Monday, 30 January 2012

Psychological effect of being branded a scrounger

This was written by me a year ago, what has changed in that time? It is as true today as it was then.......maybe more so......

I have stayed away from the benefits debate (and I use this term loosely) recently, not because I have no interest in it, quite the opposite, I possibly have too much interest in it, to the exclusion of much else these days, but more because I am at a loss as to what to do next.
I have blogged about it, personally and generally, e mailed MPs, met with my MP on several occasions, put as much information out there as I can find, donated to a fighting fund and RTed others inspiring and factual blogs and articles until my fingers wouldn't work anymore.
I watch with both interest and dismay as the whole sorry saga unfolds, disbelief at the Governments heartless approach to all the evidence and pleas being put before them, proud of my fellow 'spoonies' actions and courage in the face of too often the most hurtful of attacks on our lives. Mostly now I feel quite despairing at the changes that ARE going to take place that right and good seem unable to stop.
That was despair until I read a blog this morning, you will have to forgive me for not being able to point you to the blog itself but I read so many and it didn't impact on me straight away so unfortunately I didn't make note of it.
But it must have struck a chord with me because as the day has worn on my despair has become anger, anger that is spurring me on to write my feelings down.
Is all that is going on, all the media spin, all the government rhetoric on disability, sickness etc impacting on our psychological well being?
I believe it is, maybe not even consciously but it is drip feeding our own insecurities and building on our negative views of ourselves.
Let me explain what I mean...
Most sick/disabled people will tell you how hard they find it to come to terms with how their life is or how it has changed. They may have had to adapt more than once as their condition progressed or even improved.
Many will say the loss of a previous lifestyle, employment career, relationships was hard to accept and move on from. Even a positive such as a new relationship, career or lifestyle takes adjusting to when you live with sickness/disability.
Every time the condition changes you adapt all over again, some do it quietly alone, some share with friends and family what they are going through and some shout it out to the world, you may be angry at the changes, the unfairness of it or despair over your future as the illness moves on, whatever it is and however you deal with it deal with it you must.
Then you try your best to get on with life as it is now as best you can.
So what happens to us when we are bombarded every day for months and months with these issues surrounding benefits and sickness and disability?
When you are called a scrounger even though you know your not?
When you hear of more and more disabled being abused in the street?
When you are told again and again that surely you are capable of doing 'some' work
When you have to prove again and again that you really are sick/disabled
When you become conditioned to expect the dreaded brown envelope?
When no one appears to be listening to you?
Do you find yourself acting differently?
Maybe just that little bit more disabled when you go out or even when you are indoors?
Is your hard fought for independence now a noose around your neck in case her next door thinks just because you can walk to the car today you are faking it?
Are you scared to do things that you were actually proud of yourself for still being able to do before all this?
Do you look at yourself and question if you are entitled to the support you get?
I only ask this of you because it is what I have found myself doing and I realised today I am allowing myself to be dragged down, allowing myself to stop being the complete me I can be through fear.
I am buying into the scandal that is trying to make all sick and disabled people feel guilty and a burden on the rest of society.
I AM behaving differently, I AM less confident, I AM afraid to do things even on good days. I AM becoming paranoid about who may be watching me.
Well it stops here, I WON'T be bullied by this government or the media,or indeed any disbelieving public, I AM disabled with a long term progressive condition but it won't stop me from doing as much as I can do for as long as I can do it and if this condition won't be allowed to stop me then my fear caused by what is being done to us won't stop me either.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Anonymous said...

thank you for putting into words just how i feel. very well written. it is time that the human rights of discrimination of the disabled are given the same attention as discrimination against gay and race issues. we are included in that human rights law too.

Jayast said...

A wonderful, blog, Penny. You have taken the time to eloquently express much of what has been going through my mind this past year or so.

I've become obsessed with my illnesses (M.E. and mental health illnesses) instead of mainly not dwelling on them and finding strategies to cope the best I can.

I constantly run through in my mind what I'm to say on my DLA appeal form (been turned down after 7yrs of receiving DLA), what I would say in front of a tribunal, what I would say if accused of being a "scrounger", or worse reported as a "fraud".

My state of mind is worse than it has been for years; I totter on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and what keeps me going at times is my old fighting spirit (the passionate fire of my anger has dwindled to a tiny flickering flame these days) which urges me to fight for that to which I am entitled, and on behalf of those who can no longer fight.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on your blog; most inspiring :)

chocolatewig said...

Bang on!! you have just said what has been bumbling around in my MS riddled brain.
Word for word is how I feel. This has led to re-occurrence of depression, self worth and my very existence with in this country right now.
I even feel guilty for daring to care as if this is so wrong nowadays?

Anonymous said...

great blog post! yes, i totally agree, it has had that effect on me too. i've barely been out of the house for the last 6 months, partly because i have developed other conditions on top of my main one, but also because of the subtle, insipid fear of what 'they' will think. they say they want to get everyone back to work - but their actions and stigma and drip-feed of negativeness is actually having the opposite effect.

well, stuff them. As you say, NO MORE. I WILL live my life as best as I can within my limitations

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only person in the world that felt like this! I feel a fraud yet I know I'm not, I feel panicky at reassessment, yet when I was first assessed I was practically rubber stamped too ill to work. I may have a well day: yet I've been up all night due to pain or breathing difficulties so although I am walking my head is scrambled.
My anxiety levels are through the roof, and I feel I must be anonymous- I had a fantastic career before ill health rendered me useless: and anxious and useless I feel, and a drain on society and a scrounger: despite the years I paid tax.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I believe the tide IS turning though. I still think The Daily Mail is one of the most hateful and poisonous rags around, but now they've let one of their online journalists loose on the Government. Sonia Poulton writes in support of the disabled and has much vitriol for Cameron, Osborne and the rest.

