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Posts Tagged ‘ESA

Home Alone…

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Time keeps passing. I don’t know where it goes to.

This weekend has been somewhat strange. The bloke is away for the weekend at a stag do and I’m home with just the doggy for company. I don’t remember the last time I was here on my own overnight, let alone for a whole weekend, so I don’t really know what to do with myself. Aside from my trip in the summer, there have been so few times when I’ve been without the bloke for more than a day since we went to uni. I was “well” in the summer too and now things are not so easy. I am managing, but it has made me realise how used I am to having him around and how much his presence keeps me functioning. Without him here, the temptation to give in and give up is so much greater.

Getting up and dressed is a struggle at the moment and I feel even less urge to conform when I don’t have reminders from the bloke. The guilt wears on me when he’s about and it serves to push me into action. It was only the desperate requests from the dog to be let out, that dragged me out of bed this morning. The thought of having to clean up any mess was enough to force me downstairs, but I climbed back in when she was sorted. I had to get up in the end as I was going over to a new friend’s for her kiddy’s 1st birthday party, but it took me literally hours to work myself up to that. Without that commitment today, the temptation would have been to stay in bed all weekend.

Food is another problem. The bloke is the cook in our house. I can bake cakes, but when it comes to a proper meal I don’t tend to bother. I don’t have the best appetite these days, but when food is presented to me I do tend to eat. Without the bloke around to cook for me, I don’t tend to bother. I’m even less inclined to cook at the moment as both our oven and the microwave are broken.

The dog is a commitment too and she does keep me going, but she isn’t as effective at nagging as the bloke is and I find the commitment straining. She did get me up this morning and she gets me into the kitchen, prompting me to eat at the same time that I feed her, but she is also tiring and I feel guilty when I just want to stay in bed and ignore her. She also got me to go outside for a walk, which I know is good for me, but at the same time I wish I didn’t have to. It’s so tempting not to bother, but I cannot deny her a walk for long or she turns into a great big bonkers thing, which is even more draining to live with than the walk.

I’m really tired. I want to sleep forever, yet sleeping for just a few hours seems to be enough of a challenge. It was late when I finally dragged myself upstairs to bed last night and I sat and knitted up there for a while because I couldn’t sleep.

Before the bloke left, I had to promise I’d be safe this weekend. He has been somewhat paranoid over the past few weeks that I’m suicidal again. The last two years have been particularly difficult at this time, in the run up to my birthday, so I know he is on edge. He doesn’t trust me at all and although I know his fears are not unfounded and it is only because he cares, it is still hard. One day last week I had nipped out and wasn’t home when he was due back from work. My mobile phone battery had died so he couldn’t get hold of me. I’d even left a note to say that I’d be back in a minute, because I worried that without my phone he would wonder where the hell I was, but he didn’t see it and just flew into a tailspin instead. He completely jumped to conclusions and panicked that I’d gone out to kill myself.

I’d actually nipped out to rescue the dog’s ball because she had lost it on our walk and I couldn’t get it out of the brambles and control her at the same time. She has a habit of diving head first into all the brambles and rose briers to rescue her ball then getting stuck – we both end up cut and bleeding, as I have to battle to rescue both her and the ball. I literally had to drag her home, shut her in the house and then go back out to dig out the ball from the bushes. By the time I got home I was greeted by the bloke just about to drive off in my car to try and find me, ranting and raving with anger. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it the first time in a long while and I was disappointed that things had not moved on and that the trust hasn’t been rebuilt by now.

It turns out that he mainly panicked because he had been reading my mood log. I was updating one online and I had no idea he had been reading it. I tended to keep my notes in there very short and they were only for me, so a note mentioning suicidal planning thoughts did not necessarily mean what he thought it did. I was angry that he had invaded my privacy again, but I know it only comes from fear and concern. I don’t feel able to update the log any more though. It was meant to be for me and no one else. A reminder of how things are, because so often I cannot remember what my mood was like a week or a month ago.

But anyway. I agreed that I will be safe. I am safe, but it doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t there. My mood is low and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. This weekend would have been the perfect opportunity and there are times when I cannot help the thoughts, but I have resigned myself to sticking around for a while yet.

I know the fact it is winter and in the run up to my birthday can’t be helping. I have been in hospital at this time for the last two years, and both times I was desperately suicidal and determined not to be around for my birthday. This year I seem to have accepted that I will be around and although I am not overly happy about it, I’m resigned to it. I am low and I don’t really want to be alive, but I feel the obligation to be. Also, I’m not sure why, but being 25 seems like a much better idea than 24 anyway – something about round numbers I think. My worry is that I’m already having to battle the thoughts that 25 is a good age to die. I have no desire to see 26, even if I am sure I will see 25. I hope that my mood will pick up before those thoughts get too strong or that the approach of my 26th birthday gets too urgent.

As for my 25th birthday, as Seaneen will recall, my invite for a smear test arrived. I went and had it a couple weeks ago and it was fairly painless and straightforward, although I bled quite a bit afterwards. Unfortunately though I got a letter on Thursday saying the result was “inconclusive” so I have to go and have another one in three months. I think this was just a case of not enough cells, at least that’s what I’m hoping, but it’s still pretty annoying to have to wait before they do it again.

