Update

I’ve received a copy of the medical report.

I don’t care who knows this. If it helps someone else, then fine. Basically, the form I filled in and the form my GP filled in were a waste of time and effort. The entire assessment is based on 20 minutes with a doctor who has never seen you before. The check sheet with yes and no answers constitutes about 80% of that doctor’s report, word for word. There is a small space underneath for “reasons for your answer”. Most of them are either COMPLETELEY WRONG or misleading.

I’ve had enough now. If it wasn’t for the fact that I can’t afford to lose the money, I wouldn’t fucking bother.

Oh, and DIAL have told me to contact Citizen’s Advice, who (locally) are only open from 10am to 12pm, meaning Mr D has to take more time off work.

Christ…

Benefits Agency Angst

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I had an assessment for claiming Incapacity Benefit in early December. I got a letter today, telling me I no longer qualify for IB. Looking at the letter, they might as well have written “we really have no clue about this lady’s condition, and we’re just ticking random boxes”
Last time I got this letter, it simply said that I still qualify, and that I had the right to appeal against the decision – the usual blurb, but this time, they’ve broken it down into a more in depth look at how they reached their decision, with a tick sheet of basic questions the answers to which award you ‘points’. Get enough points, and you get the benefit.
The entire page on “physical health” is a series of ‘no’ answers – basically they think that because I was okay on that particular day, I don’t have a physical health problem. Given that last week, I was crawling on the floor to go to the toilet because the pain in my back and hip was so bad I couldn’t stand, I think they’ve got something wrong. Although my reason for not working and claiming this benefit is primarily due to my mental health problems, I’m sure it is important to get the facts right about my physical health problems too.
The page on “mental health” is a series of both yes and no responses, which I can’t understand because I wasn’t asked half the questions on this form. How the hell they have reached the conclusion that I “can answer the telephone and reliably take a message” is beyond me, because I wasn’t even asked that. If I had been, I would have told them that the mere ringing of the telephone can cause me to have a panic attack, and there is NO WAY I can answer the phone if I don’t know who it is.
They have also decided that my mental health problem “does not prevent me from undertaking leisure activities which I have previously enjoyed”. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been invited places and declined because of how I feel, or how it would affect my anxiety. I can’t go to the cinema if it’s busy. I rarely go out with friends, because I need to feel safe. I don’t go out on my bike any more, partly because of the pain, and partly because I can’t go outside by myself. The terror I feel at the thought of leaving the house on my own is incredible.
I guess that the Benefits Agency can’t have a system that takes into account every little nuance of my mental health, however this so-called “assessment” is ridiculous. As well as the medical I attended, there was also a detailed form to fill in about my illness. On it, I definitely put about my problems with the telephone, and I remember writing something to the tune of “I only go out when absolutely necessary, and even then, I have to be accompanied by my husband”. It seems that my efforts to accurately describe my day to day life with this disability went unheeded.
I shall be appealing, partly because I need the money, and partly because I’d planned to apply for DLA, and although it has separate forms, I don’t know how much of this “assessment” they will look at. What bothers me is that my answers to the questions (both on the form I received and the doctor’s questions) were exactly the same as previous occasions. Nothing about my condition has changed. This whole thing needs to be consistent, for fucks sake…

hello

it’s only me…
There’s something about keeping a blog that’s a bit like a garden. Despite using the weedkiller that is MTBlacklist, I still have had an abundance of weeds, which I shall have to sort out. I’ve changed the comments thing so that only registered typekey people can comment. I have no idea how that works, so if you can’t comment, you know how to dig me in the ribs. I’ll install one of those anti-spam comment thingies at some point, which will help.
Life has been a bit wierd over the last six months. I’ve been hovering in a strange place between getting depressed and trying to ignore the depression. This includes anything that could make it worse, such as writing here (the idea being that writing it down reinforces it) and Dealing With Things That Ought To Be Dealt With. It’s left me feeling emotionally exhausted, but I have reached a place where I’m thinking, “if I don’t deal with this, it’ll just get worse” so I’m going to bite the bullet and Deal.
My apologies for ignoring you all. I didn’t mean it. You know who you are…

Happy, happy tits!

