Thursday, 1 August 2013

Difficult Day

Discovered today that Cambridge City Council can only pay out £330 per month for a room in a shared house. Rooms are typically £400-500 in Cambridge - there are simply no rooms priced as low as £330 in Cambirdge City. The low limit is because the average rent price is taken over the whole of Cambridgeshire which includes low priced villages that no one wants to live in. Or they stump up $520pm for a self-contained 1 bedroom flat. These are usually just a room with a toaster and ensuite. If pets were allowed there would be no room to swing a cat. And all the bills to be covered by ESA.

On the subject of ESA I started preparing my appeal today (on the GL24 form) as the medical report finally arrived after two weeks. All they had to do was print it out and post it! They supply a rectangle 83mm x 120 mm (3.25' x 3.9') for spelling out why you are appealing to be filled in in BLOCK CAPITALS. I sent them two sides of A4 typed, and three supporting documents. Take that you bastards.

Back in June 2012 I got this: "" Mr X does have a Limited Capacity for Work Related Activity". That put me in the higher bracket for ESA.

This year my medical report says:
“The available evidence suggests that the client has a significant level of disability due to Anxiety and Depression, such that they would have a limited capability for work. Likely to reach threshold, personal action, getting about and social situations, no significant chance since last assessment.” [emphasis added]
Despite there being no significant change I'm down graded to the Limited Capacity for Work. The details of what this means are a bit arcane but it does mean about £35 a week less in benefit. Just at the time when I'm faced with being evicted because I'm a prick to live with and the only good option I have, apart from moving the fucking countryside away from everyone I know in the UK and all my support systems, is to get a bedsit on my own. But then I am responsible for all the bills. If anyone will supply services to me. The prejudice against people on benefits seems to run pretty deep here. So I need the money, though I think as things stand I am entited to it. I'd love to live on my own but had thought I couldn't afford it. Maybe I'll just have to.

The medical report does seem have ignored or at best underplayed my answers to Qs 14-17 on the ESA50 which cover mental health. I clearly fit the criteria and they thought so last year (on appeal) and they ought to be applying the same criteria this year. In any case the I'll send in my documentation tomorrow and cross my fingers.

My doctor's supporting letter mentioned that I had a panic attack while asking her for the letter. And this was interesting because I didn't think of it as a panic attack. It seems I have panic attacks much more often than I had thought. Just about every day at the moment.

I'm finding the dichotomy of trying to convince the government that my health is poor and my behaviour unacceptable and trying to landlords that my I'm going to be a great tenant is very difficult to hold. It's creating quite dangerous tensions at times.

Monday, 29 July 2013


So I'm in the middle of moving house. But I'm also in the middle of being reassessed for benefits. Last year, after I appealed with the help of the Citizen's Advice Bureau I was placed in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance, and I thought that would give me some breathing space.

But the joke was on me and now a year later I'm going through it again.

I filled out my ESA50 as required and sent it off. The WCA I had feared did not eventuate, but the decision came with no indication of why the decision had been made. I was put back into the Work realted Activity Group and lost £35 per week in ESA payments.

Now the WRAG has nothing to offer me that would help me get back into work. I have long term mental health problems that have dogged me for 30 years now (if not longer) and fibromyalgia which is probably not unrelated. If I could chose to receive any kind of help it would be some kind of treatment to relieve my symptoms in a way that did not leave me with debilitating side-effects. So being in the WRAG is completely pointless. I know how to write a letter on a word processor.

CAB tell me that I need to include a letter from my doctor with my appeal. My Doctor tells me that "the agency" has told GPs not to write such letters.

I have a month to appeal. I had to ring the DWP to get an outline of why the decision had been reversed ("a copy of the medical report" they call it). I called on 16th July. I rang them today the 29th and they could not tell me why the report had not been forwarded to me.

I have asked to be referred to the NHS counciling service. But there is a 6 page form to fill in before they even decide whether I'm elligible. That's enough to send me first into a panic and then into inertial.

I'm in the middle of a stressful move from a hostile home situation and trying to find a place and convince landlords that I'll pay the rent. Every ad I answer says "no DSS" but since they are the only ads I apply anyway and just lie. Fuck em. I will be paying my rent on time.

I registered for council housing but I have zero chance of getting anything from them. Even I was evicted and in danger of homelessness I'd just end up in a hostle for homeless men. Surrounded by down and outs and booze and street drugs. Which is the last thing I need. So I perservere with  house hunting and hope that the advice I got from the council guy about Housing and Council Tax Benefit is accurate.

