I thought January was tough, but that was seemingly just the warm-up for February.
February has been really tough for us.
I spent most of February feeling tired and overwhelmed with everything that is going on with us and our family. This culminated in me crying hysterically for the best part of two days and realizing I need some serious help with supporting Husband as I just felt like I was drowning. This feeling is not as strong now, but I can feel it’s still there, below the surface.
While visiting my mother and family back home during half term, we had to have her admitted as she was very ill and they discovered she had pneumonia. She seems more herself now but is still incredibly weak. I found visiting her quite distressing as she was so confused, and I couldn’t help her or make her comfortable. The three days following it were spent walking around in a fog on autopilot.
At the same time, February had good parts to it as well:
Managed to forget to pay the credit card bill for January however the credit card company waived the late fees and interest as a one-off. This saved us £38.
The student loans department wrote to me to say we qualified to have the interest paid on my student loan written off for 2014, so that’s £1440 gone from my debt.
We were well under on the grocery budget – got some good reduced bargains and food at Foodprint. Also got some freebies through couponing.
I got to see my sister and her family, and my brother and his family.
My sister and her family very generously gave us a lot of meat and fish to take when I travelled back to the UK, which is helping our grocery budget a lot.
I managed to get six hours of free counselling sessions through the employment support hotline at one of the places I work.
Many colleagues and people on the internet have asked me about PIP and if we have got a court date yet – we are still waiting. We are in March now, and we started this process in May last year so it’s been almost a year we have waited for this to be resolved.
I am pleased to report this week has been much calmer – something I really needed.
Monday I went to work had we had a quiet day, so had the energy to do errands after work. What I wanted to do was ensure I did not have to go anywhere on Tuesday so got all my shopping, as many chores as possible, and the postal run done after work. Went to Sainsbury’s after work and was confused for a moment as I didn’t understand why the shelves were so bare – then it hit me. Of course. Winter. Or something.
Husband’s mother accompanied him to the JobCentre Tuesday morning, so I could potter around the house, but feeling stressed at having to go anywhere. Which was really nice – I got some overdue jobs done and feel very pleased with myself:
Wednesday was very cold here in the UK, with a strong wind and heavy snowfall. Sister gifted me a sheepskin vest so wore it to work and I am glad I did as it kept me warm at work.
After work I had the first of six free counselling sessions I have managed to get (eventually) through work. The counsellor is not too far away from home so I can get there, do the hour and then walk home from there. So we will see how that pans out.
Bless her, she could see why I am feeling overwhelmed – she said one of the things I discussed with her would be enough to crack someone, let alone the several things we have going on, all at the same time.
Thursday morning we woke up to this:
The college was closed Thursday and Friday due to the adverse weather so I had two days of rest at home. The uni also decided to close Thursday afternoon and was closed all day Friday. It’s been so cold so haven’t had much choice in keeping the heating on. Hopefully spring will come soon (?).
Thursday I didn’t go leave the house at all but Friday I braved the Hysteria from Siberia and went to Foodprint and also went to get some other bits and pieces from Wilko, Boots and Lidl. Lidl was so busy, with people buying milk and bread like the world was about to end.
Husband was especially pleased with the malt loaf and promptly had two slices of it with butter when I came home.
As the university was closed on Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning, we came in on Saturday to 67 missed calls on the renewals hotline and over 120 unanswered tickets, so as most of the day was quiet in terms of visitors we spent a lot of the day replying the enquiries we had missed while we had been closed and answering the phone.
Sunday we had a lovely brunch and a chat with our neighbours from our previous house and we got to meet their now 7 month old baby. Worked the Sunday afternoon as normal and went by Tesco on my way home to see if there were any bargains to be had.
I’m glad this week has been more relaxed, here’s to hoping next week is more of the same.
Monday was very stressful at work, as we were down to two staff and my colleague had done her back in so I had to keep going to help her lift stuff or reach stuff.
