How do I manage going from 0 – 100 in a week? Because that’s what I feel like I have to do!
Last week, I was learning how to cope with a new exercise physiologist and a new psychiatrist and was managing to process these things reasonably well. But this week, I have to actually do the exercise program – which seems to have doubled in time and difficulty, since I went to Germany! And in addition to that I am now required to really look seriously for work! Don’t get me wrong …. I want a job! But the requirements that the government demands of me in job seeking, seems hugely overwhelming to me at the moment. Why the government you ask? Well, for those of you unfamiliar with our system and my situation, it goes something like this. Remembering that this is my version, from my point of view.
A couple of years ago, I began suffering from anxiety and this was so debilitating that it prevented me from working. As I didn’t have a partner to help with the financial support of my life, I needed to apply for support from the government welfare department. Although, all of my doctors, (my GP, my Psychologist and my Psychiatrist) sent reports saying that I was too ill to work, the government assessor(who interviewed me for a whole 20minutes) disagreed and deemed me not eligible for a disability pension on mental health or any other grounds. They did, however, deem me unfit to work more than 6 hours per fortnight and give me a partial pension. My doctors challenged this and actually won but I was only given a reprieve from having to work at all for 12 months. My pension remained as a partial pension which would immediately drop if I worked and earned any money anywhere else. This meant that I could attend my medical appointments and I did get cheaper healthcare but it is not enough money to pay my bills and I have been slowly but surely working my way through my savings! If I had received the full disability pension – it would have easily covered my meagre requirements and I believe my mental health would have recovered even more quickly than it is. Apparently, if you even mention that you intend to “get better” to a government assessor, you will be deemed not disabled! Obviously, disability, when using the term in a mental health capacity, has to be permanent! (Sarcasm!) I am not trying to put myself on par with others who definitely deserve to get the disability pension due to conditions far more deserving than mine BUT I am saying that I believe you CAN become temporarily disabled for shorter periods of time, to the extent that it becomes impossible for you to work AND you shouldn’t be discriminated against because of your desire to get well!
Here I sit, my 12 months reprieve is up and there are now very strict requirements that I must fulfil or else my part pension will be cut off. I have to attend fortnightly Employment Service Provider meetings. I have to contact 12 employers per month, and provide evidence that I have applied for at least 12 jobs that are suitable – not just work I would like to do. Also, I must attend interviews in relation to any suitable work, not just work I would like to do, including any that my Employment Provider deems suitable. Lastly, I have to undertake a health maintenance program to manage my medical condition, until at least October this year, when this will be reviewed.
All of the above sounds doable when I am sitting in an office, speaking with my Employment Provider. But when the first job that I am required to apply for, would mean 1 hour 20 minutes travel by car each day and I begin to think about the cost of additional petrol for 6-10 hours per week work – the first block in the wall goes up! Next they go on to talk about some retraining in the Caring field of work, as this a growth industry. When looking at courses, I find that many of the suggested courses cost money (that I don’t have) and most run 5 days per week for up to 12 months. When I mention this, I am told that some financial support may be forth coming but I would only find this out after I apply! That doesn’t sound very comforting to me!!
Next I look at the request for me to manage my health by continuing a maintenance program. This I am happy to have written into my plan, as it is by far the most important aspect of my life. Part of the decision to go off my anxiety medication, was dependant on my ongoing counselling. I haven’t really spelled out exactly how much help I continue to need to keep me functioning day to day. Today, in continuing to try to remove the stigma associated with mental illness/wellness, I am going to be really open and honest in my sharing about it.
- I see my General Practitioner monthly. This is to manage my prescriptions for my asthma, hypertension (high blood pressure) and oversee my weight loss which has been necessary for many reasons, primarily due to some chest discomfort. He is, also in charge of all those other things like regular tests, which have increased since my son’s illness.
- I see my Psychologist every 3 weeks but this is fluid and may be fortnightly if required. This is my ‘nuts and bolts’ work. It keeps me focussed on moving forward and reminds me of what I can do. It also, validates my feelings and helps me to work through my fears.
- I see my Psychiatrist 6 weekly – although we will be trying to push this out to 2 monthly from now on. These sessions monitor my need or not for medication for my anxiety and depression. Of course, at the moment I am med free for these conditions but my Psych and I am both aware that having been treated for a long term depressive illness, I may at some stage, need to return to medication for help with my depression – which is totally different from my anxiety!
- I see an Exercise Physiologist monthly and he oversees my exercise program which is tailored specifically for me and my crapped out knees and general breathing difficulties. This program takes me about 1 hour 20 minutes per day to complete at the moment, which I feel is too long for me but he is new and I will hopefully be able to get this down to around 40 -60 minutes on our next visit.
- In conjunction with my exercise program, I also see a Dietician every 2- 3 months.
- On top of all this, I am going through some heart tests at one of the public hospital clinics and some cancer checks at another private clinic. These are both just precautionary but they take time and in some cases money!
So there you have it! This is what it takes to keep this mental health patient functioning in day to day life. It is expensive and will be more expensive if I lose my part pension because then I will also lose my health care card! It is also pertinent to know that every single one of these health professionals has changed in the last 18 months. This has been due to life …. no other reasons. But change is incredibly challenging for me. Remember, this is just MY story not everyones.
The thing is, I don’t really know how I maintain this schedule if I have to enrol in a 5 day a week course, for 12 months. It scares me to think of stopping any of my appointments because they all take care of different aspects of my life. I am reliant on every part of my program to work together to help keep me moving forward away from those Doona Days! The pressure I am feeling is building and already I am feeling some of the old anxiety warning signs. Due to the many personnel changes in my life, I am feeling that I have no safe place to land. Not one of the people working with me now, knew me when I was really sick! They see a much more capable person – which is exactly what I am. Unfortunately, I am feeling just one step away from disaster. This is where my friends and family and you, too, my readers, who have been with me all along, become important. You become my pressure release valve; my support; my voice of reason; my shoulder to cry on; my perspective givers; my encouragers and my helpers.
There it is – my life laid open. No happy hooks or sayings today. No jokes. Honest. Bare. Uncomfortable. True. I have no simple answers. There are none. I will continue to fight my demons, be they real or perceived – because I have no alternative. I will process my new requirements and in a few days I might see things a little more clearly – I usually do!