(Un)Welcome to Atos 

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Written for the benefit of those who have to be assessed by Atos and for my MH as I need to vent! 
I’m on ESA due to my ME/CFS. People have been telling me for ages that I should apply for PIP as it’s money that I’m entitled to, to help me. Hearing all the horror stories about Atos and how people who are almost dead (wish I was exaggerating) being turned down, I saw no point in even trying. Then I met some people who had been successful and the extra money had helped them and their families enormously. It has also opened a door to other support. 
Initially, I phoned up DWP on behalf of my son who has ASD. I ended up also applying for myself which felt a little strange, as if I was trying it on! The forms arrived and I was overwhelmed by the amount that needed to be filled in. Luckily, I was helped to fill in my son’s form by a CAB carer support scheme who regaled me with tales of Atos being inconsiderate and ridiculous (telling people who can’t cook to use a microwave – aside from the cost of ready meals, it’s not remotely practical for a family). None of this filled me with much hope. 
The biggest tip I was given was to fill out the form as if it were your worst day i.e. the days when I can barely move, in pain, emotional…. After requesting an extension on the forms, I managed to get all the supporting paperwork together to send off the forms. 
Maybe I was delusional but I had all the hope that neither of us would need an assessment and that the money would be freely given. I think, having heard all the horror stories, I should have realised that this was NEVER going to happen. 
After a surprisingly short wait, two letters arrived. They wanted to me to be at Gloucester for 9am!! A minor meltdown ensued before getting my act together and phoning them. I garbled a whole heap of words at the man on the other end of the phone and he concluded that it was odd as they was a centre in my home town. Phew! 
That encounter was positive and I really began to feel differently about it all. Anyway, judgement day arrived with a returning sense dread. A woman with a friendly voice had phoned the day before to make sure we were going to be there. I was taken aback by the niceness. Despite this, I woke up feeling sick and shaky. 
The building wasn’t hard to find and was only a short walk from the bus stop. We were met with locked doors, a security guard came to let us in. Then another locked door….then a receptionist behind bullet resistant glass….sat in a huge empty room with just a leery looking security guard and a place to hang coats for company. 
Immediately, I felt like I was seen to be a dangerous person, a low life to be feared. We sat down on some very uncomfortable chairs and waited. I clocked the cameras and the alarms on the ceiling. My son overheard the receptionist saying that she expected people to be more grateful that they were offering to pay for expenses. All was not well. 
My son started to get agitated as we waited. 5 mins late, 10…15…20….23 All I wanted to do was to lie down and sleep but the chairs made that impossible. A woman came to the door and called my name, panic. I checked that my son was going to be ok and left the room. 
The woman met me with a smile and I thought she was nice. She told me that she had been a district nurse before working with Atos and that she was well informed about health problems. Then the questions, which were exactly the same as the form I’d already filled in. 
Her whole demeanour changed, it was like talking to a robot. My brain went dead and I struggled to tell her how my life was impacted. I had to talk about what illnesses I had, the meds I was on, how my day to day life was affected. None of the questions seemed to give me the chance to explain how I struggle. 
She gave me three words to remember, then I had to answer some simple maths questions and show her that I can move my arms. It was almost like I was having an outer body experience, I didn’t feel in touch with what was going on at all. Aside from forgetting all of the symptoms, I found myself mumbling and looking anywhere but her face. 
She asked me to repeat the three words, I could only remember two. One word being ’tissues’ which was easy to remember as there was a box in front of me which I had to make use of. I did my best not to cry as I thought it would be seen as manipulation. I couldn’t stop all the tears when she asked about my PTSD and how I cope with crowds. 
And then it was over. I said thanks and that it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be (IKR?!) and waited for my son. He seemed to think his went ok, he’d had the same maths to do and had to spell ‘world’ backwards. How any of this is useful with conditions like ME, ASD and mental health problems, I’ll never know! We both commented on how they asked lots about our asthma even though it wasn’t relevant to why we were there. 
After letting ourselves out (forgot to mention, on the way to the assessment we had to pass through another locked door. May as well have been a prison) I went to the toilets and collapsed in tears. It literally felt like everything I had held in just exploded out of me. If my son hadn’t have been there, I’m not sure how long I would have cried for. I was overwhelmed with the sense that I had screwed up in defending myself again, like I did in court. Having to justify to this woman why I should have £20 a week for an illness that you cannot see. It was all too much. 
Now all I can do is wait and see what they say. I’ve already looked into the appeal process as I’m convinced that it went as bad as it could have. 
We shall see. 
Love, hugs and blanket dens 

