Fit to work, is work fit for me? *Guest Post*

16 01 2011

I have posted this on behalf of an online friend who has asked to remain anonymous. Essentially it has been dictated to me. I have tried as much as possible to keep it in the original words and where it has been changed slightly, it has been with the approval of the author.

I’m not sure if this is a rant or just pathetic. Its my story.

In 2004 I was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. I was well educated, had a good paying job, owned my own home and was self sufficient.

Within a year, I was unemployed, my house was at risk and I was dependent on benefits, anti-psychotics and “carers”. I found myself living a completely unrecognisable life.

Slowly I fought my way back to an acceptable level of existence. I couldn’t work, as the illness and the medication left me with horrific “side effects” or “lasting cognitive problems” as the psychiatrists noted weekly. I kept myself busy by doing night classes as the combination of insomnia and sedative medications fucked up my days.

On the outside I looked chubbier than normal but normal nonetheless. To a passer-by I was like anyone else on the street. Mental illness doesn’t show like a broken bone. You have good days and you have bad days. On the good days you can take on the world, on the bad days you want to leave it behind. There is no rhyme or reason to when a particular type of day hits you, sometimes there aren’t even any hints as to which day it’s going to be.

“Loony Lottery” I called it.

Well many years later and life is going well. I’m still not in a position to work full time but would like to volunteer in something that would make use of my brain. I still have intellect, even if I’m seeing dangerous jungle animals in the room and accidentally setting my kitchen on fire, again.

I still survive on benefits.

Since starting a relationship, I’m not eligible for income support or mortgage insurance help. I still have a mortgage to pay, to ensure I keep a roof over my family’s head. Did I mention I had a child too?

Now the government are cutting disability benefits.

I’m terrified.

No fuck it, terrified is an understatement. There are no words to describe my fear.

I’m still old school. I receive incapacity benefit and DLA. Soon I will be called up for an assessment and if I pass their test, I’ll be put on ESA. More likely, I’ll not. It is likely to be even harder to keep the DLA, whether successful with ESA or not.

If I’m having a lucid day or even if I’m not, I can see that it would be an uphill struggle to try and explain why I would have difficulty working. Call me a snob but I don’t want to be packing boxes in a factory for minimum wage, that would send me crazier than a coconut. I have postgraduate qualifications. Completely pointless as no one wants to employ schizophrenics every so often, in high paying professional jobs, and only when they happen to be doing well mentally.

I need my DLA to keep the roof over our head. It pays part of my mortgage. If that goes, we’re fucked. There are thousands of schizophrenics living on the street. I’m terrified I’ll become one of them and my child will be taken from me and put into care. My child is my biggest motivation for staying well. He is the reason I have to live rather than just exist. He is why I get up in the morning and go to bed at night.

What the fuck am I to do if all this is taken away from me? I struggle to pay my bills on the £98 a week I get, cut that by £30 (the JSA amount I’d likely get) and I’m living with no heating, no electricity and only one of us eating each day.

I’ve been told that’s an unrealistic and particularly negative outlook.

What the fuck else can it be? Its certainly not cheery fucking Disneyland, even if it is reminiscent of a Mickey Mouse situation.

“Try to think more positively” the psychiatrist says. How the fuck can I think positively when my entire world could be turned upside-down based on a few points of perceived eligibility.

As if that isnt bad enough, now the government want a consultation on DLA. Its not a means tested benefit, its universal for anyone who has a disability that requires additional financial support. I’m guessing people who “become” disabled after a rather productive, if short working life, don’t count. All the things the government wanted us to have, the mortgage, the british built car, the fantastic education and the kids…. meaningless. If you become disabled, dont expect to keep any of them. Even having appropriate repayment insurances don’t last long enough to allow the recipient to recover.  1 year and you’re on your own. Hell mend you if you cant afford your repayments after that.

As I see it, the house will be repossessed as noone can afford to buy it from me. I can’t afford to run the car anymore. The education was worthless, and the child…. well the child will grow up in poverty, if they let me keep him. He didn’t choose to have disabled parents but he has to suffer just like his parents because of a bad turn of luck – doesnt matter that he is a healthy, happy and extremely bright child.

I wont pretend that someone might want to employ me; some nice kind employer who doesn’t really care about multiple sick days, lost revenue, or the cost of making reasonable adjustments. No businesses like that exist. They’re a business for a reason and that reason isn’t to selflessly carry sick and disabled employees. It would be lovely in a utopian world where difference was embraced. But this is reality and we get hidden in factories and told to live under bridges like trolls.

Society don’t want to integrate the disabled and the don’t want to pay to keep them hidden either.

There is no fucking happy ending. I’m not getting to live happily ever after.

I’ve fought to get here. I’m still alive when many, myself included, thought I wouldn’t be. Daily I get stronger but its not really an indication of where I have come from or how far I still have to go.

I really would love to return to work but realistically I would need to start on a wage of about £25k to afford all the basics of life (I know many live on far less but my mortgage is expensive, council tax high and weekly childcare costs the same as the wage of someone on £12k a year before tax).

Noone is going to take that kind of risk with me. Believe me, I’ve tried. I tried working for a while, but a combination of sedating medication and sleep problems meant that my employers weren’t willing to accommodate my chaotic working patterns. And they were pretty open minded.

Of course people will say that those who are seriously ill, and schizophrenia is considered quite a serious illness, will be fine, but I defy anyone to to “know” I was schizophrenic after speaking to me for an hour. I’ve had GP’s question the psychiatrists diagnosis and prescribing of anti-psychotics to me. If they can be fooled, so can a bonus receiving, target let medical practitioner with no knowledge of my history.

I fear for my future. I had so much potential fifteen years ago. I was going places and fast.

So much has changed in those ten years. I’m a better and stronger person for it. I have even more potential, I just have to use it in a different way. Nobody cares though.

When my time comes to be reassessed, I’m under no illusion that I’ll fail their assessment. Schizophrenics aren’t meant to be intelligent, articulate and highly educated. The mental health services weren’t prepared for dealing with someone like me and I cant see ATOS “doctors” knowing what to do either… So I’ll be reassigned fit to work.

Problem is, work isn’t fit for me. They’re not ready or willing to have someone like me. They don’t want to adjust their ways for someone like me.

If it sounds negative its because it is. There is nothing positive to come from this.

And there are thousands just like me who are going to be fucked. Homeless. Helpless.




2 responses

2 02 2011

I sympathise. I’ve got MS (advanced now). I’m one of the “lucky” ones. My disability shows. But am I confident I will end up in the ESA Support Group? Am I hell as like.

The disabled of the UK are the “new Jews”. I’ve started a blog on it. Do feel free to comment there and to share it.

6 02 2011
Links of Interest (weekly) : Cosmos

[…] Fit to work, is work fit for me? […]

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