Tag: Council Tax

Crashing

This is a hard post to write.

I have not been coping physically with my job for a long time. I have really tried to ignore this. Since I started it made my pain levels worse and ever since they have kept increasing. I kept hoping it would at least stop getting worse and maybe that I’d get better at coping with it. I wanted to be able to do it. Be some kind of normal. My job sometimes helps me mentally, engaging in something creative and focusing on helping customers and giving the best service I can. It takes my focus outward which I’ve long believed is really important in staying well. The tactile aspects of my work, handling the different fabrics and trying to create attractive displays, can in themselves be grounding and soothing. Additionally, it’s an area where I can try`to do some good and not feel useless. (I know that’s something I need to work on, how connected my sense of worth is with others’ outward perception of me, but I can’t deny it helps for the time being.)

Now I’ve come to the point of crashing completely. In the last 3 months in particular my pain and physical weakness has increased faster. Since around the time of my operation I guess marked a real down-turn physically and it was to be expected really that  my fibromyalgia symptoms will be worse for a while afterwards. Everything is worse really, my back problems (I had a slipped disc years ago), arthritis…

I know I haven’t really talked about it so maybe this sounds weird. Whenever I talk about my physical health I worry it all sounds stupid, nobody would believe me, I’m a fake and I should just get on with it and everything’s my fault. (There’s a lot I have to work on there too, I know.)

I feel like I’ve crashed suddenly. Gradually it has got harder and harder to – move, to put it bluntly…  Getting harder to get through the day….harder to be able to get home, having to sit and rest, and crumpling as soon as I get in, lying down most of the evening… Today I have had to spend most of the day lying down. Pain and shakiness in my legs makes any standing and walking really hard. My legs are cramping and jerking out of the blue. I can’t feel in my right foot normally and at the same time the pain is really bad through my lower back and hips, worst on the right… I’ve had all this before although not as bad, but I am very scared right now. I feel scared and shaky and lost and so tired. I slept a lot today too. My support worker came this morning and I was so tired I was struggling to literally get words out.

So I find myself admitting again that I am probably going to have to leave this job. The physical deterioration from trying to meet its demands is too much. I have tried to look into reducing my hours but it does not look as though this will be possible. I;d have to massively reduce them in any case. My manager has been kind and understanding in her approach but has to follow the sickness absence procedures set down by the company. Since I have been off sick 4 times within a 6 month period, this is flagged as a problem. I can well understand that it is not fair to colleagues to be off too frequently and I know myself that I am struggling more and more with daily tasks, which is increasing my anxiety and in turn my psychotic thoughts and my fears about what colleagues are saying and thinking about me and making it harder to cope with the hallucinations and all the mental struggles of every day.

Outside of work the effect is great too. Not only are the pain and mobility problems an issue, but I have no energy or coping resources left to manage day to day tasks like keeping my house clean, keeping in touch with people, doing positive things to bring a balance to life outside work, or perhaps most importantly right now, giving the energy to therapy and recovery that I need to. The months I have left with the PD service are precious and working on making use of my individual and group sessions is demanding. I want to be mentally “present” for it, not shut off protecting myself because I’m desperately trying to cope with pain and utter exhaustion.

I’m going to be referred to Occupational Health so I await to see what they will suggest.

ergonomic occ health

I also have to follow my doctors’ and my support worker’s advice. I believe they would all prefer me to reduce my hours. My support worker definitely thinks so.

The one thing that ironically, in a twisted way makes this situation possibly not quite so bad, is that I may actually not be worse off financially working fewer hours or not working at all. I want to talk about this more in a separate post shortly. It’s a bizarre situation that doesn’t sit well with me. At the moment I am struggling in pain and making myself physically worse every day, working part-time, earning just above the minimum hourly wage.  I receive less than £10 per week help towards my rent, I am not entitled to any help at all with things like council tax*, and although I was initially assessed as eligible for a small amount of tax credits, this decision has now been changed and I have been told that I am not entitled to any.  Now, I strongly believe that it is morally right to work as much as I can and not to expect to receive handouts when I could be earning myself. However, what I cannot get away from is that on my current earnings whilst I am working as many hours as I can (well, I have to admit now, more than I can) I cannot live. I do not have enough to cover basic bills and simple living costs and I would not be getting by if it were not for regular help from my family and even occasionally my very good friend who has lent me money for grocery shopping when money has been tightest.

