It’s been nine days since I sat in that room facing three panellists, just thinking about it makes me nervous, and I really don’t want to talk about it but I have too. I can understand why it puts people off appealing to the tribunal, to sit in a room in front of others and beg for your illness to be taken seriously.
The stress that it caused me over almost a year has been debilitating, I had been going over that day in my head for months, and hadn’t been able to sleep very much in the two weeks beforehand. The same thing has been happening since last week as I go over the meeting in my head while trying to sleep.
As I walked into the building I was anxious, we spoke to the security guard who searched us on arrival and questioned what was in my water bottle. As we walked in the seating area my lawyer was there, she went over everything with me as we waited but it was all a blur as I was trying to focus on my breathing, and calm myself down.
We waited for about five minutes before going into the panel, my partner had to pull me up from my seat and lead me into the room, all I can remember is the brown floor turning into the grey carpet as I went into the room. When I sat down my entire body went limp, my other half made sure I wasn’t in an uncomfortable position and we started.
The judge introduced himself and the panellists, I stared at the table in front of me, and smiled every time a name was given; trying to be polite yet incredibly scared of what I was about to face. I forgot the names as soon as they were given to me, and all the information that I’d been given but I voiced my understanding anyway because I wanted to get on with it.
The doctor began, we went through my medication, the fact that I couldn’t be put on a higher dosage as I’d lost so much weight, and the fact that I have to use a pill box to remember to take one tablet. My first breakdown in the meeting came right after a question about my tablets when I had to explain that I’d tried to commit suicide with tablets a long time ago and I don’t trust myself when dealing with them.
I got given a few minutes to calm down enough to explain this and we moved on into therapy. I’d say the doctor was the hardest panellist but the doctor wasn’t anywhere close, we spoke about my symptoms and my therapy which at this point I’d said that many times that I was able to give my general responses regarding my treatment.
Next came the judge who was questioning my spending habits, which my partner was able to answer for me as he deals with money since I can not seem to keep any track of it, this was easy in comparison to the doctor as I didn’t have the answers to his questions but my other half was able to answer those questions for me.
Next came the disability advocate, which was the hardest part of it all for me, I’d read that the doctor usually is the one that gives the grilling so I wasn’t quite expecting this. The disability advocates job was to tear through the masses of evidence that I had given regarding my mental state, like completely tear through everything I’d ever stated.
This is the part of the tribunal that comes to me with cold sweats, I see this woman as she is grilling over every piece of evidence, from my disabled parents and why I can no longer care for them to what the assessor wrote about me during the assessment. It was horrible, I broke down several times during her questioning, to the point that the judge suggested I take a break.
I knew it was nearly over, I could only focus on the ending that was in sight and ploughed on with my testimony. I spoke about my fear of doctors and hospitals since I nearly died, and it is the reason I don’t want to go see a dietician or go see the doctor in general. I spoke about my lack of friends, not being able to be around other people and hurting myself when I go outside.
I spoke about every debilitating part of my life, while still looking mostly at the table, and then it was over. Thankfully my lawyer didn’t need to go over any points as I’d hit all of them while being questioned, even though I’d forgotten what they were in the first place, and as we sat in the waiting room I broke into tears of mostly relief but also a fear of what was to come.
As I looked at the clock I realised I’d only been in there half an hour, it felt like a lifetime to me but it was nowhere near as long, and my other half held me telling me how proud he was of me knowing I didn’t want to go in that room but I did it anyway; no matter the result. This gave me some comfort while waiting for fifteen minutes until my lawyer was called back in.
I thought it was a bad sign that it didn’t take long for them to come to a decision, but it really wasn’t. I’d won my case, I was awarded the low rates for both care and mobility. Since I’ve been happy I’ve done it but my mental health has suffered, the weight is off my shoulders but my anxiety is not quite letting it go.
I want nothing more than to break free and move on but waiting to see if the DWP are going to appeal the decision is causing me to stress more about the tribunal, I don’t think I could go through all that again, knowing what it has done to me. Let’s hope I don’t have too.