Monday, 16 September 2013

Looking at One Side of the Dependency Culture

It's not really surprising how our philosophy changes on most matters as time goes by. I've always tried to stay away from Daily Mail-esque beliefs on the welfare system and the dependency culture, not just because I myself was on benefits for many years but because I can see both sides of the argument. Another reason being that whenever someone started this conversation, I also feared that I might fuel the prejudice some people already hold against ethnic minorities. I understand that some people are on benefits for genuine reasons. BUT I also know of a small minority of people who are not. 

My new understanding comes from a new turning point in my life recently, approximately 3 weeks ago when I got myself a job in a local pub. Over the past year I have been contemplating heavily on my purpose in life. Along the way, I have met some extraordinary people who have inspired me push myself. A friend owns and runs a successful shop, even though she herself suffers from severe chronic back pain. My current boss suffers from back pain too yet runs 2 pubs. Although I am still in pain, all of the time, I thought I should go for it. Try. 

I had 3 different types of responses: fear, excitement, and a sort of exasperation. Those of my friends who are on DLA told me that I would lose DLA- as though it was the end of the my life, that I should not go for it. Friends who are not on any type of benefits or not on illness related benefits were very happy and encouraging and my key worker type of person was not happy. She actually told me to find a job behind a desk and not tell DLA. On top of this, she told me it's a bad idea as I would lose DLA, again, as though it was the end of the world, that keeping hold of DLA was the most important thing. She was, of course, confused when I interjected and told her I wanted this and wanted to push myself and see what my body was capable of. After all, what's the point of my degree when I am not even sure about what my body can or can't do. What's the point when I'm not sure if I can work, etc. Of course finding work in the field I want to go into would be better but evening work for a few hours a week at the moment is a lot better for me. What's the point in running before I can learn to walk. My DLA friends and the key worker's thinking really threw me. Although I was not surprised. I have tried very hard to not become a scared little person, it's hard to get away from it, when you are on disability benefits. I suppose looking in from the outside, it can be difficult to understand this way of thinking. 

I did a trial shift and after a few days rang up DLA, believing my key worker, I said out right that I don't think I can get DLA any more as I have found myself a part time job. The guy on the other end said he would send me a form to fill in to see whether I could still get a lower rate whilst working, as you can get it whilst working and he said that if I wanted to end my claim I had to send in a letter. I was happy to go ahead with the first decision so I didn't send a letter to end anything. 

Two weeks later, instead of getting the form I got a letter saying I was no longer 'disabled' and my claim had been ended. I would also not receive this months payment. I wasn't upset that I was no longer getting DLA. I was annoyed that I had been told one thing but they did another. Even the woman on the phone was confused and confessed that it was all wrong. Some one from the decision maker's office was going to ring me,,, eventually.

Last Friday morning, I got a call from a posh speaking man. He basically told me I was no longer in pain and that I was better because I had got a part time job. He also contradicted himself quite a few times. In particular, he said they can only stop someone's claim if a letter is written to them- I didn't send them one... that of course didn't stop them. In the end, we agreed that I would get my last payment and that would be the end. On Saturday, I get a letter that says I won't.

I'm angry that I have been told I don't need help with anything and that I am not in pain. I am angry that the one place that I thought understood my pain has turned around and treated me so horribly. My sanity has taken a beating, yet I will persist.

I thought- no wonder people don't try to go out there and see what they are capable of. They fear the system, they are afraid that if they fail, they won't be taken back. The DWP is akin to the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who, the people (not terminally ill or have degenerative diseases) on these benefits are so afraid of losing this life line and showing any signs of improvement. They are not encouraged to try something because they all probably know people like me. The person who tries to do something and is told they are better, there's nothing wrong with them. Hence, these people never try to see how far they can go, rather not try in case they get told they're fine. 

I feel sorry for these people, for they are seen as the main culprits of the ever growing dependency culture. But in reality they are the victims. In the coming months, like cattle they will be sent to the slaughter house, for PIP cometh. 

I am not certain of what should be done for these people. But some understanding and a little respect should be a start. 

I am finally no longer on any type of benefit. Something I wanted to achieve since the first day I went on them, it wasn't out of choice; I was homeless. I feel at peace in many ways. I don't feel that I can be judged, not in the way that will ever hurt me. 


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

How do you say good bye?

