A couple of days ago, I was threatened with eviction on the basis of nothing. Rather, I was threatened on the basis of the landlord’s assumption and a proof negative was placed upon me. How do you prove that you’ve NOT done something?
Before I go on, I’d like to dedicate this post to one particular young lady who I know is suffering. She shall remain nameless, other than to those who know to whom I refer. I know her well from the happy days at the squat, when we all had a great summer. Despite the squat being an anarchic institution, we did have rules, imposed by me. Chief among those were no underage sex and no drugs: we had too much to risk, including my home.
Myself and this particular young lady have drifted apart somewhat since those halcyon days but The Pink Hearts are still together and we still look out for each other. Word reaches the old boss because that’s the way it works. I know she’s troubled. She’ll probably be quite pleased that I’ve written this post because she needs someone to reach out to her. She’s a recluse at the moment, like me. I know she reads my blog and my last post was welcomed by her. It takes one to know one when you’re dealing with mental illness. Few in the medical professions can understand us: the system just categorises us. There is no cure for what we’re afflicted by. It’s no-one’s fault that we’re ill, least of all our own and we don’t understand ourselves but we can relate to one another and empathise.
It just so happens that I’ve had notice of a date for my PIP tribunal. I applied for a Personal Independence Plan back in May last year and my application was declined. I was advised to appeal. The appeal was rejected, so now I’m taking it to tribunal. If I’m successful, I will receive around £3500. My detractors would say that I’m milking the system. I would counter that I’m merely fighting a system which fails to recognise mental illness, with which I am afflicted. If the tribunal rules in my favour, most of the money already has a home: it will repay debts I owe to those who put me up and put up with me; those who tried to understand me. It will be money from a system which doesn’t understand being paid in gratitude to those who tried.
Always one to wear my heart on my sleeve and for the benefit of my young reader, excerpts from my submission to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service in response to The Department of Work and Pensions’ appeal to the tribunal NOT to hear my case, sent via my representative:
I’ve reviewed the appeal papers which both you and I received, paying particular attention to the pages you asked me to: I gather the appeal papers were DWP appealing to HMCTS for the case NOT to be heard? In the pages where the decision maker has reviewed my assessment, he states that in his opinion, I am capable of carrying out the key descriptors which determine eligibility for PIP. He notes – as we have said all along – that I am capable of carrying out the various tasks, GIVEN THE FACILITIES TO DO SO. The case against my claim seems to rest on the fact that now I have somewhere to live, I have the facilities and therefore I am capable of cooking, washing, feeding myself etc.
I would counter on two fronts: from the date the PIP claim was made in May last year, until March this year, to all intents, I was homeless. As such, most of the time, I lacked the facilities needed to carry out the descriptor tasks. Underlying everything though is my depression: a mental illness. Yes, I am physically capable of looking after myself but my mental state dictates that often, I simply don’t. This is still the case, even though I have somewhere to live now. Although the bi-products of my depression are not listed individually in my brief medical history, they are anxiety, agoraphobia, paranoia and self neglect.
Since finding somewhere to live, it has been noted that I am suffering a form of PTSD, the homelessness being the general cause but lots of individual events will have heightened this: the assaults upon my person being not the least of which. Now that I have somewhere to live, just as was the case when I was squatting, I seem to be in a positive rut: I’m stuck indoors, a virtual recluse, because I’m anxious for many reasons to venture out. I fear that I may encounter one of my many tormentors from when I was homeless and I worry that I may lose my home if I’m away, after so long without a home. Some of my fears may be irrational but they are present nonetheless and affecting me.
I do socialise very occasionally, through necessity rather than choice and when I do, it’s a real effort. If I’m not obliged to be in a social situation, I will avoid any. Consequently, I will let myself go. I’ll not wash, change, cook, eat, take medicine etc. because I simply lack self motivation and need prompting or reminding to maintain myself. The point is, my housing situation has not improved my mental wellbeing, other than giving me a roof over my head. If anything, my mental health has deteriorated.
The whole process of applying for PIP and this appeal has caused undue stress to an already vulnerable person. As someone with Alcohol Dependence Syndrome, this stress has caused me to drink. I still need help and I am seeking what help I can but even the closest friends and family have thresholds of patience and I don’t like to be a burden.