Exxx 

#NewParty #Brexit My Manifesto for A Working Class Women’s Party (Pt.1)

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Now, here’s an idea… The country’s in a completely Brexit meltdown of a mess. Politicians have abandoned us (or at least, that’s what it feels like) so there’s no one at the helm guiding the boat to safer waters. Even when the politicians do get their act together, I can honestly say that none of them inspire me that much. There may well be some wonderful back benchers, like the late and great Jo Cox MP, but we never hear about those doing good work. 
The conclusion I’ve reached is that we need a new party on the block. A working class women’s party (I’m including women on benefits who can’t work, like me, too) – thanks to Claire for that. I guess that makes the party the WCWP …. And yes I know that there is a WEP but they aren’t up to much. Very London centric and aimed at the middle classes, mores the pity. 
As I started this, I get to be PM (until I’m ousted when everyone realises I need to nap every 2 hours!). I’d also appreciate it if I can be minister for crochet please. 
A few positions have been filled already (not naming names or @ unless you want me to, happy to edit): 
PM

Deputy 

Chancellor 

Health secretary 

Secretary of State for DWP

Minister for agriculture and fishing 

Equalities minister 

Minister for economic ingenuity 

Hampstead liberal/Prosecco socialist 

US ambassador for all things lovely inc whiskey, pizza and puppies 
I’m never sure which is a minister or Secretary of State but I’m not sure it really matters. 
Quite a few job opportunities out there, just @ me on Twitter or comment on this blog and I’ll add you. 
WCWP need: 
Home Office 

Foreign Office 

Education

End of VAWG 

BAME minister 

Minister for cats 

Transport 

Industry 

Umm …. Just had a look online and there’s loads and I’m sure there are some we can invent whilst we are at it. 
Now there’s just the simple task of a manifesto and I’m keeping positive that we can all agree on it *eeek* 
Here are some ideas we can get our teeth into …
Ending VAWG is an obvious one 

End poverty by taxing rich people 

Female only safe spaces 

Children and teens taught stuff like how to fix a dripping tap, arts and crafts, cooking lessons that are actually of some use in the real world. Then sex education focusing on respect, consent and empowerment. 

I have to confess that I’m getting tired now and my brain isn’t working so this isn’t even the start of this. Feedback more than welcome. 
Love, tea and hugs 

Exxx 

On the Edge of Poverty 

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Today was one of this days when I knew where my place in society is and that place is somewhere near the bottom. You know, the scummy bit where the sediment is. 
I have some jewellery that I have no attachment to, in fact, I want to be rid of it ASAP. I’ve held on to it, waiting for a reason to sell it. 
When my son was younger, my abusive ex used a trip to Legoland as you would use a carrot on a string to get a donkey to move. My son hadn’t been diagnosed with ASD at this point so his behaviour was seen by my ex as belligerence. If my son jumped through millions of unattainable hoops, he would get to go to his beloved Legoland. On one occasion, he said he could go only to change his mind and bought him some Lego instead.
It’s been a karma thing for me to sort this out. Someone lent me the money to pay for a trip to legoland – even though my son said it’s too late now, I know he’ll enjoy it. I said I could pay for it by selling my jewellery. The kick in the teeth came when the local jeweller wasn’t interested in any of it and the pawnbroker offered me £111. My diamond ring retails at £950 brand new!! She also told me that my diamond certificate was wrong and the diamond was smaller and therefore less valuable. 
I declined her offer and she gave me a leaflet and a mint about taking out a loan. Once I had left the shop, it was like my whole life slid out of view. I felt sub human. All this emotion bubbled up and I cried and cried. 
It wasn’t about legoland anymore, it was about my whole life and my children’s lives. They suffer as I am not well enough to work and they have shitty dads who I would rather didn’t exist. 
I’ve noticed that food shopping is costing more and my money isn’t going as far as it used to. My benefits have been frozen so I won’t have a cushion against any rise in inflation. At some point, I will lose several hundred a month in the benefit cap. Everything is crumbling around me and I’m not sure how long I can keep going.
I don’t know how I’m going to pay for my children’s uniforms and shoes in Sept, let alone when/if they go to Uni. How will my lack of ability to earn affect their futures? There will be no bank of mum to bail them out or treat them to a nice day out. 
I feel utterly heartbroken. My children’s future could be written off due to their feckless mother. 
This year is going to be a huge challenge. I need to find ways to cut my spending. I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, have a social life …. Time to look at my food budget and not use the bus anymore. 
Spring may well be in full flow but our winter is coming.
Exxx 