A couple of months ago, a close friend told me, '... we all experience a death in our own way.'
We were sitting in our local haunt, late at night, where we were holding a small get together after the ash scattering ceremony.

In May, a friend committed suicide.

Closure in this type of tragedy is much harder to gain. Before the ash scattering, I couldn't believe that he had actually passed away, in many ways I still don't. I realised that I would not accept it and I needed to go through a type of process. Unfortunately, every time I thought of him, I went back to the exact point where I was when I found out what had happened; I felt as though I was frozen in time. I was shocked to the core.

I have always thought about death, late at night or in the early hours of the morning, and shuddered at the dark thoughts that hide in the darkest corners of everyone's mind that at one point or another my loved one are going to die and so shall I. I suppose so far in my life no one that I saw a lot, or lived in the same city as me and whom I was close to has died. It feels so different than the morbid thoughts I have. It's so much more grim but also at the other end of the spectrum. The thoughts I have had were full of fear and terrified me. But the death awakened me. I guess the thoughts were so terrifying that the made me think it was unnatural but the actual death has opened my eyes to reality. We all die. We have to.

In a way I suppose I have started the grieving process as time elapsed. I realise that we don't really have very long to live and we must make the most of it. I try to look out over the borders of daily life and see all that I can.

So this year's camping holiday was spent firmly on ground as opposed to last year's near the sea. My new ideals were reinforced by his death- I want to see and do all that I can before I go; starting with the country I live in. Seeing the Stone Henge reinvigorated that part of me. Of course the doing side is pretty much covered too with the swimming and uni and now *working*.

Life- let's make the most of point in wanting to live forever.


Friday, 26 April 2013

The end of an Era

Something wicked is coming my way, it is looming, in fact it is moving at a rather fast rate towards my world. ~(Imagine a meteor fast approaching Earth)~ The time of the impact will be at precisely 1 minute past midnight- on 5th of May 2013. For that is the time when I turn 26.

Since the age of 18, I've been glad to leave behind one age and move to the next. But this year, I feel like I'll be leaving behind my youth and becoming an adult. Of course, there is still a reassurance to be had in being the youngest one in my friendship circle.

So why so gloomy?
I can no longer take part in youth projects, which is slightly devastating. But I won't be the last (young) person to feel this way as youth projects are only for young people up to the age of 25.
There's so much I wanted to do and now I won't be able to achieve it unless new members to the youth group decide to do it. The future doesn't look hopeful for those ideas. I am, however, glad that we were able to finish a short film about mental health awareness. That is my parting gift.

Volunteering has always been one of the most important factors in my life. For me, it's similar paying rent to the world for being alive and living on this planet, and living in my community. It comes naturally to me. So, turning 26 means the end of volunteering as a young person. I really do feel like a part of me is dying, but I know that another part of me will come into fruition
I'm not sure what I'll do next with my free time. But I am hopeful that I'll find something equally if not more fun and enjoyable.

On a positive note, turning 26 also means I've completed the first year of university! I am thrilled, but still have 2 essays to hand in, which as ever I should be doing right now -___- but a girl can procrastinate.

Until next time,

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Short Memoir

For most of my young life I was told how my adult life was going to unfold. My father told me that I would be a lawyer. That I would at first work for a Law Firm and then open my own. My grand mother told me that I would be the best housewife in the world. I was taught to cook and clean, to paint, and chop wood for good measure. I even went as far as teaching myself to fix things that typically a man would do. My mother told me that one day I would marry a man she and my father would pick for me and with him I would remain, even if I wasn't happy. I was told that I would learn to love him and that I would dutifully have children with him. My father told me that if I had marital troubles I would not be allowed to seek their help. Eventually, my mother was replaced (rather quickly), she had gone mad with years of living in fear for both me and her; we were beaten to a pulp on a monthly basis by my father.

One day, the step mother (way too young) told me I would be married off as soon as possible, without being allowed to complete my studies. This was the first time I really feared for my future. In the past I had accepted it but now I was going to be forced into something I was not ready to do. I feared for myself.

At 18, my life dramatically changed, where upon all that I had been sure of was not only uncertain but also very unlikely of taking place. I had run away from home a week after my step mother had told me she was going to have me married off. I was taken out of college, labelled as a failure who had no future as a lawyer; good for nothing.

