Sunday, 14 December 2014

In reflective mood...

Racketts Worcester Competition - Scored 240  (Format: two targets, one high, one low)
2nd in session. Won club team bronze medal overall

Wow, what a day. When Eric phoned this morning having walked the dogs to tell me the car wouldn’t start I was devastated. I’d looked forward to this competition for ages, didn’t do the Frostbite yesterday and now couldn’t shoot today? No…
It all turned out ok though as the breakdown guy got us going and we made it.

I shot really well on the first target, having had to adjust the sight a fair bit after the sighters and first couple of ends. Was shooting well though, lots of 5s, great rhythm, felt relaxed. That was on the lower target, scored 129 for the first 3 dozen. They had a board of scores as we were going along. I was first at one point and there was only ever 2 points between me and the other lady on that first target.

The higher target was always going to be a worry for me, having not been able to practice two targets at the Saturday session which was cancelled. It was a nightmare as I just couldn’t get up there with any accuracy at all. With no sighters I spent some time adjusting the sight, then just had to focus on my technique and try to improve. Was chuffed with the 5s I managed, especially the 3 in the final end. Only managed 111 on the upper target, which was the best I could manage. Gave it everything.
What can I say? I did my best, and just wasn’t prepared to shoot a target so high. I can’t replicate that at home, but will have to find a way of doing better. Who knows what score I could have achieved. Where I could have come? I don't know where I came overall yet as the results haven't come out.

My results in the first three competitions have shown the standard that I am is far better than I thought I was, especially given the way I have to shoot. Whilst archery gives me so much, it is a great sadness that I will never be able to see how good I can be. CRPS yet again holds me back. I know I should be grateful to have achieved what I have in the three competition shoots I’ve done and it will hopefully just get better the more of them I shoot. I am, really I am. I am so lucky to have found a sport again that I love and also helps retain range of movement in my arms.

BUT, and it is a big but, it has also shown me that were I able to really focus, train and push myself harder the potential is there to do and achieve so much more. My coaches have said they feel I have the ability to become a para archer but that can never happen. Firstly CRPS doesn’t qualify under the rules of classification for para archers so I can never be one anyway. Worse though is the fact that I can’t travel more than about 20 miles to shoot in competitions, can’t shoot more than a couple of times a week because it wipes me out so much, nor do any other training which would help me do better. I have to nurse my arms along as best I can, with some days being unable to get to full draw let alone anything else. 

Whilst I have the motivation, attitude, technique and application (my coaches' words not mine) there is that ever present barrier that I have no way of getting over. Or around. It saddens me, but more it annoys the hell out of me. I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to in golf before it was taken from me. Highlights included two hole-in-ones, representing Essex Ladies, getting down to a 5.3 handicap, winning numerous competitions including the Scratch County Handicap Trophy, set a one over par course record on my home course. I was nigh on unbeatable in matchplay (that determination again). I only got to play for three or so years before CRPS struck. It is still sticking the boot in now.

All I can do is keep plugging away, keep entering competitions, shooting when I can and the best I can. If having CRPS has taught me anything it is to go for it, because you never know when you might lose that thing you love. My body might continue to let me down (I sometimes wonder which bit will go wrong next) but it won’t bring me down. I do hate losing after all….

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

If I was a house....

.... I'd need a rewire, simple as that. You see I had the letter from my Consultant about my recent appointment. We meet every 6 months, chat about how things are, decide that we are getting the best we going to get from meds and then part with a 'see you in 6 months'.

I am well aware that I'm far luckier than most in that my Consultant has no intention of discharging me, is genuinely interested in my wellbeing and wishes he could do more. He Is always on the lookout for anything which might help, but knows I am pragmatic about my prognosis and he can tell it how it is.

This time though was a little different. My diagnosis has changed. It is now officially:
       l. CRPS in  legs
      2. Chronic Widespread Pain syndrome
The latter is new, and means that my entire nervous system is hypersensitive. Hence my rewire quip at the start. What does this mean for me?

Well, everything and nothing really. My arms have been affected a year and a half now, my eyes have also been 'misbehaving' for many more years than that. In both cases the symptoms can't be explained by other disease, illness etc. Part of me worries about what will 'go wrong' next.

It's only natural I suppose. Here's an example. I've been suffering from a tooth/gum infection for over a month now. Surely it should have gone by now? Antibiotics helped a bit, antibacterial gel a bit more but it still isn't right. Is it going to linger for a while? Will it ever get better? Has another part of my body become affected? It would be easy to become paranoid wouldn't it? Or extremely depressed, frightened to do anything.

