Family tensions.

Today, back to the present. This is an example of the stress the ATOS situation causes. Between me and him, who are as loyal as penguins, and between us and my parents.

I drove all three of us over to my mum and dad’s as there’s a goth weekend nearby; a chance to catch up with my folks, old friends and have a mini-holiday at the same time. Fantastic! Unfortunately, I’m still getting used to my new lot of anti-depressants, which didn’t exactly help the situation. My mum knew that I am on ADs and had been finding things very tough lately. I had opened up to her and told her I couldn’t cope very well of late. My parents had helped me out with money to bridge the gap as I pay the lion’s share of the household bills. I know how incredibly lucky we are to have that help from them,from S’s parents and from some wonderful, wonderful friends.

Everything was going well until we came back to my parents (who were out) at 5ish, to find that one of the electric rings was still on from lunchtime. I had asked S if it was off and he had replied in the affirmative. I was angry but didn’t realise how much. Of course, I realise that it was from using an unfamiliar cooker with knobs that weren’t clearly marked. His reduced vision meant he didn’t notice. It wasn’t until he’d made me a cup of loose leaf tea while I was putting away the dishes that I exploded. He’d put about half an ounce in there instead of a pinch, and it was undrinkable.

Out it all came. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him so harshly since we first moved in together fifteen years ago. I just couldn’t stop it coming out. How he couldn’t do anything right; how he couldn’t bring any money in and he was reliant on me and my parents; even how he couldn’t get home without me driving him. It was full of belittlement and frustration and rage, and I watched the scene in horror as the ugly words tumbled out of my mouth. He was incredibly hurt, then enormously angry, and took himself off downstairs. I had devastated him, and me…an hour or two later, I apologised, he let me, we hugged and made up, and I carried on saying sorry into the next day. I’m really lucky to have such an amazingly understanding man and at times I really don’t deserve him.

The next day I was still smarting, and S was still grave. My mum picked up on the atmosphere and when I went to our room she followed me. Her conversation began with

“I know, I know…I understand everything. Have you thought about divorce?”

I was utterly shocked. She told me I needed a break, that I should move back home for an indefinite time, enroll at the local uni and finish my course there. That she would help me. I never should have moved so far away from home and she rued the day I moved to our town. That “even the mentally handicapped can stack shelves in a supermarket for a few hours a day.” She had never approved of S and I fussed after him and my stepdaughter “like a mother hen.” That they weren’t my responsibility and definitely weren’t hers to help support [we would probably be homeless and definitely up to our scalps in debt otherwise]. Some of what she said I agreed with. Her money was there as a short-term measure, as I was fragile and had been working all the hours I felt I could. The visit on my own we’d talked about at first, and a break might get me more focused on the work. So I agreed to it.

And then, and then…I thought about the words. They stung. We are a family. We have a home and it is not where my mum and dad live any more. She had not asked me how things were, but asked closed questions all the way. And all this…new stuff that had surfaced. They get on well. She even laughs girlishly when he is around and S loves spending time with her. She supported me, and him, all the way through his op, so I thought…or was it just me she was supporting? I knew she had doubts about him at first – I was 18, he was unemployed at the time, and had a young daughter – but I thought he had proved himself to her over the years. Seventeen of them, almost to the day. And to imply he was lazy..? She knew his problems. She reads the papers and listens to the news, and knows the situation with ATOS, with the system. She knows about the many who have not got their Incapacity Benefit or DLA and have died shortly after, either from their illnesses or by their own hand. Plus she had insulted all my choices.

After she went, S came downstairs. I told him what had been said. It floored him. We formed a plan of action. When she returned, I told her that thanks but no thanks, please keep your money. We will make it without any help. She replied with “You will never manage on your own…”

Red rag to a bull, that was. I was furious. I am independent, was brought up to be. I hate relying on others and I did my level best to remain so until we could do so no more.

After a while we talked and we understood each other a little more. I will still get some help from them. She now knows that if you aren’t eligible for a benefit, you aren’t eligible for support to get into work either. That his back is too damaged to do manual work, and that had been recognised by the tribunal, as had the depression. His eyesight had not, so he did not get a positive result. That she really didn’t know or understand everything. “But you don’t talk to me…” Mum, I do, but the depression and the situation means I just can’t keep going over it lots of times without it severely affecting me. That and the previous tablet turned me into a zombie unable to say much in the way of anything meaningful.

I trusted my mum implicitly to know what to do. But because I opened up to her, this happened. Things will never return to how they were. My family is here. We are a unit, all three of us together. That is at least one positive thing. We are us.

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