Now, I don’t want to moan, but this space is somewhere where I like to be honest about my experience of recovery, so, to be frank, things are a bit rubbish at the moment.
1. We’d planned a short break this week on Barra and Harris, but one of Calmac’s ferries broke down; they cancelled our sailings, so no Hebrides for us. Boo.
2. With just a few days notice, the hospital have moved the date of my heart procedure back to the end of the month. I had mentally prepared myself for this to be happening very soon, and it seems strange now that it is not. Indeed, I feel rather at a loss for what I should do mentally: put it to the back of my mind? Remain in this weird state of expectant limbo for a further fortnight? I had also made plans for several happy things that were to happen after the op, and these have now been disrupted.
3. According to the government, I am not disabled. This seems rather odd, since I find it hard to walk, cannot lift or carry, need Tom to help me in and out of the shower, and spend entire days poleaxed with fatigue. I was paralysed by a stroke five months ago; my entire time is taken up with rehabilitation and rest; and my GP has declared me currently “unfit”. But apparently none of this equates to disability in the eyes of the current administration. To explain: after I was discharged from hospital, my care team instructed me to apply for DLA, as it is the key to certain government services I now need, such as return to work assistance. DLA is not a benefit – it is not related to income, and is not means tested. It is there for those whose mobility or mental health means that they need certain kinds of help or care. Someone like myself, whose mobility problems have meant we’ve had to adapt the bathroom, buy a new bed, and incur considerable travel costs as I am unable to walk or cart myself about to rehab, would normally be considered eligible for the lower level of DLA, which would also enable access to aforementioned government services. But not in the brave new world of Cleggatron’s big fookin society.
This is not about money. It is about being disabled. At the moment, I am a disabled person. Anyone who has read what I’ve written here since February will know that I am trying my utmost not to be, but unfortunately, right now, I am. I do not intend to be a burden on the state. I am not claiming, nor shall I ever claim any government “benefits.” I am not the Tory Press’s mythical nemesis, sitting on my arse all day, draining the public purse. But there are certain services – specifically those which are going to help my transition back into the workplace – for which I should be recognised as a disabled person. Now I know that I am a disabled person, but the government does not recognise me as one. So what am I, then? My reaction to this news about my identity and social status has been extremely complicated. I hope the academics among you will excuse me when I sum it up as a sort of reversal or failure of Althusserian interpellation.
Filling in the sixty pages of that berloody DLA form was a thoroughly humiliating and evil experience. I would say, with the exception of actually having the stroke, its the worst thing I’ve been through. Actually, I take that back — the worst thing is that, after the grueling task of listing and quantifying in insane detail all the things I unfortunately cannot do, I then receive a letter from the government that effectively says that I must have been lying, because actually, I can do them. This is how the government go about telling you that you are not, in fact, a disabled person.
“From a seated position, you can prepare a main meal for one person.” (gee, thanks. Would you like to see just how hard it is for me to bend down to get into the cupboards or oven? And pray tell me, how does one sit down to use a stove designed for upright human beings?)
“You can carry a laden tray to and from the kitchen” (with this arm? can I? would you like to see me try?)
“Outdoors, without assistance, you can walk X hundred metres” (unfortunately, there are days when I can’t even haul my ass from room to room)
Right now I cannot face what an appeal involves – effectively going cap in hand to that clueless wanker at the DWP explaining, “sorry, guv, actually I am disabled.” I imagine this is probably the case for many people in my situation and that the hideous process of being recognised as a person with a disability is simply too much for them to go through. It is certainly too much for me.
Apologies for this extremely ranty post, and for frequent reference to state apparatuses which readers from other nations will no doubt find inexplicable. I hope you do not feel that I am griping, or asking for sympathy, or insisting on government hand-outs or anything. I am not. I am a proud, and very independent sort of person who would simply like to be recognised as someone who currently has a disability. I’ve been unsure whether or not I should mention any of this here – but I am so berloody angry, and have been so brought down by the whole thing that, short of turning this space entirely silent, it would be impossible to hide. And, as I said, I am trying to write honestly about what recovery from stroke involves for me, so it would be wrong of me to disguise how I am feeling, out here, in ideological limbo.