Not only can this situation not go on – I am over 30 now and I simply cannot go on needing financial help from my dad; I have to support myself – but the cost of this job physically is just too much to go through to still not be able to live. It is painfully ironic that because if I were not working or were working fewer hours, for example for a few months or so whilst I complete my therapy, my financial situation would actually be more stable because of the greater help I would get towards rent and living costs. That makes me really really uncomfortable and it isn’t right. Yet I have to be able to live.

It isn’t the main factor that has led me to this point. If I were coping physically I would keep going and if I could I would see if I can increase my hours. But I’m forced to accept that just isn’t so and physically things are not good right now.

I feel really worn out and vulnerable right now. The last time I was so low physically, about 7 years ago, I didn’t feel so afraid or sad. I wonder why that change has come. Perhaps I feel more responsible now. Perhaps I am sadder about potentially leaving my job because there are aspects of it that I genuinely like this time. Perhaps I feel more of a failure that this has happened again.

I need to focus on the good things that could come out of it if I do have to leave. My health problems are not life threatening or anything that serious and so many people are going through much worse, much more medically severe, perhaps without friends to help them and understanding doctors. In moments I can see that there can be ways that in the next few months I can try to turn things around.

I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. Tonight I just needed to get all this out and admit that I’m scared.

Thank you for listening. I can’t imagine where I would be right now without this blog and the support of you lovely people who read and care and comment. There’s so much more I should say on that. I hope you know how much you mean to me. Hugs xxx

Ginny xxx

(*apart from the 25% single person occupancy discount. For non-UK readers, council tax is a roughly monthly fee payable towards local government spending like policing and other emergency services, refuse collection, some elements of care for vulnerable people, etc. Most working adults pay council tax. The amount payable depends on the value of the property you live in.)

Image not mine, sourced on the ever useful Google – I am afraid I do not know the artist (it says in the top left I believe but I was not able to expand it to read it.

Not my day off

Today has been demanding. It’s one of those days that seems too much to have been only one day. I got big stuff done but also I’m losing time in unsettling ways and I know I was dissociating a lot between the different tasks and meetings I had to do, slipping out of being engaged with what’s going on and what I’m feeling and struggling to come back. Nevertheless I got through quite a few challenges.

Last night I knew I needed to tidy and clean my flat. My support worker was coming today. Also I hadn’t been on top of the housework since my operation and it was bothering me more and more. Recently I’ve started to find a greater sense of order and calmness if I don’t have too many things disorganised around me. This is interesting because til now, I’ve tended towards accumulating things I don’t need and not being able to keep my house ordered, not exactly hoarding but not being able to face items and paperwork and household tasks without going into panic.

Yesterday I was very anxious about today but put some of the physical drive from the anxiety into cleaning and then went on to clearing out some of my cupboards. By late evening I’d cleared 7 big bags (between rubbish and charity shop) and set 3 more big bags of things to try to sell at a car boot sale. The fact I don’t have a car for the boot element of that plan is potentially problematic 🙂 but there are the odd few table-top, largely indoor, sales in community centres / church halls here in the summer and I’m hoping I can find one to join in.

