A Little Understanding, Please?

Yesterday, the BBC reported on the benefit reforms outlined by the government – namely the reforms regarding Incapacity Benefit. The benefit I happen to be claiming.
My first reaction was one of fear. The proposals outline a basic benefit, topped up if the claimant attends “job related assessments” and rehabilitation. I had flashes in my mind of my husband having to take time off work – again – to take me to these things, the panic attacks, the judgement from Benefits Agency officials because on the outside, I look ‘normal’. My fear soon turned to annoyance, and I clicked the link to “have your say”. I did, and clicked “submit”. Waiting for my comment to be reviewed by the BBC staff, I started to read some of the previously published ones.
I suppose it’s only inevitable that there are people out there who think that Incapacity Benefit claimants are a bunch of scroungers who don’t want to work, but I found myself yet again feeling judged. The BBC says it publishes comments that “reflect the balance of opinion [they] have received so far”. If this is the case, there are some very bigoted and insensitive people out there, who are content to make sweeping generalisations about people in my situation. It boils down to the same thing, over and over again. People who haven’t experienced mental illness, or have watched a loved one suffer, will simply not understand the complexities and the utter helpessness that these diseases effectuate.
My illness is very complex. Last week, I walked to the end of the street by myself, to ask a builder for a quote to fix my roof. Three days later, I was panicking over absolutely nothing in Sainsbury’s. No trigger, nothing. Just an inexorable feeling of drowning in fear. I can’t explain why.
Maybe the problem that many people have, is that mental illness is not a black and white thing. If I broke my leg, you could look at x-rays, see the cast. There’d be something tangible to give reason to my inability to walk. Mental illness isn’t like that. I look fine, if you saw me in the street, you probably wouldn’t give me a second thought (unless I was having a panic attack!). There’s nothing physically stopping me from leading a normal life.
I guess this is why my condition angers me so much. I’m in between. I’m not severely disabled, yet I’m not functioning ‘normally’. Healthcare provisions in this area mean that I’d have to cross town to get therapy. As I said to my GP, if I can cross town, I don’t need the therapy. In effect, I am stuck on my own, in a situation where I am having to make my treatment up as I go along. That’s what makes it so hurtful when people refuse to try and empathise.
The full list of comments can be read here.
footnote: I am aware that I have used the word ‘normal’ in this entry. It’s a word that I hate using, however in this case, I am referring to the ‘normal’ me – the me without fear, depression and panic.

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