Depression and time out

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With Alex Cunningham, Debbie Abrahams and my good friend Gail Ward at the Disability Equality Roadshow a couple of years ago. 

I don’t often talk about myself in my posts. I write about government policies, their socioeconomic consequences, their often devastating impacts on fellow citizens and critical, evidenced exploration of the ideological narratives that underpin them. In particular I write about welfare policies.  

I began campaigning and writing critically about the implications of the Coalition’s controversial Welfare Reform Bill in 2012, prior to it passing into law. It was clear that poor, unemployed and disabled citizens were being politically targeted with cuts of unprecedented intensity to their lifeline income. Social security was calculated originally to provide for essentials only. The cuts, strict conditionality, work fare and sanctions have left many citizens without enough money to cover basic survival needs such as food, fuel and shelter.

I messaged every single peer in 2012 to tell them why the welfare reform bil must not happen, and although many agreed, Cameron pushed this controversial bill through parliament, using the ‘financial privilege of the Commons to override criticism and challenge.

The punitive, regressive welfare reforms transformed social security from being a publicly funded social safety net into a ‘hostile environment’ concerned with administrating work discipline. It struck me that the policy details are very authoritarian and reflect certain traditional Conservative prejudices concerning the characteristics of the poorest citizens. These prejudices have been embodied in extremely discriminatory and oppressive policies. 

These coercive policies are offensive to basic ethical principles, undermine democracy and the fundamental universality of basic human rights, by making them conditional for the poorest citizens with the greatest need for protection from political abuse. Austerity was an ideological choice among several more humane ones. Austerity is a central feature of neoliberalism.

Having gone through the controversial Work Capability Assessment in 2011, when I had to give up my social work because I was too ill to continue in my post, followed by the distressing appeal process, some of my first pieces of work were aimed at providing support for other people going through the same process. I used information that an Atos whistleblower provided to help others navigate the fundamentally unfair assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which is based on a biased process, weighted specifically towards finding justification for ending a claim for support and finding disabled or ill people ‘fit for work’.  

My own experience of the Work Capability Assessment was so terrible that I couldn’t face claiming PIP for 6 years. I finally did last year, with support from my local council, who had also provided some adaptations and aids in my home because of the growing extent of my disability. The experience of the PIP assessment was as terrible as I had anticipated.

I also co-run a group on Facebook to support other people going through ESA and PIP claims, assessments, mandatory reviews and appeals. Many of the people we support are experiencing profound psychological distress, anxiety and so many are having suicidal thoughts. Lots of people contact us for psychological and emotional support, and sometimes it feels very overwhelming to see such widescale and profound distress and harm that people are experiencing because of cruel government policies.

Many concerns have been raised regarding the reliability of the assessment in practice, the harmful effects of wrong decisions on vulnerable citizens and even its value-for-money. I submitted evidence to a United Nations’ inquiry from 2012 onwards, which concluded in 2016 that the government’s welfare policies have systematically violated the human rights of disabled people.  

My main aim is to share information, evidence, analysis and insight and to raise awareness of the unjust impacts of neoliberal welfare policies as widely as possible with citizens, politicians, professionals, academics and allied organisations. This has included speaking at conferences about the consequences of neoliberalism and the welfare reforms, meeting regularly with opposition welfare ministers (Conservative ministers have consistently refused to engage); contributing to the design of opposition welfare policies where I can, in addition to writing blogs.  

I’ve been asked a few times to do interviews on TV, and I try to get out to protests but often I’m simply not well enough to do so. My illness – lupus – affects all of my joints, tendons, periodically causing inflammation and pain, affecting my mobility. It also affects my nerves, blood cells, lungs, brain, my gut and my ability to fight infection. I catch a cold and end up with pneumonia.

I often have low platelet counts – autoimmune thrombocytopenia, which is a bleeding disorder. That seriously limits what I can do, sometimes. I’ve also developed a sensitivity to flickering lights, which causes partial seizures and other problems. That’s problematic because it restricts where I can go – shopping areas for example, are often a nightmare and my clubbing days are long over. I’ve always been an outgoing person, but over recent years, my increasing physical vulnerability has left me a little agoraphobic, too. But I do my best. I’m a person that seems to prefer working ‘behind the scenes’ – ideas and scripts. I once worked for the BBC many years ago as a script writer. I was given some acting roles for some of the comedy sketches I had written. I hated the acting, but loved the creative side of my work. It’s not that I couldn’t act – apparently I could and kept getting asked to do it – but I don’t like that kind of being on stage thing, it makes me very uncomfortable. 

Another part of my illness is neurological, and that means I have cognitive problems and depression. Lupus can also sometimes lead to psychosis. All of this said, simply being chronicallly and seriously ill can cause depression because of the constant need to adapt to progressive and ever-expanding symptoms.

