Applying for PIP

“Pip” is the working title of my third novel. it is also the TLA for “Personal Independence Payment”, a benefit which replaces DLA which is now being discontinued.

And so, finally, two days before the Summer holidays begin, the notification from the DWP arrived informing me that my DLA award is being reviewed, and so now I need to think about applying for PIP. I don’t have to apply, of course. I could draw a veil over my private difficulties, hand back my motor vehicle and resign myself to an even more indoorsy kind of life. However, under the current scheme I qualify for a car, and if I would like to keep running it, I have to make the attempt, and so I will. Instant flare-up of stress eczema.

I know – I know – that everything is somehow working its way out, but despite my faith and my determination to stay calm and happy – if I get upset, “the system” wins twice – stress fractures begin to appear, at first invisible and then more defined – a brittle cheerfulness that takes teasing too seriously; a paralysis that means I look to my husband for what to say, and how. More falls and staggers, a growing sense of futility and sorrow. Nightmares. Memories that assault me. Arguments with my husband that leap up out of no-where. I weep at the prospect of having to expose my intimate failures to the scrutiny of strangers who ask me, “How bad is your condition?” Having been so private and self-reliant, it upsets me to place all this information in the public gaze…

Meanwhile, there is comfort in continuing to do what I have always done, despite the concern and the renewed worry about the future, and being tired all the time. If I cannot keep my car, I may be able to afford another, but… I remember how it felt, before: the constant fatigue which frayed all my certainties to shreds. I am chary of a system that requires me to revisit all my painful compromises with forensic attention to details, which, in any case, are constantly changing.

~ Sure, I fall onto toilet seats and am periodically incontinent. Do you have to know that?

~ Yes, of course we do…

Systems that gather information with an undisclosed purpose to be sceptical and interrogatory, imply, perhaps without intending to, that applicants are exaggerating or untrustworthy. But I have worked, and continue to work hard, at all manner of quiet details with which the government takes no notice: caring, housekeeping, being aware of what needs done and doing it as best I can. In all that, I crawl when I cannot walk; which is a private indignity that I would prefer to keep to myself.

Since it seems I no longer have the option of keeping such things private, I share them with you here, in the hope that others may take some comfort from the evidence of my weaknesses: because we all have to deal with indignities, which say nothing about who we really are.

Thanks for listening.

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