A pyrrhic victory?


Yesterday I was in court, vs. the Secretary of state, as you do. The less dramatic statement is that I was the appellant at a tribunal hearing to decide if I was entitled to PIP: Personal Independence Payment. My argument rested on the fact that the key descriptors for determining an applicant’s eligibility for PIP leaned towards physical and therefore visible disability, whilst not recognising that mental illness can impede one’s physical abilities. Put simply, I am physically capable of carrying out tasks but my mental issues prevent me from undertaking them. This is what I had to prove to a judge, a doctor and an independent assessor who made up the tribunal panel. I won.

I won the lesser amount of a number of  financial sums I may have been in line to receive but more importantly, I won recognition. A small moral victory at least. I shall now receive a modest increase in the benefits which I justifiably claim on the basis of entitlement and that entitlement was recognised by the court. This battle has been going on for fifteen months, since my initial claim was made. My successful claim to the tribunal means that I have also been awarded compensation in the form of PIP payments being backdated to the original claim date. It’s a four figure sum, towards the lower end of that spectrum. It will help, as will the additional ongoing payments. I’m now paid all that I am due and I can live a modestly comfortable life on that compensation. With this particular battle over, I can relax a bit more, stop complaining so much with less to complain about and get on with the new life which I’ve chosen.

To place the new and old lives in perspective, the size of the one-off payment I will receive is roughly the same as I used to pay myself weekly at times, when I ran businesses – paying all relevant taxes – before becoming unwell. It’s roughly equivalent to the amount of coke I used to snort on a monthly basis. It’s the sort of money I used to play with daily at poker. But I prefer the humbler new life, mainly because it’s where I’ve been able to find myself and the friends and family I hope to retain around me. I’m better off being the non-conformist which is truly me, living as I am and doing what I do.

Much of the money is already spoken for, repaying debts I incurred whilst transient. I will permit myself a few luxuries though: a larger writing desk with a lamp; a second set of speakers in the “bed” room of the bedsit: my big, black, solid lumps of a hi-fi support two sets of independent speakers, so the sound quality is not divided between the “bed” room and the “sit” room but replicated; more CDs, DVDs and books…

Ahead of everything though is the ability to visit my children, on an ongoing basis. Next, I’ve promised one of my adopted girls that I’ll take her to London to see Les Miserables on the West End stage. I’ll also have the means to take close friends out for what I hope for them might be pleasant times. I have gained independence.

Was it worth it? If someone had offered to pay me the sum I’ve won in advance and provided me with foresight of what the payment would involve me having to endure, I would have declined. I’d rather not have had to go through what I did but I brought it upon myself. On a personal level, the costs are greater than the rewards, making my individual victory a truly pyrrhic one, like that of Pyrrhus of Epirus, who defeated the Romans at Asculum in 279 BC, sustaining heavy losses.

Being largely invisible, mental illness is as easy to feign as it is difficult to see. I have not faked my illness and that was recognised yesterday by a judge, a doctor and an independent assessor. The bigger campaign is to gain greater recognition for those similarly afflicted like myself, who don’t necessarily have the literary megaphone of a blog.

I may never know what I might have achieved for any greater good. The philosophy of Pyrrho of Elis (c. 300 BC) maintains that certainty of knowledge is unobtainable: Pyrrhonism.

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