Not me. The worsening of my condition, spreading throughout my body changes nothing. My philosophy has always been, and will continue to be, to remain as positive as I can be. I fight everything that comes with having chronic illness . I do what I can, but my quality of life remains rubbish, stuck in this leather reclining chair with my legs up, gazing at the same four walls for days on end. I firmly believe that it is a waste of time moping, feeling sorry for yourself etc. It gets you nowhere because you're still stuck in the same useless, broken body. Make the most of what you have, that's my motto.

My biggest 'v sign' to my condition is archery of course. Anyone who has read my blog knows how much it means to me, it's an integral part of my existence, my life. I look forward to every session, and then immediately yearn for the next. I would shoot every day if my condition allowed. I push it as far as I can, but even I have to be sensible to get the best out of myself. Twice a week seems to be the optimism. Up to now I've shot against myself (trying to better my scores each time), but will be entering some competitions in the months to come.

Which brings me to something that is both utterly fantastic and utterly cruel. Recently there has been the opportunity to apply for selection to a fast track Para Archer program aiming to shoot at Rio 2016. I know some people who have applied. I did ask my coaches what they thought. Only in passing and fully expecting them to say no chance. Imagine my shock when the following came back:

'knowing how dedicated, committed and strong willed you are, there is no reason why you might not set your own goal for becoming a Para archer in the future' along with telling me face to face that I had the technique needed to compete at that level.

Wowzer!!! I couldn't believe it. I was completely gobsmacked. Me? No! Never in a miIIion years!!

But here's the cruelty of it.... They explained that for me to fully participate in the program I'd have to travel all the way to Lilleshall a couple of times a week. That's before you consider the necessary extra practice I' d need to do, shoots around the country or even abroad. And everything else that would be involved Oh, and you're only allowed an 80cm wheelchair length at shoots. Mine is 4 feet 6 inches! This was their only concern, and rightly so. It is a complete non-starter, I couldn't even remotely cope with it. Never in my wildest dreams.

To be told I have what it takes to be a Para archer means the world to me. That they feel that I'm capable. The reality of course is that nothing has changed. I can't do anything about it, but can take the positives. It is enough to know that they feel I could. That'll do for me....

Monday, 23 June 2014

Who'd have thought it?

As those of you who read my blog regularly or follow me on Facebook or twitter will know, I started doing archery after I got CRPS in my legs eight and a half years ago. I shot for about a year then didn't shoot again until we watched the London 2012 Olympics. Seeing the shooting on there gave me the 'itch' that inevitably meant I started shooting again in August 2012.
Yes,  I really do shoot like this!

It's been a roller-coaster ride, as once again CRPS tried to stick it's great big spanner in the works in March 2013 by moving to both upper arms. So not only do I shoot effectively sitting down with my legs out in front of me, I also do battle with arms that do their best to make life difficult. 

You know how hard it is to push a duvet into a bin bag? The more you push, the harder it seems to get? Well, that's a pretty good analogy for what it's like for me drawing my bow. At worst, I can barely pull to full draw, certainly can't get 'onto my back' and struggle to keep my fingers from slipping off the string. Oh, and my arms are so locked up that any hope of relaxation when I release the shot is purely wishful thinking. The result? Lousy arrows that are poorly grouped, nowhere near what I expect from myself. The only good thing is that regardless of how I shoot, my arms are still getting some physio.

I didn't manage to shoot outdoors more than once or twice last year I think. Initially because the weather was so awful that I couldn't get on the field in my wheelchair. Well I might have got onto the field but you'd have needed to tow me off afterwards! Then CRPS meant that my arms were just too bad so all I could do was shoot at home in short stints of a couple of dozen arrows. The final nail in the coffin for outdoor shooting came in July when we went to the Royal National Orthopaedic at Stanmore the first time. Eric wasn't allowed to use his arm at all until the operation which he subsequently had in September. Some 6-7 months later when his arm had healed (huzzah!) I could finally get to shoot outdoors. Proper distances at last!

I hadn't been twiddling my thumbs in the interim. I'd been working really hard, literally pushing through the pain, stubbornly using my arms regardless of how painful a movement might be or how hard it was lifting things. The limb poundage (of my bow) dropped by 6lbs to 22lbs as that was all I could cope with. Even then I couldn't shoot for long. As I write this I still have three sets of identical limbs, ranging from 24lb to 28lb in my archery bag in case I need to drop down again. 
A simple setup..