Today was a struggle to get up. Everything hurt. Still, I got together the papers I needed to show my new support worker (more on this tomorrow), then it was off to my care coordination appointment with my CPN. This wasn’t easy to go to because, although my last appointment was okay, in the two previous appointments I’d been really distressed and felt I didn’t get heard when I was desperate and at risk. Today’s appointment was actually really good. We looked at some DBT skills and we did a review which was overdue (every 6 months or so is a review appointment). I’ve not yet felt able to discuss with my care coordinator exactly what went wrong in the difficult appointments earlier this year when everything was going to pieces. I’m scared I’d lose control and the feelings of anger and not being believed would return and I’d do bad things and be back where I was. However my care coordinator and I have managed to move forwards having 2 positive appointments. I was scared after what I’d done – how upset and angry I’d got – he wouldn’t believe me or want me anymore and they’d know how bad I am and that I didn’t deserve help. That hasn’t happened. That’s something that I don’t usually get to experience.

Straight after my care coordination I met my support worker, H., who is from a housing support charity I was referred to recently. He is going to help me sort out my benefits like Housing & Council Tax Benefit, Tax Credits and disability benefits,  as well as liaising with my landlord about the rent arrears that I got into when I lost my job last year. It was a long appointment. We went through the background to how I’d got here, financially and in terms of my health, and we looked at lots of documentation, my income and my benefit and Council Tax notices. This took a lot out of me and I came so close inside to panic and losing it and emotions shooting too high. H. was very calm and non judgemental, which helped a lot. (More on this in the next couple of days.)

Then I had to rush to my GP appointment, which was the first since I’d been very distressed and angry at the surgery a couple of weeks ago;  also the first since my operation and finding out endometriosis isn’t actually the explanation for my pain and gynae issues. I’m still working through what happened in today’s appointment. I was dreading going into the surgery because I’m still terrified of what I did and how much I lost it. I was ashamed and embarrased and knew that they probably didn’t want me around again. I knew I’d really upset and inconvenienced and disturbed people. I’d scared people. That’s the worst thing,  the harm I caused, the bad I’ve always feared getting out of me. Talking to the GP  and discussing what happened and then also talking about my physical health was really emotionally charged.  It’s hard trying to deal with a lot of uncertainties about my physical symptoms. I know not having endometriosis is a really good thing but not having any explanation for all the things I thought it explained, and the fact the doctor isn’t really interested any more in investigating what may be wrong – well, that’s hard and triggers all my fears that it’s all in my head, I’ve made it up or I’m mad, it’s my fault. …

After the GP it was off to the pharmacy with my prescription, then finally home.

It’s been quite a day. I had a soothing bath tonight. Today was the first day I could have a bath since the operation (don’t worry I promise I did still wash 😉 !). The doctor sealed the wound with dissolvable stitches so it was important not to soak them in water too soon or they could have come undone. Also it was not safe to try to get in and out of the bath whilst my mobility was further reduced with post op effects. Falling is a risk for me anyway because of the problems the fibromyalgia and arthritis cause in my legs. So, tonight was a good little relaxation and refreshment. The little things do help!

How has your day been?

Ginny xxx

 

It just doesn’t stretch, whatever I do

I’m scared I’m so close to everything falling apart. Financially. But it feels like everything.

I got an automated voicemail message from my landlord telling me I’m to call them urgently to discuss “ways we can help you to pay your rent”. They had closed by the time I finished work so I have to wait til tomorrow to call them and find out exactly what it’s about but I know it will be about my rent arrears. I doubt they will be “helping” me pay, somehow! I know the fact of having to call them doesn’t instantly change anything but I’m really panicking.

I was struggling already today, feeling very sad after a difficult 1:1 therapy session on Monday, a friendship having broken down and a few other things. After getting this message I just wanted to crawl under my duvet, cry, shut off, everything and nothing…and the urge to cut is very strong but I’m trying to resist.

Nothing is working out. I got into arrears last year when I lost my job, wasn’t paid notice and holiday pay as expected, and my housing benefit didn’t come through for 10 weeks. Working part time I’ve been entitled to some housing benefit but my claim has been messed up, suspended, altered back and forth from start to finish and I’ve had more periods of weeks with no money coming in. I’ve been paying my rent, with great difficulty, but not able to clear the arrears.