In other news, I’ve had a review form for DLA to fill in for a couple of weeks now and I’ve failed to do it. I wrote to them before Christmas at the same time I wrote to notify the DWP that I was starting work part-time for ESA purposes, to say there had been *some* improvement to my condition since my initial application for DLA. I felt I had to, as I have been receiving Higher Rate Care and I am not sure I should be getting that rate any more. They sent me out a review form and I started to complete it, but I made a complete mess. I filled in my surname in the first name section, my date of birth wrong and made mistakes all over the place, because I couldn’t concentrate enough to fill it in and my memory is so shoddy I kept forgetting things. After some frustration, I rang them to ask for another form because I had made so many mistakes. I got this replacement two weeks ago now and I have still not even started it. Thankfully because I requested the review rather than them, there is no deadline for me to get it back, but I know I need to do it. I can’t face it though. I can copy across the stuff that was correct on my first attempt, but I don’t know what to do about the rest of it. The form is overwhelming and I don’t know what to write, especially as my mood has been so unstable of late. Sometimes I look at the form, think nothing is wrong and answer everything as if I was fine, but other days I look at the form and realise I can’t do any of the things it asks, including filling in the form for that matter. I know you have to say how your good and bad days very and highlight what the worst case scenario is, but I just don’t know what to write. I don’t even know what to put in the diagnosis section. Should I have told them that my diagnosis is under question back when it was first questioned a year ago, or can I just tell them I don’t know any more? I guess the latter is the truth, I don’t know, but I’m not sure if I should have told them I don’t know. As far as DLA and ESA are concerned, I assume they think my diagnosis to be Bipolar II disorder, which is what it was when I applied. As I don’t know what it has been changed to, I guess I can’t tell them, but I worry about what Dr M or Dr N will write when asked. I hate having to evaluate how bad I am. I honestly don’t know.

Hmm I don’t know what else to write. There are things I keep thinking about to write, but I just don’t know what to say. It has been the same all week. For weeks really. I am meant to be keeping a diary for therapy again and I haven’t managed to write anything properly. I just don’t know what to say. Brain is mush. I cannot think, I can barely feel. I just want a new head.

I am feeling increasingly agitated this evening. I am not sure why. Maybe now is the time I stop and knit for a bit to see if it calms me down. I spent a lot of yesterday knitting – I made a hat for the little boy’s birthday today and started a frilly scarf and it kept me busy and distracted whilst I was on my own. It’s the first thing I’ve done for a while. I haven’t had the motivation or the concentration for a while. Sometimes I get the urge to knit and think of a million projects I could be doing and other days I cannot even comprehend lifting the needles. There has been a lot of the latter lately, yet yesterday my head was buzzing with ideas of things I could knit. I can only knit so much though and when my concentration is so crap lately as much as I want to make these magical creations, there’s no way I’m actually able to. I end up having to undo as much as I do.

hmm. Head is starting to spin. I’m both tired and agitated and feel like I may need to throw things soon if things get any worse. I don’t know why I am feeling like this. I have been good lately and I’m avoiding caffeine in the hope that would ease the occasional agitation, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Maybe I should just go to bed and try to sleep or maybe I should have a bath. Perhaps I’m just grouchy and tired. I don’t know.

This is a bitty post. I don’t seem able to write properly at the moment. I started writing this about 4pm and it’s now 11.30pm. It’s not even very long. I have found it really hard to try and get things down or to concentrate on it. I have watched bits of TV and fed the animals and stuff in between, but the rest of the time I have just been staring at the box wondering what to put in it, or more likely how to slow down and speed up and unravel my thoughts to try and type them. Some of the time it feels like my brain is like treacle and the thoughts are just so slow and other times they are bouncing around and rattling off the sides and at the moment both is happening at the same time and it just feels like a big ball of mush. It all makes no sense.

Anyway I am going to stop and kick the dog outside. She’s already taken herself to bed, but she needs to go out or I’ll get woken up very early in the morning! I don’t intend on being up early. The bloke isn’t due back until at least mid-afternoon and I think I’m leaning towards a morning of hibernation.

On my own…

with 7 comments

My care-coordinator, C came to see me on Thursday. We weren’t meant to be seeing each other until Monday when I had my appointment with my psychiatrist, Dr M, but C called me on Wednesday to tell me she wanted to go through the updates to my CPA and risk assessment beforehand. When she arrived she told me the real reason she had came was to tell me she is leaving. It was nice that she wanted to do this personally and made the effort to make the appointment to see me before she went, but I’m sad that she’s going. She’s been asked to work in a CAMHS role, which is what she trained in. I think this is really positive for her and she seems excited about it, so I’m happy for her. I’d just got used to having her around and she was so much nicer and more helpful than useless SW, J, who I had before, so it is a shame. It was quite nice to know she was there if I needed her as I had faith in her, but I think I’ll be okay anyway.

I was asked what I wanted to happen now. I had the option of being assigned someone new or having no one assigned and letting Dr M and my GP, Dr N manage things for a while. I decided to go for the latter. I’ve never found the CMHT overly helpful and I am not sure I really need a social worker at the moment, although it was nice to have C there, just in case. To be honest, I think not asking for another person is more about trying to avoid another useless SW like J was. She did more harm than good I think. I’m not quite sure about the prospect of being a little on my own, but I think it will be okay. I’ve been told I can ask for one at any point and someone will be assigned, so this seems to make sense. I think whilst I’m just waiting to see if things stabilise there isn’t that much to do or say. It just seems to be a case of waiting to see if the improvements hold out. I do wonder if it will be helpful to have someone involved when I am trying to return to work, but we shall see what happens.

