The assessments the disabled and mentally ill are being put through (Work Capability Assessments or WCAs) can be incredibly harrowing. If you have a severe mental health condition the impact of an assessment can turn your life upside down for an incredibly long period of time. The same is true for those with severe physical health problems. A trip out of the house can leave an individual stuck in bed for months, for some even getting out of bed is a challenge – I know this from personal experience, as I’ve been there and I still am from time to time, disappointingly wasting away my days stuck in the corner of a sofa, unable to do much for myself.
For some people (myself included) even the thought of leaving the house is a challenge. I know some that, if they actually did walk out the door, it would be considered the achievement of the entire year, yet they’re being forced to do so, to travel away from home, from their comfort zone, and interact with strangers.
The idea of going to the GP for an appointment, a mere mile away, is enough to induce strings of panic attacks for me, and that’s before I’ve even got my splints and shoes on to get out of the door. And these are on the days I can get my shoes and splints on by myself, others it’s so difficult I leave without, being wheeled around in my chair by my husband.
The preparation to leave the house is an ordeal, the thought process is a mind maze of emotion and wondering how you’ll manage when you get outside, what if someone speaks to you? What if there’s no drop curbs, or no close parking spaces? What if you face a confrontation over your situation when you pull into the disabled bay? Such confrontations are on the rise, and I have been faced with some lately, despite only having been out of the house a handful of times since last year.
With the WCAs, not only do you have to go through the routine of panic attacks, fear, physical strain of getting ready, physical strain of travelling, you’re then taken to a place which may or may not have disabled access and picked apart. For ESA/DLA/PIP you are asked some soul-crushingly probing questions on the forms about some incredibly intimate or embarrassing parts of your life. How often are you incontinent? Can you wash yourself? Can you cut up your own food? Use the toilet without help? How is your mental health?
How would you feel if you had to tell strangers how often you want to kill yourself, how often you piss or shit yourself, how often you have to be picked up from the toilet or need someone to wash your hair for your as you can’t hold your arms up? Excuse my crudeness, but for some of us this is the reality, and it’s one we’re not allowed to keep to ourselves.
You have to be open and honest when answering these questions, and for someone whose health isn’t exactly the best, it’s a horrific experience. Each time my forms come through there’s an inevitable breakdown. The knives and medication, along with anything else harmful, is locked away. I have to be watched when I shave my legs or cut up food during cooking. I, like so many others, muddle through day-to-day, trying not to think about how severe my problems are. Filling in these forms shatters the illusion that I’ve created that what I’m living is a normal existence, that my pitiful daily routines aren’t that bad. Oh how wrong I am, and every now and then these forms are there to remind me of how wrong, how little hope there is.
When you’ve submitted your forms, dissected your life on paper for a complete stranger to read, you may then have to go through the above ordeal of leaving your home, travelling to a place you don’t know, putting your health (mental and physical) at risk and going through hell. As with being dissected on paper, you’re then questioned by someone from a private company [Atos] who will do the same again. Looking at your forms and trying to pick out inconsistencies with what you say, looking for signs that they could write down to suggest that you’re capable of working.