As I said before archery is perfect Physio, and together with lots of stretching whilst sitting in my chair I slowly but surely regained most of the range of movement I'd lost and was more able to use my upper body strength again. When my arms were at their worst I feared that this wonderful sport I'd taken up, and and got such pleasure from, was going to be taken from me. Like golf and the other sports I did before getting CRPS. Not without a fight that was for sure! It never ends, because my arms start to deteriorate almost immediately after I've finished shooting. A few hours later I can barely clench my fist and my arms become harder and harder to move as I have to push through the pain more and more. That's the wonderful thing with archery, it never makes my arms worse, only better although of course I suffer the usual payback that comes with doing anything.

The way I drew the bow had to change and still does depending on how much control I have of my arms and fingers. I was forced to tweak, and adapt my draw to try and get back to shooting like I was before. I've forgotten the number of changes I've tried in the quest for my draw and body position to 'feel right'. I'd been in regular email contact with my coaches (Iris and Tom) throughout the time I was only shooting at home. They were wonderful, answering my queries or suggesting things I could try depending on what was going wrong or if it was something I simply couldn't do. Forever striving to use my back, have a strong power line and above all consistency. 

All 6 arrows in the yellow...Yes!!
Luckily, as was the case with golf all those years ago I seem to have good 'muscle memory' so can 'feel' when I've made a good shot and got everything right. I try and shoot each arrow like this, the same as I did the last and will do the next. If I'm lucky I'll manage this most of the time during the session. At worst I simply can't get comfortable at all. I can't do anything with my arms at all and any hope of consistency goes out the window. Usually it's a mixture of both, which can be incredibly frustrating when you fall a couple of points short of a new PB having shot some absolute shockers along the way.
But when it's going well (see photo) .... the feeling is awesome!! 

If my draw goes awry I can normally self diagnose so I know what to focus on when my arms go whoosh. Just as well really!

I'm chuffed to be back up to the 28lb limbs I was using before CRPS struck in my arms. Albeit with the lightest recurve bow setup we could put together. My Fiberbow riser weighs in at just 530g. I don't use a clicker, have a bog standard arrow rest and a short (19") long rod. That's it. Very much the minimalist approach compared to all the gadgets and gizmos I see on most of the bows around me.

Which brings us to the very heart of this blog post. When CRPS struck in my arms I could easily have given up as my form vanished. Frustrating wasn't the word when you know you can do something but can't get anywhere near it. No matter how hard you try. 
Not only did I get myself back to where I was, I've achieved so much more than that. More than I could ever have imagined. Between March 2013 and November 2013 my handicap tumbled from an initial 56 (100 is the lowest) to 40. I won an award at the club's AGM in recognition.  Wow...

Finally I got to shoot outdoors. To say it's amazing is an understatement. I am well and truly hooked. I had no idea how far I'd be able to shoot but really wanted to get to 80yds if possible. Following a change to faster arrows and turning the sight round to the belly of the bow, we (Tom helped me adjust the sight) gradually worked our way back and I was amazed to find that I can reach 80yds! Which means I can shoot any round and take part in any competition. Wow again...

Last week I shot my first outdoor round, a Short National, scoring 508, which is a 49 handicap. Apparently that's actually one place better than what you need to achieve a First Class classification but to do that you have to shoot 60yds and 50yds rather than the 50yds and 40yds that I did. Take that CRPS!!

My first archery trophy!
It remains an ongoing battle of course, as is the nature of CRPS. It you give it an inch it'll definitely take a mile. I never know which arms are going to turn up each time I shoot, the good, the bad, or the plain awful. So I keep up the regime needed to keep pushing CRPS back. I keep my arms covered all the time, stretch them numerous times a day and use them to support myself regardless of how they feel. I also shoot twice a week, every week. Either both sessions at home or once at home and once over at the field. I can't manage any more than that, more's the pity. I go through bad patches where I can't get anywhere near the gold but work through it as I have every other time. It may take two or three sessions but I've regained my form time and time again , I just have to hang in there, and bludgeon my arms into submission. 

I've managed to keep improving, bettering my groupings and with it my scores. I have a Summer of shooting to look forward to, with the new challenges that brings. I'll be trying to shoot lots of rounds outdoors and see what outdoor handicap I can achieve by the end of the season. 

I admit to feeling really emotional having written, and then read through this. I can't put into words the buzz, the joy archery gives me. Yes, even when my arms are doing their best to stop me. CRPS stripped me of everything I was good at eight and a half years ago. I never thought in a million years I'd ever be good at anything ever again. But I am. I'm good at archery. Despite having CRPS in all four limbs and everything that goes with it.  Who'd have thought it? 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The conundrum that is archery!

