Christmas came to an abrupt and harsh end yesterday when I received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions summoning me for a medical assessment as part of my Personal Independence Payment renewal claim.
I have been a part of the Disability Benefits system for almost 8 long, weary and terrifying years now. I have had a medical assessment before. I have filled out copious ‘questionnaires’ for ESA, DLA and PIP. I have wretched into the toilet bowl when those brown envelopes arrive. I have sobbed with confusion at the badly worded letters that raise more questions than they answer. I am an old hand really and I have got off incredibly lightly really.
But yesterday’s letter was in a white envelope and so I opened it myself rather than waiting for someone else to do it for me like I do with every single brown envelope that lands on the doormat. The adrenaline release was so severe that my words became slurred and my teeth were chattering. Ironically the doctors tell me there’s nothing wrong with my adrenals. Every time I think of that letter, see it out of the corner of my eye, remember that I have to endure the assessment…panic rises, I crumble and my body genuinely feels like it starts to shut down.
I will go to the wretched thing in my wheelchair. I will be driven and accompanied the whole time. We will request to record the whole thing. We will fight if it goes to tribunal. I have my MP’s contact details if I need to involve the stupid Tory a**hole that he is.
I have nothing to hide and yet even I question whether I am a fraud or not. But I know I am not alone. There is a huge number of people in this country being made to feel subhuman by the system that was put in place to support them. And it seems the same the world over. Thank you for your love and support and messages of solidarity yesterday. (Although believe it or not certain messages about your own horrific experiences didn’t make me feel much better but I understand that perhaps you needed to vent and offload.)
I am terrified. I feel fragile and physically weak at the thought of it all. The next week or so will feel long and with a health condition like mine one is not always able to distract oneself. But I am not alone and that does bring some comfort.