Yesterday was a pile of the proverbial. I was deep in Post-exertional malaise anyway after a weekend of family outings and community togetherness. On the Friday I had rung the benefit people as I hadn't received a letter about my claim for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) after speaking to them two weeks previously. During that call I was told that payments would be triggered even though my claim had gone to appeal. So I was wondering where my money was.
They rang me back yesterday after perusing my paperwork. They had, indeed, erroneously sent my claim to appeal even though I had only asked for a reconsideration. It turns out though that there is no money attached to this claim. It's credits only. This is because I have another appeal running for Incapacity Benefit which may not now be heard until October. It's taken five months for them to tell me this.
Ok, I could rant about this here but it's boring and not what I want to talk about. I will be wheeling out the MP and making a complaint - although making a complaint to DWP is rather pointless as they manage their own complaints procedures. There's no outside accountability. What I did want to talk about was the effect this is having on our relationship. Our neighbour turned up on the doorstep with a jar of frogspawn in the middle of a full and frank discussion we were having, and I just burst into tears.
When I was married, years and years ago, my husband let me down big style financially. He hid things from me and and I found out the hard way that things were in a parlous state. It wasn't a conscious decision, but since that time I have never handed over my finances to another, and I have always been in charge. If I had debt I could see it was my debt.
When CFS took away my ability to earn my own living my income was reduced by a factor of five. In other words I was having to live on a fifth of what I was used to. I'm grateful for the little I did get through Incapacity Benefit as it kept me going. I'd never been able to buy property and thankfully housing benefit took up most of the slack so I was able to keep a roof over my head. I also had some savings which provided a cushion for a few years. I applied for Disability Living Allowance and got a good award, so that further improved things - and I was able to have a frugal but good quality of life.
Now I am part of a couple and he earns a very average wage and some of that goes in child maintenance. Because of what he earns I don't qualify for free prescriptions, housing benefit, or council tax benefit. So when they took my Incapacity Benefit away last October our household income fell by a quarter, but my personal income fell by a half. This coincided with my car failing its MOT and needing several hundred pound's worth of welding. So I lost my car and along with it, a sense of independence. It was also the last vestige of my work life. There is very little chance I will ever own my own car again.
Emotionally and politically I am now in a position I abhor - almost totally reliant on a man for my financial security. It forces me into the role of Hausfrau, Home Maker, House Goddess and all those other euphemisms for domestic servant. I do more than half of the domestic chores, the lion's share of the cooking and shopping despite the fact I am unwell. There's very little in the way of intellectual challenge in this - and I am starting to resent it. I'd managed to escape, as did my Mother, the traditional life of servitude, only to be thrown back into it. AJ comes from a 'traditional' family where Father worked and had little to do with the children and never had to lift a dust pan. He does pretty well considering but we both tend to fall back into the well worn grooves of our early conditioning. And some of us are more aware than others shall we say? I still get asked things like 'what time are we eating?' or, 'do you mind if I put this in the fridge?' Like it's my domain. I don't say 'do you mind if I put this in the shed?'
My response to this is to look outside of the house for things to get involved in, but I am quite limited by energy and, now, by not having my own car. Last week I was at a feedback meeting for the Community Mental Health Team. I suggested we start a client group for service users to be able to have more of a say. Since I've had some experience with running groups I volunteered to get it started. Of course, the more I do outside of our relationship, the more AJ feels left out. At the moment though it's a way for me to feel I have some choices about things - like being with him for example. Because the reality is I couldn't leave even if I wanted to. Given my history that's not a comfortable position.