Coming Around Again

Before I went to Woolfest, I received form IB50 from the Benefits Agency. The usual claptrap about wanting “more information” about my medical condition – the same form that I received 18 months ago which led to the Great IB Debacle. O Joy.
It didn’t have to be returned until the 12th of July, so I decided (sensibly) to leave it until I returned. Frankly, I had more important things to think about – like my recovery and getting to Woolfest. The form has since been filled in and was posted in time, but it raises some interesting questions.
18 months ago, despite being virtually housebound by agoraphobia and panic disorder, my IB claim was turned down. The doctor who performed my Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) massaged my answers to fit his criteria, and in the end it looked as though there was nothing wrong with me. This time, I am a million times better than I was, yet still not well enough to get to the Job Centre to sign on by myself. I need more time to continue with my CBT, to build up my levels of independence to a point where I can rejoin the real world properly.
You see my quandary. Not well enough to sign on, but technically not unwell enough to claim IB. I am in limbo, and my choices are limited. If I tell the truth – that I can get out and about to limited places like the local shop, I’ll fail and be denied IB. Alternatively, I could make out that I’m no better, and even though I’ve made progress with CBT, I could say I still don’t go anywhere on my own. In other words, I could lie.
I’ve decided to write a blog entry about it to highlight just how screwed the system is. Instead of focusing on my recovery and being positive, I’m put in a situation where I’m worrying about whether my benefit will be stopped, and focusing on the negative to make sure that doesn’t happen. In other words, going against everything that the CBT has taught me. Anyone who has filled in these disability benefits forms knows how soul destroying it can be. Telling the Benefits Agency all the negative stuff. It compounds it, drives home how much you can’t do. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m trying my damnedest to get past the agoraphobia. They know how much I hate it, how much I’m fighting it. How much I’m trying my damndest to stay positive. However, I still have problems. Going most places leaves me mentally exhausted. I have to push myself every step of the way. I still can’t answer the telephone if I don’t know the number, and I still don’t answer the door. I do try to keep a positive mindset, and part of the CBT focused on how negative I can be, and helped me address that. Now I’m being made to fly in the face of my therapy to get a bit of money to live on.
I have kept my paperwork from the IB Debacle, and my one comfort is that I know exactly what they’ll be looking for. However, it still makes me uncomfortable, in spite of me saying 18 months ago “I don’t care if I have to lie, I don’t want to ever go through an appeal ever again”

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Woolfest 2007

I know, I know, I’ve been back over a week and I haven’t told you all about it. Truth be told, I’m utterly buggered, and now I’m home and don’t have that Iminent Goal I’ve sort of pooped out.
The thing I want to say the most is that you can’t put a price on good friends. These are people who look out for you without you even noticing it, who give you space without leaving you alone, and who really show they care. Thank you, Becky, Kath, Carrie and Andrea. I love you guys, seriously.
Becky and I set off on Thursday evening, our destination a beautiful campsite just outside Cockermouth (they do B&B too, Mr D and I are definitely going back someday). We got there around 8pm, and it was gloomy, windy and raining. Out of all the things I’d packed, stupidly I forgot a coat. For the most part, I was okay, and borrowed Kath’s afghan blanket and fleece jacket when I needed to.
Kath had arrived the day before with her husband, who’d left her there with the caravan all nicely set up for us. The weather was so atrocious that night, I think if we’d had to rely on the tent, I’d have gone to ask if there were any B&B rooms spare. The caravan was lovely, though, and we cozied up with our knitting, a bottle of wine and chinese food. Heaven.
Woolfest itself was the same as I’d remembered from last year, but a few people have said in hindsight that it was better this year – and I agree. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was because I was with other fibre addicts rather than a bemused spouse, maybe it was the fact that (in Kath’s words) I was “seeing it with new eyes” because of everything I’ve learned about spinning etc since last year, and I knew what I was looking for. Maybe there was some other mojo at work. At first, I stuck with the girls, my anxiety okay, but I didn’t want to push it yet. We headed over to the raw fleece sale – Becky and Kath both wanted to check them out. I wasn’t so bothered – I had two raw fleeces at home that I needed to work on, and knew another wasn’t going to help. Carrie and I wandered off, and I slowly built up my confidence and wandered off a bit too.

I spent a small fortune, of course. My goal had been to get as many different fibres for spinning as possible, and (off the top of my head) I got small bags of cashmere, milk protein, bamboo, linen, ramie, cotton, tencel and Crokeback angora. I also got a larger bag of baby alpaca, something that I do intend to spin, but for now I’m just going to stroke it every now and again… I also got some yarn – some handpainted hemp in a gorgeous green colourway. I also got some handpainted kid mohair/silk, but only got 50g of it, so might have to mix it with something else to make a shawl or something. To be honest, it’s very much like Rowan’s kidsilk haze, only varigated.
Two days was wonderful, and flew over. Although three of us took our spinning wheels, only Becky did any spinning – the rest of us were too tired! It was lovely on Friday night just watching Becky spin – there’s something very soothing about the rhythm of a spinning wheel. Aside from anything, the baby camel/silk she was spinning was incredible! You can see the finished result here – I’ve seen it “in the flesh” and believe me, it’s utterly gorgeous.
It was also really cool to meet a few knitting bloggers I’d heard of, especially Artis-Anne and her daughter Kath, who are both really lovely.
So, what about the anxiety? Well, I only got properly anxious once. ONCE! Becky had gone to a lecture, and Carrie and Kath had gone to a workshop. Andrea was around somewhere, but as she only came for the day on Saturday, she was off on a shopping mission. I had her phone number, but wasn’t sure where she was. Rather than instinctively trying to find a familiar face, I decided to stay where I was. My anxiety grew as I realised for the first time I was actually on my own. However, I managed it, telling myself that Andrea was only a phonecall away, and it wasn’t long before we met up anyway.
In all, the whole thing was a resounding success, and now I just have to find another goal. I guess my maxim from now on will be “I managed Woolfest, I can do anything
More photos on my flickr set.