore it like I did, those feelings can overwhelm you to the extent you don’t realise what is wrong until it’s affected your life in a major way. You’re not alone, according to Mind 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem. 

Oh, if you’re wondering where my Atos update is, they cancelled my appointment as they were running late. Luckily, I was only just putting my shoes on to leave when they called, 5 minutes later and I would have been on my way!

Job Centre time

To cut a very long and boring story short, last year, I had a job that made me feel worthless and I got divorced. Cue depression. I’m not talking about the “oh I can’t be bothered” type ennui. I mean actual, thinking of ending it all depression.
My GP was amazing and I ended up on medication, signed off from work and having counseling.
Fast forward a year and I’m studying part time, still struggling with the depression, still medicated and on benefits.
Today, I have to go to the job centre to meet with my personal advisor, I’ve met her once before. I believe I should have had more dealings with her by now but as it took Atos almost 4 months to make a decision following my medical, I’ve been left to get on with things myself.
I am now worried that this advisor has turned into an evil dragon since I last saw her and will decide that I am a worthless human. However, having worked in a job centre myself I know that rarely happens!
I don’t cope overly well with being told what to do at the moment, I’m trying to regain my “old me” and that takes most of my energy. I know I’m probably worried about nothing but I’ve been left to my in devices since January and am worried this may now bite me in the butt!
Now I’ve got that off my chest, I’d best get up from under my snuggly duvet and get myself ready for the day ahead.