I woke up yesterday morning after a night of fitful sleep, and surreal dreams that emulated the crazy thoughts that had been swirling around my head for the last week. I was totally wound up and emotional, dreading my appointment, convinced that I wouldn’t keep my coffee and valium down.
The clinic was running late because someone was on holiday, but I found some trashy glossy magazine to read and looked at the pictures. I’d taken a book, but I just couldn’t concentrate on reading it. Bitching about Callista Flockheart’s dress was easy…
I think it was the Nurse Manager who examined me – she told me who she was, and I approved, but can I hell remember what she said. She was really nice though. Soothing, calming yet not condescending. My husband came into the exam room with me, and sat by the door looking like he was about to puke. The Nurse went through a form with me that they’d given me to fill in – everything on it was in Dr H’s referral letter, but they made me write it all out again, because the consultant “preferred going by a set format” or something. Of course, the abuse history was all in that letter, and I didn’t want to take any chances. At the bottom of the form, I wrote in capital letters: “please note: history of childhood sexual abuse” and “panic attack sufferer”. It worked, because the Nurse was brilliant in explaining things.
She did a physical exam, which was just the same as Dr H’s. She chattered to me the whole time, telling me that she could feel the lump, but it didn’t feel like anything that could be bad. She said lots of women had lumpy breasts naturally, but said I did the right thing for getting it checked out.
As I got dressed she said she’d speak to the consultant and tell him what she’d found. She said normally on a patient’s first visit, the consultant wanted to do an exam himself, but given the circumstances, he was happy for her to do the exam and report back.
When she came back, she said that they were almost certain that it was just a benign lump, maybe an inflamed mammory gland. They said they wouldn’t do a mammo, because 1) it probably wouldn’t show anything up because my breast tissue is too dense, and 2) it wasn’t worth putting me through exams that I didn’t need, given my history. So, no needles, no ultrasound. That was it. They said to keep an eye on it, but don’t self-exam too often!
I’m grateful that Dr H told me what I could expect. It helped me feel in control of the situation. Since I saw her and she made the clinic appointment, I’ve told myself “it’s my body, I know I need to get it checked out, but I can always say no…” Self empowerment is vital for abuse survivors, and believe me, it really helps to know that you are in control, and can say “no” at any time. The fact that the nurse explained everything she was going to do and why was such a help, and my telling the clinic about my history was vital. At the end of the day, I could have kept quiet about it, and gone through private hell while a male doctor examined me. As it was, I said something, and was met with fantastic empathy and caring.
I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same.

Tits up…

I wasn’t going to blog about this. It’s too personal, it may be nothing, and thinking about it makes me feel sick. But, like I’ve said before, I’m here to blog about my life and how panic, anxiety and agoraphobia affect it, and if finding a lump in your left breast isn’t panic inducing, I don’t know what the hell is.

Continue reading

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.

B’doinga!

Spring is here. Spring is really, really here.
Over the winter, I wondered how much of my “winter blues” was coming off Efexor, or dealing with Ginger’s job stress. Now that there is a real change in the weather, I can honestly say it was Seasonal Affective Disorder.
My mood has been almost euphoric lately. I’m doing so much more than usual, gardening, decorating, and working on a website for a friend. Four months ago, I’d have been lucky to manage any one of those things.
I think I am reaching a point where the Efexor is not something I think about as much. Before, it was “that bastard efexor” every five minutes, and, “I hate this shit”. I remember saying that I had to try and stay focused on the positive, and now it feels like I have many more positives to focus on.
The panic and anxiety are still there, and the panic attacks are still laced with acid, and raw, but on the whole I’m a happier person. I guess I can channel my positivity into my recovery.
I missed my one year anniversary last week. April 8th 2003 was the day of my first weblog entry, and although I was with Bloggar before Moveable Type, I never really put my all into it. Things have changed a lot on the site since then. Not so long ago, I found a screen print out of my site in the early days, before I attempted to alter the stylesheets. It was weird, but also like looking at a baby photo in some ways. I think I even thought, “gosh, hasn’t it grown!”
I think we both have.