If even the Mail can change (one of) its spots so radically, then let us hope for victory.

Anonymous said...

If you're mentally ill, it just makes you more ill and more suicidal because you know society and the government hate you and don't want you to exist.

That's the reality of the situation, but if you say society and the government make you feel suicidal, people say you're just being emotive, emotionally blackmailing and over the top. Or they just say it's your illness and don't take you seriously.

I feel that it's totally hopeless. People really would prefer I were dead because it's cheaper.

Anonymous said...

Get the violins out

Penny said...

Keep the violins thanks, respect is all I am asking for.

Jayast said...

Yes, I agree it was good to see the online Daily Mail articles by Sonia Poulton, and it's definitely a start. I'd really like to see some of her articles on the front page of the paper, though.

Anonymous said...

Respect starts with self respect. Self respect starts with recognising that the only person who can make you feel something is you. Redirect some of that energy spent writing this blog into that and no one else's views will matter.

Penny said...

I have self respect thanks, I know who I am and what I want and don't want, I have not written this for sympathy but for understanding. I am quite happy using my energy writing my blog although obviously I appreciate your comments and your advice.

Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deviant said...

I read this earlier and commented on twitter that it was an excellent post as I "RT"d it.

Easy for people to say you should get more "self-respect" when you are going through the pain of realising that things have drastically changed.

Much of that "self-worth" you may have felt becomes drowned out by the *NOISE* you hear from people who are only too happy to condemn you for having the audacity to still think you can have your own future.

Take care of yourself :)

deviant said...

The original reason I thought that this waa a great post was that I had to write something similar that you may find here, on being labelled a scrounger etc.

abcsofra said...

My heart is breaking for you all over there. If only we could slap them into our bodies for a day. What a sight that would make. You would be assured that indeed then their stories would change. One must walk in another's shoes to know their journey but unfortunately we have no way to provide this experience for them. I keep praying that things will change for you all there. It just breaks my heart hearing of your trials and threats and hateful words being thrown about as if you all do not exist at all. Heartbreaking indeed! We are talking about humans here!!

Marion said...

Bang on.

I watched my friend fall apart, into the depth of despair. She wasn't disabled, she was merely unemployed. She was a postdoctoral physiologist, then she took up IT as a means of escaping unemployment. She was punished for doing so, labelled by employers as over-qualified or inexprienced.

She was hounded so badly by the previous government, held to blame for her own situation. No matter what she did, it wasn't working. Finally, she had a nervous breakdown; the pressure of being told no matter how hard she'd worked, no matter how much she'd applied herself, she wasn't trying hard enough drove her to a nervous breakdown. She has nothing. A pile of fantastic Russell Group degrees, all worthless of course, and a pile of hankies sodden with tears, a decent GP and that's it. I doubt she'll ever get her self-esteem back, and I doubt I'll ever have my happy, cheerful confident frind back.

I'm scared for her. She's my best friend and I don't want to lose her.

Dear God! What are we doing to each other in this country!

Anonymous said...

Everything you have said is so true as to how many of feel this way. Only the bad press seems to be printed or on TV. Your word express just how I feel.

Yours and some of the comments make me feel I am not alone.

Anonymous said...

I feel ALL of those things you mentioned in your blog. I have become paranoid. I am disabled and have high mobility needs because I cannot walk very far at a good pace, I can walk slowly and short distance. If I do attempt it I am off my feet for a couple of days. This government have a lot to answer for.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for putting into words exactly how I feel.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I have Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Depression & Addisons. On my bad days I cannot make it out of bed - people only see me on my very best days. I regularly get comments from people who I thought would know better saying 'But you look so well, can you really not work?'
I've taken to walking with my sticks, even on the odd occasion when I don't need them as I'm afraid that despite the support of my MP at my appeal, (which was successful) someone will report me as a fraud.
It feels like if we do our best to be as well as we can be, to be proud of what we can still achieve then we're penalised for it.
I was a CEO of a successful million pound turnover business, with a great lifestyle and loving relationship. All that has been lost. Do people really think that this is a choice and that I prefer to have to justify my very existence at every turn?
So thank you Penny, for voicing so clearly what many of us a facing everyday.

LittleLinden said...

Thanks for writing this Penny. It has spurred me on to write my own post about something I have been thinking on the past few weeks.

I write a blog that takes a special interest in MUS (Medically Unexplained Illness - a horrible term but the only one we've got to refer to the phenomenon of living with an illness but without a diagnosis in the normal sense of the word). This group of people knows what it is to fight for legitimacy. On my blog I have written about Dr Nettleton's research into how living with MUS effects people.

Today I published a post to draw attention the the fact that ALL sick and disabled people are beginning to experience the same social implications that people with MUS suffer.

The social attitude towards chronic health problems and disability does matter.

I would like to encourage everyone to go to my blog and have a look at my analysis, I'd love some feedback!

Go to:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant post. I am sure many go on to feel that when they are out and about they are wondering what is going on in the minds of the so called able-bodied. Are they saying "you're not really disabled" for example.

I worry where this will all end.

Anonymous said...

What is really really upsetting about all this is that David Cammeron's son had Cerebral Palsy. One would think he of all people have an idea of what families with a disabled member go through and what the person with the disability goes through.

Makes you wonder if Cameron had much contact with his son.

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