Thursday, 5 January 2012

Work and Schizophrenia

Hi Everyone

I saw somebody today from the 'Workwise' Team, a group of people in our area, employed by a local mental health charity, who specialise in helping people back to work, as and when they are ready.  The thought of taking part in the working world has been a huge step for me - mentally - but one that I have increasingly felt is necessary for my recovery.  I was going to wait until my youngest was at school, but recently sales of my book have picked up (probably due to my shameless self-publicity) and so I have decided to concentrate on becoming a bona fide professional writer as soon as possible.

The lady who came to my house today was wonderful.  She had a real understanding of mental health, particularly how it relates to the workplace and was also very compassionate and intelligent.  And by the end of our conversation (which was non-stop for two hours and left me worried that I had perhaps talked a bit too much) she seemed to think that I was sane enough to go to work, and even said that a career in mental health would suit me.  Which felt great, as an affirmation of me.  Although I was a bit dazed afterwards, from all the talking and because of the fact that I had been so distracted by the conversation that I had forgotten to eat lunch.  I am not sure that I have ever held a conversation so intense with anyone for so long in my life.  Certainly not since I have had children.

A very nice man from the benefits office also called today, and said that he would phone back after I had spoken to the Workwise lady and see how I felt about things.  I suppose everyone (including me) needs to be sure that I am stable before I take this step.  And I am grateful for that - I can see, and have seen for some time, that the diagnosis of schizophrenia works for me in a way.  It has enabled me to stay home for a long time now and bring up my children to the best of my ability.  And now it opens doors to being helped gently back into the workplace, rather than being thrust back rudely into it.  But it also labels me as a lunatic, which I really do not appreciate, or see that I have ever benefitted from.  So it has its drawbacks...

If everyone who wants to stop incapacity benefit gets the sort of understanding that I have experienced today, then that is brilliant.  I suppose the problem that a lot of people have is the converse - they don't want to stop being on benefits, they are worried that they won't cope.  I felt like this once - in my mid-twenties, fresh out of St Anns, when my GP wanted me to go to work, and I knew I wasn't capable.  I was so panicky.  I changed GPs and my new one was more understanding, and wrote me sick notes for years.

Eventually, I voluntarily enrolled on a DSS back to work programme, for people with disabilities.  The people who ran the course were lovely, and I really hoped I would end up with a proper job.  But I still wasn't ready.  They found me work experience in a solicitor's office for a few months, I did ok there, and by the end of the programme the solicitors would have kept me on (in quite a menial capacity).  But I was a bag of nerves, and I knew I couldn't cope with the job, or rather I couldn't cope with the other people who worked in the office - I was so bad at social contact, and so aware of that fact.  I was permanently embarrassed just to be me.

So I can well understand the terror that must grip people who are being called up for medical assessments.  Nobody really wants to be on benefits, they would all rather be capable of earning a decent wage for doing a job that is within their capabilities.  But their capabilities are limited, for whatever reason.  Nobody is really a dole scrounger - as I see it these days.  Because if they were offered a job as Prime Minister - and they felt capable of being Prime Minister - they would leap at it.

Or to be more reasonable in my argument, if someone on benefits (sickness or any other sort) was offered a job as a clerk in an office and they felt they could manage it and they knew they would gain from the social standing it would give them and that they would enjoy the friendships they would make there, and that they would earn enough money to enable them to continue their lifestyle, or improve it; of course they would take the job.  But for people who are down on their luck, horizons are narrowed.  Circumstances make it hard for them to move on.  Sometimes they are physically or emotionally incapable, at that time in their lives.  So I, for one, would never judge them for that - although I think it is a noble and worthwhile purpose to help people to find work when they do feel ready.  So thanks to those people who are helping me to do so.  I will keep you posted, readers.

And by the way, I was thinking of my promises to keep you all posted, and that I don't always keep them.  I forget.  So, for those of you who are interested:  My feet are finally on the mend.  I can walk comfortably (in the right shoes) I can swim, I have had no infections for ages and I feel sure that things will continue to improve in the foot department.  Phew.

Update two:  after my night of sleeplessness a week or so again (which unnerved me because I felt so alert the next day) I slept well again on the following nights - although now I have to get up for the schoolrun, which is a shame as I could do with an extra hour or so in bed.  ( I don't actually resent the schoolrun because after it, at least on a few days a week, I have the house to myself for several hours, which I greatly enjoy).  I need to sleep - it keeps me sane and also reassures me that I am sane.

Yours sanely

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