I'm trying to do all this in a house full of people who don't like me which is triggering all kinds of shit. I'm toting up symptoms and concluding that I'm already clinically depressed. So do I submit to anti-depressants again? And the pressure feels like it's building. One day I'm going to find myself smashing shit up and screaming at the top of my lungs at some poor unsuspecting bastard who'll be frightened out of their wits. Then what?

I'm so fucking tired.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Moving On

So, it's been a long time since I wrote anything here. In the mean time the MAEBs have clubbed together and are kicking me out. In addition I've just completed another ESA50 and had my status downgraded and my benefit reduced by about £35 per week. I still have not heard from them the reasons for the decision.
So I'm dealing the emotional fallout of being evicted, house hunting, and appealing the ESA decision.

Cambridge is quietly but seriously overcrowded. People are cramming in together without proper facilities, and I doubt many of the houses comply with minimum standards. "Cooking facilities" refers to a kettle, microwave and toaster in a room. I saw one with a fridge smaller than a loaf of bread - you'd just about fit a pint of milk in it but no more. Adults are crammed into these houses and paying £500 pcm for the priveledge. Seems there's a lot of private renting going on which is a relief as agent fees are outrageous.

Letting agents automatically treat tenants as criminally irresponsible and unreliable. Not only are they parasites on the bloated bodies of landlords, but they are cynical about their victims.

The vast scale of the housing shortage has meant that rents have continued to increase despite falling house prices and economic crisis. The shortage is artificial and sustained by both private enterprise and government because they're all getting fat on high rents.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Housing. 2

Update on my attempts to register for a council house. My application has been lost - on the computer!
Unfortunately your application has not been registered with Home link. You may have to start the process again. Apologies for this.
Of for fucks sake! How hard can it be? And the email is not signed by a person but by "Housing Advice". Thanks for fucking nothing "Housing Advice".

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


I finally decided to bite the bullet and apply for a council house. This is made much more difficult than it ought to be by bureaucratic thinking and incompetent web design. The website and the various systems is constructed from the point of view of the council - it's all in their language, laden with jargon no normal person uses. No thought seems to have been given to using the language of the people who have to use the system. And I'm quite highly educated, and tech-savvy so I ought to find it easy. But I don't.

There is huge amounts of writing on the screen which is not optimised for easy reading but labours on in bureaucrat mode - long lines of text stretching across the screen. Half of what is there is unnecessary but has to be read anyway to find the bits you do need to read. This is one of the basic errors that web designers make. If you are a new user there is no guidance, no step by step procedure to follow - the procedure is spelled out long hand, and you must extract it and conceptualise it for yourself.

Registering is a nightmare. The process is convoluted and confusing. The screen says one thing and does another. . In fact it is a model of poor web design. If you don't have all the information you can go back and complete the registration at a later date (though the screen says you can). The phone drone asked for my password so that she could try logging in, but what is the point of having a password in that case? I had to email the extra info (My NI number) to an email identified only by initials (no name, no words) and ask that they advise me on progress. So it's now totally out of my control.

And the advice given at different times is contradictory. Thanks for that especially.

And then at the end I have to do all the leg work to get a place: getting a council house has been outsourced to the people who need housing. And for someone like me this places a heavy burden on me at a time when I really don't need that.

And when it comes down to it there are 100 people on the list for every place offered. I'm hoping that my diagnoses will mean that I get my own place soon.

I don't really want to leave my home of 10 years, but I don't think staying here is tenable any more.

There are days...

I have to say that there are days when having Complex Type 2 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dysthymia, Fibromyalgia, and a Hiatus Hernia is a bit of a drag. Lately I've been spicing it up with panic attacks and mild paranoia. I know that people are not aiming to harm me, but try telling my endocrine system!

I'm not sure how much longer I can live like this.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The last few weeks have been interesting. When you have chronic illnesses there are always the extreme days - days when one is either caught up in illness, or blithely unaware of it. And especially with mental problems there are days of clarity amidst suffering.

I'm trapped in some behaviours which had survival value 40 years ago - it's painful and frightening for me and those around me. But I'm seeing it reasonably clearly. My primary orientation to the world is: who or what is a threat? Early experience tells me that any person can suddenly switch from friend to foe. Trust no one. That experience tells me that conflicts result in me getting hurt, thus it is vital for me to avoid conflict. I'm almost always on edge.

It's important to be able to anticipate what people are going to say in order to predict possible threats. I had a quick mind anyway, but this pushed it's development in a particular direction. I can scan ahead using patterns to predict how people will unfold an argument, and anticipate it, and often be ready to respond before the person stops talking. I know that everyone does this, but I think I do it for different reasons and to a greater extent. It is about trying to appear dominant, but not because I feel superior. Quite the opposite. I feel inferior and vulnerable.

I was severely bullied at primary school (broken arm at one point) and a good deal of secondary school. But in addition my neighbourhood was violent and unpredictable, as were members of my family.

