babble

In Which I’m Really Not Fit For Work…

27th August 2015

…and the Government’s Work Capability Assessment isn’t fit for purpose, either

If you’re not aware: I’ve been unemployed since I moved back to Scotland in 2009 with my family. Through no choice of my own at that point. I was looking for work. I’d just left my job at Topic Newspapers, where I’d been working for two years, and I thought it’d be easy to get a job, what with my experience and my college qualification and what-have-you.

Nope. Not so.

I looked and looked. I sent my resumé to companies who weren’t even hiring at the time. I literally went into town with physical copies of it, and handed it to the graphic design companies I’d found via a Google search. I gave a copy to the local newspaper every three months (they’re supposed to keep it on hand for three months before getting rid of it) for a year before giving up hope of ever hearing back from them.

I’m still unemployed.

But at this point, I’m disabled, too. It took me four years to start calling myself disabled, but I have, and that’s important. I walk with a walking stick, because my spine is crumbling under the weight of my body. I have pain shooting down my left leg from my spine and hip. The actual physical movements of my hip and spine are impaired because of it. I’m in incredible amounts of pain every day; moreso, if I have to stand for lengths of time. (Strangely, walking is easier than standing. Go figure.)

But d’you know what?

I’m alive.

Because I live in the UK, and I’m unemployed, I’ve had the joy – and I use the word sarcastically – of dealing with the Department for Work and Pensions. I had to “sign on” for a year, before someone at the Job Centre told me: “hey, btw, I don’t think you’re fit for certain types of work. Check out this and that and the next thing and call up for Employment and Support Allowance.”

Employment and Support Allowance, or ESA, is a different kind of out-of-work benefit. JobSeeker’s Allowance is for those who are capable of doing any work. ESA is for those who are unable to do some or any work.

If you’re on JSA, you have to “sign on” (go to the Job Centre every two weeks and talk to an advisor) whereas on ESA, you either have to provide a sick line from your doctor during your evaluation period until you’re passed Not Fit For Work at which point you don’t have to get sick lines anymore, or you’re passed Fit For Work, and you need to FIND WORK, or make another claim.

They do this thing called a Work Capability Assessment. It’s hell. You have to go to a building in the middle of – well, for me it’s Glasgow – and there’s no parking nearby so if you’re disabled you either have to park somewhere about a mile away and walk, or get dropped at the door. Or come from the station, which is a quarter mile away. You tell them this, they make notes, “Walked a quarter mile. Is able to walk. Is obviously fit for work.”

No, I’m not joking. I’ve read enough of my reports to know this.

The Government employed (employs? I know they were supposed to be replacing them, but last time I got an assessment, not too long ago, it was still Atos doing it…) a French company called Atos Origin – I’ve linked to The Guardian’s coverage for a reason – to perform these Work Capability Assessments (WCA/WCAs). There is a nurse or a doctor present, whom you’ve never met before. They don’t know your medical history. They’ve never spoken to your doctor. They’ve never spoken to YOU.

They ask you questions that have nothing whatsoever to do with your condition. I can’t remember specifics at this point, because I got rid of my old reports, but I believe one or two of the questions I was asked had to do with owning a mobile phone, or questions about my cat. Because I owned a cat, apparently I was fit for work because I was capable of looking after someone other than myself. Because I owned a mobile phone, I wasn’t scared of talking to strange people. Things like that.

FATGIRLslim | Atos Kills
Image from Political Scrapbook.net, used without permission. Please contact me at fatso@fatgirlslim.org if you’d like me to remove it.

Now, I’m not just babbling for the sake of babbling. I’ve gone through hell with these assessments. The first time I went through one, I was found Not Fit For Work, and I was signed off for a year.

The second time, I had started exercising, and made the mistake of mentioning it at my assessment. Despite the fact that my condition had worsened, and I was on more pain meds, and was struggling with it more, I was found Fit For Work, and I had to take it to a Tribunal.

I was still found Fit For Work… and had to make an entirely new claim. With a different medical reason.