A bit of background for some of this post to make sense. Here goes...

Prior to getting CRPS in 2005, throughout my 34 years I'd played competitive sport. To County Level in Badminton, Tennis and Golf and club level in those plus hockey. Even at the tender age of 7 or so I was playing cricket with boys much older than myself. My grandad was the scorer for a team in the Birmingham league so many a Summer holiday was spent bowling, batting and fielding. There was talk of me being signed up for a Ladies' squad but I was getting into other sports and left cricket behind. Wonder where I'd have been had I not done that? Irrelevant now...

I'd been given my grandfather's old golf clubs and spent many an hour belting golf balls backwards and forwards across the student cricket pitch that was across the road from my house (we lived on an Agricultural college). The same cricket field I did endless circuits around to get match fit for badminton and tennis.

The sport I was actively doing in the years before CRPS put it's size 10 boot in, was golf. I'd always been a natural ball sports player so it stood to reason that golf came naturally to me. So it proved. I only ever had county organised group sessions which were useless but apart from that was self-taught. l came in on a handicap of 26 (max was 36, now 40) and within a couple of years it was down to 5.6 and still falling. Mentally really tough I was rarely beatable at match play at any level. I was totally focused, very serious and determined. Off the course or when it was just a practice round I was a bit of a joker but when I had my game face on. Well... beware LOL.

You get the idea of the sort of approach I took to sport. I detested losing with a passion. I had incredibly high expectations of myself, then beat myself up when I didn't match up. CRPS took that all away. It wasn't even a gradual loss. Bang, it was gone. The competitiveness got absorbed? hidden? locked away in my brain somewhere because that wasn't going to happen again? I wouldn't get that buzz that comes with a cracking good score or beating someone.

I grieved for the loss of doing sport and all that came with it. My sporting days were over. All the various clubs, racquets and sticks were sold or given away. It all went as I'd never use them again, so why keep them?

l first dabbled with archery about 7 years ago at a disabled social and sports club. At that point Eric could shoot as well so it was great. The distance was tiny, just across the length of a small hall but I was hooked. Sadly numbers dwindled until is was just me and Eric. We tried to join a 'proper' archery club but to say they weren't setup for the disabled archer is an understatement. Epic Fail! Instead we bought a cheap target and shot at home. The frequency became less and less then Eric broke his arm and that was that....

Until I watched archery at the 2012 Olympics and decided I had to try again. It's documented elsewhere that I found a brilliant club who are so friendly and accommodating. I started to get some coaching from the incredibly experienced Tom & Iris who are two of the loveliest people you could hope to meet. They taught me how to shoot properly, a revelation to me having only been taught the basics all those years ago. I threw myself into it, relishing the challenge of mastering what they taught me. A year later, through a combination of their excellent tutelage and a lot of b****y hard work on my part, I have developed a solid, consistent technique, which may not be entirely textbook, but is customised for me and my situation. Namely shooting in my wheelchair with my legs at 90° to my body. Much of the work has been done at home, shooting down the garden as we couldn't go out because of Eric's surgery. I've emailed Iris and Tom for advice as necessary. As I said far from textbook but it works.

The competitiveness that had lain dormant all those years raised it's head and decided to make a reappearance. As I improved and my scores got better the 'competitive me' came back. I wasn't happy shooting 5s, 6s and 7s, I wanted more. I'd only be happy when I was regularly getting 8s, 9s and 10s. Anything less was rubbish. Yes, it was definitely back! It felt good to have that challenge, that buzz again. The excitement of beating my PB. Shooting more than 50 for 6 arrows. I absolutely love archery and no sooner have I finished, I'd be looking forward to the next time.

Unfortunately CRPS has stuck that size 10 boot in again. An injury to my right shoulder was too big an invitation and CRPS moved into my right arm and fingers of my right hand. The hand I use to draw with. Well it wouldn't go to the left fingers would it? Not debilitating enough. It then dd to jump to the left arm. This has happened since March 2013 and has impacted more and more on my shooting. Further changes in equipment and technique have been needed. I have the lightest possible setup now.

As I've already said my expectations of myself have increased the more I've shot, because of my natural competitiveness. And my improvement of some 15 places in my handicap from 56 in March to 41 at the end of the season. Despite CRPS. I'd be lying if I said the ever more intrusive impact of CRPS wasn't having an impact on my shooting but more so on my mental state. I suffer bouts of intense frustration, feeling really down, despair as well as excitement and joy when I manage to shoot really well. Let me try and explain why....