As we were due to see the Work Health Programme coach the day after, I went home with a lump in my throat. I’d found some vacancies that could be suitable for Husband but the thought of having to sit and fill them in with him for hours filled me with dread.
Don’t get me wrong. We love each other, and as long as I have the will to live, I will support him and defend him.
But on Monday I just couldn’t.
I couldn’t face even the thought of having to do more work, after just having come home from work. And the day after that. And the day after that.
I broke down once I came home and was a crying wreck for most of the evening and the day after.
I just need some actual support, with supporting, if that makes sense?
If I am to continue going to work six days a week to support us financially, I need help.
I need more help at home keeping the house and I need help supporting Husband; filling in application forms, accompanying him places if he needs that, and so forth.
Naturally my poor mood affected Husband so when we went to the Work and Health Programme on Tuesday I cried for most of the appointment and Husband felt rubbish. As it is only the second appointment we have been to I can imagine what impression that gave of us, as the Wellbeing advisor was quite unkind and said that Husband’s problem is me. Because I work so much to support us and he doesn’t do as many hours and he feels he isn’t contributing.
We were both very upset with how they dealt with this, but will try to attend again as there isn’t anything else. Remploy wouldn’t help us as Husband is already enrolled on the Work Health Programme plus they don’t have an office nearby. The working scheme for people with Asperger’s Syndrome run by the county council can’t take him as he lives within the city limits, and it is just for people living within the county (???).
They suggested Husband applied for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and it is something Husband’s mother has suggested as well, it is something he could be eligible for and still keep his job.
If applying for ESA is anything like what we have had to deal with applying for PIP, I will not do it.
Having had to deal with applying for PIP and being told in effect that we are lying has brought out feelings in me I did not even know that I possessed. We started this process in May 2017 and almost a year later we are waiting for it to be resolved.
If someone else helps me fill in the form for it and takes Husband to the assessment, sure.
But I am not prepared to go through something similar on my own. I’m sorry if it makes me sound defeatist.
But it’s making me ill.
Husband bless him must have sensed how desperate I have been feeling this week, as he keeps asking if I am ok, no, if I am really ok, and keeps doing things around the house and saying ‘I’m trying to help.’ He wants to give up his counselling so I can go have some, something I have rejected as he needs it more than me. I have explained to him that the problem is that I have so much work to do, outside of work, that I am beginning to feel like it’s swallowing me up.
I think three things have to change in order to help me feel better, as I am feeling so overwhelmed:
I need much more help around the house than what I am getting now. I cannot go on working as many hours I do and still have more stuff to do at home.
I suggested a cleaner, to which Husband strongly objected. So we will sit down and go through a list to divide chores more evenly. At the same time I understand that while things might not be done to my standard (Hanging the washing on the line in a lump? Ok then?), it will still be done. I have to let that feeling go.
I need help supporting Husband’s search for a job. This means I will no longer actively look for vacancies for him to apply for, but leave that with him. If he wants to continue looking for work and finds something he needs help applying for, a gent at the WH programme is available on a Thursday and Friday to sit with Husband and help him actually fill in the form and write cover letters. I will support Husband with getting familiar with travelling there so he can make the journey there eventually unaided when he feels confident enough to do it.
I need a release of some kind. A friend told me she goes swimming. I am contemplating perhaps going on a Monday as I finish earlier in the day and the tram takes me to the leisure centre. I went swimming three days a week to be able to even fit into my ruddy wedding dress get in shape before and I thoroughly enjoy it when I go. Maybe that’s something I can do.
I feel more calm now. As in, I don’t feel great, but it’s not all coming out. It’s simmering a bit deeper within me.
The end of the week has been better.
As Thursday was warmer and we had bright sunshine, I took the plunge and hung a load of bedding out to dry on Friday before leaving for work. It had almost dried by the time I got home Friday afternoon and hangs on the airer upstairs in the top floor to just get it completely dry.
I also got some lovely food bargains last week and this week, which helps our budget a lot.