Saturday was a bad day. I guess one had to come along again at some point, but it was worse than I’d expected. I woke up feeling a little dodgy in a physical sense, but after a silly argument with the bloke things went downhill. I was crying almost non-stop for hours and when I wasn’t crying I only felt capable of staring into space. I couldn’t think and felt completely exhausted. It got to the stage where I couldn’t really speak properly and when we went to Morrisons I was struggling to do much more than walk around like a zombie, whilst my bloke did the shopping. Something just wasn’t right. I felt depressed, but I didn’t even have the energy to be suicidal. I was just devoid of anything. In the end I couldn’t wait to get to bed so I could start a new day and hope it would be better.

I felt a little better by Sunday morning and by the evening I felt okay again, so hopefully that has passed and won’t happen again. I don’t know if something just snapped or if crying wore me out, but it wasn’t good. I just felt so awful and it was horrible to be back in that place. I’ve not experienced that sort of catatonic depression much as I have a tendency to irritability and agitation, but it is scary when it happens. I don’t know how anyone gets through days or weeks or months of that. I guess the fact is, you’re so down it is impossible to do anything but wait. You don’t have the energy to end it.

On Monday I saw Dr M again. It was a bit of a nothing appointment really. We discussed how the last 6 weeks have gone, but there wasn’t much to be said. Things are still much the same as when I last saw her. I am a lot, lot better, but not 100%. Still getting the odd bad day that catches me off guard, but most of the times things are in the realms of normal. We talked about possibly increasing the Reboxetine again, but she was inclined to leave things as they are for now. She wants the option to manoeuvre the dose up again in future if things dip over time or if  I struggle whenever my therapy referral ever comes around. If she puts it up now, she wouldn’t really be able to increase it much more without pushing the side effects up into unmanageable territory. She asked if I’d heard anything about therapy, which I still haven’t. It’s getting a bit ridiculous because it gets pushed back further and further, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

We talked about the fact I was seeing occupational health today and what I felt about it. She asked me when I next wanted to see her, which I felt was positive. I was given the option of two weeks, two months, whenever or never again. This would never happen with the CMHT, although I’m not sure how serious she was about never again! I suspect she may have had something to say about it if I chose that option. We decided I’d call her when I have decided though, based upon what was said at occy health and whatnot. She was good to point out I can call her whenever if I need to see her between appointments. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how things have changed between me and Dr M. I didn’t like her at first and I really got the feeling she didn’t like me, but now she’s seen improvements and got to know me a little better and not the me she met when I was in hospital, things have improved. We shall see how things go. I don’t know what happens when I am passed back to the CMHT or discharged by her, but at the moment I’m appreciating the stability and glad I’m not being passed from SHO to SHO.

So today was occupational health. I have been worried about this one because the nice consultant I’ve seen in the past has left the firm. I have to confess to googling the new guy (another Dr G, so not sure I’ll be using that moniker for him) and I found out he has worked for the Health & Safety Executive in the past and has a more safety-focussed history than the last doctor – I got the impression ladders and chemicals were more his thing than mental health, but I could see he was an experienced occy health consultant, so he was going to have come across psychiatric patients at some point in his career. He seemed nice enough. Quite softly spoken and very keen to point out that he is not on anyone’s side and that he has my best interests and health in mind, so I guess that’s good to know. I’ve found that to be true for all of the occupational doctors I’ve seen. Every time, they’ve been supportive and they are not just trying to get me back in work. A pleasant contrast to the DWP/Atos Origin lot I guess, who only seem to care about declaring you fit for work (although to be fair in my case they didn’t).

We discussed how things were compared to last time I saw Dr R. In general, things have improved a little and the improvements have been maintained so that is good. He asked me how I felt about work and occupational health. I confessed to being in two minds – half the time itching to get back and on bad days, worrying that I’d never be well enough. He said that was to be expected, which I guess is true. I was pretty surprised that early on in the appointment he made it pretty clear he didn’t think I’d be returning any time soon. He feels it will be a long time before I go back properly and that I need to show stability for a while before we consider it. I was hoping to go back in some capacity soonish, so I’m disappointed really. I guess I have to slow down and wait and see how things go. I am aware that I shouldn’t rush things, but at the same time it’s about balance, because if I wait too long I will begin to feel useless and get frustrated.

He also said that a return will be very slow when it comes and it could be a very long time before I’m back at work properly. At first it will be just dropping into the office a couple of times to say hello and then maybe working an hour or two a week, building that up to a few mornings or afternoons and then we’ll see. I suspect I will get impatient with that approach, but I know it is what we have to do. I know though that I have a tendancy to do more than I’m meant to, so it will be difficult I think.

Now that I’ve been told I definitely can’t work yet, I feel a bit stuck. I’m having to wait and be patient and I am getting itchy. I had thought that I’d be going back sometime this summer. I expected to be setting a date to start a phased return, but I’m apparently not even ready to do that yet. I have to wait a couple of months before I see him again. If things have improved/stabilised then we can “possibly” start to plan a return. He did suggest three or four months before I next saw him, but I felt that seemed too far away. I’m worried I’d miss my window of opportunity to have some “normal” life. He agreed on two months or so unless I go downhill again in that time. He said I deserve to have a bit of happiness first, which I guess is a nice thought, although it also makes me worry he feels I won’t stay well if I do ever go back to work. I also wonder if I can be really happy if I’m not working. I want things to be normal. I want a career. I want to stay well.