For me the best solution to an anticipated conflict is to hide. To physically hide if possible, or to shield myself mentally and emotionally if not. Thus drugs and alcohol were welcome in my life, though destructive. And if I could not hide then I would make a show of strength to discourage opponents. This dynamic came out particularly with my younger brother. C used to take out his frustrations on me by verbally winding me up. I was often left in charge and he resented it. I think he wanted his Dad, and his Dad was simply not available as he lived a long way away and our mother vehemently hated and denigrated him. So C would needle me until I thumped him, then having reached this climax things would calm down for a while. But it festered and we are now estranged. I had the same kind of relationship with my older brother A, though he moved to another country which helped to diffuse things. The oldest S seemed to somehow not be drawn into the conflicts. As I got older I became more adept at avoiding the conflicts, but also mired in drugs. I had a series of breakdowns, was repeated diagnosed with depression, though it's clear to me now that depression was only a symptom of a much deeper problem (complex type 2 post-traumatic stress disorder)

And yet within this I'm high functioning. I do have friends, I did get married even though it didn't last. I am a member of a spiritual community. I have long periods when the anxieties and paranoia are in the background. But there are many triggers.

The latest flair up revolved around my birthday. It's so complex that it's hard to know where to start. I had been feeling left out - but then I hide often so I was also opting out. I partly opt out because I feel ill in one way or another; partly because the group I currently live with are difficult. They are cliquey - a group of friends linked as much as anything by common interests in TV shows and films, though it does go deeper I suppose. I don't see much else. From time to time they just seem to rub my nose in being an outsider: dinner time will change without me being told so I come down half an hour late; they'll all be watching a movie without asking me to join them. Stuff like that. Though on the latter subject they all seem to enjoy films that I don't. I struggle with violence in films and with love stories. They watch the latest violent movies and say it doesn't affect them. But I can't watch, say, a Bond film without it having a serious impact on me. I experience strong anxiety and distress.

So I'm not really fitting in. I'm frustrated by the lack of care shown in particular areas of the house. I'm frustrated that I've gone from having everyone's respect to seemingly not having respect. It used to be my home, but now it's this house where I live and I'm this awkward bugger that no one really wants to spend time with. I have to confess that I've been making sure to take my pain meds (codeine) just before dinner so I'm a bit fuzzy at the table - I'm anxious and tell myself I can't face it straight. Probably a mistake.

About two weeks ago I asked for my usual decaf tea after dinner and the idiot who was making the drinks gave me ordinary tea. I always drink decaf because of insomnia. And he's known me for 3 or 4 years now. He knows, but he's not very mindful. He gets focussed on one thing and forgets everything else. And we have this coffee machine now that is complicated to use. Drink making is now about 75% making espressos for the in-crowd, and 25% making tea for the rest of us (about half of us don't drink coffee). Anyway I didn't sleep much that night, and I have a full day the next couple of days and I felt very tired.

A couple of days later we're sitting having dinner on our home night - where we clean up and do some activity together. I was really tired and didn't say anything all night. I felt depressed. And no one spoke to me - they ask each other how their day was but not me. Until suddenly I was being asked to lead the activity - and this particular thing I don't really do any more. And especially not when I'm tired and depressed. And after not having talked to me all night, one of the others starts pressuring me to say more. It's done in that English way of understated passive aggressive needling. I'm upset at being put on the spot, and I blurt out about the wrong tea and not sleeping. I'm angry and can't hide it. Which gets everyone's backs up.

So my birthday rolls around. A few years back the guys would club together and buy the birthday boy a nice present. Now we do it out of a common fund, and they just pick something off your Amazon wish list. It has become perfunctory. No one really makes an effort. Though I notice that people that are more cliquey buy gifts for each other. And I couldn't bring myself to celebrate my birthday with these people. It felt hypocritical. So I ran away to London for the afternoon and evening, had dinner down there and came back late. Without telling anyone - hiding again.

There are so many little things that I find difficult here. But they're turning into big things. I'm so bloody over-sensitive it's painful. That image of being flayed alive and having no protection from contact - the agony of it. I can relate to that. But I'm so fearful of moving. It's incredible expensive here - agents extort fees here that are unreal. Plus you almost never get your bond back. The agent charges the tenant for services provided to the landlord; and relentlessly takes money where ever they can. And it's very difficult to get anything fixed or upgraded. Such a different experience to renting in NZ where laws favour tenants. So I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Where would I get the money to move? How can I stay here? A council flat might be an option but I've been discouraged because for every place there are about 100 people looking in this town (and I understand that we are reasonably well off). Moving back home to NZ? I just don't see a way to do it and survive.