Tag: homelessness

Two hospital visits and “The Gas Man Cometh”!

The past week has been a mix of unexpected, scary, painful, exciting, relief and changes.

I had been feeling worse than usual physically but had put it down to all the flu bugs around, cold weather and the fact I had been very stressed in the preceding month. However, it wasn’t flu. Just over a week ago I had some horrible symptoms I won’t detail here. On calling 111 for advice they sent an ambulance straight away. At the hospital I was found to have [ahem alert don’t read whilst eating your dinner!] bowel obstruction. Thankfully they had caught it in time before things became more serious (if left, it can cause a rupture in the intestines). I had IVs and they erm, did what they had to to clear it, X-rays, then I had to have more IVs for fluids. I ended up being readmitted the next day because I was having symptoms again so it was a scary couple of days. They would have kept me in but there was a bed shortage. I’m home now with several medications and guidelines to follow about diet and drinking enough.

I am so thankful this was spotted in time and treated. The doctors, nurses and HCAs were all kind and caring and made some scary, nasty things as okay as possible, and reassured me. They were busy but still took time.

I have some changes to make now. I have had to stop several of my medications because their side effects could now cause problems with my bowels. I need to discuss this with the GP to find alternative medicines and ways to manage because I needed their beneficial effects (eg for pain relief). Fortunately I’m due to see a specialist pain clinic in a month’s time. Also, I’ve been told to cut out wheat from my diet to see if this makes a difference. Even though I don’t have celiacs, some people can have other problems with wheat. Bowel problems do occur as a complication in other conditions I have (fibromyalgia, POTS and hypermobility syndrome) and people can find going wheat free to be helpful. I’ve started this and so far thankfully I am not missing wheat too much at all, though I’m still only able to eat a little so that may be why.

I’m hopeful that with these changes I can keep things better, though we don’t really know exactly why the obstruction happened. In the meantime I’m fighting not to get too down through some of the difficult effects I’m still going through. I am very achy, pain is worse as I’ve had to stop some of the medications, and I’m still stupidly weak physically (the fibromyalgia is badly exacerbated which again is to be expected as after any illness). I have had bladder incontinence for years because of the fibromyalgia and nervous system problems; since the bowel obstruction this is much worse and now distressing bowel urgency and leaking if I can’t go right away, are added to that. I’m praying this is temporary or at least that the GP can refer me back for some help when I see her next wek. I used to be too disgusted and ashamed to admit to that side of things but now after everything that’s happened in the last few years it doesn’t seem such a horrendous thing to admit it, though I still get upset and feel horrible when I have worse incidents.

The other problem that has loomed large is I had no heating or hot water for 23 days! The most incredible saga unfolded between my landlord, the boiler maintenance people and the boiler manufacturer and fault after fault was found with my boiler and the flue.

This song seemed apt!*

Thanks be to God, as of this evening everything is fixed! I had a most enjoyable and appreciated shower. Boiling kettles to wash up, clean and have a wash was not the most fun, though it’s what my grandparents did daily as a matter of course. It has been very cold some of the days I was without heating and a friend very kindly lent me a portable electric radiator. On the plus side, I’m likely to be entitled to compensation for the multiple mistakes made and inconvenience caused. I have to apply for that from my housing association.

In more exciting news, today I attended the first session at the Recovery College, which I’ll post more on shortly. It was an introduction to how one can become involved in mental health research, bringing a service user or “lived experience” perspective. It was more inspiring than I’d expected and left me feeling I have something of value I could bring to shape research materials, methods and how research findings are communicated.

Another brilliant event this week is that my friend who has been homeless for a long time, has at long last got a place in a hostel. It’s a good hostel in a safe area. By no means is this an end to his difficulties but it is a blessed answer to prayers and struggles to navigate the way through the council, the housing list, support agencies, forms, waiting lists, assessments, phonecalls….it goes on. What he’s going through is terrible and scary however I pray this is the beginning of safety and a little stability. Thanks be to God, from the depths of my heart, thanks be to God.

