My morning began with a letter on the doormat.
For the last 16 months I’ve beem receiving ESA – Employment and Support Allowance, or sickness benefit – mainly because I suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Recently, due to family difficulties, my condition has reached epic proportions. I burst into tears in shops and in the street; I suffer seizures; I have days when I can’t leave my home. Sometimes I can’t cook meals and I survive on dried fruit, nuts, cereal, and yogurt. My condition is difficult and embarrassing, particularly as all the while I’m watching myself from the outside, and disapproving of my weakness.
This is the truth about the woman that is me; the woman people say is strong.
Going back to my story; anyone who’s on ESA gets sent assessment questionaires to fill in every so often, and is afterwards hauled up for a medical examination to find out whether they are still entitled to the benefit. I recently received one of these forms, to be returned by October 7th at the latest. I filled it in and posted it off at 9.30pm on the 20th of this month. The letter I received this morning was dated September 28th. It was from the Health Assessment Advisory Service; it said that they hadn’t received my questionaire, and requested that I fill it in and send it back as soon as possible.
I suspected it was some sort of a test – they get me to fill in a second form, and then compare the two; or maybe an attempt to drive me to suicide.
I got dressed and went straight to the local Jobcentre for advice. I had palpitations by the time I reached the entrance, and the moment I walked in I burst into tears and my legs began to cave in.
Well done Jane – a great entrance as usual.
The woman I saw was very kind. She said assessment forms go missing quite often, and she’d call the assessment centre to ask them to look for my form but that she couldn’t guarantee that they’d bother, gave me another form, and told me not to fill it in until I had spoken to someone from the Health Assessment place, who would phone me.
She then reassured me, mopped me up and sent me away after giving me her name, and saying I could ask to see her if I needed any more help.
I felt it would be best to immediately get a copy of the medical letter I had sent as evidence of my illnesss, in case I deteriorate to the extent that I’m unable to do it later, so I went to my GP’s surgery, where I initially managed not to cry. In my effort to be stoic, I came across as an angry person, and the receptionist thought I was in there to make some sort of trouble. I saw the sudden guarded, almost frightened, look on her face as she asked me if I was a patient at the surgery. Guess what I did in response.
You’ve got it. I burst into tears, and blubbered repeated apologies while another receptionist guided me into a side room. She calmed me down, got the gist of what I wanted, spoke to my GP, came back and said he was bogged down with work, but he would call me later. As for the reason I was there, I had two options; she could ring the psychiatrist at the Riverside Centre and ask a letter to be posted to me, or I could go and pick it up. I realised that I should have gone to the psychiatrist instead of the surgery, and I told her I’d collect it. She advised me to ask Riverside to fill in the assessment questionaire for me.
She reassured me, mopped me up and sent me away.
I went to the Riverside Centre.
I burst into tears and buckled at the knees. A very nice woman took me into a side room. She printed off a copy of the letter. She gave it to me. With regret, she told me the centre was unable to fill in my questionaire as I was no longer registered with their services. She recommended that I ask the doctor to re-refer me there because I’m such a pathetic mess – though she put it far more kindly than that.
She reassured me, mopped me up and sent me away.
On the way home I got a call from a man with a lovely Welsh voice. He was from the Health Assessment Advisory Service. He explained that assessment questionaires are sent to a National office, and then have to be forwarded somewhere else – in this case Camarthen, in Wales. The letter I received was part of standard procedure. I could ignore it. I said there was no need to worry about me – I’d only briefly considered jumping off the bridge, or words to that effect. He responded in a gentle, reassuring way.
A while after I got home, my GP rang. I told him it had recommended that I ask to be referred back to Riverside. He asked me how I felt about that idea. I replied that I didn’t see the point, because the first time I’d been referred it was to a counsellor who said there was nothing she sould do for me, because I was one of the most self-aware people she’d ever seen, so counselling wouldn’t help me, and CBT wouldn’t help either, because I was already using all the tools that CBT teaches. The second time I was referred, it was to a psychiatrist who recommended a drug that did me more harm than good.
My GP agreed that it may be pointless to go back to Riverside, and suggested that every time I am in a stressful situation I take the beta-blockers he prescribed a few days ago, and see how it goes.
So -other than getting a letter, nothing much happened today.
The Daily Post #Test
©Jane Paterson Basil