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.
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.
With me preparing for and doing my Living Below the Line challenge, I suddenly realized today I had not summarized not only November, but December also.
I got some good bargains in November, but for the most part, November was blergh. Very blergh.
I got some good reduced food bargains from Sainsbury’s. Food bargains makes Silver happy, especially the kind she can squirrel away in the freezer for later.
November was spent agonizing over PIP. Husband was assessed in September, awarded 0 points, so we asked for the decision to be reconsidered. The reply from the DWP, again awarding Husband 0 points, was dated the same day we sent our mandatory reconsideration letter. I resisted the urge to imagine the people processing our application doing time. I dusted myself off, and we wrote to the court asking for their decision to be challenged at tribunal. Family and friends tell me not to take it personally, and that the DWP treat everyone who applies for anything with the same disdain. But I can’t help shake the feeling that this IS personal. What are you saying, exactly, DWP? The PIP form is 40, 4-0 pages long, and we gave examples and evidence both on the form and at the assessment for all the categories on there. Are you saying we are fibbing? What other reason would you have to award Husband 0 points, despite everything we’d written and said?
All of this has naturally helped Husband’s mood and self-worth nosedive.
December. Oh, ho, December. December was a very different month, for a variety of reasons.
Not sure if it is classed as a good point or point that could be improved…wait, I chose to do this. I managed to complete it, no cheating. And I learnt a lot from it and feel I grew as a person. Ok, doing my Living Below the Challenge. One of the hardest things I have ever done, no contest. It made me value everything we have and everything I can do and the choices I have, and everything. It made me appreciate just how precarious and fragile people’s existence is on that kind of budget. To not have any breathing space. To always have to count everything to ensure you don’t go over your budget. To be on the lookout for food, and food being on the lookout for you, all the time. Even food I don’t even like, such as mince pies and Christmas pudding, looked tempting. We managed to raise a total of £405.82 for the Trussell Trust!
I feel so empowered having done this challenge, and feel like I can conquer anything. At the same time I know this feeling will not last, so will keep it in my heart like a treasure and bring it out to remind myself I can do it, when the world strikes against us again.
I got some lovely bargains at Foodprint, and I intend to go again next week, if I can swing it.
The court has written to us to let us know they have received our paperwork for the PIP appeal. We will just have to wait and see when we get a date. I have tried to prepare Husband for the fact that a. he needs to be aware they may well ask intrusive questions about daily living and b. it is him who has to answer these questions when we are in court.
Christmas! We spent a few days with my family in Norway, stuffing our faces and playing games. We had some lovely presents and my sister and her family sent with us a load of food again when we left. She sent with us three packs of thin cured ham, two packs with eight sausages in each, a pack of wiener dogs, a pack of diced pork, a pack of pork chops and a huge cooked piece of beef. We had English Christmas with Husband’s family once we got back, and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day was spent at a friends house playing World of Warcraft Trivial Pursuit and eating junk. The remainder of the Christmas vacation has been spent eating things, lounging around and not doing very much at all.
Back to the grind tomorrow. I am also working Sunday for some extra money before going back to my weekday job again on Monday.
We even had two extra Christmas wishes fulfilled!
The first one:
It was almost bare when we got to Norway but on the day of our departure we had snow! So I got a Christmas wish fulfilled: A white Christmas!
And the second one, we received once back in the UK. CPS have decided that the person who deceived Husband’s sister into sending her savings in July IS going to be prosecuted for theft. As she has already admitted she manipulated her into sending the money, it’s an open and closed case – unless she now changes her plea.
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.