In a way it is good. I know that I don’t have the worry of going back to destabilise things whilst I’m still not 100%. Maybe the therapy assessment will come through in time. It might be good to follow Dr R’s recommendation that I wait to see how I get on with therapy before I return to work. I don’t hold out much hope on that one though.

I guess this time of year is the best to be off too. Summertime. I won’t have to worry about taking time off for holidays. I can make the most of the sunshine, when it happens. I felt awful for most of last summer and I didn’t appreciate it. I am appreciating the sunnier days now.

I guess I can also stop feeling guilty and worrying about being on ESA and in the support group. When I have a good day and I feel normal, I wonder why I’m not at work. I am in the support group, which means I am meant to be too ill or disabled to ever consider seeking or returning to work. Until recently I thought that was the right decision, but as things have improved and I have got keen to return, I wasn’t sure I fitted that criteria any more. I always hated the thought that I was too ill to consider working, even though I knew it was true, but I find it even harder now I am not so sure. Before, I did fear I’d never go back. I couldn’t see any sign of improvement, but I hated the fact that others didn’t have much hope of improvement either. Now I can see that improvement I want to work. I loved my job and I miss it more than ever now. To be told I’m still not well enough to consider working is sad and hard to admit. The upside is though I should stop worrying they will accuse me of benefit fraud. I am not allowed to work even if I want to, so I have to accept that. Without the blessing of Occupational Health I can’t go back.

I just can’t shake off the feeling I am being held back, but at the same time I need to stop myself trying to run before I can walk. I’ve been off work for two years and during that time I’ve been very ill. I know that. 6 months ago I was in hospital. A few months ago I was still threatening to kill myself. Things have improved a lot in a short period of time, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean they can’t change back in a short period of time either. I hope they won’t. I don’t think they will, but it seems I have to prove that these improvements are going to hold out and I can reach some form of stability, before I can consider myself well.

Hmm. We shall see. We shall see.

p.s. I did a quick edit on this post on 9th June. I ran out of time yesterday so the last couple of paragraphs had been somewhat rushed and I didn’t say everything I wanted to. I also didn’t tag things properly. There is still more I can say on this, especially as I spoke to HR today, but I will leave that for another post.

Busy, Busy, Busy…

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For someone that doesn’t work I seem to be awfully busy at the moment.

And it seems I won’t be going back to work for a while.

My consultant had been pretty keen for me to contact my employer to try and look for a strategy that would see me getting back to work, or at least to get me back in contact with them a little more. It was suggested that perhaps I could help out with some corporate citizenship work or at least have a contact in the area I could meet up with to discuss work. All of my contact has been with the HR team who are based in London. As I am not allocated to a project I don’t have a manager at the moment, let alone one in the North West. I don’t even have a “Career Counsellor” right now as mine is on maternity leave. So I’ve had very little contact with work and I’ve only been into the office once in the last 18 months (to get my laptop upgraded). The place has become completely alien and the thought of trying to go back is pretty scary. I don’t think Dr M realistically thought I’d be ready to go back in the immediate future, but she wanted me to consider doing something to give me hope of going back.

So I contacted my HR rep to see what she thought. She needed to look into this and wanted me to go see Occupational Health before she made any decisions. She didn’t want to allocate a new Career Counsellor unless I was actually going back, so that wasn’t an option, but she did say she’d look at finding a Manchester contact for me. She wouldn’t agree to the idea of me going into the office or helping out unless there was an OH report which supported this. I suspect their liability insurance wouldn’t be too happy if I was on sick leave, went into the office and then I hurt myself or something.

So I was referred back to Occy Health. An appointment was arranged and I saw Dr R on the 18th. I’d seen him before, 18 months ago. He had been nice last time and had a lot of experience in psychiatry, so I was glad it was him again. He remembered me and I tried to update him on what had happened. I have a document saved on my computer which covers all the main events of my “Mental Health History”, so I took this with me to refer to. I think he was pretty shocked at what had happened since I’d last seen him. At the end of the appointment he said that when he saw me last he’d expected me to have a pretty rough time over the coming year or so, but he’d never expected it to be as bad as it was.

He mentioned a lot of the usual occupational health stuff. Things about how work is generally good for people and that I should be encouraged to go back as soon as possible. He quoted the statistic that 50% of people who are off work for more than 6 months never return (Scarily, 75% of people off for over a year and virtually none of those off for two years or more ever return) and he commented on how long I’d been off. He said he was concerned about my chances, but he was hopeful that at least I have youth on my side.

He seemed genuinely worried that I may be dismissed due to incapacity if I was off much longer. I am worried about this because my Permanent Health Insurance payments would cease if that happens. He said he’d hate to think I’d have a life of benefits ahead of me. Not exactly what someone needs when they are struggling to handle the thought of being alive. He warned that with such a long absence and dismissal for ill health, I would be nigh on unemployable, which is a pretty depressing thought. I should have a great career ahead of me and instead I am dealing with the possibility that is over. I hope not.

We discussed whether or not I could go back to work. I don’t really think I am ready. I’ve only been out of hospital for about a month. My medication is still being adjusted and I am struggling with side effects and anxiety. Things are so unpredictable that I just don’t know how I can plan to go back so soon. I was pretty surprised when Dr M brought up a return to work in the first place, but I understand that I do need to go back as soon as possible and was willing to at least see what could be done.

He agreed with me though. He wants me to be fairly stable for a couple of months before he considers approving a return. He seemed a little surprised that I had even been referred to him so soon after coming out of hospital. He was uncomfortable with pushing me back too soon because there is too much at stake.

