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When a 'Friend' Judged Me for Getting Disability Benefits

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I’d like to share an excerpt from a message a friend sent me a while back in order to raise awareness. It was sent by someone who was an actual friend, not just a social media friend, and was sent on the day I had my PIP tribunal. It was a stressful day as I’d had a year building up to it gathering evidence, as one does before going to court. The tribunal hearing was to potentially reinstate my disability benefit which was wrongly stopped in 2017 along with millions of others in the U.K. I won my case.

The “friend” felt she needed to unfriend me as she didn’t believe I deserved this particular benefit, and also went on to say she doubted there was anything wrong with me other than being middle aged. “I had aches and pains all through the menopause” she wrote. “However I do think benefits should be for people who are not working or getting their children to school…” On a day of celebration I was left wondering how and why anyone could be so nasty and ignorant.

I’d like to educate anyone that might be unsure what Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is, as I didn’t know up until I was unwell and had to claim it. It’s a monthly payment intended to help a person manage a long term health condition. In my case I was diagnosed with possible multiple sclerosis, myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic anxiety to put it simply for the sake of this post. On a day to day level that means fatigue, neuropathic pain, panic attacks and other debilitating symptoms I rarely mention to anyone.

The money is used for anything that makes a condition easier to manage day to day. This can include swimming, yoga, massage, supplements, a cleaner, taxis, emergency babysitting and more. Everyone will have a different list. Most importantly, it is not means tested. You can be working full time and still claim PIP. It can be used for seemingly invisible conditions such as depression, arthritis, cancer as well more obvious disabilities. The list is endless.

I was also bothered by her judgment of someone seemingly able to walk their children to school. That makes a person fit and well, right? Actually, no. People can have illnesses and disabilities that are not visible and not everyone who’s ill is housebound. They may still have many debilitating symptoms that prevent them from enjoying life as they once did. There are days when walking my child to school is the only thing I do, and on days when I feel very unwell I still try to hold to some semblance of a “normal” life. I am still a self-employed person, although I do a lot less physically than I used to do. I still like to have a laugh, and if I’m up to it I’ll go for a walk, thank you very much.

Please think before you make judgments when someone says they have a long term health condition. We all make subconscious judgments based on someone’s appearance, but it’s about staying aware, being kind and showing some compassion.

Friends should be there to support us, not bring us down. I know I won’t miss this one!

Getty image by Nadezhda1906.

Originally published: November 1, 2018
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