Next week is half term and I am flying to Norway to see my family. Coach leaves at 2am on Monday morning for Heathrow (What possessed me to think this was a good idea, as I will be working 2pm to 7pm on Sunday? What?).
Hopefully I will have a chance to relax a bit.
And I will perhaps not feel so lonely.
EDIT: And to add further fuel to my feeling of not coping: Suddenly realized yesterday that I had not let my self-employed work know I am going away tomorrow (they need 2 weeks notice minimum to find cover), so I had better ruddy find a way to do the work while I’m there! And when I came home I’d gotten a letter to say last month’s credit card bill hadn’t been paid – I’d forgotten! Paid it in full immediately of course, but we have accrued £12 in late fees and £26 in interest! AAAAARGH!
Thank goodness we’ve gotten past January – it seemed to just go on forever.
This last month has been really hard for both of us. It’s just so dark and miserable all the time, coupled with being in limbo, it really doesn’t help. Husband has stuck to his counselling which I am pleased about. We do have an employee support hotline you can ring for free through work so might do that on Tuesday. I am genuinely not quite sure how they can help though, but have promised Husband I will do it.
Good things about January were:
We managed to stay under on the grocery budget again which is great. We are continuing to eat the food my sister’s family sent with us when we left at Christmas which is helping a lot. Foodprint and getting reduced bargains have also helped us keep costs down.
Husband has stuck with the counselling and says he is feeling better in himself. I am so pleased he was brave enough to go.
Husband’s mother went to get some advice about our PIP tribunal at her church as they do a free advice service there and the adviser will see Husband and her next week and go through our application with them. They have also agreed to represent us at the tribunal which will help as they have experience dealing with tribunals.
We’ve made some sales on eBay and I got two focus group/food tasting gigs last week, so that £50 in the Travel Fund and £30 in Tesco vouchers I have squirreled away. I also got a train fare refunded due to delay and went and cashed that cheque on Friday.
Our mortgage was up for renewal. We wanted to go with Halifax as they give you £500 cashback when you switch your mortgage to them. Buuuut they would only agree to lend us half the sum we needed, so we decided to stay with NatWest. When we got our mortgage the interest rate was 3.19, fixed until March 2018. Our new rate is 2.79, fixed until April 2020. Oh and no product fee either, score!
At the same time, January hasn’t been great either.
Had a weird thick envelope from the DWP with all the paperwork they have on Husband and his assessment. Surprised and cross in equal measure that I wasn’t mentioned in their report at all even though I do the most of the support stuff. And that they felt that an indication of Husband’s ability is that he has a pet cat. Note the he. I was again not mentioned at all.
While helping Husband look for work I discovered that his workplace (who told us they didn’t have any hours for him in the summer, because there was no money due to parents not paying their fees) were hiring for two positions. I emailed the UNISON rep and waited over two weeks for a response. I then decided to email the other address we have for the rep and got a response – ‘oh year that email address closed in December’. Really? You have been emailing us regularly from this address, why didn’t you set up a forward on it, or at the very least got messages to bounce back so we’d know they weren’t being read? Anyway what the union has said is that this is the end of the line now. We have exhausted the internal grievance process the employer has, and the UNISON solicitors say we are out of time to take the employer to court.
My mother’s health is continuing to decline. My sister has said we need to meet up as a family when I go back in February to discuss what we do now. It may be that we need to take power of attorney now to ensure she gets the care she needs.
At my one job we have had an email to say that because they have not enrolled as many students as they had forecast, they are accepting applications from anyone in any department to either reduce their hours or take voluntary redundancy to save money. At my other job HR has informed me I have been overpaid ever since I started my job there and so I now have to choose between staying at my current annual wage but work to make up for it, or work my current hours and lose £336 a year. I contacted my UNISON rep to ask if they had any advice for me but they have not replied and it has been over two weeks. What is even the point of paying our union dues if you aren’t going to respond?
Had to refund two eBay purchases as the buyers have stated the items never arrived. 😡
All of this stuff has caused my mood to really dive this month.
