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05 September 2011 @ 03:12 pm

In a few days, I have to go to court. I haven't stolen anything, I haven't assaulted someone. I haven't even done anything wrong. In fact, I have no convictions at all. I guess you could say I'm a model citizen. Except I'm not. I've done something awful, in the eyes of the UK Government. I'm ill. I have a long-term illness.

So at a Tribunal, with two strangers, I will detail the intimate details of my illness. They will dissect it, pour over it, punch holes in it. They will look for a way to make me a liar. They will squeeze me through loopholes, hammer me into them until I fit. Then, they will make a decision. This decision will be based on no real knowledge of my illness. This decision will largely ignore the facts I'm presenting. And the prize that we're desperately wrangling over? Whether or not I'm entitled to £135 every two weeks. Which is only enough to 'live' on, because I'm still living at home, completely supported by my mother. I already know that they will decide that I'm not 'sick enough', and I will be deemed fit for work. Because I won't gain the 15 points the system requires, for you to be deemed 'not fit for work.' I can't explain to anyone how harrowing this is, but I'm going to try.

Imagine you are very ill. Most often every day. Imagine you can't go out, because of your symptoms. Imagine that you can't eat what you want, because of your symptoms. Imagine that everything is scrunity. You can't go out to a restaurant, or the cinema, or down to the shops, you always need to know where the nearest bathroom is, you need to know if you'll pass out if you take any more tablets, you need to think before you just pick up that drink and drink it, you need to plan for hours before you can just swan out of the house and come back in one piece. Everything is a military operation, everything.

Now imagine that the very worst day of your sometimes upset-stomach is every day. Imagine that the nausea on the worst day of your random-bug, is every day. Imagine that on the days you have no choice but to go out, you are so terrified of becoming ill, that by the time you get home, you are a wreck. And if you can, please imagine that you are terrified of hospitals and needles, but the pain sometimes gets so bad, so uncontrolled by the 15 tablets a day you're in, that you could end up in A&E at any moment. That you've had more hospital stays in the last 6 years than most people have in their lifetime. Also imagine that your self-esteem, because of this, is zero. That you self-harm, because you hate the cage your body has become. Imagine that you regularly look at your body, and the operation scars, and needle holes, and remnants of what the entire illness has done to you, and still does to you, and you cannot imagine how anyone would ever want you. Imagine being 29 years old, and feeling like you're on the scrap-heap.

With me? Joyous. Now imagine that in order to stay stable, in order to not throw yourself off the nearest bridge, you start to do things at home, understandably, to fill your time. You read, you go online, you do anything that will fill your day with something brighter than agony, and opiates, and looking at your dinner and being too terrified to eat it. Then imagine going to a tribunal, in front of two strangers. Imagine telling them about your bowel habits, in excruciating embarrassing detail, your mental problems, how you are admitted to hospital time and time again, with valid blood-test results that say Something Is Wrong. Then imagine them turning around, and saying they don't believe you. Imagine them telling you that your symptoms, real and true as they are, are "improbable". Imagine having them say that because you can go on the internet at home, (which, as anyone knows, someone with a even terminal illness can still do) that means you're obviously fit for work.

Imagine going through 6 years of surgeries, of Hell and Hospitals, and then being called a liar.

That's what happened to me at my last tribunal. And I know it's going to happen at this one. Because this government has gone to the dogs. This government can't look at someone with a degree, and an ounce of intelligence, who obviously doesn't want to be on sickness benefits long term, but needs the minimum help they can possibly give, and not write them off. Everyone keeps telling me that it won't be the same as last time (the last judge I had was known to be horribly harsh), but all I can think is yes, it will. I know it will. Because this government wants as many people off my benefit as they can, and once they deem you fit for work, that's it. You can't appeal, you can't fight it. You just sit there, with no money coming in, unable to work, and a mother at retirement age, who cannot continue to support you financially. A mother who was getting chest pains the last time you were admitted to hospital. A mother who your ill-health is making ill herself.

But no, don't be glum, sweetheart! You're fit for work! You can handle a full time job! You running to the bathroom 5 times a day isn't a problem! You being spaced out on opiates isn't a problem! Of course not. They won't mind if you call in sick once a week! Don't worry your pretty head. Because that's where it is, you know? In your head. You're not ill. You're fine. You can work. You will work. Not convinced by sweetness? Then you're a liar, my love. You're wrong. We know that now. It has been written. So you look at your life, and you fucking love it. Don't dare start thinking of those 15 pills a day as a way out. You should cope. You will cope. And oh, you can fight to prove otherwise, little darling, but we won't believe you anyway. You're fucked. Remember that. You have no choice. Remember. Now, sweetheart, about work. When can you start? Because remember, you have no money coming in. Tick tock, tick tock.

The last two days, I have spent mostly in the bathroom. The last two days, I have spent mostly terrified to eat. The last two days, I have taken so many tablets, I don't feel as though I'm in my own body. The last two days, I have actually considered that I'd be better off dead.