If I went back to work for a little while and struggled, ending back on sick leave, then I would not only lose my ESA for 6 months, but I’d probably end up losing my job. They’d be more likely to dismiss me if I failed to complete a phased return. Of course there’s also the very real risk that it would tip me back over the edge and I’d try and kill myself. Not exactly something anyone would want to risk encouraging.

We also discussed the fact I am waiting for therapy and I’m likely to find that pretty hard going. It would not be good for me to go back and then to start therapy. There is good chance that it will make me worse, before it makes me better and we wouldn’t want that to risk my return to work. He’d rather that I knew at least what was happening with my therapy referral before I go back.

He did agree though that we should be doing something to normalise work and the office a bit more. I need to be in contact with HR and I need to go into the office occasionally before I try to go back. At the moment I feel like I don’t belong there and I hardly know anyone. It would be good if I could get used to going in before I try and do any work there. He agreed that helping out with the occasional task might also be helpful and a good way of keeping me in touch with work. The more we can do to convince my company that I do still want to work for them and that there is a good chance that I will again, the better.

So that’s the plan. Try and get more in touch with work, keep myself busy and doing enough work related tasks as possible and lots of hoping that I will get better and stay well long enough for us to consider a return. I will probably see him again in a few months, all being well.

I left fairly pleased with the outcome. Dr R seemed to understand my predicament and agreed that I wasn’t ready to return. I am a lot more worried about my future though. He was genuinely concerned that I will end up jobless and moneyless. At the moment financially we can cope with being on sick leave, but if I lost my PHI payment or ESA then we’d really struggle. I am comfortable with the fact I have a job to go back to with a company that has treated me well. I’m pretty scared that this might change. I don’t know how I’d find a new job and try and get back to work all at the same time.

The report arrived last week and was pretty much as I’d expected. My HR rep seemed fairly happy with the report, although perhaps a little disappointed that I am not ready to return. She called me today to find out if there was anything else she could do to support me. I have been given a contact in the Manchester office now and I’m meant to be talking to her tomorrow. It was suggested that I talk to her about things I can do in the Manchester office to give me something to do and to give me a taste of work. I need to build up my confidence and remind myself that I can actually do that job. I worry that I’ve lost my ability to work. I am not as sharp any more. I’m so slow and unproductive. I struggle to concentrate and think. I worry I will just not be up to the job.

We will see. If I am to get through all of this I need to go back. I loved that job and I want to go back. I just hope that I can. I am very scared that I won’t.

Recovery, Scoring and ESA…

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It’s been a strange week really. I seem to have spent the week being confronted with the fact I’m still a lot more ill than I thought I was.

On Wednesday I had an appointment with Dr B. He’s another GP at my local practice and as Dr N is on holiday for two weeks I had to make do with him. He’s okay, but a little brisk. Every time I’ve seen him he’s made me do a PHQ9 form to assess my levels of depression. It’s similar to a BDI I guess, but with fewer questions and less detail. My score was in the twenties (out of 27), putting me in the severely depressed category. I knew I was still depressed but I’d kinda expected it to have moved into the moderately severe category by now. I do feel better than I did back in February. The depression is less absolute, but I can’t deny that I still think of death and suicide every day, I’m still not sleeping and I still feel pretty tired and down.

For curiosity’s sake I did a BDI as well. I ended up doing it twice as I find it so difficult to decide between answers. My pessimistic score (choosing the worse option if I couldn’t decide) was well over 50. My optimistic score (choosing the better option) was about 45. 30+ is classed as severe depression so it’s a pretty similar result to the PHQ9. It’s a vast improvement on the 60+ (out of 63!) I was scoring in February. I racked up one of the highest scores ever seen at The Priory back then, which is pretty scary really. The improvement is not enough though. How can this be recovery if I’m still in the severely ill category?

I don’t know if I am really severely depressed though, even if my scores say I am. I have been depressed for so much of my life I’m not sure if my results are skewed. I expect even when I’m what I’d describe as well, I’d still be scoring a mild depression score at least.

I was talking about this with a medic friend last night. We were talking about the GPs in the village and I mentioned I’d seen Dr B. She asked me what he was like and I basically said he was okay, but he asks me to do the PHQ9 whenever I see him. She said that GPs are obliged to demonstrate they are giving “adequate monitoring” to depression patients and the PHQ9 counts towards this. It’s interesting as I don’t remember ever doing one with Dr N. I guess he prefers to give adequate monitoring with actually asking me how I am, rather than getting me to select ticky boxes.

I mentioned my scores and how I wasn’t sure how accurate they were. She suggested that sometimes the scores can be a little skewed by insight and they often don’t reflect how well someone is functioning, which seems fair enough I guess. She said I’m clearly functioning a lot better than my scores suggest, which I think is true, but I guess that comes with years of practice in hiding things. I function in autopilot, hiding the thoughts, but the thoughts are still there.

To add further doubts to my idea of recovery I got a letter from the ESA decision maker yesterday. They are finally processing my application under the youth rules and the decision maker has sent the sheet explaining how much I will receive. Looking at it, I’m being paid the amount pertaining to the Support Group. I presume this means they have my medical result and not only have I passed, but I am deemed too unwell to even contemplate work and thus have been placed in the Support Group. This is a big surprise. I had worried so much that I wouldn’t even pass the medical, let alone be placed in the Support Group. I haven’t received the letter confirming my medical result yet, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is wrong, but it shouldn’t be. I will be interested to see what score I actually received. Another set of points telling me how ill I am.