I know it takes a while but we started the PIP process in May last year and we are still waiting. I am also very indignant at how, frankly, they lie about Husband and what support he needs. One thing I have done though is read several pages of this web forum done by the UK government on PIP and ESA assessments. Just pages and pages and pages of people who are going to tribunal or who have been incorrectly assessed/had their statements ignored. It is reassuring to know that it’s not us. That it is in fact the DWP who do this to seemingly anyone who dares try to claim PIP. I was also interested to read that Capita, the firm who did Husband’s assessment and processed his PIP claim, have issued a profit warning this week.
We got the union involved with Husband’s workplace in February and after a year of chasing them for this behaviour it just fizzles out. They’ll get away with discriminating against him and bullying him at work.
It makes me wonder why anything is worth it. What’s the point of filling in forms, documenting, giving examples, writing things properly and spending time editing it so it makes sense, and sticking to deadlines, and challenging things, if the answer is just going to be no?
What’s the point in doing anything, ever?
I have got to try and stay positive for Husband’s sake as I can tell that he gets upset when I feel this way and show it. Trying to keep it together and to be calm but it is becoming harder and harder to do every day.
This first week back at work full-time has been really odd. I have been feeling quite off all week, all tired and spaced out, even though we’ve had time off since the 22nd of December.
Part of this is because I’ve had quite a bit to do on the self-employed side this week. CES which is a tech event has been on and brands use this event to showcase their new products. I do media analysis for a few brands (read articles in Norwegian about the clients, write a short summary, flag products/events/features/spokespeople/campaigns/etc/) and there has been a lot of coverage generated by this event. But what the client then does is that rather than sending out one large email they keep sending several smaller ones throughout the week, adding to the list of what products and messages to look out for, spokespeople, and so forth.
Add to this that they have reduced the turnaround time to the next day rather than 48 hours for this week, and the threat of that any analysis that doesn’t meet their demands will be returned to the analyst, it has made for a quite stressful week as I have come home from work, had dinner, and then carried on with my self-employed work before going to bed, every night.
And it wouldn’t make me so miserable if it was something that I was interested in reading. But when I had to analyse articles about, for example, TVs and nits (apparently a unit for measuring light, who knew!), then I just lost the will to live a little. Thank goodness the event ends on the 13th. Mergh. Mustn’t grumble, it’s a valuable side gig and we need the money now.
Husband had his first session of counselling this week. I waited for him at the office as it was his first time. Husband came out being very quiet. I asked him if it had been ok, and he nodded, and when I asked if he would like to go again, he also nodded. So this will be a thing now. Husband was very quiet after his appointment and I think it’s given him a lot to think about.
We have not yet heard back from Husband’s workplace about our appeal and what we discussed during the meeting at his workplace about the behaviour of the staff. While I was doing an online jobsearch today, I did come across two vacancies at the workplace – one of which is the kind of position Husband had! Very odd that they are hiring two new staff there, when they have said the reason why they have not given Husband any hours since the end of July is because they are underwater financially and cannot afford it.
Husband’s parents are coming by this evening after I finish work which will be very nice.
I did get these lovely things at Foodprint on Friday, which really made me happy:
They have added a fund option now as well – if you can they ask if you will donate money to it. If someone then comes by and is struggling for money or can’t afford stuff, then their food shop is already paid for by the fund. So I donated money and will go again and donate next week. The gent who served me said that the Post had been by that day to write an article about them and that business is picking up. I do hope they stay as it’s a brilliant idea.
Here’s to next week hopefully being a bit less manic and doing more work – the other firm I do self-employed work for asked if I could do two hours of voice prompts, so that means more money in the pot.
I worked hard on stashing away vouchers, loyalty points and Paypal payments in 2017, as it is the chief way for us to put away something for Christmas. Last year we did well but I was endeavouring to get even more presents paid for with points etc. this year. I have been keeping a log of things and this is what how we did this year:
Husband. We did not buy ourselves anything this year, as we feel we have enough ‘stuff’. What we will do is go out for dinner and treat ourselves sometime. Experiences, rather than things, are definitely the way forward.
