Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 - A Roundup

A wonderful birthday, followed by all sorts of hassle from a bunch of cowboys at a computer shop in Lowestoft which shall remain nameless but is found North of the bridge.

Benefits-wise, I found out that my Incapacity Benefit (the money you get to live on if you can't work due to illness) was secure until 2010, but then I had to start on renewal forms for my Disability Living Allowance (that's the one you get regardless of work or income to cover the additional costs incurred by the fact of your disability). The form filling and a bout of particularly poor health meant that I spent a lot more time than usual laid up in bed, but I managed to get out for a bit on Steve's birthday, which we both enjoyed.

A friend of mine, Jesse, sadly died after many months fighting the double-whammy of heart problems and cancer. I couldn't blog about it at the time - Jesse had been forced to close his blog a few months previously because of a spate of trolls who seemed to be getting their kicks by attacking several vulnerable people (myself included) online from behind a shield of anonymity, and it didn't seem right to offer them another chance to have a pop at him in death.

In March, I also taught myself to knit, which has paid dividends, and first gave thought to buying a Roomba.

I found Web of Wool and Twitter which have both been positive in different ways. My knitting progressed, my health picked up a bit, and I met The Locum Doctor who was covering for my GP while she was on maternity leave.

May started with Blogging Against Disablism 2007. Unfortunately the same day I also ran up against problems with The Locum Doctor (which we found out several months later were due to an error on the front page of my medical records, but not before The Locum Doctor's Report had lost me my DLA award).

Pip and I made all sorts of plans to have a nice summer with the Littlun, but these were scuppered by various factors including the way the summer of 2007 never really got off the ground. Days out enjoying the sunshine were swapped for feeling extra-awful every time the weather changed. On the other hand, this meant my knitting really took off.

Again, a bad start, as I found out for definite that I had been turned down flat for DLA, despite my condition not having improved. June consisted mostly of short bursts of Doing Things to try and mount my case for a reconsideration of that decision, and long periods of waiting for the DWP to do the things they were supposed to do, like sending me forms and information I'd asked for.

I did a fair amount of blogging ("The reason I'm blogging when I should be working on my response, is because after a couple of sensible, thought-out responses, referencing evidence on my forms and the report from the specialist clinic and so on, I got to a point where all I could think of to type was "read my goddam forms, you morons". I doubt this would go down well with the reconsideration lot..") and quite a lot of knitting - I completed my needle case which really helped me to stay positive, having a tangible item that I had created. There was also a happy co-incidence when "NS13", a major overhaul of an online game I play, happened just at the same time as me having sent off my DLA Reconsideration paperwork, so I had plenty to get on with while I waited for the reconsidered response.

The reconsidered response was another rejection of my DLA claim. I was gobsmacked, as was everyone around me, the people who could see the effect my illness had on my life. "Two years ago, the facts I told them resulted in me being given the middle level of DLA Care component and the higher level of the Mobility component. Today, those same facts result in zero. How can this be right?" I had the right to appeal, but I wasn't well enough - even doing the forms had been making me more and more ill. I made the decision not to appeal and my family and friends breathed a big sigh of relief. It was easier for them to support a Mary with no money but some energy, than a Mary with some money but no energy and a shedload of stress.

There was a noticeable improvement in my health, probably due to a combination of the DLA-stress and time-consumption being removed from my life, and the weather steadying out a bit. With the help of other bloggers, I learned to knit in the round on double-pointed needles and I successfully knit my first sock, which I was very proud of. Pip and I took Littlun for a haircut, a course of action it has been decided to NOT repeat. Pip has since arranged to every so often borrow a set of clippers from a friend and do the boy's haircut in short bursts when it's most possible.

The second sock was completed, making a matching pair, and even now I'm still very proud of them. Steve and I set a date for moving in together and I began winding up my life in Lowestoft. Sorting out the admin side of moving house was nowhere near as stressful as dealing with the DWP/benefits lot. In fact the only bit that caused any significant trouble was... the DWP/benefits lot.

I had a doctor's appointment with my Regular GP, back from maternity leave. I told her what had happened with my DLA claim. She was shocked, so I told her about what happened with The Locum. She was even more shocked, checked my records... and found that the front page had never been updated to include ME/CFS as an "ongoing condition". Oops.

I finished my first knitted garment - a jumper for the Littlun - just in time for Steve to give it to him when he drove a van to Lowestoft to pick up the last of my stuff from my flat. As time went on I settled more and more into living with Steve, and initiated the wrangling with the DWP/Jobcentre to try and get them to help me into paid employment.

Joined Ravelry. Bought a Roomba. Realised that life really is quite a lot easier with Steve around, which allowed me to increase my estimate of how many hours of work I could do per week, which in turn meant a higher chance of a job advertised in the local paper matching my spec. In the space of five days I spotted a suitable job-ad, sent off my CV, was offered an interview, attended the interview, and was offered the job. I started work on Tuesday November 13th. It took the rest of the month to organise help with viable transportation to and from work - DWP again, causing more trouble and stress than the job itself. At the end of the month, a really nice surprise - flowers and chocolates to welcome me to the team and congratulate me on learning the job so quickly.

It wouldn't really be a month without a cockup from the DWP, and December was no exception. Despite telling several departments in several formats that I had started work, I noticed they were continuing to pay benefit into my account. Happily they've stopped now, but I've yet to get an official explanation or find out what happens to the erroneously-paid funds still sat in my bank account.

Christmas fell in just the right way so that I had a full five days off work - Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Eve Monday, Christmas Day Tuesday, Boxing Day Wednesday. Steve and I went to stay in Lowestoft so I could see my friends and family again. It was absolutely wonderful. We travelled back here on Boxing Day (Wednesday) and I was back at work on Thursday afternoon, which was a bit much for me, but luckily we're past the Christmas rush so I wasn't letting anyone down by being a bit groggier than usual. I'm getting another long weekend for New Year as well, Saturday, Sunday, New Year's Eve Monday, New Year's Day Tuesday, and we're not going anywhere, so I'm hoping that New Year will allow me to fully recover from Christmas and then I'll be back to my normal levels again.

All in all, it's been a busy year, with more ups than downs. It started well and ended even better. I'm happy, loved, secure, productive and relaxed. I'm looking forward to 2008.

Happy New Year.


Pandora Caitiff said...

A right roller-coaster of a year (you come off it with a big smile but a slight nauseous feeling!)

Here's to a great 2008!

(And I hope you got all the Crimbo pressies you were after in KOL)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Happy New Year! Goodness how life can change in a year, and you must be so proud of yourself! I hope next continues to be so wonderful for you, hugs BG x

Naomi J. said...

I'm appalled by your experience with DLA. This sort of thing is happening to far too many people. Would you ever consider reapplying? My story is on my blog in various places... Awarded lower rate care, asked for a reconsideration, visited by a DWP doctor who told outright lies about what I had said/how I had presented, turned down for middle rate care, appealled, won higher rate. It made me do something of a double take, and to worry about the thousands of people who must be being turned down for benefits that they clearly deserve. Grrrr.

Anyway, you clearly had a very successful year, apart from the DWP rubbish. Congrats again on your job. Happy New Year!

Rick said...

Looks like a long year. A Happy New Year to you. Check out the give-away on my blog. I think that you'll be glad you did.