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Thursday, 11 July 2019

In Which My Situation Feels Ridiculous


If a person has stage one cancer, no one would dare say 'you're not sick enough to qualify for treatment.' They would be told by the doctor that it's good to catch it early to prevent it from getting worse, and have their illness treated as seriously as someone with stage three or four cancer. Yet if you have a mental illness and are still able to function, you're supposed to 'wait' until you've 'hit rock bottom' or 'can't leave the house without having a panic attack' or 'are so depressed you can't get out of bed.'

From experience, a mental health condition doesn't hit you at once. It starts off gradually, developing over several years, until it's so bad you're smashing up glass and throwing things around and shrieking in the doctor's office.

I've been struggling with panic disorder for almost three years now. It was at its worst in 2017 and I didn't know how to cope with it, I just collapsed (think Tony Soprano) and avoided many situations because of it. Was at uni so got a student loan and then moving back with my mum in late 2017 made a massive financial difference.

See, I've always been one of those people who believes in self-sufficiency. I'm wholly against scrounging off the benefits system unnecessarily or cheating the tax system. But that aside, the benefits system is supposed to be in place for people who need it. It's a safety net designed to help those who are disabled or on a low-income. It's wrong when people mis-use it, but equally it's sad when those who really do need it are unable to get what is needed from it.

The Conservative government's extensive public spending cuts have hurt people with mental and physical disabilities; people on low income, or single-parents who need benefits to make ends meet.

Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself here:

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/tory-austerity-and-welfare-cuts-like-bedroom-tax-directly-caused-brexit-new-academic-study-finds-university-of-warwick-2018_uk_5b632558e4b0fd5c73d73693

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/23/welfare-spending-uk-poorest-austerity-frank-field

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/universal-credit-crisis-welfare-cuts-uk-tory-party-theresa-may-deven-ghelani-a8603706.html

Those are just a few articles I could find about the affect of austerity on those who need it. And yes, while benefit fraud sucks, it's still smaller than tax fraud: https://www.indy100.com/article/benefit-fraud-tax-dodging-paradise-papers-evasion-avoidance-billions-government-statistics-8056846

Not to mention those who commit tax fraud do it to hold on to as much of their money as possible, while most people who claim benefits do it because they need the money.

But back to me (this is my blog after all). Last year I worked as an Event's Steward at Wembley Stadium and various other locations. I did one twelve-hour-shift at Notting Hill Carnival (one of the worst days of my life - I refuse to set foot in that place ever again, not even for free chicken wings) and ended up needing my brother to call me a uber because I collapsed. I was in tears by the end. It was crowded, noisy, the toilets were disgusting - thankfully I had a nice supervisor who let me sit and watch the steward's bags. I ended up crawling through the crowd of paraders to the other side. (That's not a joke; I got down on my hands and knees and crawled through the crowd because I was sure I was going to start gasping otherwise.)

I could bore you for ages on why stewarding sucks (poor working conditions, zero-hour-contracts, no real training, hours without food or using the loo) but if it wasn't for my anxiety disorder I'd have stayed, because money is money and getting paid to stand around for hours is easier than most jobs.

I've littered this post with screenshots of a handful of the jobs I've applied for since January this year. (My last contracted job was at Waterstones but it was a Christmas temp job.) I've had three interviews in the last seven months (Boots, WHSmith and Superdrug), all unsuccessful. Ended up having a panic attack and bursting into tears at my Superdrug interview, surprise surprise. Was going to work for this childcare agency but they said I couldn't until I was at least five years sober (two years is impressive, but I do see their point. Plus you can't really have panic attacks in front of kids).

Self-employed guitar tutoring seemed great, until you realise it's not sustainable and life gets in the way. So eventually I signed up for Universal Credit only weeks ago, with the realisation now that trying to get a so-called 'real job' isn't going to work. I'm too sensitive or not resilient enough or whatever. I wish in gods' name I wasn't, but I guess my calling is to just be a poor writer living off benefits. I know this post is basically me whingeing (which I keep telling myself to do less of online), but my main point is in the UK, finding work for young people or people with mental health problems is a full-time-job in itself. Is life really this absurd?
Maybe this time I'll be successful??

Been writing some articles for award-winning personal finance blogger Mrs Mummypenny. Check em out below!

Fabulous Ways to Scam Young People: https://www.mrsmummypenny.co.uk/careful-ways-to-scam-young-people/

A 22-year-old's guide to saving money in London: https://www.mrsmummypenny.co.uk/a-twenty-two-year-olds-guide-to-saving-money-in-london/

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