Very exhausting day. Had a meeting with WINZ (Work & Income NZ). I get a small top-up of a benefit most weeks to supplement the low income I get from variable part-time work as I am currently unable to work full-time with bipolar 1 disorder and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
My disabilities and illnesses are nearly invisible because I mask or self-isolate to try to recover. Been feeling vulnerable because my mood disorder (bipolar) has not been under control from a few months of extra work stress. I was doing some relief work to help a colleague with illness which took me over the threshold, so my benefit was suspended temporarily. The colleague was unwell for 2 months, so the extra work did impact on my mental health. My psychologist and parents have been worried about me. I only see a psychologist because of PTSD accepted as an injury by ACC (after waiting a year for them to come to a decision).
The WINZ case manager was saying that because I was off the benefit for 2 months that I ‘obviously’ did not need it anymore (even though I was till working part-time and the increase in workload was stressful for me). I explained to her that my health deteriorated and that I have been having mania symptoms alternating with exhaustion. She told me that I would need to provide evidence from doctors. I reminded her that I provide doctor’s certificates every three months as they require which states my medical conditions and that I am currently not able to work full-time. She also said she did not get my emails which updated her on the temporary extra work situation that would be coming to an end.
She denied she got my emails. I felt an intense surge of anger (very rare for me) and slammed my hand on the desk and said (quite loudly I think) ‘your not listening to me!’ She disappeared and I was ordered to leave.
I sat in a chair and refused to leave. I sat in a chair not speaking but fidgeting. They said they would call the police. I said ‘call the police then.’ I would not know what the police could have done as I had not been violent – I had not attacked anyone verbally or physically. They said my behaviour was ‘making a scene’. They asked why I would not leave and I said it’s because they stopped my benefit. It was only supposed to be temporarily stopped.
Another staff member said they would listen if we went outside. I vented about what upset me. It was repeating a trauma trigger of not being listened to – my PTSD was activated big-time. Plus being lied to. Plus my mood is unstable from stress. They asked me to verify my income by emailing my payslips. I did what they asked via my phone even though it was very hard for me to concentrate.
I stood outside the WINZ building with the security guard. A WINZ officer came out and said that yes, I have been declaring my income correctly and that they will reinstate my benefit (which generally serves as a top-up to my low income from my variable part-time work). The original case manager was very apologetic. I cried a lot and was very exhausted. My parents needed to collect me as it was not safe for me to drive home. They explained to the case manager some more of the situation and said that it was a very good thing that I have been so determined to work, but that the extra work had taken a toll on me. The case manager apologised several times and said that she wrongly assumed that I had been working full-time. Plus she acknowledged that I had updated her with emails (after the initial denial). My parents explained some of the situation and said that they think there is a problem in that I have to declare income before I even get it.
I am doing my best to keep working. The past month has been a struggle.
It has been hard for me to have a voice even when I come across as ‘strange’ and socially unacceptable at times.
See part 2 for the continuation (my camera broke it up into 2 sections)