It’s a Record

I started writing this yesterday, the day after the “Biggest Panic Attack Ever!” and at some point thought, “this is crap, people don’t want to read about my miserable-ness”. The point is, that’s what I’m supposed to be keeping a blog for. To record my panic attacks and anxiety, and let the world know what it’s like.
In hindsight, I don’t remember much about the actual attack, all I know is that somewhere in the middle of it, I did a complete work out, because my muscles are killing me. My chest, back, arms and legs all feel like they’ve done the rounds at the local gym, and yesterday I felt exhausted. I didn’t sleep that night, and spent yesterday wandering around, not able to concentrate on anything for very long.
This is what I wrote (edited slightly so it makes more sense)
I think I set the record for the biggest panic attack ever. I want a statuette, dammit.
Monday, when Mr D finished work, we decided to go for a ride out (I wanted some lemonade and sandpaper anyway – strange diet, I know) but the main reason was that Mr D was convinced there was another way into work.
His journey isn’t that long, but the main road he uses is very busy, and is a notorious accident blackspot. From what I’ve seen, I’m not surprised. There is something about that road that turns driver’s brains to jelly, and for eight miles or so, there’s this real-life Wacky Races situation. Of course, my husband drives like a saint…
So, we drove. I felt okay – I’d been busy that day, and was tired, but not really that anxious. It was a situation I’d been in many times before, there was nothing to be afraid of. I did well, we went into the supermarket and bought lemonade (and plenty of other things that we thought we needed), then we went to the DIY store and got the sandpaper.
On the way home, as we were coming into the town, we passed under a railway bridge, and suddenly there was this horrible clattering sound. I jumped, and someone reset the anxiety dial to max, but I didn’t panic. There were cries of “What the bloody hell was that???” and I looked up and saw some kids on the top of the bridge. They’d obviously thrown something at the car.
I count in Japanese when my anxiety is bad. I do it because it’s something that forces me to concentrate on things other than panic. It helps. It doesn’t help when Mr D, still flustered from the arial attack, isn’t watching the traffic lights change, and has to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the car in front.
I think I screamed, I can’t really remember. I remember yelling over and over for him to stop the car, I needed – no I HAD TO get out. It seemed like a million years before I could open the door. My head was swimming, I thought the car had stopped, and I fell out onto the pavement. I scrambled to get away, I stumbled, and somewhere a sane thought said, “sit down. just sit down” Somehow I realised that if I didn’t sit down there and then, I would probably just keep running. I remember breathing – gasping and feeling like I was going to choke, the razor-wire fear enveloping my being. Then there was my husband. He was there, his arm around my shoulder, talking softly to me. His voice cutting through the insanity. I became more aware of my surroundings, and realised that I was sitting in the middle of some bushes, fetal and damp. Mr D helped me to the car, and I sat there with my feet out, my head in my hands, trying not to be sick.
When we got home – my familiar place, my safe place, and after I had cried a lot, Mr D said that two women had come over and asked if I was allright. I had no idea. He said that he’d explained to them I was having a panic attack, and I’d be okay, and they left us to it. I want to say to those two ladies, I’m sorry, I had no idea you were there. Thank you for caring. Thank you for showing concern, for being human.

Yuck

You know when you are doing something that takes some time to achieve, and you get to a point where you think, “yeah, I think this is really going to work”? Well, five weeks after reaching Dose Zero, I find myself getting freaky brain zaps again. I’d never really shifted the headache, and was on the verge of giving it a name, like a pet. I dunno, like, “Hal the Headache” or something. (Kind of fitting, really.) I’m still getting the nausea, only now it’s confined to times when I’ve just eaten, or I’m too hot, or I’m out in the car, and maybe some other random times that make up the rest of the day.
My memory is still as atrocious as ever, and I can’t concentrate on anything for very long. Certainly not long enough to think my way through a task then do something productive about it. My body has lulled me into a false sense of security, telling me, “yeah, this is getting easier” and then WHAM!! the shit hits me again. I can almost see some cheeky looking little imp with devil horns flicking a switch in my head that says “zap”.
It’s at times like this I am really grateful that I found Venlafaxine Healing. I can’t tell you what it means to be able to vent this shit to people who have experienced it. There is strength in numbers, and we have all googled and researched and we all have something to contribute. I know from my web stats that people are googling for ‘efexor’ and ‘venlafaxine’ and happening on my weblog. If you do, and you need support, click on the link. As well as venting your spleen and getting support that way, there are also resources and links. It’s worth it.
In other news, Ginger has talked to his manager, and they have [sarcasm]graciously[/sarcasm] offered him work until the end of March. He has decided to work flat weeks without overtime, and I have metamorphasised into his PA again. I just hope I don’t forget anything important while I’m helping him search for a new job…

Thoughts of a Panicky Person

I’ve a funny feeling I don’t need to write this. A quick search of my archives finds the exact same thoughts here.
This is the first time in ages I’ve had an appointment with M that I’ve needed to go to by myself. The last one Ginger took me, and before that, there was a big gap in our meetings as M was on leave.
I guess this time, it’s a bit different in that the weather is crap. It is freezing cold, there is ice on the roads and paths, and snow is forecast. My appointment is at 3pm.
I’ve paced up and down, and wasted time this morning, and now I realise I could have called to see if M could see me any earlier. 3pm isn’t bad – it’s just that it’ll be getting dark when I come home, and I don’t have lights on my bike. I refuse to bike on the footpaths. Also, there’ll be a lot of people and traffic at 4pm – schools coming out and stuff.
Or is it an excuse? I’ve not been out on my bike for ages. At least three months. I’m not too fit, and I’m feeling really panicky just thinking about what is going to happen if I need to get off and push because I’m too unhealthy to cycle up that hill, or if it’s too dark, and I need to push my bike on the paths. What if the weather starts getting bad while I am out? I could come out of Psychology to find blizzards – it’s forecast, after all.
Plus, I still feel a bit shit in my Post Efexor state. I’m still dizzy, and can’t think straight. Maybe I’d be safer cancelling. But that would feel like failure. I wish I knew what to do. I hate the way my stupid brain works sometimes.