Now they have stopped my housing benefit because my salary has increased by a few pence per hour. This leaves me unable to meet even the tightest budget. I do not have enough money to cover the bare minimun of rent, council tax, bills like electricity, telephone, prescriptions, travel to the hospital, some access to the internet and food (let alone any other expenses like buying clothes when needed, any longer distance travel, or socialising). I’ve cut back as much as I can, especially on food. I don’t make proper meals, just toast, cereal and cheap snacks. It makes me feel awful (plenty of guilt for bad fattening food) but I can’t afford anything else.

I know the arrears are my responsibility and I have to pay. I feel panic and guilt every day over them. I know that in the past when very unwell I made poor financial decisions and was irresponsible with money, which has contributed to why I don’t have savings. So has the fact that I’ve been too ill physically to work full time at several points in the last 10 years.

Part of what is so upsetting is that I am now doing all I can but I still can’t stretch to cover the tightest budget or see any way to change things. I am pushing myself as hard as I can to keep going to work. It’s very difficult mentally – and I’m sad that it is so hard to do it but that is the situation I have to accept right now. It’s very difficult physically too. The pain I’m in from the fibromyalgia, arthritis and so on has been increasing since I started and each day it gets harder to do certain things (going up and down stairs, staying on my feet for lengths of time, etc) and if it carries on it’ll get to a point the pain is too much or I can’t stand long enough or something like that. I hoped if I kept pushing I’d get better at dealing with it but that isn’t happening and instead everything is flaring up.

I really want to keep working. I’m blessed with kind and happy colleagues, a caring employer, a creative environment, varied days, lots to learn and so many good things. Psychologically this job is so much less stressful than the legal secretarial work I couldn’t cope with. There’s so much that should be positive that I don’t want to waste.

However I’m in a situation that I just can’t cover day to day living going forward let alone clear the arrears I owe. It shouldn’t be a reason to give up but when things seem to be falling apart anyway, it’s harder to keep pushing through the physical pain and mental struggle to keep working.

I feel really trapped because with the rent situation alone I think I’m going to end up losing my flat. I know the landlord, being a housing association, has given me more time with the arrears than many other landlords would. A private landlord would have thrown me out ages ago. I know that’s another way I’m fortunate. It’s my responsibility but I don’t know how I can or will be able to pay.

Even if I could clear the arrears  I don’t know how I’d pay the rent going forward. If I can’t,  I don’t know where I’d live because I have no money for a deposit to rent privately. If I went back to renting a room as a lodger my mental health would crash downhill but at this point I would have to be grateful for anything. If I lose this place and end up homeless I’d lose my job. I might anyway if my physical health keeps going down.

It’s horrible thinking even if I get evicted and lose my flat, I don’t know how I’ll change my situation. It’s horrible that trying as hard as I can to do the work I can, I’m not able to live on what I earn and I’m assessed not to be entitled to any benefits despite this. I want to work as much as I can but I’m actually in a worse situation, it appears, than if I were not working at all signed off sick. My rent and council tax would then be covered by benefits. Not that that would help with the arrears but it would at least cover rent going forward. The system says it shouldn’t happen that you are worse off working than not, but it does. I’m actually put into a situation where doing the most work I can means I’m left with not enough to live.

I was referred well over two weeks ago to an organisation that would help me sort all this out and talk to my landlord. I was supposed to have been seen by them within two weeks. I chased up as I hadn’t heard, only to find out they said they had not received my referral from the support worker. It had got lost in the secure email system somewhere,  ironically. It has been sent to them again but now they are not likely to see me til after my operation.

I have no idea what to do. There are so many “if”s and a spiraling whirl of consequences that make it feel that everything’s already falling apart.

I don’t want to make out I have it harder than the next person. I know so many people are in this situation. I know I have to deal with it. It’s a time I wish someone could catch me when I’m falling like this but I know that’s nobody’s responsibility. I’m scared and everything’s already unravelling inside.i suppose I have to try not to listen to the spirals in my head until at least after I’ve spoken to my landlord tomorrow.

Ginny xxx