I don’t know how I feel about being in the Support Group though. In a way it is positive. It means I don’t need to do the pointless Pathways to Work interviews and I also get a little more money, which of course is good. It means there is no pressure to try and get back to work before I am ready. I will not be bullied by the DWP to do so.

At the same time though I can’t help but feel disappointed. I feel like I’ve been written off. I am too ill and disabled to even consider working. That’s something I can’t handle and really don’t want to admit. I want to get back to work and I want that to be something achievable in the near future. It makes me feel like this is all pointless. I want to be recovering and this makes me wonder if I really am. I had felt I was making progress, but that progress is clearly not enough. This is all just fuelling the “fuck it, this isn’t worth it” thoughts. I don’t want this.

I’m a little worried too and I almost feel guilty. I wonder whether this is the right decision. I kinda feel like I have cheated the system because I didn’t expect to pass the medical. I know how notorious these medicals are. I know that hardly anyone passes, let alone gets placed in the Support Group. I wonder why I have got through when so many others haven’t? Am I really that bad? I know I can be in denial and I guess in a way these doubts show that, but I am still unsure. It just feels a little wrong.

I wonder if this process is designed to make you feel guilty? There is such a stigma against incapacity benefits, that you feel awful to be claiming them, yet if you are entitled to, it would be stupid not to. There is so much attention paid to people that cheat the system that genuine claimants worry they will be tarred with the same brush. I had no intention of cheating the system and I didn’t do anything to do so. If anything I down played how bad things were. There was no exaggeration, yet I feel like I have cheated. Surely this is wrong? Surely I should just be glad that the right decision has been made? Yet the doctors at Atos have such a bad reputation I even question a positive decision.

Pathways to Work…

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A couple of days ago I got a letter from the local jobcentre asking me to come in for a “Pathways to Work” interview in two weeks time. The Pathways to Work scheme is designed to get people of incapacity benefits (IB or ESA) and back into work. It is geared at people who do not have jobs and the support offered is all about work experience, improving skills and finding a job. For someone who already has a job but is just too unwell to work, this is obviously a complete waste of time.

The literature that came with the letter was even more frustrating. There were a number of “success stories” of disabled people who had successfully got into work through the Pathways to Work scheme. The disappointing thing was all of these people had got minimum wage jobs in local supermarkets, washing dishes in kitchens or working in DIY stores. There were no teachers, lawyers or accountants. No doctors, nurses or IT consultants. No one was in a managerial position. Everyone was in a basic entry-level role, with few prospects for career progression and no doubt earning very little. I know for some people, a job in a supermarket is a massive achievement, but for many it is a massive step down. Not everyone on incapacity benefit has had a poor education or learning difficulties. Some of these people are highly intelligent, highly employable and have been previously very successful until they became ill or disabled. Surely these leaflets are not providing a positive image of disability? The leaflets should be saying, “look, you’re disabled but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful and get a great job”. Instead they seem to say, “Oh, you’re disabled so you are obviously only capable of stacking shelves in a supermarket”. It is as if disabled people aren’t worthy of aspirations and successful careers.

This poor image of disability is reinforced by the services offered. Improve your CV. Training opportunities to improve your skills and employability. Work placements and buddy schemes. Money for attending job interviews. All of these things suggest that disabled people aren’t employable and need all the help they can get to find a job. Disabled people clearly aren’t capable of thinking for themselves and writing their own CVs. It may be true that in the current climate everyone looking for a job needs help, but this all seems very patronising and demeaning.

The other impression you get from the leaflets was the familiar story that people on incapacity benefit should just pull themselves together and get to work. There was a real sense of the Government’s displeasure about people being on disability benefits. On the first page it states that Pathways to Work is a key part of the Government’s plans to get one million people off incapacity benefits by 2015. Is it really feasible that one million people will recover from their disabilities? In theory it would be great if one million people became well enough to get back into work, but to me, the answer is not Pathways to Work. The answer is improved health care; quicker access to therapy for mental health patients, shorter waiting times for knee or hip joint replacements, more research into treatment for conditions like fibromyalgia, MS and chronic fatigue syndrome. People need successful treatment and support that will help them to recover and manage their condition. Help finding a job or gaining work experience isn’t going to make them well. Yes, working can improve well being and confidence, but for many it is just not an option.

ESA Medical…

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I know I’m updating a lot all of a sudden, but I guess there are things I want to document this week. My talkative mood is probably helping too.

I made it to my medical this afternoon. I am so glad it is over.

I was all over the place during the interview. The doctor kept asking the same things over and over again and it was tiresome. My head was spinning, thoughts racing, agitation brewing. I kept forgetting what I had just said and found myself getting more and more worked up. I couldn’t keep still from the agitation. It didn’t help that she wasn’t following things, but I don’t know if that was me talking too fast or her being a bit slow. She kept mixing my doctors up (I know it’s complicated. I still have 2 psychiatrists!) which was getting really confusing.

She didn’t seem to ask me much about what I can and can’t do. She did ask if I got up, dressed etc (yes, with bullying from my bloke). She asked me if I went anywhere (yes, if someone takes me – I mentioned Creative Remedies). She asked me if I saw friends and socialised (sometimes). She asked about driving (no, not since October 2008).

