Friday, December 14, 2007

Bad Form

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.


Sally said...

Dearest Goldfish

I was going to comment on 'Because your're worth it' something deeply appreciative, spiritual even, but me brain wouldn't let me, so just to say ... BASTARD DLA/insurance companies/lurgy ... and the 'dull and gruesome' bits of daily life that are really just NOT ON that we should not only have to put up with the indignity, share it with our significant others, but also have to justify the necessities to the bastard dla/social services/insurance companies ...
we are witness to the fact that however deeply down, discombobulated or downright raging angry we are about it all, we are here, and so remain,
giving support and gaining support.

Sometimes !

Happy Christmas, love and hugs, and thanks for your insight, wisdom and presence.

Cusp said...

Well right on to you too.

No it's not being bullied with the DLA forms --- apart from when they stop it after a period of years and nothing has changed on your side but aparently they feel justified in making you re-apply ---- but its still jolly irksome and, as you say, depressing to have to contemplate and set out all the negatives of your life instead of being able to concentrate on the positives. That's why the insurance stuff is getting me down really. I just want to resolve the whole busines and move on.

Anyroadup in a week or so it'll be Christmas so all the pen-pusher's offices will closed down for a bit and we can sleep safely in our beds waiting for Santa and hoping the DWP cronies and Insurance bods only get a second hand sock (one !) and a past-its -date satsuma in their stockings.

Bah Humbug !

seahorse said...

It is by far the most irksome, challenging, worrying and downright depressing task an ill person who could really do without all the above has to face.
But it's done. Gone. And hopefully not to be faced again for a good while now (which in itself is a depressing thought I know, but I really do hope you can just forget about it and they leave you alone to do what you do best...which is not dwell on all the negative feelings the bastard DLA form stirs up).

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing even while I'm holding my stomach as it cramps sympathetically.

These processes are so very evil, even while they ostensibly exist to do good. How is this so? How?

But you finished. Brava! That's something to be proud of.

Kay Olson said...

Here's hoping you feel much beer soon.

That's an excellent summary of The Evil Process. I would add that whilst writing all this down, what I am really thinking is "YES, I can work. I am educated and dedicated and motivated. I can work, if someone will hire me, provide the needed accommodations and not be scared away by the fact that health care is tied to employment and I am not just a terrible risk, but a foolhardy one, in that regard. But that won't happen, so, NO, I cannot work. Sign me back up again please."

Mary said...

well done for getting it finished, at any rate.

I love the idea of pasting in a Poor Ickle Aminal on each page.

I don't know about you, but for me, part of the problem is that I tend to get quite emotionally involved with stuff I write, and my forms are at risk of becoming less "objective form-filling" and more "creative writing exercise" (I don't mean creative as in fictional... just as in thinking about use of vocab and so on to make it better to read). The only way I could really tackle it properly was to keep it as very short, precise, fill-in-here sentences, which was boring and repetitive but a lot less distressing.

Maggie said...

Know just what you mean about having to list all the stuff you can't do instead of what you can! Just finished an IB50 which is much the same kind of stuff.

Best wishes, and good luck for a good outcome from Liverpool

Philip. said...

'Bastard bastard bastard forms.'

Well said!!

Funky Mango said...

Well done on the DLA form...just done one myself so I sympathise! (I currently have an indefinite award of higher rate mobility and middle rate care - I want to see if they'll give me higher rate care). I love the wounded animal idea. Did you consider some strategically placed tearstains on each page, as well?

Anonymous said...

The other part of this that's so depressing is how much self pep talk we do with ourselves all the time. To get through the day, to set goals to work towards where maybe we'll be a bit better, to hide from others how bad things are... My whole life is about playing down my disabilities and pep-talking myself 24/7 so I don't throw myself under a bus.

And yet, when it comes time for these types of forms, I suddenly have to admit to every little thing I can't do. In great detail. Everything I've been lying to myself and everybody else about every single day. Everything I'm accustomed to hiding and NEVER focusing on. It's enormously painful. And then I have to put in writing that I will never be better, never be able to work, never be able to support myself... (All things which I still hope may change someday...) I feel horrible any time I have to do these forms. In the US we have to do them every 3 years and they are incredibly painful to do.

I hope yours get done and far far far out of the way asap.

Shelly said...

I definitely understand your frustration... it is impossible to describe yourself in a few adjectives. Never mind the pressure of convincing the recipient of your legitimate needs! Hang in there...