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.
I would rather not this sort of week become a regular feature in my life. Last time I went home in February I found it incredibly stressful and it really threw me.
Monday morning at 2am I took the coach to Heathrow to fly to Norway for a week to see my family. I was aware my mother hadn’t been in great shape as she’d had the flu for the last week and a half or so, so I went to see her as soon as I arrived and stayed until Tuesday, getting the fire going in the living room and doing bits and pieces around the house.
My sister had told me she wasn’t very well – but I hadn’t expected her to be as unwell as she was when I got there.
This is the most ill I have ever seen my mother.
Even when she had chemotherapy and radiation therapy she was not this sick.
She was so weak that she couldn’t even raise her head and she stayed in bed for my whole visit, not having the strength to get out of bed and feeling completely wiped so didn’t want the carers to help her out either.
What I found very unsettling and distressing was how confused she was.
She asked me repeatedly if I’d been to check on the house. When I let her know we were home, she stated she didn’t recognize where she was. She asked me repeatedly where Husband was, if I’d fed the cat (her cat had to be put to sleep a year ago due to poor health), and where her grandchildren where. She would ask me about people who (I assume) were from her past and what they were doing.
My visit was spent tucking her in, giving her a drink as she didn’t have the strength to hold the glass, and trying to coax her to eat something as she hasn’t eaten much at all since becoming ill. I could see how sunken in she has become and how much weight she has lost since I saw her at Christmas.
I felt so helpless as I couldn’t really help her or make her comfortable or get her anything she wanted. She asked me to buy blue grapes when I went food shopping, but then said no thank you when I’d washed them and brought her a bowl. I’d offer her some cake or dessert and she would say yes, only to say no thank you when I brought it to her bed.
As I had to get up in the middle of the night to get to the airport, I was completely wiped by Monday night, but sat with her to ensure the carers did come to do their night routine. I could feel myself falling asleep sitting on the stool next to her.
The next morning the carer came and woke me, to let me know they had persuaded Mom to have an emergency appointment that afternoon with her doctor. I thanked her and silently wondered how they would get her into a wheelchair let alone out into a disabled access taxi, but two carers came and ensured we got in alright. I packed a bag for her in case she was admitted, and I packed my things so I could travel on afterwards. My sister called me and when I explained how Mom was not making any sense at all, she explained that Mom had developed delirium and that she would need to be admitted whether she wanted to or not that day.
At the doctor’s office, they did a CRP check (measures infection in the body) and we were seen by her usual doctor. He had a listen to her chest, got her CRP score and declared that she had pneumonia. He then said that it would normally be treated at home but due to her state he wanted her to be admitted to have treatment administered intravenously.
A CRP reading was taken from her the Friday before I came which showed a reading of 37 – so something wasn’t quite right, but Mom did not want to be admitted. When the second reading was taken on Tuesday it showed 185. Most healthy adults should have a CRP reading of between 0 and 5, and most people will die if their CRP reaches 300 or higher.
I steeled myself, as I was expecting to have to challenge Mom as she has been very reluctant in the past to be admitted. But surprisingly, she accepted it and the doctor’s office ordered a taxi for us to take us there. So I travelled with her and once she’d been settled in I travelled down to stay with my sister the the rest of my stay.
We visited Mom on Thursday on the ward and she seemed a bit better and less confused. Saying that, I called her this week and she still seems very confused so I will have to ask my sister if the treatment is working. Pneumonia is no longer as fatal as it was in the past as we now have antibiotics. However in someone already weakened, or if it is a viral version, it can be quite hard to treat. Mom is home now.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom.
I got to see my sister and her family and my brother and his family. I could have a fire going every day. My sister and her family were very generous and sent with me two sides of salmon, some lamb and some beef, a bunch of sausages and wiener dogs and some sliced ham, so that will all help on the grocery budget for us.
Husband’s mother suggested I ring the credit card and explain that our lives are in upheaval as a reason for forgetting the January bill and asking them if they would as a gesture of goodwill waive the charges. I rang them while waiting to board on Monday and they could see we had been paying diligently and in full every month so waived everything.
Last year I applied to the student loan company to get some of the interest on my student loan written off. They responded last week and they could see that in 2014 we met the requirement to be classed as a low income household, so £1440 has been written off the student loan as that was the interest we had paid that year. They asked me to apply for 2017/2018 once we have our Annual Tax Statements to see if we could be eligible for even more to be written off.
All the same.
