Month: September 2016

A very hard goodbye

This morning, one of the members of my MBT therapy group left, as it is the end of her time in therapy. It was her last group today. The MBT group is a “rolling group”. The group runs weekly, continously; members join (usually at least 2 people at a time) and are in the programme for 18 months, then leave. Usually, new members join to take their place and the group carries on. Sometimes new members join at other times. This means members start and leave at different times rather than a whole group doing a course together for 18 months and everyone finishing at the same time. Usually, at least 2 people would finish at the same time. It was a bit unusual that one person left alone today (someone else who would have left with them had to switch therapy groups earlier in the year).

It was a really emotional goodbye. I cried so much. A lot of us did. The depth of feeling at the point of saying goodbye was intense and in the group time passed much too quickly. At the start of therapy I would not have understood the depth of feeling for and attachment to another person that grows in group. She is a hugely kind person who has given so much more than I think she knows and I hope she does continue to know more of that good that’s in her.

I’ll write more later. Right now it feels very raw and surges of emotion are welling up out of the blue. It has been that way all week.

I need to get things done this afternoon because tomorrow I’m having a little fundraising coffee morning. It’s probably a good thing I have to be busy but I need to not push down my feelings totally either.

Ginny xxx

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Constant anticipation of the next error – and consequential disaster: Part #1

I try hard to look for good things to appreciate. I’m trying to counteract my anxiety and overwhelming emotions by looking for the positive, hopeful things that can come from a situation. (It’s something of a DBT technique which I’ll elaborate on in another post.) I’m told I’m not yet very good at finding positive things about myself. I think gradually I’m getting better at seeing positive things in the outside world.

However in some areas it’s hard not to not only feel overwhelmed by both emotions and external negative events and also to expect them.

Benefits is a case in point right now and it has been for years, every single time I’ve needed to claim a Benefit when I haven’t been able to work / haven’t been able to work full time, because of my health.

Today, I received a letter from the Tax Credit Office about an error made in my tax credits earlier this year, when I was working at the department store. I was aware of that mistake. They had incorrectly recorded the income figures I had given them and given me only partial information about eligibility. Consequently they paid me tax credits I wasn’t entitled to. The letter I received today was rather confusing but essentially confirmed that. So far, that wasn’t too bad – I will have to pay back the overpaid money when they ask for it but I already knew that.

Next, I opened two letters from the Housing Benefit Department. The first contained two award notices both almost the same but with completely confusing dates, entitlement and income figures. What’s that about, I wondered. One of them was marked “change in personal circumstances”. What change in circumstances? I haven’t had a change recently. I opened the second letter from Housing Benefits, with a certain sense of foreboding!

Yup, disaster again. The letter told me that the Housing Benefit Department had been informed by the tax office that I am in receipt of working tax credit, therefore I am working and my housing benefit has been suspended until I give them details of my new job and current income.

Oh my days. I assume they have received a copy of the letter I got from Tax Credits. If they took time to actually read the letter, they would have seen it was saying that I am not entitled to tax credits. If they had looked at the dates in the letter (not to mention previous documentation I’ve supplied them and previous discussions I’ve had with them about my receipt of tax credits) they would have seen that it referred to a period earlier this year, not to now. They also know that I am not working – I have given them proof that I am currently in receipt of Employment Support Allowance because I am not working because of my health.

So, my housing benefit has been stopped. I will have to contact my landlord on Monday to explain why the benefits payments have stopped. I will have to contact Housing Benefits and try to prove to them that I am not working. This will probably involve chasing around the tax office and the other oxus involved in my employment support allowance. I have to make a written statement and gather together copy documents from my employment support allowance claim and tax credits. Quite probably I will have to take this in to the housing office, queue for a long time to see someone, which physically I cannot cope with at the moment as I can walk so little. My anxiety has skyrocketed because of the financial problems this suspension in my housing benefit will cause. Worse, from my past experience, once one benefit gets stopped, all the other benefits get stopped too. I am anticipating that I’ll be contacted by the employment support allowance office next week saying they’ve received information I’m working so my benefit has been stopped. Then I’ll have nothing coming in.