How I shoot from one session to the other isn't something I can control any longer. I am literally at the mercy of my arms, riddled as they now are with CRPS. If my arms are playing up it is completely impossible for me to get into a decent position to draw. Drawing the string for those first few arrows is so excrutiatingly painful for my fingers. But it eases and I do my best. Sometimes I struggle to hang onto the string long enough to aim and shoot in a controlled way. Inevitably the arrows are all over the place, my scores are way below what I'm capable of. It's really hard work with me struggling to pull the string to full draw. You would think I was trying to use someone else's bow with a much higher poundage. lt's uncomfortable, INCREDIBLY frustrating and demoralising. My competitiveness whispers to me, telling me how useless I am. No allowances for how I have to shoot or the problems with my arms.

Of course shooting is the only thing I can do that not only is pain free and has a hugely beneficial effect on the pain, stiffness and swelling of CRPS. I have to shoot every few days, a regime which is brutal, takes so much out of me, makes my legs considerably worse but I have to do it to fight the CRPS, keep a good range of movement and lower pain levels.  So how do I reconcile the competitiveness and the need to shoot (however badly) to stave off CRPS? I have been improving continually, despite everything CRPS has thrown at me so far. It's not all good though. There have been batches of sessions that were an unmitigated disaster. Combination of arms misbehaving, shooting when I really wasn't feeling up to it and the extra demands on life as Eric continued his convalescence. 

I was hoping that now Eric's arm is healed (hooray!!!), my arms might settle down and my shooting would become more consistent and a little easier again. Instead it typically now takes half a 60 arrow round before my arms have 'loosened up' enough to shoot like I KNOW I can. Sometimes they don't loosen up at all and my left arm is as rock hard and stubbornly refuses to relax whilst my right arm simply refuses to go back for enough to use my back muscles. No two sessions are the same, I never feel 'right' at full draw somehow.

So I did an experiment earlier this week. Having shot on Monday, with a score some 50 away from my PB, I decided to shoot the following day. lt was a revelation! From the first arrow to the last I was able to shoot like I could months and months ago. I realised that I haven't been shooting properly for quite some time. I was able to draw the string across my body, maintain a good power line, use my back etc. It felt amazing and of course I scored so much better. Only 9 points shy of my PB. I was elated but then of course the reality sunk in. I can't shoot two days in a row, the payback is way too severe. So what I've proved means nothing really. It's not as if I can do anything about it is there?

I suspect that If the situation was different I could be really good at archery. Instead I'm stuck in a useless body that won't work properly. I do my best to not let the frustration get to me. The need to accept that the bad sessions aren't down to me, aren't my fault. It's my body letting me down (again) because of b****y CRPS, not letting me to shoot to my potential. 

I'm really struggling with it all. The CRPS isn't going anywhere and although archery does it good and shooting doesn't hurt, am I just putting off the inevitable? Will the sessions where I'm utter rubbish gradually become the norm? How will the newly re-surfaced competitive me cope with that? Will there come a point when I have to give up archery completely? That would be almost too much to bear. I can't go through that again, archery is so very important to me, my quality of life, my sanity. I can't see a future that doesn't feature archery so somehow I have to find a way through this. Answers on a postcard please....

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Another epistle to the Romans

I started this blog post ages ago but couldn't finish it. Why? Because I simply couldn't write anything else. The strain of having to write it, both physically and mentally took a huge toll. I received my award letter a couple of days ago so it seems as good a time as any to finish it.

I have finally finished writing the epistle to the Romans that is completing a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) form. Some 40 pages long with some 63 different sections to complete, it is sadly a necessary evil to receive DLA and at which level. They can also call you in for a medical and request further information from your GP or consultant. There are two tiers for mobility and three for care.  It is an extremely stressful and tiring process which has caused a massive flare in my arms, particularly the left. lt took me a month to complete it, doing as much as I could each day. It's hung over me constantly, a weight round my neck. Why you might ask? It's simple. The money I receive is vital to our existence, it helps pay the bills and feed us. If I'm turned down I have absolutely no way of replacing that income. How could I get a job when I need help to do the simplest of things like get out of a chair?