I left home, rather quietly, all packed and ready to be picked up by a friend and taken to rather kind and generous family. But life is such that I had to leave them, for their safety and mine. My father had found out my whereabouts (thanks to my sister's email hacking skills). there was some confusion to my exact whereabouts as there were two families with the same named child. Thankfully, or not really, he went to the other family's abode bearing a rifle. Bad news travels like a wild fire. I was taken to a safe house. From there I ended up at my father's brother's house 90 miles away. My grand mother came to see me. She told me that I had brought shame to the family, she told me that when she died it would be from that shame. Still, I did not go back. When I found out that my uncle was planning to return me to my rather angry and violent father, I ran away again. That time I ran away to a friend's house which was 81 miles away. I sofa surfed for six months with nightmares of my father every single night. I shut myself away from all my family and tried to think of my next move to no avail.

This was the first time in my life when there was no certainty to my future. For the first time in my life I felt free but that sense of freedom was always shrouded by an overwhelming amount of guilt. In fact, for years it would feel like I was being choked.. At the time, I had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, since I left home, I have had physical and mental disorders due to that event. For years, if I saw my fathers lookalike car, I would start hyperventilating. I became severely depressed and still suffer suffer from anxiety.

I ended up in a youth hostel. I had to learn to cope with things. Then one day my back started hurting. I found out that trauma can have a physically affect you too. Since then back pain has been my closest companion. But even that enabled me to explore the world. I didn't go travelling but I met people, I did lots of different things. I worked for all kinds of people and creatures who have suffered.  For once in my life I started to get to know who I really was. Of course going through something like that left a lot of scars. I couldn't trust people. I became angry too. It was a slow process, with a lot of sessions in CBT and counselling but eventually I started living. 

I have never wished to go back in time and change things. I have never wished that I had stayed at home. I have never looked back. My biggest regret is not taking my siblings with me.

This whole experience has taught me so many things. I am able to appreciate and recognise the good times. I am stronger now, much more than I every thought I could be, but most importantly, it has taught me to be compassionate, something I would have never learnt had I stayed with my father.

I hadn't left home because I hate the culture I come from. It's our way of doing things. Arranged marriages happen all the time. Forced marriage is not part of our culture, it's in the darker corners, not in the prominence. Thinking about it today, I feel like another part of me had taken the reigns of control over me, a stronger me who had woken up when threatened with an injustice I did not deserve. That part of me is still ignited to a certain extent to this day. I suppose the innocence I held died the day I left home and with it died a part of me that can never be replaced.

Uncertainty is a horrible feeling to endure. The only walls holding you back are those made by you. Always try to break them on your own pace. It has taken me 7 years to get to where I wanted to get to.

The world can be your oyster.

Sen x

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Sombre Truth

I've spent the past month pretty much cooped up in the apartment, feeling unable to go outside. Finished the first term of uni on the 17th of Dec. Felt like I was getting depressed in October when I began feeling anxious to leave the flat on uni days. Missed quite a few days. Still managed to do well in the assignments. Handed in all 5, so far received back the results of 2. I'm very happy with the results.

I really thought I was over the anxiety. Now it's come and bitten me in the backside. What am I afraid of? I really wanted to do so much with my time off. Now I only have 2 weeks left and very little to show for it. I only feel safe being outside with friends. It's got to point where I now shop on-line for clothes and shoes instead of going into town- 20 minutes away.

I am in Derby. That's probably a surprise as I said I've been locked up at home. My mum's been ill; she asked me to visit her. It's probably the best thing I could have done as being cooped up was also making me slightly depressed and not to forget- fat.

Inactivity as bad as this, for my flat is small and walking from one end to the other cannot be constituted as exercise, has made me podgy. I guess I can, for once, use the blaming game, for it was only recently the festival of blaming, other wise known as Christmas for the food and New years for the drink. Inactivity is also rather hungry work. As there was not much to do, I just sat there eating. Not all the time, but every couple of hours. Who needs a pet?

I feel the pangs of embarrassment already. All my posts are always honest. This one, however, somewhat more so than the others.
I may even update loads in the coming days so this post goes to the bottom of the page.

It is so much easier to get rid of something tangible that obstructs your way. But when that is not the case as it is with me, it is so much harder. Every time I am outside in general, it is because I have won. I don't win everyday.

Sen x