The next time, I was, again, found Fit For Work, because I apparently smiled too much during my assessment, and made too much eye contact. At an assessment where I didn’t look up from the floor because they gave me a male nurse, when I specifically requested a female. At the Tribunal, they’re supposed to look at the report for the actual assessment, but they based their outcome on the day of the Tribunal instead, and, apparently, because I had decided to wash my hair and put on mascara and lipstick and a skirt, I was dressed nicely, and obviously could take care of myself. And was Fit For Work.

I appealed the appeal, and I’m still waiting for a date for my next Tribunal. Luckily, my Doctor knows how bad my back is, and how bad my health is, and continues to provide me with A) medical support and B) sick notes.

I’m one of the “lucky” ones. I mean that in that I’m still alive.

There were complaints upon complaints, since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government came into power and started going after those who were claiming unemployment benefits (instead of those who were avoiding taxes) and clamping down on the WCA. There were rumours that the Nurses and Doctors performing the WCA were given a target to hit: a specific number of people to fail, or to find Fit For Work, every day, whether they were, or not.

People were being found Fit For Work when they weren’t, and people were committing suicide. People were dying. People were losing their benefits.

The figures were recently revealed, and it’s as disgusting as I figured it would be.

2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 shortly after being declared able to work

2,380 people lost their lives, in one way or another, thanks to a greedy, disgusting government who were more focused on stealing from the poor and giving to the rich, than actually helping those of us who can’t find work for whatever reason – whether that be that we can’t work right now because of an illness, or because our spines are crumbling, or because of a workplace incident, or because we’re fucking dying of cancer.

So yes.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’m not Fit For Work, definitely.

But I’m still alive.

babble, story of my life

In Which I Spoke Too Soon

25th August 2015

FATGIRLslim | In Which I Spoke Too Soon
Image by Alex Proimos | by Cc-by-2.0

So, y’know how the very last thing that I posted about was how I’d gotten that conditional/unconditional place at college?

It appears that I’ve spoken too soon.

Opened My Mouth; Spoke Too Soon

Apparently, the part-time lecturer who interviewed me wasn’t actually supposed to tell me that I’d gotten a conditional place, given that they were still interviewing for the course. Although, how he was supposed to say, “get your reference in ASAP or you’re screwed,” without saying “you’ve basically got an unconditional place on the course so long as you get your reference in to us,” I don’t know.

Sigh.

What happened is this: last week, after booking a celebratory tattoo appointment for getting my place, no less, I got an email saying that I was on the damn reserve list. I called them up and asked them, “yo, what the-?”

Nobody got back to me, so I said that I’d leave it until Monday to see if anyone A) got back to me and B) changed my place to actually being on the course, of account of me being told that I’d get an unconditional place if I sent in my reference.

Nobody got back to me by lunchtime yesterday, so I called them up, and they said: “Yeah, our bad, you shouldn’t have been told that, and other people came in with their reference in hand and they got their place on the course then and there.”

Again: sigh.

So it looks like I may not be going to college this year. If someone drops out, I’ll get a spot. If someone drops out within a few weeks of the start date of the course [next week] then I’ll get a spot.

But given that I’d been kind of planning on going to college at the end of August, this is kind of a pain in the ass, y’know?

It’s more than a minor snag, but not exactly the biggest annoyance that’s ever happened to me. I’ve just got to cross my fingers and hope that someone doesn’t turn up on day one.

Of course, the thing that’ll bug me is if they do, and I’ve got nothing in the way of proper stationery and stuff because I’m not buying anything because I can’t even apply for a bursary or anything until I’m actually accepted onto the course.

It’s, as I said, a pain in the ass. It’s things like this that would have sent me down into a huge binge-eating spiral before. I would have been storming out to the shop and buying everything in existence, complaining internally about how it’s the Universe out to get me.

(And trust me: the Universe is out to get me. Or at least, that’s what it seems like. I must have the worst luck in the world, sometimes! Nothing ever goes my way.)

So, if everyone can cross their collective fingers that someone drops out of the course and that I get an email before Friday so that I can A) go and buy stationery over the weekend and B) psyche myself up for college next week, I’d really appreciate it.

(I’d also need a feckin’ lunchbox. I don’t care that I’m an adult. I want a lunchbox. Or a bento box.)

