Ive always worked and always suffered with bouts of depression and anxiety throughout my life but luckily I was able to manage it. Im also on long time medication. However, about 3 years ago I was diagnosed with severe depression/anxiety brought on by a big restructuring at work (I had worked for the same employer for 14 years) I lived with uncertainty and worry about my job for 1.5 years and in the end it made me very ill. I was placed on ESA in the work related group but as my illness was connected to work I appealed the decision and requested to be put into the ESA support group. Even though I had letters from my GP, counsellor and crisis team the DWP still assessed me as fit for some work activity. They did this by asking me to go to an assessment centre where a stranger asked me questions to see if I could raise my arms in the air, walk unaided and if I was able to go to the shops!! I tried to elaborate that my illness was mental and how it was affecting me but I was steered back to the questions on their screen. I was very suicidal and even talking to the jobcentre on the phone brought on panic attacks and severe distress. I totally understand that work is important and is part of a healthy life style but when you feel so ill that you spend your days obsessed with suicide and not wanting to be here then it becomes impossible to go to work and be able to do a job. I had developed an awful, debilitating fear of going back to work and I truly didnt know how to get over it, all I knew was that if I was forced to go to work then I would most probably have to kill myself. This is not a normal reaction to work and my family and I knew I needed help not pressure. I was in no fit state to even fill in the appeal paperwork but thankfully my brother dealt with it all. Sadly, I had to go to a tribunal court and be interviewed by a doctor and judge. The whole experience was terrifying and I was just a mess throughout the hearing. I was completely open and honest and thankfully, I was lucky and the doctor agreed I was in danger if put in the work related activity group so he recommended the support group. I was extremely relieved and left the court in floods of tears. I am doing all I can to get well such as meds, counselling, meditation and exercise. I am getting support.from MIND and hope to find the right voluntary position for me once Covid has settled down. Im also studying to keep myself skilled up. BUT...I know that anyday I will get recalled and probably have to go through the same humiliating, distressing system alover again where my mental health will be judged by people who dont know me. Ive been told by my current therapist that I am doing well and I cant try any more. I am hard on myself and feel terrible guilt for not working but I have to believe that I will return to work in some shape or form in the future. I do not choose a life like this as Im sure 1000s of other people with mental health problems dont. I hate that we are classified as lazy or work shy...if a person was on benefits for physical illnesses then it seems to be more acceptable. It fills me with rage. I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that the last 3 years have been hell for my family and I. Who would choose to live feeling like this? Nobody. My self esteem and will to live has been rock bottom but my therapist has encouarged kindness and self compassion. She has helped me start to see that there is still plenty I can give to society even though I dont have a job. I can give kindness, time and try to live as a decent human being. I can still learn, study and fill my mind with new knowledge. There is much more in life than a job title and wage packet.
So for all those facing the DWP and their assessments I wish you luck. Im sure my turn will come again soon but hopefully Ill be back in work before then. If not...then Ill just have to do my best and hope things work out.