Friday 25 October 2019

that’s not MY MS...

Parents everywhere will know the "That's Not My..." series of books. If you don't have kids, the pages have different textures and readers go through a process  of elimination - that one's too bumpy, shiny or furry, etc. - until you discover the correct monkey, dinosaur or robot (for example). 

Wow, I sucked the joy out of those sweet little books, right?!

However I've been reminded of them recently.

A couple of years ago I read Jon Ronson's brilliant So You've Been Publicly Shamed. It's all about internet shamings, predominantly on Twitter, where someone speaks out of turn or makes a poorly thought-out joke and, because it doesn't fit in with the accepted view of a particular echo chamber, the other members pile on top of them.

Listen to an abridged version of the book read by Jon Ronson on the BBC.

I picked up on a tweet recently, by someone that I follow.

It seemed pretty innocuous and chimed with my own thinking, so much so that I shared it myself.

However, the original tweet didn't fit so easily with the accepted narrative of a small corner of the Twitter-sphere. Some users picked it apart and got pretty angry. I won't share grabs of their messages, for reasons that will become apparent (and I got permission from Mr S before I started writing this).

Some felt that he was being ableist and didn't understand MS (they could've found out that he has the condition himself). Some reacted as if he was saying that the way they were living with MS was somehow incorrect. Some felt he was basically saying that all the things they were living with weren't that big a deal.

One of the things people are told when they receive an MS diagnosis is that everyone's MS is different. Which is why some people call it a "snowflake" disease - not in the current Trump-presidency alt-right Brexit-era sense of the word.

My initial thinking was that the people responding to the original tweet were denying Mr S' own experiences of living with MS. Plus I've traditionally had a bit of an issue with people who seem to live entirely through the filter of their illness. Perpetually blogging and tweeting about it. Everything was fine before I was diagnosed, everything has been shit ever since, no one understands, no one cares.

My original plan with this blog was to write about how those people had forgotten about the unique nature of MS. About how everyone's "journey" (that bloody word again) was their own. And what did they think the newly-diagnosed would make of these perpetual micro misery-memoirs?

However, I now see that by writing that blog I would be denying them their own experience of living with MS.

Who am I to judge them?

Truth-be-told, my gut instinct is that I agree with Mr S' view. I still don't think it's particularly healthy for people to endlessly repeat the same narrative and have MS as the centre of their being.

But then, I don't think it's massively empowering to (by way of a not-at-all random example) ignore the reality of your increasing mobility issues. Which is exactly what I'm doing currently.

If all the tools of social media had been in existence and so ubiquitous when I was first diagnosed, I can guarantee I would've been using them in exactly the same way that some people do. For God's sake, even an old fart like me has been keeping this very blog going for over 10 years now!

There is a kind of reflexive-perma-moaning which (no matter how understandable) will likely continue to stick in my craw. But I don't have to read it. And if it works for you, more power to you.

It might just be that YOUR MS isn't MY MS.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

careful what you wish for

Oof. Crazy busy!
  1. I - bizarrely - have a nice and growing number of clients for my podcast business. And I'm getting paid!
  2. I'm still not used to talking about my "clients". or my "business". Weirdness.
  3. Most of these are just editing jobs so far but I also launched a whole podcast and got it onto Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher...
  4. I'm actually really good at this!
  5. Even though I'm LOVING doing the podcast work, I recently applied for another job. I didn't get it but it was nice to go for an interview and not have EVERYTHING riding on it.
All of this is despite the fact that I officially "have limited capability for work and work-related activity". This is from my recent Work Capability Assessment (WCA), something which I probably should've had for my Universal Credit claim way before now.

The first part of this involved filling out... ANOTHER FORM!

Well, it has been a while.

This one was pretty intense. But once again I used the Benefit Advice Essentials Facebook Group for some advice. And as before it was really helpful.

At first glance I thought I could take a good run at the form. But looking at one of their information sheets, it pointed out two things:
  • Parts of the WCA form are directly related to parts of the PIP form.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could use the information from a WCA form to make decisions on PIP applications.
After reading this, I made sure that anything I wrote on the WCA form didn't contradict anything I'd put in my last PIP application.

I got it done and submitted, then spent a couple of weeks stressing about having to have another face-to-face assessment.

And then I got a letter through the post, saying, as above, that I have limited capability for work. With no need for an assessment.

Which at first seemed like a bit of a result - woo-hoo, etc.

At first.

But then I realised. I hadn't lied on this form. And thinking back, I didn't so much as bend the truth at all on my PIP form.

And then I thought - so maybe I really am that disabled.

Don't get me wrong, it's great that I should get the support I need, especially as I try to establish my new of working.

But nevertheless, it's a bit crap, innit?

(It's that kind of penetrating insight which you keep coming back for, right?)