Because really. I need all the luck I can get at this point. I haven’t any of my own, or so it seems, or if I do, all I have is bad luck.

babble, fatshion, story of my life

In Which I’m (Hopefully) Going Away To College

15th August 2015

FATGIRLslim | Death To Stock Photo Medium 9 - Going Away To College
Image credit: Death To The Stock Photo

I don’t want to give Apple any credit, because he doesn’t deserve any, but after I ended up screaming and crying at him and all, I got to thinking about things.

For once, lately, it wasn’t thinking about Apple and Zero. I was actually thinking about me. About how it’s been 11 years since I went to college, and how it’s been just less than 9 years since I came back (having left in February 2006).

I managed to get my job not long after, but everything since then has been disjointed, and… well. I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up where I am today, y’know?

So I started thinking: what if I went back to college again? I actually got accepted, three years ago, but the funding wasn’t available because I’d already done the HND Graphic Design, but given that I never finished it, that’s not a lot of help to me.

Also, considering that I left in 2006, my skills are just a little out-of-date now… especially since I’ve been out of work for six years.

I’m making a little change this time around.

NQ (non-advanced) Jewellery and Textile Design or, as it was listed in the guide, “NQ Fashion Textile and Jewellery”.

It’ll be interesting, going away – I mean, the college is in Glasgow, so I’m not going to be living in the dorms or anything, but I’ll be travelling an hour or two per day and getting up at the asscrack of the day if it’s a 9am start – but NOT going away to college again. I’ll be 32, and starting something completely different again.

The good news is that I’ll be getting myself back into a routine, which means ROUTINE. EXERCISE because walking places.

And I have plans to see about getting up to this place in Glasgow that does a roller disco, and busting out my rollerboots, on the days that I have to go in to classes.

I just have to wait for my excellent English teacher, Mrs. Jackson’s reference, to reach the college, and then I should get my unconditional offer. (I got an offer, conditional that I got a reference. Mrs. Jackson was kind enough to offer, and said she’d get it sent away today.)

Yes, though… going away to college again? Or, well. Travelling away to college, I suppose, will be interesting. I said to Mum that I should get a lunch box. I’m thinking I might actually look for a bento box.

I suppose it all depends, doesn’t it, on actually getting the unconditional offer first.

Right now, I’m just really excited about the prospect of maybe changing my future.

And actually getting out of the house again.

babble, detox, food, non-scale victory, story of my life

In Which I’m Giving Up Drinking Soda

9th August 2015

I’m really sorry to anyone who has left a comment over the past three or four weeks (I think) – apparently I screwed something up with the last Disqus update, and I wasn’t getting notifications. I’ll get around to replying to all of your comments ASAP.


To be perfectly honest, what I actually want to do is air my dirty laundry in public, and rant about how much of an assclown my douchecanoe of an ex-boyfriend is being.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about how I’m quitting drinking soda.

FATGIRLslim | Soda

I’ve been wanting to quit drinking soda for years now. I’ve been an epic drinker since I was in high school; I actually attribute most of my weight gain to drinking 1.5l of full-sugar Dr. Pepper, five days a week through three or four years of my high school career… at the very least. Because that was just what I remember. That’s just what I drank when I was at school.

We didn’t actually drink a lot of fizzy juice at home, to be honest. It wasn’t like nowadays, where people drink soda like water. If you got a bottle of fizzy juice, you got a glass of it with a meal. You didn’t drink straight out of the bottle or anything. It was a treat.

Until to 500ml bottles arrived on the scene and they started selling them in school.

Then, I started drinking soda, pretty much to the exclusion of anything else in school, except for water when we did phys ed.

So yeah. I kind of attribute most of my weight gain through high school to Dr. Pepper.

I’ve been trying to give up for years, and I managed to give it up for a while, when I was doing The Zero Excuses Weight Loss Challenge, back in 2011 (holy crap, was it that long ago?) because it was a Paleo eating plan, and Paleo means no soda, among other things.

(As an aside: I kind of want to bring the Zero Excuses Weight Loss Challenge back, and lead it myself. I’m pretty sure I still have all the stuff.)