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve written several particularly nightmarish articles about nightmarish policies, policy proposals and serial acts more generally of a nightmarish and utterly indifferent, unresponsive government. 

I’m currently in utter despair about the state of the UK and the fact that we have an extremely authoritarian government chiseling away at democracy and our fundamental human rights. The writing and the support work I do can sometimes feel relentless and overwhelming, and those of us supporting others don’t have a professional debrief session. We should probably address that and work together supporting each other a little more. But most of us probably seldom get time to stop and think about it.

I’m going to have to take some time out to deal with serious depression and exhaustion. In the meantime, would you please share my articles, because as depressing as they are, people in the UK need to know the way the wind is blowing.

I also want to say thank you for everyone who has supported my work over the past few difficult years, and those who have very frequently shared it. Also, thank you for all of the feedback you have given, which has kept me going.

I will be back as soon as I’m feeling more myself.

Thank you,
Sue x

dis-eq-roadshowGail Ward and me working with Debbie Abrahams and others


Here are my last few articles:

Welfare sanctions are killing people with chronic illnesses such as type 1 diabetes

Why private landlords are calling for ‘major overhaul’ of Universal Credit, many refuse to let properties to ‘high risk’ universal credit claimants

The Centre for Social Justice say Brexit is ‘an opportunity’ to introduce private insurance schemes to replace contribution-based social security

The government’s shameful lack of progress on disability rights in the UK – new report update and submission to the UNCRPD Committee

Concerns about the impact of Brexit on the human rights of disabled people in update report to UNCRPD

Damian Hinds rebuked for misusing statistics and being conservative with the truth

Government plans to use your phone and online data to police your lifestyle and predict ‘threats’ to your health

Government changes to Mental Capacity Act threatens human rights of vulnerable citizens

British Medical Association proposals deemed passive ‘euthanasia by stealth’ for disabled people with degenerative illnesses

Research finds ‘inaccuracies and distortions’ in media coverage of antisemitism and the Labour Party

Meet Liam and Michelle. It’s time to listen to the voices of homeless people about the fatal flaws of Universal Credit

Disability campaigners & organisations meet with Labour ministers to discuss devastating impacts of government’s draconian disability policies

I had a spot on message from my friend Hubert, who sometimes shares his excellet posts on this site.

He says this: “This is the long term outcome of Tory Policies: the systematic destruction of people for no real reason. In the words of Jarvis Cocker, fuck the morals does it make any money. In her blog, Kitty Jones asks for Readers to share her writings. Not just this blog but all of her blogs.

As a Writer and Researcher, Kitty Jones is providing analytical, researched articles that are frequently expose stories a year before the mainstream media. These are articles that outrage and upset and depress because they are not pandering to the egos of narrow partisan interests. They are setting out the truth, the facts, the consequences of policies.

Which is depressing. Because Government Policy for almost a decade has been grinding destruction. The destruction of sharing between people who think about consequences. The destruction of sharing between people who care about others. The destruction of sharing of aspirations, utopias and ideals. The grinding destruction of the society that they do not believe in.

The core of changing that is sharing this. Sharing the ideas and research that can transform the world. Becaust the truth is, Government Policy is to create a hostile environment to everybody who is not “one of us”. Yet, some people, like Kitty Jones manage to carry on doing and researching and writing. Sharing her work is just one way to stop that hostile environment from spreading.

Please go to the blog and read. Then cut and paste the url from the address bar of your browser and share one of Kitty Jones’s articles. Please. Thank you.”

He added “Because you actually are making a difference. So it does look grim, but we still have visions like yours. 🙂

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I write because it’s something I can do. We each do what we can, when we can and in our own way. 

If you like you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to continue to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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30 thoughts on “Depression and time out

  1. Thank ypu for your wonderful work it is an inspiration to read. Take extra special care of your self and I wish you well soon.

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wishing you well, please just do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself, and in the meantime know that people are thinking of you and continuing to value your work. I’ve got a huge amount from reading your intelligent, impassioned and well-evidenced writing – thank you so much for all the efforts you must have put into this. I really hope that things improve for you soon. All best wishes, Helen

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Funnily enough the timing of when I was confronted with a new level of hellishness in claiming benefit connected with my problems with anxiety and depression was exactly at the same time that you have mentioned here that you started writing about the welfare reforms around 2011 – 2012. You will never know how helpful it was, how supportive it was for me (under a different internet identity as I am still paranoid about gaslighting!) to discover your work when I was being subjected to what so many have been put through by the inhuman and in my opinion anti-evolutionary policies that were instituted in the benefits system.

    The system had hardly been perfect prior to that but what Cameron and Osborne brought in shocked me to the core. Already not the most confident self-assured person, the gruelling and morale draining process of numerous assessments, appeals and the reinforcement by the media of the concept that somehow I was a ‘shirker’ and a ‘con merchant’ and something to be disgusted about by taxpayers, was incredibly damaging for me psychologically.