In the next two days, I will be deemed fit for work. Imagine that.

Then be glad you are only imagining.

As promised yesterday, I scanned in the leaflets I was given yesterday by my Condition Management Practioner.

That's just a sample. The full views (and another two pages) are at the bottom of the entry.

I would ask people not to just scroll past this entry, no matter how "well that's just obvious" the leaflets seem at first, as I think it could help a lot of you. If you've ever struggled with fixed negative thoughts ("I'll never be able to do this," "I'll never find someone for me," "It's all my fault," "I shouldn't go to ______, because I know I'll make a fool of myself/it will go badly") I think these are interesting leaflets to look at.

When thoughts are detatched from their immediate nature, and taken away from the often stressful and upsetting feelings that come with them, I think it's possible to look at them objectively; start tracking negative thoughts and stopping them in their tracks. Essentially, you're confronting yourself and those thoughts, and turning them on their head, asking how realistic they really are. This is pretty much the basic premise of all Cognitive Behavioural Therapies, and I think it's a really useful exercise for anyone to do, whether they have a history of mental health problems or not. I see a lot of these thoughts/comments on my f-list daily, from people who have no diagnosed mental-health issues, so I think it's a really valid exercise for everyone to consider.

I'm going to screen comments on this, because sometimes sharing these things prompts realisations in people about their unhealthy thoughts, and in turn prompts them to talk about it. I'm not suggesting anyone has to talk about it with me, but if anything provokes a response in you, and you want to say anything, comments are screened. (If you do comment, chances are I'd reply, so please tell me if you want to keep your comment screened, and I'll rescreen it after replying. If you dont, I'll just assume it's okay to unscreen.)

Unhelpful Thinking Styles
Common Thinking Distortions
Challenges to Upsetting Thoughts

(Those all think to the thumbnail of the scan. Click for bigger, A4/printable size.)

Here are the same leaflets on TinyPic, as some people have been saying the links don't work for them. :)

Unhelpful Thinking Styles
Common Thinking Distortions
Challenges to Upsetting Thoughts

I'm going to make a proper update later, and also upload a BRILLIANT album I want to share with you guys, that I cannot stop listening to. Stay tuned. ♥

ETA: I've edited this entry to make it public. If you happen to stumble across this, and these help you somewhat, I'm really pleased. Stay strong. ♥
24 December 2007 @ 10:48 pm

I ended up not going to hospital, because I simply couldn't face spending Christmas there again.

Instead, like last year, I'm upstairs, alone, sitting on my bed in pain while everyone else is downstairs laughing, joking, and eating party food. Despite the fact that this happened to me last year, I'm relatively thoughtful about it.

People do this every year, not just me. People are alone at Christmas. They have microwave dinners and sit in front of the television to pass the time. The phone doesn't ring and they don't have a tree, or open any presents. While the rest of the world huddles in togetherness, there are people who by contrast will feel every pang of loneliness and despair more acutely than ever, because of the death of a loved one, because of familial estrangement, because of a million things that have drawn them away from the rest of the world and made them isolated.

I think people forget that we are acutely aware when Christmas goes wrong, because it's supposed to be good. If I asked you whether May 18th was an awful day, chances are you wouldn't remember. Nor any random day in February, April, or June. But if I asked you if Christmas last year was terrible, you would be able to tell me every detail.

I think that's the issue, the expectation that is attached to December 25th, and it is infinitely harder because of that awareness. Awareness of the day, and what it means. Not presents, not party food, but togetherness. And in that sense, for everyone who is alone, it isn't just another day, because everything is heightened. We are aware that Christmas is meant to be special, is meant to be good, and when it isn't, we are acutely aware of it and find it infintely harder to cope.

When every other of the three hundred and sixty something days passes in a haze of routine, December the 25th is effectively an anti-present, a neatly boxed up day of echoes amplified: a day of being alone; a day of remembering better times; a day of not daring to hope because a heart that's been repeatedly dashed can only harden. A day of never daring to think that next Christmas could be good, nor the one after, or the one after that. For those people, this is one of the hardest days, one of the longest days.

In that vein, for those people, I'm leaving this entry public. I don't suggest for one minute that my words are a healing balm that will make anyone see the light, but maybe someone will stumble across this. Maybe things have a way of reaching people that need them, and so, I'm not locking this.

To everyone on my friends list, despite the melancholy tone of this entry, I want for you to have a wonderful festive season, whether you celebrate or not. If you have a wonderful, close family, look around you, make yourself aware. You are truly lucky and I wouldn't take an ounce of happiness from you, because to feel it, especially this season, is one of the best things I could ever hope for you.

To the people who are feeling those echoes of this year's pain amplified a thousand times, I'm thinking of you. And in that respect, we're not alone, even though we are. And maybe that's not even a blessing, but I hope it's some small comfort.

To every single one of you, wherever you are, and whatever has made you lonely or sad, if I could do something for you, I would do it. Because I understand, and because I love you so much, without ever knowing you.

Merry Christmas, guys. ♥
C:\>Mood: sicksick