Ginny xxx

*”The Gas Man Cometh” by Flanders & Swann. Thanks to Hawkmoon for the video.

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Update long overdue!

It is a really hectic, up and down time at the moment and I’m much overdue posting. It has been hard to gather my words. I don’t make a habit of 2am posts – certainly not the best time of day for coherent writing – but I did not get to finish this earlier and it felt important to write before a big change coming up for me in the morning.

Belatedly, wishing you good things this New Year. I think I can just about say this since it’s still January! I’m praying that positive times and opportunities come for you and God’s blessings are shown to you to encourage you each day.

January is always a strange time, cold and empty in a way, after Christmas. Right now, so much seems unsettled, in the world, for my loved ones and in my personal life. I’ve written that before not long ago and of course it has not magically changed with the new year; if anything it seems all the more apparent. I’m trying to give generously of time and resources and friendship, for example to friends in need, and that’s how we encounter Christ in every day. But I’m feeling twisted apart inside because I come up against my limitations, what I cannot give and cannot resolve.  The family in my block, both of the partners seriously ill, whose Benefits have been suspended unresolved for weeks so they have no food, heating or electricity. My friend who has already suffered terribly and now faces more surgical procedures, my friend who has been homeless for almost a year and whose life may be in danger… to the thousands on thousands of people seeking asylum, the fear taking hold giving weight to insular policies that seem to offer protection but perhaps already spiral out of control. (The Mexico border “wall” seems to me to teetering somewhere between bizarre Divergent- trilogy-esque images and more than echoes of the Cold War era eastern block policies.)

I steer away from political issues in this blog but I think this turmoil hits ever closer to home. We hope that in times of hardship we come together and hold onto what matters most but I’m starting to think a certain level of hardship and fear brings only divisions. Then again, in my faith I believe somehow this must not be true because Jesus became Man to suffer and experience everything we suffer and go through. And He is all Love. Love came here, into the darkness and despair. Nothing changes Jesus. The despair and dark and hurt didn’t change Him, didn’t change love. So Love is here, Love suffers and struggles, but isn’t extinguished, so even in the hardest times, it’s love that remains – not division and conflict . I mustn’t lose sight of that.

This post has diverged somewhat from the update I originally planned. Probably to do with the fact that it’s 2am. I’m going to try to get back on track.

Since Christmas, I feel I have not been able to catch up at all. Usually, I have a big clear out, going through cupboards and drawers and so on and decluttering. I haven’t managed this at all. I’m frustrated with myself that I can’t keep on top of the housework at all. My emotions are bubbling over and have been for some time and I feel I have no resilience to cope with straightforward things. Saying that, maybe a lot is happening at the moment. I’m about to be discharged from the personality disorders community service I’ve had therapy in for the past 2 years. I’ve been trying to find support and things I can get in place for after my discharge. This has not been easy and actually it has been quite distressing because I have been promised a lot of treatment I haven’t had and I’m left with major mental health issues unadressed. On the positive side, I have made contact with a peer support worker and Recovery Coach who are going to help me short term and I think this will be really valuable. I have also signed up for some courses at a Recovery College, which I’ll post about (and explain) next week.

My physical health is not going through a great patch just now. The cold always makes the pain worse so that’s part of the reason. I have had to give in to the fact I need a wheelchair sometimes now and I’m looking at getting a mobility scooter. At least this will help me be less isolated and take a little stress away perhaps, because I’ll be more able to take part in things outside my home, like my volunteer work.

Practically at home, I am going rapidly up the wall at the company who should be repairing my boiler. I have had problem upon problem since November and now have no heating or hot water. I feel they have handled the whole thing terribly (7 canceled appointments for a start, having to phone 6 times to arrange a very simple thing, and so on, then them accusing me falsely of missing appointments). Ggrrr!! I know this is just part of life but in the state I’m in at the moment, I can’t cope with this, and feel very frustrated with myself for that. My emotions explode out of all control. Then I get angry with myself because so many people are going through so much worse.

