Post 44-Limbo

Limbo. No, I haven’t taken up a new dancing challenge. I may well advocate dancing around the kitchen/lounge/room of choice as part of self-care, there is no way I am flexible enough to do the limbo.

This post is about where I am and or perhaps where I am not. It has changed a little from I first started drafting it, as it now incorporates a phone call from the DWP, following the ESA assessment which I wrote about in post 41. But that event is very much tied in with the spirit of the initial draft.

So let’s tackle that call first of all. Basically in my assessment I scored 0 (with a threshold of 15 to maintain benefit). So although I was told the assessment was to determine what support I got, on the basis of doing worse than even the England football team do in a penalty shoot out, my benefit stops immediately. In essence because I could attend, articulate how I felt and can manage to look after myself, I am deemed capable of work. Irrespective of my current GP sick note and emotional wellbeing, the assessment says that physically I could do something. If I want any support then I need to re-apply for JSA (in September they advised me not to claim that but ESA) or make my own way. I have the right to appeal but I won’t be doing. There is no way that having been assessed at 0 it would be overturned and I don’t have the fight in me,would rather use that energy to work out what next.

Now you may perhaps wonder about appealing. Perhaps if I explain my reaction it might help. It’s probably another’s good example of how I think and yes, it’s influenced by depression. On the call I was polite and understanding. Afterwards this was the chain of emotions:

  • humour – I got ZERO! I mean come on, not even a point for getting emotional!
  • anger – other people get benefit, I have made contributions for nearly 30 years, my GP signs me off
  • doubt – am I actually ill ? Perhaps this isn’t real
  • guilt – if not ill, then what am I ? What about those who are really ill?
  • worry – hope we can sell the house this year
  • shame – I failed : the assessment, to help support my family. I even failed as being a person with depression.
  • critical – annoyed with myself, at some of those thoughts

Those thoughts strolled alongside me as I took the dog out for a walk, all talking at me. Until I sat down, attempting to meet them with understanding and self-compassion. That was hard. Bloody hard. It took me a while and writing about them, to process them rationally.

Competition made me smile, I was actually miffed at getting no points. Anger is understandable, someone has just told me they think I could be working and they are no longer going to help. Doubt arises from that. When depression hits your self-worth it doesn’t take much to make you second guess and question yourself. The reality is I am ill, which actually the assessment doesn’t say you aren’t – they are not denying a medical condition, but they believe it does not stop me doing some form of work.

But what about those very tricky guilt, shame and the anger/self-criticism thoughts? I am not attempting fraud and depression is a serious illness, there is no point in comparison to others. As part of plans already we had decided to sell the house. What this does do though is put more pressure on that happening this year and makes it harder for my wife, who has a chronic illness, reduce to part time hours as we hoped. We will make it work, it will mean using more savings, but life is too short.*

Did I fail ? No, it wasn’t a test for me to pass. I presented myself openly and honestly, as I wrote about at the time. I didn’t omit anything nor could I have said anything differently. I didn’t fail the family and my depression is my experience, not anyone else’s to understand. And so we reach the last point, of self critical anger. It’s normal for me to think those preceding thoughts, it’s part of my nature. Beating myself will not change anything nor change anyone’s opinion/decision. I KNOW I was myself at the assessment, I KNOW who I am and this assessment does not change that. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt though.

So what was I originally going to write about limbo? It’s the word I thought about using to describe my current state. I am not at a crisis point within depression. I remain on medication and for now that is fine, I don’t feel able to reduce yet. I completed therapy last November, which gave me tools to help me manage most of the time. I get upset and very sad easily, sometimes for reasons I cannot articulate. Some days contentment visits, some days it offers to send a postcard while it’s away.

For many reasons, family history and my own experience, suggest the rat of depression will always be with me, even if it’s snoring. What does that mean? It means that I need to watch out for the triggers and take steps to avoid/reduce them. It means I will have periods (maybe just an hour maybe days) where I feel very down. It means that sometimes intrusive thoughts will be there in my mind, but that doesn’t mean I will act upon them. It means that sometimes old habits will kick in and I need to step back, with compassion to myself, to reduce their impact. It means I may not be able to work full time, but maybe I can do something part time in the future. It means maybe I should get on with writing that book.

It means accepting that this is me right now and this is probably as good as it gets. It means accepting that there isn’t a day when someone says “you are cured!” And you know what, compared to 12 months ago, that will have to do.

Thinking about it , limbo is the wrong word, it suggests I am in-between two points. So if one is crisis then the other is what – normal ? What does normal mean ? Perhaps the word is not limbo. Perhaps it’s human.

Chris

*I was reminded of the shortness of life by the recent sad passing of two ex-work colleagues, one after a battle with cancer , the other suddenly and unexpectedly. In memory of two gentlemen, Richard and Andrew.

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