When you have C-PSTD and you are really working hard to utilise strategies to minimise reactions to triggers especially those that are overwhelming angry. It is so so frustrating when you just can not seem to make headway.
I am on a Government Benefit here in Australia, called Newstart. It is for those of us who are unemployed. I am very appreciative that we have benefits available to us. Even though this one has not kept in line with the real costs of living. There was a increase in September 2019 which gave the average recipent a $3.50 a fortnight increase. Not even enough to buy a loaf of bread and a litre of milk!
That is an aside, as I have shared here I manage on this low income $578 AUD $397.30 USD /305.25GBP/358.22euro. per fortnight/two weekly. I manage because I own my home out right and have no debts. I do without things at times, and will live on simple cheap nutritious meals when I have to for unexpected costs.
I have been banned from going into any office of Centrelink (the government organisation that manages Newstart and other benefits, payments, and pensions. I said F..k as a descriptive word not directed at anyone and I was upset, loud, frustrated and bewildered by the system. I never threatened anyone or abused anyone. I remained seated and was loud. It was all over the wording my GP had put on my medical certificate that means due to my mental health illness I am not well enough to work or look for work. I have tried volunteer work and a free unit at uni both of which I did not manage.
My Gp had written that I was permanently unable to work. Centrelink does not like this as if I am permanently unable to work, than I should not be receiving Newstart but a disability pension. There lies the problem. My GP will not write anything other than permanent and Centrelink will not accept my certificates. (They want it to say temporary or exacerbation). I the unwell person am caught in the middle. The result of this kerfuffle is that I am banned from entering or speaking on the phone to anyone at Centrelink.
The original ban was for three months which I felt was unjustified. I asked for a review and now I am on a 12 month ban, which is actually 13 1/2 months sigh.
I have been assigned a personal case worker. Which as everyone else says is brilliant, and it is in a way as you only deal with one person, they have to respond to you in a certain time frame. It would seem ideal. I can only phone her, and she has to contact me back if she is not available.
Now the reason I became angry frustrated is part of my CPTSD is that I find ridiculous bureaucracy, and security questions, such as this triggering.
When I ring this person I have to speak to someone else first I guess reception, never mentioned in the letter explaining what I have to do, so that triggered me as I follow the letter to the nth degree so as not to have issues down the track. I firstly before speaking to a human have to enter my Centrelink number and use my access code. So it frustrates me that I then have to give them my full name address and date of birth. I asked why to be told it is for security. I commented that any of my friends, family or someone who might have stolen my wallet would have all that information, so not very secure! You get a picture of how I am. I am triggered by this seemingly pathetic security check. Even if the person rings me she wants to know this information too. Sigh
It starts the whole process of badly. I have been in touch with my local member of federal parliament whose office is brilliant. I vote for her because of how much she really tries to help the community she represents, even though I may or may not vote for the party she is with. One of her office people has been helping and they have a number they can ring for this sort of thing. I was advised by this person that in future If it was required that I contact them or they me a letter or a message would be sent to me advising of a phone call coming. The number is always unlisted and I do not answer unlisted calls. Unless I am aware of someone contacting me as in this situation.
I have had disastrous contacts with this person, as she just really does not understand that my reactions, are not something I can control once they have reached this point. I have hung up in the past so I do not get to the angry frustrated me, but the flee me instead. She was annoyed by that, too. I have been told by her to calm down, and that always works! Of course not. I have been sobbing just trying to get through what ever I have to to meet the demands of the Centrelink bureaucracy. ( which can change at any time) with this person, and I can honestly say I don not believe we have had one successful phone conversation. She is supposed to be in a specialised area working with people who have been banned for what ever reasons. many I imagine with mental health illnesses chronic pain, I am sure there are some really bad people too.
This most recent episode I responded to the letter, I rang first thing in the morning as soon as the office hours opened. I spoke to a lovely woman who told me my case worker was not in as yet. I was ringing as the case worker had rung me the night before at 5;17pm I assume she left it until last thing. Because I had no notice of her ringing, and I had been waiting for a social worker to call me(who also has caller id withheld number) I answered. I was upset as she said who she was and then asked me for my name address and date of birth? SHE RANG ME! (I live alone they know that) She has also spoken to me before. So I was triggered by the unexpected call plus the checking details, I had no ability to do my preparation to attempt to minimise the triggers. I was also upset that she had rung at this time. (phone offices close at 5pm) but she can call me after this? I still had one day to attend to what I needed to and was trying to get a social worker to ring on my behalf with me. To avoid the very situation I was now in.
She got so fed up with me, and I am sobbing saying the MPs office told me I would be messaged, before you would ring me. She said she did not have to! Seems no one talks to each other in Centrelink. I said she did. She just told me to let her talk and I was falling apart. I did not want to dissociate on the phone which I could feel myself doing, so I hung up
I was still crying and my little dog, climbed on my lap and licked my tears, she is like my support dog, she picks up on all my emotions and really will try to bring me back when I am triggered.
Back to the lovely woman at reception who talked to me as my case worker was not in. I explained my mental illness and that I am meant to be messaged if a phone call is going to be made to me. She assured me this would be done.
Imagine then two hours later, I am sitting out side having a coffee. The phone rings, again I think it may be the social worker, but no. It is the case worker. No message!
I begin with I am supposed to get a message before you ring.