A close friend has serious housing issues as well as a huge number of health problems. I’m trying to be there and do what I can. Cook hot food and support him with form filling and trying to get him a support worker who could help. It is a little way I can try to help and use the knowledge I’ve gathered from my own housing issues in the past.

I’m going to stop here. Later this morning is my last group therapy session and this will be a really really hard lot of goodbyes. I’ve been writing thank-yous and goodbyes, some of the hardest cards I’ve ever had to write. I’m sure I’ll write more about this last session and ending therapy, in the coming days. At the moment I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve cried so much today.

Ginny xxx

 

 

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

 

A Very Hungry Caterpillar finds a home

I found this little guy when I was sweeping my patio. I thought he’d prefer a nice leaf to curl up on, rather than the paving stones.

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I am trying to tidy up my patio garden. It isn’t big at all – I have a patio door that opens onto a very small paved area and then a small flower bed beyond. I haven’t given this little space the attention I should since I moved in, largely as my physical challenges make gardening tiring and painful. Plus I’ve never particularly enjoyed it!

This week I’ve made the promise to start caring for it better. It is a blessing that I have this little outside space. I didn’t expect it at all and living in a flat it’s a privilege to have any garden. It’s a help for everything from being able to hang out washing to getting to sit outside, breathe, pray, ground myself in all the sensations of outdoors, and feel less isolated when I’m not well enough to walk far – I don’t have to stay totally indoors.

So I want to behave more thankfully for my little garden and take care of it and find ways in which, just maybe, I can create something pretty. It can be part of learning to give some time to creating a permanent and stable home, which I’m really not used to having, as until I came to this flat I was living between different kinds of shared and temporary accommodation where most of the time I stayed shut away in my one room, too scared of interacting with other people and too locked into my obsessional thoughts and hallucinations to leave it unless I could fulfil my compulsive behaviors and unless I could be sure I’d see no-one. I’ve had to leave so many places when I lost jobs, couldn’t make the rent, broke down mentally and was so disturbed I’d be asked to leave by the people I was living with.

Some level of security (though I’m not without financial problems) is a new thing for me and it’s hard to build on it. Any home I have, I expect to lose. Actually, for some strange reason i haven’t figured out yet, having a home and taking responsibility for it frequently fills me with panic. I feel like I’m losing control or can’t manage it, I’m out of control with everything I’d want to be in order (paperwork or cleaning etc) or other times I’m not sure what I’m scared of; something to do with I’m not allowed my safety, knowing it’ll be taken away, fears of being attacked or watched by my abuser and flashbacks associated to particular places in my flat. Having said that, I can feel safe in my home and I even have a place within my home where I surround myself with comforting and grounding things that help me stay safe when I’m dissociating, having flashbacks, the emotions are too much, and the like. I thank God for that. It’s so important for me to learn how to build on this otherwise I ignore the goodness of everything I have. Giving myself permission to trust in having security and knowing how to create an ordered home that I care for and give thanks for, is a new thing to me. I’m trying to take some little steps towards it, with my garden and trying gradually to bring more order to each room in my home.

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(Thanks so much to Cathy and her lovely blog at  https://cathylynnbrooks.com/ for reminding me how nice it is hanging out washing in the sunshine 🙂 – and as ever encouraging me so much to appreciate the beauty of the present moment in the little things. )

Ginny xxx

We’re applying to evict you… Happy Christmas!

Since I lost / was forced to leave my secretarial job at the end of October, financially things have been terrible. Not only had I lost my income for the future, I lost expected income – I was paid only SSP for the time I had been signed off, rather than my wage, and was not told this until afterwards; I was not paid all the holiday pay I believe was due to me; I was given neither a notice period as specified in my contract, nor paid the notice period salary, so I was left without a month’s salary. In the end this left me down about £2,000.

I have taken steps against my former employer, reporting to them to the regulator for how I and several other colleagues were treated, however I have no hope of seeing this money. I can’t afford court proceedings and would have little hope to win.

