Friday, 30 April 2010

Bits and bobs

I've spent the past few weeks mostly recovering from the benefits appeal, which mercifully I won. But it was a huge trauma and stress, I'm only just sleeping properly after it. It is deeply invidious that the system should be so skewed against the sick.

On a brighter note I've continued pursuing the domestic arts. It makes sense really, I'm home so much, at most I'm out two hours a day; homely things like baking bread and knitting make sense as occupations. Baking bread is tiring, but rewarding and interesting, I've been reading Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery, a work I highly recommend if you are at all interested in baking your own bread. In it she explores the history of bread making and all the technical details, before going on to provide comprehensive recipes that work well. Although I have only really dipped in and out of it (it is an immense work) it is an entertaining read, Elizabeth David was not just passionate about food but crucially was a superb writer. She leaves one in no doubt as to her opinions. Illustrated here is my first attempt at a Coburg loaf, which is apparently just like a cob loaf, but for the cross cut on top.

With the onset of spring my annual enthusiasm for gardening has returned and this week Dad did all the hard work and I put some spinach, baby cos lettuce and tomato seeds in some pots. The cos lettuce leaves have already sprouted and together with the baby spinach leaves should provide some interesting lunchtime salads. Our pond goes from strength to strength, being currently full of tadpoles; it resembles a bustling city, the surface of the water constantly aquiver. The fish seem remarkably unconcerned by their little companions nor by the newt who we spotted in there this week.

Knitting takes up most of my time and energy, but I would like to have a go at some sewing, hopefully this coming week I'll manage to prise myself away from the knitting needles. Overall things are very quiet, lonely at times. I've managed to get to church group a few times lately, they're a lovely group of people, all my friends are lovely people, just far too busy. I suppose it's no fault of theirs, but it does leave me on my own the vast majority of the time and I can't remember when I last met up with a friend except at church group or knitting group, which is just a bit depressing.

Still got to keep my pecker up I suppose, could be worse? Or something like that! While we're on the subject of good attitude I'd recommend reading Kate Davies' blog Needled - a lecturer in 18th century fashion and social history she recently had a stroke and her account of recovery has been amazing. Every doctor ought to read it as an account of what it feels like to have a stroke (or indeed any other sudden change of circumstance and health). She writes with humour and grace and although the word 'inspiring' can be somewhat overused in this case it is in way hyperbolic. She also makes gorgeous knits such as the famous (in the knitting world!) Owls jumper and the photography is brilliant. Over and out for now, hopefully I'll update this more frequently, who knows.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Again it's been a long time since I last blogged, I must get into more of a habit of it. Life has been hectic lately, at least by my standards, lots of appointments with doctors, nurses, therapist, legal advisors etc. caused partly by a rather nasty infection and partly by my benefits appeal, which is next Thursday.

Next Thursday at 4pm hangs over me like a dread weight, a little like the anvil waiting to drop like in an old fashioned cartoon. Having to justify myself and defend why I need incapacity benefit and how I'm ill enough is horrible, I hate having to do it. I hate the 'game playing' that becomes involved and the need to bend the truth to fit their guidelines. I hate the rigidity of their system that makes no account of the things that really affect my ability to work - like how tired I am every day, day in day out. The 'fatigue' is what stops me from doing so much I long to do but I struggle to communicate this to the professionals who are trying to help (or hinder as their role entails...). Increasingly I'm being asked what job I want to do, am I going to continue any study, work related activities, volunteering and all the rest. But I don't currently have the energy to get a hair cut, or see my friends, or even go to church group, so where am I going to get the energy to do all these other things?

I am trying to trust God, because I know all things are in his hands, but I am struggling. I don't even know if the benefits are part of his provision for me or if he has some other plan. Another point of the benefits appeal that worries me is the truth; I've been told what to say - but some of it isn't 100% true, or is a blurring of the truth or being economical with it. To some extent some of this can't be helped - a system that judges you fit for work if you can watch tv for 30 minutes and follow what is happening means that sometimes you do need to be careful what you say. Some of this is also remembering what a worst day is like and talking about that, which is something I'm very bad at, I'm used to playing down how awful I feel, so this is all very counter-intuitive. But I do not want to lie outright, because as a follower of Jesus I want to be honest.

After I had been thinking about this yesterday I read that day's entry in Spurgeon's Faith's Chequebook and the words seemed to spring out of the page at me:
Let the reader never for a moment attempt to help himself out of a difficulty by a falsehood or by a questionable act; but let him keep in the middle of the high road of truth and integrity, and he will be following the best possible course. In our lives we must never practice circular sailing nor dream of shuffling. Be just and fear not. Follow Jesus and heed no evil consequences. If the worst of ills could be avoided by wrongdoing, we should, in the very attempt, have fallen into an evil worse than any other ill could be. God's way must be the very best way. Follow it though men think you a fool, and you will be truly wise.
So I'm doing my best to prepare, praying, trying to trust, trying not to go to pieces completely. These benefits have such a negative impact on my mental health, which is infuriating because I was just beginning to feel like I was getting somewhere with the CBT, beginning to feel more positive about myself, feeling pleased that I finally felt like I was recovering from the depression.

I don't know if I want to win this appeal, although it would bring a little bit of money into my life, which wouldn't be unwelcome, but it would also bring back all the 'pathways to work' interviews and extra demands. Additionally there is talk of how I should be applying for more benefits, including Disability Living Allowance, which I can't stand even to think about. It makes me feel like life isn't worth living, what's the point in all this? The sheer amount of stress, on top of feeling so ill makes life seem very unappealing. This is so bad for my mental health, the DWP make me feel worthless, guilty, useless and a fraud on a number of different levels (for example, for being able to knit and knitting so much). I hate this system, it feels like being kicked when you are down.

I feel like such a wimp making all this fuss.