I’m currently going through the ESA/WCA process. I have found it difficult to get any positive encouragement from anybody. My Twitter timeline screams the misery of those who fail to get the result that they need and rarely do a few hours pass without several tweets and retweets of the same stories of those who die by, it is claimed and denied, the rigours of the process.
I live alone and I’m hundreds of miles from a family who care little about my experience. I have a mother who has illnesses that are more fiction than fact and a sister who resents the fact that she may have to return to work years after deciding she didn’t want to. She too lives alone but she has financial and emotional support from our one remaining parent.
I have a couple of very sensible friends who offer good, solid and practical advice. They recognise that the process both terrifies me and spurs me on to fight my corner and they are invaluable.
From my peers and the charities that claim to act for my good I have had little support but I have had the horror stories force fed to me in the mistaken belief that they can nurture a soul that is hungry for encouragement and stories from the bright side. It seems that we are disallowed the very idea that there is a bright side. There are no stories or words of support from those who have fought and won. If there are then they have been buried under the considerable weight of the misery that is piled sky high.
If the stories that were shared so avidly and gleefully actually changed anything then the constant barrage would be more tolerable but they don’t. They reach only the ears and eyes of the people who are already onside. The people on the other side have no interest in the stories and will never read them.
So, instead of practical help with filling in forms I’m told how difficult it is and how part of my soul will be destroyed in the process. It wasn’t difficult and my soul remains intact. It was stressful recounting what are always bad days tempered with goodness but it was simple. The most difficult part was making my GP act with urgency when it came to the supporting letter and the reading of it before I sent it off with the form.
There have been no suggestions from my peers and their supporters about how to cope financially if the worst comes to the worst and my benefits are cut or stopped. The advice about that came from the two friends I mentioned earlier and they, rather sensibly, suggested that I economise now, save a little, get used to spending less, build a store cupboard, apply for the energy rebates I’m entitled to – advice and support that is meaningful.
I go through hours every day without feeling the need to obsess over what might happen and take each step as it comes. I find that this creates an armour that, though not impenetrable, provides a skin that repels doubts and fears. Then the stories and tweets that people feel obliged to share appear and I get scared. If I am more scared by the people who are supposed to be on my side than by the system that can really harm me what hope do I have? By all mean publicise protests and encourage people to shout and act but at the same time give me the positive stories and let me hope a little.