The University Diaries : coursework, ATOS and Lily!

Hiiiii! :)

I'm back with another update from the torture chambers of university... haha!

Yep. That's me in a lab coat. I frikking love it! :)
 It's not quite that bad but a few weeks ago it certainly felt like it. We've broken through 'the wall' and are now in the home straight. Everyone is in agreement that as long as I get my assignments in and make it to at least a few lectures a week then we're all cool. I can't begin to express just how much of a relief it is to have a mental health specialist advocating for me when she meets with the head of my school. The support at Sussex is absolutely incredible and I absolutely could not have made it this far without them. 

My exam dates have been finalized: 28th May, 2nd June and 3rd June. Lectures finish on 11th April so that's plenty of time to revise - thank god.

I have to commend the support of the mental health services here too; an absolute world away from where I used to live. You can tell where the funding goes... which makes me sad for the people trapped with a service barely scraping by and doing the best they can.

I've only had to file mitigating evidence for one piece of coursework for the entire academic year, which I think is pretty damn good going considering how rocky things were at times... and still are to a certain extent. 

I'm not well. But we knew that. The trouble is, we don't know exactly what the 'diagnosis' is. There aren't many conditions that encompass prolonged depression, severe anxiety, psychotic symptoms, dissociation and mood swings. I'm still waiting to see the psychiatrist, baring in mind I was referred in November '13.... In the back of my mind, after almost a decade in the mental health services, I think I know what s/he will say. This isn't me self-diagnosing, it's just a lot of experience, research and education, and joining the dots.

After so long, to finally have a name for the beast that has taken so many years away from me would be such a relief. If we know what it is, we can target it better, so I can live without all these restrictions. I'm not one of these people that lets a 'label' consume their identity. I just want to be 'well' again. I'm so tired of living in fear, questioning everything and clawing my way through the days. 

In other news: Remember my ATOS medical a month or so ago for ESA? I chased them up earlier on in the week, and it turns out that a letter is on it's way to me. I have been put straight into the 'support' group which I know is a rare thing to happen on the first time around. I'm relieved, but also saddened by it. Solid proof that I'm really not well enough to work. STILL. It's just.... ugh. 

There is a minor issue, however. I might be in the support group now, but I'm not seeing any money from it. The person I spoke to said I was only awarded national insurance credits. This happens when your contributions to the state purse aren't enough to get anything back out of it. In principal, fair enough, but what I don't understand is that people who have never worked get the payout and those that did then became unwell somehow can't. 

So. In this situation what you do is get a national insurance contributions statement from the HMRC. I need to find out what the 'cut off' limit is and see if voluntary contributions can release the benefit payouts. I know my contributions have been paid by incapacity benefit since 2009... It's so confusing and this system is ridiculous. 

Of course, as soon as I get any more information I will share it! 

 I will leave you with some pictures of Lily taking a giant step forwards in her harness training! :)

Disclaimer: before anyone gets all up in my face about having Lily on a harness, let's remember three things: 

1) She is a house-cat and has only experienced the outside world in her carrier or when she is in the cattery. 
2) She is 3 and a half years old. She has spent her entire life with me inside the safety of 4 walls. You imagine going outside after that long.... 
3) Harness training is not cruel. It is for her own safety, reassurance and sense of security. I even use an XS dog harness as the cat harnesses were too flimsy for her to feel safe in.

Bonus: We do not force her outside. EVER. She went out of her own accord with Alex holding her lead and seeing me in the garden so she knew it was safe. When it's just me and her, she won't move from the door so she definitely needs me out in the garden to prove it's safe for her. I try encouraging her by sitting on the steps but it's not enough at the moment. An extending lead is a bad idea at the moment as she would have the 'freedom' to run over a fence if she were to get spooked by something.



  1. You look so professional in a lab coat! I look like a kid playing dress up xD
    Good luck with ATOS stuff x

    1. Haha!! That's exactly how I feel!!! The PhD students that help us get to wear red lab coats, so they're the "red coats" and get a lot of Butlins related giggles thrown at them.... we're a kind bunch.... ;) xx


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