My flight home was on Friday afternoon, and the coach from the airport got in at midnight. I had to get up at 6.45am the next day for work at the uni. Didn’t manage to finish unpacking my suitcase until Tuesday as I worked Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Got some nice reduced stuff on Sunday night from the Tesco Express while waiting for the bus.
Those three days were spent on autopilot, as I didn’t feel like I was all that present due to being so worn out.
I just found it incredibly stressful and upsetting to watch my mom in such a state, and feel quite raw about it. I certainly don’t feel like I have had a break at all.
It was as though I was sitting by someone who was passing away.
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!
Husband was accepted onto the Work Health Programme and he has his appointment this week to start this off. It is the new initiative from the government to get more people with disabilities into work. The Jobcentre have sold this to us as something different as it means Husband will get personalised support. Perhaps I am cynical but I am personally doubtful this will be different to anything else we have tried – but still. Must give things a go.
Remploy also contacted us and asked if we needed support; so we will have a phone conversation with them this week.
We saw these on our way to the Jobcentre on Tuesday. It really brightened my day up and I hope it’s a sure sign spring is on its way. We need it!
Husband has gone to another session and they have now signed the confidentiality contract for six sessions of counselling. I’m so pleased he has agreed to go, just for his own sake as 2017 was so rubbish for us. It was done on the proviso that I will go as well when my mother passes away, which I have promised I will do.
Since Christmas I have continued to squirrel things away for this coming Christmas (and also Husband’s birthday). I was very sad to read before Christmas that ciao.co.uk will no longer pay people to write reviews (even though it says in the FAQ they do, cheeky devils). I may migrate my content to a new site if it even exists, so I have been busy copying down my reviews and the images for them. I have had to do this once before as a website I used to use, dooyoo, had an update and became impossible to use afterwards. I did not expect to have to do this again for ciao.co.uk.
Thursday I had en email from East Midlands Trains, stating they would be refunding us our ticket to Barnsley as we were delayed over an hour going there. Score! We got there on time to find our train being listed on the board as cancelled. I asked at the counter to double check this was the case, and they said to wait for the next train which was leaving an hour later. As the station was very cold Husband and I went for a bite to eat and then came back an hour later – to find the train had not in fact been cancelled but had been and left without us! Thank goodness the conductor saw the funny side and let us use our tickets on the next service. And we’ll be getting a cheque in the post sometime next week for our train fare as well.
Thursday I also came home from work to find two thick brown A4 sized envelopes, both about an inch thick, addressed to Husband and myself from the DWP. I had a look through its contents and while the papers within were interesting to read as they contained all the notes on Husband including what they had recorded during his assessment. I was unsure why they had sent it to us as there was no letter at the front of the first pack, and the second pack had a letter that stated that if we wanted to discuss the appeal we had to contact the court directly.
So I assume we are still going ahead with the tribunal then?
I wonder if it is because the DWP are legally obligated to send us copies of what they send the court in preparation for the appeal. Within the pack was a letter the DWP had sent to the court stating they strongly objected to the appeal and asked them to throw the case out.
With a cup of tea I had a look through the papers and what they had written about Husband. Nothing too inspiring or surprising, bar that I was not mentioned in the report at all. Surprising as we detailed how much support I give Husband and how much I work. Until I got to the last section of the assessor’s notes. Where, under Other factors concerning ability, the assessor had written ‘Redacted owns a pet cat’.
I just felt like headbutting something and crying in frustration. Ended up ordering a pizza for dinner and going to bed at 9pm as feeling very tired and flat. Not great for moneysaving but at least I got cashback on my order – just didn’t have the energy to do anything let alone cook dinner that night as I was feeling so upset.
We have spent a considerable amount of time filling in the form and answering questions at the assessment, and explained what Husband needs support with. First of all, you do know Husband is married right, and lives with yours truly? Yes? No? Maybe? And that we do things together? Like, say, looking after the Cat?
….In fact, do I even exist in PIP land?
And secondly, how in the world is having a pet an indicator of someone’s ability to negotiate dealing with other people and travelling independently?
Friday I just about managed to visit Foodprint before they closed at 5pm. Got myself some lovely bargains and donated £5 to their Paying it Forward Fund so someone else can have a shop if they are struggling.
At the weekend I worked as normal. We were given some books by my lovely in-laws so need to see what I’d like to read and what can go on FleaBay.
Jobs for Tuesday include: Writing and creating listings, taking photographs if I have the will to live. Accompanying Husband to appointment. Taking call from Remploy. Investigating why my life insurance payments haven’t gone out of my bank account, and shopping around for home insurance and broadband as both contracts expire in February.
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.