We talked a little about my overdose in February and what happened afterwards. We talked about ECT. I told her when I’d been in hospital. We talked about my current care – The Priory and transfer to NHS, who does what. She asked me a million times if my doctors knew what I was telling her and who was most up to date with everything. I didn’t know why she was asking that so much. Maybe so she knows whether to trust any information she gets from them or so she could check up on what I was saying?

She kept asking me about suicidal thoughts. She wanted to know why I hadn’t tried again if I still experience the thoughts. She asked me literally 30 times if I had any active plans, maybe even more. She seemed quite concerned when I was honest about the extent of my thoughts, even though I have no real means or firm intention to act at the moment.

I was forced to talk about anger and violence. I couldn’t deny that it has been a problem of late, but I didn’t want to be seen as “dangerous”. I felt so uncomfortable talking about it.

We talked about mood. I found it hard to convey what it is really like. I told her about the current agitation and how this is a fairly new development. She suggested the agitation could have been caused by anxiety about the appointment. I didn’t think it was and denied it at the time, but since I’ve thought about it some more I think it may well have contributed. I really was all over the place whilst I was in there and anxiety must have been exacerbating the situation. I tried to describe the aching, dull, flat, numbing depression that has lingered on and off for ages. I tried to describe the mixed agitated depression that is often a problem. I don’t think I succeeded on any account.

I mentioned that my partner had given up his job to care for me and she asked me about this. Is he with me all the time? How often does he leave me on my own? Who does what in the house? Do I ever go out on my own? etc. etc.

When we went over my meds, she seemed surprised that I am taking melatonin and even asked if it’s a hospital-only prescription. Considering melatonin can be bought over the counter in the US, it does make you wonder why it is so reluctantly used over here. The CMHT seemed surprised too.

At one point towards the end, she left the office to go ask her colleague something and I couldn’t help but burst into tears. I’d been holding myself together up until then, but the stress of it all tipped me over the edge. I don’t know what it was as I barely ever cry these days. Girlie hormones probably aren’t helping at the moment, but even still it seemed ludicrous. Unfortunately she came back in whilst I was trying to pull myself together and then asked me a million questions about why I was crying. I was worried she would think I was putting it on for effect or something. I genuinely couldn’t help it, but was so embarrassed and paranoid about it.

Although she asked me a million questions I don’t know if she has got anywhere near enough information. Most of the stuff didn’t seem to be very relevant to whether or not I can work. Maybe she was just nosy? I guess that’s her job.

I cannot convey how erratic the whole appointment was. Questions were being fired in all directions and I was so mixed up I couldn’t answer her. My sentences were blurring into one. I was jabbering on and on and going off on tangents. I didn’t say half the things I should have. I was not clear at all. I’ve been going over things in my head since, trying to make sense of it all. Trying to work out her intentions and what she was thinking and asking. I know I should just forget about it and wait for the results, but my head is just looking for things to think about.

One thing I have noted is the clear effect of stress. I was anxious and stressed by the situation and I could not deal with it at all. I was turned into a whirlwind of agitated confusion. I’m just thinking about work and similar situations where I have to answer questions and think about what I’m saying. Conference calls for example. There is no way I can handle one at the moment. It’s okay doing that with a doctor that is trained to deal with it, but it is not okay to talk like a madwoman in front of your boss.

In some ways my inability to deal with the situation may stand in my favour. I suspect now I probably came across quite mad. After all, I need her to think I am too ill to work. The problem is, I think I may have come across *too* mad. I was incapable of answering her questions and I’m worried I may have messed up in some way. I’m worried I didn’t answer things clearly enough or that I missed things out. I am paranoid that she was trying to catch me out. I’m really worried she will think I was putting it on or making things up. I wasn’t, but I wasn’t “myself” either and that could be problematic.

Afterwards I was tired and didn’t really want to do anything. The session took it out of me and I needed processing time. Kinda like therapy actually. I guess it was similar in that I had to talk a lot about how I was feeling and what has happened.

Unfortunately I wasn’t really given that processing time as my bloke wanted me to do stuff. He forced me to clean my car, which took ages at it was filthy. As I’m not driving at the moment my lovely little car spends most of its time sat on the drive. It has been sat still so long that green slime was growing on all the window seals. Not good. It’s looking better now, but there are still bits that aren’t quite there.

My thoughts are still racing. I walked the dog this evening and I thought that would help calm me down but it hasn’t. I was distracted thinking about the medical, work, suicide, random pointless stuff, everything. I have music spinning around in my head on top of everything else. The “We buy any car” advert is driving me mad… we buy any car, we buy any car, any, any, any, any, we buy any car… Make it stop, please!!

I suspect I won’t be updating quite so much in the next few days. Nothing is happening. We are taking the dog to a breed show on Sunday, but that is all I can think of. I will see Dr N sometime at the end of next week. I have Creative Remedies too, but nothing unusual or exciting coming up.

Limited Capability for Work?…

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A little less agitated than yesterday evening at the moment, but I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep. I was very wound up all night and couldn’t keep still. My head was flying all over the place. Every time I drifted into sleep I had busy, fast, vivid, strange dreams. I was waking up from them every 30 minutes or so and wondering why I wasn’t doing all the things I was dreaming about and then I couldn’t get back to sleep because my mind was flying off on all these tangents inspired by the dreams. Things eventually seemed to calm down a little around 6-7am, so I did get a couple hours of sleep, but even then my sleep was littered with more dreams.