I was very fortunate to find my current job at a department store but it is fewer hours (this is all I can now manage around my hospital appointments and with the state of my mental and physical health at the moment) and much lower pay. I thank the Lord that I have any job at all. It could have been much worse.

I have to apply for several benefits and the process takes weeks at best before any money comes through.

I had problems paying my rent in November, whilst I was waiting for my Housing and Council Tax benefit to be calculated and to receive any money. I was paid very little in November from my new job, because the finance department’s cut-off dates meant that though I had worked nearly a month, I received only one week’s pay. I phoned up the housing association from which I rent and told them about my situation and they were apparently very helpful. They agreed that whilst I was awaiting the Housing Benefit, I should just pay what I could.

I rang them several times and had several conversations with them, as did the council who needed to confirm some details for my benefit claim. Each time I spoke to them I asked to arrange a payment plan to deal with the arrears of rent and each time I was told that I couldn’t do this and should wait until the Housing Benefit had come through.

Then on 23rd December, I came home from work to find a letter from the housing association saying that they were applying to the Court for possession of my flat!! I would be evicted and would be liable for their Court fees.

This tipped me over the edge. It was absolutely more than I could cope with. By providence I was on the phone to a friend when I opened the letter. I still went completely to pieces and was literally about to take an overdose. If my friend had not talked to me for a long time I believe that I would have gone through with it. Thankfully after speaking on the phone to my friend at length, I was then absolutely overwhelmed with exhaustion and slept til the morning, which probably again saved me from doing anything.

The next day I phoned the housing association first thing. They told me that it was not a notice of eviction that I had received and that “it might be possible to avoid going to Court”!! Why would I be taken to Court, I asked. They claimed that I had not contacted them since the end of October. They claimed that I had not asked to make a payment plan. They said that it was my fault, when actually I had done everything that they told me to do. I had asked to make the payment plan and they had told me that I could not. If I had made a payment plan, this would not have happened, they said. So why did they tell me I could not make a payment plan, when I asked to do it? They claimed they did not know I had physical or mental health problems, when the reason I was housed with them was because of my health problems, when the tenancy support worker who helped me at the start of my tenancy had discussed them with them, when I had declared them on the forms I had to fill in at the start of my tenancy, and when I had discussed my situation in full on all the occasions I had phoned them since I lost my job (which they claimed to have no knowledge of).

I told them that the letter I had received – a day before Christmas, basically – had caused me so much distress that I had been about to take an overdose. “Oh dear,” they said….

Yes, oh dear! And a bit more.

After a long conversation they agreed to suspend action until mid January and I now have to write to them with all the dates I contacted them and what was arranged each time. And I will certainly be sending a letter of complaint.

How is it possible for them to claim they have no record or knowledge of any of the conversations I have had with them? How is it possible for them to claim they did not know my health problems? I will certainly conduct all future correspondence with them by letter sent by signed for delivery, so that they cannot deny I have made contact with them. How could they take no responsibility whatsoever for having not recorded any of the conversations I had with them, and not sharing information within their organisation? They lady I spoke to on Christmas Eve just said over and over, “well, I didn’t know any of this, you’ve never spoken to me”.

This really was almost more than I could cope with. I now feel that it’s a immediate possibility that I will lose my home.

I felt so angry once the first terror had passed. I had just got myself out of debt when I lost my job and now I am out of control and thrown straight back in again. I know it is only my responsibility to resolve it but I do not know how I can get out of this. Everything else mentally is worse because this constant anxiety is bubbling and rising in the background. I so needed my home to be safe for once. It’s like I’m not allowed to be safe and secure because as soon as something improves for a little while, it’s taken away and crashes again.

It’s too easy to resent when I feel like this. I need to be able to keep hoping, keep doing all I can to sort this out, apply for benefits, keep working, keep praying. God does not test us more than we can stand. But I don’t see that I can stand.

Ginny xx