She it says on my computer you were sent one
me well I have not received one
she well Im on the phone now,
me I am not up to talking with you, I am waiting for my social worker to phone me so she can talk to you.
she it will only take a few minutes.
Me I am waiting for my social worker to ring you so she can talk to YOU on my behalf!
Me What part of I am not up to talking to you now do you not understand?
she don’t speak to me like that,
Me I keep telling you I have a mental health illness, I can not deal with you today, I have been advised by the ministers office I will be notified by Centrelink of any phone calls via messenger or a letter. I am waiting for my social worker to contact me so she can talk to YOU!
My computer says one was sent, it was sent.
implying what says I ?
I hang up.
I ring to find out what is happening with my social worker, to find out she has been off sick all week? Oh I meant to ring you says the woman on the other end of the line. I cry and she says she will see how she can help when I tell her the situation. If I dont talk to this case manager by close of business today I may not get my benefit next week.
Another social worker from a town 40km away contacts me and is wonderful she gets onto my case worker, explains she has my permission to talk. The social worker phones me back in the afternoon and apologised but she can not get the information on my behalf as I need to have a letter of authority by my social worker before my case manager will talk to anyone. FFS!
I’m exhausted, I ring the government ombudsman office to be told there is nothing they can help me with. they advise me to ring a NGO Advocacy service I ring them they suggest the OBUDSMAN’S office. I ring that office back informing them that it is not in their scope of practice to deal with Centrelink complaints, I am them advised to ring another community group in Tasmania, who inform me it is not in their scope of practice either I ask what that means. Basically there is no funding provided by the federal government for these organisations to help with Centrelink problems. Again I am told to ring the OBUDSMAN’S office. I inform them of this with this organisation too. I ask is there anyone in Tasmania that can help with some one with a mental illness and serious issues with Centrelink? No!
I ring my MPs office, let them no that I have no avenues of support available, and they are very apologetic, they have done all they can as they are not a support service. I understand that and say I am very very appreciative for all the help they have given me. I just want to inform you of two things, that there is no support service in Tasmania that gets any funding from the government to assist people with mental health illnesses and issues with Centrelink. Oh I thought so and so did, I say no not in theirs or this groups scope of practice, legal aide send you to the first group and the government obudsmans office sends you to the two groups that can not help you as they get no funding and it is not in their scope of practice. A form of discrimination for people with a mental health illness I believe.
So here I am being a advocate, for my own situation and imagining how many other people with mental illness are out there battling Centrelink, with no support and who just give up. The Government wonders why incidents of verbal assault anger, abuse, physical abuse, assault and aggression face to face and over the phone with staff at Centrelink offices is increasing.
I do feel for the staff, and at my little office there are some brilliant staff. It seems they are not able to help it is someone who travels from Hobart to manage the office(she was my first contact).
From a mental health nursing perspective, I see how hard it is on the staff. They should be trained, and supported, but they are paid, they get sick leave they get free counseling, they can take paid stress leave The client on the other side, gets no support no pay if they can not deal with the minutiae of the bureaucracy. I am trying to get the disability support pension. 61 pages as an initial form, I gave up filling it in, I had to see a social worker to help me. (I have two degrees! my mental illness impacts me like this).
I have to find a new psychiatrist from Psych 2 U a internet service where you are allocated a psychiatrist generally from Sydney or Melbourne, my first one told my GP I had decided I did not want to see him anymore, which was not true. I questioned him about his methods, (he asked me if I had thought about moving into a over 55s supported village?) I live independently, I hoard but am working on that, I dont shower regularly or wash my clothes because I have mental illness. I find being around people difficult, and I told him only the week before I would like to move as it getting to busy about me up a mountain at the end of the road. He also asked me every month how work was? He knew I was unemployed and having issues with Centrelink. He apologised for that , and as part of my illness when I feel overwhelmed I will flee which I did on this day. I never mentioned not seeing him again.
I have phoned the organisation twice to find out why but he just does not respond.
So now I have to begin the process again , after five months. So I can not be on anything else except Newstart.
I look at the supposed professional who I have to have write a letter in regard to my mental health for Disability Support Pension and who has made no effort to get to know anything about me. I know that psychiatrist often are more about medication, and I am better on the medication he commenced me on. Worth it to me to stay on it even though some side effects are not great. I feel because I have been a mental health nurse I am not so in awe of the profession. I have a brilliant psychologist and gp, both I have been seeing for some time, but my psychologist is not a clinical one and so disability support want me to see a psychiatrist ..I have to stay on Newstart. I continue to practice the things that help me with triggers, and hope that something will work with my case worker. Oh I have still not received a message that someone was going to call me and that was three days ago now.
I am OK I wanted to share this as it is the reality of my life and my CPTSD. It is why I am unable to work, and something I struggle with. I prefer to be on my own and talk and meet people when I am able and in control so I can leave when I wish or need too.
I find that so many people do not understand that after these episodes I am exhausted physically and emotionally, my mental health deteriorates and If I am able to do the treatments I know and use that will help me move through the issue it will take me some times a couple of days before I can deal with anything anyone involved in the issue. I feel ashamed and embarrassed . If I could stop the behaviours the responses I would; but fighting(anger), fleeing (escaping), or freezing (dissociation) are my inbuilt safety survival methods. It is how I have managed my illness. It is what has kept me working living and being a part life. The relearning and implementation of new methods is a long road, and may not be always successful.