What It Is and What It Isn’t

So – that thing has happened. You know, that event you were dreading, the one you were trying not to think about? What you feared, has become a reality, and now it’s just a disaster.

Or is it?

Because my own experience is that, in those very big moments of my life, it’s vital that I ask myself honest questions. In any crisis, I need to be crystal clear about what this is and what this is not.

It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by events. Especially after I went through the real trauma of sepsis, for a long time afterwards I was constantly fearful and looking over my shoulder for the next shocking development.

But perspective is everything, and over time I’ve regained enough of it to give me the resilience I need to operate.

Let’s take a recent example. The UK government, in all its wisdom, is making every claimant of Disability Living Allowance re-apply for a new replacement benefit called Personal Independence Payment. Thus, I was sent a very long application form asking questions about how I eat, wash, how I go to the toilet and get through the day. Then they hired a stranger from a remote company to visit me in my house and go through my answers line by line, word by word.

I found it stressful, humiliating and degrading – but that’s not my point.

From the outset, I knew I had to find a way to stay positive, organised and clear about the process. Otherwise, I knew the outcome would go against me – I would lose the small monthly payment to account for my disability, and I would lose my Motability car.

So, in this potentially disastrous situation, I forced myself to be honest and to answer the following questions:

Was this personal?

No, of course not. It was playground stuff. It was borne out of Conservative party ideology, they were targeting disabled people in general – I was literally just one in a million potential easy targets.

Did I have the strength to deal with it alone?  

In fact, I wasn’t sure. At first, I asked my prosthetist at the Disability Service Centre to help me, but they said I’d probably be OK flying solo. So, I took a deep breath, and that’s what I did.

What could go wrong?

I’m pretty high-functioning as a quadruple amputee – I try to do as much as I can for myself and I’m as resilient as I can be. I was worried that my positivity would go against me and they’d assess me as not needing financial support. So I made sure that the facts of my disability were clearly laid out and unambiguous.

If I failed, did I have back-up, could I survive?

Yes, I knew I would. By this stage in my life, I’m ready for anything. I have allies and a loving family around me, and after what I’ve been through, no government inspector is going to tell me that I’m not disabled.

So, this wasn’t a personal attack, it wasn’t a disaster, and it wasn’t a situation that I couldn’t manage successfully. I was as calm, factual and objective about the process as I could be, and I worked systematically to inform myself about what this really was all about.

In this way, we need to be rational about our so-called ‘crises’. We must be kind to ourselves, to the people around us, and to strangers – even the ones from the government who ask stupid questions.

I wish you love and only the best thoughts, when you’re fearful about your own situation. You deserve every good outcome.

Have courage.

And here’s the good news – I received confirmation of my PIP and continuing disability payments in the post just yesterday.