This may sound like an exaggeration but it has happened to me and to friends of mine before. And it could all so, so easily have been avoided. How easily the housing benefit office could have seen that the correspondence referred to months ago. How easily they could have checked with the tax office to see if I was working. How easily they could have made a quick phonecall to me or my support worker, if something wasn’t clear or they needed a particular piece of evidence. Wouldn’t this have cost them less, as well as me? The situation would have been resolved in minutes. Instead they have sent out a letter, required a statement, someone has to take copies of this, take copies of documentation, probably see me for an appointment, restart everything, set up payments to my landlord again (God willing!). Even without counting the cost and distress and anxiety caused to me, it is a hive waste of resources and confusion for nothing.

Since I first had to claim Benefits in something like January 2015, I reckon I have been paid the correct amount I was entitled to for a maximum of one month at a time, before the next error or mess-up has occurred and at least one of my Benefits has been cut, stopped or refused incorrectly – and completely avoidably. Last year when I rented as a lodger in a private landlord’s family home, this array of errors left me so very close to being on the street; if it were not for an extremely generous friend who paid my rent one month, I would have been out with nowhere to go. It is hugely fortunate that I now live in a housing association flat where I will not be thrown out immediately if there is a problem with my housing benefit. It is hugely fortunate I have the expertise of my support worker who will help me get this resolved as fast as possible and stop me going to pieces in the meantime. Most people don’t have those two blessings.

I don’t want to complain and whinge and expect money for nothing. I don’t think I deserve other people’s constant support. I could very well have nothing. I need to try to become independent and able to support myself. Support doesn’t come for nothing and I should expect to take responsibility, not have everything handed to me.

I think one thing that makes it so hard is when you have been through every process as well as you can, given all the information asked of you, taken all the steps you can, and despite this everything still crumbles. My experiences over the years tell me as soon as there’s any stability, it gets taken away again through error or miscommunication, despite all your best efforts. And the error seems to have an effect like tumbling dominoes on all the other areas of your life there is any stability. Losing stability has immediate big consequences when you have very little to live on. It also drains all your energy, time and emotional resources, which go into trying to correct the error before disaster point (losing your home, no money for food, etc) rather than leaving you any strength to recover, contribute something to your community in your day to day life, benefit from opportunities that might make your situation better (and even maybe less dependent on social and state support, not that needing it is a bad thing). When you are constantly using all your resources fighting the next mistake and next disaster, trying to ensure that you have the basics you need to get by, in a state of anticipation of the next disaster so you can try to minimise or allow for its impact; when you feel as if you’re being knocked back, kept vulnerable, denied any security, despite your hardest work to set things right; then there is no way you can do more than just get by, in a constant state of strain.

So, I’m wondering what I can change. It seems I cannot change the fact that mistakes constantly occur, despite me trying my hardest to do the best I can for my part and to take steps to pre-empt the problems. I don’t want to feel so spent, trapped, angry, vulnerable and at risk as I do at the moment as a result of the repeated cycle of mistakes.

So, what can I change?

[Part 2 to follow, not that I have any answers yet! Thoughts are most greatly welcome, as ever.]

Ginny xxx

 

Ten dishes challenge #4: jacket potatoes with a difference

I haven’t been able to cook much at all recently but I’m trying to persevere with this series and remember my aim of rediscovering some of the enjoyment in cooking as well as building a little range of familiar dishes I can prepare economically.

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I made this when my friend visited. We both enjoy simple oven cooked jacket potatoes with the lovely crispy, salty skin and fluffy insides. This recipe adds a slight difference. Once the potatoes are cooked, you cut them in half and carefully scoop out the inside, taking care not to puncture the skins. You mix the fluffy potato with some very finely chopped lightly fried peppers and onion (you could use lots of different veg of your choosing) and a little finely diced ham, a beaten egg (mainly to bind it together and stop it being too dry) and some seasoning of your choice. After that you spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, sprinkle a little grated cheese on top and bake them again in the oven for 15-20 minutes or so.

