Thursday, July 25, 2013

Catching up again

Just a quick glance through the last load of moaning shows that I've missed out a fair bit in my journal of late. We managed to get elf into our first choice of school (yes she starts school in September, it goes quick) 2 days later we were handed a section 21.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, that's a notice to quit as the landlord requires the property back. I immediately contacted the housing team who said that if we wished to be re-housed by the council we had to basically squat past the move out date until they'd received a court order to remove us and then we could be placed in a hostel.

Joy. Because having that on my record will make getting a private landlord easy.
So, on top of trying to get my lesson prep, marking and general job stuff out of the way I was also trying to sort out where the hell we were going to live because moving back in with the in-laws was out of the question. THEN, the same week I was told that we had to leave our home I received a letter stating that all benefits had been stopped and I owed over £5000 in over payments since January last year.

The fact that all of this stress didn't kill me, that I have managed to sort it out AND move somewhere (not ideal and it's completely wiped out all of my savings) but I've had minimal CFS issues (well 14 crash days in the past 3 months isn't minimal but I'm still functioning which with that amount of stress is nothing short of a miracle) so fingers crossed I can take on some more hours come September (assuming they're available) and actually do more than subsist because working stupid hours and having every penny sucked into rent and food and bills is no way to live.
I don't drink, smoke or go out partying and even the lowest paid folks manage that at least once a month so I'd like to have a little to put aside to build up my savings again - I hate not having that padding because if after the 6 months tenancy agreement is up the new landlord wants the rent shortfall in advance again we're screwed. Not that I'm stressing about it or anything...

Lost Aims

When I was in senior school the local library had a careers machine installed that allowed you to see what would be the best path to take based upon your interests; I found that commissioning editor for a publishing firm would be my ideal choice, I'd probably still love to do that kind of job; what saddens me is all the years I wasted getting by day to day without thinking I could actually do that kind of work - I assumed that all I could ever do was shop work or low paid unskilled work because that was all i'd ever experienced, no-one in my immediate network had achieved higher than deputy manager in a shop and at home I was always belittled when discussing possible ideas for the future. I had no support either mentally or financially and until the internet opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the world and a new way of communicating with people I stayed in that little bubble. Sadly I only embraced the internet when I had no other choice and for that I have to thank the ME/CFS because without it I'd not be earning the highest hourly wage I've ever experienced in my life. Yet even now I don't value myself enough to expect a high wage.

I have had many people in the past few years credit me with intelligence and an ability to get things done - a 'can-do attitude' as one person in particular labelled it, yet I still feel as though I'm a total failure, I've started too late to get things together and I think that will be my deepest regret; I wasted my useful years and now that illness has me limited physically I'll never reach the potential that even I can finally see is within me.

I wonder how many of my students are burdened with the same view of self..? Far too many I would wager, my only hope as a teacher is that I can help them see beyond the day to day and know the importance of not wasting the years that they have before them the way I did. The tough thing will be to do so without both over sharing and preaching. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mightily pissed off.

The fucktard at the job centre plus telephone contact centre who told me I needed to claim JSA online after I explained about my 2 month cessation of paid employment obviously did not listen to my explanation properly because it turns out she should have instead given me the number for ESA.

Yes, I spent a whole 2 days last week filling out the online form (that should only take an hour they say; and if the site stopped timing out maybe it would have been that swift to do...) I then received a text with my job centre appointment; 10:05 this morning.

After checking the buses I realised I could either get there 30 minutes early or 10 minutes late so I opted for early, being the organised sort and all. When I got there I was informed that there was no waiting areabut I could stand in the lobby. As it was cold and raining and my being in the lobby kept forcing the doors to open I went back into the job centre intending to stand out of the way just behind the doors by the window - immediately the G4S lass came and kicked me back out again. By this time I was feeling knackered and my leg was really hurting so you can imagine my joy when I went back in at 10:00 to be told that no - the appointment is for 10:15, they just tell us to be there 10 minutes early.

So, I could have taken the later bus and been bang on time, not tired and sore or in anybody's way yet they neglected to state this time I was sent was 10 minutes prior to the actual appointment thereby taking that option away from me.

To add insult to injury I then sat down with the lass at the desk and gave her all of my information which she photocopied, ticked off and signed my form and then sat in stunned disbelief as she told me I needed to be available and looking for full time employment. I explained my situation and she said oh - i'm afraid you don't meet the criteria for JSA, you need to make a claim for ESA instead.