An award of PIP would not only help me financially but it would be a recognition of my illness and allow me to recompense those who helped me in my time of need when the very system I’m fighting denied me any help.
As an aside, this and my case in general are being used by Citizens’ Advice Bureau on their new website. I shall retain anonymity. Anyway, later I went on:
In addition to my last email, I should like to note how I’m feeling today: I have a social engagement tonight, which I’m obliged to attend as I play pool for my pub’s team. Although I enjoy the game, I’m dreading the social interaction. Social anxiety is a big thing for me and today I’m having to psyche myself up for the evening ahead. The devil’s advocate may ask why I just don’t play: it’s not compulsory after all. Well, I have to have a degree of social interaction just to stop me going stir crazy and with a pool night, I’m with a team of players whom I know and there isn’t much need for conversation as the focus is the pool match. Nevertheless, I really have to build myself up and as soon as my games are played, I will bid my farewells and escape the situation. Thereafter, I will not be able to commit to any other social gatherings for several days: it’s like I need a recovery period.
I dread being invited to social events and really have to make an effort, grit my teeth and get through them. It’s the same with any meeting, whether it be for an ESA or PIP assessment, this tribunal, or simply going to the local shop. I even get panicky when I’m due to see you. That’s no reflection on yourself but the journey and being out of my comfort zone makes me anxious and it takes me days to get over it. So I’m clearly not fit for work but that at least has been recognised by my inclusion in ESA Support Group.
My comfort zone now is where I live, above the pub and as soon as I’m out of here, I get anxious and prone to panic attacks. I’m a recluse. I’m a prisoner in my own home; my positive rut.
So, I may have looked fine at my PIP assessment but it was a veneer: it was me putting on a brave face. As soon as I was out of that meeting, I couldn’t wait to get on a train, crack open a cider, drink and get home. If there were any way I could have got out of the assessment, I would but I knew it was necessary, so I forced myself. I used Dutch courage in the form of alcohol. I won’t have appeared drunk to the assessor as being an alcoholic, I have a high tolerance but I needed to drink in order to function.
Can anyone seriously imagine me in employment in the state I’m in? The prospect of this hearing is really causing me stress but I know I must brave it in order to get what I believe I deserve. If an assessor were to visit me now, they would probably score me far higher than my PIP score which we’re appealing. Getting a home was a brief respite; a relief. I was suffering when the original PIP claim was made, suffered while I was homeless, thought things were going to go okay once I had a place of my own but the opposite is true.
I think that’s all, for now.
So, young reader: you are not alone. I hope that you can gain something from my honesty here, like you used to when I counselled you in person. The point is, you’re not alone and yet I understand the feeling of loneliness. People care but you almost don’t want them to. You just want to live a quiet life and be left alone to do exactly that. Conversely, sometimes you feel lonely and crave contact, yet you’ve shunned those who have offered to host or visit you: I speak of myself. I’m trapped and you feel the same. Just know that someone similarly afflicted understands you. And many love you: that’s why they’re still there. Those who don’t understand mainly run away from that which frightens them. Still others who will never understand through no fault of their own will also have given you a wide birth. But those who remain are trying, with you just as they are me: hold on to those people for they are the ones who will least likely leave you. And talk to me if you wish because as I hope you can see from this post written mainly for you, I get it. I always did. Takes one of us mental cases to know another.
The people who keep me going are my family: my biological family, who at one point I disowned but they remained there for me; and my Pink Hearts, especially my girls, two of whom weren’t even in the original family but who’ve taken me to their hearts nonetheless. They’re troubled too, as teenagers are. And so am I. We get it. And we get you.
I’m hoping that my dictator of a landlord doesn’t dictate that a new squat has to be established. In short, he claims he smelt weed being smoked in the flat above the pub. As we have pointed out, although some of us have indulged in recreational drugs in the past, we would never indulge that habit on the premises, for it would jeopardise a licensed premises and therefore our homes. People smoke weed and the fumes travel through open windows. Whether he has an alternative agenda is open to speculation but as it stands, the burden of proof negative that we’re doing nothing illegal is resting heavily upon us. Like the ongoing proof positive battle some of us face to convince others that we are genuinely mentally unwell.
At least we have each other: birds of a feather.