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.

Stares at a wall

Monday?

Taylor’s boyfriend looks scary.

Watchin Rafah, watching people ignore Gaza, wondering what that siren is in our street, apparently they’re looking for a man with face tattoos in Toronto.

Saw a new GP in the same practice. She seems good, sending me for tests, talking about my medication levels with me. Gotta get some bloods check my kidney and liver, an ECG for my heart to see if the mads are doing me more bad than good. See if my shakes have anything to do with that and a trippy heart.

Wasn’t bulk billed. $76 upfront, a woman apologising profusely for not being able to pay the other day, signs saying fees for late payment, and man yelling at the practice manager because they weren’t going to see him because he was owing money and shouldn’t have been rebooked in until it was settled. A growing line.

I did the grocery shopped and waited for my ride with the other pensioners outside woolies. More than a dollar a can for on special Diet Coke doesn’t sit right for me. But I’ll pay it. It’s my only real vice. But cadbury was $3 a block too so that was good.

Forgot bacon and mayo.

Oh well.

Dear rich people – hurry up and buy EVs so when they make my Corolla illegal I can afford your hand-me-downs

Let’s talk overdue but good policies. Australia desperately need better fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. SO, it’s great that Labor are introducing some. I don’t buy it as a cost of living measure though. It is however one of the trickle down things that I need the rich (people able to justify buying a new car) to get on. They need to be buying those efficient cars now, so that in 5 years I may be able to upgrade to their old car, circumstances willing. I mean it’s unlikely, I’m likely to be driving this Corolla til it is horribly killed or legislated off the road, in which case I need y’all to get onto EVs so that when Australia does ban petrol cars  in 10-20 years there will be some available to us.

 

I was fortunate to be able to get this more fuel efficient (ie smaller) care last year before the move as we had some inheritance money to play with which meant buying a car before selling the old one. The little beast is not gonna break any records, but it gets us around. What does a new car go for these days? Whatever it is, I have to drive it a lot for the supposed $1k savings at the petrol pump, and like many in my twitter comments say, that’s not gonna happen, and the only way they’ve been saving at the pump is keeping their cars off the road because they can’t afford to fill let alone maintain and keep registered, their ageing source of independence.

Unfortunately, the joy of selling the AU to a chap down the road who bought it because his mate had just bought one too (are those your skid marks down Cooranbong way mate?) is short lived since that means we not have to fix up the rust and the transmission and other things in the Concorde. So while it’s off the road til at least the transmission is done later this month, Bruce has the Corolla for work and I’m saving money but not getting as much done as I’d like by being home more and taking the train when I do head out. Friday was a long morning, catching the train and bus into group and not being able to do the usual foodbank and Ozharvest run for myself and my sister. This girl likes her routine and being able to help out.

 

So, again, I may seem like I poo-poo on everything that gets suggested as a reform, but I’m just pointing out how it affects my little demographic, whatever that is. And that while it’s great to make progress, you can’t sell it to us who can’t afford to partake in it with the promise that the new car you get to buy will save you $1000 a year.

Speaking of progress, there was a rally on the weekend in Newcastle in support of the offshore wind projects, and I was glad to see my local independent there along with Greens and Labor representatives. I live in sight of the largest coal power station in the country, and everyone has some connection to coal jobs. But we need to move forward. Both for our long term ability to slow the global heating and irregular weather systems but also, like the promise of the fuel efficient and EV cars being cleaner for the street they run on, for the health of our lungs.

Today's Air Quality-Dora Creek, New South Wales 53 Moderate Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. Primary Pollutant: PM2.5 (Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns) All Pollutants 53 PM2.5 (Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns) Moderate 14.32 µg/m3 1 CO (Carbon Monoxide) Good 160 µg/m3 2 NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) Good 4.34 µg/m3 12 O3 (Ozone) Good 32.02 µg/m3 17 PM10 (Particulate matter less than 10 microns) Good 20.47 µg/m3 1 SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide) Good

The Singleton Argus on Twitter regularly reports on how many days they have PM10 above healthy levels to to the coal, and also the 2.5 with bushfires. We’ve woken up today here with sore throats from bushfire smoke from Karuah even though the house was closed up all night. Powering EVs with renewables would be an amazing way to live, and I love that we’re taking steps towards that, but the trickle down effect won’t be seen for some time. Til then I acknowledge my priveledge in even being able to keep a car on the road.