My Feminist Manifesto 

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This blog post may alienate people, I may lose followers, I may get blocked by a few. It’s fair to say that I’m struggling with feminism right now, I know that I am one, I just don’t know where I fit in. 
When you don’t live in London, or have disposable income, you’re not a minor celebrity, you don’t have a column, you’re too tired/busy/ill/restricted by having young children and no one to look after them ….. You being to wonder what good you do at all. The most I do these days is to tweet. I’m pretty run down with my MEcfs, depression and constant UTIs. It takes the shine off any activist badge I may have had (metaphorical badge obvs). To add insult to injury, the one charity I did support have drifted off and no longer seem to need me 😦 All in all, I feel pretty useless to the cause. 
Going back to my point about not knowing where my place in feminism is, here’s what I do believe in ….
Women are wonderful and I believe in the power of sisterhood. It can be uplifting and healing. 
Male violence; two words that are not any where near enough to describe the devastation that males cause to women. The statistics are out there to prove it. One woman or child dying or being abused at the hands of a man is too many. I don’t have a solution, no one does. I believe that men need to do more to call out friends, society needs to do more to cultivate boys and women need to occupy far more positions of power and influence than they do right now. That’s not something that can be done in my generation. 
In the meantime, women need safe places to flee abusers. They need support and guidance and this requires money and lots of it. 
Women should always be believed. Yes, some women do lie but often they are individuals who need mental health support. Society needs educating on victim blaming. It’s far too easy to dismiss issues like rape by focusing on things like what she was wearing or how drunk she was. The whole CJS needs an overhaul. 
You cannot change the sex you were born with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change your gender. I appreciate that there are people in the world that suffer huge distress over their gender identity. It’s not for me to tell people who they are. Once again, society has a huge part to play. The whole ‘pink for girls’ and ‘blue for boys’ is creating an environment where children are seen as different just for liking something that has been arbitrarily assigned to a different gender. 
The trans issue that is ripping feminism apart right now is a place I don’t even dare to tread but I must. I believe that everyone has a right to be safe and to be respected. Everyone. 

I have been called a terf for not recognising penis as female. Terf is not a word I will ever use to describe a woman. 

Maybe I am on the wrong side of history but that’s a place that doesn’t appeal to me. 

I believe in safe spaces for women. Sometimes this will create conflict. I don’t believe that trans women or men are seeking to gain access to sex segregated spaces to harm women. This was a common fear when gay men were fighting for equality. I do think that men will abuse this and they have done. 

Trans people are affected by male violence esp trans men and this needs to be addressed. 
I worry about the erasure of women in society. Natal women are not womb owners or bleeders! Our biology has created unique joys and problems! These should never be neglected. 
Women should not be slut shamed, have to look and act like a doll, force themselves into shape wear etc Leave women alone! Respect our boundaries! 
I’m pro Nordic model and want to see an end to demand. Women and girls are not holes to be fucked! 
I’m pro abortion and I’m not afraid to say that. Her uterus is none of your business! 
I’m not anti men, I’m exasperated and pissed off with a lot of them though! As a Bi woman, I will never be ashamed to say that I find some men sexually attractive. That doesn’t make me less of feminist. It would be wrong of me to lie about that. 
I’ve ranted on for a bit now. I wrote this for my own sanity and you are free to disagree with me. Please don’t expect me to get into a debate with you though. These are simply my opinions and I don’t matter to the world of feminism anyway so you needn’t worry. 
E xxx 