The main reason I called the contact centre in the first place was to establish which benefits I was eligible for and needed to claim so I have wasted a week of my time, bus fare and a phone call only to now have to start the process all over again. FML

What's the betting they say I don't get esa either because i'm fit for work..?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Our stupid government

I'm more than dismayed by the fact that once again our government are kowtowing to the idiotic generalizations of the fear mongering media and financially attacking those of our society least placed to defend themselves.

But hey - what's new there?

Obviously I'm feeling like one of the attacked - especially seeing as I've worked bloody hard to get off health benefits and into paid employment - sadly we are now financially far worse off than before and every week I still have to carefully balance my activities or risk relapsing back to the point where I can't physically do the job I've worked so bloody hard to get.

So why are we worse off do you say? At the risk of being shouted at for airing my dirty laundry in public I'll tell you.

I currently earn around £100pm more than I got on benefits but it still isn't enough to claim working tax credits - it is however enough for the powers that be to say my other half can't get any JSA, this has the knock on affect of cutting down our entitlement to housing benefit and council tax benefit - sadly a necessary boost to our income to allow us to pay rent, send elf to nursery and eat each month as well as pay for me to travel to work; if I lived back up north where rents are much lower it wouldn't matter but when rent takes up over 2/3 of my income it is a problem living here, this effectively means as a family we are now living on around £150pm LESS than we were when I was claiming ESA. Stupid huh? and it will likely get worse for us before then end of this year as my other half is trying to get his business off the ground just as I'm about to hit the academic lull and have no work for 2 months and need to claim JSA myself; it be a vicious circle people..

If I could physically handle more hours it would not be an issue but having tried more hours and having no choice but to adjust the levels of work downwards since I started in September we know that I can just about handle at most 13 classroom hours a week without it kicking off an ME/CFS attack.

So imagine my joy upon reading the Guardian to find that they will be calling people in for interviews and expecting the low paid to take on more hours or change jobs in order to stop claiming the kind of 'top up' benefits we couldn't survive without. I know that is an over simplification of what is being proposed but as usual they make these sweeping statements of what is necessary without seemingly taking into account the realities of life: where are these new jobs and extra hours coming from in a climate of recession? what if like me you are physically only able to work a certain amount of hours anyway? what if you do earn a reasonable wage but live in an area that makes it seem less reasonable because of high rent and taxes and distance needed to travel to work?

The cost of living has risen to ridiculous levels and the average wage just doesn't cover enough of that; if the government REALLY want to stop the cost of benefits to the treasury then they need to address the cost of living.

Set a basic rental level for each type of property (taking into account owner mortgage payments of course; perhaps mortgage payment +3-5% to allow for repairs etc) limit the cost of house prices by type for all new builds and perhaps start a national food store chain that allows us to buy locally sourced basics at an affordable regulated price; if it is an internet based model then we could even get vouchers delivered by email and shop online; allowing anyone to work on these for no pay but instead gain access to participating gyms equivalent to the hours worked or having the ability to get cinema/ theater tickets or other incentives

The upshot? No price changes means allowing families to budget properly instead of having to wait for sales and offers or bulk buys, just ensure each family gets vouchers that cover the weekly basics of a healthy diet, they can be spent individually or saved up and spent on a bulk buy according to the family needs - anything above the basic staples they can get from the normal supermarkets if they have the funds for it after paying for transport and utilities.

Obviously losing the stress caused by trying to just make ends meet will cut the number of people needing medical help and if those same people eat healthily then there is even less chance of them adding strain to the medical system thereby cutting NHS costs exponentially.

Once people have the basics covered then they are happier and hope is restored, that hope allows them to get on with life; people with hope are less inclined to turn to crime and happy people are less likely to turn to anti-social behaviour which means the strain on our police force would likely be reduced.

Sadly this will never happen because the government only care about the rich because that is the way the world works, the rich come to power and those in power look at the ways they can make life better for themselves and their immediate circle; yes we all want the power to do that but 98.5% of us will never have the chance and the hope of a better life is getting increasingly smaller with every year that passes.

I hate that the housing benefit I do get pays for someone else to own a home that they don't even live in and yet I can't even consider buying my own home because even though a mortgage payment would be less than my rent I can't afford to pay it without help - our entire system is designed to help the rich and it will never change.

Monday, February 11, 2013

2013 is MY year

Yes, tempting fate is never clever but you know what? I really am feeling it. This year is going to be my best yet; I'm working, I have focus and the ME/CFS is finally proving to be manageable; even with the ridiculous workload I'm under.

