Fortunately I just got a link through from Sky News Politics which got me angry enough that I found energy for a bit of a rant which one friend* is sweet enough to call ‘social commentary.’ Anyway, this is the link. Maybe I lack empathy but this horrified me. I was stunned at the figures that have been on benefits for over ten years. That’s not welfare, its fostering dependence!
A fellow blogger recently wrote a blog on PND? I wish I had the time! which brilliantly captures how those of us that just need to get on with things don’t have the luxury of giving up. Like Elizabeth, I have sympathy for those genuinely suffering but often depression seems like a way of opting out. It’s not as though the rest of us go through life without trials and tribulations.
I’ve long hated those modern equivalents of chain letters, you know, the put this in your Facebook status or you like raping baby rabbits things. I saw one this week that said “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long. Put this as your status if you know someone who has or has had depression. Will you do it, and leave it on your status for at least an hour? Most people won't, and 1 in 3 of us will suffer it at some point in our lives. Show your support.” Urgh!
It’s just bollocks isn’t it? Not that depression can’t be a genuinely debilitating condition (I hesitate to call it a genuine illness ‘cos you know, you can’t cure yourself of cancer) but it’s all too easily latched onto. I was wrongly diagnosed with depression a number of years back (it was in fact a normal after effect of severe glandular fever) and part of the problem seems to be that we can’t accept that life sometimes is hard. My GP (I should have made a complaint but hey, I was in a low place) took one look at a stressed out student and put me on antidepressants. I eventually got out of the cycle against my doctor’s wishes and pulled my life together but I don’t think victim is too strong a word to describe the way the system operates.
When the fiancé was having a tough time recently I said I’d support him with one exception. I said I didn’t believe he had depression and was gone if he took that excuse. Hard line? Yes, I’ve never claimed to be anything but a bitch but his GP said he was depressed and his GP was wrong. The fiancé, like many people had got stuck in a career rut and was struggling to find his sense of self. When he realised he had my support for pursuing his dreams, he started making changes and would not fit anyone’s criteria of being depressed today. Thank heavens he had me to hold his hand in saying no to them messing with his brain chemistry.
I don’t blame the doctors. Despite my one personal hiccup I think the NHS is amazing and think the majority its staff do the best job they can. But a typical appointment tends to feel like an exercise in ticking boxes. The GP I’ve seen in the last twelve months has been lovely but his time has clearly been in short supply and it has been a case of specific problem solving: you had a car accident, you hurt where, your symptoms are what, lets take a look, ok this will ease pain, this will help you sleep, I’m signing you off work for two weeks, returning to light duties.
I have no issue with the care I received. Two weeks was about right, I slept for a few days and the painkillers worked. But it’s a system that could let you slip through the cracks. I wanted to return to work and I had a working partner willing to support my recovery back to work. He never put a time limit on it but the fiancé’s support was clearly linked to actual physical recovery with a clear end point in sight.
Had I been single, had I not had a job I was eager to return to, had I a different mother on the end of the phone then my recovery could have been very different. Once I’d got a bit better the expectation (from the fiancé, from my mother, from my boss and mostly from myself) was that I’d take my drugs, put in a day’s work then collapse in a hot bath before repeating. Sure it was hard, I hurt a lot but what was the alternative? Like Elizabeth argued, it was too self-indulgent not to and I didn’t have the time.
Yes, I favour cutting benefits but largely because they clearly don’t work. Sure, I had the luxury of sick pay so technically I received money to recover but significantly for a moderately serious injury I was only off work for two weeks. There is a need for financial support but people need a system that focuses on getting them off that support. I got on with things because I had goals (such as getting the mortgage that bought the house I’m writing this from) which I have my family to thank for. I don’t have all the answers but a starting point surely has to be creating incentives for people to fix their lives rather than incentives not to!
* I even met him once... at a Tweetdrinks. AND he bought me a diet coke which if that isn’t real friendship then I don’t know what is.