Tuesday 26 September 2017

Work Coach.

I'm having one hell of a battle with the evil symptoms of chronic fatigue.  I'm asleep when I need to be awake.  I'm awake when I really should be sleeping.  It feels like I have permanent jet-lag.  And yet, despite the times I've actually managed to find the energy to see a doctor, there has been no obvious cause as to why I feel awful all the time.

After yet, after another one of my erratic sleeps, I can barely get out of bed as the ensuing panic attack is terrifying.

2017 has been a year filled with one anxiety-heightened incident, followed by another anxiety-heightened incident.  I'm still staring out at planks.  My apartment has had no significant light since early May.  The faulty fire alarms were changed and the new fire alarms are actually acting worse than the previous fire alarms.  This means, not only am I being overwhelmed by claustrophobia, I'm now paranoid that the changed fire alarms will go off at any moment.

During some brief moments where the chronic fatigue was a little less pronounced, I managed to gather the energy to lodge a formal complaint about the scaffolding and planks that are starting to haunt me.  That was back on September 6.  I have not got a reply back.  As for the new smoke alarms, evidently somebody is supposed to come and check out the latest fire alarm farce this coming Wednesday.

But wait, that's not all.  Yes, 2017 has been a major shit storm.  Way back in early February, I got a questionnaire from our government's benefit department.  Yep, time to fill in another long-winded questionnaire that,  just like all the other long-winded questionnaires, dredged up the pain of the past.  A past dominated by workplace bullying that nearly destroyed all that was precious in my life.

Then came the nervous wait to see if I still qualified for the benefits that I wish I didn't need.  Month after worrying month passed by.  The post through the door was enough to send me into a state of panic. Then, in mid-July, a letter arrived, in the dreaded brown envelope.  I had to go to face-to face assessment.  An assessment, just like all those questionnaires, that would dredge up the painful past.

Friday, August 4, the day of my face-to-face assessment, with a healthcare professional.  This would be 90 minutes of emotional torture.  I told the man about some of the incidents of workplace bullying that has caused me to have a total breakdown.  A total breakdown that cost me my marriage, my home, my life savings, my health, physical and mental and very nearly, the remaining shattered remnants of my dignity.

I told the man that the idea of being forced to go back to some sort of paid work terrified me.  He briefly looked through the 43 pages of medical evidence I had brought along.  The meeting ended and the next worrying wait began.

About three weeks later, the next brown envelope came through my letterbox.  It was an appointment to see a "work coach".  Based on my face-to-face assessment, the benefits department had determined that I was capable of getting back to paid work.  I nearly fainted with the anxiety this caused.

On August 30, I headed off to my meeting with the work coach at the job centre in Stoke on Trent. Much to my surprise, I felt quite calm about going to the meeting.  The reason being is that I knew that my attending such a meeting was more of a cruel joke than anything else.

You see and yes, I know, hard to believe, but I'm 64 and only a few months away from retirement age.  Aha, a certain Beatles song will now start going through your head.

I arrived at the job centre.  I encountered a group of folks looking rather disoriented as they waved cans of extra strong cider in front of me.  Yep and that was just the office staff.  Okay, in case someone from the benefits department reads this, I'm kidding.

Right then, I walked into the building.  A confusing set-up where there was no obvious reception.  I saw a lady standing by the stairs.  I asked her where the reception was and she rather boringly pointed up the stairs.  I went up the stairs and there was still no obvious reception desk.  I saw a guy sitting at a desk that I guessed might be some sort of reception desk.  I guessed correctly.  I told him I had to see a work coach named, Louise.  He pointed to me to go up the stairs.  When I went up the next flight of stairs, I saw loads of desks.  Mostly empty desks.  Way off in the distance, beyond the mostly empty desks, was a desk with a sign that stated the name, "Louise".  Yeah, finally, I had arrived at the destination.

After Louise finished chatting to two other people in a very open environment where I could hear every word, she finally summoned me.  Upon realising my age, she noted that I was there because of what was most likely a computer generated letter based on my face-to-face assessment.  What's required of me is that I come in and tell her how I'm doing.  No pressure to go find a job so close to retirement age.

I mean, can you imagine.  I go work for a company for about six months and then I get a gold watch upon retirement.

Yes, it's been harrowing but, thankfully, although my benefit money has been reduced, I'm still getting benefits.  To make this even more bizarre, I'm going to seek some legal advice because it now transpires that I probably didn't need to go through all this stressful crap.  I did some research when I had my money reduced and discovered, that based on my age, I could actually get what's called, "pension credit."  Pension credit pays more than what I'm getting.

How the hell I managed to type this much, what with this ridiculous chronic fatigue, is beyond me.  You might well have scrolled through this and checked out the best bits.

And yes indeed, I'm switching off the comments section.  I want to get to your blog and do something weird like leave a comment on yours.  Unless you've switched off your comments section.

I also want to thank Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar for taking over while I'm this exhausted.  Planks a lot, Penny!