At the time, I think I did it cold turkey, and the headaches almost killed me. Now, I’m used to headaches anyway, because I’m prone to migraines.

This time, when I decided to do The South Beach Diet, I did the same thing: I just got my Mum to stop bringing me soda home when she did the shopping. It was the easiest solution.

Instead, I switched to diluting juice/squash/cordial or whatever you want to call it. I have a thing about water, where it has to be really, really cold for me to enjoy drinking it – even Glaceau’s Smart Water, and Volvic, I don’t enjoy drinking them when they’re lukewarm or not cold enough. But with the diluting juice, it doesn’t matter if it’s not cold enough.

So I’ve been doing okay. I’ve had a couple of 500ml bottles of soda when I’ve been in town at the cinema or whatever, but when I was at Tesco last week buying something for my dinner, they had a special on their 1.75l bottles of Coke, and it was 2 for £2, so I thought, “Well, why not?”

Bad decision.

My stomach hurt so bad I couldn’t even believe it. I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that I’ve gotten really used to not having the acid and fizz in my digestive system again, and wow. How did I ever manage to go through with drinking 2 litres of that every day?

So, yeah, to summarise:

Soda bad.

Fire bad.

Tree pretty.

Ex-boyfriend is a douchelord.

And maybe, just maybe, if I’m getting a grip on this whole soda thing, that it means that I’ll eventually be able to get a grip on this whole food thing, too.

babble, exercise, story of my life

Monthly Measurements: August 2015

1st August 2015

FATGIRLslim | The Measure Of A (Wo)Man

  • Neck: 16″
  • Upper arm R: 20″
  • Upper arm L: 20″
  • Wrist R: 7.2″ (-0.25″)
  • Wrist L: 7.2″ (-0.25″)
  • Bust: 63 (-1″)
  • Bra band: 53” (+1”)
  • Waist: 57”
  • Hips: 70″
  • Upper thigh R: 35″
  • Upper thigh L: 35″
  • Calf R: 20″
  • Calf L: 21.5″
  • Ankle R: 11″
  • Ankle L: 13.5″ (+0.5″)

I really need to start exercising again, that’s all there is to it. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off since Zero died. I said I was going to rejoin the gym, and I haven’t done that yet, because I don’t want to join the gym and not attend if/when I find it too difficult, or if I can’t get there because I can’t go my bike yet.

So I need to start using the things I have at home. Note to self: get the tyre inflator thing off of Mum tomorrow when she gets home, and get the tyres re-inflated on my bike so I can actually use the damn thing. I’ve probably got a new colony of spiders making a home on it, as well as the cats using the waterproof cover as a new house.

I also have to start re-adjusting my sleep schedule again, to get up in the mornings so that I can do a dance workout while Mum’s at work. It’s too noisy – and there’s no room – to do it upstairs in my bedroom – and I don’t wanna do it while she’s crocheting or knitting downstairs, so. Morning it’ll have to be. But when I got friendly with Apple (the now ex douchebag boyfriend) and Zero (the unfortunately deceased friend), I was staying up late AND waking up early, and my sleep schedule got wonky. Now that Zero’s (as previously mentioned, sigh) passed away, and Apple’s no longer talking to me – his loss – I’ve nobody to take my time up in the mornings, so if I wake up early, my mornings can be spent away from the computer and PS4.

And yes. Hush. If I woke up in the mornings, I used to go straight onto my PS4 or computer so that I could talk to a couple of boys. It was nice to have friends. Who then went on to become something more. One of them died, and the other cut off all ties with me and the rest of his friends to get away from me. That’s the kind of luck I apparently have. Go figure.

(I’m not that bad, am I? Jeez.)

Anyway. Sleep schedule: needs fixed. Eating: slowly being fixed. Soda: almost entirely gone from my life (I’ve got a vlog that I was going to also post today, but it needs to be re-recorded). Exercise: needs re-introduced.

It might go tits up, because I’m applying (late, admittedly, but I’m applying anyway) for college again, because the rules for funding have changed, but hey. Assuming I get in, it might be a good thing.