Mother: Part share in a set of advent candle sticks set she wanted, £25, paid in cash.
Father: Another Game of Thrones book plus postage, £10, paid in cash.
Sister: Two books she wanted, £7.79 and £4.93, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Nephew: Robot Wars book, £7.43, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Best friend: Catering sized bag of PG Tips Tea with 1150 tea bags in it, £18.98, paid for by Amazon gift card.
Father in-law: Wireless weather station, £17.89, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Niece: Now 98 CD, £12.60, paid for with Amazon gift card, So…? body spray, £1.99, paid in cash.
Friend: Tea pot and cup set, £15.94, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Friend’s fiance: Irn-Bru cufflinks, £7.95, paid for with Amazon gift card, Irn-Bru sweets, £4.99, paid for with Paypal.
Brother in-law: Four cans of Lacerated Sky beer, £24, paid for in cash.
Nephew: Deadpool Munchkin set and Munchkin expansion pack, £13.25 and £15.50, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Nephew: Cowboy Bebop season 1, £22.99, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Nephew (yes, we have a lot of those!): Pathfinder core rulebook, £22.99, paid for with Amazon gift card.
Neighbour who cat sits for us: Hotel Chocolat Dark Selection box, £12.50. £10 paid with Compliments voucher, £2.50 in cash.
Sister in-laws boyfriend: Harvester voucher for 2 through Groupon, £20, paid for in cash.
Friend, £5 note, paid in cash.
Looking at the list we had fewer people to buy for this year as we did Secret Santa with Husband’s family. Everyone drew two names and those were the people we bought for – that way everyone got a present, but you did not have to buy for everyone. So that helped a lot with the Christmas budget. I am very pleased I managed to get the great majority of our presents using our vouchers and will continue to earn these in 2018!
I also tidied away Christmas yesterday and made the greeting cards I could into gift tags for next year before recycling the rest.
The survey earns and everything I do to squirrel away is a chapter in itself, something I will write about later this year. I keep a tally of everything I get, and it does add up over the whole year.
To finish, here is my Catch of the Day. I went by a Tesco Express yesterday after work as I know they reduce stuff there after 7pm, and got these lovely babies:
While I was doing my Living Below the Line challenge for charity, I saw on Facebook that a shop I’d been eagerly waiting for, was now open for business.
Foodprint is part of the Enactus society at University of Nottingham. In a bid to reduce food waste, they have opened their social supermarket where they sell food that would otherwise have been binned due to it being short dated or out of date, at very reduced rates. All income is then ploughed into the business to keep it open and to fund projects in the community.
When doing my challenge, Foodprint were heaven sent and provided a lot of food for very little money on day 10 of my challenge. Those naan breads I managed to buy just added some desperately needed flavor and variety to my diet.
And if the shop hadn’t snapped the food up it could very well have gone in the bin. I got two lovely bags of sweet, juicy pears for example, 7 in each bag, for 10p each at Foodprint. Looking at the label it said these were from Portugal. So a farmer had grown these pears in Portugal and they had been shipped to England – and all that labor and resources would have just gone in the bin if Foodprint hasn’t rescued them.
I decided then that I would make an effort when I had time to visit again.
This was my catch today. The gent staffing the shop bless him apologized for the lack of fruit and veg but explained it is hard to collect and distribute during Christmas.
I couldn’t believe the bags of sun-dried tomatoes! I can see a lot of pasta dishes with these stirred in, in our future. I can also see myself having jacket potatoes with natural yogurt and salsa for dinner. I was so chuffed with this and it only cost us £3.10 so a great help to the food budget.
Foodprint is on the other side of town so getting there is a bit of a trek, but I will endeavor to go again when we need to shop again. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt really, you don’t know what you’ll find there, and you just have to work around what you can buy there.
I’m so pleased this is a thing – great for the environment and great for people who can shop there.