The crash count downward trend continues and I'm almost at my goal of less than 5 a month! This keeps up then I'll be able to start taking on more hours and hopefully, in a couple of years or so i'll be able to work full time again!

2010 2011 2012
Amount of crashes in January88unknown
Amount of crashes in February99unknown
Amount of crashes in March1379
Amount of crashes in April10510
Amount of crashes in May11146
Amount of crashes in June15104
Amount of crashes in July8910
Amount of crashes in August1674
Amount of crashes in September1093
Amount of crashes in October14155
Amount of crashes in November8182
Average crash per month:11106

I haven't included December 2012 as it would throw off the stats having missed the data for the last 2 years (somehow) and to be fair having 9 in a month hurts the downward trend but when you take into account that I also had  the winter sickness bug ONLY having 9 crashes is a result - look at November 2011 when I had the same sickness; double the crashes.
I know I'm using my brain more and I'm doing a LOT of mental work without much pacing but the fatigue crashes are definitely getting less (by which I mean the total physical shutdowns are getting fewer and further apart) however the aphasia seems to be getting worse.

I'm coping with it but it is really frustrating in class to be trying to describe or explain something and have no words available with which to do so - it's no wonder the student feedback from one of my classes was that I can't explain things for shit. (not in those words but...)
9am is not the best time for my brain to function; my 7pm class for the same module seem to have no issue with me so yep, I need to work on my consistency which probably means resorting to video delivery for some lessons. I'm working on it, it's just one of those little issues that ME/CFS throw at you to work around and I'm experienced enough at that now that given time I'll find a solution to it.

So yeah, feeling pretty good on the ME/CFS front. I figure next year should be even better as there will be less stress on the work front because not only will I know what I'm doing in the bureaucratic box ticking front, I will also be more confident with the course content and my delivery of it; everyone keeps telling me the first year teaching is the worst, that it's a steep learning curve and everything seems so much harder but if that's the case then next year will definitely be a breeze - I'm already concocting ways of making it easier on myself and more interesting for the students so... Woot!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back in the saddle..

Still tired today, the problem module had me on my knees last night as I received the lecture slides for this mornings lesson. I had to teach myself standard deviation, correlation coefficients and interquartile range; Until last night I didn't even know what a distribution curve was.

Yes I'd heard these terms before but as I've never had any call to deal in statistics they meant less than nothing to me. Mathematics was the bane of my life at school - 20 + years ago I just about scraped a D at GCSE and I never touched it again so you can probably imagine how I felt after 5 solid hours of self teaching through the power of the internet.

This means it's probably no surprise that this morning I tore my class a new one when they failed to show me the slightest courtesy as I tried to share this hard won knowledge with them for the sake of their assignment. Yes, I snapped and you know what - I'm not sorry.

It's hard to believe that these are degree level kids; that they are over 18 and legally classed as adults. There were only 4 adults in that class today and I was one of 'em. Kind of scary to realise that these are the managers of the future. *sigh* no wonder our economy is gasping for breath and society is tumbling into hell.

On the plus side, after this class (and a HR meeting) there was a module team meeting which ironed out (hopefully) all of the module issues we've been having - fingers crossed it's now plain sailing here on in...

THEN I had a mentor meeting and my day went south again. Seems I need to learn to create a ton of documentation for each class - I have to create a ridiculously detailed scheme of work that covers every nuance of every single module I teach and a lesson plan that not only covers the activities in each individual class but is a full A4 document (landscape orientation) detailing the learning outcomes of each activity, the class differentiation and numerous other things that quite frankly I was too tired to really take in.

So today I was in work for 7 hours but I only get paid for 3h15m of that - and they say teachers are overpaid and underworked! My time sheet for this month shows 57hrs - I've easily done double - possibly triple that with all the meetings and lesson planning that I can't claim for and I'm supposed to be a part timer! I really have no clue how the full time teachers cope with the workload - it's inhuman! yeah, no shock I crashed on Friday; thank god next week is half term; I can finally catch up on my admin. (because yeah, having an actual break would be too much to ask for when I'm not getting paid to work eh?!)

