I'm sorry I have been so slow to reply to comments; they are always very much appreciated. Still pretty crappy, though it's coming and going. Rather preoccupied by illness nevertheless, as I so desperately want to be better for Christmas. There are several letters and e-mails I really want to write before then and that's not happening yet (one of the letters needs to get to France before Christmas, so that's getting very tight). And there are certain daily indignities which are really getting me down just now, although they are way too dull or too gruesome to talk about. In fact, even the gruesome ones are quite dull.
The other reason I am preoccupied by all things health is that I finally finished my godforsaken Disability Living Allowance forms. Bastard bastard bastard forms. Cusp recently wrote about how her saga with the Insurance Company triggered a sense of being bullied. Filling in DLA forms is not nearly as bad as that, but all this stuff - this general area of having to prove oneself to have significant impairment - presents a battering for the self-esteem.
I always advise others to accept that it isn't at all personal. These systems - insurance, benefits, financial assistance of any kind - all have to work on the basis that they won't give you the money unless their hand is forced. Every claim that can be challenged will be challenged. Even when your case is rock-solid, they have nothing to lose by turning you down in the hope that you don't have the energy to jump through the hoops of an appeals process.
I have some experience of presenting a case which cannot be refused - I don't consider myself safe, but I have enough experience to think that whatever happens, I'll get what I'm entitled to eventually. I have filled in this form on someone else's behalf, and whilst it was a bit tricky (my friend had mental health problems, which don't "fit" terribly well with the design of the form), it wasn't hard work. It was an ordeal for my friend, of course.
Doing my own, however, is deeply demoralising. For those who are fortunate enough to be completely ignorant of such things, the DLA forms require you to
(a) quantify the extent of your impairment in a ridiculously precise manner. If you have difficulty walking, for example, they want to know how far you can walk to the meter, how long it takes you (in this form, they asked this question three times rephrased), the precise angle and rate of oscillation if you have a wobble etc..
(b) explain in layperson's terms exactly why you have this difficulty. So, if you have a condition characterised by pain and fatigue, you basically have to go on about how much it hurts and how exhausted you are on every single page. At the same time, of course, you must not sound like you might be over-egging the pudding.
This is a deeply depressing process. You don't merely have to think quite hard about what your limitations are and how to phrase them, but you worry about understating or exaggerating them - which is easily done. When you can only walk a short way, that distance might easily be doubled or halved on a particularly good or bad day. But you don't really know because whilst you haven't been paying that close attention. And this applies to every practical aspect of your life.
The bitter cherry on this particular cake was right at the end when [...] wrote his little piece. They have a tiny box in which a person who knows you has to detail your "disabilities" and how they effect you. I am tempted to share with you what he wrote for your amusement, but it is also somewhat embarrassing on account of its... tragedy. Suffice to say I did suggest we replace his words with a photograph of a wide-eyed kitten with a bandaged paw. In fact, I thought about going through the whole thing and pasting in pictures of wounded animals, but I couldn't find enough animals to wound.