How being on the DSP has allowed me to stabilise my mental health

I was approved for the disability support pension about two years ago now. It wasn’t a straightforward process, and I was initially rejected, with my request for a review going through successfully without any more information from me. So, how has being on DSP improved my quality of life?

Slightly more money – the partnered DSP rate is currently $826.70 per fortnight, $140 more than the $686.00 I’d be getting on JobSeeker. (source DSS 2023) The difference for singles is more – $347.50 a fortnight extra to use to pay for the basics of life, costs which all agree are more with a disability – studies showing that you need at least 50% more disposable income to live with a disability in Australia. Not that any of the DSP gets to be disposable.

Getting off the Disability Employment Services radar – I’ve had a lot of exemptions from job searching in my time on payments, so for me this meant there was no looming date where I’d have to reengage with DES or have to get a correctly written medical certificate from my non-bulk billing doctor to have them waived again. This was a huge stress relief, not having to apply for jobs I wasn’t ready for, and not having to show up to fortnightly appointments to talk about how my life was falling apart this week and how a minimum wage cleaning job was clearly what I needed to fix my mental health.

Did you know under-35s on DSP have mutual obligations these days? Any disabled person who is failing to meet their “obligations” and getting cut of their payments is clearly being failed by the services that are supposed to be supporting them.

TIME and SPACE – time and space to do the therapies that I was already involved in. When I got DSP, I was doing 4 sessions a week of various therapies – individual and group – for borderline personality disorder and alcohol dependence. I could now just focus on these for awhile. So, I certainly wasn’t sitting at home on DSP, I was doing therapy in person and online, I was practicing getting out and about into the world again after a breakdown that coincided with Covid routine changes and added stresses. I’ve been sober 3 three years now, and certainly the support of having the DSP and not having to meet others expectations around employment have let me maintain that even amongst the rest of the chaos that life brings.

Time and space to figure me out and pursue my own interests and use my skills. I also started to learn the confidence to pace myself properly – I had a therapy goal that was basically following through on things I committed to. Which is two sided – both not chickening out with anxiety or low energy when it all gets too much, but also not letting it get to much – knowing my schedule, knowing how much and what sorts of things I can commit to and only pushing myself as far as I should go. Not saying yes because it’s expected of me, but giving things a go and seeing if they do spark joy. It’s amazing how much energy expenditure varies when you are following an interest!

Time and space to prioritise my “little routine”, allowing myself to see getting up and dressed or putting away the washing as an achievement, and being happy with my day. If I get my little routine together, if I do my chore, make my dinners, then I have more time and space mentally and practically to do more of the things that are generally seen as productive – supporting friends and family, writing and advocacy, maybe even doing a little bit of paid work here and there!

There’s so many goals I’m starting to see as achievable for myself after having this period of self-stability. It’s allowed me to try new things, put my hand up to do things I care about and feel are important, with the knowledge that I don’t have to meet someone else’s expectations to get paid each fortnight. I don’t know if I’ll make it back to earning enough to no longer get the pension, I’d love to do more, be more independent financially, actually have a disposable income, but I have time now. Time and space to dip in and out of the outside world as I can in a way that is of benefit to both myself and everyone else near and dear to me.

I’m certainly not “fixed”. I’m starting with a new psych, but being on DSP means that that would be prohibitively expensive if I hadn’t been able to get in with one that I can see for free for 10 sessions, but only on a Thursday and only from April. I also need to properly explore my neurodivergence, somehow find the energy and the money to get assessed for Autism and ADHD, especially if that would help me at all when it comes with getting even more okay with living in this world.

Just needed to breathe.

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