Look at me whining *grin* nearly 2 months in and you'd never think I'd been unemployed lol I'm officially a worker now, got a gripe on and everything ;0)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

crash average update

2010 2011 2012
Amount of crashes in January88unknown
Amount of crashes in February99unknown
Amount of crashes in March1379
Amount of crashes in April10510
Amount of crashes in May11146
Amount of crashes in June15104
Amount of crashes in July8910
Amount of crashes in August1674
Amount of crashes in September1093
Amount of crashes in October1415tbc
Amount of crashes in November818tbc
Average crash per month:1110tbc

So far this month only 5 days wasted in bed with this; although one of those was a work day which sucks, but on the whole less than 10 a month is a result as far as I'm concerned. So far this year only 6.5 days a month lost to ME/CFS.. Ok, so it may have been more if I'd had the data from January and February to also calculate the average of, but even so - it's continuing the downward trend and having a pattern to my days and a goal to focus on really helps with the pacing. least that's what I'm telling myself... 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fed up.

I had to miss my first class due to the ME/CFS on Friday. I guess I knew it was coming, the Menieres has been slowly getting worse and I've had to up my meds for that to 6 a day instead of 3 in an effort to combat the nausea and dizzies and I'm finding a few things a tad difficult on the brain fog front by the end of the week because one illness always kick starts the other - they're nice like that...

The last couple of weeks I get to Friday afternoon and the work based learning class and my brain is practically mush; I'm so tired that I get through it (just about) and I'm on the bus home and in bed already praying for the following weekend. I definitely work better in a 1-2-1 situation than in front of a group when I'm like that; less stimuli to process makes it much easier to function.

It wouldn't be so bad but one of my modules is turning out to be rather stressful - every time it seems the issues are ironed out someone throws some kindling back on the fire and we're just fighting a rearguard action and never getting ahead - that on top of the ongoing 'landlord selling our flat' saga is doing my head in.

I've been sat in a puddle of misery and dread since Friday morning when I realised I couldn't move or speak and I was supposed to be taking Bella to nursery and getting the bus to work. I finally managed to move but it was a full on crash - just rolling over in bed took 10 minutes to recover from and it was a good 30 minutes from finally being able to sit up that I eventually managed to communicate in more than grunts.

I immediately called work to tell them I wouldn't be able to make it in before the ability to communicate left me again and (of course) ended up balling my eyes out in misery and frustration when Donna was nice to me because I couldn't even get the words out necessary to explain properly - this bloody aphasia sucks great fat donkey bollocks! I'm just lucky that I've had a conversation with her about how the crappy illness affects me and she could read between the lines (and my hateful sobbing) to finish my sentences for me. I must have sounded like a complete moron stuttering and grasping at words between sniffles.

I honestly think I'd still have been OK again this week if it hadn't been for the assignment feck up with the 1st years module. Instead of having Wednesday off I was panicking about a class on Thursday that should already have been sorted; going over and over my options regarding the lesson plan and trying to ensure I'd covered everything - then to top it off I had an email from 2 people about 2 websites I'm supposed to be helping with which just added to the stress head I was building over falling behind.

I really don't want to lose another module this semester, if I can just make it through until semester B I'll ensure I only accept at the most 2 modules and as I won't have the website stuff to worry about then things (should) be peachy. I knew it would be a slow process figuring out my limits but I didn't realise just how shitty doing so would make me feel.

I'm back to feeling useless again. I know how overworked all the staff are in there, I know that my issues are likely to be adding stress to at least 2 other people and I hate being that person, I hate causing problems - I'm supposed to be the person who fixes things and makes it all better not the one adding roadblocks!

Meh, self pity will get me nowhere. Time to suck it up and crack on.

I'll get the LUF site out of the way tomorrow and do my Tuesday lesson plan. Stef will just have to do everything for the kids Halloween party on Monday while I recuperate and think of some way to make it up to him and then if I can just get through next week I'll be able to get the vegepa site up and running for Lynne next weekend THEN I can just concentrate on the marking I'll have coming in without the stress of those 2 unfinished jobs at the back of my mind.

The housing situation... well, there's nothing I can do to alleviate the worry of possible homelessness is there? Our situation will not magically change and I have to just live with complete strangers tramping through our home and the uncertainty of whether we will be given a months notice or a rent increase with each visitation.

Sucks to be me right now. I just hope the work stuff levels off so I can concentrate on actually teaching, right now I feel a bit of a fraud as I'm barely catching breath between classes to refresh my knowledge on the things I'm supposed to be teaching before the next email of doom comes through ripping apart all my carefully laid plans...

Next year will be better - everyone says the 1st year of teaching is the worst so if I can weather this with all my health crap I'll be bloody awesome next year when I know what I'm doing and exactly what's expected from me. Especially if I can use the summer to create some E-learning resources to help bolster the days I feel like this...