The final word count was circa 17,000 words. Of course none of the boxes were large enough for me to explain properly so there were something like 18 overflow pages. I also included some 16 other documents ranging from medical reports, sharing agreements (Occupational Therapy trying to help you by putting in aids which mostly don't help as my needs don't fit into their boxes) ill health retirement award letters . There is so much repetition from section to section because some actions (such as being helped out of my chair) form the starting point for so many other things. To ensure the decision maker at the DWP gets a full picture the only way that you can show just what's involved is to spell it out in detail. Going out for example involves so many different actions we have to complete before I can even get to the car (help with dressing, help with getting up, help to get to and use the commode to name but a few). Everything down to the minutae is included, leaving no room for any doubt of how I live. In all it's degrading glory. Don't get me started on why I have to fill in another form (albeit for a different benefit) a year after I filled in the ESA form. It seems too much to ask that these different departments talk to each other. In this day and age it beggars belief really!

I'm lucky that I can still write in-depth and articulate reports when I need to, albeit incredibly slowly. There is an obvious difference to the format of the form since the last time I filled one in, back in May 2009.....tick boxes. Lots and lots of them. You could just tick the boxes that apply to you, write the name of your condition in a table together with the medications you take and send it back. But does this approach guarantee that they are getting the full picture? Of course it doesn't and most surely mean that lots of people are not getting the reward they should. This . raises several questions?  What happens to those people who can't write like I can? Those who can only tick boxes because they might have learning difficulties or simply don't know what the form is asking them? Or have mental health issues which make writing about their condition worse? Why is there no longer a specific box where you are asked about the condition you suffer from and how it manifests itself? Is there a hidden agenda, a checkbox doesn't give the full picture after all does it? A person may have problems which would put them in a higher tier but they haven't elaborated, just ticking the box that is the nearest match? After all the Government has cut the welfare budget by £20 billion with more to come. They have to do this somehow or am I just being skeptical? This goes some way to explaining why some 40% of rejections are overturned at appeal. Because the person can describe their situation better picture or have someone with them to speak on their behalf.

I firmly believe that the amount of help Eric has to provide would warrant the higher care component. Just what is expected otherwise tell me, what else would he have to do? I subscribe to the excellent website. They recently sent me an email about Personal Independent Payment (PIP) which is the Government's replacement for DLA. This doesn't work as a form as such but seems to require you to 'tell them about your situation and how it affects you?'. If that isn't a method designed to fail people I don't know what is. And the figures seem to justify my point with only 37% of people being awarded it. Bearing in mind that the fraud on DLA was only 0.5% how can it possibly be so low? Well, I reckon the Government has managed to move the goal posts suitably so that it is nigh on impossible to get it. Easy to do, and they will insist on taking ever more billions from the DWP budget. Easy fodder the sick and disabled. We don't have the energy to fight back do we? Ah, but we can vote and I know it won't be yellow or blue that's for sure....

Back to my application. I recieved a letter Friday before last saying they'd received my form on 20th February. At least they'd got it. I didn't hold my breath as to when I would next hear from them. Imagine my surprise then when I got a phone call last Monday (3rd March) asking me how long it had been since my condition had progressed to how it is now. 'A couple of years' was the best guess I could come up with. 'That's fine' she said. 'We have to check timescale when a change occurs to ensure it's been 3 months'. 'A decision will be made this afternoon and a letter will come out to you in the post'. I asked if she could tell me what the award was which she couldn't. She did say it was 'favourable'. A couple of days later the brown envelope arrived. Higher rate mobility and higher rate care, both for an indefinite time. The relief was enormous and it was great to see that Eric's care has been recognised as the care component has increased from middle to high.

It's a strange feeling when you get the highest level of an award you can get. Initially I was delighted and relieved. That source of income is secure and will be until they migrate me onto PIP whenever that might be. It wasn't long though before I reflected on the speed it took for the decision being made. They include a list of reasons to show why you've been awarded the levels you have. This stretched to 2 pages, listing item after item that I can't do or need help with.  It's really sobering that my condition is so bad that dealing with my application takes such a short time. The same was true for ESA as well. And it will be for PIP migration as well, hopefully! There are so many people out there who have a huge battle in getting the award their illness / disability that they should. From the stress of a medical to the appeal process, it sounds truly awful.

It's good that something hasn't been a battle for once. That said I wish I hadn't had to apply in the first place way back in 2006. Contrary to what the Government would have the public believe, the vast majority of us on sickness related benefits would give anything not to be sick or disabled. Why would anyone choose to live the way I'm forced to because of CRPS? There will always be some who try to fiddle the system. Any system. To tar us all with the same brush simply isn't fair and very wrong. Painting a section of society as 'scroungers' is wrong on so many levels. But to pick on those least able to fight back is cruel and despicable.