    So I would just like to say that I have found your work and writing brilliantly insightful and very supportive and have followed what you have written ever since that key moment when I was in a very scared place and you were supportive of me at the time around 2012. Your work has continued to act as a support in terms of reinforcing the clear reasons that can all too easily get lost in the dehumanising rhetoric of mainstream politicians and news media and more subliminal media propaganda.

    That is made all the more incredible in light of the fact the conditions you have to deal with on a daily basis, I am in awe of your clarity and determination and I really appreciate the work that you have done.

    Your work helped me through some very depleted scary times and has also acted as a foundation for all of the factors that help me remember why there should be a welfare state and why a civilised society should not support a punitive draconian approach to a provision for support for the most vulnerable in that society.

    It feels weird saying this as I don’t feel comfortable telling other people whether what they are doing is right for them or not but I also totally understand ‘depression and time out’ and just physical exhaustion and you are doing the right thing to focus on that and need time to rest and recover and do stuff for you. I for one know you have done so much for me and I am sure for many many other people in giving that sense of support at a time when it can seem really bleak.

    I wish you all the best and hope everything goes well.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sue, your writing is wonderful, and always an inspiration. Thank you for all that you do. Please take care of yourself, and we hope you will be feeling better soon. Lynn xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for all your work, I find your articles incredibly well researched, I wish I’d known about them when I failed a WCA test, I really thought it was all my fault that I couldn’t make them understand I was too ill to work.
    After a court hearing and getting mp involved it was restored but you never lose that fear of brown envelopes.
    I really hope you manage to rest and feel better soon, I can understand how it wears you down, take care of yourself and live to fight another day xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating! and commented:
    Dont forget that you’ve mobilised so many bloggers and activists because of the hard work you’ve been doing these past 6 or 7 years.
    Yours was one of the first blogs I’d read after becoming disabled myself and it’s certainly kept me going in this fight against this Tory government.
    You’ve both educated and informed me, and others, and I sincerely from the bottom of my heart thank you for that.
    Take time for yourself and family now Kitty, you’ve more than deserved this break.

    With love and solidarity
    Steve
    X

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Sue, for your very many insightful and educational articles, of which I’m sure very many appreciate and value.
    Please take great care to rest, rejuvenate, nourish and nurture, and get yourself in a better place.
    I’ll be thinking of you, wishing you a steady recovery, and look forward very patiently to your next blog.
    All the very best
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What this and your recent posts have brought home to me, is just how devastating the new ‘benefits’ regime can be. That it seems to be targeted specifically at already vulnerable people is nothing less than pure evil. Unfortunately awareness of this dire situation seems to be very low amongst society at large, beyond those immediately affected and their close friends and family. The downright sneaky way in which Universal Discredit has been introduced piecemeal across the country can hardly be accidental. We can only hope that a critical mass of reaction and revulsion will be reached before too many people have suffered and indeed died.

    For the moment your priority must be to take care of yourself. Don’t doubt that you have done your bit for the time being.

    All the very best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It’s also the changes going on in the background – human rights, the loss of the EU charter will have some big consequences – the changes to the mental capacity act regarding deprivation of liberty, the changes that the BMA have ut forward for withdrawing hydration and nutition of people with ‘degenerative ‘ disease. Lots of things that build up a horrific picture of what we are moving towards as a society.

      Anyway, I have to shut it off for a little while. But will be back x

      Like

  9. Get well soon. I always share your articles to others and they(your articles) give me the power to have a critical discussion with Tories.

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    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve followed you for a couple of years now and your writing stands head-and-shoulders above any other justice blogger I have found. You are lucid, informed and controlled. I admire you immensely and I am terribly sorry that your health is giving you greater challenges.
    My wife has a condition which could not be compared to how yours sounds in terms of severity, but, nevertheless, restricts her ambition and goals. It is a very frustrating situation for her, and the ‘benefits’ system only magnifies her frustrations and makes her feel vulnerable when she is at her lowest.
    I’m not very good at huggy stuff, but I wish you every happiness and comfort. I will make a donation on your Paypal button next payday. I have been meaning to do it every time I read one of your articles but, you know: every month’s a pinch; things get tighter every year.
    With my warmest admiration and best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Sue
    Sending you much love and also strength for the future.
    Nobody said life was fair and my goodness nobody was right.
    I can only thank you for all your in-depth articles many of which have helped my personally as I’ve been ill for the past 10 years and have faced many of the prejudices that unfortunately now afflict our country.
    Be kind to yourself and try to enjoy your time out as much as you can . . . x x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I will miss your writing Sue. As I’m working my way through a PhD your work really helps me to keep up to date with goings on and to stay critical. Take all the time you need to feel better and I’m sending you lots of healing hugs! Cara x

    Liked by 1 person

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