Part of this agitation may have been exacerbated by the argument I had with my partner last night. The night before I am due to go for an ESA medical, testing whether or not I am fit for work, he tells me I should just go back to work and implies that I am lazy, a skiver and not ill at all. This isn’t helpful.

He was telling me that I should just go back because unless I do, I’ll never be ready. He thinks I am just putting it off forever. He thinks I need to go back and try to work because until I do I can’t be sure if I am ready or not. This is of course true, but I think I need to be showing more signs of being ready before I try it.

There are of course a lot of things to lose by going back too soon and then having to stop working. The loss of my permanent health insurance income being one. I’d have to apply again for it, which is a lengthy process. The loss of ESA will be another factor, if of course they ever give me it. As I am claiming under youth rules I’d have to be off sick for another 6 months before I can claim again.

I suspect that he may in part be pushing me back for selfish reasons. He has of course given up a lot to look after me, but I think it is wearing thin and he doesn’t want to stay at home and care for me any more. I pointed out to him that if I am ready enough to go back to work then he shouldn’t need to care for me anyway and should just go out and get himself another job, but he didn’t seem to agree. The fact he still thinks I can’t be left on my own must tell him I can’t be expected to work. I would likely be on my own a lot in the office and there’s also the matter of getting to and from work. It would be easy to abscond.

My social worker seems to have a strange attitude to my employment. She was asking me if my goal for recovery is to get back to work. For me, the ultimate goal is being well enough to work again and more importantly for me, to go back to the job I loved doing. She seemed disappointed with this and almost surprised. It really felt as if she thought I shouldn’t expect to work again because of my mental health. Maybe she just feels I shouldn’t be working in a high-pressure, highly competitive environment, but for me, working in a simpler job wouldn’t be recovery. It would seem like a poor compromise.

To me her attitude to work seems bizarre. Surely her goal should be for me to return to a normal life, or at least as normal life as possible? I don’t think it should be expected that I will remain disabled and a full-time mental for life? I really fear that will happen and need as much help as possible to stop it happening. I know I have to face the fact that this illness isn’t going to go away and I will have to learn to live with it, but I hope that I will be living a fuller life than this sometime soon.

At the moment I don’t think I’m ready to go back to work. This sudden swing into agitation is a suggestion of that. Last time I tried to return to work I became very hypomanic, very quickly, probably aided by the fluoxetine I was on at the time. Work is likely to fuel this mood and send me up and up. Maybe that would be nice, but I’m not sure I’d be a productive employee.

Even if I hadn’t have entered this mood yesterday, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I am still battling suicidal thoughts almost constantly. Stress would only make these thoughts more urgent and amplify the need to escape this world.

There is also the matter of anger management. I’m not there yet. I have calmed down on a month or two ago, but I am still struggling with bubbling agitation. The smallest thing can send me into rage, wanting to hurt both myself and the cause of the anger. I have to admit I can’t take criticism. It was something I found hard before, but I usually turned it on myself mentally. Lately I’ve been literally hitting back and that is not suitable behaviour for work. I don’t want to be violent and I certainly don’t want to display that in the workplace. It would do nothing for reducing the stigma that mentally ill people are dangerous.

It is these things that I’ll be talking about today at the medical. I need to convince them I shouldn’t be working, yet I’m doubting this myself. I hate being hypocritical. I guess if I do get through the medical it is proof that I shouldn’t be working. If I can convince the DWP, who are notoriously bad at trying to get people back to work before they are ready, then I really must be ill. We will see. I don’t hold my breath.

There is a voice that tells me I am a fraud and I should just go back to work. I feel lazy, sitting around having nothing to do all day. I am trying to occupy myself, but I am not a productive member of society.

I am getting stuff done, but this only makes me think I should be working. Over the past couple of days I’ve embarked on a project to sort out all of my photos and to get them online. I used to have a photo gallery on my website, but I took it down when the domain was up to expire and since uni I’ve been very lazy about my photography. I have literally thousands of images, over 40gb worth. A lot of these are utter rubbish, but I want to find the ones that aren’t and get them out in the open. Anyway, the point of this is I’ve been sitting on my computer sorting this photos out and generally I’ve been able to concentrate on the task in hand. Considering a vast amount of my job is sitting at a computer then maybe I should be doing that and not just sorting out my photos.

I’ve been baking more recently and on Tuesday, I also made a load of home-made chocolates. I managed to do it successfully this time after a recent attempt involved me using semolina instead of sugar. Unsurprisingly the mixture had to go in the bin. They were popular at creative remedies yesterday, with many suggestions of having to sell them or give them as christmas presents.

I had even ventured back into the world of books and reading over the past month or so. I haven’t picked up a book for a couple of weeks, but I was getting there. I was reading stuff and even starting to enjoy it a little. I sometimes had to read paragraphs multiple times or forgot what I had been reading the previous day, but I was getting through the pages.

I also worry about this blog. The fact I can sit here and read and write. Does that mean I should be working instead of just writing about the fact I’m not? If people found this, would they use it against me to tell me I should be working?

This desire to work has of course has been amplified by my mood since yesterday. I have all these ideas of things I could be doing at work. I will not be on a project at first so need to find some internal work I could be doing. I can think of so many ways to improve our company. So many things that could be done and I want to be the person to do them.

There are barriers to returning. My doctors tell me I’m not ready. My social worker tells me I’m not ready. I need to go to occupational health before they will let me go back to work and they may well tell me I’m not ready. When will I know if I’m ready? How can they know?