And that’s the end of Ready Steady Cook for today!

Ginny xxx

I’m sorry – I haven’t forgotten you

I’m sorry I haven’t posted here or visited your blogs in quite a while. I haven’t forgotten you. I know it’s not obligatory but I feel guilty being inconsistent ams not being there for others.

It’s been a few weeks of pretty big changes in my home life, family, friendships, work (or temporary absence of!), finances, therapy – not all the changes are negative however they are all demanding and not necessarily unsettling but all taking energy to work through. Physical pain is still having a big impact on me at the moment and I’ve needed to take things much more slowly than I’d choose. It used to be something I could deal with but now I’m not coping well. I feel as if I’m constantly saying this. It’s not am excuse but it is a big part of my life right now.

There is another event I’ve been struggling with, which has held me back from blogging. I had a really upsetting experience in an internet based support group and blog, in which I had previously trusted, thinking I was finding a reliable source of information, understanding and solidarity with other members as well as being able to offer support to others. I don’t think it is the right time to go into detail here about what happened although I will explain a little more in a future post. Please don’t worry – I’m okay and safe; I was never in any physical danger and I have ceased contact that was proving damaging. Fortunately, I had never divulged personal information like my full name or contact details. Also, just to be clear, this experience was absolutely nothing to do with this blog or any of the lovely people who visit it. It happened somewhere completely different.

The experience has had a big impact on me. I was very distressed. I felt a huge loss although also a huge betrayal. I got very scared of writing anything online, including in my own blog and in messages to anyone, although that is not necessarily rational. My obsessional thoughts were very triggered and the voices got loud. A whole range of feelings and thoughts spiralled out of control about how I trust other people, how I feel about getting support or not and being believed or not; perhaps most scarily, whether I’m harmful to other people without knowing…

On the positive side, the events have brought up lots of issues I need to discuss in therapy. They’ve led me to think about how therapy is changing the way I think. They’ve shown me ways I’ve started to react differently (for example, I did not follow through the compulsion to self-harm).

Most of all, it made me all the more thankful for the genuine and compassionate support everyone who visits this blog has shown me. It’s a rare and precious thing. THANK YOU.

I’m trying to get back into writing, gradually.

Ginny xxx

Trying to climb back up out of this ice

It has been a really full month. I feel disoriented realising it’s September already and so much of the year has slipped past. I so much want to write today but I’m feeling shattered and something else weird and disturbing. Just low and empty and I can’t find my thoughts or find the way out of it. I guess it’s just emotionally cut off. I was really upset, really anxious, then happy and something almost felt like it woke up part of my mind that is not usually there as I felt hopeful about something…..but then hallucinations and then with no warning, this. Never felt quite like this before and nothing that’s happened today explains it or touches why I’m feeling this way. I used to self-harm in this kind of state. Now I can’t even do that. It feels like I should sleep but sleep is far away. There isn’t even anything harmful in this state itself. It’s only inside me. So why is it so unbearable…. I don’t know how to wake up out of it. I’m trying to fight through by writing, trying to do any little creative thing, draw something, keep on grasping to try to find the so so many things I should be knowing I’m thankful for right now no matter how I feel, and even was feeling thankful for, really was, until a couple of hours ago.

I haven’t blogged for ages because so much has been going on this month and taken all my energy. I’m sorry. I know I owe replies… I haven’t been here and haven’t kept up reading or keeping in touch with everyone…through everything you’ve been going through. I’m sorry.

I’m trying to find the way back up. There are several topics I do want to write on when I can manage to process the words and get them down, and so many posts I want to get caught up reading and comments I know I owe replies to!

Ginny xxx