Triggered by my vacuum cleaner – a rant about abuse of words 

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We live in an era where the terms ‘triggered’ and ‘trigger’ are no longer used to describe the experience of someone with PTSD but that of any one who can’t handle words or situations that make them feel uncomfortable. I thought I’d set the record straight on this as I’m sick of this word being used out of context. I’m also pretty pissed off that the *special snowflake* community has turned a way of me being able to express my trauma, into a laughing stock. 
I have never been formally diagnosed with PTSD, I’ve had therapy and been on courses for PTSD but never had the box ticked. It seems it’s an exercise in hoop jumping before they’ll do this. I’m in no doubt that I have PTSD and neither have the people who have been involved in my care. ‘Triggers’ was a word that I quickly came acquainted with and it was useful to know. 
When I get upset or scared or angry (or any negative emotion) I can look back and see if there was something that triggered it, triggered me. When I say words like ‘upset’, it really doesn’t hit the spot of how awful I can actually feel. Now that this word is in the mainstream, it’s very easy to just throw it about and use it to describe every time you feel a bit sad or put out by something. A similar example is the abuse of the word depression eg ‘My new shoes are ruined, I’m so depressed now.’ PTSD and depression are both serious mental health problems. Diluting the words that sufferers need to describe how they feel only contributes to the ongoing stigma of mental illness (yes, the stigma is still there and it’s huge). 
I thought I’d introduce you to some of my triggers so that you can understand (assuming that you’ve never experienced PTSD so please forgive me if you do know ….) what that word really means:
1. As mentioned in the title – I often mistake my vacuum cleaner for a person. That moment when you think there’s someone in the house, the fear builds and your jaw clenches… All from a split second of my brain interpreting the vacuum cleaner to be an intruder. It sends me back to a place and time that I do not wish to go to. At this moment in time, I haven’t learnt to control my triggers. 

2. Certain music and certain smells. I won’t go into specifics. Our senses are more powerful and influential than we, or at least I, probably give them credit for. I have being taught techniques that use the senses to stop flashbacks so they can actually be a good thing 🙂

3. I know that there are buildings and places that I’m not sure I could ever step foot in again. If I can avoid triggers then I do. The only time that I would consider facing a trigger is if it was affecting my quality of life. Sometimes avoidance is actually a good thing!

4. This is just a list of other triggers, some more potent than others …. Certain names, one born every minute – TV, door locks, open exterior doors, open windows, beds, night time, the noise of the extractor fan, being startled by someone, alcohol, drunk people, the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath, people who look a bit like my abuser, certain dates in the calendar …. 
The list could go on and on. This is the reality of living with PTSD, I’m fighting with triggers all of the time and it’s fucking exhausting! Being triggered isn’t about something or someone upsetting you, it’s about life changing situations that can reduce you to a curled up ball of mess on the floor. 
So yes, I’m bloody angry that this word is now mocked and laughed at because certain groups of people have adopted it. I see this word being abused (and I don’t used the word abused lightly either!) all of the time across social media and real life conversations. 
To those who misuse the word triggered and it’s many forms:
Fucking stop it! Grow up and accept that life can be shitty and upsetting at times but that doesn’t mean you are traumatised by it!! Get over yourselves, you cannot be protected from all the things that make you feel uncomfortable. There are many things in my life that upset me and I would rather not face but that doesn’t make them triggering. Your life will be so much richer and satisfying if you stop hiding from it. 
Ok, I may be being a little harsh. Do me one favour – please stop appropriating language that mentally ill people, like me, need to use to be understood and taken seriously. 
In the meantime;

