My heart begins to race, and suddenly my head is spinning. I feel sick. I can’t breathe. My face wrinkles in preparation for the tears and my hands begin to shake. A guttural noise escapes my mouth, giving way to a primordial scream. Then the tears begin to flow, and they are quickly followed by vomiting. The fear of the fear is enough to worry me, because once it grips me it becomes uncontrollable. These panic attacks used to happen a couple of times per year, now they happen on an almost weekly basis, sometimes more regularly. I am scared of events beyond my control and which almost exceed my comprehension.
Every birthday, the notch on the bedpost of sickness, increases the frequency and severity of these attacks. I am now 31 and barely have a CV. I managed to gain a degree but very little work experience. My life is in the hands of the welfare state. I lack autonomy. I cannot be self-reliant and so I rely on the ideologies of successive governments and I rely heavily on my husband. What will happen to me if, in the future, my husband should die, or we should separate? What if the attacks on people with disabilities don’t cease but continue to become worse? Will I become a 40, 50, 60 year old with no work experience, poor health and no support from the welfare state or a spouse? If so, what then? Workfare programs which make me seriously ill? Homelessness and destitution?
Though these ideas petrify me, I have to remind myself that for many people this is their imminent reality. This is why it is easy to find, with the assistance of the internet, numerous instances of people with disabilities frequently losing hope and turning to suicide. And all too frequently the words ATOS and austerity are linked to these deaths, which should have been entirely avoidable. People do not commit suicide due to fecklessness, or scrounging. It is a terrible decision one makes when no other option appears left.
As I have written about before, I found myself in that dark horrible place in 2010. I gave up eating and took two overdoses in two days. If I had not been forced into a psychiatric hospital I am quite sure I would not be alive today. Some days, even now, I wish I was not. It’s difficult enough to have a disability or experience chronic or serious sickness, but to face it in a culture of suspicion where financial support is withdrawn and “help into work” tends to mean “making life impossible”, it can seem so entirely bleak and helpless.
I’m sorry if this post is depressing. After 2 panic attacks because of my fears for my future just this week I needed to explain how people like me are being affected by the withdrawal and general lack of support for people with disabilities. We need to keep pressuring our MPs to halt the current Work Capability Assessment, and the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) that are set to replace Disability Living Allowance, and therefore removing much needed funds from people with disabilities. PIP will see people lose their cars, and their ability to work. This will plunge more people with disabilities into unemployment. We need them to review changes to employment laws that make it easier to fire employees, as this will have a disproportionately disastrous effect on people with disabilities.
The coalition, and more particularly, the Conservatives, seem hell bent on not supporting the constituents whose interests they are supposed to represent. All we can do is to keep on applying pressure and hope that, if enough people continue to write about this matter, that they will have to accept that this is a subject that is not going away. Very sick people are losing financial, health, care, transport, and employment support. A civilized society has a duty to find such treatment unacceptable. I am not saying that the system has never been exploited by those seeking something for nothing, but it is far from the picture painted by the government and the right wing press. These changes are catchall for those reliant on welfare. It’s not so much that they are instilling an idea of the deserving and undeserving poor, as much as it is that they find all people in need, whatever form that takes, to be undeserving. Need is a dirty word in 2013, and yet need is increasing exponentially every day.