love, tea and hugs 

Exxx 

The loneliness of a single mother 

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I tweeted a while ago that I have been trying to write a blog post about the loneliness that comes from being a single parent. It was rather touching that so many women tweeted back with a ‘me too’. 
This isn’t going to be a social analysis of why single mothers feel so isolated as I don’t have the intellect or the energy so apologises for the lack of facts! This is simply my account of how it feels. 
To cut a long story short, I’m a single parent for the second time. I have three children and in the last 9 years we have moved house 5 times – 4 times were in 4 of those years. This has meant upheaval of all kinds, from the changing of schools to the loss of friendships. When I left my ex husband in 2012, I found that after a few months, a lot of my friends just disappeared off the radar. Since then, I’ve struggled to meet any new people. 
I no longer have to do the school run as all three have a school bus and I now live in an area that is far from the people I mixed with. In short, I feel like a bit lost and rather sorry for myself. People that I thought would stand by me, buggered off when my life took such a different path to theirs. I was no longer a married mother with a mortgage etc like them. Maybe it scared them, maybe they thought I might bring them bad luck or maybe I changed and they no longer liked me. I’m not sure that I need to know why though! 
The impact on my self esteem has been huge. Where is my place in society now? It hurts when people tell me to ‘get a life’ or make stupid comments on Twitter like ‘I bet they have no friends’ as it’s true. I’m a total loser! I feel trapped in a life that I didn’t sign up for and no, I’m not moaning about being a mum. I’m moaning that I’ve lost myself and my life along the path that I have been forced to take. The path has turned into a massive rut that’s pretty impossible to get out of.
My ME/CFS, lack of money, inability to drive a car, shyness and so many other little things prevent me from climbing out of this hole that I’ve found myself in. I’m also terrified that people don’t like me or won’t like me. Maybe the reason why I have hardly any friends is that I’m not very likeable. I know people who really do lighten up a room when they walk in and their energy really is infectious, the same cannot be said for me! My social anxiety and lack of people skills can make me seem cold and negative *sigh* 
The odd thing is, I never thought that my life would be like this. I’ve been delusional enough to believe that I was put on this earth to be so much more than hum drum beige. Yes, being a single mother and looking after three kids is a very valid thing to do – I’m talking about having something in my life that is separate from my identity as a mother. I wasn’t born a mother after all. And yes, I do have a boyfriend but that doesn’t change my social isolation from needing (and I do mean needing) women in my life. 
When I’ve attended support groups, they have this wonderful ability to bring back the spring in your step. Surrounding yourself with like minded or even life minded women is a truly uplifting experience. For whatever reason, I’ve not been able to keep those friendships going once those groups finish. I’m convinced that lack of transport has a huge affect on my ability to socialise – so if you don’t have a driving licence and have the money to get one, get one! I wish I had when I was younger and had the cash to do so. 
As the rain pours down outside, I know I face another week of sitting in the house on my own. I go to my art class once a week but I don’t see it a social time, it’s my art time. There are other groups that I could do to but I can’t afford the bus fare or the risk to my energy levels. 
As a single mother, no one is there to cook, clean, wash and so forth apart from me. I have to balance my limited social life with my limited energy levels. There’s no way I can just not cook dinner or not make sure everyone has clean clothes. I hear women say that they wouldn’t know what to do without their partner, I can tell you what you will do – bloody everything and then have no one to gripe about it to last thing at night! 
I was hoping that writing this all down would help me feel better, I think that I feel worse! I’m so sick of being invisible and worthless to the world. My teenage self was so wrong to think that I was somehow special and destined to do something extraordinary. At the same time, I don’t wish to just roll over and accept my lot in life. I guess I need to patient and let my life evolve a little more. 
Love, tea and crochet

Exxx 

160000 say #BackOff to anti abortion protestors 

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In a world where only the celebrity focused petitions seem to gain huge support …. I’m so happy that my petition has reached over 160k supporters! I’ve been campaigning for well over a year now and visiting No.10 seems like a very long time ago.

There are times when I feel like giving in but knowing that there are so many of you who want the same thing keeps me going. 

You don’t have to agree with abortion to know that these protestors are in the wrong. Women should and need to be able to enter these clinics without fear or shame. They are doing nothing wrong and their reasons for visiting these clinics is NONE OF OUR BUISNESS! It’s really quite easy. 

If the protestors want to shout and wave banners then they can do it anywhere, several 100m away from the doors of clinics. It is time we did more to protect women. I know that abortion is not a cuddly topic like avenging a dead lion or having a late celebrity named after a new periodic element BUT women’s safety is so much more important and that is far more valuable to society. Then we can get on with our  

 lives and tackle everything else. 
Much love and solidarity 

Exxx 

https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-please-create-a-legal-exclusionary-zone-outside-of-abortion-clinics/u/15009390

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114853